Ah, My Old Enemy: The Red Baron…Onion?

I borrowed this apple blossom spray.

Cistula are really pretty, well, all tulips are, but these are new.

Getting a little less scared. You can look at them from the window and move a little now. Progress…

Shirley are the better of the first tulips I ever bought. I’ll replant Shakespeare and see what they do.

Yo, Dear Reader, Jack is back, slightly beaten, but pleased. I have been on my yearly pilgrimage to the garden centres and discount stores and am stocked with feeds and have flowers to plant, well, some left to plant, I’ve been busy. I lucked out as there were clearance items everywhere, I bought cheap onion sets, flowers in trays for everywhere there’s a gap, many gaps left, but all things in time, and I have new bulbs to pop down. I was planting the red onions I swore I’d leave out this year, I managed to avoid the broadbeans I kept growing that no one ate, they’re great growers, but no one here wants them, but the red onions were a pittance and funnily as small as that strip looks when you pop four onions in a row and carry on down you find you need a few clearance shallots to fill the bottom. Why they were clearance is a mystery, maybe the time of year and planting dates. I bought strawberries at 80% off, some of mine died, possibly of age, they were prolific, but tired, that were perfectly fine and now have to pop down the last of the onions, finish re-sifting pots and get busy…busier. The weather is supposed to be beautiful and if today was any indication it’ll be stunning.

We’re still feeding every finch in Ireland.

I finally got a curry plant! It’s tasteless, but it smells like curry. I may have confused it with Curry Leaf.

I forget how there’s a false start then things really kick off.

They look painted, don’t they?

I’m still playing with cuttings, with so much to distract me I’m not as fretful. I bought a small tub of organic rooting gel, it smells vile, but it’s fresh. It turns out the rooting spheres are effective…at staying on the branch as it heals. I removed them, re-stripped the branch, deeper this time, slathered the vile gel onto the tree and sealed the ball once more. I like to know things, Dear Reader, if the gel fails to wow and the balls fail to dazzle I’ll know I’m missing nothing. As for the two hard wood cutting, well, both haven’t yet realised they’re dead. Maybe they’ll root and I’ll be finished with that, maybe not. I want to get into rose grafting, but there wasn’t a single bareroot rose or potted rose to be found anywhere. I have PVC tape, the gel and a box cutter, a teeny one, so I’m prepared. I’ll see how my fake blue rose turns out this year. The thing just came out in a muted pink and that was that, let’s see how this year goes. I have the proper one too now at least. Blue Mon better be good or…well, I’l scowl at it.

Rosebuds are starting to appear.

Even the plain ones are striking when they open.

Look at all these onions! They’re there, just buried, use your imagination!

It looks more like an Iris as it opens.

The first year after transplanting is up and these roses will now really show their worth.

I probably repeat myself a lot, Dear Reader, but I’m sure at least some of what I repeat is worth rehearing. We’re still a ways away from the heavy hitting harvest, the ones that put new meals, or reworked old ones, on the table, that takes time and patience, but I have some herbs and will be playing around with them as I go. I still have some fruit from last year, some basil sauces, but not much else. I found that really fresh herbs retain their flavour if frozen in water very quickly, I had basil last nearly a year that way, it would’ve lasted longer but I ate it. I have no idea what this year will bring, I’ll just keep puttering on in the hope I’ll have something to eat. That’s about as far ahead I think, Dear Reader, you never know what the future holds in the garden so I work in the present to give it the best chance it can have. I’ll be back again later, Dear Reader, I might have something to talk about regarding my Flaxseed and Buckwheat scones, I used whole chia seed and it gave the a delightful spring and moistness. All things in time, Dear Reader, until later then. Take care.

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No, I said Jack With A Hammer

I shouted to myself about how big this lily pad will be.

No, these are new squash.

These two grew at least.

The late planted onions.

Another mysterious round squash appears.

So much squash!

Caterpillars were getting at my red cabbage so I had to harvest, sadly the heat wave caused some to bolt and become misshapen, but the two I got, one was huge, so heavy!, look good and though I won’t be eating it they will be used in a recipe that I’ll share here. Next year I’m making sure the netting that covers the top is lashed to the other netting, butterflies will shove into the netting until they break through a gap, they’ll also flying under netting that’s loose at the end. Not bad you brainless nuisances. I’m pretty happy there was a fair harvest, I also had enough basil for another two servings of freezer Coconut Basil Sauce. As for the loss, well, I think of the garden as an endless wheel, there’s no stopping point, no reset or tally up, what is now a cabbage, is also now leaves and now compost and a now new cabbage’s nutrients. It’s all in an endless moment, the garden will be here long after I’m gone and the loss of something is pretty trivial when you look at the scope of the garden, there are no individual pieces, it’s one whole. Like I say, it’s a wheel, ever turning towards some unfathomable place, I’m just along for the ride.

