From Past Pain Flowers Bloom

After Googling I’m guessing Tulipa clusiana.

Just a quick post. The sun was perfect today and in my back and forth trot I noticed that a new star had appeared in the garden, the little mystery flower that does indeed seem to be a tulip, at least according to my notes and Google searches. It closed very quickly, but I managed to catch it in a, albeit blurry, photo. I was too busy planting more potatoes, filling pots and planting more dahlias for perfect capturing. What makes this little flower somewhat special, along with the gorgeous pink hyacinth behind it is that the pot they’re planted in has the cancellation letters from those dark times, see the Journey page for more information, so I’m pretty pleased that a flower that looks like a tiny twinkling star has appeared above them. I was joking that since we didn’t know what kind of flower it was before it opened that maybe it grew from the letters. It seemed a fitting way to put those days behind me. Just throwing them away, burning them or defacing them didn’t seem the best way, planting something above them felt cathartic as they rot away life moves on above them. Okay, see you later, Dear Reader.

Hello again old friend. Shakespeare Tulip.


The Kind Hand of Experience

“He’s started talking about compost again!” – Hopefully not you.

There are seeds under the sunlight on the plate.

How many ways can one greet you, Dear Reader? Do I need to start with a hey? A hello? A yo? Or do I just get directly to the important parts? I have no idea either, that’s why I’m typing this out. Whew. That’s the introductions over. Today we’re going to talk about soft, moist and, almost, velvety compost. What? Heh. This is in part a gardening blog, I suppose. As with everything it’s rough and ready, but I do like to keep you up-to-date on any experiments in the garden. You can always skip over these posts so I’ll just carry on talking to my Devoted Dear Readers who put up with me. Now, I’m sure I mentioned, no idea when, that I’m trying shredded, rather than just torn, paper in my compost as there was a problem with the whole mass becoming solid and almost unstirrable, I’ve been picking paper out of the beds where I used the last batch. Had to us it as it was getting to be a problem. Starting fresh I’ve tried a new route and how did it fare? Really well, the compost stirs easily and has a much better feel, hard to put it properly. It’s like stirring thick porridge, the whole feels less solid. So, as you see above, I’m keeping a bin full of shredded newspaper, cardboard, whatever will shred and layering the bins properly. I’ll keep doing this as it’s just about the same amount of work as the old way and the long-term looks better. I’m saving the world, right? This is what so many talk about but never do because here is no credit for it, no great applause. But, here’s where Jack gets odd: There is, it’s in the life in the soil, the worms, the insects, the microbes I can’t even see, and it’s in the soil where vegetables will grow. The light and loose soil that will let plants flourish. It’s the pleasure of knowing that each year that passes will bring better and better yields, brighter, healthier flowers. Nature is repaying my work, as with all things worthwhile it takes a long time and is all too easy to overlook. Or maybe I’m just an oddball playing with dirt.

Yeah, same old chicken trays. Still a perfect tray for gardening.

Different bags, but the same idea.

I put down a couple of trays of flower seeds, roughly filling in and scattering, too much fuss with flowers leads to disappointment, and as they have germinated I decided to put down a few cabbage (Golden Acre) seeds. The weather is getting warmer, but it’s still uncertain, so slowly does it. Thankfully this year I know a lot more than I used to and I know that rushing will leave me with large spaces of time where nothing can be done. So, experience has given me the kindness of knowing that it’ll all get done in time. That seeds will start only when the weather suits, no matter how soon I put them down. That squash seeds need high heat and impatience leads to rot and loss. Most important of all is that a little can go a long way. I have only put two seeds in each pot as last year I put five or more and ended up with cramped seedlings that needed extensive thinning. I’m doing this for the joy of it all, Dear Reader, I answer to no one and I’m learning that I can do it and should believe in my self more. I walked through the garden today, cleaning a little here and here, as it wasn’t warm enough to do much and I saw so many shoot of green, some old friends making a return visit, some new making their first appearances. Even a few oddities, the garlic that died seems to be returning, the two solo bulbs have started to produce leaves, they’ll be interesting to watch, whether I’ll break the secret of the solo bulb is anyone’s guess. I still have space and plenty of plants waiting to be planted and replanted. I was gifted a purple asparagus crown that has started indoors and will need hardening off before it goes out. The rose cuttings will need potting and the bay laurel, dormant for two years is finally starting in earnest. I was looking at the tires that didn’t do very well last year and they seem to be better now the bulbs have been established. There is work to be done, but it’s enjoyable more and more each year as my experience grows. Until later, Dear Reader, take care.

