Step Up Into The Greenhouse

 photo DSC00144_e_zpsonrwp5ef.jpgPhotos were taken on 23rd June, but the post is scheduled. This, hopefully, clears up time-paradoxes.

The garden is going wild brother!  No? This isn’t my style? Oh. The garden is flourishing, a fecund productive paradise and in the midst of it all is dear Jack, honest Jack, Jack of many jobs. I’m reaping a few harvests dear reader, a few losses too, but let’s talk of the joys, of strawberries wrested from the grasp of slugs, I know they don’t have hands from which to wrest! Give it a rest. Like I say, I have rescued my berries thanks to sprays, to pellets and quick oats. As to which worked…well, I have no idea. I have my castile soap and have made my spray to tackle the insects. I boiled a bulb of garlic in water ad let it stew until cold. I topped with filtered water to a litre and added one tablespoon of the soap and half of olive oil. A quick shake and there we are, my organic spray to prevent these little blighters becoming a blight on my garden. I’m testing it in the front garden to see how it fares then I’ll use it on the strawberries.


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No Matter how tidy you are, plants have a mind of their own.

 photo DSC00151_e_zpsllqzodf6.jpgI like this set up. Better than all around staging. Though I will change my mind frequently.

 photo DSC00148_e_zps1o83jvus.jpgNot bad for a slug-eaten mess only a few months ago.

Hmmm? Oh, the title. You should know my eight foot tall, at least, greenhouse needs a nimble step to gain ingress. I imagine lots of people would faceplant in an effort to explore, but fear not. Jack be nimble and all that.  I have more basil to harvest and turn into pesto. I did notice that the basil left near the tomato plants became wilted. I found that when placed near chill plants last year it did great. I’ve moved it and I’ll see what happens. It also turns out that the Thai and cinnamon are one and the same, I’ll have to buy by the Latin name in future if I want true cinnamon basil. Still, pesto is pesto, regardless of what basil I use.

 photo DSC00150_e_zpsyvcqm9on.jpgA little chilli flower has bloomed.

 photo DSC00154_e_zpsqdiuqefd.jpgI think it’s a flower starting.

 photo DSC00155_e_zpsosuwgyn1.jpgA Gardener’s Delight.

 photo DSC00149_e_zpsjd9chp2i.jpgA pair of Roma. Edit: Dummy I am I missed the back two until now!

I have a few tomatoes coming in as you can see. I hope with better sized pots, more feed and frequent watering that I’l see a successful harvest this year. I have the space finally, I hope I’ve used it well. I’m really curious what the big chillies will be like, they, and the small ones, are saved seeds and I have no idea what variety the big ones are, they’re really large like a small banana. They don’t seem to need any support at all. I think next year I’ll build the tomato cage in advance as once it hits its stride you can’t keep it tied up and tidy. You can’t stop a plant from growing in it’s own way, I just let them go, taking suckers, dead heading and fiddling as little as possible.

 photo DSC00156_e_zpsgujzpaqm.jpgThe basil is going strong.

 photo DSC00158_e_zpstgbtugyn.jpgMy blackberry.

 photo DSC00159_e_zpszqsuv9if.jpgWild blackberry. Also mine.

I will have to make a few hard decisions at the end of the year. There are unproductive berry plants that need to go. The rest need to be re-potted and given more room to root. I’m saving runners as I go, not too any, just enough for me and a few others. I’d like to keep a balance between fruit and new plants. Never go into something like this trying for perfection, dear reader, you’ll never get there and you’ll miss out on so many wonderful accomplishments. Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m off to check on my cement. Yes, Jack is adding a new trade to his repertoire: Cement Slinger! See you later.

Smooth Jams and Produce’s Purpose

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Geranium, squash adjacent.

We’re going on a meandering maunder, a purposeless pontification, I am Jack of all the words. You are Reader the Dearest. Today we talk of food, grub, victuals, provisions, of the thing we all need. Why? Because I said so. I’m just in the mood to type, maybe I’ll even say something worthwhile, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one, dear reader.

 photo DSC00134_e_zpsmuxowwjw.jpgFiltered. photo DSC00135_e_zpsxbx2fxzz.jpgAu Natural.

