Friday Links: He’s still Prime Minister

Happy Friday!

I’m in the office today, so this will be short. The photo is today’s breakfast, with berries from my plot. The news is still a garbage fire, here are this week’s links..

Unlike the Queen, King Charles will have no sense of caution, only of entitlement

A smart cabinet would be plotting to get rid of Johnson. This one is neither smart nor brave

The storm clouds of Brexit and Covid have moved on – but Britain just isn’t working any more

Out of office? How working from home has divided Britain

Energy bills: why are so many smart meters in Britain turning ‘dumb’?

Our landlord failed to protect our deposit, so we sued him

London’s food-growing schemes offer harvest of fruit, veg and friendship

John Lewis names sites for its ‘more than four walls’ newbuild flats. And the site in Ealing is right next door to a new Elizabeth Line station, and there are tons of new building going up there!

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Allotment Adventures: Soft Fruit Empire

Great Britain doesn’t have a lot of fruit options grown in the country, apples and pears are our mainstay, we do get other fruit in season, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, plums, rhubarb to name a few, there are others.

When you look at things that are cost effective for growing on a plot, it’s soft fruit that comes up most often. We have a plum tree on the plot and I inherited gooseberry bushes (which have been hit and miss), raspberries (they were summer raspberries and we’ve taken them out since!) and rhubarb. There was a blackcurrant bush but it was sat on top of an ants nest and the previous owner was planning to take it up because it wasn’t productive (so I did!).

I like soft fruit and I wanted to have lots of it on the plot but it takes time. This year might be our best year for fruit (and there are plans for next year.) and we kicked off with the first raspberries this weekend, you can also see the first two blueberries and some strawberries in there too!

Raspberry rich!

That done, Ma and I got to grips with the squash. Some of them have some up and some of them haven’t. The winter squash has been the most disappointing in terms of germinating, the Sibley Storage and Hokkaido didn’t come up at all. All seven of the Waltham Butternuts came up, and the six Honeybears and Casperitas, four of the Anna Swartz. We planted those out and I’d bought a packet of Uchiki Kuri from Wilko and sowed some of those direct into the bed, it was a 75p gamble. I also added the soil from the pots of the failed squash into the beds if the seeds have a change of heart we might get something!

Around two of the arches we sowed Giantes and Lazy Housewife for dried beans (for those you keeping up, that should give us three types of dried beans!), we also sowed nasturtiums in the path down the middle. Last year we split a larger bed in half, the path has had a two layers of cardboard and woodchip on it and all of that has composted into lovely soil, which the oregano and other weeds have enjoyed seeding into. We, who am I kidding?, Ma weeded it but left the oregano on my instructions but against her better judgement, I don’t mind the oregano and my idea is that with the nasturtiums, there are flowers for the pollinators and they look and smell nice. If they get overpowering, we can pull them up.

Squash and bean beds

We didn’t build the third arch until later, but I’ll so climbing french beans up there later on, we already have dwarf french beans in a bed so I want to give it a bit of time so it’s successional and we’re not dealing with too much of a glut!

The summer squash has been sluggish too, the courgettes and early prolific straight neck came up but of the pattypans only one has come up and clearly only this week, the same for the crooknecks. We planted the courgettes and and straight necks out and left the crooknecks and pattypans in the poly for the minute, but we have weeded and prepped the beds we hope they will go into.

Cucumber bed and summer squash beds

We also wrestled with some wire to put in the middle of the cucumber bed, we sowed them direct and this year it’s Early Fortune and Boothby’s Blond. Cucumbers on my plot are wayward, after several failures, we just stick them in the ground, sow some dill, water and hope for the best. We generally get something. Next year, I want to work more on sowing things in the polytunnel before I plant out but for this year, we’re sticking with my haphazard outdoor sowing method!

Finally, I rigged something for the polytunnel for the melons we also sowed this week.

Melon thing

It’s not the sturdiest but we’ll see how it goes, if and when the melon vines appear. That’s the polytunnel beds filled. I have some camomile, basil and the summer squash left. I do need to find space for the Sungold tomatoes that still haven’t arrived but I also have a couple of takers for some of them, I’d like to hang onto six and I think I can find some space for them.

We are pretty much planted up now, I have two more summer beds that are waiting to be filled and four other beds that are empty or needing to be cleared but one is for fennel and the others will house some of the brassicas that are due in July.

We fed the birds (I think feeding them through summer is stopping them from attacking my beds!) and my plot neighbour gave me a spare blueberry plant will will save me buying one.

Beans

Our plan for next week is harvesting, weeding, and watering. It may be time to tie up my tomatoes but we’ll see, it’s been pretty wet and grey this week so they might not need it!

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Osterley House and Park

On my staycation (a staycation is when you have time off work but stay at home, not when you have a holiday in the UK!) last week, Ma and I took advantage of our National Trust memberships and visited Osterley House.