Is Jack okay? Sure, I have squash, I’m always at peace with squash growing.

Excuse hands, these are pretty densely leafed.

Liberated quinoa and one remaining cabbage that might be okay.

The honeybear come in some strange shapes.

Cascading Harlequin.

They’ve spilled everywhere.

Oh, update on the strawberry sledgehammer renovation project. These silly stories keep you going, Dear Reader, trust me they’ll never stop. I was waiting on a jack-hammer that failed to materialise, so I went out with my painful hands, they’re okay now somehow, I think it’s the weather, grabbed a crowbar, a bolster, not a booster, please keep babies away from sledgehammers, they might get ideas, a lug hammer, yes, yes, lug, me I get it!, shaddup, and the trusty sledgehammer and, well, get the jack-hammer if you can, I had to hammer the bolster into solid concrete smothered blocks with the hammer and then the sledgehammer, that needs accuracy I tell you, the long and short of it is I managed to remove the blocks. Now it’s a repository for fuel and I’m marking out a new area in the garden for the strawberries. The older style ones are starting now, they’re hard and not very sweet, great for macerating.

These just appeared! Okay, I just never saw them, they’re down low, to me at least.

That’s a kilogram, if I threw it I’d break your head before the cabbage.

Tomatoes went wild, but they’re now flowering copiously. This one is just acting up.

Just look at all these squash!

I get really excited when the harvest starts.

I have new ones well established while the others are being harvested.

In thinking it over I may never see a year like this for squash again. The late start, the dry weather when they were flowering and the heatwave just as they needed it have caused them to grow perfectly. Even the powdery mildew that’s popping up again hasn’t been anywhere near as prevalent as every other year. I have never seen squash grow this well, they’ll possibly have three separate flowering all with immature squash pollinated that will all still be attached to the plant at the same time. That’s honestly incredible. I had trouble getting to the ones I harvested as the stem are short, bullet hard and twisted. I had to face the plant, the take a needlenose snippers and go from behind, feeling the front and cutting where my fingers were, well, near where they were. The squash that grew under cover have a slightly greener hue, but they’ll whiten as they cure for three days then they’ll be chopped up and made in everything. This was worth the work in the heatwave, Dear Reader. I’ll see you later, Dear Reader.

The biggest so far, but when the monster is harvested I expect to shatter the record.

Honeybear elongates as it grows.

I love harlequin squash.

My third generation chilli.

So many honeybear.

So many harlequin!

Varying Degrees Of Ab-stonishment

Waiting for sediment to settle.

No, that’s not a metaphor Dear Reader, I’m getting my portable pond ready. The seeds are really starting to grow, well, two did at least, I had to dig deep to get some heavy clay and after a rinse through and a lining with pea-gravel I have to wait and see how clear it’ll get. I realised I haven’t been keeping you abreast, astomach?, of my recovery from my abdominoplasty, mostly because there hasn’t been much to report. It’s getting better, but it’s already so amazingly wonderful, no I’m being serious, it’s hard to tell when small changes occur. I’m in a no swell stage again, it relapsed before so I’m just letting it carry on, no twinges in a while and the scar is starting to fade a little. I’m prone to heavy scarring so it may never really fade that much. Such is life, Dear Reader, it’s why I talk so much about healthy eating and good diets, you don’t want to face what I have and will have to yet. I do want to see an end, but I just can’t think about it all the time, it can eat away at you. Someday I will sit here and talk of the end, no too soon I hope.

Roses grown from cutting to replace old ones.

The old ones lasted two and a half years and they weren’t supposed to last more than a few months.

