Saturday 15 July 2017

Yep I'm still here

Yes I know it's been a while but...... well you know what it's like, I keep meaning to write a post then life throws yet something else at you.  I have been rather reclusive, there seems to be bad news all around, too much to cope with at times so I have withdrawn in to myself.  Pulled the covers over my head and shut out the world.  There is such heartbreaking news everywhere, the world seems a very cruel place to me at the moment, thank goodness for my peaceful little haven where I can potter in the garden and watch the wildlife.  I know I take everything to heart, I always have.  I worry about the planet, want to protect every animal from cruelty and fear for my fellow humans. Now I am cautiously dipping my toes back in the water and facing up to the world again.

So here's a quick update as I know how I feel when a blogger just disappears without a word.  I'm not saying I'm going to disappear, just that I can't promise to post regularly at the moment. Our son is back to work full time and making the most of his time before his next operation which will be next year sometime.  The bearded ones father died a few weeks ago so he is still coming to terms with it, all very sad really.  Work is horrible at the moment, all stats and saving money rather than patient centred.  I left you with some very sad looking plants in my poly tunnel on my last post but despite the best efforts of all sorts of creatures, things are growing rapidly and probably too crazy as I'm sure I should  be keeping them under some sort of control but haven't had the time.  I am reaping the rewards and cooking up some lovely meals with the homegrown produce.   So chuffed about that :)

The photos were taking a few weeks ago so everything is much bigger now and looking more like a jungle everyday.  I picked my first mini yellow tomato today, the yellow courgette was twice as big when I picked that today and made courgette fritters.  Cucumbers are ticking over nicely,  I have been growing minis as only two of us eat them.  The pattypan plant is huge now and I can't walk up that side of the poly, and the outside squashes are taking over everything!!  I didn't realise they grew so humungous!!

I thought this was a courgette, then thought it was a cucumber, now I realise it is a crooked neck squash.  It doesn't help that the writing rubbed off all the labels so I have to guess what things are

   The garlic have been pulled and are now drying.

Mini yellow cucumbers.

I have dug up all the early potatoes and stored them.

So for my first year and first attempt at many new types of vegetables, I am pleased with the progress so far.  Just have to keep my fingers crossed they don't get blight and any other nasties.

We have eight Housemartin nests.  One was washed away in the terrible weather we had a few weeks ago with the loss of the chicks.  So upsetting to come home from work and see their little bodies with the parents frantically flying around.  They now have a new nest in the pool pump house, every time I go for a swim I get attacked as they try to drive me away from their chicks.  I'm considering wearing a hard hat when I go swimming from now on.

I have been vegan for six and a half months now, I have been doing a lot of reading around the subject to ensure I am eating healthily,  I have been vegetarian for 27 years but a vegan diet means being even more careful to get all the vitamins and minerals I need.

I now have my electric car and the battery for the solar panels has at last been fitted, we will now be able be more efficient and use the power from this rather than the grid in the evenings.  I'm getting a bit obsessed with looking at how much power we are using and constantly thinking of ways to use less.  The dishwasher, washing machine and oven seem to take ridiculous amounts.  Dinner was cooked in the slow cooker this evening, and I will be looking into lots of other ways to use less energy.  It will help when our son moves out and there are just two of us again.  He is buying a new house which of course is taking forever.  Why are the solicitors so flipping slow!!

Well I can't think of anything else for now, stay safe and well my friends,

Chickpea xx

Saturday 6 May 2017

The Not So Good Life

I sort of had visions of this idyllic self sufficient life wandering around my garden full of home grown veg and wildlife.......the reality is somewhat different.  I have spent weeks covered in compost and manure as I make my no dig veg beds only for the wildlife to eat everything I'm trying to grow.  I go out in the morning to watch the beautiful sunrise only to find rabbit fur and birds feathers scattered across the garden where the wildlife are eating each other.

 I love seeing the foxes but not the smell of fox poo when the dogs have rolled in it everyday.....yes you two!

I loved seeing the stag but he has killed one of the trees and I don't think another will survive.

Badgers and rabbits are digging holes in the garden and I have millions of ants making impressive mounds in the middle of my veg beds.

To top it all my tomato plants are looking sick and probably about to kick the bucket.  I think our hunger gap is going to last all year.

The saddest looking tomato plants you are likely to see

and some little sods are eating the strawberries as soon as they ripen

Hey ho as they say, I still love it here.

..... and in other news, I have a school reunion next month.  Anyone know how to lose lots of weight and look 10 years younger in a month?

Chickpea xx

Monday 1 May 2017

Growing, Eating and a bit of a rant.

I can't believe so long has passed since my last post, I have lots of 'drafts' of posts that never got finished and were then irrelevant as things had moved on.   Life has been busy as usual, my head is full of plans but the body is just not keeping up at the moment.  By the evenings I'm worn out, I've got to the age where I'm having 'Nanny Naps'  yes it comes to us all, though there are still many nights when insomnia plagues me.