I had been to Osterley (Osterley and Ham Houses and their construction were part of my GSCE history, so it was 1987 or ’88 and the house wasn’t opened then. Which is why I can tell you that the house was originally a Tudor house built in the 1570’s, it was owned by Thomas Gresham (honestly the period I was most interested in) and it’s known that Elizabeth I stayed there. It was extensively re-modelled by Robert Adam from 1761 to 1765 (the basis of my GCSE study was the difference in refurbishing them to reflect the prestige of the owners – at Ham you can see the changes, at Osterley you can’t).

We took the train to Osterley (the Piccadilly Line) and walked to the park, there were cows grazing. They were not Jersey cows but Charolais, which Ma felt was a missed opportunity! (The Earl of Jersey inherited Osterley from the Child family when he married Sarah Sophia Fane, the first female grandchild of Robert Child, who owned Osterley, his only child was a daughter, also called Sarah, who had eloped to Greta Green to marry John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland. At that point Child cut Sarah and all her male descendants out of his will and it was left to Sarah’s eldest daughter, Sarah Sophia also known as Sally. (keen readers of Georgette Heyer will know her as Sally, Lady Jersey and one of the patronesses of Almack’s), my favourite of her nicknames is Silence…)

Cows

The house is very Georgian and quite imposing, you wouldn’t want to live there, but actually it wasn’t a house that was lived in much, it was visited and was a bit of a showhome for Child and Co Bank.

Staircase
Mrs Child’s Sitting Room
The Library

Because the house wasn’t much lived in, it wasn’t much changed, the Yellow Breakfast Room is currently being refurbished and research is being done to make sure it’s as much like it would have been after Adam finished the house. Meanwhile, it’s always fascinating to see old buildings stripped back to plaster.

The State rooms are typical of the period, ie ornate and not terribly comfortable!

Entrance Hall

Next door to the house, you can see the stables (where the cafe and the shop are!) and they are much more Tudor in appearance.

We wondered around the gardens and met a duck.

The Temple of Pan

The gardens were lovely, there’s a cut flower garden. They use the flowers in the house and the flowers they grow are era authentic. I recognised a lot of them from my plot, so there you have it, the plot is early Georgian era authentic!

Cornflowers
Knautia Macedonica
Irises
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Monday Miscellany: Jubilee Madness

Happy Monday!

I’m hoping that all things Royal and Jubilee calm down now, I’m ready for the news to go back to go other things.

Last week, was lovely, I had four days off which was great although I’m pretty confused about what the day of the week is right now. I took some time to look at my budget and inflation proof my it a bit. I can see bills going up and I’m expecting that rent may increase soonish, I’m lucky enough that things aren’t desperate but it doesn’t hurt to review and see what you can get rid of and how you can maybe give yourself a bit of cushion. For me it was cancelling some subscriptions and doing things like changing my mobile contract so it’s cheaper, checking my credit score and so on. It’s taken me years to feel confident with this stuff and not to close my eyes and try to wing it and if you’re there because of cost of living or debt or just because no-one taught you, I get it.

I failed to get a haircut due to issues with the trains, Ma and I went to Osterley House, it rained and I’ve never felt more British, visiting a stately home in the rain! We allotmented, I did a bit of baking, I avoided Jubilee stuff and read books instead. It was a pretty good week.

This week is a full week of work, June is going to hurt a bit after May with so many days out! But I’m home for Monday and Tuesday (Tube strike) and in for Wednesday and Thursday. I have a bunch of stuff to do and I’ll need to take some time to go to the plot to water the polytunnel. That and housework is what the week is going to be all about.

Have a good week!

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Friday Links: Still a republican

Happy Friday!

If you listen to Radio 4 (I do, extensively) you would think that we were all thrilled about the Jubilee. While I don’t dislike the person, I still don’t agree with the institution. I happen to believe that if the taxpaxer is going to spend all the money that we do on the Head of State and hangers on (£87.5 million last year although Republic estimates that it’s nearer £345,000,000 a year, when the lost the two duchies (Lancaster and Cornwall), security, costs met by local councils and police forces, and lost tax revenue are accounted for), then the taxpayer should have a say in deciding who that Head of State is. The Queen is quite overpaid for what she does and she has used the law to maintain her own personal wealth and the less said about Prince Andrew, the better.

Yes, I would rather risk President Blair or Johnson, than have Charles III (or whatever name he choses).

Anyway, here are some links….

Boris Johnson bids for Jubilee boost with return of imperial measurements. Which reminds me, you should watch this…

Pounds, ounces, pints! Johnson is offering a whole bushel worth of phoned-in gibberish

Here’s how rocketing rents and unaffordable house prices can be fixed

What the Veneration of Gandhi’s Killer Says About India

My advice to the new Cressida Dick: police violent men, not the women they abuse

Was it really asking too much for Amber Heard to be listened to without prejudice? At the point of the London trial, I thought it was a case of a bad marriage, with all the toxicity that goes with drugs and money. Now, I think Depp was abusive. It’s the way he’s gone after Heard, is she sympathetic, probably not, but I still think that he’s abusive. I hope that he never works again.