I have a request, I want your opinion. I’m not really experienced enough, never will be either, with photographing food. I take photos of food, but I never touch them up or fiddle with settings. I took two photos of my dinner today, the top was taken with a food filter. You can see it makes it slightly brighter, more colourful, not very different. What I want to know is if you’d prefer to see the photos run through a filter like this, no exaggeration, just a little more colourful or if you’d rather see them as they are in real life. I can’t decide myself and since it’ll affect my readers I thought I’d leave it to you to decide. Leave your thoughts in the comments below and thanks.

 photo DSC00138_e_zpswkmwsloe.jpgThe saved pansy seeds finally blooming. photo DSC00136_e_zpsad1n5vgh.jpgI think these are the new seeds. Hard to tell really.

One of the things I’ve struggled with is using everything I’ve grown, often I ended up giving away fresh produce because I didn’t want to use it. This year I grew what I wanted and what I’d be willing to try out. There are so many ways to use fresh ingredients, there’s no trick to using them, just a lot of research and ignoring the methods that don’t suit you, no matter how popular or idealistically framed. I think the key to eating so well is that I started with an ingredient and tried everything I could, no matter how absurd, how strange or how obscure. It’s easy to feel a little foolish when you’re the only one eating food prepared a certain way. Like with my nut butter amaranth, though with that you’ll have to kill me to stop me eating amaranth like that, it’s delicious. I think you have to find the best way to use the ingredients for you. Fads come and fads go, but if you can stick to eating good food, in the least processed way possible, then it’s worth any effort on your part. Maybe it sounds silly, but it can extremely stressful being the only one to eat this way.

 photo DSC00120_e_zpsbvpumd5o.jpgBeef vacuum sealed with fresh herbs, tossed in a rice cooker, filled with water, with a slow cook setting.

 photo DSC00133_e_zps6vsjvjmv.jpgA batch of Buckwheat Fruit Puree Scones.

I was reading a post today from a Coeliac charity that are working to bring in gluten free staples to shops, you know what those are. I’m not getting into the problems, nutritional and otherwise, with some gluten free products, but it always hits me how alone I am in the diet I follow. It’s a pain at times, but it really has shown me just how much ac be done with food. Not in the clickbaity way either, like hiding vegetables in cheese and more cheese with a side of cheese. There are so many options open to us, but perhaps you’re like I was. I grew up with staples that weren’t always healthy, they were decent home coked meals for the most part, crap for the other, but the shocking thing is how hard it is to break away from that comfort zone. It’s part of the struggle I had with weight and the successful weight loss. here’s nothing so disheartening than being asked, over and over, what that is, why are you eating that, etc. Being told they’d never eat that as if their way is the only right way. I’m happy to say I never fell into the extreme camps either, the ones who stick to one food and declare it’s magically curative properties. I just appreciate food for what it is. I keep it varied. I try anything, and I mean anything, I ate a nasturtium off the plant, it’s disgusting by he way, just because it was okay to eat. I think a lot of people have issues with foo that they’re unwilling to see. Maybe I’m wrong, but offer anyone a yellow strawberry and more often then not they’ll ask if It’s edible. Me? I’m eating halved strawberries, fresh from the plant, the other maggot ridden half is in the neighbour’s garden. He won’t notice.

 photo DSC00139_e_zpses6ym3g4.jpgDon’t talk about maggots? Welcome to organic gardening!

 photo DSC00137_e_zps8ngacpca.jpgJust wait until I get my castile soap.

I’m preparing for my surgery again, slower his time as I have more than a week. We keep getting free duck eggs so I’m using them in baking. I’m told they’re great for baking, they’re really thick. I’ll make up breads and nearer the time, all going well, I’ll organise it into bags. I’ll also put what I learned from eating the cold dinners into practice. I just want it over and done with, dear reader. The hardest part is that no one really understands how hard it is to live with all this skin, they talk about clothes, while I’m just thinking of the relief from discomfort, from pain, from so much. Getting a bit too serious here. Quickly! Slip on a banana peel! Waka waka!

 photo DSC00130_e_zpsog83qckr.jpgThese taste terrible and are really invasive.

 photo DSC00127_e_zpsoddle0p0.jpgI love playing with my camera.

