Monday, 7 November 2011

Sloe Gin

Went for a walk with a friend this morning to pick some of the last sloes left on the whitethorn bushes bordering the woods at the back of our home. There were just enough to make a whole bottle of sloe gin, for which you need:
1 bottle of gin,
175g sloes
125g sugar

Wash and prick the sloes all over with a fork or something similar. Decant the gin into a convenient jug. Fill the bottle with the sloes and sugar (a funnel is helpful for the sugar) and then pour as much of the gin back into its bottle again as will fill it. Screw on the lid tightly. If there is gin left over, use a screw-top glass jar for any remaining sloes, more sugar and the left-over gin. Screw the lid on well, and turn bottle and jar upside down one day and right side up the next for the next two months. Then once the sugar is all dissolved and the alcohol has taken on a deep red colour, strain the contents through a clean cloth into a bowl, and pour into a jug. Clean the gin bottle of any residue, and pour the sloe gin back into its bottle - or into other clean bottles. Nice idea for presents.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

I have managed to weed and dig over the potato bed
 - have dug up all the potatoes, which are really scrumptious,  
 and have cleared the sweet peas out. I've also sowed lambs' lettuce in four of the squares under the mini-greenhouses. The lambs' lettuce which I sowed three weeks ago is just beginning to show in the greenhouses and I'm really glad I sowed it there because 
these are the tracks of deer left behind on what was the sweet pea bed after I weeded it on Tuesday. I'm quite sure they would have nibbled away anything I'd sown before, had it not been under cover.
 Let's hope that the roast venison I've ordered for Channukah will be the guilty culprit.
Everything is TIDY! Yippee!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

October SFG

I've done quite a bit in the garden recently, tidying up and preparing for colder weather and it all looks great. I'm looking forward to the arrival of two more mini-greenhouses for the other two 2x4s in which I hope to sow and plant some winter salads - lambs' lettuce particularly. I've sown some in the 2x4 under the first little greenhouse, as well as some oakleaf lettuce and a bit of curly kale, in the hope of getting some winter vitamins.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Well, I'm getting geared up for our holiday away - it turns out that it was a good idea not to grow tomatoes again this year - it has been so wet and cool that they would never have ripened on our terrace, as I had suspected, just like last year. I was wearing winter socks and a fleece jacket yesterday! It's a lot warmer today though, and I went out and pulled up the fence around the potato patch and weeded what was beginning to look very untidy. So that's done. The potatoes have died back, so I could start harvesting any time. I'm glad I didn't put them in pots on the terrace. No-one will have to water them for us while we're away. My lovely son Ben helped me put up the poles - I strung yellow washing line up and along them,; I'll make another video shortly, so you can see how it looks; photos don't really show it clearly enough. The Butternut Squash is coming along nicely, but I actually think that I left it too late - we'll see how much it's grown when we get back, but I don't really think it'll have any fruit. I'll just have to try again next year, much earlier this time.
Next year, I'm also seriously considering growing asparagus in the bed where the potatoes have been. It'll take a couple of years before I can harvest it, but that's no problem. Maybe I will be allowed to dig another potato bed - we'll see.
The sweet peas are at last coming into flower - they smell heavenly - a bit like Eau de Cologne, I think!
I picked a big bowl of mangetout this morning, and blackberries too. The plum tree is bearing wonderfully this year - the first time since it was planted -  this is its fifth year, I think, which remindes me of this scripture: “‘When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:23-25). Fascinating. It's absolutely true. It was true for the new cherry tree as well. This year was the first time it bore any quantity of fruit, after it was left for four years.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this beautiful hibiscus flower, below, which isn't growing in the Square Foot Garden, but on our terrace. The label says that it should bloom from May through to October, but its first flower opened this week, and I was so happy, as I've been really looking forward to it. Maybe it just doesn't get enough sun there; still, it's a lovely patch of blue, and I planted a blue hydrangea which I was given last week, underneath it. Thank you Lord, for making so many wonderful flowers!
Made some bread this morning, and a big bowl of muesli - with dates and cranberries and pecan nuts. Should keep us all going for four weeks.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Four more Nails in the Coffin of Climate Change

More good news. The fight for truthful scientific research has gained some more ground.

It's interesting how polarized (no pun intended) the arguments are, even among some with whom, on other issues, one might agree. Obviously, there has been something increasingly odd, even alarming, about the climate and weather for the last nearly 30 years. Some put this down to global warming, others to global cooling. But I remember how, in the UK, 27 years ago, a new Christian magazine came out, called Prophecy Today (now called Sword Magazine) which clearly showed, through its solid biblical teaching and prophetic message, that the nations are increasingly under God's judgment, and that the abberant weather events were the signs thereof, pointing towards the return of Jesus Christ, and that it was urgent that people turn away from their own ways, to God.