Simon Fairlie: ‘People are so detached from the land’. ‘The Theoretical’ is the name Ma and I have for my live off the land fantasy and we would have cows…

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Allotment Adventures: First Garlic Harvest

The plot is really beginning to look like its summer. Flowers are flowering and we are getting properly close to planting the summer garden.

Californian Poppies

Usually, I feel perpetually behind but this year I’m a bit more relaxed. I am behind but we had a cold spring and I didn’t have the physical or mental space for all the seedlings. The good news is that the polytunnel is going to revolutionise next year and there are and will be plants and vegetables this year, so I’m not going to worry too much.

This week we took the decision that we weren’t going to hit our (ok my) aim to grow everything from seed this year and ordered brassicas from DT Brown. We did it on the Kitchen Garden offer, so we bought 10 brussels sprout plants and got the winter brassica collection for free, which consists of 10 savoy cabbages, 10 sweetheart cabbages, 10 cauliflowers, 10 broccoli plants and 10 cavolo nero kale plants. Eagle eyed readers will notice it’s the same one we had last year, and we really liked it. With delivery charges it’s going to cost £11.90, which breaks down to about 20p per plant. I know, especially right now, that we’re lucky to be able to throw money at it but it’s really worth it to save me the hassle, I just don’t have the time or the mental space to manage growing 60 brassica plants from seed and I don’t think that means I’m cheating.

I’m not actually that bothered by what people think but I had a conversation last week with one of the people on our garden plots and she was really concerned that she wasn’t doing gardening properly. I really hate gatekeepers, my love of something is not invalidated because someone loves what I do and does it differently. We all start off lacking knowledge and we learn what works for us and how we do things changes as we learn. My sister-in-law has a plot and gardens completely differently from me, she also has a ‘hungry’ job, a husband, two boys and a dog. Which means she has to garden differently from me, she still loves her plot and still manages to produce food and teach her boys about the value and cost of growing food. All that to say, I want to be honest about the fact that my gardening and my plot are not perfect, and sometimes I need to buy seedlings because I don’t have the mental capacity to deal with seedlings.

Anyway, back to the work we did this weekend. We started in the polytunnel, all of the seedlings came outside for some sunshine and we cleared the back bed of the salad leaves and the stray potato plant to let the sweet potato spread themselves.

We have two beds of garlic, and one of them was ready, so we pulled them up and left them to dry in the polytunnel. We’re very impressed with ourselves. The second bed is of later garlic and I think that next year we’ll just go with the early types. The entire site has allium rust and leaf miner and early garlic seems to do better.

Some of the drying garlic

We covered the blueberries with netting. So in the photo below, you can see the dark blue netting covering the gooseberries, the white netting covering the big black currant bush and the lighter blue netting behind that.

Covered fruit

We trimmed the overgrown path down the side of the plot next to Dennis (our plot neighbour on the other side had trimmed the other path – for which I’m thankful!). We watered the beds and then we assessed the tomato situation. Last week I had 25 tomato plants and 19 spaces in the beds. Some of the plants had rallied enough that I was happy to put them in the ground. So the four healthly Black Russian plants went into the bed with the Tigerellas and the four remaining Yellow Millefleurs went into the cherry tomato bed.

Tigerellas and Black Russians

The Peche Vilmorins, were looking worse, I think they were waterlogged, but some of the Ethel Watkins and remaining Amish Pastes were a bit better, so we put all of them in what I’m calling the ‘hospital bed’, we’ll see how they do. If they survive, great, if not I’ll plug the gaps with the Sungolds (that still aren’t here and I suspect I won’t see this side of the Bank Holiday!). Two plants ended up in the bin and that left me with three Orange Queens and three tiny Black Russians. They had recovered a bit but I was pretty sure that they needed to be in a bed, so I decided that they could go in the polytunnel bed, I’m hoping that they’ll do well but if they don’t no harm done. The other side of that bed will be for melons and I’m planting them from seed straight into the bed tomorrow.

We also discovered the two of the camomile lawn pots had been colonised by ants, the downside of encouraging wildlife is we seem also to encourage those buggers. We had a terrible ant problem a couple of years ago and I thought it had gotten better (despite everyone saying that ants bites are just annoying, I’m convinced that the two extreme reactions I’ve had were due to red ant bites!). One plant went in the bin, one at the back next to the wild garlic, that isn’t doing so well. The other two I put in the bed with the jasmine and thyme, we’ll see if they live.

Hands should not be that puffy!

We picked rhubarb, chard and herbs to add to our produce haul and finally went home.