Neon Pink Yarn and Hair Clips

Gonna be a lot of daffodil photos.

Seriously, they never end.

Robins do sound lovely.

I’ve been preparing for a birthday all day today and I’m really tired, Dear Reader. I’ll have photos of the birthday cake, made with Buckwheat Flour, and the Lemon Meringue Tart, the base was the only thing bought and isn’t gluten free. They turned out well, when I set my mind to it I can bake pretty well. Naturally since the sun was shining I took to the garden for a while too. I’m honestly sure that stones breed while in the ground because I never seem to stop hitting them whenever I start prepping the beds for planting. I decided to make use of the space between the paths, for pea picking, someday, this weather is dire, and planted onions. It’s a lot large when you start planting. There are three rows of onions there. Yes, that’s pink yarn and the hair pins, once for pinning strawberry runners, are great for keeping it in place. I then scattered the peat and sawdust, that the bulbs I bought today came packaged in, to keep it dry. Drier at least. The cheap corms and root sections were back again so I got some Button Snakewort (Liatris spicata) and Crimson Pirate (Hemerocallis). Yeah, like I know the Latin names off and didn’t just copy and paste. Jack is good, but not that good, Dear Reader. The shop was so hot that the Crimson Pirate had already started and is a healthy green. The snakewort is in between the red hot pokers. With a purple rose because I have no sense of colour matching.

You thought I was kidding? Hah!

Some of the hyacinth keep dying when they flower. I’m blaming the weather.

Hot shops and plants in bags don’t mix. At least it’s healthy.

The climbers are doing well too. I had some of the button snakewort, what an awful name, Kansas Gay Feather is a little better, hard to remember either, spare so I popped a few in beside the jasmine and honeysuckle, the honeysuckle has jammed it’s roots everywhere in the bucket. It’s so dense, thankfully also bottomless. The clematis isn’t suffering for being a cut off section of root and in a pot. It’s really surging into a lush plant again. It’s still a little slow around here, but I get a little done at a time when the weather is fine so I can’t complain all that much. I’ll see you later, Dear Reader. I’ll bring cake.

You don’t move clematis, you don’t grow it in a pot. Blah blah blah…I’m amazing. (Hope it stays alive)

They were a little more open, but I missed my chance. Shakespeare tulips.

I just bought this on Tuesday. Stop!

Sun and Only

Go! Potatoes! Be not blighted.

Tiny Daffodils. Possibly tête-à-tête.


Returning anemone.

Jack is really starting slow this year Dear Reader, but in truth though I often get an early start the seeds will only germinate when the weather is consistent so it doesn’t really change much, aside from my mood, which is black as the weather unless the sun graces us with its presence for a short while. I managed to get a little done today at least. The potatoes are down and fed. I went on my yearly expedition to the discount store and stocked up on feed and slug pellets. The different in price, even between the two discount stores is amazing. I also found shallots, red sun, a very large sized set of sets, red hot poker crowns, I really like them for some reason and a purple rose that better be purple unlike the Waltztime that wasn’t. It took three baskets and didn’t cost much at all. I’m a heavy handed feeder, but it pays off in the long run. When everything is one fifty you can’t help but buy, right?

I need to keep adjusting my camera to get it just right.

Tulips are starting again.

They’ve  really divided. King of The Striped Crocus.

