- -

Onion pickling continues

A calm Saturday morning. I am at peace. A cup of tea gradually empties. Last night I popped out to meet Rob Vashak in the Star for early doors. The traffic was back to the normal rush hour queuing down Wragby Road. Folk escaping their office confinement for the freedom of the weekend.

Today a jobs list beckons. I am optimistic of progress although not totally confident. My calmness needs to mutate into boredom before a start can be made. We have lane swimming booked at 3pm anyway which seems to put a natural time limit on any arduous activity.

In the meantime I have made my first Facebook Marketplace purchayse. An Italian leather armchair for the shed. It just about fitted in the back of the defender and we just about managed to get it out of the car and around into the shed. The shed has been waiting for this moment, tapping it’s metaphoric fingers with an impatience normally only seen by a bloke waiting for his wife to get ready to go to the pub.

Yesterday I made 10 jars of pickled onions from 3kg of raw onions. I have 2kg left to do. I acquired a dozen 500ml jars for the purpose so that some of them could be used as Christmas presents. The onions are too large really for this sized jar and would be better off in bigger ones of which we do have some so the remainder of the batch will go in those.

- -

The shed door is open

The door of the shed is slightly ajar and Charlie Parker is bashing out Summertime on the stereo. I like the use of the word stereo there. It fits my simple vision of the shed. Folk have suggested that using “shed” is a bit misleading. I don’t agree (obvs).

The Cambridge dictionary defines the word shed (a noun) as:

  1. a small building, usually made of wood, used for storing things:
    1. a tool/storage shed
    2. a garden/bicycle shed
  2. a large, simple building used for a particular purpose

My shed meets all of these definitions and more, apart from the bicycle bit. I don’t own a bicycle although there is room for one in here. Don’t want to add too much clutter too quickly. I need a comfortable leather armchair, ideally two tone or at least dark brown and a comfy two seater sofa to replace the futon that is in front to the desk but which is knackered really and was only ever intended to be a temporary installation. I like the G Plan vintage 65 sofas but can’t find a second hand one in the right colour at the right price. These things don’t come on the market often I guess.

One other observation about my first sentence in this post is that Autumn Leaves might be a more appropriate song to be playing than Summertime. We are on the cusp. That in between time where the fading gurgles of summer are being gently replaced by the melancholy undertones of Autumn.

- -

Pepper harvest

Nice to get home after a long and rainy drive yesterday. We have the car for it. Unloaded and then out to meet Terry and Nige in the Citadel later joined by the kids. Left the unpacking till Saturday.

Now it is Saturday, chucked the laundry on the pile on the utility room floor. Put away the choice Anglesey Sea Salt based products in the cupboard. We now have enough salt to last years.

Later will pick tomatoes. Have had complaints about the size of the fruit. They are cherry tomatoes planted because of their intense flavour and not for their utility in cooking. Ah well. Next year I’ll stick some San Marzano plum toms down as well.

The apples are also ready for picking and the onions will need stringing up. Left them on the potting shelf before we went away.

I hear activity elsewhere in the house.

Today, I sense, is one for getting things sorted but without urgency.

Later, picked a bowl of tomatoes and basil and also of peppers and jalapenos. Harvested the coriander seeds.

Tonight’s tea is pasta with fresh tomato, pepper and basil sauce 🙂

- -

The night time dance of the tomato plants

Night time greenhouse action

When nobody is watching things go on in the greenhouse. In this case night time is party time for greenhouse potted plants. Check out the dance routine in the pic. Alternative names for this post might be “the dance of the tomatoes”, “tomatoes trot to a night time tune” or simply the “tomato trot”.

They say a picture paints a thousand words. In this case it paints a dozen or so tomato plants with a few chillies chucked into the pot for good measure.

Clearly the tomato plants don’t realise they’re being watched otherwise they probs wouldn’t drop their guard and be caught dancing. When I figure out how to reduce the file size I’ll load it as a featured image

I offer you the night time tomato dance

Posted by Trefor Davies on Tuesday, 18 August 2020

- -

Early one summer’s morn

5.30am 12th August 2020

Up early. Had enough kip and now sat on the deck enjoying the morning. There is birdsong but it doesn’t seem to be in the same league as earlier in the summer. This morning it is mostly wood pigeons. Pesky wood pigeons. Not the spring chorus of small birds. I hear one chirp somewhere in the evergreen oak above me but can’t see what’s making the noise.