I like setting myself a challenge with new ingredients. I buy them on impulse and I refuse to waste them. I bought kangaroo meat, which can be absurdly tough. I tossed it in the rice cooker like the beef, with some fresh rosemary and it was decent. I wouldn’t do it again, but it was fun to try at least. Whenever I see a new fresh ingredient in the shops I’ll grab it and then figure out what it is. I’m almost certain this is why I’m contemplating growing my own pumpkins next year. It is a shame that there’s so much I can’t eat. I was looking at mint jelly, but a lot of the recipes have vinegar, which I can’t tolerate, but I was poking through my Uncle’s old Jam and Preserve book, it’s about twenty five years old. In it there’s a herb jelly recipe based on apple jelly. You can just add the herbs at the end for some of them, so I might try a batch of sage and maybe cinnamon basil. Just going to make small portions, but it sounds like fun.

 photo DSC00129_e_zpsr7ywxgne.jpgI bet you thought I was joking about the pointlessness. Hah!

 photo DSC00125_e_zpsjwj4w6eu.jpgThe moved roses are starting to get some fresh growth.

 photo DSC00123_e_zpsxyhp8ttu.jpgNot bad for a root section.

I’ having a lot of luck with the greenhouse plants this year. The basil isn’t struggling like other years and I have tomatoes starting. Even the large chillies are starting to flower. The bell peppers have come on a lot, even after the slug damage, they’re about a foot tall, maybe a foot and a half. I know the right sized pots, added compost and fertiliser are playing a huge part, but I also believe that it’s the heat being more even and batter contained that’s helping too. I’m curious to see what the chillies will be like as they’re saved seeds. Both the small and large are. The small chillies took an age to start last year, maybe they’ll grow faster with the heat in the greenhouse. Everything moves forward, dear reader, I just have to give them all the care I can in the here and now. Okay, that’s enough from yours truly, see you later.

Playing With Pictures

A bonus post today, dear reader, I’ve finally bought a new camera. A bridge camera, to be used exclusively on bridges. No? Okay, I’m know, it’s what I’ve been looking for for a while. I was having such trouble taking a photo that wasn’t blurry that I thought it was time to take the plunge. Now, I will say that I’m not taking this beyond snapping a few photos here and here, I’m no photographer and have no aspirations to be any better than being able to take a decent photo. It’s a Sony DSCH300, so far it’s pretty great, but it eats batteries. It’s just what I needed so I’m happy. Now, I’m going to pester you with photos, I’ve been like a huge child, running around with my camera and snapping everything in sight. I did often wonder how people took photos that didn’t look awful, I guess get a better camera was the answer. I’m not going to be using filters, I’m not experienced enough to use them to highlight what is there and any auto-filter might present a skewed view of the end result of a recipe.

I have been having trouble with the site in Firefox, I’ve switched to Chrome so hopefully that’ll sort out some of the issues. If anything is off that might be why. Now, let’s see what we can see.

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What I’ve Learned in Three Years Growing Basil: A Rough Guide

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Absolutely nothing. I’m joking, but the temptation to just post that remains. Seriously though, I think there are a few pointers that I can share to growing many successful harvests of basil. These are just anecdotal tips from your forever friend Jack, nothing more than the summation of my experiences. The reason why every guide here is rough is because I’m constantly learning and the me sharing my experiences in the here and now will be a very different person in the future. There does have to come a point where I’ve learned as much as I can, but you can never be sure. So whether you’re new to basil an old hand or just vaguely interested in these little herb, here are a few tips, in the now ubiquitous list format, for getting a large, healthy and delicious harvest. I’ll even point out a few tips for pesto, I’m still new-ish to pesto, but now I’ll only make it using he freshest herbs, my own in other words. I never ate it before I couldn’t eat any commerical pesto so take my tips as you will.