It was only around 20 years ago that global warming began to be discussed and it is indicative of how successful the mainstream media's propaganda has been when one thinks of how normal most people now think it is to buy those ugly energy-saving light bulbs and think about trying to reduce their carbon footprint. I have also got so used to hearing about it all, that the message about God's judgment rather slipped into the background.
How clever of the enemy to bring out such a scientific-sounding argument to counteract the biblical warnings that Christians were publishing. Naturally, most people would believe the scientists, with their reasonable message and apparently proven hypotheses: The Tree of Knowledge triumphs again over the Tree of Life.
Things didn't look quite so good for the global warming lobby when the news broke about Climategate in November 2009, that scientists had been caught fiddling the data. Yet governments continued to plug the old line, especially in the UK, where it had been the policy since Margaret Thatcher's government (the former Prime Minister has a BSc in chemistry)  to increase the UK's scientific influence politically.
Now it seems that the lid of the climate coffin has had even more nails hammered into it.

Climate has always changed. This is to be expected. But weather seems to be getting more extreme everywhere, whether it's droughts causing harvest failure or catastrophic rainfall causing flooding... Maybe we should stop putting our trust in scientists, who are, after all only human and apt to moral failure, and put our trust in the God who created the universe and earth we live on.

'The earth is the Lord's and everything in it.' (Ps 24:1)
 '... to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is
 in it.' (Deut. 10:14)
 'Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.' (Job 41:11)

'If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.'
(2 Chron. 7:14)

Oak Park Gardener Charges Dropped

Here's some good news! All charges against Julie Bass, from Michigan, for growing vegetables in her front garden have been dropped. She says that the attention drawn by her case in the alternative media was what gave her the breakthrough.  See link.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Woman faces 93 days in jail because she grows vegetables in her front garden.

This really took my breath away. Another 'job's-worth' busybody wasting tax payers' money by persecuting a perfectly sensible person for growing vegetables in her own front garden. Julie Bass has had the brilliant idea of using the space in the front of her house to grow vegetables. This not only sets an excellent example to anyone who walks past; it teaches the neighbourhood children the value of growing your own, plus it cuts back on electricity - as she doesn't have to mow the lawn. Why the City of Oak Park wouldn't see this as something laudable, and even encourage other residents to do the same thing, I can't think. After all, in these days of financial crisis, especially in America, one would think that any way of saving money, getting exercise and fresh air, plus providing a source of organic fresh vegetables would be praised. By growing her own, Ms Bass saves car journeys as well. She doesn't have to shop for fresh produce. And, of course, global climate change being the new 'Public Enemy #1', one would think that city councillors would relish the sight of residents reducing their carbon footprint by cutting back on fuel bills.

The bigger issue of course, is the freedom of the individual. Surely, if the land belongs to the Bass family, then they ought to be able to do what they like with it. Or is the City of Oak Park falling foul of communitarian philosophy, where the rights of the individual are now subservient to the rights of the community?
By the way, since when did 'suitable' mean 'common'?  Doesn't the City of Oak Park know how to use a dictionary correctly?  Since when were they given the right to re-define adjectives to their own advantage, and by whom? And they're going to shut Ms Bass away for 93 days? RIDICULOUS. Have they nothing better to do with their time?
 It appears as if they're going to shoot themselves in the foot with this one.
Shame on them.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Great Article

Could it be this which is causing the EHEC outbreak here in Germany? I'm told that the Robert Koch Institute is now saying that it WAS the sprouts after all which have caused the outbreak, but what if they're saying this to deflect the attention away from the introduction of GMOs in Europe, which is of course big business and huge on the agenda of the GM lobbies in Brussels. And as Seehofer once said, the politicians are helpless in the face of the (Pharma) lobbies.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

A look at what the roe deer did to my potatoes - probably at around 4am this morning. I was awake at the time - (my husband has been burning the midnight oil for a couple of weeks for a deadline he has to meet by tonight, and I sleep lightly at the best of times, so I must have heard him) and I could have sworn that I heard something in the garden. Unless it was the wasps which have built a nest above our window - I could hear them buzzing away and chewing their grey paper. The window was open - it being very warm at the moment - and several of them came inside. At six, I finally got up and found a few on the floor in front of the window, and on the heater. So I got rid of them before my sleepless hubby trod on one getting into bed - just as well. (He finally packed it in at 6.30am - slept for 4.5 hours and got up again at 11.30. I hope he won't have to work too late again tonight. It's been a bit much for him really.

