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.


The Soil’s Gratitude

A friend gave me these and they’re so beautiful.

The seedlings are huge. I forget that every year.

I’ll see if I have a name…don’t hold your breath…Lasting Love and Virichic!

We’re apparently in for a spate of bad weather, considering just how good it has been I’m not surprised, but I’ll delay my outdoor planting for a while, Dear Reader. I still have about seven pots to re-sift, by hand, scoop by scoop and yes I’m serious. These are the pots that were the raised beds and some of that soil never saw the top so there are stones and who knows what else to remove. I’ve made a start, but it is tedious. Thankfully the compost I added has broken down into the soil giving it a rich look and I’ll amend it again while refilling the pots. I do often talk soil because it’s vital that you take care of that most of all, it’s what feeds your plants, what holds water or lets it through, keeping it in good condition is vital. If left unamended it would gradually turn dusty and be all but useless. I’ll be honest, Dear Reader, I can’t tell if this is interesting to anyone bar me, but I have stood there with earth flowing through my finger, gently feeling for any stones and have something akin to peace for a while, being able to talk about that without having to think of anything but the experience is something I’m grateful for. I’ll selfishly carry on regardless, but have no fear, the recipes are still incoming. I do have something minor actually.

Oh, my fig tree is alive. Saved seeds, but not started by me. They were found in a park I think.

My early raspberries are starting to bud. Good!

This is so unusual. I never Google when I forget what they look like, it’s more exciting.

I was stuck for ideas for dinner today, but I wanted something fruity. I used a frozen cube of pure cranberry juice, added diced fresh rosemary to that, then in another jug I microwaved some raspberries, last year’s frozen harvest, until soft to that hot mixture I added fresh thyme, whole, letting it seep for a while, covered to keep it warm. I sifted that mixture into the cranberry and added a good dollop, say a tablespoon, of honey to about 150ml of liquid, a rough guess, but this is just me messing around after all, Dear Reader, salt, pepper and gave it a boil to reduce, knocked off the heat and let it thicken, added a third of a chicken stock cube, a bit of butter and sliced raw turkey breast, steamed it under a lid in the sauce, at the end the sauce was thick and syrup, the honey after a boil will do that, be careful of burning mind, but I think letting it cool after boiling and then cooking slow helps avoid that, and in the end I had this tangy, slightly sweet sauce, a little like ketchup, it’s been nearly ten years I can’t remember it that well now. It’s inconsistent and I can’t call it a recipe, but I love the tang of cranberry and the sweet sour notes of raspberries used together.

I’ve done this much so far. I have a lot more space now, the beds were too deep really.

Onions look well. Might get more seeing as I have so much space, though it’s getting late for planting.

Saved Royal Mallow. The second saving, so three generations in.

For the starting squash of Squash Watch! We have a gifted, from a Dear Reader in France, Potimarron Squash first up. I tell you, Dear Reader, heirloom seeds are great, you can see it in the germination and the growth. Some save easier than others, but any saved seeds are free so that’s a bonus and the more generation in the better adapted they are to your garden. On a sad note I think the last rambler cutting is going, they just stopped growing and started to die, whether it was heat, moving them or what I can’t tell, they put out leaves, but just seemed to stop that too soon, even before I moved them. I have a rooted cutting outside that was never moved that is possibly dying too, no idea why it happens. So, Dear Reader, I did what I had to do: I gave up. It’s just too…nah. I’m kidding, as long as there are dumb things to try I will waste months of my life in trying them. So, soft cuttings kicked me in the heart, I decided to attack the problem from the bottom, I went right to the centre of the rose and sawed two hard wood rose cutting. They’d sprouted out of the solid wood sections, which I don’t really understand the mechanics of, research for another day, Dear Reader, but with which I’ve had success with before, entirely by mistake, a big old, literally old, branch of rose left on dirt decided to root itself, it’s in a pot somewhere. That’s everything in my garden, I can’t keep track anymore, which I’m fine with, anyway, I’ve taken the two, one small, one long, very long, like a foot long but thin, stuffed those into a pot, tiny pot I’m not wasting soil, added rooting hormone, just mixed it into water and threw it at them, I thought of it after planting, I wasn’t reenacting a drama, and left them under the rose. Now I forget and will see them dead or rooting in a few months.

Royal Mallow planted a little earlier than above. I threw seeds into the cistern too, haven’t checked them yet.

