Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Even though I work in a kitchen, I sometimes get bored with cooking. We have a new menu change twice a year but as I have absolutely no say in what goes on it, it can get old fast. I was thinking also that my home cooking has been in a rut for a while. I have a list of things I make and the list hasn't changed for a few years really. I make stir-fry, lasagna, cottage pie, spagetti, pork chops...you get the idea. Just basic cooking. I have several nice cookbooks: the best one by far is The Joy of Cooking, and it's always my first point of reference when I need to find something. It seriously has it all. Last night I made a vanilla cream pie with cookie-crumb crust and meringue topping, compliments of Joy. I was too impatient to wait the full three hours of cooling time, so we dug into it at the two-hour mark and it bled just a little of its filling, but it's so nummy; the meringue is just perfect. Actually, I couldn't believe how much meringue there was. I made a 7-inch pie with four egg yolks, so I used the leftover whites in the meringue and it ended up with more volume than the filling.

I also made a home-made tandoori curry marinade for our leftover lamb roast from Sunday. I used mostly equal parts cumin, coriander, cinnamon, fresh garlic, salt, and ginger, with a touch of chili, all mixed together in plain yogurt and vegetable oil. I marinated the chopped meat for about an hour and then just quickly cooked it on the stove. It was So Nice, and so easy. The pie also was very easy, though I used quite a few pans, bowls, and utensils. It made me remember how much I actually do love cooking.

In other cooking news: I've learned to make homemade yogurt recently, and after a few failed starts, came up with an excellent method and a superior product. It's so much cheaper to make my own than to buy it. When I buy it I don't want to waste it in cooking; it's for eating only. I've also got a brand-new sourdough starter (pictured) in my fridge--made last week. I've used it once to make bread and I'll give it another go today. Technically it's a sponge starter and all I need to do is feed it some flour and water once a week and it'll keep indefinitely.

*Partner asked me why in my last post I wished to kill every tenth weed instead of them all. I looked up "decimate" and while it does mean to kill every tenth Roman soldier, I'm relieved to confirm it also means to damage badly.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I don't think I've really done the weeds justice in my previous posts, so I thought I'd do a little segment dedicated to them. First off, my weapons in the fight against weed domination:
  • gloves, leather;
  • bucket, plastic;
  • pillow, sturdy;
  • fork, handheld.
It doesn't seem like much, but it's all I have, and it does the job.

Next, the enemy contrasted with the victory; in the enemy photo, all plants pictured are either a) tulips, or b) weeds. Hint: the tulips are yellow streaked with red. In the victory photo, the two plants pictured are daffodils (finished flowering) and campanula (not yet flowering). Oh, and a tiny smidgeon of fuschia (also not yet flowering).

Next,view these two photos, both taken of my new (planted last spring) asparagus bed. This bed was weeded fully about six weeks ago. Emerging aspargus spears have been highlighted. The rest: weeds. Oh, and part of a cinder block, for some reason. I can't really explain it.

Now I would like to direct your attention to my cabbage and broad bean bed. This bed backs our garage wall and faces directly south. It's perfect for vegetables because it gets full sun and is well sheltered from the wind. It is also, however, extremely attractive to weeds, as the next two photos show. This bed was weeded one week ago. Those few bits of slate amongst the cabbages are my cutting edge high-tech slug traps. Slugs cannot resist crawling under a nice, cool, shady bit of slate during the day; and I cannot resist smushing them when I turn over the slate.

Since I first began my campaign in earnest three weeks ago, the casualties have been fierce. My goal has been a bucket full of weeds pulled up every day. Since my bucket holds about two gallons, it would seem that the war ought to be over by now, but my shock and awe tactics have so far not demoralized the enemy; they still fight back with as much vigor and strength as when I first fired the opening shots. When I capture occupied territories, the enemy reinvades; I begin to think this war will never end, yet I must continue to fight, until either they or I are decimated.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Our doggy lost a tooth the other evening. We had thought we'd have to spend a fortune getting it removed, but she bit down on something hard and it was loose enough that Partner could just reach in and snatch it out before she realized. She's had very bad teeth since we got her two years ago; this one was completely covered over with plaque. I'm glad it's out.

I'm trying not to get too stressed out over my coursework, now that it's down to the home stretch. I have all my final assignments and projects due pretty much all at once; I have to fit my studies around my work schedule and try to squeeze in any gardening I can, with no time for anything else. Housework? I don't think so.

