Wednesday 31 August 2022

Garden Diary August

Time once again for my monthly garden diary. I do realise that I do this diary mainly for myself, as although I keep a note of where I planted each year, and the seeds, it is sometimes really useful to have a look back and see how things went.

Blackberries are what are filling my days (and freezer) at the moment

It's been a funny old year, with all the hot weather and no rain for a long time. Although it is raining now, we have recently dug two lots of potatoes. A much easier job than last year, as the soil just seemed to fall away to leave lovely clean potatoes, but really shows that we need a lot more rain to penetrate the soil.

The plants that looked like they were doing okay, but then really didn't flourish like last year were the runnerbeans, french beans, broad beans and peas. Yes we had some, but I have not put any in the new chest freezer as we just ate them as we went. This is a photo of my entry in the village show for longest runnerbean. I came third, but I guess I have to admit that there were only three beans entered!


But the freezer is coming into its own with berries. Raspberries did really well, and now we are filling it almost daily with blackberries and elderberries. Even I am starting to think that perhaps I should stop picking the blackberries, but they are just so lovely. We have one lot of blackberry wine bubbling away, and plan to make more throughout the winter. We have already bottled dandelion flower, elderflower and cherry wine. My husband was worried that if we picked the elderflowers, we might not have enough left for berries. Although some of the bushes have suffered a bit from the dry weather, there seem to be plenty of berries. I have just weighed all the elderberries in the freezer so far, and it is over 3kg. I am also planning to make some jellies and jams. My husband made some raspberry jam already, which was so much better than mine.  

Dandelion labels made by hand and elderflower on the computer

The other berries that look great are the sloes, but this year I am not going to be drawn into picking until we have a frost.

Things that did well in the veg garden were the courgettes, and patty pan squash. I managed to mainly pick the courgettes small, but must try to remember that even 6 plants was too many. The patty pans are still flowering and producing, but I seem to be the only one keen on these cute little vegetables. Also the onions did fairly well, despite me planting them too close to each other, and having to replant. We now have several strings of onions in the kitchen. 
There is now a plant and produce donation cabin in the village, which is a great way to share. I have given, and am excited to see how the watermelons, aubergine and broccoli that I received do.

The main problem for me seems to be that a lot of my plants seem behind. Sweetcorn are only just starting to swell, one baby butternut squash has appeared, melons and watermelons I am hopeful for, tomatoes are still very green, and the spinach just seems to have stopped growing. Hopefully we will have a mild and wet September, and some of these things will catch up. The celeriac is also still looking very healthy, and I see that should not be ready until October, so there is still time.

My one butternut squash

I nearly forgot to mention the apples and pears, which are looking so much better than last year. It will not be long before the cider press will have to be got out.

And finally the pumpkins - each plant seems to producing a good sized pumpkin, which are starting to turn orange. 


Although not strictly the garden, but we had a visit from the Woodland Trust to look at our growing woodland, which we planted in the spring of 2020. In the spring this year we looked down all the tubes (a mammoth task in which I had to keep reminding myself "this not as hard as actually planting trees"), and we replaced the 20 or so trees which had died. But out of 1400 trees this did not seem too bad. 

But my husband has been quite worried about the trees in the dry weather, but the tree people were very reassuring that they would survive. The photo below is not really a good comparison, as the first was in February just after the trees were planted, but you can see in the current photo below a lot of the trees are well out of their tubes.

Monday 22 August 2022

Poor Man's Capers

Not everything has gone to plan in the garden, and I'll be doing my monthly garden update for August soon. One of the plants that has grown well are the nasturtiums, which I planted as a companion plant to distract the critters from the vegetable. I think there is a saying about making lemonade if life has given you lemons, so I decided to do what I can with this surprise success. You can eat the leaves for a spicy salad, and I even saw a recipe for nasturtium flower wine, but the family drew the line at this. I also found out that the seeds can be pickled to make "poor man's capers", so this is what I decided to do.

Here is a link to the recipe that I used Nasturtium Capers. There are a lot of other recipes out there. Some people like to soak in brine before pickling, to reduce the pepperiness. Also I have stored them in the fridge, but some recipes say just store in a dark cupboard. I added a bit of garlic, and they should be ready to eat in about 4 weeks, so I will let you know how they turn out.

Friday 19 August 2022

Fun Drawing Figures

Last week I signed up another short course. This time "Fun Drawing Figures". I was a little nervous about this one, as it is quite a while since I have done any drawing and painting. My daughter has a lovely free style when she draws, and she gave me the tip to just put a random scribble on your paper before you start, as it is the blank sheet that can be so inhibiting.

The course was a great mixture of actual teaching of methods to get the structure and proportions right, but followed by us being given the freedom to follow our own ideas. Also the chance to explore using lots of materials - watercolour pencils and paint, pastels, charcoal. Despite the heat, which meant both days we packed up early, it was lovely to be totally absorbed something new and creative.

Saturday 13 August 2022

1950s Curtain Fabric


I saw this fabric in a vintage sale in Tavistock Pannier Market recently. Original 1950s curtain fabric of barkcloth - cotton with a bit of texture.  I really liked it, but then I dithered! I am a bit of a ditherer sometimes. Not sure if 1950s would look right in our cottage. When I got home I really regretted not buying it, as I want to make some new cushions, and my husband is a bit anti-floral, but I thought this would be an interesting compromise. 

Luckily though someone on my printing course knew the name of the stallholder, and with a bit of searching on Instagram I found and contacted her. She brought the fabric back to the market for me next time she was there. Sometimes the web is really useful. The cushions aren't made yet, as I need to get zips and perhaps a different fabric for the back.

Tuesday 2 August 2022

Babysuit and Hat

I've been knitting baby clothes, as my niece has had a new baby, and my nephew and his wife are also expecting. I thought I would have a go at knitting an all-in-one babysuit. I've not done this before, and am thinking I might have a go at a pattern. It was really quite a quick knit, and with wool left over I decided I would make a hat to go with it.

But what to do if you don't have a baby model? My first two models were considered a little creepy by my family, especially the doll. And although my cat was very patient, she does look a bit fed up. I did think a grapefruit might be good or even one of the pumpkins in my veg plot might work, but in the fourth picture I just padded out the hat with some tissue paper.

I've worked out this hat in three sizes, so there will be a bit more knitting before I publish the pattern. 

But this morning I got a photo of the perfect model!