raspberryfool: (Raspberryfool)
He'd spent more than an hour entering the bunker, climbing down rubble-strewn staircases and corridors to find the control room; it was still partly intact but huge slabs of concrete lay across the desks and consoles. No light, no power, no people... just as he'd expected.

The old man flashed his torch around the room to illuminate the mess. An icy wind blew in through collapsed roofs and walls, stirring up piles of leaves blown in during the countless autumns since he'd last stood there. Even here, the elements had found their way of erasing the past and reclaiming their own. Quite against his once-iron will, an eerie chill ran up his spine. It looked just as he'd imagined it would.

A sudden movement made his heart jumpstart like an ancient engine. "Who's there?", he called into the shadows, but no reply came. The man raised his gun and cast his eyes slowly about the bunker. "Come out or I'll kill you where you stand". His torch picked out another movement in a far corner, startling him again. He ranged his gun with his finger poised on its trigger, then the creature showed itself.

A feral cat. It hissed and screeched and ran across the room in fright and disappeared from his view. Relieved, he lowered the sidearm and stepped aside to the open floor of the central room. Through his aged eyes he viewed the scene that had inhabited his nightmares for forty years... years he often wished had not been his. A boot sole here, a once-shiny trinket there... time and the wind had erased almost every trace of what had occurred there; now the leaves and dust covered everything.

"I'm glad you came", said a deep voice from somewhere in his memory. "I was beginning to think you were dead". Casting the torch around revealed the absence of any life; even the cat had deserted him. But he answered the voice anyway with his customary chill: "I am dead".

Walking slowly back to the abandoned consoles, he noticed something strange; a solitary red light was blinking. "Power", he said to the wind. "But where from?" He bent over and his hands, gnarled and rough, started flicking switches and turning knobs on the long-dead equipment. Then the light died. "Nothing. Nothing but ghosts", he mumbled and stood up again. Almost smiling at his unwelcome sentiment, he said, "I should have left you in the past where you belong". He surveyed the scene again, rubbed the dust from his hands and turned to go.

Behind him, a screen suddenly flickered into life. The old man turned back and raised his gun, his heart pounding again; his mouth dry and dusty... "Who is it? Show yourself", he demanded. The static resolved into a picture... it was of a young man, scarred and rough and dishevelled. The loudspeaker crackled and hissed and buzzed. "Avon. Is that you, Avon? Can you hear me?"

"Blake. You're dead. You've been dead for forty years. Who is this?" Avon's voice faltered.

"Avon, it's me, Blake. I set this up. I was waiting for you. Avon..."

Then the screen went dead.
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
In 2014, as you'll remember, I cross-pollinated the mangetout pea varieties Golden Sweet and Bijou; the former being yellow-podded and the latter having large, wide, green pods. The aim is to introduce the genes for yellow pods from Golden Sweet into the Bijou line.

Last year's F1 plants threw in one surprise; I got everything I'd expected – tall plants, purple splodges in the leaf axils, bi-coloured purple flowers and small, green pods. F1 hybrid seeds are homozygous, which basically means they're genetically identical and only the dominant genes are expressed. The surprise was that instead of being fibreless, the pods on all six F1 plants had a fibrous layer like shelling peas, making them inedible. I've read in several places that mangetout pea plants lack the dominant genes for making fibrous pods. I also understand that dominant genes don't hide themselves away like recessives do, so I've no idea where these fibrous pods were coming from; perhaps G.S. has a fibre-making gene after all. The F1 generation produced over 200 seeds; enough to keep me busy for a few seasons if I wish!

This year, I'm growing out the heterozygous F2 generation, which is where the fun begins. Each seed should be genetically different, and potentially each seed is a new variety. The genes begin to segregate into their parent lines, which is exactly what I've found. Of the forty-odd plants I've grown (all tall), I've had small, yellow mangetout like Golden Sweet; both small and large, green mangetout; and large, green, fibrous pods.

postimage


One yellow-podded line looks as though it might be worth growing out – its completely fibreless pods curl upwards rather than lying flat like Golden Sweet's do.

curly


And then there's this; a single plant has produced large, fibreless, yellow pods. I know they're fibreless by the way the seeds deform the pod walls as they mature. The plant is short-ish and a bit scrawny, and the pods seem to become greener as they age; here it's compared with Golden Sweet, which is the small pod on the left of this photo. I tasted one young pod, whichch i found tasted acceptable but wasn't quite as tasty as Golden Sweet. This, however, may be the prototype I'm looking for. Next year's pea-growing is looking exciting!

big-yellow
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
Well well, we haven't been here for a while, have we? Since my last post I've been clearing the garden of summer growth, old plants, leaves and rubbish, and to celebrate I had a big bonfire. It made plenty of ash, so that's been scattered around the fruit trees and bushes, and dug into the soil. Small pleasures please small minds...

