Let It Rain

The rain has been awful… this morning whilst at work the sky very quickly darkened. It was strange and eerie and nobody could believe how quickly the sky had turned black! In fact, all over town street lights were turning on as if it was dusk. My first concerns were for the poor chickens… they surely must be terrified?! I then had a reassuring thought… if it was dark enough for the street lights to be fooled then hopefully the chickens will be fooled and safely go and roost!

And what would happen to the Kitchen Garden? It’s just starting to be productive and the sweetpeas are starting to flower…  Oh well, worrying wasn’t going to help the situation!

So, like a regular Pollyanna, I decided to play the Glad Game and look on the bright side of this particular storm…

I’m glad to have a chance to wear a favourite rain coat that was put away after Spring…..

I’m glad (more like ecstatically happy) to indulge my umbrella addiction a some more. I learnt a while ago that they only get lost if you take them for granted…

And it reminded me how desperately I need to buy new wellies! My last ones split, so in my wisdom, I decided to hold off buying a new pair until the weather started to get chilly again in Autumn!! I love the Hunter wellies but I’m spoiled for choice when it comes to colour… the red ones are great but my favourite colour is purple. The Navy Blue ones are classic but the glossy Raspberry ones look so much fun. Decisions, decisions….

I arrived home to a flooded driveway, no power and a flattened peony – but I’m so glad that my lovely chickens looked dry and well… and the Kitchen Garden was pretty much unscathed! If it stops raining over the weekend I’ll take some more photos :-)

Change of heart!

After waiting four months I’m pleased to say that the first crop of the Broad Beans were ready today… so I dodged the rain and carefully cut some beans as well as some purple sprouting broccoli and salad leaves. The carrots and beetroot will be ready in a couple of weeks and the garlic and shallots won’t be far behind. Exciting times!

The beans were taken from the bottom of the plants and you need more than you think as there are only four little beans inside each pod! They were picked when still small and tender so all I did was remove them from their pods. Mother Nature is amazing – each little bean is perfectly wrapped in a fur lined pod. Seriously, have you taken time to feel the inside of these pods? Damp, cool, velvety… surely only good things come in such heavenly wrappers – I’ve finally changed my mind about Broad Beans Being Evil.

I combined chopped garlic, red chilli and olive oil in a pan and gently cooked for a few minutes. I then added some leftover slow roasted tomatoes, threw in the purple sprouting broccoli and seasoned well. This mixture was added to cavatappi pasta and served with fresh salad and garlic bread.

It was absolutely lovely! The Broad Beans were silky smooth and sweeter than I imagined and far removed from the bitter, squeaky beans of my childhood! The only thing I may do differently next time is take them out of their individual shells, not because they were tough, but because their intense, bright green insides were hidden!

Amy over at  A Healthy Life For Me  kindly posted a recipe for Fava Beans and Manchego Crostini. If you haven’t yet visited her inspiring blog it’s well worth the trip – great recipes, a beautiful garden and useful tips on entertaining.

I’m so pleased that my plan to “grow something I dislike” worked. I’ve watched these beans grow, enjoyed their flowers, nutured them and eaten them whilst fresh. After 4 months of care I would be entitled to finally say that I hate Broad Beans. Lucky for me, I now love them! I would certainly recommend planting some next year if you dislike them… go on, give them a go!

Touch wood!

I’ve always loved Rhubarb Forcers, especially the large teracotta ones, so I was jumping for joy when my sister-in-law bought me one for a present. That was a few years before the Kitchen Garden was completed and so it sat patiently in the house, looking out of the window onto the building site, until it could have pride of place in the new garden. I think it looks lovely (but I would say that…) even though I’m unable to force any of the new rhubarb crowns yet!