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Basil Tips:

Not too Tall.

You’ll enjoy watching you basil get bigger and bigger, but one of the problems is that when it grows very tall is that it can get weak stemmed, if you’re not cutting it and letting it bush out the basil can end up wobbly. The other issue is that when it reaches it’s maximum height it will start to flower and as pretty as they are you don’t want them spoiling the taste of your basil. Either pinch them off or just cut below them. What you want is a basil that isn’t too tall, has no flowers and has leaves from everywhere on the stem.

Light prune, heavy prune.

Now this does assume you have basil ready, whether you buy it as a seed, like Jack, or you buy it from the shops and propagate it via cuttings, like last year’s Jack. The best way I’ve found is alternating between light harvests, small amounts taken with careful hand, and heavy harvests, large amounts taken with rough cuts. The idea is that you do need to keep basil pruned, removing the light, small leaves when healthy is great as you can use them, rather than letting them wilt, this will let the plant feed itself and grow. For heavy the best time is when there’s too much top growth, way too many leaves, you can just cut it down a few inches, at the growth node of course, and the plant should have sufficient leaves to grow again. The best way to determine the stage is by how many leaves are on a stem. If they’re mostly empty then you don’t want to take too much. All crowded and hen it’s time to take a heavy hand. Basil is tough, but smart pruning means you get more out of each plant.

Feed when scraggly.

Like you and me, dear reader, plants need to feed to grow. The thing about herbs is that they release their flavoursome oils when they struggle, the less for it to draw upon the better tasting it is. So naturally feeding isn’t advised, but you should do it. Huh? Bear with me. You want the basil to be at it’s peak when harvesting, just wet enough to be healthy, the smell will spread throughout any room,  it’ll taste best then. After a few harvests you’ll want to add a little plant feed, this will help the plant grow again and stay strong. The only issue is that the taste will be almost non-existent while the nutrients are in the soil so don’t over-feed it or use slow-release pellets. A little liquid feed is all you need.

Consistently Warm.

Now this pertains to Ireland wacky weather. I had basil last year in a plastic greenhouse that was just ready for harvest so I let it until the next day, the next day’s weather was a cold snap and the basil wilted and died. Now that I have a well insulated greenhouse that holds heat better, and keeps out some of the cold, there’s a world of difference in my basil. You might be best to keep your basil indoors if you don’t have a greenhouse. It’s very disheartening to see basil just die suddenly. I did find the Thai a tougher basil, but that may have been a fluke.

Pesto Tips

Not too smooth.

I use to blend my pesto to a smooth consistency and I feel that that’s a disservice to the basil. I find that a rough blend, where the nuts are just broken up and there are few shreds of leaf left gives  much better texture and even improves the taste. You’re not disguising stems or hiding poor quality leaves, this is your harvest and you should use it the best way possible. I don’t recommend using the stems, they’re okay when very young, but become rubbery in time and eventually woody when the weather changes to cooler temperatures.

Not too much oil.

This is more of a preference, but if you are freezing, and topping with oil naturally, then I find making a thick paste, topping it before freezing leads to a pesto that clings perfectly an doesn’t end up with pasta that’s floating in oil. I love oil and rich pasta dishes, but I think the freshness is where pesto shines, overwhelming the basil is a mistake I’m glad to say I no longer make.

Mixing and Match.

I’ve mentioned that I grow a few varieties of basil, the sweet is the most versatile, but the others offer a unique taste in dishes. The issue I find is that some overwhelm while others fail to stand out enough on their own. I’ve found that mixing the Thai (They call it cinnamon on the packet, but it’s Thai) with the dark opal gives the Thai’s aniseed a slight undercurrent of something sweeter, the lighter flavour of the dark opal is still present, more so thanks to the contrast in flavours. It’s also helpful if you just don’t have enough basil to make pesto, a little Thai with sweet is really fun and different ratios make really different pesto.