Anyway - I went out first thing - and there was the potato patch - decimated. Oh well.
I need to find out though, what happens now? Will I still get potatoes, even if the tops have all been eaten off? They hadn't flowered so I don't know what will happen now. Maybe I'll have to wait and see.

We are thinking of ringing the lady whose job it is to keep tracks on the forest deer - she hunts and culls them every now and then - she lives quite close by - the deer have only been a problem for 3 years - before that they never came into the gardens here - maybe she can dispose of a few and give us a haunch of venison or two - after all - they ate our veggies - a bit of compensation wouldn't come amiss!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Squash Summer Dreams

This is our resident red squirrel, who has been coming onto the terrace several days this week to have a good snoop around and see what he can find to eat. Not that there's anything which might be remotely interesting for him. He climbed on to our kitchen windowsill before I was able to take this picture, and peered through into the kitchen! He's sitting on the green uprights which I bought to make a 2x4 framed cage - see below. What a cutie.

Our lovely 17 year old son is on half-term holiday at the moment and apart from revising for his GCSE exams, he has been helping me build a new frame cage for a 2x4 bed which I have sitting just in front of a tall blackberry plant. This blackberry was planted years before I started SFGing and it has good fruit, so I didn't want to get rid of it, BUT, it tended to gow and grow and then flop over my SFG 2x4, which meant that growing things upwards was a problem. Mangetout (sugar peas) were just about ok, but anything like cucumbers or squashes wouldn't have worked.  Added to that, the deer have really been a problem this year - they leap over our neighbour's fence, and then come into our garden from next door.  I have been finding lots of scat around the garden. - plus I've caught the deer on video.
 We do not own this property and so we can do nothing about the fencing situation, but the cages which I made for each bed have been very effective - so far. The problem is, the chicken wire netting isn't high enough for me to grow things like beans etc, and the mangetout which I sowed a few weeks ago were growing so tall that I have to remove the wire cage, which allowed the deer to have a good nibble.

So I've been dreaming up a fun solution which will kill three birds with one stone and not cost the earth. It had to 1. solve the deer problem, 2. provide a wall for the blackberry plant so that I could still reach the fruit to pick them and 3. give me a frame/trellis to grow butternut squashes up it, and then overhead. Three summers ago I had a wonderful butternut squash - which had three or four big gorgeous squashes on it, but it grew everywhere, even after I had trained it to grow up a trellis. Here's a picture of one of them growing. The stems began to spread out over the 4x4 and on to the bark chipping areas between the beds, until they finally reached the lawn. This was the reason why I haven't grown squashes again since then, but I love butternut squash soup in the autumn, and I have some seeds left over, so I think I'll try one again this year, although I'm rather late with starting.

So I've put some seeds into water to soak them, and I'll plant them out in small pots to see which ones take - and the strongest I'll plant at the back of the 2x4, clearing some of the mangetout to make room. By the time the squash is beginning to grow and need more room, the mangetout will be finished, so I'm hoping it will work. I don't want to wait until next year to try this out!
So, I am going to buy some more uprights - they only cost 0,88 cents each, and screw them to my other beds, with crossbars at the top. I will drill 8 holes through each of the cross bars, and feed my plastic yellow washing line from 8 nails on the long, back side of the 2x4, up to the cross bar, through the holes, across the top to the next cross bar, through those holes, across to the next, until I reach the last cross bar, where I'll tie off the washing line. The squash's stems will be able to grow up the back of the 2x4, up the washing lines, and over the square foot garden, forming a wonderful arbour to walk under, so saving space. I'll hopefully be able to pick squashes from beneath! Going shopping at the DIY tomorrow. Can't wait. I'll take and post some more pictures when I'm finished. The great thing about the cage now, is that the wire netting comes up about half way, which ís high enough to prevent the deer from getting at the vegetables, as well as low enough for me to be able to harvest the blackberries from the front. The wire netting swings round the front and is caught at the side on a few nails. The 2x4 is on a slope, which explains why the wire netting isn't at the same level all the way round.
This is the solution for the deer as far as my 3x3 is concerned. I built an extra tall cage so that my bush beans have enough room to grow up underneath.

