Freedom

Brrrrrr. It remains cold out there so there’s not a lot of change to see in the garden. However, the days are certainly getting lighter and the Spring flowers are starting to put on a show. The wind has damaged quite a few plants and the covers keep blowing off but it has simply taught me to choose hardier plants this year.

March Garden

The kittens are now 6 months old and this weekend they went outside for the first time. They have bells on their collars to give the birds fair warning that they’re around and after much encouragement they slowly made their way to the Kitchen Garden. Milo may be the bigger cat but he’s a scaredy cat! I haven’t got any clear photos of him as he kept close to the hedge line and darted everywhere – the best I could manage was the wet paw prints he left behind. He loved playing on the walls and was particularly interested in the hessian covering the asparagus. Bella who is not so reserved, happily climbed, sniffed and explored. The fur on her side is growing back now – they’ve both recovered really well (in fact it was me who was traumatised!).

Bella outside

We’ve not introduced them to the cat flap yet as I want them to get used to being outside first. We have four days off work at Easter in so it will probably happen then when we can give them lots of time and attention.

Tired Cats

I’ve sown the first seeds at last – carrots, beetroot, chard, kale, broad beans and spinach all directly in the beds. Others such as tomatoes, aubergine, squash, sweetcorn and chillies have been brought indoors where they can get a cosier start. The only problem is where to keep the plant pots as the cats love soil and plants and the utility room is now their bedroom. I decided to put them on top of the oak beams in the garden room… I just hope they don’t fall on anyone’s head!

It’s Here!

Finally, the sun has arrived and it hasn’t rained since Saturday! The butterflies have started to show themselves and I am convinced I can see the bees smiling as they hum their little songs.

Everything has grown so well – especially the Broad Beans! They had started to look a little tired (probably from trying to turn into monsters) so I decided to harvest them all together and chop the plants down. It wasn’t as cruel as it seems – I have some Dwarf French Beans (yellow podded and purple podded) that were sheltered beautifully by the Broad Beans. Now the weather has improved I want to give the little French ones all the benefit of the sunshine, fresh air and nutrients.

My lovely husband volunteered to remove the pods and shells… no mean feat but “tenacious” is his middle name and he did a great job! Once they were green and naked they were put into boiling water for 3 mins before being plunged into ice cold water. They were gently patted dry and put onto baking sheets to fast freeze. Now this has been done we will look forward to having Broad Beans as we wish.

The shallots were looking in need of harvesting so most of them were dug up and left in the sun to dry. There were a few flower heads starting to appear so it was time and I want them to dry naturally in the sunshine. The garlic is not quite ready yet but it smells delicious! I just need to carefully decide what other crops to plant in their place as otherwise it will be beetroot again :-)

Finally, the cosmos are doing really well. It’s a variety called “Antiquity” from Sarah Raven. The flowers open as a deep burgundy but gradually fades to a dusky pink. I was surprised to see a funny looking bloom this evening and thought I was seeing double at first!

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!

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”

French Lavender

Numerous studies have shown that Lavender helps to reduce stress, anxiety and insomnia. Lavender stops me in my tracks. It makes me crouch down and take  several deep breaths…. and close my eyes. As a stress reliever, it works for me!

After all the rain has come a predicted growth spurt. The Broad Beans are looking good, and with the extra help from staking, they have resisted everything that the weather could throw at them… wind, hail stones, torrential rain, frost and even a bit of sunshine! This only adds to my theory that they will probably taste like weeds but I reserve judgement until I taste my first bean…..

The raised beds are starting to fill out nicely now. I’m trying not to plant too much, too soon for fear of a massive glut (our freezer isn’t very big!). We are still in danger of frosts for a few more weeks so that will keep my enthusiasm in check.

Today remained pretty dry, and despite my cold hands and feet, I thoroughly enjoyed my first weekend in May in the garden. The air temperature was cold but I was surprised how warm the soil felt but I suppose that the raised beds help with this.

As I closed the gate to keep the rabbits out I realised that I was smiling… and had been for a while.

Disorganised fun!