Thank you for all your good wishes for my son, and thank you to Doris for sharing her experience.  He is on the mend, getting stronger everyday and going back to work this week.   He is coping with it incredibly well and just getting on with life as usual, he has been out and about with friends all weekend which he hasn't been well enough to do for a long time.  As long as he stays well the next  major surgery can be delayed until next year so at least we have time to catch our breaths.  Before my son, I had not personally known anyone with a stoma, in a sad twist of fate my friend has just undergone treatment for cancer and now also has a stoma.  At least I have some knowledge and can support her a little better and my son has offered to talk to her about his experiences.  Life can still throw the unexpected at you!

I now need to concentrate on myself and my health.  As I'm sure like many, while I'm caring for others my own needs seem to go straight out of the window.  I survived on whatever food was easy and quick, not always the healthiest however I have stuck to a plant based diet but eat far too many crisps and chips!!!!  I do not call myself a vegan as there is so much more to it than what you eat.  As I still wear leather shoes and boots and wear my own hand knitted wool items and don't intend getting rid of them I don't meet the strict criteria set by some, but I can live with that.  I will gradually replace them with 'vegan friendly' items as and when.  I have joined vegan Facebook groups and signed up for a Vegan Nutritionist Diploma to learn as much as I can about the vegan diet to ensure I am getting all of the vitamins and minerals I need to stay healthy.  What is getting on my nerves .... here comes the some vegans views on vegetarians.  I have been a vegetarian for over 25 years and brought my sons up as vegetarian and will not have someone who has been a vegan for all of 5 minutes ( and will probably only keep it up for a short time) looking down at me and saying   vegetarians don't care about animals!! what twaddle.  I won't be made to feel like I'm lesser than them.  Vegetarians can be just as snooty about pescatarians or meat reducers.  Why can we not just give people credit for what they have achieved and cut out the whole elitist snobbery crap.  You do not further your cause by pissing off people who are making an effort.  *steps off the soapbox*

Having said all of the above, I had a thoroughly lovely time at the recent Vegan Festival and stuffed my face with gorgeous food, I ate as soon as I got there luckily, as they ran out of food by early afternoon.  I think they were surprised by the number of people who attended.  There was a particularly interesting talk on feminism and veganism.

I don't actually miss eating cheese and eggs but do find it hard to think of alternatives for lunch sometimes, I love hummus but you can only eat so much.  I decided to make this for my packed lunch.  Along with rice cakes and salad it makes a nice change and tastes lovely and fresh with the herbs picked out of the garden.  The recipe was in the Vegan living magazine and is really easy and quick.


2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
juice of 1/2 lemon (I used a lime)
1/4 bunch dill,  1/4 bunch mint, 1/4 bunch flat parsley all with stalks removed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
A few mixed seeds of your choice

Heat the oil in a small pan until hot.  Remove from the heat, stir in the garlic and leave to cool completely.

Place the garlic and any pan juices, beans, lemon juice and 2 tbsp water in a food processor or use a hand held blender.  Blend until smooth.  Stir in half the herbs and season to taste. (I actually put them in the blender as I didn't read the instructions)

Cover and chill until ready to serve.  When ready drizzle over some olive oil, the rest of the herbs and seeds.

Poly ready for the tomatoes.

Squashes, courgettes and lots of piquant peppers

Sue (Beachcomber) asked how the growing is going.  Well after all my hard work making veg beds I have very little to show for it.  Garlic, a few rocket plants and 4 spinach plants and ready grown herbs.   All the rest have been eaten.  I have very fat happy slugs.  As I am growing organically, pellets are not an option and they are turning their noses up at the beer traps preferring the plants so I have had to change my plans.  I am starting plants off indoors and hoping they will be big and strong enough to survive attack by the time I plant them out.  The indoor plants have been very successful, too successful you might say as I have more tomatoes and pepper plants than I have space and have been trying to give some away.  My conservatory and windowsills are full of plant pots and trays, I can't wait until it is warm enough to plant them out.  We are in the process of putting up a rabbit proof fence so at least one predator will be kept out.  It is exciting seeing what is growing in the garden, the orchard has various trees in flower but I haven't got a clue what they are.  Apples so I'm told but I don't know what else.

We haven't had much time to explore the area but ventured down to the woodland adjoining our field which is extremely muddy but very pretty.  I got stuck up to my arse in mud on several occasions and had to crawl commando style out as the bearded one found it impossible to pull me out.  The more we struggled the deeper I sank! At least I have learned the knack for getting out of quicksand.

I hope you are all keeping well and will try not to leave it so long next time,

Chickpea xx

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Grabbing some normal while we can

Life is gradually getting back to normal for now.  Our youngest son will need further surgery when he is stronger but we are making the most of the everyday simple things that you miss when it all gets taken away.  Our lives are gradually expanding from hospital rooms, to care at home to getting out and about again.  I am now back at work and our son is enjoying little trips out with friends.  He is getting used to life with a stoma and is determined that it will not stop him enjoying life to the full.  Our worlds are expanding once again.