The Little Rose That Actually Couldn’t

 photo WP_20170616_001_e_zpswhx3rdg6.jpgThese come in yellow? I mean, these come in yellow.

 photo WP_20170617_005_e_zpslr12dzgb.jpgI’d love a giant ranunculus.

Imagine how empty the site would be without garden posts, dear reader, imagine how empty your lives would be without me! No, come back, I’m kidding. I’ve been forewarned about an incoming heat wave and have fore-watered the plants. I’ll be out daily, dilly-dallying and carting watering-cans to and fro. The plants will be well hydrated, whereas I will be a dried-out husk. The midday sun is a killer. I do have a story to share today. Let’s be a little whimsical and post it as a carefree, childish tale entitled:

 photo WP_20170617_010_e_zpsjgoiukf3.jpgWaltztime necro-rose, the shocking truth revealed.

 photo WP_20170617_011_e_zpsnbjcswcg.jpgHmmm? Oh, that’s tabloid style. Okay: The Little Rose and the Big Mistake.

Once there was a garden, within the garden was a bucket, a very special bucket as this bucket had no bottom, within the bucket was a rose, a sickly rose that couldn’t seem to bloom although all the others around it had already started. A kindly gardener took pity on the rose and replanted it in a special place. Eventually he forgot it, but one day he noticed that a rose had begin to grow in the very spot he buried the little rose. But it was dead, he exclaimed, surely it was a miracle. The little rose had come back to life. But as this is reality it turns out it hadn’t. Life is cruel, children. The end.

Wait! Hold it! Now your pal Jack is no liar, there was indeed a rose there, but not the dead one, it was a large branch of an old rose that started to root, after a quick prune it’s been replanted and will hopefully flourish in its new pot. So, it may not be a dead rose reborn, but it’s still pretty cool that it managed to start.

 photo WP_20170617_001_e_zpsxueurw9y.jpgI’m dubbing this the wrinkly rose.

 photo WP_20170617_007_e_zpsrklka3mb.jpgI jammed a load of plants into a pot and they do better than the carefully care for ones.

 photo WP_20170617_008_e_zpstp8lo0ar.jpgThe first strawberry starting to ripen.

There’s always work to be done in the garden. Careful care at every stage is paying dividends though. I’ve been dead heading and the difference is shocking, I even have a second flowering of my anemone. The roses look much better with frequent dead heading. I’m also tossing the over-ripe yellow strawberries into a pot, smushing really, as they’ll only propagate by seed. I could divide the crown, but I’d like a few that I could share with select others, I’m generous, but not stupid. I’d like to think I have enough flowers, but more just keep popping up. I bought some very cheap bedding plants to fill planters given to me by a neighbour. Salvia Merleau Blue and Coreopsis Illico. Yeah, means nothing to me either, they’re blue, yellow and perennial. There’s a front garden competition I’ve entered, no hope of wining, too many much larger, professionally maintained gardens out there, but why not enter it? If I could enter the back it’d be interesting. That’s all from me,  dear reader, there’s a lot happening in the garden and it’s fun sharing it with others. I hope to make jam or jelly son, I’ll post it when I do. If it succeeds that is. Until later.

 photo WP_20170617_003_e_zpsmrk8jts4.jpgMy special St. Brigid Anemone look the same as these, they cost more. More fool me.

 photo WP_20170617_004_e_zpsy0s1iqap.jpgThe side one hasn’t bloomed yet. I haven’t much red, but I’d rather it were blue. I can dream, right?

 photo WP_20170617_012_e_zps3ww5rrxg.jpgThis rose was all camped up, it might be a rambling rose. It can ramble over the fence.

These Joke Titles Will Be The Death of Me

 photo WP_20170615_017_e_zpsksh9khwe.jpgBegonia Semperflorens Dark

 photo WP_20170615_006_e_zpsamgobhet.jpgThe lilies are out.

 photo WP_20170615_018_e_zpsa9rxkj7m.jpgBlue potato flowers.