The plums here were really quite poor this year; when I think of how many jars of jam my dad used to make, as well as plum crumbles to fill our hungry tums throughout the early autumn, I wonder whether that tree is getting to be past its fell-by date. The culprit was mostly brown rot, a fungal disease that spreads with rain from old fruit left on the branches. It spreads really quickly and ruins the crop in days; it's quite sad really. But don't get me wrong, I did have quite a few pounds of plums to make chutney with, and to give away to friends, family and neighbours, so perhaps it's just nostalgia speaking.

I was quite pleased with my potato harvest; I dug around 20 lbs this year -- all Desireé -- from the two beds I used; 'Bonfire' and 'Strawberry 1'. They were mostly quite small, though I did get some larger ones too. The soil in those beds in more suited to root crops than the heavy clay of 'West', though I'm slowly improving the soil structure in the latter. The quality is much better this year too; I didn't notice as much scab and there was hardly any other pest damage (though see later), though the ants did some superficial damage to those in 'Bonfire'.

I took down the WendyHaus in two sessions; it was really easy this time. The plastic covering was still in good condition, which I put down to the location of the top ridge in the centre rather than the edge. I think the location, tucked into a corner between a wall and a hedge, really helped too. I could have left it alone but I'm sure the wind would have wrecked it eventually and whisked it off to grace some unsuspecting neighbour's television aerial, satellite dish, or tree. Besides, the tomato plants inside wouldn't have withstood the first frost on (iirc) 23rd November, so they had to go. Nothing lasts forever; not even tomato plants!

The local moggies have been neglecting their duties. This autumn, I found two mice nesting in the alcove beside the house, right at the back inside an old tea chest beneath all my junk. In fact I'd had the same problem in the summer when I chucked the one mouse I found there into the garden. It must have found itself a mate and returned; the little gits had ripped up some carrier bags and dried poppy heads, though they didn't damage anything important. They'd been eating my potato harvest, which I stored in the adjacent shed. Fortunately they hadn't been there long (only two or three days) and hadn't reproduced, but they damaged a lot of my spuds and I've had to move the crop indoors. I might not have minded if they'd been paying me rent. They've been evicted now; I emptied the tea chest in the road and the little shits ran off, hopefully into the mouth of a passing cat. That'll teach me to leave the garden door open!

So that's about it for this year's garden waffle. The garlic is sown and growing. The pea plants are still up and flowering, although I doubt I'll get my hoped-for late seed crop. There's polytunnel planning and building to be done, and I'm hoping to pave some of the grass immediately outside the garden door. There's the usual umm-ing and ahh-ing about what-to-put-where, what to grow, what to abandon and all that stuff to worry about over winter. So I'm heading back under the duvet where it's warm and leaving the garden to the crows, blackbirds, thrushes, robins and hopefully the local cats -- rather them than a mouse infestation!

Happy Winter, Livejournal.
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
So here we are in (almost) mid-autumn. I've been quite lazy with the garden this year, after having made all those grand plans back in the spring. But life and laziness got in the way and I basically couldn't be bothered with some things. Leek moth larvae had a field day with my leeks lazy year; the pests hatch as little grubs and munch their way through developing leeks, leaving a gooey mess of shredded leaves and frass. My attempt last year to grow cauliflowers ended in a similar fashion, so I decided not to bother planting either this year. They're both pest magnets and I couldn't be bothered with them.

I did manage to grow some red onions from sets i acquired at a local seed swap. They aren't huge but as a first attempt at growing them, I was quite pleased. The hybrid pea plants I planted made around 200 seeds, so i've planted ten with a view of getting an autumn crop; likewise the regular two varieties I grow. My peas did rather well this year, considering they were grown in a bed that usually turns into a brick in the summer and a quagmire in the winter. It's nice to find something that actually does well in that plot!