It is very noticeable that the dawn is creeping forward. It wasn’t so long ago that I might wake up at 4.30am and it would be light. Not any more. The summer is hitting it’s peak and there are signs that it won’t be long before it is all over. Apples ripening on the trees, plums ready to pick.

In fact last night I went around to Coops’ and picked 6kg of plums ready to make chutney. Our plum chutney is a huge step up from the shop bought stuff. If the only chutney you have ever tasted is Branston Pickle then you don’t know what you are missing It uses Delia’s spicy plum chutney recipe. I estimate that we have enough plums to fill 27 450g jars. We will need to check if we have enough jars. We should be ok.

By sitting quietly on the deck you do notice things. A blackbird is ferreting around right next to me, picking up leaves in its search for insects and worms. It occurs to me that the birds born this season don’t know what’s going to hit them come winter time. This is an idyllic time of year for them. Winter comes to us all.

Next door has a large sycamore in their garden. It’s just made me wonder where the roots go? You only have to dig down a foot in our garden to hit limestone. V difficult to dig down any further. The roots must spread out laterally. It’s a big tree with a lot of leaves to keep supplied with water.

The greenhouse is at its most bountiful time. Many tomatoes have been picked with many still to come and the peppers and jalapenos are really coming along. I will pick some for consumption this week. Not totes sure when is the right time to pick but no harm in experimenting on a few.

It is very still.

- -

Peaceful morning in the shed

It is peaceful sat in the shed this morning. Only the sound of rain and the occasional car passing by the front of the house. Traffic noise is a lot more noticeable when it is wet. On the way here this morning I spotted two ripe apricots. That’s our entire crop this year so we shall savour them. I say “we”. That assumes Anne won’t scoff em both. It is her tree fair play.

Yesterday I picked all the ripe tomatoes for use in my fattoush salad which proved a real success. This morning another batch is ready. One ripe tomato has two neatly drilled holes in the skin. Side by side. Some bastard insect. Ah well as long as it isn’t going to attack the whole crop in which case I will have to take offensive action, whatever that may be.

The business world is quietening down as it always does at this time of year. I tend to take most of August off although I do have a few active bits of business on the go that require tending to. Anne’s Vans is almost sold out for the season. Really only some time in September left. 

Now finding time to write for tref’s greenhouse a bit more. This would be a good time to go and sit in the greenhouse to write other than the fact that I’d have to go into the house to get my laptop. Also there is less and less space to sit in there as I’ve been moving plants apart as they grow bigger to give them more light. This will show up on the timelapse when it gets finished off at the end of the season.

The crops are looking good. It will have been a good growing season. A few weeks ago when we visited Stourton Woods the farmer there, Antony Strawson, mentioned that the rains had come a little later than desirable for the arable crops. The grass was really benefiting though. Can’t have it both ways I guess. 

Earlier in the season I watered the garden most days. Haven’t needed to do that for a while now and it is looking very green. The apples are highly visible on the trees and my onions and garlic are ready to lift. A job for tomorrow when the weather improves.

Next year our vegetable plot is expanding. A new path has been laid to demarcate the lawn and veg plot and we have plans for more beans, caucus, leeks etc. never going to be self sufficient and we wouldn’t have the time to manage a plot that would be big enough for that. Also I imagine you’d have to cope with a glut of vegetables becoming ready to eat at the same time.

I’ve put a fleece on this morning. It isn’t a warm summer rain. It’s a hmm close the shed doors and stay warm summer rain. Reassuring to some extent because this is the same British weather I’ve known for the 58 and half years on the planet.

The start of the day’s play in the cricket at Old Trafford is delayed as you might imagine. The BBC TMS team is used to having to create content on rainy days and I am half listening. Cricket is one of those sports where most of the time you can tune in and out to suit.

More as it happens…

- -

The first jalapeno appeared today

The first jalapeno appeared today. Up until now I wasn’t sure which plant was jalapeno and which was pepper, other than the fact that the peppers were appearing on some plants. It’s quite amazing how much growth you see in such a small space of time. Quite possibly I just hadn’t noticed the jalapeno fruit.

I am in two minds about jalapenos. The taste doesn’t do it for me and often they aren’t hot enough. However they were the only seeds on offer at the time of planting. Can’t remember which shop I got them from.