Carnaval De Nice and Grand Perfection.

What about the seven feet long branch?…YES! I had to yank it down.

Rambling today, aren’t I, Dear Reader? Just one of those moods that strike. I said I’d use more fresh herbs this year and seeing as I have the tarragon I decided I should taste it, I picked a leaf to see what it’s like, it has a fresh aniseed taste, very subtle, I don’t see it surviving cooking too long, but I think it’d pair well with the Thai basil. I’ll try to use my fresh bay too, it smells heavenly this year, it must be stuck here for three years or so. It never died, but refused to grow beyond a few inches then this year it starts up and start with this amazing aroma. I’ll probably use these in quick gravies and scattered randomly, maybe in a coconut reduction, marinades are out naturally, but I can wing it. I’ll be busy for a while, Dear Reader, nothing of great import will be accomplished and that’s just fine with Jack. Until later, take care and thanks for stopping by.


Collaborations Between Jack, Bees and Flowers

Trying out something, Dear Reader.

I won’t do many videos, but I wanted to share.

Hosta and weeds…sigh.

Hairnets arrived!

These are just so pretty.


They also came with a lot of hidden weeds.

Someone’s trash becomes my treasure, well, after a year or so.

These are two of the oldest and most vigorous roses I have.

Whatever this is it’s gorgeous…Fine! I’ll check!

I can’t find it…er…whoops.

Yo, Dear Reader, the videos will probably be a very rare feature, mostly because I don’t want to, I like writing these posts, but videos aren’t my forte, if I had to speak either my accent or spluttering might cause issues, the human condition is the fact we all become shy whenever a microphone or recording device is placed near us. If there’s anything worth recording and I remember my camera has that function, it’s a little tricky to retain focus if moving or zooming so I don’t use it much, then you may see another video. I might try to capture some of the insect life, but full tours wouldn’t be as easily accomplished as the photos are. So, Jack has had a few deliveries, my onions arrived and also an envelope filled with these strands of plastic and nothing else. I was angry, I was annoyed and I was embarrassed when I realised the hairnets came crumpled up and loose. They work if nothing else and I can reuse them as often as I want. The Flying Onions were miniature onion sets, I cut a grid with a blunt knife and spaced them evenly. The others had two extra so I placed them in the shallot pot hat was fairing well in places, which by some fluke alerted my to the fact one was growing upside down! I righted it gently and it should be okay. What a thrilling life I lead, Dear Reader.

Cineraria, I think. Worked well in the awkward to plant places.

Bits and pieces everywhere, just as it should be.

There were a fair few, but only this one stayed put for a photo.

Potato Onions and Egyptian Flying Onions.

The early Spring bulbs are receding and the later ones are coming in strong. It’s the time between where there is still to little, but you can begin to see the promise of what’s to come. There’s still a lot of work to be done, plants to replace, seeds to plant yet, though I’m working my way through my seeds. It’s enjoyable as the weather has been really warm, night and day both, and it gets hotter as the day progresses so I can stay out in the evening. The grand plans are either progressing, slowly, or not yet imagined. This is the stage where trays of flowers are planted, insect life comes back to the garden, extra vigilance towards invasive life is needed too and generally the garden begins to take shape. I hope every year will have something new to discover, interesting things to try and theories to test out.

I forget again…sorry!

I have so many flowers and so many notes that I sometimes forget a lot.

I just pulled the door shut and stayed in, then the weather turned better and I headed out. A good day.

It was part of a shower caddy. It’s a handle now. The crack is where a bird shattered the glass. It was fine, the glass needed work.

Chillies, Carolina Reaper, Yellow Bumpy and my own saved seeds, three years running so far.

There will be a lot of planting out later in the month and coming into May, the weather can take a turn for the nasty early in April so I’m being cautious. Carrots and beetroot will soon go out, turnips have been planted today, peas, three varieties, Sugarsnap Bon, Greenshaft and Blauwschokker, will hopefully germinate quicker than last year when I spent the better part of a month replanting and watching the weather turn to colder and colder. I made it thankfully, but I’d like to avoid that. The carrots will be trickier this year, I have the resistafly, which are safe from carrot fly, but as the pots are lower and I have other varieties to plant I’ll have to position them amongst the onions and keep watch, if all else I’ll set up a mesh screen. I love fresh carrots so much, between them and the beetroot I’m going to plant as much as possible. I’m also going to try to incorporate all the fresh produce I can, from salads, to every kind of onion, in curries or whatever other way I can use them, recipe or not they’re going in, herbs will be scattered into everything I can. It’s a wonderful thing to pick something, however small, and use it in a recipe, you can’t get that any other way and that’s something that really enriches the whole experience. Here’s hoping to a great year, Dear Reader, until later, take care.

