Hey Cousin, Let’s Go Dig A Garden

I had to Google sod removal.

From the front to the back. So much sod was dumped in the back garden.

What? Dear Reader, you don’t come to Jack for just recipes, no no, I know you, you come here for the Thimble Theatre references, see title, now, what?, seventy or eight years out of date references at that and, of course, to see what fresh hell Jack has raised. I’ve been under the weather, a stomach bug apparently, I didn’t really notice, I just felt off and angry, but a fever broke and I very sensibly…dug the garden? Oh, Jack isn’t sensible, but he is industrious. So, I’ve removed the very damaged lawn in the front garden, in preparation for a whole new look. I’m hoping for two tone stones, the wishing well shown previously as the centre piece, with a wooden border or at least some kind of border to keep the stones in place. Naturally I’ll mat the entire space, I was going to reseed, but a lawn is a hassle and it’d just get weedy again. I’ll make sure it doesn’t resemble a grave, they’re all too often stoned here.

I’m surprisingly neat.

Big plans.

I had no notion of how to approach this. The grass was so hard it was almost impossible to get a spade in beyond a few inches, I had to dig lines and just chip under the lawn, it rolls as you go, looks cartoonish. I tell you, Dear Reader, before my abdominal muscles were repaired I’d have had no chance of tackling something like this, if I had tried I’d have been a mess for days. As it is I’m tired and will be sore tomorrow, but I’m fine other than that. It’s amazing I managed to do so much with the back garden before my surgery. The problem with living with constant pain is that you only ever realise how bad it was after you gain some relief. I’m still coming to terms with how bad it all was. It’s getting near to the first year anniversary. Everything seems to have healed completely. There’s no swelling, even after digging and bending all day, my waist has stopped swelling as much and has reduced again. I’m ignoring the scale, if I’m building muscle it’ll make me heavier and I’ll end up worrying pointlessly, if my pants are falling them I’m fine, though I don’t want to lose much more, I’m fine as is and will make sure I’m eating plenty. The squash is getting ripe so I’ll have plenty of food photos if not new recipes in the not to distant future. Take it easy, Dear Reader.


Stepping Into Wonder

These cascading pansies are a guaranteed re-buy.

Gladioli. Glad they came back.

Next batch of roses are coming in. Told you they don’t stop.

Well, well, well.

This will be in the redone front garden’s centre, next year probably.

Dear Reader, I never step into the garden and fail to find something to amaze or amuse me, however small the garden is it’s full of surprises and secrets. I have waked to and fro every day and I still marvel at how much can be made from so little, there are days when it feels more work then it’s worth. When the weather turns nasty, and only the weeds thrive, where plants are harvested and leave a void, it can be depressing, but then you step out and just poke through some leaves and find something, perhaps a huge squash that required a pot to keep it level, so you dash about looking  for something suitable and in that moment you forget everything else. That’s a treasured peace for me, Dear Reader.

I’ve forgotten the variety, but these sure are pretty.

Okay, please help me out, are these turning blue? I can’t tell any more and they reek of vinegar and coffee.

Naru’s carnations are just white and maroon.

I planted beetroot after the shallots were harvested and….hmmm?

That’s some fast germination. Plastic cups are great at germinating seeds in the soil.

People still question the plastic cups, but they really do work well. I’m getting two more areas ready: Behind the greenhouse, for the last time, this time I keep it maintained, and the front garden where ugly bushes were growing. Eventually I need to remove the top soil in the front and re-seed the grass, but I’ll clean up the new are first, matting and putting in pots instead. My Hydrangea grown from a cutting of my Uncle’s  will find itself there eventually, the fuchsia that is there will be re-potted and sent to the back and the one in the back will go to the front and I will then forget it’s a fuchsia whenever anyone asks. I love an area for pots for this very reason, Dear Reader, it offers so much freedom to change it all up.

With the barrel moved I’ve been cleaning up.

How thrilling! Okay, not really, but it’s clean.

Where the potatoes were looks so empty.

Yellow strawberry self-seeded and the soil was used everywhere, thus: I have so many random strawberry plants.

