Saturday, 25 July 2009

A spot of gardening

I've been out in the garden tonight, after another week of staring at a computer screen. A bit of repotting of some basil (look at that purple ruffle basil!), and some harvesting of herbs, which are taking over the garden. I'm really pleased about this, with such a small garden it's hard to find any crop that we could grow all our needs of, but with herbs we can, and these ones my mum bought a few months ago have really done well. I'm going to try freezing a few.

The cabbage was a bit of a surprise. I'd planted it last year, put it outside ready to pot out, and then completely forgot about it. This spring it started to grow again, after being completely ignored for months and months. Planted it in the garden, and just got round to harvesting some (slug eaten) leaves this evening. We're having it for tea tonight, although so far it's tasting a bit tough and bitter. Maybe I should have picked it a bit earlier... 

Anyway, in the midst of all the work this week, there have been some lovely times too. My old office mate, who started his PhD at the same time as me, graduated this week. Another friend who now lives in Durham visited, and we had a lovely evening of catching up. Last night I spent some time at a friend's wedding, then had a late night cuppa with another couple of friends. And today we sat by the river at Bakewell, drinking tea and reading. How lovely, and just what I needed. 

I got a bit bogged down in tidying up this afternoon, but fortunately remembered just in time to stop and blow a few bubbles. 

There should always be time for some silly fun! 

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Jam and dreams

There's been rather a lot of jam making here this week. I popped round to a friend's last week, and as he wasn't in, I started poking around in the garden. The garden is tiny, probably about a third of the size of mine even, but it had so much fruit growing in it! You can see the timber framed greenhouse he's build, not a light undertaking... But it's got grapes, melons and pineapples growing in it - not a bad haul for a tiny city garden. 

After checking it was ok, we went back and raided the fruit. My friend is too busy to pick it apparently - what a shame! We got about 3lbs of gooseberries, and there were plenty more left on the bush. We also picked about 1lb of tayberries, but sadly most of them had already withered on the bush. 

Well, tayberry jam is most gorgeous indeed, rich and flowery tasting, and a beautiful deep red. Gooseberry jam is also gorgeous, although not as good a colour. We also experimented with making gooseberry fool yesterday, which was a little tart for my liking, but a lovely mix of flavours. Perhaps I should have followed a recipe? I never was much of a one for instructions... :) 

Anyway, my friend did get two pots of jam from his fruit, which were delivered to his house in exchange for him fixing my bike :) So now we all have jam, and I have a working set of wheels, and everyone's happy. 

My own garden isn't half as productive as my friend's, which just goes to prove that effort in at the beginning gives results later... I went for the bung-it-in-when-you-get-chance method, he went for an all out effort at the start. Anyway, each of my five broad bean plants currently has one pod of beans on! 

We picked this one the other day, rather too early, but we were quite excited, as with anything new that grows in the garden. We're leaving the rest to mature a bit further. 

I noticed while I was out that there's a lot of ant and aphid activity on my cardoom. I bought this last year after reading about their electric blue flowers - I've never actually seen the flowers. Mine is in a pot, and it's the only plant in the garden which is absolutely covered in aphids, and ants, which are presumably eating the aphids. Very bizarre - the plant itself seems reasonably health, and has a couple of flowers starting to grow, so I assume they're not doing too much damage. The whole thing had me rather puzzled. Can anyone shed any light? There's so much to learn about this gardening business... 

Other than gardening and jam, it's been a week of dashing about and lots of different things. The new Harry Potter film, a bit of work, a lot of PhD, and a good silly splash around down the water slides at the swimming pool with an old school friend. 

There was also a long drive to see my new nephew and his two big brothers (and most of the rest of the family too, of course). On the way back, I was awfully tired, and went on a bit of a detour to find somewhere sensible to have a nap (oh, the joys of owning a van!) I found myself tracing an old route I used to cycle a few years ago, over the Staffordshire Moorlands. This is a vastly underrated, gorgeous part of the country - and long may it stay like that. This picture doesn't do it justice at all.

Anyway, driving along my old cycling route made me think about how much I used to enjoy cycling, and how much fitter I used to be than I am now... So I came home, and now my bike's fixed, I'm looking forward to pootling about on it. It's just rather hilly round here, so I need to face up to the fact that I won't be going very fast just yet! 

My mum said the other day that she's going to start cycling more too - so here it is, in writing - have you started yet mum?? :) 

Friday, 10 July 2009

Busy, busy...

Gosh, it's been a busy few weeks! There's been lots of sunshine and sitting in the garden, lots of garden (look at that perpetual spinach!), and a fair bit of writing. We've made more rhubarb jam, done a fair bit of sewing, and had a couple of lovely weekends away. The garden is flourishing, although the only thing we've managed to harvest so far has been spinach, cabbage, one broad bean pod, and one strawberry :) And very nice they all were too. 

I also had a trip to the exhibition of one of our friend's paintings. Lyn paints gorgeous, beautiful, strong, vibrant women, and I love to see her work. Have a look at Lyn's website for more of her paintings. Isn't it fab when someone can make a living out of doing something creative that they love? An inspiration to us all. 

For a while I've been thinking about ways I can simplify my life, making more things from scratch, spending less, doing more. Last week, I finally achieved one of my goals and handed in my notice at work. I needed those extra 20 hours a week to finish off this phd, and managed to organise my life for the next couple of months to manage without the money. 

My boss, however, had different ideas... We've negotiated, and instead of leaving altogether, I am taking July, August and most of September as unpaid leave, until the phd is submitted. While part of me would have liked a clean break, this way leaves my options open and gives me work to go back to in the autumn. 

In the meantime, my head is down writing, writing, writing. Peter de Vries once said 'I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o clock every morning.' I can't say I quite achieve that every day... But I'm chipping away at it, and it's a lot easier now I can see the whole thing emerging in front of me. There's eleven weeks until my deadline, and I'm trying to channel my energy (panic) into positive writing. Watch this space... 

On a cheerier note, I gained a gorgeous new nephew last week, my third! I'll be visiting him and his two big brothers tomorrow. I'm so looking forward to it!