After work this evening I planted broccoli, runner beans, more carrots, and zuccini. While doing so, Partner pulled up a bucket of weeds. I have a special kit for weeding: it consists of a 2-ish gallon bucket, a big canvas-covered pillow, a pair of gloves, and a little hand fork. I don't like to sit on the ground and I don't like to crouch, so I sit or kneel on the pillow. I also don't like dirt under my fingernails, so I always wear gloves. Partner hasn't adopted my way of weeding yet, but he's getting there. He got the gloves on and filled up the bucket.

I made this bag a little while ago to hold my clothespins. I had a block of corduroy patchwork left over from ages ago, and made a very easy tote with a boxed bottom, edged with a thrift store bought ribbon, (though it's kind of difficult to see in the photo) and I had so much fun making it, I want to make a dozen more. The only thing is, I can't think of any uses for another.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The power cord on my laptop got slightly damaged at the plug; it got to the point where I had to hold it bent in a certain way for it to feed power in to my computer. I looked it up on the internet to see if it could be fixed and got all sorts of advice about it; one person suggested that a new cord should be wrapped in electrical tape immediately upon purchase so as to avoid this problem altogether (which turns out to be a very common one). Another suggested replacing the straight head with an L-shaped one, for more stability. I personally wondered why laptops are even sold with straight heads when they are obviously so flimsy. So I described to Partner all that I had learned and I left him alone with it for half an hour, and he fixed it. I now have an L-shaped head and a cord that is reinforced with several layers of electrical tape. And it required no purchases; he already had the L head laying about somewhere and with surgical precision severed the old one and grafted the new one in its place. I think anyone could have done it--even me--it was so easy.

I went for a walk in the local forest a few days ago. It is, in fact, a very small forest, but nice enough to have all sorts of little woodland flowers. My favorites were the tiny violets, but I was also happy to see the bluebells just beginning to flower. The hawthorns also were flowering in profusion: all covered in white. I have a couple of them in my back yard but mine aren't in flower yet. I got very tired on the way home, but I think it'd be nice to go back in a few weeks when the bluebells are really on a roll.

On the whole it has been a very dry April so far here. I'm actually hoping for plenty of rain for the rest of the month, so my plants get the headstart they need. Being a very rainy nation in general, I have been surprised how nonwet this spring has been. I've actually had to water my veg a few times already this month. Though I shouldn't be too surprised. For the last several years, it has been dry in the spring and wet in the summer--hence my failure at growing tomatoes: when they needed water it wasn't there, and when they needed sun they got rain. Last night we got a bit of precipitation; I can only hope it leads to more. Below are my tray of rainbow chard seedlings, and my latest batch of broad beans. I have taken to planting beans in rolled up newspaper tubes--easy and biodegradable.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Although it's long gone, I did get a picture of our lone snowdrop this year. Now the daffodils are in their peak and the tulips are just beginning. I also got about ten crocus, a big improvement on last year, though they too are now faded away.

I'm back at work though still mending; I get tired easily and frustrated that I can't do everything I'm used to. I want to go walking, want to do more than just marginal gardening, want to clean my house. But I have to sit down and rest after twenty minutes of even mild activity. I had a vet appointment today and our dog is a nervous type who can't sit still in a strange place so we paced up and down out on the street until it was our turn--for half an hour. I'm completely exhausted now.

This fall we plan on digging up a good portion of the lawn out back to make vegetable beds. This year I'm being very ambitious with my veg; I've already got an overload of broad beans planted and lots of cabbage though I want at least twice as much again. My carrots are just beginning to sprout, so it's time to plant another batch; my rainbow chard is popping out of the dirt too.

And I've got flower seeds now coming up. A friend of mine gave me several packets of seeds I've never grown before and I look forward to seeing them; a few are just coming up now. My sweet peas are in the ground and I'm expecting big results from them, and the geranium cuttings I took last fall are all perky and flowering. Of all the begonia cuttings I took, only one rooted, so I'm planning on growing it big and bushy to take cuttings for next year.

We went to Brodsworth Hall, a stately home, three weeks ago and saw the last of the snowdrops and the first of the daffodils there. I brought my sketchbook and Partner brought his camera and practiced his panoramic shots. For all Brodsworth photos, go here.