Funny story, I was browsing the internet reading about pumps for rain barrels, I have an old irrigation pipe now that needs to be affixed to the wall, so I was curious if there was anything cheap that could help with filling watering cans and maybe let me use a hose. There wasn’t, but I did see a hose attached to what looked like my tap. If you’re new then you might not know that my rain barrels were all made with no idea of how to make them. They’re barrels, drilled with a bit I got for free, run-off pipes made of old hose, guttering, some adapted and some new, and a fermenter’s tap. All rough and ready, but they’ve stood the test of time. See the taps are all the same as they fit handily and it turns out that the weird shape at the end is to allow a hose connector. I had no idea! How embarrassing, how could you not know that, Dear Reader? Shameful! Heh. So I popped out, grabbed a few adapters that were left around, snapped off part of the inside and attached a hose section, clicked it on and turned on the tap to see water spurting from the hose! Yeah, I can fill watering cans, the pressure is just high enough for that, without having to centre them dead-level under the tap. It’s funny how even the earliest experiments I tried in the garden have stood the test of time.

Lollipop sticks are still useful.

It’s early yet, but I’m making progress. There’s a bit of colour cropping up here and there and I can see new buds started on the recently moved roses. The area where they were is now flat and gravelled over. The Summer bulbs are starting too, they’ll be very slow growing, but I’m glad to see the small ones are still alive. They should look much better this year after division. Okay, that’s it for now, Dear Reader, take care.

Grab Your Saw, We’re Gardening

Narcissus Ice King

Tulipa Spring Green

Last year’s tulips. Shirley I think.

You just can’t get enough of Jack, can you Dear Reader? Well here I am, splattered with sunshine, trailing in the Spring and making progress towards getting started. We’ve had really good weather these last few days so you can be sure that I’ve been making the most of it. I have a lot of jobs to do, now instead of getting flustered I’m taking them a little at a time, slowly chipping away at my work load. You know I noticed that I no longer feel ill and unable to eat or drink after working myself like, well, Jack. The diastasis recti was affecting me in way I haven’t realised until now. I’m afraid I don’t have anything that exciting to report. I’m holding back on seed planting, though I just put down a few saved flower seeds as a test, until I’m sure the weather is staying warm. I have plenty to finish so I’m in no hurry.

Lots of crocuses coming out at different times.

Life is starting to return to the garden.

A little slower starting this year.


I have to re-pot strawberries, which seems to be an endless task. Sadly the strawberry barrel wasn’t a success. I managed to salvage the strawberry roots and have re-potted them in a large pot. The roots on the yellow strawberries are thick, but very short so they’re going in slightly smaller pots. As for the barrel, well, I was at a loss at first, but then I had an idea. You can see the final result below. A few neatly split pots sit over the gaps where the holes were in the full barrel. It’ll be a nice show-piece, needs a very large plant to make use of all that root space. A lot of the garden is staying the same, when things are going well I’m happy to leave them be.

I finished the pea frames. I’ll wait a few more weeks before planting.

All the squash pots have been emptied, shaken up and refilled.

Potato pots at the ready.

Repotting strawberries.

I seem to be doing nothing but shifting soil from pot to pot. Emptying ones to refill them, throwing away dead plants and using that soil to fill pots for other plants that are being moved. I feel as if I’d emptied and refilled the wheelbarrow hundreds of times. I’m slowly filling pots for seedlings. It’s fiddly work and there will be quite a few to fill. Thankfully the herbs just go into their final pots, so will the chillies. Peas and beans are going in the soil once it warms. Squash have larger pots for starting in due to their huge roots. It’s wonderful to be tired, really beat, but not in pain, not sick and worried about strain. I’m still being careful, but everything seems to be doing well. The garden is done for me and me alone, I’m just going to take it at my own pace and enjoy it. See you later, Dear Reader.

Goofy, but I like it.

I’m going to need a large plant.

The changeable weather is messing with the plants.

Give Jack A Seed

And he’ll grow anything to an absurd degree.

Twenty Four Pounds.

A refresher on this monster crop.

