Rough Gardening In A Pandemic & 40 Things To Do…….

First Pickings, Perks Of The Job
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

An eventful couple of weeks on the political front has culminated in a horny Government Minister apologising (and having his apology accepted by the PM), not for shagging his bit of spare, but for “Breaking Social Distancing Rules”. Kieth Vaz is gutted, if only there’d been a pandemic when he was (allegedly) supplying copious amounts of Charlie to Romanian rent boys, in exchange for the odd blow job & bumming session. Some people, as we know, have all the luck, innit?

I had occasion to enter a Supermarket today (25/06/2021), I was the only person without either a face covering of some kind, a visor or both, that I noticed. Very concerning . Earlier I heard a text read out, on Nicky Campbell’s’ 5 Live show, from a Scottish railway worker (ticket collector maybe), which encapsulates the mindset of so many people perfectly. The phone-in was about the giving up of masks and the levels of personal responsibility involved (remember here, this is the BBC we’re talking about);

“I will  continue to wear my mask, properly, through the coming winter & into next year.

In fact, I will continue to wear it until *science* tells me it’s safe not to do so”

How on earth does one begin to argue, or even reason, with a mentality like that?

The Heart Of A Risotto
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

The true pleasures of Rough Gardening arrive when the produce becomes ready to harvest in sufficient amounts to be enjoyed. A fellow Postalier introduced me to the joys of a risotto made with fresh peas, broad beans & mint. A bit “ghey” for some of the more robust meat eaters of Going Postal, but a real joy to both make and eat, if you like that sort of thing. It’s easy to make, Make a risotto following any decent recipe, I broadly follow the one in Locatelli’s “Made In Italy”  substituting vegetable stock, leaving out the saffron & passata and using Grana Padano instead of Parmesan. Once cooked simply stir through the cooked beans & peas and a small handful of freshly chopped mint. Works well with frozen peas and Edamame beans too. The new varieties of both peas and beans I’ve planted this year are of excellent flavour, although the pea pods are quite small, meaning more podding. No need to take the outer skin off the broad beans, but I like to, it maintains the “greenness” within the finished dish.

Newest Of The New
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

The first potatoes have been a revelation too, I only planted four short stitches, a decent plant will provide us with enough for a week or so and they’re best eaten fresh out of the ground. These I believe are Charlotte, but as I “lost” the pack they could be any first early or salad potato breed. No peeling required and no messing about either. Washed and cut to size, then into a pan of cold water. Bring the water to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer, cook for 10 minutes, drain, return to the hob and stir in a big knob of butter whilst still on the low heat. Good enough to eat on their own, full of earthy flavour.

Mini Plum Tomatoes-A New Departure
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

The same friend who introduced me to the risotto also gave me some tomato seed a couple of years ago. By the time last years sowing came around I’d forgotten all about them, but I came across the envelope they were in this year and thought I’d give them a go. I’ve never grown a mini plum tomato before and, to be honest, given the age of the seed, I didn’t hold out a great deal of hope for germination.  How wrong can one man be? I have three plants, all over four feet in height, which are producing large numbers of these lovely pear shaped fruits. They’ll turn yellow as they ripen and, having tasted them before, I know they make excellent eating. I had a chat with my friend last week and related the tale, only for him to admit that he hadn’t any of this particular variety growing this year, neither had he any of the seed. Looks like a favour can be returned. I’ll have to deliver them in person though, far too precious to be trusted to the postal service.

Feeding Time
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

Norman swore by Vitax tomato food, it’s a concentrated powder and, up until last year, there’d always been a packet or two to be found, tucked away in an old box in one of the many sheds and barns around the place. As with growing things, looking isn’t normally something I put too much effort into, but tomato food is a different business all together. Sure enough, even though I hunted high and low, there wasn’t a packet to be had. In times of crisis such as these the Interweb is a wonderful thing. Once I’d got past Amazon, E Bay and what seemed like a myriad of “wonder” feeds, all presented for sale in five gallon containers with hand written, poorly spelled labels, I found an horticulturalist selling Vitax. Albeit in fancy new packaging, with a fancy new price, but Vitax it was and ordered it is.  As a precursor to commencing the feeding regime (the initial organic fertiliser having done its work) I’ve removed the leaves below the first truss from each plant. This allows for more targeted delivery of feed, whilst at the same time allowing air to circulate round the bottom of the plant and ensuring lower leaves, which do little, don’t impede the food reaching the fruits. At least, that’s what Norman told me happens, I just think it looks tidier.

