Well I came back from my holidays to 16.5kg of marrow and they’re still coming thick and fast. What to do with this courgette nightmare?Perhaps one plant will be enough next year.
I’ve been trying my hand at growing some new vegetables in the garden.
These choices have been based on a value for space ratings provided in Joy Larkcom’s excellent and informative ‘Grow Your Own Vegetables’.
One of the vegetables that got a high rating was broccoli raab aka broccoli rabe aka rapini aka cime di rapa . The name ‘cime di rapa’ means ‘turnip tops’ in Italian. I planted about 0.5 sqm around mid March and about 2 months later this is what I got, a sort of raggedy leaf with spindly shoots and florets…
Ideally I think that the plants are supposed to have more of a floret but as they where starting to flower it seemed like a good time to bring them in.
I’ve cooked it twice, once in a pasta and sausage dish and today with a beef stir-fry It tasted good to me, like a sort of Batman broccoli, dark and broody, sort of bitter and complex. I like it and will grow it again though it might be a bit heavy/bitter for some taste.
( broccoli raab = 430g)
For the stir fry I also took the 2nd cut of some stir fry greens after getting about 100g of young leaves for an oriental salad a few weeks ago.
The main thing I couldn’t help noticing about the stir fry greens was how beautiful the leaves are to look at. It seems a shame to eat them.
(370g stir fry greens)
I was out watering the vegetable beds this morning at about 8am, it was so beautiful and peaceful, the closest I’ve had to a ‘quiet time’ in a long time.
Then my sense of peace and contentment is nagged by thinking that it’s all very well for me to watering plants at 8am but if I was a real man I wouldn’t have time for so much gardening, I’d be careering of to a job like my neighbours, I wouldn’t have time for faffing around with mizuna and broccoli raab or writing a blog.
So often I wrestle with God in the garden. It is an odd mixture of guilt and delight, pleasure and pain. What is work? What is a job?
The questions comes thickest in the carrot bed. I’ve weeded that carrot bed so many times already, the weeds keep coming up.I’m aware of the threat of carrot flies. If I’m lucky for hours of work I’ll get 50 about carrots. I can buy a bag of them up at Joyce’s for 39c.Is it worthwhile investing precious hours on growing something which has a combined worth of about €4 according to Joyce’s?
They might be loss leaders or whatever but that nearly makes it worse. Carrots are being treated as a commodity or bait to encourage people to spend their money on other more worthy groceries and good.
In a world where our value and worth to society is measured by the benchmark of money and the Market weeding a carrot bed for 50 carrots throws up questions, questions about what is worthwhile work or who gives value to work, what work should you be engaged in.
Are you crazy or is the world crazy?
Is this just a middle class privilege thing or is their work of true value in growing a turnip?
Turmoil in the turnip patch, serpent in the garden.
A thunderstorm passed through a few hours ago, you wouldn’t believe how dark it got in the kitchen about 6pm.
But now it’s the calm after the storm, there is a softness in the earth and bird song.
Sometimes walking in the garden I think I can see things growing, like the turnips and lettuce.
It’s all in my imagination *he said to make himself sound sane to anyone reading* but it’s such a soft day now that you know the vegetables and herbs are soaking it all in, the rain and nutrients and whatever else makes things grow.
I pinched the tops off my broad beans, they books say to do this when they come into flower so that the energy goes into making the beans. It was as nice task because broad beans smell lovely. A few books suggest to cook them if they aren’t over run with blackfly, which they weren’t so I made a risotto.
It looked better than it tasted truth be told, not because of the bean tops but because I haven’t yet mastered the art of making onions soft and transparent without letting them get brown. The crunchy onions ruined it for me, though it still tasted nice. It ruined it because I was kicking myself for not getting the oni0ns right. In my defence I was distracted by counting the time between flashes of lightning and the sound of thunder, calculating that the thunderstorm must be directly above Barna now or out in Galway Bay. It was also pitch black.
If you don’t cook much you’d be amazed how often the recipes tells you not to let onions brown. It seems like a simple thing but my oven hobs are crazy and want to char anything that touches them, even at the lowest setting.
So there you go, pay attention to softening your onions and don’t throw out your broad bean tips.
I was walking home last night up to the house and for the first time that I can remember felt a sense of shame that our house was looking dowdier and more run down that the other houses in the cul-de-sac. It could use a lick of paint and the grass ‘needs’ cut.
The thing is that I don’t think the grass really needs cut but feel obliged socially to fit in with the narrative of the tidy lawns in all the rest of the homes.I don’t think that the grass needs cut because I was watching two goldfinch eating dandelion heads on my lawn, dandelions that would be obliterated by the lawnmower or house proud gardeners who think of them as weeds. No dandelions means no goldfinch. I’d rather have the goldfinches on long grass than a billiard table surface. It seems a bit pointless to spend money on buying in seeds and putting them in feeders to attract goldfinches when you grow your own.
