Sunday, 31 May 2009

The joys of compost!

Common thyme, May 2009

Last weekend we emptied one of the compost bins. Some of it will be used to enrich the mix I use to pot up the tomato plants, some has gone around the newly-planted courgettes, and one container-full has been used to plant some salad leaves for cut-and-come-again cropping before other salads are ready. With such a rich growing medium I am hoping to get two crops out of a deep container.

Most of the lovely friable compost has gone towards building up the raised beds. Our soil here is heavy clay, and frustratingly difficult to break up, so a lot of effort goes into trying to improve it. It's only recently that we started a vegetable garden again so there's along way to go, but there's already a full compost bin ready to provide the next batch. And this year, for the first time, I am hoping to have the liquid from the wormery to feed the tomatoes and courgettes. I can't wait!

I suppose I might spare a little compost for OH's fuchsias, too.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Precious things

I've been away from my blog again recently because my grandmother died, aged 98. She'd been in a nursing home for some years, and I hadn't seen her since last year, but a couple of weeks ago her health deteriorated and we were warned that she wouldn't last long.

She was a woman of considerable character and it's strange to think she is no longer here. For some years I lived with my grandparents and she was very important to me while I was growing up. Her ashes are now interred in a woodland burial site, not too many miles from the Isle of Wight which she remembered and loved from girlhood.

When she had to part with her household possessions to move to the nursing home she was pleased that I wanted the willow pattern china which was part of my early memories.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Flower of the week - cowslip

Cowslips (primula veris) on the dunes. Not in quite such profusion as last year, but you can see they grow quite thickly in places. Once upon a time, people must have made excellent cowslip wine around here, but I'm glad that we just enjoy them for their beauty now. Some of its old names are Fairy Bells, Paigle (which I've heard it called) and St Peter's Herb, as well as Palsywort because it could cure paralysis, it was thought. I can't find much reference to a Northumbrian name, but a Notes and Queries from 1898 says it was known as cow-stropple (throat). A charming habit was to make cowslip balls from the golden flowers, thus:
Down we make our cowslip-ball. Everyone knows the process; to nip off the tufts of flowerets just below the top of the stalk, and hang each cluster nicely balanced across a riband, till you have a long string like a garland; and then to press them closely together, and tie them tightly up. We went on very prosperously, considering; as people say of a young lady's drawing, or a Frenchman's English, or a woman's tragedy...To be sure we met with a few accidents. First, Lizzy spoiled nearly all her cowslips by snapping them off too short; so there was a fresh gathering; in the next place May overset my full basket, and sent the blossoms floating, like so many fairy favours, down the brook; then when we were going on pretty steadily, just as we had made a superb wreath and were thinking of tying it together, Lizzy, who held the riband, caught a glimpse of a gorgeous butterfly, all brown and red and purple, and skipping off to pursue the new object, let go her hold; so all our treasures were abroad again. At last, however, by dint of taking a branch of alder as a substitute for Lizzy, and hanging the basket in a pollard-ash, out of sight of May, the cowslip-ball was finished. What a concentration of fragrance and beauty it was! golden and sweet to satiety! righ to sight, and touch, and smell!
(Mary Russell Mitford, Our Village)
I think you can judge from the description that the grass was thickly carpeted with the golden blooms. I am trying to establish it in our garden, without much success until this year, when I found a seedling flowering in a pot that usually holds a hosta. It is very welcome there, and encourages me to persevere.