I can’t speak in terms of certainties in regards the pond or mushrooms, but I can share the steps and we’ll all see where this takes us. If you want to try then go ahead, but don’t blame Jack if it all goes wrong, if it goes better than me then don’t tell me either. The pot is about forty five litres, I bored two overflow holes in the sides, just jammed a knife in there as it’s rubber, that way if the water level rises it won’t spill over the edge and drag out the plant. That’s the idea at least, I still have to plant the germinated seeds and that’s scary, we have a heatwave incoming so I’ll let it settle and see how hot it gets, I don’t want to risk shocking them. The mushroom still hasn’t gotten the dreaded death fuzz and I think I see a little of the spawn creeping to the top. Somehow in-spite of terrible weather there are still worms alive in the wormery. I gave them ample bedding and have to fashion a permanent cover to keep out the rain, I still can’t see how it gets in, but flooded worms are a no-no. The bokashi is almost full, there isn’t much run-off, maybe when it rests?, but it’s nowhere as useful as the wormery juice so I won’t complain. I’m curious to see how it’ll affect the compost in the bins.

The Snakeshead is open.

I like them, curious to see the Honeybells too.

I’m slowly planting all that will grow this year. I want to get more seeds down tomorrow if we see this promised heatwave. I have carrots down, I was a little crafty this year, I scraped off all the top soil down to about an inch, cleaned and weeded it, put it into a bucket and then gently smoothed the bed, sprinkled the carrot seeds as thinly as I could and returned the soil, dampened it and lightly press it down. The key is keeping it moist, once they get large they’re pretty easy, admittedly a heatwave can cause issues, but as it may not last I need to take a risk and use the heat for germination. I have two squashes starting now, I love this part more than any other, one harlequin and one honeybear. I haven’t planted too much this year, there was so much waste last year, but I’ll have nearly forty seedlings, the cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower. I have basil started too, that can be fussy, but I’ll keep an eye on it. I’m still eating pesto made from last year’s harvest. I think I’ve bored you enough for one night, Dear Reader, take care.

Plodding Progress

Starting to swell.

Fully swollen. The floater was removed as it had gone bad.

I really like hyacinth.

I don’t actually have much to report, Dear Reader, but as we had a little sun I readied a few more things, but again the rain and here we are. As you can see the water lily seeds have swollen, I hope they’ll sprout, but I’m at least learning something new. The wormery is going fine so far, I see the worms, striped like their namesakes, so I assume they’ll start establishing themselves. There is an urge to feed them like a fretting grandmother, you’re so thin!, they’re going to be fun to watch and they will provide so much. The liquid feed can even be stored so that’s a mark in their favour as opposed to the bokashi run-off which needs to be used right away. When I finally fill and ferment I’ll update you with messy photos of sloppy fermented kitchen waste. Hey, it’s organic! I’m currently trying to cobble together a second bin, I have ideas, but no weather with with to saunter out into and put them to the test.

Bottomless containers turned out to be perfect.

Returning aquilegia.

Horseradish returning too.

I have seeds under cups, under bubble-wrap, seeds that must be from flowers that self-seeded, I have some life starting at least. The weather is warming, but very slowly. I still have pesto from last year, but I have put down my four basils of the year: Genovese, Thai, Lime and Lemon. I can’t eat citrus so it’ll be interesting to see how these will fare as flavouring in my cooking. Assuming they grow. Basil can be extremely fussy in this climate of ours. The first batch of cabbage seeds have started and a few cauliflower have popped up. I like the little pieces of green here and there, slow but steady. I’ll still get excited as a child at Christmas when I see the first of the squash starting.

Siberian Iris.

Seaholly.

These are new. They were free. Whatever kind of daffodil they are.

Of course you can buy started seedling, but they can be too pot- bound, too early or can suffer from being taken from the warm shop and put outside. Not to say it isn’t useful, but I enjoy start certain crops from seed. Onions I will always buy as sets, but the brassicas will be seeds for as long as I’m gardening. It’s a tiresome year, but I’ve at-least learned patience, I know to slow and space my planting to match the weather. I never go by the seasons, only the weather. Okay, I’ll go back to m absurdly huge composting setup, we’re just two houses worth of waste here, why am I doing this? Why not, ever the refrain of Jack, Dear Reader.

Moss rose and morning glory. Hopefully they’ll start.

JalapeƱos.

That’s a gutter-brush. That tray is specially…shut up, it’s recycling!

I’m trying the bubble-wrap out as a covering.

Rain, Sandpaper and More Rain

Not new, but a handy combination. Microwave Buckwheat Cake and Microwave Caramel Sauce.

