Storms, seeds and sock problems

Backtrack to before my last post and there I was waxing lyrical about the whisper of spring. In my defence, I didn’t imagine it.

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However, even as I wrote there was a very definite roar of winter waiting in the wings in the shape of a huge Atlantic storm that went on to batter the region relentlessly for several days. Torrential rain, thunder, hailstorms and horrendous winds – we had the lot, and then some. It closed the airport and I’m not surprised given how strong the gusts of wind were. It blew this metal garden seat over, which might not seem too dramatic until you consider that it is far too heavy for me to lift on my own (actually, it’s still pretty heavy between two).

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In terms of damage, though, we were comparatively lucky; I was very sad to see a large polytunnel in the village below in tatters and a row of previously magnificent banana ‘trees’ reduced to miserable looking trunks, their leaves completely shredded. The main casualty here was that little lemon tree we had recently planted, it just seemed to bear the brunt of the wind and ended up looking a very sad case. We have lifted it and re-potted, kept it sheltered and given it plenty of TLC; it’s young and strong and should recover, but I think we will be waiting a bit longer for our lemons now. 😦

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In the veg patch, everything looked pretty battered. The brassicas were turned inside out but miraculously all had stayed in the ground and the broccoli continues to crop well despite everything.

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The broad beans were flattened but still flowering as they had promised to do and they have started to pick themselves up in the better weather.

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We have had to be patient where planting parsnips and potatoes is concerned as the ground has been saturated and too sticky to work but with drier weather and temperatures climbing to the high teens now that has proved to be a temporary hiccup.

Safe and snug in the warmth of the kitchen and propagator, seedlings have started to appear.

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These pompom dahlias germinated in three days!

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The first aubergines appear.

When we moved to France, we were left with an enormous wardrobe in the bedroom which was too big to go through the door and had to be taken out piece by piece; we recycled it into all sorts of things, including staging for the polytunnel. Arriving here, there was a definite sense of dΓ©ja vu – an enormous wardrobe which was too big to go through the door and had to be taken out piece by piece. (If you’re wondering why it had to go, the photo makes it look in far better condition than it really was . . . plus it took up half the room and we would never fill something that size with clothes in a million years.)

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Roger has already turned quite a bit of it into Man Shed shelving and this week he has been busy using some more to make a cold frame. The decor is a bit gothic, partly because we had a bit of ancient black gloss that needed using but also because for now we really want as much warmth in there as possible.

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Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to fill it with trays of seeds. I’ve planted three kinds of onions – ‘Bedfordshire Champion’, ‘Ailsa Craig’ and the red variety ‘Grenada’ as well as ‘Bonilla’ shallots; on the leek front, lots of ‘Musselburgh’ and a sprinkling of ‘Blue Solaise.’ Some of the seed was quite old so I’ve gone overboard and planted masses . . . which means we could end up with trillions of plants. Ah, well.

One of the highlights of my week was having a long conversation with Jairo about gardening, and more specifically about the virtues of well-rotted manure. Now I realise this might not sound too thrilling but for me it was quite a milestone as conversation is the key word: not only did I understand everything Jairo said but instead of doing my usual inarticulate ignoramus rabbit-in-the-headlights thing I actually managed to reply – not perfectly, obviously, but fairly coherently at least. It felt so good! I also learned some useful stuff. The locals see manure as the very best way to feed the land; well, I’m definitely with them on that score.

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Piles of muck on a field in the village.

They chit seed potatoes then cut them into three to get more for their money. The Spanish word for manure is estiΓ©rcol but in Asturian it is cucho; I like that – it’s easier to say and remember and there is something about the idea of ‘mucho cucho’ that appeals to my warped sense of humour. Jairo has a cowshed up the lane with a plentiful supply of muck and he has kindly promised us a load when our current pile runs out. Gracias!

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Where there’s muck, there’s food . . .

There is something very special about planting seeds in the ground that never fails to thrill me. Take the ‘Hollow Crown’ parsnip seeds I have planted this week: little insignificant paper-thin discs that will spend the summer (hopefully) converting the sun’s energy into a nutritious, delicious staple vegetable to see us through the winter. Isn’t that a wonderful thing?

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I think the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is one of the very best ideas of our time, not least as a shining example of international co-operation. https://www.croptrust.org/our-work/svalbard-global-seed-vault/ Some people refer to it as the ‘Domesday Vault’ but I see it differently: what can be more positive and optimistic than planting a seed as our ancestors have done for ten thousand yearsΒ  – and where would we be if we didn’t?

Having cut the grass (which has never actually stopped growing over winter), Roger has made a start in cutting paths in our orchard area.

