Welcome everyone, to my bi-weekly missive on all things “green”, some things bizarre and some things which may appear “made up” but which most definitely aren’t. Back to something like 90% fitness I’ve spent the last two weeks or so trying hard, and failing a bit miserably, to square the greenhouse up by knocking back the weed population. It doesn’t matter how many I pull up, including roots and all, or how many I knock back with my trusty push hoe, the very next day they’re back, and, much to my ongoing consternation, they appear more profuse and tenacious than before. Mrs. C has “done her bit” and I’m now a lone warrior in this fight, a fight I fear I’m destined to lose. Outside the greenhouse and, within its more immediate environs, another type of weed is being harvested on a twice weekly basis and treated with a little more (new found) respect, than simply swearing at it and chucking it in the green bin.
Once upon a time the weeds which border the path from the now almost derelict sheep pens, up to the greenhouse, would have been treated to a couple of doses of Glysophate by now, the previous gardener being far less rough than me but also nowhere near as mindful of the impact weedkillers may have on the immediate environment, him being an old school farmer and a pragmatist in such matters. Any road up, nettles, which I assume to be two slightly different breeds, grow here in profusion. One type has a woody brown stalk and bottle green leaves, the other type has a green stalk and lighter coloured leaves. I only mention this in passing, they both sting if you’re not careful and they both ended up being hung up to dry before being carefully stripped from their stalks and made ready for tea making. I’ve not fully (yet) bought into the idea of purposely stinging myself as a healing procedure, even given my recent Bath experiences, maybe that’ll come at a later date.
Me being me, I started off with no real idea of what I was doing, but how hard could it be to steep some dried leaves in some water? The main thing I didn’t take into account was straining the brew, but more of that later. I half filled one mug with dried leaves, and covered them with boiling water, allowing them to steep for a couple of minutes, before pouring the ensuing dark green liquid into a second mug, utilising a screwdriver as a makeshift trap to hold back the bulk of the leaves. I then topped up both mugs, ending up with what turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant enough drink, if a little astringent. The aftertaste is fine, but if you want to add a little honey or sugar I’m sure it’ll be fine. The thing I enjoy most (I haven’t been taking it for long enough to know if it’ll do any good or not) is the very slight tingling sensation the drink leaves in the mouth. I have a strainer now and I’ve refined the method somewhat. I make one cup and leave the steeped leaves until the next day, before pressing and then, in the clean mug, topping up with more boiling water. As I type this it’ll be my eighth day and I’m still here, without any recurrence of gout, it has to be said. Early days though. It’s possible to buy the dried leaves, but they’re not cheap. The next problem, if I don’t want to be spending, is to harvest and dry enough to see me through the rest of the year. A challenge I’ll have to put some thought to.
Early on in the season I noticed several potato heads appearing (LoL), not a rare occurrence, there’s always a spud or two gets missed during harvesting. I mostly just pull them before they take hold and start to get larger, as rough a gardener as I am, I do have a bit of a thing for growing stuff in straight(ish) lines and with the new layout any self seeding would likely have ended up in the middle of the paths or between rows. One head appeared next to the first row of potatoes I sowed, I didn’t water it directly, but it started to look half decent and I decided to leave it. It started to bud last weekend (about a month ahead of the row), so I lifted it and this was the result. A nice feed of lovely clean new potatoes, Charlotte I think, which went down well with a bit of roast chicken and a salad. Might “accidentally” leave a couple more in next year and see what happens. The crop itself was smaller that I’d have expected from sown, but also “cleaner”, maybe I need to rethink the cow manure fertiliser?
More “self seeding” success. Those of you that never read the comments probably never read the articles, least of all my inane scribbling, but one or two of you may remember #blackbirdgate. Clearly the flesh of the bigger, redder tomatoes was the prize and the seeds simply something to spit out, whilst merrily bouncing along the row, ruining my crop as it went. I’d ruined my Greek seed by putting it in the fridge before it was fully dried out, but these eleven plants, grown on from tiny seedlings that sprouted in the dry earth in late winter, look to be my best chance of having another great crop of large, densely fleshed and flavourful fruits this year. An added bonus (I’m guessing here) is the seed will have become hardier for lying dormant throughout the winter. Win win.
