Enjoying the Asturian sunshine

Miles walked: 257.5       Miles left: 55*                         * See end note

Stunning sunrises followed by beautiful days: it’s definitely been a week to be outside.

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We went on an interesting walk from a local village; Roger has run there but it was all new to me, very pretty and very peaceful. It ran mostly through woodland (the path was even flat in places) and we found an old mine entrance, lit up with glow-in-the-dark moss.

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It feels good to be making progress and pushing forward in the garden rather than relentlessly keeping on top of weeds. Roger has been hauling stone with the tractor (there’s no shortage around our fields) and building a retaining wall across the steepest part of the vegetable patch.

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When finished, this will give us a flatter, more useful planting space with a decent path below. I’ve discovered it’s also a good spot to sit and peruse the garden and valley over a mug of tea! He’s also making stone steps to replace our current dust / mud slide which will make life so much easier.

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I’ve been digging and clearing extra spaces for planting wherever possible and slowly, slowly spreading that huge muck heap around.

DSCF9152.JPGIt’s amazing what a difference simple changes can make: the fence bottom is completely choked with perennial weeds but once cleared it suddenly looks so much smarter.

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I’ve planted globe artichokes at the top end, four plants raised from seed that went in as an afterthought in June. They should make an attractive ‘hedge’ down that side and if they carry on growing at the same rate, we won’t have to wait too long for a crop.

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On which subject, I’ve also finally got round to planting some asparagus. I grew these plants from seed four years ago in France: they had a season in the ground there, then I lifted them and moved them to Shropshire for a bit, then lifted them again into pots and brought them here . . . poor, travel weary things. When it comes to planting I tend to be a ‘throw it in and stand back’ sort of gardener but under the circumstances, I decided I really ought to do this properly. I even watched a video. http://www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-grow-asparagus .The space I had chosen seemed to tick all the boxes, which was good; needless to say, the lady in the video was planting in a very flat garden but as I haven’t read anywhere that asparagus suffers from vertigo, I decided the extreme slope would be okay. Let’s go . . .

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Step 1: dig over ground and remove all weeds.

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Step 2: dig a deep trench.

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Step 3: find muck heap from under carpet of buttercups (this didn’t happen in the video).

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Step 4: put plenty of muck in trench then cover with soil to make a ridge.

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Step 5: find asparagus plant amongst self-set foxgloves and Welsh poppies (this didn’t happen in the video, either).

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Step 6: plant asparagus on ridge. Et voila. Job done.

Maybe – just maybe – we are a bit closer to enjoying our first asparagus crop, and for the record, no matter what we do in the future, the plants are staying put. Honest.

Other jobs done this week include planting a short row of ‘Douce Provence’ peas which should give us a small crop in May for eating raw in salads, and also three pots of sweet peas, different varieties but all heavily scented. Seed heads from the French marigolds in my salad patch have been collected and stored in the horreo, I want a riot of them in the big veg patch as well next year.

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I’ve spent some time weeding the flower beds and moving a few things round, including the very colourful but monstrous red dahlia which swamped everything – it’s gone to a better home down the lane and I’ve replaced it with a daintier peacock orchid.

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I’ve weeded all the overwintering pots, cut back where necessary and top dressed with well-rotted manure.

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Looking at the flowers and bulbs around the garden, it’s hard to believe we’re in December.

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DSCF9169.JPGIt’s been a job to drag ourselves in at sunset but of course I’m always happy to switch from garden tools to knitting needles! I have finished the ‘Northern Lights’ hiking socks and I’m really chuffed with them – my first complete ‘spin it- dye it- knit it’ project.

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From the amount of wool left over, I’ve calculated how much more I will need to spin for the man-size socks (I hope the future wearer will forgive me but we’re talking Big Foot here 🙂 ) and I’ve made a start on that. What a relief to be back to fine, controlled, short draw spinning. I really need a lot of practice to crack long draw but I don’t want to waste too much fleece or time. Having spun the second bobbin of Perendale and plied it I’ve ended up with pretty much what I expected – an uneven slub yarn. Can’t say I’m too enthralled, but I have a couple of projects in mind for it later.

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I trawled through masses of sock patterns looking for ‘just the right thing’ for my BFL/silk mix. There is so much choice but I have to admit, I did find some of the ‘health warnings’ they carried a bit puzzling. For instance, one pattern stated that when finished, the rib cuff tended to sag outwards so the socks always fell down; another had a beautiful intricate textured design which apparently made the instep so tight, it wasn’t always possible to get a foot inside. Now I don’t want to be critical: let’s face it, I haven’t rushed to come up with my own sock design and I’m grateful to others for sharing their creative talents. However . . . call me old-fashioned but I do like socks that fit and stay up. The pattern I’m using is perfect, a false cable which is technically simple but adds just the amount of interest and texture I was after.

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There’s an added element, too. Read about silk anywhere and you are told it takes up dyes very well: you only have to think about the rich vibrancy of saris to know that’s true. That said, I read an article some time ago by a spinner who was frustrated because the silk in her wool/silk blend hadn’t dyed as well as the wool . . . and on close inspection, exactly the same has happened to me. The silk has dyed, just not as deeply as the wool, so it runs through the yarn in golden threads. I don’t think I can capture the effect on camera but it’s as though the sock has been dusted in powdered gold – very subtle but very beautiful.

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Now that’s one aspect of ‘Midwinter Fire’ I hadn’t expected. 🙂

* PS Walking: when I signed up three months late to #Walk 500 miles I knew it was a tall order – those three months would have made all the difference. I was going really well through August but then with trips away, visitors and lots of busy-ness since, I lost my routine and rhythm. I know – excuses, excuses. I’m barely halfway there. It’s not going to happen. So, damage limitation time: I’ve calculated that to do the 500 miles in eight months would mean 62.5 miles per month, so over five months that’s 312.5 miles and that’s what I’m aiming for now. It’s still a tall order given everything I need to do before the end of the month but I’ll try to get as close as I can. Promise. 

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2 thoughts on “Enjoying the Asturian sunshine

  1. Looks like you’re already at the pottering stage – at least in the garden. Our globe artichokes are very productive and they start up so early in the year, too. They should go wild over there. I’ve stopped cutting ours back in the autumn, they don’t want to go dormant. I’ll be watching the progress of your asparagus. Two seasons on, my six plants don’t look so different from yours – it’s a waiting game. I’m going to sow some more this spring. The thought of them providing asparagus spears for 25 years is very attractive!

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  2. Your globe artichokes are amazing, it’s the photos of them that inspired me to throw that seed in this year. We’ve only ever grown them in a polytunnel before but they are so greedy for space, it’s good to get them outside. I do have high hopes for the asparagus now it’s found its spiritual home . . . 🙂

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