Potatoes have done fairly well, considering I planted them quite late. Also planted late were my tomato plants, which are finally bearing fruit in the WendyHaus. Also in summer I bought some cheap shallot sets so i'm trying those out near the raspberry canes.

I was seriously considering jacking it all in and grassing over my plots; but I decided against that; why, after all that effort, should I let nature have her way? So I'm toying with the idea of building myself a permanent polytunnel. I'll see how I feel after the winter's ravages and privations; if I still have the energy and drive by March I'll go ahead. So 2016 could be either great fun or a total disaster -- fate will decide, I'm sure!
raspberryfool: (Default)
So here we are at the saliva soaked, chewed up, spat out fag-end of the year. So it's New Year Resolutions time, natch.

In 2013 I pledge to:

a) start smoking;
2) drink more beer;
iii) eat more cake;
d) take less exercise;
h) take fewer photographs and;
8) spend more money.

In no particular order. Shall we see how long I last..?
raspberryfool: (Raspberryfool)
First frost (this morning - confirmed) has come early this year.
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
And so the wheel turns to autumn and harvest time. cut for boringness )
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
This year's strawberry crop, save for a few late stragglers, is now over. This weekend I was 'refreshing' the beds, which have become overgrown with wild violet, primrose, grasses and almost anything but strawberry plants! My dad introduced the violets, which add a splash of welcome colour in springtime, but the rest of the year just spread like wildfire and cover the plot in a inpenetrable blanket of weeds. I think he introduced the primroses too - they're the wild yellow species 'primula vulgaris', which have spread to various corners of the garden. Again these are very pretty in springtime but... well, you get the picture! I've been so impressed with the size and flavour of the fruit from the areas I where I refreshed last year that I've decided to do the whole lot!

After digging them plants, I set aside the strawberry plants, remove all the weeds from that area of soil, dig a small hole and mix in some 'growmore' fertiliser pellets with the soil. Then the plants are replaced, hopefully to grow with renewed vigour. I'm moving the primroses to the edges of the plot, where they can't interfere with the growth of the strawberry plants. I guess they'll stil provide havens for slugs and smails to hide under though - even gardeners can't have everything their own way!

So now I have the small bed to clear, after which i shall sit back, admire my work and dream of all those perfect, big, juicy strawberries I'll be harvesting next June...
raspberryfool: (Raspberryfool)
As I've often said, my feelings about photography have changed a lot since I left Plymouth. Work and my father's illness and death dragged me away from my love of image-making and into a dark realm of... i don't quite know what. Calling it a 'no-man's land' might be appropriate; I had neither the opportunity nor the inclination to make new work or to print existing work; my darkroom was in a mess, which helped me into a very lazy mode of thinking - basically 'I can't be arsed with it'.

Now I'm finding fewer concrete reasons not to re-enter the dark recesses of my converted former coal shed; the enlarger is ostensibly fixed up with a new L.E.D. lightsource (PCAD would baulk at the alerations I've made!), I have reams of paper, the weather is slowly warming up... My laziness is the only real remaining obstacle to actually doing something.

The small amount of photography I've done recently is, i think, quite good. My current 'mini-project' is documenting the local gasometers; two large gas storage tanks, both over 100 years old, that dominate the town's landscape. It's encouraging that I'm finally picking up a camera; it helps me to see things differently somehow. When I'm alone, with the camera mounted on a tripod and my subject in sight, distractions disappear and I enter a more creative space that nobody else can share except through my images. It's no longer about capturing an image of a landscape, it's about expressing what that landscape means to me. Sometimes I notice details that others don't see as they rush past in a daze. Sometimes its the way the light shines (or doesn't!) on the subject that catches my attention and makes me want to share it - a fleeting and often very special moment that I want to be able to communicate. Not everything can be communicated in words!

Maybe that's it - communication. From my dark, warm corner of the world that I've backed myself into, it's very easy to cut myself off from everybody else. Nobody within my immediate sphere is remotely interested in my style of photography. They're simply indifferent to the things I want to communicate; thoughts and feelings that just seem to whizz over their heads. I don't show them my efforts because they simply aren't interested or would probably misunderstand it. I really wish I knew more local artistic photographers on my wavelength - that's probably the thing I miss most about Plymouth.