In November I planted three different layers of bulbs in terracotta pots. It was really cold outside, we’d had a long day and the light was fading… I was desperate to go indoors and have a hot bath so, in my haste, I forgot to note which bulbs I’d thrown in which pots! Four months later… surprise! I still don’t really know! Ha ha ha x

Tulip Leaves & crocus

The days are definitely getting longer and I’m amazed how much life there is in the garden. Each evening after work I make a cup of tea, put on my boots and go and say hello to the plants. The recently planted Polka raspberry canes are starting to produce leaves now. I have to constantly remind myself about their shallow roots so that I’m gentle with the hoe… I’d hate to chop their little toes off! There’s not a lot of finesse to my style of gardening so anything that survives is generally recommended!Raspberry "Polka"

I’m just so excited about seeing new, fresh green things that I even snapped a picture of a dandelion! I will regret this very soon as these horrible little weeds torment me beyond belief throughout the Summer… I’m sure that they even duck when the lawn mower skims over because when I look behind me all that is left is a manicured lawn and several dandelions laughing heartily!

Dandelion

The dandelion bud that is just coming into flower above looks a little strange, almost like it has been edited, but that is how it was opening (I’m not clever enough to edit my photos yet!). I’m doing quite well with my Broad Bean aversion so, who knows, I may learn to love these little fellas too in time!

Meet The Doodles


Chickens are the most delightful creatures! We originally had eight when we moved house five years ago but only have four at the moment. We joke that we’re running a retirement home for chickens so I’m looking forward to getting some more youngsters this Spring. We recently lost a couple of our ladies to a hungry fox – I’m completely to blame as I decided it would be a good idea to let them scratch about in the garden…. RIP Jemima and Bernie. So here are the remaining ladies, safely fenced in, but trying to escape every time they get fed! 

From Left to Right: Goosey, Matilda, Doris & Tallulah

Matilda is most definitely the boss and keeps the others in order and she doesn’t suffer foolish behaviour from either chickens or humans! Next is Goosey, ever since she was a fluffy chick she has always sounded more like a goose than a chicken, she has always been sensible one. Tallulah is my husband’s favourite – she likes cuddles but isn’t too bright (what does this say about his taste in women?). Finally, there is Doris who is always the most inquisitive and eager to explore… which is a bit of a problem when a lawn tractor is heading towards her!

Hellebores

Hellebores

I had an empty jam jar and five minutes to spare so I picked a couple of Hellebore stems and brought them indoors. I dipped their stems in boiling water for about 20 seconds (it sounds far crueller than it is), placed the flowers in a jar and added a sprig of Rosemary and Cotinus. I have a drawer full of ribbons, buttons and other oddments that come in handy for jazzing up jam jars! I must say that whilst  I love to see the Spring flowers in the garden I also like to bring a few in the house to enjoy them even more! 

I love adding herbs to flowers so I like to have plenty around – all the seedlings are doing well but the Thyme seems particularly fiesty!

And as for the Broad Beans… they have been safely transplanted and seem to be doing well. I’ve had some lovely suggestions for recipes so, who knows, I may actually like them after all!

Are Broad Beans really evil?

I’ve never been a fussy eater and I’ve always enjoyed a wide variety of fruit and veg. I’ve never even had a problem with Brussel Sprouts (despite many being the large, slimy, overcooked variety – sorry Mum!). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Broad Beans… even typing the words makes me screw my nose up and almost taste the strange, ugly little bean in my mouth. Yuck.

When I was a little girl I tried all sorts of things to escape having to eat broad beans – hiding them under the mashed potatoes, putting them onto my sisters plate when they weren’t looking or simply hiding them in my pocket (the latter was less successful due to copious servings of parsley sauce).

When I was old enough to figure out that there may be an alternative way to experience broad beans Silence of the Lambs was released and Hannibal Lecter managed to reinforce all that was evil about these vile little beans. If only I hadn’t asked my friend what Fava Beans were….

Now, many years later, I am open to the idea of trying to grow my own beans. It may even be within the realms of possibility that I eat one!!

Broad Beans planted