Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oh Happy Day!!

This last week has been a little odd for me, but in many ways very therapeutic. After standing in a drafty tent on Friday night, I somehow managed to come down with the worst cold I can remember. My head was pounding, my neck was agony and my kidneys? Well I hope whoever managed to give them a kicking feels happy at a job well done. Needless to say it put the complete kibosh on anything happening over the Bank Holiday, or in fact for the rest of the week as the cold has now settled into screaming agony in my tonsils and a chest so tight, the Cold Stream Guard are after it for their band.

As you can imagine, after 6 days of lying on the sofa sipping tea and occasionally blowing snot bubbles, I was about ready for the men in white coats - so I made a slightly wobbly venture into the garden to see what's been happening, and I came back in smiling so hard, I almost don't care about my throat ... almost ;-)

I planted three of my favourite vegetables this year in the hope that I might have done enough to the garden for them to grow. First was the asparagus, two crowns lovingly dug in and tucked in with straw at the first chink of Spring. For months I made the trip across the lawn, lovingly rearranged the straw over them when the sparrows stole vast swaths for their nests, and tried not to be disheartened when other food growers have sucked their teeth at the difficulty of growing asparagus in soil as heavy as ours. Life finds a way though, and today, having concentrated on my new seedlings for the last few weeks I walked along the bed to be confronted with this.

This isn't a pathetic weedy purple sprout as it may seem - well it is but it's also a lot more. It's hope, it's the triumph of life over logic, it's a resounding affirmation of my ability to provide for my family, and it feels good.

After I'd spent enough time telling the little asparagus spears how cleaver they are, I moved onto the strawberry bushes which I had noticed were showing flashes of red and so obviously needed to be netted before the birds got any clever ideas. Turns out we have not one (as I though) but almost a dozen luscious, red strawberries that have used the recent rain to literally explode from the pretty white flowers that were there only a week ago.
Next door to the young strawberries was another miracle of the natural world, the blueberry bush. Those of you so inclined may well scroll to the early days of this blog and notice that the photo of the bush looks remarkably similar to how it did when first planted. Ahh! But not so!! Having given us a fair quantity of berries last year, you may remember that it was brutally cut down in its prime by the over eager jaws of young Harry. I thought it was a gonner, but no!! I think in honour of the occasion I shall call it George .... George Bush Jr, the second bush and the one you just can't get rid of ... geddit?

The other two 'favourites' are also doing amazingly well. The broad beans are coming on in leaps, and the bitter little pods of greeny goodness will soon be ready to go into some scrummy risottos, or even better, if I can come by some globe artichokes will be lovingly made into "Chupa y Tira", which you either know, or would take too long to explain to you. Come over in a few months, I'll make you some.

It does, however, give me a beautiful segue into my third favourite planting for the year, the artichoke plants. I remember a month or so ago, I transplanted the sickly little two leaf seedlings into what looked like an enormous bed, and cringed when it rained because their tiny delicate leaves would be pounded into oblivion ... if the slugs didn't finish the job first. Well they gave me another lesson in faith, look at them now, their larger 'adult' saw toothed leaves almost too wide for the bed. I still find it hard to believe that they will one day be 6ft high and will turn that whole wall into a jungle of greenery, but now I have faith that they know what they're doing and one day, I will make Chupa y Tira with the offspring.

The last stop in the miracle walk of the garden is the vine, and this is something I have been waiting to tell you for a few weeks - WE HAVE GRAPES!! It's only the second year of the vine and already there are bunches and bunches of tiny seedling grapes on the vine. Can you believe it?! Well you probably can, and I'm sure this whole entry reads a bit like a first time mum who's snotty toddler has just mashed a couple of lego bricks together for the first time (oh isn't he clever?!?) but please remember, 6 days of sofa and daytime TV, this is a big deal to me!!

Before I let you all return to sanity, I thought it wouldn't be a proper post without a few Harry photos - Subtitles for this series?