I figure I might get away with more beetroot, turnips, scallions and carrots. Cabbage isn’t an option with the areas I have empty. The vegetable bed would need re-digging and leaning and the red cabbages are still growing, as is the quinoa. I like to keep the garden going as long as possible because when it ends, that’s that for Winter. I am glad that I harvested my basil as the cold spell hasn’t been kind, there should still be a good harvest, but I reaped the benefit of the amazing heat. It’s amazing now, during it was a sweltering pain in the neck. There’s still a lot growing, plenty left to see, this is the best part of the year, well, next to the squash harvest. There are going to be some great dinners, Dear Reader. Duck pairs really well with strawberries. The frozen basil cubes worked really well and the frozen sauce was as good as fresh. I eat so well this time of year, though with the sugar cut out and the exercise I’ll have to watch I don’t lose too much weight. Doubt it, I’ve pretty much plateaued, but if I could have one selfish wish, I’d like to get the surgeries over this year while everything is just right. There’s still hope, however slim. For now I garden. Take care, Dear Reader.

The trio are doing well.

Oh, these were obscured by the potato leaves.


Redoing this section. Matting and pots next. Too much bind weed present to directly plant.

Quinoa looks strange, like tiny cauliflowers.

Irish Jack Onions

You just keep pulling them and they keep growing. They’re different in appearance and harvest stage from Snowpeas. Or so I’m told.

Probably shouldn’t look like that, but it’s pretty.

Second of the lilies from the mixed pot.

I can’t tell if they’ve self-seeded or if I planted them at this stage.

Very few rotten ones, only a half dozen or so.

I finally managed to get into the garden again, it’s been a few days, with the rain and my knee acting up, I can’t remember if I told you about the, Dear Reader, it’s fine now so we’ll pretend I did and you were very concerned. I harvested the Homeguard and Maris Piper potatoes, mixing them up because I thought the latter was red, whoops!, ah, well, they’re all potatoes. Thirty five pounds, there are a lot of small ones, but people usually eat those with he skins on, just mashed with butter and spring onions, I’m not eating them so I don’t really care after harvest. I will say that potatoes are stupidly easy to grow, if you follow the simple advice of hilling up the soil, feeding and keeping watered they practically mind themselves. Now, on the other hand the Roscoff Onions are mine, ALL MINE!

Potatoes in a bucket. Boring when you’re nightshade intolerant.

Busy Lizzie.

A very late rose.

My rose garden stays blooming for months.

I like begonias, they grow well and last months.

I’m starting to form my idea of next year’s garden, here won’t be any drastic changes, but as I’ve moved the large rain-barrel and hooked it up to the overflow of the fast filling on I have a space behind the greenhouse that if matted and cleaned more might be useful. Even after harvesting the potatoes, nearly two hours!, I put the soil in a container and refilled most of the large pots, they’ll be fiddled with and seeded with carrots, turnips, beets and whatever else I have left over that’ll grow, I went and re-matted the area they’d been in as the bindweed was getting out of hand. Like I say there won’t be much changed, but maintenance is always a given. Each year that passes I learn how to do a better job, Dear Reader.

Oh, joy, bindweed.

Each bulb rests on the stalk of another. I’ll dry them overnight and then hang them to cure in the shed.

You can see a little of the pink coming through the outer skin.

This second blooming is better than the first.

A rose at every stage.

Is it reverting or changing? I’m no longer sure.

If the fine weather holds I’ll have to weed again, they just keep appearing, poor Jack will never have a chance to  rest, or ride bicycles like those English Johnnies, as long as there is bindweed to be tackled, various weeds to be puled and nettles to be accidentally grabbed. The garden is at it’s peak production stage, I’ll plant some more and see how long I can keep everything going. The squash, tomatoes and mixed chillies will be next. Though there are also other onions, quinoa too actually, giant red cabbages, can’t forget those, but, oh, the turnips and beetroot, the peas, both of them, actually we’re nowhere near done! I’ll be back, Dear Reader, until then just think of Jack kindly and hope his knee holds!

Just A Little Rain, No, That’s…Stop!

It fell over, but I like it this way.

Dahlia: The No Work exotic looking flower.

Petunias the no work abundance of blooms flower.

Last five golden acre cabbages.