So far it's worked well, although it doesn't stop the slugs. My beer slug traps have worked quite well, but the beans have still been decimated, and this morning I spread coarse sawdust around the areas where the slugs have been at work, in the hope that they will find the barrier too much to cope with. There's a marigold in the middle, which will, God willing, keep other pests at bay. The rocket is doing brilliantly, as ever. The deer and slugs hate it. Good thing too, because we love it.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Square Foot Garden in April

I have been dreaming for months about what I'm going to do in the SFG this year. Drifting off to sleep at night and in the small hours of the morning when I can't sleep have been partly filled with thoughts about how to improve on last year... being more realistic about what I can grow in the space I have, and with the time I have; knowing that if we're off on holiday, then things like tomatoes and other plants which need lots of watering are impractical. Tomatoes were frankly a waste of time last year, even though we didn't go away. I had them in troughs on the terrace, thinking that that way they would avoid the sprinkler system and disease. But inspite of a lot of TLC, they were disappointing. So I'm going to stick with things we eat a lot of and that are easy to grow. Artichokes, for example, are another lost cause. I tried to grow them two years running but they were a failure. I don't know why. The lamb's lettuce has been wonderful this spring - I sowed it last October - we still have three squares of it and it's in danger of going to seed, so I'll need to pick it all this weekend. I'll make a big salad and we'll have it for supper tomorow evening. Another pleasant surprise was the rocket, which is sprouting beautifully inspite of the long, cold winter. I have sowed some more because we eat a lot of it and it's so hardy.

We've had over a week of dry, warm, sunny weather, which has been great to get the garden started again.
I've put new compost and fresh soil into the beds, plus a generous helping of vermiculite. I had cleared the beds last autumn so there wasn't much to do. Hannah and I gave the outside of the SF beds a good painting with linseed oil this morning (did the bicycle shed doors as well), which should make them last longer.  I also needed to replace the wooden grids on the two 4x4s , but I decided to do it with plastic washing line instead of wooden laths, which rot too quickly. So I bought 40 metres of yellow washing line, which is a lot cheaper and easier than wooden laths, which need to be treated with oil and need screwing together at the cross-over points. We put screws into the beds at 30 inch intervals on the sides near the top edges, and knotting one end of the washing line with a bowline and hooking it on to one of the screws, I wound the rest of the line around the remaining screws creating a grid, finishing off the line at the last screw with another knot. It looks really good and is, of course, waterproof. It is really amazing what a difference having a grid makes. It's up to the individual, but I'm sure that Mel Bartholemew is right. A grid creates immediate order in the raised bed, and looks extremely attractive. The washing line grid is quick and very convenient, as well as being cheap. It's flexible, doesn't have splinters and doesn't wear out quickly. Doing it this way, one can also remove it easily if one wants to dig over the whole bed at the end of the growing season.

I have now sown spinach, chard and rocket, and planted beetroot, kohlrabi, parsley and red chard, as well as lettuce and a cucumber. At the back of the garden I've put up poles to grow sweet peas, which I've also sown - some of the seed were saved from last year) in the hope that they'll be a pretty eye-catcher in the summer months. I intend to grow bush beans and mangetout again as well because they're easy. It all looks really nice, and it's been well worth the wait. Everything looks beautiful -the cherry and apple trees are in blossom, and the lawn is spangled with daisies; the garden is decked out like a bride going to her wedding.  What a miracle spring is - thank God!

Friday, 1 April 2011

We were recently blessed by a dear friend who, last November, invited us to her home in Greece for a week in March. We were badly in need of a holiday and a break and the idea just gripped us. We have been married for 20 years, but had never flown anywhere together except for quick trips to the UK to see family. Hardly any ordinary German here can relate to this odd kind of non-holiday-idolising lifestyle, so while I was half apologising for mentioning that we were going off to enjoy ourselves for once, they were astounded that we hadn't done it before and a lot more often.

Anyway, we had a wonderful time and the change did us a lot of good. We stayed in the Pelopponese for five days before driving up to Athens again.

Our kind friends live in the middle of olive groves, five minutes from the sea ...

They have lemon trees, orange trees; oranges for eating as well as for juice, avocado trees, even a lotus or persimmon tree, called a Sharon fruit in Israel. They also had a loquat (Japanese medlar) tree, which I had never heard of or seen before.
 They also had a huge eukalyptus and gave me a few cuttings from it - I'm going to use the leaves to steep in hot water for when someone has a cold.

 There were wild flowers everywhere. Red, and blue anemones, blue and almost black irises, camomile and calendula in vast drifts under the olive trees, which grew not just in cultivated groves, but in neglected agricultural areas too,especially in archaeological sites.  

We were told that the locals pray, before buying land, that no ancient ruins will be found there while building work goes on, because if so, the land has to be excavated first. Some people have lost their land and income as a result. In Messini there are just such olive trees growing, which no-one had harvested.
The birds were having a wonderful time. All one could hear there was the humming of bees, birds twittering and the plashing of the stream which ran down through the site from the hillside above, along a cleverly constructed watercourse which has conducted the stream for over two thousand years.