Tuesday, 21 June 2011

You wouldn't know it to look at her....

When I bought the Observer Book of Birds earlier this year as a present for Richard, I rather fondly hoped we would finally be able to identify the birds we spot while walking around the canals and countryside.
Some hope. It is, instead, being put to macabre use identifying exactly which species has been brought in today by our Myrtle.
For such a small cat, she can drag in surprisingly large birds. She has now broken the cat flap by hauling a blackbird and a toad in, at the same time. It is impressive, yet sickening. Not helped it has to be said by Richard feeding her and being delighted at the “offerings”.
This year she is averaging at least one a day. The alleyway across from our house is becoming an avian graveyard. At least it is not like Pet Sematary and the birds come back to life and make their way over here to extract revenge.
If only she could graduate to pigeons, currently savaging our young cabbages and, worse, munching my sweet peas which have so far failed to flower. I wonder why.
Happier news on the fruit front: we have finally had a bumper crop of cherries this year, four years after planting it. The gooseberry bushes are groaning under the weight of all the goosegogs and the blackcurrants are flourishing.
We’ll be giving this recipe for gooseberry wine a whirl at the weekend. I don’t have much of a track record with home made wines, normally I end up pouring them down the sink, but we shall see….

6lb of gooseberries
3lb of sugar
1 tsp of yeast nutrient
1 tsp of brewers yeast
1 tsp of pectic enzyme
4 ltr of water approx

1. Wash and crush the gooseberries, place in suitable sized bucket.
2. Then pour on the water, stir three times daily for three days.
3. Strain the liquid through a sieve into a demijohn, then add sugar.
4. Mix thoroughly until all the sugar has dissolved, then add the rest of the ingredients.
5. Fit airlock and leave until fermentation has stopped.
6. Rack off when clear, then rack again 3 months later.
7. Bottle or drink

(with thanks to allotment.org)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Swarm

And everything was going so well. There we were, happily chatting to the bees, watching them flitting about on our herbs, dreaming of all the honey they'd produce, and then they've gone and swarmed.
I was out in the garden yesterday when all of a sudden I realised there were bees buzzing. Rather a lot of them. They were swirling around and around, flying here and there, in a spiral pattern. Then they left.
Stupidly, we had not bothered to artificially swarm our colony - a process where you get another hive and trick some of the bees into moving there and thinking they have swarmed. No, we blithely thought, we don't need to do that, we'll do it later.
And the result? The queen has legged it, taking most of the bees with her. We have had a look and left a couple of queen cells to hopefully hatch out and become new queens.
In the meantime, I've had a couple of shame faced chats with bee experts who were lovely and full of advice. Although I couldn't quite shake the feeling they were inwardly tutting.
So we have to wait a week now and find out if the little bees have made another colony. Fingers crossed!
Looks like that honey will have to wait.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

the big smoke

Road trip for us yesterday to London, for the Herb Society's herb festival at the Garden Museum in Lambeth.
It is a gem of a place, in a converted church with a churchyard garden crammed with herbs and wildflowers. You couldn't tell you were in the middle of London.
The herb festival was lovely and instructive too. We met Judith Hann and had garden envy at her immaculately designed garden with mature plants and 150 varieties of herbs; made tussie mussies with wonderfully potent southernwood and lavender sage (I'm hoping they will all make cuttings too); and once again spent far far too much on plants and seeds. But hey ho. I finally managed to get hold of some tree spinach, which I've heard lots about and am keen to try - and I've set my heart on getting some Rosa mundi for the garden. They are gorgeous.

After, we visited the Old Operating Museum and Herb Garrett near London Bridge. Here were the old apothocary treatments, bowls of dried herbs and flowers hanging from the ceiling. My favourite picture was this one, with all the bottles glowing in the sunshine. Fab.


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