The growing season has been great so far. This year’s crops are looking bountiful and we will have a wonderful record of the year in the greenhouse. There is still 3 months or so of bounty followed by decline before we clear out the spent plants. 3 more months of diligent webcam snapshotting for the timelapse. 

The timelapse is something I can keep going all year round although whether I will have the motivation for it over winter when nothing will be happening remains to be seen.

- -

Halcyon days of summer

It’s been a while since I wrote. I suspect that work reared its ugly head leaving less time to talk tomatoes. Tomatoes are now however very much ready to be a talking point. They have started to ripen and whilst not yet a glut have provided me with a few sweet mouthfuls. The intensity of flavour especially from the smaller ones has made the whole growing effort worthwhile. Ditto the carrots. I picked a couple for use in a stir fry and they were the most carrot tasting carrots I’ve ever had. They were still a little on the small side so am leaving the rest to grow more. Same for the garlic of which I lifted three but really they too can wait. The garlic I will revisit before we head to Cardiff at the end of July.

Summer mornings in the shed are very pleasant. For the uninitiated the shed is next to the greenhouse at the bottom of the garden. It has double doors opening onto a deck at the front and to the side there is a full length window looking out onto the greenhouse and through which I can see the  tomatoes, ripening as I write.

This morning I went out and picked some tomatoes for breakfast. I am confident that more will have ripened by the end of the day. They are now clearly visible on the live stream although once ripe they don’t stay visible for long 🙂 

Enjoying these halcyon days of summer.

- -

the hottest of days

Early on, after breakfast and after baking a couple of sourdough loaves, as you do, I gave the greenhouse a soaking. Also retargeted the pesky whiteflies on my chilli plants. 

The theory is I want to keep the temperature down in the greenhouse on hot days. Plenty of water and the right amount of heat/sun. The tomatoes are really coming along. We are I think, in for a bumper crop this year. Ditto the apples, garlic, onions, parsnips and carrots. Oh and strawberries etc etc etc. And chillies. You know the form.

There is something decadent about spraying water everywhere in this heat. The garden is very green. We have to remember that only a few days ago we were seeing torrential rain. It’s what makes this place green and pleasant. 

When I was a kid hot days such as this were an ordeal. We aren’t used to heat in the UK. We would languish around the house trying to survive. There may have been a paddling pool although potentially not. Our clothing was not suited to hot climates. Even if shorts were available the t shirts would have been heavy duty and sandals a rarity. Few had ice. If you had ice it was a small tray of frozen stuff in the freezer. The norm was to add one or two cubes to a drink. People didn’t keep drinks in the fridge, I don’t think.

That was life in post war Britain. When I say post war I mean the 1970s. The UK had still not really emerged culturally from WW2. Emancipation had not arrived. It is different today. I grow tomatoes and I wear custom made silk and cotton shirts. The two go together – love and marriage. Horse and carriage. Tomatoes and silk shirts. Innit. In the 1970s watching tomatoes grow on the internet wasn’t even conceivable. Tomatoes yes. Internet? Uhuh.

My chilies are doing well white flies aside. I have fired dilute washing up liquid at them. We shall see.

- -

The bleary eyed baker

Up early as I am wont to do on these light summer mornings. 05.35 and I hear what seems to be a lot of traffic on the road outside. Early shift workers. I wonder what the birds think of the traffic noise.

The oven has been switched on, preheating to gas mark 7. The multigrain sourdough, proving overnight in a bread tin in the fridge, is ready to go in. Another hot summer’s day lies before us.

The garden is still and through the open doors of the conservatory the dawn chorus has abated to an every day chatter. I need to learn avianspeak. Moving out to the patio I’ve just spent 10 minutes playing various birdsong on the laptop but still can’t identify my neighbours. I need to call on an expert.

Back inside the oven temperature has been reduced slightly for the second part of the bake. Loaf looks good. The resurgence of my breadmaking efforts during lockdown has given rise to contemplation, if you pardon the pun. It is a huge contrast to the full on life I was leading before coronavirus hit the street.

When I was a student a baker named Ray used to come into the Globe pub just after lunchtime. He had been up very early and had now finished for the day so would reward himself with a couple of pints. No different to anyone else hitting early doors after a day in the office. You might ask what I was doing in the pub after lunchtime? Hey…
bread sliced