You think it’s easy, dear reader, I sit here for  hours thinking of clever titles, thankfully the posts are just slapped together trip…did I type this out. Er. Ignore that, hah, you know me dear reader, I’d never do that to you. No, no, I spend countless hours crafting these posts. That’s why they all have a firm purpose, instructing moral messages scattered without and an endless supply of witticisms…look, flowers!

 photo WP_20170615_001_e_zpsilbvq2oy.jpgMy clematis is flowering. Not bad for a first year plant grown from a root

 photo WP_20170615_007_e_zps9lvnce9o.jpgThe painted sage should be blooming soon.

 photo WP_20170615_020_e_zpsbwh3frcb.jpgI wet the leaves of my gardener’s delight by mistake, but it came back strong. Don’t do that, I guess.

You know the hardest part of anything that involves a lot of unseen work is when anyone, say you, dear reader, asks if there’s any aspect of it that they would be wise to emulate or would derive pleasure from. There are two people on both sides, the earnest and the blow-hards. The latter in both cases want to impress and do as little as possible. We’ll focus on the earnest, the earnest teacher and student. If you ask me what you should grow it’s simple to throw out an answer, grow lettuce it’s fast, herbs are easy, but there is a problem that with experience comes forgetfulness. The more I learn the less I need to call upon that knowledge specially, it’s at my fingertips so to speak. I know by looking at my squash how they’re doing, but compare that to my first terrifying year. Which, if you’ll recall, I was told that growing squash was easy and anyone could do it without any troubles. By an experienced gardener no doubt. I’m slowly becoming that person, dear reader, but I’m still in earnest, I’ll always think of the information I’m imparting, how much of it was practically learned and how long you’ll need to really understand it. Again, the blow-hards want a quick run-through, as if all these years of growing and learning, countless more to go, can be condensed and given to them to elevate them to the same level. Not how it ever works. If there’s ever a question you want answered, dear reader, ask away, but as far as teaching goes, well, I’m still a student of the soil. If you want to join me feel free, I’ll try to pass on what I can.

 photo WP_20170614_001_e_zpsfmwpdsgm.jpgFirst harvest of sugarsnaps “bon”.

 photo WP_20170615_003_e_zpsjolgmigr.jpgPascali, the smell is extraordinary.

 photo WP_20170613_001_e_zpswwqtgmqy.jpgPart of a cage for the broccoli. I ran out of mesh, but had the old stuff. They’ll never escape now.

Now, I’m sure you asking yourself: But why? Why can’t you simplify this? That’s a fair question. The reason is simple. Everything is connected. Say you want to grow roses, you have to consider the position, soil, insects, weeds, pruning, general care, feeding and more besides. The next part that adds to the complexity is when you consider how plants affect each other. In a positive way: Bees are drawn to flowers, which helps pollination in your squash. But what about plants that negatively affect one another? If you have a plant infested by aphids, again you may not properly treat them and when your lettuce appears they attack it? If you have to many dark places you may have lurking slugs and some plants may draw them out, if those plants are near your brassica then you’re in trouble. It’s not that you’re constantly watching for every little failure, but there are a lot of considerations and the more you know the harder it becomes to ignore those issues when recommending to others. It’s aggravating when they just don’t want to acknowledge that these can be problems. “I want to grow my tomatoes outside in the cold! Why can’t I?” I go by the one answer rule here, I tell you the facts once after that go ahead, I’m not helping if you’re not listening.

 photo WP_20170615_016_e_zpsns4qscx7.jpgI almost snorted a bee when smelling these.

 photo WP_20170615_014_e_zpsk4qakymg.jpgRemember the sun? Me either.

 photo WP_20170615_013_e_zpsl7uhgbfu.jpgOxalis Deppei’s foliage is where it’s at the flowers are pretty pitiful.