“40 Things To Do When You’ve Been Married For 40 Years”

Ingleborough Bench?
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

Some of you may recall that, back in 2017, Mrs C roped me into a novel way of celebrating out 40th wedding anniversary. The originally very ambitious target of completing them all by August 2018 was soon realised to be an impossibility. Accordingly we decided to take a more relaxed attitude, whilst remaining determined to get them all completed. Along the way we’ve substituted a couple, for expediency and also because, to be fair, the original ones we changed from weren’t all that exciting or challenging. As of Tuesday 22nd July, which also happened to be Mrs C’s birthday, we had seven left on the list. Mrs C. got to pick and she chose Ingleborough Nature Walk & Cave. I don’t mind a cave and I’m always up for a walk, so off we went. “Do you want to put the post code in the SatNav”, said the good lady. “Ha”, says I “I know where Ingleton is, I’ve driven that road hundreds of times”. She gave me one of her looks, but she’s done that before so I didn’t take too much notice. We arrived at Ingleton an hour later and I proceeded to get us to White Scar Cave (not our destination) before getting a little bit lost in the village itself. I stopped by the waterfall walk and asked someone if they knew where the cave was. He directed me back to White Scar! Frustrated now, I finally put the post code into the SatNav. I might well have known where Ingleton was, but I didn’t know that Ingleborough Cave was 6 miles further down the road, at Clapham. She gave me that look again….

Alien 4-The Yorkshire Variant
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

Anyway, once I’d silently eaten my slice of humble pie we made it to Clapham and proceeded to enjoy the 1.5 mile walk up the £1 fee toll path, past a small lake and a typical North Yorkshire stream, to the cave entrance. Reginald Farrer, who’s family still owns the estate, was a bit of a tortured soul who lived between 1880 and 1920. He’s credited with both creating the nature trail and opening up the main cave to exploration. A reclusive homosexual with a cleft palate and a resulting speech defect, Reginald devoted his short life to travelling extensively throughout Europe and Asia and returning with exotic plants, which form the essence of said trail. Not too much is known about him beyond this, he died on an expedition to Northern Burma at the age of 40, quite possibly of alcohol poisoning. The main cave is well laid out, though low in places and contains many examples of both stalactite and stalagmite, further exploration is possible, if you’re an experience pot holer. I would have like to take more photographs, but the light, as one might expect, isn’t great.  I thoroughly recommend this as a half day trip if you’re ever in the area, the exploration of the cave won’t take more than an hour or so, but it’s well worth the trouble.

Some Folks Loves Ham Hocks
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

I’m pretty sure one of the reasons Mrs C. chose this trip was the opportunity it afforded to eat at The Plough. We’d eaten there before some years previously and although my good lady isn’t the biggest fan of eating out in pubs, preferring quality to quantity, she had fond memories of this particular establishment. The hostelry itself stands alongside the A65 and was built in 1760. Given its location it was probably a busy coaching inn in its day but the recent history has been a little up and down. Notwithstanding that, it now appears to be in both excellent hands and rude health. The whole place is bright and inviting, the staff are excellent and the welcome is fulsome. There are six letting rooms, but I don’t think this is “bog standard” B&B fare. The food was excellent and given the attentiveness of the staff and the quality on the plate, not overpriced. Better than Pub Grub by a long chalk, somewhere for a treat, for a birthday or something similar maybe. Mrs C. had the ham hock terrine as a starter, I chose the fishcakes, we both followed with the chicken, pheasant & mushroom pie. All the dishes were clearly freshly made in the kitchen and the chips, which accompanied the pie, were some of the best I’ve eaten in a long while. All in all a decent day out, leaving us with six mini adventures to go.

Next time; the new salad bed, late planting beetroot and leeks, more pandemic hooptedoodle….

© Colin Cross 2021

The Goodnight Vienna Audio file