Oh, the stories, all of which are only mildly interesting, I have to tell you, Dear Reader. We have had rain the last two days, though it was wanted I’d like to harvest and dry my onions, but now I wait for drier days. A little would go a long way, but like any weather we get a week of just that and then maybe another week of cloudy weather. The heatwave seems but a distant dream. So, stupid story, but funny. I bought some honeybush tea from a different brand and on opening the bag was hit with the strong smell of aniseed and what looked to be anything but honeybush. Into the wormery it went, it was a small bag and I didn’t want the hassle of a return when it wasn’t wasted. I had worried it might be too dry so I watered it, since this was during the heatwave I was lucky to have found a stash of rainwater in a spray bottle in the greenhouse. So, I was checking the worms today, after clipping a thick plastic bag over the roof of the wormery there has been no flooding, but I like to check, and when I opened it there were all these little seedlings, whatever was in the tea had sprouted on every single level. Little yellow shoots of whatever and, oh, yes and, a whole bunch of worms! They must’ve been busy breeding because they were swarming on every level. It’s a success so far, Dear Reader, it’ll be a long time before harvesting anything, but this bodes well.

It’s blurry, muddy, murky, whatever, I’ll explain.

I will never stop talking about my mini pond.

Golden Sun Shallots.

Alderman, not good at germinating, but large.

My pond, little teeny tiny pond that I enjoy way more than anyone else. Well you can see the lily pads have dispersed, I was worried at first as they’d been clumped together and I thought that they’d been broken somehow, but instead, it is hard to see as the water isn’t very clear yet, it seems as if it’s spreading over the pond’s bottom. On the left side another lily pad is coming from a new split off section and the pad below that was the same. It’s been a learning experience, small in it’s scale, but large in what I’ve learned. If I ever see a flower I’ll never shut up about it. I’ll keep trying to feed it and clear the water. If it fails at any stage I can take what I’ve learned and restart next year.

Purple Peas starting to pod.

I think the Canna Indica looks better this year.

George Davison looks well. Yes I bought it for the name.

Yet another story.

Okay, last story of the day: You know, sure you do, it makes it much easier to tell the story so shush, that I had to split the carnations that were planted in Naru’s garden. The front ones bloomed first, I had no idea how fragrant they are!, they’re maroon and pink last I saw. Naru’s have started later, the first was maroon, but now the rest are all white ones, there are none in the split off section, only the original on Naru’s garden. What does it mean? Pure fluke, really, or that there’s a big bottomed Labrador messing with the universe and I like the later option better. Still I’m glad they bloomed, they were seeded the day she passed away, both they and the Sweet William which turned out beautifully. Until later, Dear Reader.

Two For A Minus Equals Knowledge

It’s too wet for photos, Dear Reader, not too wet to be outside, never. So instead today we’ll delve back into breaking down what worked to establish the healthy routine I live by. The loops I jump through to avoid using the misused word: Diet. I would like to say first that I hope I never come across as overbearing or not understanding, I, well, when I started this I did it without excuses, without telling anyone, without a clue if I’d even find any worth in it. I, how do I say it? I had so little choice and apparently a lot of willpower so when I see people making excuses, refusing to take what I say as true I just don’t understand. I never thought of myself as special, I figured if I could do this anyone could, I just wanted out of a dark place and I was willing to go through anything to make it. It’s why I don’t really relate to anyone doing this for weight or just generally better health. Maybe it’s why they don’t relate to me, I have no idea, but what I’m saying is I hope I never dissuade anyone from starting, I never want to make you feel like a failure for not doing what I did. It’s why I’m here typing another post that without the fluke of being found will fade away in obscurity regardless of the effort and thought I’ve put into it. I just don’t want anyone to be in the situation I was without someone to help them. I wanted that someone and never found them. So if you ever think Jack an arrogant ass just remember he’s just someone trying to do his best, never really knowing the value of the work he has done, I’m an idiot, Dear Reader, we all are, I’m just trying to learn to be better and share what I’ve learned to get others here faster, I just can’t coddle everyone, I can only teach from what I’ve experienced and that might  make me abrasive at times, if I ever hurt anyone then I’m sorry, but all I’ll ever ask is what I gave myself. Now that might not be for you, but I can’t be anyone else but me.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the elimination diet? I hadn’t, but I started a similar diet all those years ago, coming up to the ninth, I removed the problematic foods that I had had trouble with for years, but what I discovered was that I needed to replace them, dieting reduces intake of good nutrients too of course, thus the idea that for every food eliminated two more should be added. That might seem simple, but I tell you when you’ve stripped away all you’ve ever know and are now faced with the task of eating and learning what to do it is daunting and challenging, not impossible, but it does feel that way. As I’ve said there wasn’t a blog that would suit my needs, no guru to follow, just me, guessing, recording testing and trying. I threw up a lot is what I’m saying.