No End Game, Endless Victory

This is what I meant to show you. They open like umbrellas in full sun. They have a scent too. Light, but fragrant.

Cheap dust sheets are great. They’ll help my salad garden start up.

Phlox looks much larger this year. It’s new to me.

The honeybells returned. Not so absurdly long this time.

I’m ever going to struggle with my depression, Dear Reader, there will always be a dark side to everything, I struggle with the garden at times because every year I worry about nothing growing, as absurd as it sounds when it repeats in your mind enough it becomes believable, so I have to repeat that starting is a victory, taking the courage to go out there and try, daring to share what might not succeed and knowing that success or failure I should count the hours of sun, of exercise, of peaceful moments, of so many things that it’s altogether to easy to over look. It’s one of the reasons I’m glad to have this small platform to share on, Dear Readers to share with. It helps, probably, like every year, in a few months when things have progressed I’ll think of this days as silly, I just hope that went the next year comes around it’ll be a little less stress. I think it will. Sharing like this is difficult, Dear Reader, partly because it invites the worriers, those who will fret and panic and push that at me, it silences people unfairly, i we can’t speak out at our own pace then we can’t speak at all. If I needed help, Dear Reader, this isn’t how I’d go about it. Have no fear, Jack just wants to share about flowers. Even if the posts get a little repetitive, I hope you’ll stick with me. Onto the garden once more, Dear Reader.

They’re fun as they are almost clear and you can see the flower inside forming.

They really do look like snakes. Slightly doped snakes.

My cloned Hydrangea is starting to bud!

I’m using the colourant again this year, starting earlier, I’ve fed both, but I think the corner one won’t turn blue, it has very small tight flowers, it is very old and might be a very early variety, whereas this one, in time it’s not even two yet, will have large showy flowers that can turn blue, as the original did and this is a copy it’ll be interesting to see what colour it will be to start. I’m careful with the potted one and the colourant, I don’t want to sour the soil. If they turn blue I’ll know it works, if not I’l just feed them and let them get strong. I have 100 metres of that plastic, it’s just the right strength to stay put with the clothes pegs, transparent enough I’d say and I only need it for the seeds to germinate and then I can toss it. Storing random length strips would be a hassle and I have so much. It’s just a cheap dust sheet for anyone looking for plastic to use for heating soil or keeping moisture in.

Japanese Anemone can be very invasive and are very hard to eliminate if they establish.

The hosta is returning. Those aren’t my weeds.

I only managed to get a nub about the size of your pinkie finger’s pad, but they seem to be returning quite quickly to life. I have the purple ones and they will grow through any tiny hole, if there is a little bit left they will return, they’re no mint or horseradish, but these will go into pots for safety. It is funny that I’m not a huge fan of the purple one, I had to battle them for space and they’ve been here so long to be forgettable, but the whites seemed so much better. They’re the same bar the colour, but yes, Dear Reader, the anemone is always more striking in the other garden. I’ll return again later, Dear Reader, if the good weather holds then recipes might be slow to appear, mind you even if that changes they still might be. Thankfully there are plenty already here to explore. Until later, take care.

The Garden’s Personality

HERE IT IS! Not worth the wait, but please enjoy: Chergus! (The Kids named it)

Free tulips are great.

I had to rifle through a sack of indistinct daffodil bulbs to get these.

Making headway.

Sadly, Dear Reader, two of the rambler cutting died, now there is only one, it looks strong, but I’ll plan for another attempt this year again, you’re battling odds all the time, but I say that you need to feel the loss, however small and then praise yourself on how far you went. It’s not a matter of either or, it’s a journey we went on, when it ends is important, but it’s not all. I was thinking hat each garden has it’s own peculiarities, almost a personality. Mine has patches were everything grows huge and plentiful, ones where no wind can damage and, not even a place more of a joke, at times it has an ironic sense of humour. After discarding the cuttings, being cure to check the roots had died, I was cleaning, it’s a messy garden and I didn’t clean as much last year as I was still recovering from the surgery, besides the weeds remain plentiful every year regardless, if vegetables grew that way etc, and happened to tug at a branch of laurel that had been caught in the dirt and lo and behold: A root ball and a new large shoot of laurel. I potted it and placed it beside the rose cutting, now rooting after spending all year outside, I think greenhouses don’t matter with cuttings, unless a hard frost occurs, in what I’m calling fluke corner.