One of the really great parts of gardening is that there are amazing teachers, if you’re lucky enough to meet an experienced gardener they will teach you so much. There is almost a universal topic that seems to be passed on to every neophyte gardener: You will fail. No, no! Not like that. It’s just that no matter the care and preparation, no matter what your experience level with, there will be times when luck, or nature, just isn’t on your side. You might be growing the worlds best potatoes and suddenly blight affects them. You may find your plants torn by gale force winds. There are just so many ways that things can go wrong. What’s surprising is how much effort this takes to accept. Imagine spending six months building a card castle, carefully placing each, getting so close when suddenly it all tumbles down and there is no one to blame. It was a freak occurrence. That’s gardening. If you fail to accept failure, heh, then you won’t last. You’ll hurt, trust me it really tightens your heart when it happens, but you’ll carry on. I think it’s the reason I try so much, if something fails you’ll have another to focus on. I suppose where the metaphor fails is that you will have to wait, you can’t just gather up your cards and begin again, you’re beholden to nature, to season, to something greater than you. It’s a strange feeling, a hurt mingled with resignation, with a forgiveness only you can give yourself and hope, hope that it will not happen again, hope for a success to be proud of. I can’t explain it exactly, but if ever you do start gardening on a large scale and meet another experienced gardener I bet you’ll have a similar conversation.

 photo WP_20170615_012_e_zps4kzkb0uc.jpgI forgot we had lilies other than the orange ones.

 photo WP_20170615_015_e_zpsnjfu4ggq.jpgHoneysuckle and jasmine, with dahlias behind. (Uneaten thanks to my slug prevention)

 photo WP_20170615_021_e_zpsj7ah1qif.jpgI think Heinz cancelled their competition. No personally bottled ketchup for Jack. I did a prize though.

I know sometimes I come across as a killjoy and I really don’t mean to the thing is you can’t teach joy. I was taking to a friend, who has thought me so much about gardening, and she said something really apt: I’m the Maintainer. In other words there are those that go into the garden to just enjoy the sites and smells, whereas I’m constantly looking at what needs to be done. Not to say I’m not having fun, but there is a responsibility mingled with it. I suppose it ‘s the reason I enjoy sharing like this with all of my dear readers, your interest is untainted by thoughts of work to be done. Still I have my moments. Yesterday I found my artichokes had dried out, I  hadn’t been out as the weather was awful, but pots need extra attention in regards water, I dumped two watercan’s worth into the drooping mess. Not ten minutes later I was out again and there they were in perfect condition, I had to laugh aloud. The care they’d be given made them resilient. I really wish I had a before and after photo to share with you. It’s incredible to see what these plants can return from.

 photo WP_20170615_023_e_zpsr20aeisf.jpgAncient technique for growing baby strawberry plants. Old kid’s cup, hair pin and a removable pot.

 photo WP_20170615_019_e_zpsvwqjs2dm.jpgThe Roma are doing splendid. I hope I’ll see tomatoes this year.

 photo WP_20170615_022_e_zpsjfj18ldh.jpgEven the wrecked bell peppers came back strong. I think the greenhouse is a huge step up. I think the tones help to.

 photo WP_20170615_024_e_zpsdxiwfv4c.jpgWild blackberries they’re growing over my wall.

 photo WP_20170615_026_e_zpsvusek92m.jpgBlueberry flowers are like tiny lampshades. Did you know you can get pink blueberries now?

That’s it for today, dear reader I’m enjoying the garden this year, but I’m still making plans for next year. I’d like to have some vegetables that will always be planted, maybe altering the types as I go, but I’d also like to devote some space to new plants. Odd ones especially, but always useful ones, or if all else I’ll find a use for them. Did you know you can grow tigernuts? Me neither, but yes, you can also grow white blackberries. The possibilities are endless, but sadly my garden isn’t. Until later, dear reader.