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This is an area we want to develop and use more this year, especially as it catches the afternoon and evening sun but also offers shade under the walnut trees in the heat of summer. The problem is at the moment we literally have to ski down the bank.

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There were paths originally but only faint traces remain, so Roger is putting them back and digging in stone steps as he goes – back in Obelix mode for a while!

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No problem keeping our vitamin levels up this week, having juiced a huge bag of oranges we were given (the citrus trees are currently dripping with fruit everywhere) . . .

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. . . and enjoyed several colourful salads out of the garden, amazingly crisp and flavoursome given the time of year.

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Roger has been tackling the mountain of walnuts in the horreo and baking them in delicious bread.

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Walnut bread, garden salad, homemade mayo (made from a village egg), local cheese and chorizo: the perfect gardener’s lunch . . .

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. . .with homegrown pud to follow!

Stuck indoors in the storms, I at least had an excuse to do a bit more knitting than of late. Having finished the Big Foot socks I turned my attention to the next project using the ‘Happy Blues’ yarn. Change of plan from my idea of wavy socks: that pattern really needs a very fine yarn and this had spun up a bit thicker than I’d wanted (recent weeks of spinning chunky and double knitting weight have thrown my super fine spinning into chaos!). No problem – that’s what my home spinning is all about and it gave me the excuse now to honour a promise and have a go at knitting some socks for Ben. He loves brightly coloured socks and I’ve been waiting for his feet to grow to a size where knitting him some socks in the round is possible.

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From big socks to small socks . . .

Knitting a small circumference on four double-pointed needles is fiddly as the working space is tight and the needles bristle and stab like porcupine quills. I have ordered a 2.25mm circular needle which should make this easier and even allow me to make smaller socks for William and Annie, but for now the porcupine method must suffice.

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Sock knitting is easy maths: cast on a number of stitches which is a multiple of four and knit a shaped tube, using half the stitches for the heel. I wouldn’t normally bother with a pattern but given these were smaller than I’ve ever knitted in a thicker yarn than usual and I needed to work a ‘short row’ heel (not my usual method) I decided a pattern might be sensible. Bad decision. The pattern I chose was free (so maybe I can’t grumble too much) but it was produced by a leading brand-name in the knitting world (so perhaps I can). To cut a long and very frustrating story short, it was a complete disaster and I just could not make the pattern work no matter how many times I tried. On 36 stitches, I didn’t ‘get’ using 17 stitches for the heel instead of 18, that just seemed to throw the whole thing out of kilter. Logic told me joining heel to foot would leave holes and it did. Big ones. Whoever heard of having to darn a sock before it’s even been worn? None of it made sense and having spent far too much time reading and re-reading the pattern, undoing and re-doing the knitting I gave up, undid the lot, found a piece of scrap paper and wrote my own pattern. I made the mistake of going back to the original pattern for the toe shaping: on reflection, I would have made the toes shorter and blunter, these look a bit like pixie feet to me but maybe they’ll be different on.

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Anyway, they should at least make for cosy toes, great for padding about the house as slipper socks or splashing in puddles inside wellies. The upside of course is I’ve been wanting to write my own sock pattern for a while so maybe that company I’ve been cursing soundly did me a big favour, after all. I now have a pattern which works and can be adapted for smaller feet – though possibly not small enough for this six-footed admirer! Β πŸ™‚

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4 thoughts on “Storms, seeds and sock problems

  1. Sounds like you got some of our weather! Glad damage was minimal, poor lemon though. The salad with walnut bread and freshly squeezed orange juice looks absolutely delicious! I’m also growing Bleu Solaise leek this year, plus Musselburgh and an early yellow one. Nice re-engineered wardrobe. We also try to find new uses for everything, it seems such a waste otherwise.

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  2. Yes, we don’t like to waste anything, although it;s a bit of a pain when it’s other people’s junk we’ve been left to deal with! The walnut bread is delicious, makes lovely toast, too. I just don’t think you can have too many, leeks, they are such a great veg. How early is early with the yellow ones?

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    • October, though in Asturias probably September. It’s the ‘Jaune de Poitou’ Yellow Leek from Real Seeds. I’ve already run out of leeks now so this year I’m not leaving it to chance! By colour coding the leeks, it should be easy to see which variety needs to be harvested first.

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  3. Colour-coded leeks – I like that! Running out of them is not good, they are such a reliable winter veg. We’ve still got a reasonable amount left but with a forthcoming UK visit we need to eat them as they won’t be up to much by the time we get back. Leeks with everything for the next 10 days . . . that’ll be tough, then! πŸ™‚

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