They’re surprisingly striking for such a plain flower.

The last daffodil…oh, no, sorry there are narcissi left to bloom.

I love the shape of these.

These were worth getting.

Oh, I have a story. I discovered one of the glass pebbles I scattered atop he compost bin, which is strange no one put it there, I thought it might be a bird, I couldn’t be sure, until the next day, atop the rain barrel was a chunk of what turned out to be dry dog food. These were placed dead centre and would’ve bounced if dropped, maybe the birds appreciate the feed. They certainly eat enough of it! Every garden has its stories, Dear Reader, mine is still warming up, it’s starting and you can feel it’s too slow, the Winters are long, but the Spring has its own pace too. I’ll fill a few more large herb pots, I have a varied selection of basil again this year, I actually didn’t buy enough of some seeds and bought more, they’re mostly aniseed tasting, but I’ll have to try for myself to be sure, but I need the hairnets to really start. I have bought some clear-ish dustsheets that I’ll cut and cover pots outside with. This way they can be cut to size and will be large enough to wrap around pots. I used clingfilm and it rained on it and it blew away and it broke my heart. So, this year I’m prepared. Every year I learn a little more and every year there’s more to learn. Until later, Dear Reader.

Four a pot might still be too many, but I thin them eventually so it’ll cover me for losses.

Not Cramped, But Abundant

Online garden centres are great, but the plant can take a beating in transit. Little Black Prince Blackberry looks okay.

White Currant.

Old Thyme, Rosemary and new Thyme.

Mini roses are coming on well.

I’m at the frantic standstill stage, Dear Reader, occasionally I have a rush of planting followed by a completely lack of anything to do but fret. Sadly, looking at the rambler cutting two might be struggling, I did say it’s a long-term gamble, but it’s still a pity. Still, they aren’t dead until they’re dead is a mantra I try to repeat often, that and: “They’ll die or live regardless of my worrying”. One looks strong and that’s all I need. Death in the garden can be surprisingly powerful, one plant can come to mean a lot after all, but you carry on, the garden urges you to replant and keep going. I had a wonderful day today, my online Birthday order arrived, there were discounted herbs on sale and the weather was perfect. I now have one of my perpetual onions, the Welsh Onion, which funnily after I set it beside my chives realised I have chives too, the lesser known perpetual onion. I’ll use them this year, I promise! I didn’t pinch them to leave them idle…keep that under your hat, Dear Reader, I only took a chunk after all.

Year two…three? I forget. Apparently they are two different roses. When they arrived they looked dead, they were just dumped on me.

Garden centres are just more expensive, not that different in quality.

A Birthday Present for my Mother, two more expensive roses. Almost just bareroot, but hey’re really pretty in photos. Burgundy Ice and Ruby Wedding Celebration.

Garlic stems are getting thick.

Really, garden-centre stuff varies, but mostly you can bet that the discount stores and the supermarkets, depending on the place, may get the fresher stuff and have it sold before it has time to sit there and ball up its roots. The reason I have so much is really that a lot of it was free, established already and probably free then and occasionally I splurge, but mostly buy cheap and plentiful. Losses sting less when you’re not spending much. Still, I have a pair of distinct red roses, which I really wanted, a lilac/blue one and a plum one. Roses are great with proper care. I wish I could count the number of blooms each year. Every year the previous year’s purchases grow better and are added to. The garden is a money sink, but a very healthy one. Besides, I’m a deal-finder, nothing for full price is my motto.

The Shirley was bowed by heavy rain.

Our Bluetit is back nesting for the third year. They laughed at the terrible paint job, but birds love it apparently.

Humble Chives.

From cream to raspberry ripple…I want ice-cream now.