I'm far too grown up to pose for your photos woman, leave me alone ... oh OK, gis a kiss.

Red was looking on from the kitchen in resigned disgust at all the carry on. He doesn't fool me though, not for a second, I know he's finding his inner pup - he fell asleep on me today, and after the usual paw twitching and Elvis lip curls he did something incredible - he wagged his tail in his sleep. It was another one of those little moments that you keep close for when you need to remind yourself that something that "one step forward" sticks.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Having warned that this would be the year of unfinished projects, it seems odd that so many things seem to have gotten done recently – although to be fair I have been on somewhat of a mission, for which I am now suffering with tired eyes and aching shoulders.

Firstly, the windows have been finished and I have to admit I’m more than a little proud with how they’ve turned out. I’ve always been a person who can ‘see’ things really clearly, in terms of how they will look and whether it’s the right or not, but my concern with this particular project was more around whether my talent as a sign writer would hold up to the challenge. It did. Just. And we are now the proud owners of 4 Jabberwocky’d windows in a lovely burnished gold. Not that you can see them very well on the photos, so you’ll have to take my word for it. The only trouble is that (as Keith was quick to point out) it now makes the rest of the hallway look even more shabby. I had to agree, but it’s one of those things that you have to grin and bear because I refuse to decorate the walls until there is a loft ladder in place to stop the foot marks every time Keith needs to scramble into the loft to deal with the boiler.

Incidentally, the boiler? It’s possessed. Several times over the last few months it has decided without cause or ceremony that hot water is FAR too much like hard work, and that an error code is far more manageable. Cue days of pan boiling just to have a wash sigh. Keith has become quite adept at reading those codes and has even found good enough instructions on the web to be able to deal with most of them (E33 seems to be the code of choice). This time however, the boiler was having NONE of it and for most of this week, we’ve been shivering our way through our ablutions. Then, in a speculatory use of the hot tap to wash some spuds, SUCCESS!!! Although obviously we are none the wiser at to what might have fixed the problem, and were forced to hypothesize about possible alien or military intervention.

Second project is not quite finished yet, but it feels as if it is because it’s been a long time in coming – the downstairs hallway floor. For those not au fait with house etiquette, the hounds of doom are not allowed upstairs which is great for the state of the bedrooms, but not so good for the state of the downstairs carpets. Keith’s one job in the house is to keep on top of the hair drifts, which usually results in him marauding round the downstairs, apoplectic at the dishevelled state of his beloved sofa which the dogs dance around and try to eat the vacuum. I find it quite amusing personally. Anyway, as I said in my little catch up post, we were on a holding pattern to tile the hallway floor in a checkerboard black/ red pattern when the Welsh suddenly forgot how to dig. Well it seems the amnesia was short lived and we picked up our tiles last weekend – which was fantastic timing because I happened to have 2 days off last week. I won’t claim it was the perfect job, or that it was the standard by which all floors will be judged, but I’m rather pleased with the results which are mainly neat and even, with an occasional nod to the rustic ;-)

There is one last thing to tell you all about – a dark cloud on the horizon of the little world of FTC and it goes by the name of garden grabbing. Last weekend we had a letter posted through the door from a man in Leicester wondering whether he might purchase the land at the back of the property for the purposes of shoehorning a property on it. I have to admit the idea that our neighbour might decide to sell the land was like an icy finger around my heart. Not that I’m entirely against development you understand, but in a sustainable and responsible way. I mailed him back, copying in the local councillors politely telling him that he could take his "reasonable offer" and invest it in his own postcode. I’m hoping that I won’t hear any more about it – but just in case, I am also doing some research on how I can protect that piece of land. Good old Hen made some very good suggestions (should have known he’d be the one to solve the problem) and I am currently drawing up plans for Bat Towers to be installed, with all due aplomb, as soon as is possible, in a suitably awkward location. Ha!