Haul

That done we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Due to the Bank Holiday we’re having two days on the plot this week. I want to get the arches built, fill up the beds, and sow more beans, cucumbers, melons and some flowers. I need to clear the chard bed and we really need to get to some weeding and sorting out the boysenberry bed.

Sweet peas

I also got bonus time at the plot on Sunday morning with Tom and Ivy. She seemed to enjoy it!

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Monday Miscellany: Reality Bites

Happy Monday!

Last week was back to work, with a small twist, that twist being a Tuesday morning LFT with a very faint positive. I had a sore throat and was very tired (but that could be any day of the week in hayfever season and I’m always tired!). It’s half term week this week, so I didn’t want to go into the office and give anyone about to go away COVID, so I worked from home, I had a faint positive on Wednesday, didn’t test on Thursday and was all clear on Friday.

If it was COVID, for me it was a sore throat and feeling knackered, I was in bed stupidly early for most of the week because I just wanted to sleep. Again not a surprise because when I’m under the weather, I always want to sleep. Ma didn’t test positive and I’d spend most of the week and weekend with her so I’m inclined to think it was a bug, Saturday was the first day my throat wasn’t sore and I did a test on Sunday morning because Tom was coming over with Ivy and that was negative too. Who knows?

So my week was pretty quiet. We got loads done on the plot, Ma’s team won the Champions League (so the family are all £10 poorer, with the exception of Ma who is £40 richer) and on Sunday I had a visit from Tom and Ivy.

Ivy still has her dubious face, I like her, she takes her time to get to know you, she did warm up (I think feeding her raspberries and giving her flowers helped!). It was also lovely to see Tom and he’s promised to come again!

Today is my only day at work, I needed to have tomorrow off work for a haircut and given that we have Thursday and Friday off for the Bank Holiday, I thought I’d just take two days and have a straight four days off. The plan is a day at the allotment and a visit to Osterley House, I haven’t been since I was 15 so it’ll be interesting to see what I remember.

Have a good week.

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Sunday Music: The Monarch Song Horrible Histories

Next week is the Jubilee and it feels like everything is covered in cunting bunting, I’m still a republican..

It’s all ridiculous so here is a silly song..

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Friday Links:

Happy Friday!

I’m almost at the point where I have nothing to say. The news is terrible, you know people die all the time but children shouldn’t be killed because men love guns. I feel at this point the world has become a parody, did you know that in Texas you can own as many guns as you like but only 5 dildos. In the UK if you own two houses, you’ll get £800 off your energy bills, but if you don’t claim benefit or you’re not a pensioner, you’ll only get £400. If you hold an illegal party in your house during lockdown, the police won’t charge you, unless you’re a junior civil servant.

It seems like the world is upside down and there is only so much energy I can muster for it and remain sane, I’ve sort of hit my limit….

Here are some pretty flowers

Here are some links…

Sunak’s package fails to tackle the true cause of UK inflation: shameless profiteering

Rampant inflation breaks the status quo – no wonder the government is spooked

My daughter was killed at Dunblane. I know that gun controls save lives

The Real Reason America Doesn’t Have Gun Control

The greasy spoon chronicles: a day in the life of the Hope Workers Cafe. And now I miss the George all over again!

Shear desperation: low price of wool pushes farmers to opt for moulting sheep

Growing your own food can be affordable. Some food, herbs, salad leaves and fruit!

When my husband left me, I headed for the kitchen – here’s how comfort food can save the soul. This is lovely. For the record, when I’m coming down with a cold, I make a version of the boiled chicken and rice that Ma used to cook. It’s the perfect food because it’s good for me physically and emotionally (I’m convinced it is) as well as being very easy and making loads at a time when I’m low on energy.

Shopping in Eataly is like duty free: there’s nothing I need but it’s hard to resist

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Kiwi, Apple and Spinach Smoothie

I’ve been using Oddbox for about a year now. I’ve settled into a small veg box and a fruit booster very other week and it’s been useful for making sure I get a lot of veg. I may stop the veg box in the summer but so far so good.

I get get kiwis quite a lot and I’m not keen on eating them as is and there aren’t a lot of ways to cook kiwis.

I thought I’d make a smoothie pack (I used to do this quite a bit). The week I did this I had apples and spinach in the Oddbox to. I did need to buy bananas but I collect the single ones rather than a bunch so I can get the right amount.

Yes for the sake of this photo, I poured smoothie into a wine glass…

I made up the smoothie packs with one kiwi, half an apple, half a banana, a handful of spinach. In the morning I add half a cup of whole yoghurt and half a cup of water and blend.

They are really handy to have in the freezer, especially on the days that I go into the office because breakfast is harder when I have to leave the house at 7:30 in the morning, what I don’t get to drinking before I leave the house, I can stick in a flask and finish in the office.

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