Saturday, 27 July 2013

thorny issues

This week has been a race to get all my hedges cut and gardens tidied up, before taking a couple of weeks off work. Meanwhile, the gooseberry bushes have produced a bumper crop that needed harvesting. All the sunshine we have been having has made them sweeter than usual, so my sales policy of handing them out to passers-by to try, has really been paying off. Even the kids have been happily scoffing them straight off the bush.

But gooseberry picking and hawthorn trimming in a heatwave means I haven't been wearing the requisite amount of body armour. The scratched up state of my hands and forearms is eliciting that, 'if you ever need to talk about anything....' *tilts head to one side* meaningful look.

Have you seen the thorns on a gooseberry?

I know!

and the fruit hangs underneath, protected by all those spikes.

worth it though

followed by the perfect antidote for my sore fingers..

the cool, velvety pod lining of a broad bean.

that's summer right there!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

les petit pois sont arrivées

This week has been hot, proper hot - 'boil your brains, then go lay down in the shade' hot.  If your job is outdoor manual labour, like mine, then this is the kind of weather that forces you to adapt.  So I have 'gone continental', and adopted a temporary policy of starting at 6 and finishing at 2 - followed by a siesta of sorts on the sofa in front of some crappy daytime TV.  This means I can leave work as the heat frazzled toddlers begin to wail, and the gaggles of snogging, smoking French teenagers start to utter loud expletives in the (mistaken) belief that no-one outside France is familiar with their words for poop and prostitutes.

The blessed cool of the early mornings means that, before 10 o'clock I can get round all the gardens to water, followed by another complete circuit to harvest produce for sale.

At the moment, I'm picking peas...

buckets of them


My colleague, (currently on holiday - hence all the extra watering), was afflicted by a bout of 'pea madness' at planting time earlier in the year, so we have them coming out of our earholes. I decided to make potato, pea and mint salad with my bag.

I used greek yoghurt instead of mayo to keep it light.
We'll be eating that later with some homemade burgers.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

questions, questions

The builders are due to start ripping out our kitchen next week. Anyone who has been through this process will know that it means making a thousand decisions - some major, some tiny. Many are things that I didn't think I had an opinion on, turns out I do. Actually - I am required to have an opinion, otherwise I'll end up with something weird. It's no good saying 'Oh anything will do - but not THAT!!!'. Those who know me will verify that I can usually manufacture an opinion on almost anything at very short notice - but this is in a different league. Taps, tiles, toilets, handles, light fittings, flooring - the list goes on and on....

Also I find myself making faintly passive-aggressive lists for our builder:

  • Three brick built steps - all the same size please.
  • Retaining wall to have brick on edge capping course - no visible frogs*
(Ned - if you're reading this - Soz!)

Suffice to say, it's sapping my ability to think creatively about anything else. So here are some herb idents that I have been making for the Front of House guys at work. The visitors expect them to be able to answer questions on an enormous range of subjects, so I'm trying to put some stuff together to help them with the garden side of things. The idents are tri-lingual - English/Latin/Welsh, which is a tricky balancing act to keep clear and concise. I have a great new app called Over, that lets you put text on pictures in a fantastically user friendly way. See what you think...

*Big shout out to all the other bricklaying nerds out there!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

at the edge

Some people like mountains and the triumph of reaching the top, I like to go to the edge.

The place where the land meets the sea; the cultural edge - as far as possible from the cutting edge.
Big skies, wide horizons and the weight of city life off my shoulders.
Time to find the simple stuff that pulls the memory threads of my childhood and reminds me I'm alive.

Thanks to an extremely generous, belated wedding gift from my inlaws, we have just had a long weekend in Aberdaron at the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula, (the bit that sticks out at the top of Wales). They bought us a voucher that paid for three nights at the hotel where Mr Asparagus Pea proposed to me on the beach two years ago. 

The Lleyn is part of the Welsh speaking heartland of North Wales.  It's where I first had the courage to open my mouth and speak the language in a way that has become part of my identity, rather than just an intellectual party trick.  It's why I sound like an electrician from Caernarfon - much to the amusement of my work colleagues. Welsh is everyday there - the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker (and the naughty swearing boys with tattoos in the chip shop), all breathe and dream the language.

The weather was glorious...

we walked the cliffs

drank beer and watched tennis
Yay Andy Murray!

and poked around empty chapels and graveyards.

Poor Sydney - I've never seen a typo on a gravestone before.

We swam in the sea and played the beach games of my childhood

found treasure

and proof that I need to learn more about seashore foraging.

I picked out paint colours for the new kitchen (never off duty!)

We ate lobster from the chippy

and bought a picture of a lobster from my nephew in-law's show

So to the family in Felinheli ...

... thanks guys - it was heaven!

Monday, 1 July 2013

tea time

A few weeks ago I cut some bunches of herbs and hung them up to dry in the toolshed.

Now they look like this.

Today I stripped the leaves off the stalks.

There's mint...

..and lemon balm.

I chopped them together...

..and made a caddy full of tea and a cup to try.

We have a Food Festival at work in September, so I'm trying to work up an idea for an activity based around drying herbs and making tea.  Whatever I do has to be interactive, robustly low tech and highly repeatable, (26,000 visitors over 2 days last year). I want something that kids, (and grown ups), can get their hands in for a bit of sensory experience. Maybe we can make tea bags to take home if I get some of those 'fill your own' ones. Hmmm - I feel a meeting with Miss Sian coming on...

Inspired by the success of this morning's batch of tea,
I went out and picked another wheelbarrow full of mint and lemon balm,
 and a basket of elderflowers.

They're all spread out to dry now - the shed smells like heaven.

Apparently if you drink tea made from lemon balm, you'll live to be 100.
(not sure when you have to start though....)