I was lucky today that I was able to spray the raspberries, blackberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant, they’re that mass of bushes in pots, the raspberries were from a garden, the other’s cheap last year, I love cheap that’s not me bragging, I just reminisce about saving money, it’s an Irish thing, anyway, I sprayed them with organic soap, I had no boiled garlic or anything else, yet, I can spray again, because aphids ate my black and red currants, they left the raspberries. They came from a rose that has been moved and sprayed, chemical on those, but not near any food. Blackspot and aphids would destroy the roses without proper care. The soap is useful, not amazing or a certainty, but it does no harm and the sprayer, the one being tossed, again, I get a lot of junk, holds a lot and you just pump the handle with it on your back. I did it early because I had no idea they were there last year until a friend spotted them. I might be okay as the leaves dropped off in Winter. I also sprayed the greenhouse, by mistake, but I ran with it. Gave it a wipe down to avoid any issues, I keep it clean, but it never hurts to be careful.

Second year after moving, these will show up beautifully this year. Very well loved old roses.

They choose how to grow themselves, bushy or tall I don’t mind at all.

I feel as if nothing will grow, if this year will somehow be the year everything falls apart, I feel that every year, I think it’s something every gardener faces at some stage and I’m prone to this kind of thinking already, but I keep pushing ahead, focusing on the successes. I saw the American Dream tulips open and they’re incredible, I need a photo in full sun to share, they’re amazingly vibrant. The green cabbages and Brussels sprout seeds have started, five seeds a pot is still too much, but the one Brussels Spout looks funny. They’ll be a while yet, but the shop cabbage seedlings look wrecked so I’m fine with these taking their sweet time. As for me, Dear Reader, I’m doing a bit and another bit and eventually I’ll have way too much done, I’m lifting with my knees and feel better than I have any year in the garden. Hopefully I’ll have something exciting to share, but this will have to suffice for now, until later, Dear Reader, take care.

Guardrails For Hunger Holes

Yo, Dear Reader, I’ve been thinking about something I’ve been mentioning on and off for a while, this isn’t an in-depth…well, anything, just me, your forever-friend Dearest Darling Jack, sharing part of this journey he’s on, sometimes he lapses into third person but you just can’t but forgive him. I talk about my tastes shifting rather than changing, how my views on certain foods have changed somewhat, but are still anchored to the old thoughts still. I spent a long time, more than half my life, binge eating junk-food, trying to fill a empty hole inside myself, that was caused in a physical sense by illness and in the metaphorical sense by depression. In the movie of my life as I moved away from the old ways, lost the weight, had my surgeries I’d become a completely different person. That’s the movie though, this is the reality, over time I’m learning to view the urge to overeat in a detached way, I still have to be weary because it’s still there, the hole I could never fill, there are railings and warning and barricades surround it, but that hole, that hole can never be filled. I really believe there’s a part of my brain wired up to it still, however inactive, I still need to, always have, remain vigilant.

Have I ever slipped? As arrogant as it sounds, no, not in a real sense. I had to curb some habits and establish others, but I never consciously decide that I would binge like I used to. That takes a lot to accomplish, don’t mistake me, there are no tricks, just willpower and that is exhausting. I’ve learned I’m better staying far away from those holes, a little bit won’t hurt is like dancing around the edges when the railing is down. I’d say that the physical side is easier as it really does feel as if your stomach has shrunk after a long enough time, overeating can cause a lot more upsets to your body when you’re unaccustomed to it after a long break. The mental side is where it gets harder, the idea that eating will help, that there’s a food out there that will just help whatever stressful situation or troublesome feeling I’m facing, which almost feel’s like a phantom limb, I’ve ha phantom skin so I can understand a little. I don’t think that can be broken, it’s why I imagine it as a hole, Dear Reader, the railings are the habits I’ve worked so hard at, but I can never step lightly where those holes are concerned. I accept that, it isn’t always easy and it’s often hat people can’t or won’t understand that makes it frustrating. Really you need to shift that focus somewhere else, hence the blogging and gardening.

I’ll always have this with me, Dear Reader, there won’t be a handy montage wherein I come to terms with everything and I just get over it, life is messy, but I can work with what I have. I do sincerely believe that when all the surgeries are through I will find some peace that I lack. I had it after the abdominoplasty, in spite of the painful recovery, the long march forward, there was a peace there that I haven’t known in a decade or more, but as the wait for the rest stretches outwards, well, those holes seem to loom a little bigger. I’ll never fall, Dear Reader, I’m never going back to that, but I’d like some distance from them. It’s out of my hands, but if good thoughts do anything then send some Jack’s way. Thanks, Dear Reader. until later, take care.