Thursday 26 May 2016
For my series of upstairs shots of the garden I normally focus on the back but, since even the shot I took a week ago is already falling out of currency, here is the front instead:
Front Garden – May 2016
Click on the image to view the full set. The particular feature of note is the set of sticks between the water butt and the compost bin in the bottom left. You can see a nearby pile of sticks which had toppled a bit. Rather than stacking them all back, I decided to experiment with using some of them to create a path over what was a muddy patch. I’m pleased with the result and so am planning to apply a similar approach at the far end of the garden round the elder (Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’) that you can’t see here because it is obscured by the verdant growth of the medlar (Mespilus germanica).
These paths will take some maintenance to stop them becoming overgrown with weeds but it should be better than trying to mow round what is presently a tight and awkward patch of grass.
Wednesday 25 May 2016
Here is how the garden looked from our living room at the end of April:
30 April 2016
Lovely but completely out of date already. Heading towards the end of May the underlying structure is still there but growth is much thicker and the spot light has moved to different plants – for example, the tulips are gone but the flax (an insignificant green clump in the centre here) is now crowned with blue, contrasting with a row of bright yellow California poppies in front of it.
Perhaps next year I’ll try a daily timelapse as winter rolls through spring and onto summer. That would give a fascinating insight into how the garden changes over time.
Tuesday 24 May 2016
The last bit of decorating we need to do inside our house is the hallway, stairs and landing. We’ve got the equipment and experience for general painting and decorating but how to do the high bit above the stairs? We considered getting some professionals in but balked at the price. I’m sure they would have done an excellent job (they did the outside of our house last year) but what if we just invested a bit in equipment so we could do the job ourselves and have it available in future? The result was that we recently acquired one of these, a Little Giant Revolution XE ladder:
Little Giant Revolution XE Ladder
It is a clever bit of kit. It can easily be turned into a long straight ladder and the height of each side can be adjusted independently. Extending one side more than the other, it fits perfectly on the stairs and allows us to reach the top corners. It is relatively lightweight but feels very solid and has some clever features, like secure but easily adjustable locks and even wheels to help move it around.
There is only one problem now that this new ‘toy’ has arrived; I’ve got no excuse for not getting on with the work!
Monday 23 May 2016
I got my Maytim brew bottled yesterday. I got 12 full bottles and possibly could have managed 13 but decided to use the last bit along with the trub from fermenting for the garden slug pubs. I’d decided that it wasn’t worth brewing beer specifically for that purpose as I’m not buying enough grain to make the price significantly cheaper than the cheapest supermarket beer but I ended up with enough left over to hopefully keep my plants safer for longer as well as plenty that I’ll get to enjoy.
And enjoy I will. It will be a few weeks before I try this in earnest but the little sample I took yesterday gives me hope that it will be another good one. Final gravity was about 1.009 so I’m pretty much bang on the target ABV of 3.81%. Time to start thinking about the next brew.
Sunday 22 May 2016
It was delightful this afternoon to have four goldfinches on the feeders in the garden. We recently moved them nearer the house so get an excellent view; through binoculars it provides an incredible close-up. Normally the goldfinches only appear as a pair and often sit on the hawthorn just outside the back of the garden, only flitting in to grab a snack if coming in at all, so it was great to see four of them happily feeding away for a number of minutes.
Not, of course, enough to risk running upstairs and grabbing a camera!
Saturday 21 May 2016
Hevva cake is a traditional Cornish baked good. If you look it up online you will find out a number of things about it such as the fact that it is often called ‘heavy cake’ although this is a misnomer and the word ‘hevva’ is generally believed to be a cry used in fishing communities to point out shoals of pilchards when hauling them in; hevva cake was a treat for the returning sailors. Also, there are numerous recipes. How do know which one to choose? How about this method, which I followed yesterday.
First, preheat the oven to about 200°C / 180°C fan and gather the dry ingredients – 450g self raising flour, a pinch of salt, a grating of nutmeg and 50g of caster sugar. Combine them with 110g lard. I used my food processor for this stage, which I find much easier than rubbing in by hand. Mix together with 350g dried fruit (currants are widely suggested but I had sultanas on hand) and the zest of an orange (lemon is more widely used) before softening with 150ml of milk. The mixture was drier than I had expected; perhaps I should also have added the orange juice?
Turn the mixture onto a floured board and flatten into a rectangle about 15cm wide and 1-2 cm deep. Take 110g butter and distribute half of it over the bottom 2/3 of the rectangle. Fold the top third down and then the bottom third up, giving three layers of dough with two layers of butter. Rotate 90° and repeat with the remaining butter. Now roll to about 1cm thick and either cut into rounds or just bake as a whole. Score the top in a diamond lattice, like a fishing net. Optionally it could be brushed with milk or egg but I ended up putting it in plain.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes until a light golden brown then take out to cool, sprinkling over some brown sugar to decorate. Delicious and not too heavy at all.
Friday 20 May 2016
I was recently listening to a discussion on Radio 4 about the Government’s rather half-hearted attempts to follow up its commitment to giving even those in rural areas access to superfast broadband. One of the participants made the entirely fair points that what was considered fast a few years ago would seem painfully slow today and that the baseline requirement for services like online banking is gradually moving up.
However, that did get me thinking. Why are bandwidth demands always increasing? How much of that is necessary and how much is just fuzz? Do we need full screen background video to enhance the websites we visit or could simple, clear text often serve the same purpose? Do we need higher resolution entertainment or just better imaginations?
I can see that there are economic issues for the Government to overcome in living up to its promise. Maybe it should make a concerted drive to offer online services that are smooth and efficient to use even over copper network and which don’t chew up disproportionate amounts of data allowance on mobile devices? Even those of use living in more urban areas, where fast broadband is more available, would often be very happy if the information we needed could appear in the blink of an eye rather than still taking the same time it did ten years ago because designs have expanded to fill the pipes.