It’s why if you say to me that you can’t do without  this or that I just can’t care, harsh, but I gave up literally everything I ate and reworked my whole diet, I had a choice too, but sometimes people act as if I was impelled by a magical force, I wasn’t, I was suicidal and sick, very very sick, so I had to push foods away, I had to learn to hate what I loved and learn to love what I hated. One of the problems with this is that you’ll eat foods you’ll be unable to tolerate, you’ll find new foods and need to learn how to use them, you’ll try so much and discard so much it seems like a waste, but it isn’t, it’s probably an accidental catalyst to my success, to the vast amount of recipes here.

How? Well if all I can eat is sweet potato and I hate it I’ll go to the ends of the internet to find a recipe that makes it palatable, I’ll discover alternative preparations, different spice blends to mask taste, new foods to use in addition to this, in essence I’ll learn more about food than I ever ever would have by just eating what I always did. With a lot of food as the palate changes and acclimatizes to new tastes you’ll find your new diet forming without much resistance. It’s strange to imagine that you gain from losing, but it’s true, by excluding I was pushed to look further to accept more and to really appreciate what I had. It’s not to say that I didn’t kick and yell, but I always pushed forward, the feeling of being better starts as euphoric, fades fast and leaves you angry and hurt but something else starts to grow, very slowly sure, but the enjoyment of a new variety starts to take hold of you. An appreciation for seemingly simple food, much like a flower you do need to tend this, the weeds of old habits and tastes will threaten to strangle this before it blooms, but if you keep at it you arrive at a stage where you have an entirely new view of food that will keep your lifestyle in place. It’s no longer a flower, but a pillar, holding up the foundation of your new life. It starts by not giving up, not resenting, but knowing the necessity and never stopping.

I’ll be on onion watch soon, the Roscoff are getting yellow at the tip so when we see some fine weather and they’ve wilted I’ll pull them, let them air dry and then start curing them. The Yellow Onions will take longer. I’ve planted beetroot where the shallots were, the beetroot in the shops is so hard as to be inedible, as are the carrots, which might be planted where the onions are. I have the flyaway and the purple sun still growing, but they will take time. Just think: I have only been eating carrots a few years. Until later, Dear Reader.

Grow Your Own Garden…Soil

You know, dear Reader, I was going to type up something comparing the greater understanding of gardening needed to really make it all flourish with the understanding needed for real weight-loss success. But, you know, I’m just burned out with this all, so instead we’re taking a strange detour, but one still related to the organic gardening side of the blog that has really grown over time. No it does not grow thanks to Jack’s copious spreading of manure! Jack is a wordsmith, a slightly damp one as I’ve been in the rain. I said I could write, I never said I had any sense.

I haven’t seen rain in nearly a month, maybe more, Dear Reader, which aside from making me run with hoses and, after the ban, watering cans, it has meant that I’ve been using tap water to feed my plants and also my soil. Which isn’t a terrible problem, but coupled with the extreme heat I have no doubts that there has been damage done to the soil. Rain water is perfect for soil so I prefer to use it as much as possible, the heat hasn’t been kind either, I have only my instincts, soil tests cost money!, but I don’t doubt there has been quite a bit of microbe death, the composters were heated to extremes and I’m seeing very little life there now. They’re breaking down faster, but I’ll have to repair them too. See the biggest part of organic gardening is the soil, it’s where everything grows after all. I’ve been thinking of it as a living thing for a while now, with the right care and amendments it can be the perfect medium. With little care and mistreatment it will have a detrimental effect on your crops, which, before you ask, yes, will grow anywhere, but you greatly increase the odds of successful crops the better the medium you grow them in, after all gardening is all a percentage game, it’s a difference between  knowing the work will pay off with a fair certainty or just hoping it will. I start with two mediums: potting compost which is pretty good on the whole, and clay which is well, not good. It’s been two years or so since I dug out an entire trailer of clay and brought it to the back garden. It’s been grown in, amended, tended, de-stoned, turned so many times over those years and now is a rich dark colour as opposed to the pale brown it came as, it has a firm, but crumbly texture, again, as opposed to the sandy dry texture it arrived as. Soil matters, a great deal, even the potting compost is amended and recycled here. A few years ago dirt was dirt and look at me now, gardening is a vast consuming hobby, Dear Reader.