At around the same time I also acquired a very ugly little statue known as a “grotesque” (which is similar to a gargoyle but without a spout). I think he’s gorgeous as I’ve always been fond of gothic things! He also sat in the house waiting to go outside in the garden but, not long after his arrival, a strange run of bad luck made me twitchy and so I banished him to the shed… the bad luck came an abrupt end and he’s been in the shed ever since! Really silly… but now this particular seed has been planted in my mind it’s  taken root and, touch wood, I don’t want to tempt fate!! It’s fairly common for sports people and actors to have superstitions… but do gardeners??
I come from a fairly superstitious family so maybe this has rubbed off on me more than I dare to acknowledge. I’ll consider photographing him in all his grotesque glory at Halloween, but even now, I’m a little concerned he’ll break my camera! Ha ha!
The Nectar Bar is filling out nicely now and it’s attracting lots of bees, hoverflies and butterflies. The anenomes are flowering beautifully still, the poppies and cosmos are just starting to come through and I love to watch the red Geums bobbing happily in the wind. Although I have lots of plans for next year, things I’d like to do differently etc I’m really pleased at how great the garden is looking just 4 months after I started!

This weekend I need to sow some more carrots and lettuce – things are growing quicker than I imagined and the successional planting is in the “must try harder” category on my report card.

The forecast this weekend is more rain… I hope there are a few dry spells otherwise it could be the Umbrella Gardener out there!

Rainbow Chard

Rainbow chard is one of the prettiest vegetables in the garden. Some people grow this purely as an ornamental plant but they’re missing a tasty treat!  I’ve found that chard is easier to grow than spinach and will tolerate dry weather better (not that we’re getting much of that around here at the moment!). I sowed some directly into the raised beds in April and thinned the seedlings after a few weeks – after quite a slow start it’s finally ready for picking!

Rainbow Chard

Chard is a great source of vitamins and minerals (A, C, Iron and calcium in particular) and I especially like it when it’s picked young and added to salads. It has a robust texture and I love the slightly earthy taste which goes really well with sweet tomatoes and roast peppers. You’ll be pleased to know that I rescued the little Ladybird  below (can you see him?) and put him back to work munching on aphids.

Ladybird in Chard

Chard can be substituted for spinach in numerous recipes and, as a cut-and-come-again vegetable, it’s value for money and takes little time to cultivate! I picked some this afternoon and we had it lightly steamed along with carrots, beans and a roast dinner.

I’m always on the look out for something more interesting to take to work, on a picnic or simply as a quick meal. I came across this lovely, healthy recipe which would certainly make a light supper, or an alternative to sandwiches, in a packed lunch.
Chard Frittata
4 large egga
4 large egg whites
1/4 cup swiss cheese
6 1/2 cups chard
1 onion
2tsp light butter

There is plenty of salad in the garden to accompany it and hopefully soon the tomatoes will be ready too!

Update: the weather has been really wet and windy but luckily everything seems to be coping quite well in the garden… however, just to be sure, the sunflowers and broad beans have been re-staked today!

Magic Beans

One of the best things about gardening are the lessons that Mother Nature teaches us each day. Broad Bean FlowerOne of my challenges in this new garden is to grow something I dislike each year in the hope that I will be inspired to eat it… and, who knows, even enjoy it! Broad Beans (fava beans) have always been my nemesis so these had to be my first choice to grow this year.
There are three wonderful things that I have discovered since growing these plants. Firstly, Broad Beans have the most beautiful, delicate perfume that fills the air with loveliness and when I first noticed this I was amazed! The smell came wafting over from the vegetable patch on a gentle breeze and it took me a long time to identify that it belonged to the bean plants. My brain would not, could not, believe what my nose was telling it. In fact, I initially started to sniff all the pretty flowers in adjacent beds as I really couldn’t quite believe that these sturdy looking plants could smell so good… and I don’t mean just plain good, I mean “put it in a bottle and wear it as a perfume” good! None of my garden books seem to mention how beautiful these flowers smell and, to be fair, I think that I would grow them for this fact alone! I must say that the garden books in question did worry me silly about swarms of blackfly and also stressed the important of proper support in windy weather.
The second wonderful thing  (probably related to the first) is that the bees absolutely love these flowers! The big, fat bumble bees seem to particularly enjoy them and they can’t seem to get enough! I’ve grown lots of plants to deliberately attract bees and butterflies to the Nectar Bar but the Broad Beans seem to be doing a better job and our buzzy friends just can’t stay away.