Did you know I could use a power sander? Me neither. The things that Jack can turn his hand to never cease to surprise people. I guess I just never tried, always try, dear reader, never stop trying as you never know what you’ll discover about yourself. The wait for the next set of surgeries, a special trifecta because my life is always a different route, means I’ll have time for my garden. Thinking of it I’d be rather lost without the garden, wouldn’t I? Things balance out in a good way, sometimes at least. So, yes, dear reader, Jack with the Surgically Repaired Abs, Buns of Steel, shush!, and a Heart of Gold is off again. I can’t tell you of the difference the surgery has made. That awful tiredness, that I just assumed was a lack of stamina, is now gone. I still clutch at my back, phantom pains I guess. I must have been in more pain than I’d allowed myself to realise. I had to do so to cope I suppose, dear reader, but I’m on the better side now and we have better topics to talk of today than Jack’s old issues.

My current issues are still plentiful.

That tall rose is my rose. I found it in an abandoned garden. It has a backstory, it’s the repayment of a thorn in Jack’s side, let’s say I’ll always look at it with glee. The other is sixteen years old, taken from a neighbour’s wife’s grave, now it’s on Jack to tend to it and as you can see it’s happily sprouting in its new home. The bulbs are, again, salvaged, they were starting and you really shouldn’t move bulbs when they’ve already started to grow, but I figured that having a house bulldozed over them might be detrimental to their further progression. Call it gardeners intuition. I have some rose roots drying in the shed too, they haven’t started so I’ll hope they’ll be okay until I can plant them. The weather is still bitter cold and wet, so when it’s somewhat dry I get outside for a while.

Look what I found.

You wouldn’t think this was after, but trust me, there was so much paint removed.

You’ve probably seen this type of planter, it’s like a halved barrel. You probably haven’t seen one with a few layers of house paint on it. I had to attack it with a power sander, then when that proved problematic, paint melts when hot, who knew? Everyone? Oh. Then out came the trusty penknife and the entire area surrounding the planter was just flecks of paint. I’ve taken as much off as possible, next up will be an undercoat of whatever paint we have then I’ll paint the bands black and the planter red. Why red? Because as soon as I placed it there a robin alighted on the rim. They say that that’s a person coming back from heaven. They also say you have to chase, across fields if needs be, a single magpie and find its mate or you die. I just like red. It’ll look nice when I’m done, it’s rough looking, but it’s better than it was when I found it. A little care and careful restoration, filling in the cracks with whatever I have at hand, and it’ll make a nice display piece. Waste not what Jack can make into a planter. Or whatever that saying is. Until later, dear reader.

Fresh Parsley Jasmine Rice

I’m cleaning up some of my recipes pages, dear reader and splitting off the ones that have become too crowded. If possible I’ll update these with photos in the future, but for now this will have to do. I’ll schedule these so they won’t overrun the site.

Ingredients

1/2 Cup of Jasmine Rice
250ml Water and 1/3 of a Chicken Stock Cube
2 x 1/2 Tbsps Butter
1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/8 Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped Roughly
Salt and Black Pepper to Taste

Method

1. Heat 1/2 Tbsp Butter and Olive Oil in a pot on a medium heat. When Butter has melted stir in Rice and cook for 2-4 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Rice should be slightly translucent and may brown slightly. Then add Chicken Stock, Salt, Black Pepper and stir up the Rice and bring to the boil, turn the heat down to medium (3 on hob) cover and let it cook for about 12 minutes.

2. After the 12 minutes is up, remove it from the heat. Let it stand for another 10 minutes or so. After 10 minutes, lift the lid and take a fork and fluff the Rice. Then stir in the remaining Butter and Parsley and serve.

Herb Butter

I just had enough sage.

Original can be found here. You know this recipe, you’ve seen it dozens of times, there’s nothing new here, it’s just that I’ve never had a reason to make it before. Herb butter sounds great, but I don’t often use better when coking, at least not when I’m using herbs. But, I figured out a use. My mother makes stuffing and uses fresh sage, but often the sage isn’t ready when she’s making it, so since she fries her onions in butter I thought this would be an ideal solution. I did tweak it one way as you can see below. You’d be best to use freshly picked herbs, the smell of the fresh sage is intense, even for a older plant. I hate to make something like this without reason, last year I froze herbs in olive oil and struggled to use them, I think a fair few went into the bin, this is ideal as they’ll be used up fairly quickly. If you want really fast stuffing you can also blitz the onions and freeze them the same way. A quickie, but handy to know. See you later, dear reader.

Already popped and bagged.

Ingredients

110g Butter, Softened
1/4 Fresh Herbs, Chopped
1/2 Tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Can be frozen.

Method

1. Add everything to a bowl and stir together until Herbs have been evenly distributed throughout the butter. Scoop in a container, roll into a clingfilm log or fill into ice-cube trays.