I sure hope I don’t choke…WHAT AM I DOING WITH TEN KILOGRAMS OF SUNCHOKES?! Yeeaahh, Dear Reader, I have to admit that I did think these were artichokes when I started and that I really wasn’t sure what I’d end up doing with them, I was going to leave them in the pot, but curiosity got the better of me and, well, here we are. If nothing else I’ve enjoyed growing these, there’s no way I’ll put any down again, they’re really thirsty plants and if they get into the soil that’s that because they’re extremely invasive. But, see, here’s the thing: We’re often told to go out there and try everything, which usually means go cause trouble, go be a nuisance, be selfish and be abled bodied enough to actually do what you want. To those who can’t do a lot for various reasons, well, we tend to get left behind. So, here I am, living, not the life I’d have asked for, but an interesting one none the less. While I’m here I’ll tell you how to store your sunchokes, they don’t last long out of the ground, these might be wasted, but I treated them properly, they deserve that. First is to make sure not one single bulb stays in the soil, seriously they’re fiddly, but one nub will regrow an entire plant. Imagine if they were potatoes, a shame. Then wash them, I used saved rainwater, dividing and cleaning in the ever cooling weather. Then pop them in a mesh bag and let them dry out somewhere. I have mine in the shed. I think they last a few weeks, maybe more, some aren’t so hot, but the majority are fine for storing.

I’ll skip eating them. I have enough stomach issues.

Potatoes are starting too.

Should be a good crop.

I think these are something of a gourmet tuber. Hah. Prolific as they are I guess the limited storage time would make them harder to sell cheaply. I do really hope that someone will take a few at least. They make a great privacy fence for the Summer, dying back for the Winter and letting in light. I don’t know what made them grow so much, I had about ten or so to start, if even that. They were fed with comfrey tea, but I think they just grow like this. They can reach ten feet, mine were about seven in a pot. They actually only go so deep and leave a space at the bottom for rooting, rather like potatoes. Which, as you can see above, are starting to sprout. This year’s weather has been terrible, but I hope by the time they’re ready for planting it’ll be better. Who knows? I’ll see you again later, Dear Reader.

The Bluetit came back.

Why blue when it’s mostly yellow?

The View Not Taken

Yo, Dear Reader. I have been thinking about free from food, shocking I know, but there are a lot of different sides to the preparation of foods for different diets. It’s why you’ll baulk at some very popular recipes where many others are widely enamoured. We all have different tastes, different requirements, both dietary and mental. I know, you’re thinking I’m talking about food addiction again, but it’s a slighter lighter side of that. See when we talk food, in this case free from food, there are a few common themes that I’ve found don’t fit for me now. They once did, but I’ll get to that in a moment. This is in no way an attack on anyone’s recipes, methods, but I’ve always said everything we do can become too narrow if we don’t look outside the comfortable niche we’ve carved out for ourselves. Let’s run through this quick, bearing in mind I’m not talking absolutes, just common themes. I’m also a big fathead if that helps.

Emulation: Look! I’ve replaced the flour with sawdust, but the photos look so pretty! Okay, I’m mocking, but I’ve eaten my share of starch and gum ridden lumps of supposed bread. Appearances aren’t everything.

Recreation: The better side of familiar recipes being reworked. Again, this is within the framework of the original recipe, you try to recreate the same flavours and texture, but with different ingredients. It gets fuzzy at times because it’s obvious that at times it’s vastly overstated how effect it is. Like the sawdust example above, this is you being told that the lump of sawdust isn’t pretty, but it tastes just like cake!

Substitution: The roughest, but sometimes the best. Taking out ingredients and trying to keep everything the same is interesting it can teach you a lot too, but at times it’s obviously not going to be the same. How much is subbed can vastly change what you’re making. Think of he absurd sawdust example, this time it’s just a pinch an everything else is fine.

I’m less and less into the sweet side. Partly because I know I can only derive so much pleasure from it now, and stepping back into the mire of addiction and sugar isn’t an option, but also because I’m growing as a person. I’ll never full extradite myself from the mess that was the fat-days, but I’m getting better, even if it is tinged with a sadness born of the knowledge that what I enjoyed was often enjoyed for all the wrong reasons. Sweets to feed addiction and to plug a void are very different from sweetness solely for the saccharine pleasure they can bring in moderation. Look, it’s a little dark, but that’s Jack, I’m just letting it show now to save myself the hurt of hiding. Besides, I’m in a good place with food and want to help others see there are other ways to eat.