What prompted this is that I'm beginning to research gum bichromate printmaking, something I'd like to learn the basics of this year. Staying in my lazy comfort zone won't help me achieve that; I desperately need to get my arse back into the darkroom if I'm going to learn anything of value. Hopefully that desire, and my desire to communicate visually, will get me moving again in a direction I'd like instead of this strange intertia I've been living in for the past few years.

Please don't read this as a rant or a piece of self-indulgent nonsense; I really do feel this way about the past few years and it's about time I brought that period to a close. Rather, see it as reflective self-feedback and an attempt to kick myself up the bum!
raspberryfool: (The wind changed...)
Northampton's Fishmarket venue, which was once a bustling market hall where vendors sold fresh produce, is about to be demolished. One of my enduring childhood memories is of going shopping amongst the sounds, sights and smells of the building. It was opened in 1930 and was very successful - on Saturdays it was packed with people. But when supermarkets and the internet took hold, its business declined until, in 2005, the last traders left the Market Hall, and Northampton Borough Council closed it down.

However, the following year it was refurbished and re-opened by Northampton Arts Collective (NAC) and opened as an arts venue. It had its ups and downs, and almost lost its council funding in 2009, which would have forced its premature closure. It survived though, and since then has hosted performances, science fiction conventions, music events, comedy nights and the local Iron Cupcake group. A series of Blues and Folk music afternoons were put on, free of charge. There were small shops selling records, books, homemade items and crafts. And the Nook cafe, which comedienne Josie Long said she thought was the best cafe in the world, served a mean black coffee!

The Fishmarket became a hub for the independent arts sector in Northampton; it highlighted what has been missing in the past. Northampton has two multiplex cinemas, an arts cinema, two first-class theatres (Derngate and the Royal Theatre), an award-winning Museum and Art Gallery, the Roadmender music venue and many music pubs and clubs. But what it lacked was a space for independent artists to display their work and for performers to perform. The Fishmarket provided that space; and what a space it was! A huge, L-shaped venue with lots of natural light, 25ft-high walls that stretched the length of the hall and a lovely, echoey ambiance. Check out
this link to see a performance in the Fishmarket.

Fortunately, the NAC has been offered new council-owned premises close to the town centre and the aforementioned theatres. It's a spacious, Victorian office building and I think it'll make a fantastic arts space. The NAC has also secured council funding of £25,000 per year for the next three years. Local commentators in the pages of the Chronicle and Echo newspaper argue that this is poor value for money and that large companies like Carlsberg and Barclaycard should finance the gallery, but I think that would not only create an environment where the gallery had to make money, it would also prejudice the independence of the venue. Could you imagine Carlsberg sponsoring an exhibition about alcoholism, or Barclaycard sponsoring an exhibition about debt? Artists should be free to criticise and condemn where necessary. This is why I think that publically-funded, independent arts spaces are so important.

Last Saturday, I went to to the Fishmarket's closing party, titled 'So long, and thanks for all the Fishmarket'. With live bands, a disco and wall-painting, it was a wonderful way to say farewell to the Fishmarket. The building will be demolished to make way for a new bus station - the existing Greyfriars station will be demolished to make way for an expanded shopping centre. Since Northampton has no shortage of empty shops, we all know who will be the real winners. That's right, Grosvenor Centre owners Legal and General. It certainly won't be the bus users of Northampton, or the shoppers - unless they want to spend all day in a betting shop!
raspberryfool: (Default)
We all do it, don't we? We go on holiday, bring back a leaflet or three, put them in the back of a cupboard or a drawer and forget about them. Since I'm stuck at home with nothing better to do, I thought it was high time I went through the dining room cupboard to see what I could throw away. There's big pile of old postcards, photographs, magazines, letters, receipts and assorted junk mail. Some of this is - to me - quite interesting; there's a wallet of photographs from my mother's family that easily go back to the 1920's.