Getting boring now (ahem), but, as with the first of the potatoes and the best (hopefully) of the tomatoes, two broad bean plants, of indeterminate variety (I could find out if I could be bothered), which self seeded on the compost heap are already producing pods, weeks ahead, at a guess, of those plants I’ve newly sown. Looking forward to harvesting these over the next three or four weeks, very tasty and sweet when fresh and young.
Not everything grows by happy accident, some things need sowing, nurturing and planting out to get the best from them. Peas are fickle and, to my mind, shouldn’t really be grown under glass. In previous years I’ve started pea shoots off around now, which has resulted in high yield cropping from late June onwards, but only for a couple of weeks. Once the really hot days kick in the plants quickly dry out and, whatever I try, they’ve died back within a couple of days. I’ve put a smaller amount in, a little earlier and I’m going to try for a late crop too, planting out in late July and “yawking up” a shade of some kind. I’m not sure it’ll work, but nothing ventured, as they say, nothing gained.
I hadn’t intended to write about the threat which “far right extremist” poses to our planet, but the confluence of several happenings, ostensibly unrelated, prompted me to do an “about face” and do a bit of digging. Sadiq Khan took himself off on an all expenses jolly to the USA last week, ostensibly to promote tourism to London from America, but Sadiq rarely does anything without a political motive. I’m pretty sure he’s a big admirer of the way US Democrats do their business and he got to meet someone (Hilary Clinton), who I’m sure is a big hero of his. Another beauty, as Donald Trump may have said. Whilst he (Mr Khan) was in the US “The Independent” published an article under his name, about how the “Far Right” threat is the biggest challenge the world currently faces. We all know, by any measure, this simply isn’t true, but it does tick a lot of the right boxes when you’re a ruthlessly ambitious “Progressive Liberal” politician, with an eye on the main prize and a history of being (allegedly) liberal with the truth. The day after he arrived home a mass shooting took place in Buffalo, New York State, which led to the deaths of 10 innocent people. A shocking and dreadful act of violence, carried out by 18 year old Payton Gendron, an alleged “white supremacist” who left a “manifesto” which, bizarrely, contained the name “Sadiq Khan” in a list of those Mr. Gendron wanted to see dead. I’m not for one second saying there’s a link between these things, outside coincidence, but, unless I’m missing something, I can’t for the life of me see why an 18 year old American citizen would hold such a personal grudge against The Mayor Of London as to want to see him dead and name him on a “kill list”.
President Biden and his First Lady will visit the city of Buffalo on Tuesday of this week. Laudable as this is, when Jennifer Paski, (White House Press Secretary) was asked if the President would be visiting Waukesha, following the deaths of six people and serious injury to over 60 more, caused by a convicted felon with anti law enforcement “Black Supremacist” views, deliberately driving into a Christmas Parade in November 2021 in a pick up truck, she dismissed the idea, saying “Any President going to visit a community requires a lot of assets“. America is a messed up place, over 12,000 people were fatally shot in 2021, but, as with the George Floyd saga, some deaths, as tragic as they all undoubtedly are, are clearly more important than others.
In other news, I took myself up a fell this last weekend, the first one this year and although it was tough going I survived the experience (apart from falling flat on my back twice and jarring my shoulder). The view from the top of Fleetwith Pike is magnificent, taking in Buttermere, Crummock and Loweswater and I’m glad I made the effort. As to the Jeep, the Browning and the bullets, I also spent a morning at Brougham Castle as they were setting up the annual World War Two exhibition. Interesting if you like that sort of thing.
Next Time; More Hooptedoodle, Chilies in big pots, strawberries ripening, beans and peas harvesting…
© Colin Cross 2022