Okay, so the above examples are extreme and I’m not offering some perfect solution. The ideal rests in the mixing of all of the above. Take anything to an extreme and you’ll lose out. I’ve always said that the best free-from recipes are the ones that celebrate the uniqueness of their ingredients instead of burying them, but also the ones that utilize the strength of those ingredients. So, if like me you’re in an odd relationship with food, the best thing to remember is that there is no one way to cook or bake. There are popular ways, again look above, which one is the mostly likely to win you followers? Yeah. See, you will see that constantly, but if you dig through thousands of recipes you’ll start to see the really great ones. The cooks who celebrate their ingredients, balance everything for taste and health and generally will stand you better over time.

So, for me, I’ve found that playing with food, ignoring the desire to force my new food to it with what was and just taking everything as far as it will go has stood me well. There’s no great ah-ha moment in this, but if you look at my recipes you’ll find so much of my story within them. There are many I can’t eat now, there are others I’ve made once, made certain they were okay to share and then moved on. Others I make again and again. I crafted recipes for myself primarily, but I look at all the ways I could use the ingredients I had, I never said I won’t eat this or that out of stubbornness. I’ve made so many failures in my time that have been blessedly forgotten, but I learned from each. The times that stick with me are the ones where I tried too hard to fit the idea of what I should be eating, when I made complicated cakes and intricate meals, not out of enjoyment, but because I felt as if what I was making wasn’t good enough. Which is silly in retrospect. But in those early days, when I was newly stripped of my old diet I was scared of food, terrified of everything going wrong and had no choice but to follow the crowd. In time I realised I still didn’t fit and gradually drifted away. It’s why there are so many unique recipes here, it’s why I push so hard to educate about eating as part of a healthy lifestyle.

I will always aver that food is complex, how it affects us is something we need to discover and rediscover again and again throughout out life. Look, I’m a weight-loss success story, a hundred and forty seven pounds lost. Eight years at this and yet, have you ever seen me try to push anything on you? Have I ever oversimplified any part of this? No, because it’s too common that that’s the case. The place I’m learning to stay in isn’t the weight-loss story, nor the super healthy lifestyle, it’s in the knowledgable about food niche. It’s complex, daunting and vital. There s just too much pseudo-science, too much lies, too many trendy foods and devious brands. I’ll keep voicing my understanding like this, if ever there is an aspect of my journey you want to talk about or have me talk about in greater detail then ask. Ask yourself this one question, again and again: Why do people fail at losing weight if there are so many options and solutions out there?

It’s because, Dear Reader, weight-loss is too often linked to self-hate. When the weight is lost that’s the end, no matter how much praise you’ve had you’ll lose it by degrees. Even if you keep it off when the focus is on weight-loss then you’ll always hate what you see because you imagine it could be better. I look at myself at times, the scar doesn’t bother me, but the idea that I could put on weight does. Not that I’m doing anything different, but the dangerous idea of weight-loss hovers over me. It’s where eating disorders come from, we push all the wrong ideas about health and food because we don’t know enough and refuse to admit to that. So, instead of the self-hate of weight-loss, the desire for unobtainable perfection of form we should strive for self-love and a healthy body and mind. That’s much more difficult than yo-yo dieting, less dramatic, less “Made For TV”, but it’s the right path. Loving yourself means giving yourself all you need in life, be it food, exercise or joy. Whatever, the hard part is that dark place in us and others that will draw us down the wrong paths to supposed joy. Losing weight won’t make you happy for long, but being healthy will help you fight for your joy, it will make it easier to live your life. Take it from me, when I look not at the scar, not at what was, but at what I’ve given myself. The garden, almost no pain, a much better life on the whole, then I realise I’m right. When you work on the right things it’ll start clicking together, slowly but surely, but it’ll keep going. The shortcuts cut deeply, you just don’t realise it until the damage is done. Jack will never stop being here to spread this, it’ll refine in time, reiterated countless times in the hopes it’ll save someone from the pains I’ve been through. Okay, that’s it dear Reader. Take care.