I threw out an old newspaper about the Newcastle, N.S.W., earthquake, some old receipts for a long-dead fridge-freezer, a road map of France, a handbook for council tenants... Of course, 80% of the cupboard's contents went straight back into it, or went into other cupboards in other rooms, but at least I've divested myself of some of it.

Isn't it interesting that we think we'll want, or need, this stuff in the future? We keep it because it reminds up of a person, a place, a pleasant holiday or simply what was going on in our lives when we obtained it. sometimes it's a pleasant surprise to come across a long-forgotten photograph or an old postcard, but often it clutters up our space, brings back memories we'd rather forget and painful events that happened to other people - just like the old newspaper. That's when it's time to ditch the junk and make room for something more healthy or interesting.

Now to tackle that big pile of newspapers in the kitchen cupboard...
raspberryfool: (The wind changed...)
Dear LJ,

I'm really sorry I haven't been feeding you recently. It's not that i don't love you any less, even though your new commenting system is broken and I have to use the mobile site to comment. It's just that my brain has been in a bit of a dither. It can't seem to focus on one thing for more than a few minutes at a time. I don't know why that is, LJ.

It might be because I'm not working and therefore terminal boredom has finally set in. Maybe it's getting old and senile; there's this constant 'seen-it-all-before-so-can't-be-bothered' feeling deep down in my blibber; the feeling that nobody needs me and nobody wants me. I don't know why that is, Livejournal; it's not as though i've ever felt that I needed to feel needed or wanted in the past. At least, I can't remember that feeling. You know, i could sit here and stick a banana up my nose and nobody would care. Well the banana might feel a little annoyed but wouldn't you feel annoyed if somebody stuck you up their nose?

You see what I mean, LJ - can't focus. My mind is like a broken camera. Oh well, I tell you what, since I don't feed you much any more, here's a meme:Cut for meme )

See, it says I'm unique, creative and expressive, which I'd say is spot-on. These memes can be amazingly accurate, can't they? It also says I'm deep and thoughtful and prone to moodiness. Must be the time of the month...

Yes, LJ, I KNOW I don't have a vagina. That's a whole nuther subject and i don't want to talk about it in public. What do you mean nobody's listening? Yes, you're probably right. Anyway I didn't mean THAT time of the month. I meant I just paid my council tax and my bank account is feeling a little empty. Why, what else did you think I meant? Oh well, sod this, I'm going up Tesco for some bits. I promise I'll feed you again this year, honest. See you later, LJ...
raspberryfool: (Dad's Icon.)
Well i don't know why, but I'm being prevented from commenting on LJ posts; I thought this was one particular friend's journal but it's universal. I can read entries but I can't post replies. I've tried with three browsers and it's all the same. Therefore, please don't worry if I don't replt to a comment; it's not my fault - I can't!

That said, I wish evryone on my f-list a warm, safe and happy Yuletide. Take care all :-)
raspberryfool: (shadow1)
Well I'm back at the house after my week in County Durham. Durham itself is an old and interesting city, with the Gothic grandeur of its cathedral and castle, high above the River Wear. It's clean and well-kept too - why can't Northampton, which has a scant regard for its past and for the impression it leaves upon its visitors - be like that?

It was so good to see my old friends again, catch up with their gossip and their growing family - my how their eldest son has grown since I last saw him in May 2010! It's also been good to disengage with my seemingly failing life here in Northampton; work has been pants and I'm struggling to have some sort of social life outside my existing friendships. At the fag end of the year, with a month of enforced festivities to endure (I'll slap anyone who wishes me "Merry Christmas" before the 21st of December!), I'm not sure I'll make it through to springtime in one piece without feeling washed up and useless. You know why? I'm just sick and tired of just getting by, earning just enough money to pay the bills and fill the fridge. It's so much easier to sit on the sidelines and watch life slip past, and much more comfortable too. Sometimes though, we have to abandon comfort for just a little while. Fixing one's life is always so much easier at a physical and emotional distance!
raspberryfool: (shadow1)
Facebook is stopping the importation of RSS feeds, including those from Livejournal, from the 22nd of November, which means Facebookers won't see my LJ posts as 'notes' any longer. If anyone on Facebook feels like it, my Livejournal is at http://raspberryfool.livejournal.com and if any Livejournal friends feel like it, my Facebook is at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=541299330