Breads Here Revisited Part One: Buckwheat Breads

It’s been a while since we talked bread, dear reader. No, this isn’t a shake down. I’m talking about the ever humble loaf, more specifically the bread recipes that have endured with me, never becoming tiresome, Unlike me? How dare you! No matter how you slice it, talking dough can be dull, I’ll try to liven up this series, yes, a series, with a little wit scattered here and there. I was considering a post collecting this all together, but I think this way will be best, I don’t have any new photos to share, and as I’m just me I won’t be baking each bread again solely for portraits , my freezer is well stocked already, the original recipe pages have plenty of photos. What I hope to accomplish here is a recap of all these breads have provided, all the ways they’ve  enriched my diet, all the ways they celebrate the ingredients, the diversity of simple recipes, their numerous preparations. What I’ll do is choose an individual recipe and work through that as that seems to be the best way, these posts aren’t going to feature every single bread, there are much too many for that, instead they’ll focus on the breads that I have continued to eat and never tired of.

First up: Buckweat Flour Bread!

Ah, the basic buckwheat loaf is the cornerstone of my understanding of free-from breads. It has created so many recipes thanks to its versatility and simplicity. Raw buckwheat flour has to be the greatest of all the single-use free-from flours, to me at least. I’ve always made my breads without gums or added starches and I feel that this bread, even at its most basic, shows why that should be something everyone tries. I do have a preference for either extra eggs or the flaxseed option as these eliminate the extreme dryness that the original loaf suffers from. This isn’t a complex bread, but in truth I’ve eaten a few commercial free-from loaves that haven’t touched it. You’re tasting buckwheat here, no fake textures, simple wholesome ingredients with no fuss. I do have a preference for firmer free-from breads, I’m not a fan of the mushier textured breads so this has been continuously stocked in my freezer.

The science behind why this works is vague, I use it, but I don’t always understand the  reason why, but really it’s just that buckwheat and its strength, from starch content I imagine, means a loaf can be firm and won’t crumble even when cut fresh out of the oven. The trick is to get enough liquid in, the batter has to have a sort of runny thickness. I does take practice to get it just right every time, that’s true of anything really. No matter how much I know I can’t condense it down so that you can grasp it on your first try. Thankfully it is a very forgiving recipe. The slow baking is key here. If the bread rises too fast it can deform and the exterior can become too dry before the centre is cooked. Luckily it bakes fast through. If you’re unsure, even with a skewer test, then press the top down, if it yields too much, again you’ll know what too much is in time, then back into the oven it goes. You’re best to freeze it on the day of baking as it will get stale after a day or two. That’s true of a lot of fresh baked goods really. I just slice it when fully cool, make sure it is fully cool as it’ll get soggy when defrosting, pop it into bags and freeze. Defrosting it as needed. It slices thin and thick so you can have it the way you prefer.

I’ve found this works best when thought of as as a strong-flavoured bread, I’m so used to the taste of buckwheat it doesn’t register on my taste-buds any more. I’ve had people say it’s like brown flour if that helps. It doesn’t toast very well, it just becomes dry and crumbly. It can be made as a large loaf or a smaller set, I like to make them smaller as the crust, however slight, and interior are in a better ratio. It’s a bread that can have so much added to it, I’ve made entire recipes, with multiple variations, based on that fact alone. If you need a loaf that cover numerous allergies and intolerances then this is that loaf. I’m not breaking out the hyperbole and telling you it’ll taste just like the bread you remember, I’m a long time away from those days, this is a buckwheat loaf, unique in its own right, but you might have to acclimatise yourself to it. That’s entirely on you, if you’d rather made your breads with gums and starches then go to it. This loaf has kept me balanced health-wise and taught me that you have to compromise, to give up what you knew and replace it with better options, which in time you will learn to love. Eat it with butter and jam, spread with healthy nut butters, top with cheese, meat, whatever and you’ll find this humble loaf is an enduring help to free-from eaters everywhere. I’m so glad I made this recipe and stuck with it. I hope you’ll give it a look too, dear reader.

This is just one of my main breads, I hope that in sharing this and others I’ll show newcomers, and oldies alike, just how many options are being presented to you here on Pep’s Free From Kitchen, that even with numerous problem food sets you can still eat well, eat better than you’d ever get in the store and, most importantly, eat enjoyable food that won’t break diets or your heart. That’s it for part one, I’ll see you next week for the next instalment. Regular posts will be incoming too. If you have any questions about this or other breads then ask below I’ll try to help as best I can.