Of course over time the soil can be used up, so if I didn’t keep it tended it would all be a waste. The benefits are far greater than the work, I was pulling shallots for curing, another post coming, have no fear, and al it took was a gentle tug, I have no doubt the carrots grown alongside them will be straight and true too. We have had a gentle rain all day today so I have high hopes the garden will show it’s rejuvenation when warmer weather reappears. It very easy to talk, Dear Reader, of the importance of organic food, of pesticide free food, of natural food, but if you can’t understand the scope of a garden, even a small one like mine, big enough for me, for now, then you can’t appreciate the full complexity of food. I can’t tell you how hard it is to get into people’s heads that food freshly picked starts to degrade, you’re not going to notice, but there is so much in a freshly picked bunch of basil that will dry up and be lost because you couldn’t use it fast enough. I’ll admit I’m a stickler for freshness now, I want it used right after pulling, which isn’t always possible. Still, it’s given an insight into food that people claim to have after going organic. I know those same people wouldn’t care where a vegetable came from just as long as they could brag about it. The love of fresh food is a veneration for the food’s freshness, taste and nutritional value and, yes, even the dirt it was grown in. Until later, Dear Reader.

I Could Make That…Just Cheaper

Decorative Dahlia Creme De Cassis.

Slightly better shot of the huge lily.

A story five months in the making.

Long sigh, Dear Reader, you might remember the Jack of five months ago, eager to plant, chipper and excited with his purchase of red hot pokers, good old trusting Jack, but Dear Reader, that Jack is no more because whatever that is it isn’t a red hot poker. I think it’s a daisy. A mix up in the packing? Probably. It fills a gap and the Kentucky Gayfeathers that started as teeny tiny bulbs are now nearing a foot tall and half that is immature flower. They resemble red hot pokers a little, just purple. There are always stories to be told here, Dear Reader, they just take time to gesticulate.

More Coreopsis Illico, I never knew they were perennial and threw away last year’s. These were cheaper at least.

The Cosmos flowers are getting larger.

Just a day under five months and we have Red Sun Shallots.

I’m trying something again.

Okay, Shallots first. They look really good, it’s surprising how few seemed to be growing yet when I uprooted them, just a gentle tug and up they came this is the very light and well composted soil, there was an abundance. I’ve never grown nor eaten this variety before so I’ll be interested to see how they taste. I’ll let them sit over night and then hang them in the shed, I’m using one of those mesh crates to keep them off the soil, gently laying onion atop the stalks above the bulbs. I learned a lot after last year’s massive harvest. So, the other thing, you may know this, maybe not, but Jack is a trier, I will see something and want to try it, but as cheaply as possible. I saw pots where plants grew from holes and as we had a plant stand that can’t accommodate any plants, I thought that maybe plants growing from the sides would look well. The plant pot just fits into a shelve of the stand so the top will be hidden, the pot is just plastic, cut with a pen knife, the inside is weed matting, a cross cut to let the plant slip inside and to hold the soil in place. It was a tight fit as the plant is heavily rooted, but it was just right for purpose. They’re Busy Lizzies, Impatiens is hard to say. If you show me something I will figure it out and make it with what I have at hand. My garden is all based on things I’ve seen that cost much too much money. I’ll be hanging onions on clothes line tied to hooks in our shed’s exposed ceiling beams. Same as last year, sans chain as I’ve used it. That was my idea because I have a way with this kind of thing apparently. You never know what you’ll learn in the garden, Dear Reader. Take care.