Does anyone know why Facebook is doing this? It seems to be on a mission to piss everyone off, and it's succeeding!
raspberryfool: (Default)
In the mild November afternoon, I dismantled the cover that had protected my tomato plants, keeping out the worst of the blight, or more specifically, the moisture that allows it to spread and ruin my plants. These 'tomato tents' are now firmly-established summertime fixtures in my garden. My plants had blight spots all right, but were mostly green and healthy when I removed their roof of polythene sheeting. Some plants even had hopeful flowers blooming amongst the green leaves! But they would only have survived until the first heavy frost, which could arrive any night now, and the green tomatoes hanging hopefully from the vines wouldn't have a hope of ripening in the gloom of winter, so out of their warm earth they came! I now have a couple of pounds of green tomatoes to use up. Chutney anyone?

Tomato tent 2010

I burnt the bonfire on Samhain; the mass of privet wood, holly clippings, raspberry and bramble canes and moss and other garden detritus went up rather quickly. That's another two plots cleared of their summer inhabitants! The only annuals left in the ground are the leeks and a few hardy French bean vines, which I'll be removing forthwith.

The raspberry canes are fruiting well, and I even saw a ripening strawberry, which shows just how mild it's been here, but that's not what brings these plants into flower. It's photoperiodism. Strawberry and raspberry are short-day plants, which respond to the increasing length on darkness and probably think its spring! So its the day-length that brings them into flower, but the warmth probably helps the fruits to develop and ripen.* Ain't nature wonderful?

So now it's time to clear the garden for winter. The lawns and hedges need a final trim, the grapevine leaves look resplendent as they change from green to soft yellows and glowing reds and the plum, lilac and maple leaves will need raking up. And I haven't even brought in the non-hardy geraniums as its been so mild; they look so much nicer in the garden but I don't want to lose some of them - that's another job for the weekend.

Now it's time to curl up with a warm seed catalogue and decide what to plant next year. Oh yes, it's all go in the garden!

*Don't say I never teaches you nuffink!
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
With autumn comes the main harvest of the year, and this year I'm fairly pleased with mine. After a ropey, larvae-infested start, the plums have been really good. I've been cooking, eating raw and giving lots away, and I made some chutney with 3lb of them. My neigbour gave me some pears (yay), I scavenged some beautiful Bramley apples (there's something very special about a ripe, hand-sized Bramley!) and some small but very tasty eaters, picked up from a street after the recent storms. A hatfull of crab-apples were thrown in for good measure.

My grapes are almost ready to harvest. I won't have enough to make more than a few glasses of wine, so I'll give some away and eat the rest. Thanks to the dry summer it looks like being another 'vintage' crop, so I'm sure the blackbirds and thrushes will be delighted!

The tomatoes are now on-stream; there's no sign of blight yet. The shelters I built sustained a lot of damage in the wind - presumable the polythene deteriorates in sunshine - but fortunately I found enough material to re-cover the worst one. I've been picking the cherry types - Gardener's Delight and Black Cherry - since last week. The larger types, Gold Medal and Lettuce Leaf look good too and they're colouring up now; Gold Medal has fruits the size of a Bramley!

My Sunstream tomato grow-out is yielding interesting results too. All seven plants are providing useful, tasty 'mini-plum' tomatoes, but the genetic variations are quite marked. One plant is growing fruits shaped like a miniature red pepper, one's fruit is bullet-shaped and one has tiny hairs all over the fruits. All have thick walls and less juice that a typical cherry type. I'll probably save seeds from two of the plants for the F3 generation. Much fun!

The French climbing beans, Cherokee Trail of Tears have been providing lovely fresh pods, but I'm dedicating the remaining beans to seed production. I don't think there'll be many more flowers this year.

My leeks - or some of them - are doing nicely too, growing around the aforementioned bean poles. Some, elsewhere in the garden, are still tiny and won't produce anything useful now, but I'll move them once the beans are out.

I gave up on my marrow/courgette, pumpkin and butternut squash plants; they provided nothing more than a tiny fruit and a tasty treat for the slugs and snails! Perhaps the weather conditions weren't ideal or perhaps my seeds are duff. Whatever the cause, I ripped the plants up and sadly consigned them to the compost bin. I can now dig their patch and rest it for the winter.