The pressure to fit in is powerful though. I don’t want to be the blow in that brings the neighbourhood and makes the place look untidy and unkempt. So instead I will pay for petrol and pay for getting the lawnmower serviced and walk around keep the grass short all summer. Somehow keeping the grass short has become tied in with being some type of Christian witness (because I’m respecting the culture of the place). I’m not sure I want to go too far down this road mind you..
The weather lovely, the wind not too blowy, a morning for planting seeds in the garden.
So far I’ve planted chervil, land cress, leeks, stir fry greens, comfrey, courgettes and Chinese broccoli. I’ve got modules ready for some kale and lettuce and other seed packets/
I’ve been reading the instructions but now I’m ignoring the instructions and just planting seeds willy-nilly as it just feels right to be putting them in the soil today in any way.
I thought that planting my own vegetables and herbs might save money. But seeds, modules, cloches, wood for raised beds adds up and you wonder if it might not be cheaper to just buy them at the supermarket. Then there is the weeding (already!), and the snail holes and the watering. My soil seems so dry and now that I’ve actually started planting stuff it also seems poor.
Is it worth my while planting vegetables?
Putting kale seeds into modules quickly goes to thoughts about work and the economy and how bags of peas can only cost £1.19. How much fertiliser is being blitzed into the soil in fields in unknown locations to make the economics work?
The more I do stuff in the garden the more the economy doesn’t make sense. Machines might make farm productivity greater but how many men and women have they put out of work? Stuff doesn’t add up.
I could spend weeks planting vegetables and working hard but the price of cauliflowers or carrots tells me that my work isn’t worthwhile. That is if the value of our work is measured in euros or salaries. Which is a lie because the value of our work doesn’t lie in the valuation of Mammon. Or at least it shouldn’t.
Well, I didn’t quite manage to get my potatoes in on St Patrick’s Day, but the next morning I threw them into the lazy bed 1ft apart and shoveled loose soil from the path on top.
I’ve started another longer bed and hope to get two more the same length done by the end of March.
That’s if the wind and rain don’t keep discouraging me from going out to the garden. It’s not so much the feel of the wind, more the noise. The way it blusters, then dies down and changes direction drives me a little crazy.
For the new bed I cut the sods a little longer (maybe 60cm instead of 30cm) and flicked them over.
I’ve had a thing for lazy beds over the years (and the types of spades that people would have used to dig them) so today I thought I would give it a go in the garden, or rather a sort of rough version to suit what I need in the garden.
I’m making the path between the ridges pretty wide so I can fit my wheelbarrow and go up to the imaginary compost heap. I also made the ridges 1m across as I want to make them into vegetable beds after the potatoes have broken the soil up a bit.
Next I covered the area with some old rotted compost from the far corner of the garden (or at least I hope it is well rotted compost)Ideally I’d bring up some seaweed from down the road and cover it with that.
The ground was pretty hard and it was hard to get a spade in so I used a hammer an axe to cut out ‘segments’ of about 6in x 12 in. The side of the segments that go along the blue rope aren’t cut as the idea (apparently) is to use that as a hinge and flick the sods over. I think this is probably an area when the old spades would have been useful. For instance if I had enough leverage and could cut the sods 12in x 12in and flick it over it would leave less gaps for weeds or grass to grow through.
Flick the sods over on both sides.
I would have finished the ridge yesterday before dark except that I started wondered about the variety of early potatoes that I was about to put in. What about blight? Will they be ready just as we’re going on holidays? Should I pick a different variety? Should I plant main crop instead?
The other thing is that I’ve been told that you should plant your potatoes on St Patrick’s Day and harvest them on the 12th July, which I like as an Irish man. So maybe I’ll wait to Monday before finishing the lazy beds and spend the next couple of days watching rugby and hanging out with friends, making crepes, drawing.
I spent hours today digging out two stubborn, rickety old bush stumps to free up space for vegetable beds and basically because I didn’t like them. It was a good day for it. Not too cold or not too warm. Not too windy but a nice little breeze.
Working in the garden can go either of two ways for me.
1 I enjoy it
2 I get frustrated.
Digging in this garden makes me a little sad. It could be a great garden, I imagine corners filled in with kale and sunflowers, our picnic table painted and friends around for a picnic (I have to imagine friends as well because I don’t have any friends here yet) I imagine onions drying out or frames with French beans. I think of blackcurrant bushes and perpetual spinach.
What makes me sad is that I know it is not my garden and that by the time it will be getting into the swing of things our time here will be up. Being a joint congregation with the Methodist church means that you might only be here 7yrs or extended to 10yrs or a little more.
7yrs seems like a long time, but it’s nothing if I plant an apple tree now. By the time it would be producing more than a few apples we will have to move on.
Then there is the emotional attachment to the ground you have worked.
Just like some artists find it hard to part with their paintings, something unique that they have made I’ll find it hard to part with a garden I’ve help create.
Of course no one knows what the next 10mins will bring never mind the next 10yrs. Still, it does make me a little melancholic and sad pulling up stumps and moving soil, wondering where I should put the apple trees.
Better to have gardened and lost than to have never gardened before?