The final amazing lesson that I have learnt is that Broad Beans grow upwards! Not down towards the ground but actually up towards heaven!! I know you’ll probably be laughing at me for being so naive, but I’ve never grown these before and really thought that they would grow down! So, I have either a)  acquired magical, gravity-defying beans, b) I have been extremely ignorant and have managed to overlook this simple fact or c) I actually planted them upside down! Ha ha… Let me know which it is (and if they’re really magic… what shall I do with them?).  I’ve always had a sneaky belief that Broad Beans Are Evil so I’m only growing them as an experiment anyway! Wouldn’t it be funny if I went from a hater to a lover? It would be especially funny if I marketed a new fragrance based on Broad Bean flowers… called “Implausible – A Fragrance For Her”

Street Party

The weather on Sunday was truly awful, the rain was constant and even the ducks were shaking their heads and running for cover! Unfortunately, the picnic in the park was cancelled so we had a picnic at my Mum’s instead… We watched the Royal procession float down the Thames, shared our amazement at the lack of rain in London (for the most part) and generally had a good old natter with everyone.

Yesterday was a much brighter day…. and everyone headed down to the High Street for a street party. There was music from a traditional brass band, a young rock band and a Zumba demonstration (that the Dad’s were interested in for some reason!). Most people had made food to share but there was also a barbeque and the pub was doing well. I even had some pink candyfloss and it made me feel like 8yrs old again!

Village Diamond Jubilee Street Party

Late afternoon we walked up the hill to the castle… this has many fond memories for me. As a child I used to play for hours in the turrets and dungeons, roll down the banks on my side as quickly as possible and try to find fairies. None were to be found but I had a quick look again yesterday and I’m sure that I saw one out of the corner of my eye ;-).

The castle ruins are from the 11th century but much can still be seen and visitors are allowed to still climb the turrets and walk along the walls. The views are amazing and it’s easy to see why the castle was built in such a prominent position.

castle ruins

Henry VIII visited in 1511 and it was described as being “stately but in disrepair” then! Mary Queen of Scots was sadly imprisoned here for many years in the 16th century and she apparently hated this prison more than any.

Medieval ruins

As night fell a beacon was set alight to celebrate the jubilee, just as thousands more were lit throughout the UK, and it was reassuring to know that this fantastic place still holds a sense of magic today – although Mary Queen of Scots would probably disagree! 

Red, White and Blue-ish

One of the simple pleasures in life is having fresh flowers in the house and it’s even nicer when these have been brought in from your own garden! I prefer simple posies in pretty containers – I haven’t got the patience, or artistic ability, to arrange flowers properly (but I certainly envy those that do) so forgive my wonky efforts!

With the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in mind I chose a red, white and blue theme. The red flower is a Geum that I rescued from my old garden and I love it’s hardiness, long bloom time and small nodding flowers. The little white flowers are from an alpine plant and I have no idea what they are as I found them in a bargain bin! As for blue… blue is always such a difficult colour so I chose a bluey/purpley anenome called “Mr Fokker” from Sarah Raven. I find that this is much easier to spell rather than pronounce!

A couple of days ago I blogged about Fairy cakes and said that I would try and decorate these before going to work… I’m pleased to say that I did manage to decorate these and let them in the coffee room at work. They went down a treat! I thought people would wait until mid morning but most of them got scoffed at breakfast! I mixed some icing sugar with double cream, whisked it up and topped it with strawberries and blueberries – the cool, tanginess of the fruit really complimented the sweet cake and topping.

It’s been raining for most of the day, which usually happens when there is a holiday weekend! There’s no point heading out to the garden… but at least there’s no need to water the plants later.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is rain again and we’re going to the Picnic in the Park! Ha ha, I’ll have my wellies at the ready and waterproof sandwiches!