So, the rest of the year will be dedicated to reaping the precious harvest, tidying things up and bedding down for the long, cold months ahead whilst planning what I'll be growing next year!
raspberryfool: (Default)
I've been picking raspberries for the last few weeks now. I've made raspberry and blackcurrant jam and given away loads of fruit, and there's still loads on the canes. Most of last week I wasn't able to pick any, so the birds have had them to themselves.

The gooseberries have provided a good harvest too; I picked 1 ¾ lbs from the three bushes, which I mixed with two handfulls of next door's sour cherries and made about 2 lbs of jam. Cherry and gooseberry work really well together.

My tomato plants, which seemed as though they'd never get beyond six inches, are now mostly around three feet high, some reaching the ceilings of their tents. Most now have flowers open and some of those, particularly the cherries, have tiny green pea-sized fruit set. My mysterious potato-leaved plant is also in flower, with those big, showy blossoms with open stamens. I can hardly wait to see what fruit it produces; I'd put money on beefsteak - some of its leaves dwarf my hands! I still have a few tomato plants in pots, that I'd intended as give-aways, and I'm loathe to throw them into the compost. So I may plant them in the ground or find some larger pots. I think they've earned the right to thrive and produce fruit.

I've harvested a few new potatoes, which I enjoyed steamed with mint. Most of the potato plants are looking rather sad now, turning yellow and keeling over. This probably means they're ready to harvest but I'll leave them in the underground larder for a little while longer.

The French beans - Cherokee Trail of Tears - and the leeks I planted are all doing well. The beans have beautiful purple flowers, which contrast nicely with the lush green foliage. The rain has done these a real favour and they're climbing their poles at an impressive pace. The leeks too are bulking out nicely. I've left a couple of last year's crop of leeks to flower and I'm hoping they'll produce some useful seeds for future crops, and to give some away.

Finally, the orange day-lilies have given a tremendous display this year. These grow beneath a flat roof and benefit hugely from run-off rainwater from the roof. They really bring a lot of colour and cheer to an otherwise drab area of the garden.
raspberryfool: (Decorating)
Continuing the work I did earlier in the year, I've been knocking the old ceramic tiles off the kitchen windowsill and the wall beneath. Most of the windowsill tiles were lose anyway, and the cement had decayed, presumably caused by moisture. The cement was beginning to push the tiles away from the wall, leading to cracking and odd gaps which would let in more moisture and insects.

My kitchen has a Belfast sink, at least 40 years old, directly underneath the window. The water pipes descend from the bathroom and aren't attached to the wall. The taps were screwed into the wall through the tiles above the sink, which i needed to remove before I could knock off the tiles and cement. Again these tiles were cracked and plastered with filler, a bodged council repair from years ago. Behind these tiles, instead of solid brick, I found a large hole had been filled with a block of wood, now rotten, into which the taps had been screwed. Obviously the previous taps bolted directly onto the recessed brickwork, but I don't really remember how!

The decayed cement was soft and easy to knock away with a large screwdriver and mallet; most of it came off with the old tiles. But some cement remained sound and was awkward to shift, but I managed it. So now, with the dust and debris removed, I have a rough mortar windowsill, a bare brick wall and a flipping great hole to deal with. I won't be re-tiling the wall, except above the sink, so I'll plaster the brickwork and cement the windowsill before re-tiling with the 'new' ceramic tiles I found in the shed!
raspberryfool: (Gardening)
The strawberries have been ripening early this year; I picked the first few ripe fruits in the last week of May, at least a fortnight ahead of schedule. Now, the fruits are ripening fast and I have to compete with the birds and slugs for their bounty. But the pickings have been good this year, helped along by the sunshine and a little - very welcome - recent rain. Yesterday I made about 2 lbs of strawberry and raspberry jam.More garden waffle under the cut )

Finally, I'm considering making this a full-time garden blog; since I don't have a life I may as well write about the garden. I'll update when something happens and I might even start taking some pictures. Any objections? Would anyone rather read my usual pointless waffle? Answers on a postcard to...

Facebook friends, I'm very much alive, well and lurking over there, but I haven't been posting due to inertia. Thanks for staying with me, everyone, I'll be back when something happens!

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raspberryfool

June 2017

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