I love a simple life, I'm never happier than when I'm pottering around in the garden, cooking simple food, watching nature re awakening after winter.  I have missed these little things so much over the last few months.  It may seems boring to other people but these little things make me very happy.  When my eldest son asked me what I would like to do for Mothers Day, I didn't want to go out for a meal, I asked him to come over and help me shovel barrow loads of manure into the poly tunnel.  Yep I know weird.

I am in a desperate race against nature at the moment to get the garden and poly ready for planting, I just wish my old bones could achieve more in a day.  The beautiful weather over the weekend meant I was out working in the garden for 2 whole days and I'm knackered!  I am starting to see a little progress at last.......just a little.

We still have a little frost around

The fence that followed the line of daffodils which was blown down before we moved in will need replacing to protect the veg patch from the high winds we get here.  It looked very strange when all the daffodils started popping up across the garden.

I managed to get hold of some more cardboard so have progressed with the no dig veg beds.

Recycled, UV resistant pallets that were lying around at work and an old curtain rail have been put to good use to make compost bins.

I have been busy clearing the totally over grown polytunnel ready for growing our summer salads.  The grape vines and kiwi have been totally cut back, hopefully they will survive but I wouldn't have been able to grow food that we could actually live on without this drastic action.  It was also full of ants nests which didn't take too kindly to being disturbed!  It is as dry as an old boot in there so plenty of manure and compost is going on top.

and yet another no dig bed in progress to accommodate all the seeds I got carried away buying

The piquant pepper seeds sent to me by fellow blogger Dani over at ecofootprints a couple of years ago are still viable despite moving house.  Hopefully now I have a poly I can get some peppers to grow although it is nothing like the South African climate in Cornwall.

I have been doing a little bit of mindless easy knitting, yet another shawl.  This time I made up the pattern which is turning out to be a strange shape!

I planted some winter lettuce in a container in the poly a few month a ago which has gone to seed after being totally neglected, but isn't it pretty!

Well that's it for now, all very garden focused at the moment I'm afraid.  When I have a little more time I'm looking forward to trying some new vegan recipes which I will share with you.  I am keeping an eye on you all, just not having the time or brain power to put together coherent comments!

Chickpea xx

Thursday 16 March 2017

The Plan - I hope!

Sorry for the random posts, life is hectic as usual.  Our son had another operation on Monday so I have been spending an awful lot of time at the hospital then I came down with a jippy tummy, the only thing I could put it down to was a coffee at the hospital cafe, I do wonder if they clean the machines properly!  

Anyway I have lots of plans for the house and garden but with a very sick son plans have been put on hold for a lot of things. It would be very easy to just give up on it all what with everything else that has been going on, however I am determined to grow some of our favourite things in the space I have managed to clear.  By writing this down I'm hoping to give myself a kick up the backside to get on with it.  I'm sure it will all be very hit and miss as I am very new to this grow your own malarkey, but this is what I have managed to do so far.

I am a huge fan of the 'no dig' philosophy so have been putting this into practice on my totally overgrown veg patch.  Rather than try to tackle everything which is pretty impossible at the moment, I wanted to get at least two little plots ready for planting.  I covered the ground with cardboard to suppress the weeds then put several inches of compost and well rotted manure on top.  The paths around the plot will have cardboard and compost put on them and the rest of the plot will have black garden plastic to suppress the weeds including bindweed until I have the time to work on them.  I am hoping to get another small bed ready for herbs.  The polytunnel has a few weeds and nettles around the edges which I can easily deal with then cover the rest with compost and manure ready for my tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, courgettes etc.  This will mean a lot of lugging barrow loads around but I will do as much as I can each day.  In the mean time I have planted some early potatoes in bags and buckets in the poly.

I have started to put cardboard around the beds, but ran out!  These will be covered with compost.

Fleece covering the first bed.

Starting some early potatoes

In the first bed I prepared  I have some garlic growing and recently sowed radishes, kale, chard and shallots which I covered with fleece.   In the second bed I sowed some carrots in a manure free section, ( I read somewhere that they can 'fork' with too much manure) I will be sowing spinach, beans, sweetcorn and pattypans.   I have sown some peppers in a heated propagator so fingers crossed these will make an appearance soon.  

Bindweed everywhere!  I'm sure it will take forever to get rid of it all

It doesn't seem like I've done much, but looking back at the plot when we moved in there is some progress and hopefully we will have some veg to show for the effort in the summer.  The previous owner used it as a dumping ground and had bonfires there to burn all sorts of rubbish before he moved out.

Another bit of progress with the house is the wood burner, i'm chuffed to bits with it. It even has a little oven on the top.  Having a living fire makes all the difference to a room, I love sitting a listening to it crackling away, so relaxing.

I hope you are all keeping well, I will be popping around to visit when I can,

Chickpea xx

Wednesday 1 March 2017

A little premature?

Last week I put the cucumber and tomato seeds into pots and came down this morning to find them popping up through the soil.  Being a newbie when it comes to starting them from seed I am now thinking I probably started this far too early.  Are they likely to be o.k. or should I get some more seeds to plant later?  Any advice appreciated :)

Chickpea xx