February 2008

Mother & child

[By George P. Hatsatouris]

This weekend is Mothering Sunday – so called because, back in the 16th century, on the fourth sunday of lent, people returned to their “mother church”, often the local cathedral, for a special service there. In more recent years servants and the like were given this sunday off to go to visit their mothers and other family members, so with both word associations to do with mothers, its unsurprising that it became, in modern times, “Mothering Sunday”.

However, I’d like to pay tribute here to the mothers in my family: my own mother, and my grandmothers, (and by extension other mothers – aunts and others). Being a mother, i understand, is a rewarding job, but a hard and often thankless one (particularly from bratty teenagers).. full of pain, full of love, full of sorrow, full of joy. My own relationship with mom has seen ups and downs, there are times when we’ve both deeply hurt each other. But for all that, she is my mom – someone i know will be there when i need her, no matter what, she may not like me terribly much but i know she’ll always love me. She’s a caring woman, in personality, very selfless. She loves to explore beauty: whether singing, art, reading, or the natural beauty in the world around her. She’s innocent, in a wonderful way: thinking first of people’s better natures rather than instinctively leaping to bad conclusions. She’s definetly a cup half full person.

My maternal grandmother is in many ways quite different. Mom takes after her father much more, i think. Grannie is a teacher – not just by profession (at least till she retired), i mean, she’s one of life’s natural teachers. it was she who taught me to paint, to flower arrange. My love for gardening comes from both her and my grandfather – in fact, many of her attitudes towards life shape how i choose to live my life now, not because she lectured.. “you must do this!”, but because they both led by example, and as a mature adult i’ve come to appreicate the attitudes they had, which in many ways were both desperately oldfashioned and ahead of their time (Grandpa was a new man before the term was ever bandied about, for example). I’ve always been very close to Grannie – we write each other a lot – and if i could have one wish in this life, it would be that we lived closer to her, so i could see her in person more.

Nannie (my paternal grandmother) on the other hand is a very very different woman. She’s not someone i know very well: we struggle to communicate, sadly, because of my deafness. She’s an intensely private person, who has worked hard all her life, made many sacrifices for the sake of her children, and who has a large and loving family around her. She’s very much a matriarch – and i don’t mean that in the sense of a soap bossy matriarch. I mean it in the sense of being head of the family, respected and loved by them all. She’s sadly not very well these days, i just hope she manages to pull through the problems that are besetting her now.

All three women have been present through my life, shaping my life in ways both spoken and unspoken, teaching, if not directly, through example, about what it means to be a woman, what it means to be a mother. And i hope, one day, when its my turn to be a mother, that i live up to their example. I could really do no less.

I found this little story on the net and it touched me deeply, and i wanted to share, but before i do..

Happy Mothering Sunday, Mom, Grannie, Nannie. I love you. xx

A Mother’s Tears


apart from ordering the compost (which i have yet to do) the other big job is making beds out of the dugover area in the side garden. I started to do this yesterday – making 2 foot wide beds (with the intention of doing square foot gardening) leading up from the path around the house to the path by the fence. In the long run i hope to get some kind of edging around the beds and sow grass seed over the paths to make better paths, but.. bit at a time.

Compost will be ordered soon. Michiel has to go to the Netherlands this weekend, his family needs him there, so my focus the last few days has been on that. he’s due back on Monday 3rd March so hopefully after that i can order my compost and get working on the beds. I’ve got to really. I bought 140 bulbs yesterday in Aldi – 60 mixed dutch iris, 40 mixed Gladioli, and 40 triteleia – Queen Fabiolia, and 30 seed spuds from Wilkinsons today: 10 Anya, 10 Nicola, and 10 Pink Fir Apple, so i really do need to get all these in the ground fairly soon (although the spuds have to be chitted first, of course).  the other thing i need to work on is some kind of edging for bed 4 (the one under the trees). cheap as possible, while doing the job, which is going to take some ingenuity.. Given that the weather is going to be quite horrid this weekend, i shall probably concentrate on housework, while Michiel is away, and if i get time, i may get the sewing machine out too. We’ll see. 😀

spring is on the way. the signs are all around for those that know how to read them, here in the U.K., at least. I’ve started to take my camera with me on walks once again, as i did this morning, and made some lovely snaps.

I can’t take the credit for this (only for the photo!), Pieris Flame, or lily of the valley. Its actually a neighbour’s plant, but one i have admired in the years we’ve been living here, in spring proper, the new leaf growth is bright flame red, and the small bell flowers are beautifully white – almost like snow resting on the green of the plant. it cheers me up no end to see the bright red colour of the new leaves. That’s a while off yet, but you can see the new flowers starting to come out here. I’m most proud of this photo, i think its truly beautiful.

With my photos now being stored on flickr, only the better snaps will be posted here, if you want to see more, then by all means, feel free to look at flickr (there’s a link on the right to my flickr account).

a larger view of pieris flame.
Jess absolutely adores this plant. I have no idea why, or even what it is, or what’s buried beneath it, but every time we walk by, she wants to go sniff and investigate under it. its always surrounded by leaves, maybe there’s a hedgehog in there or something. Anyway. The small yellow budlike flowers have recently burst forth which cheers the soul.
A classic image of spring!!
not the best photo ever but you can see the new growth on the branches… yup. spring is definetly on the way!

no, not another one.. in reading the various news reports (this page has a number of photos, rather a good report) this morning, I’ve noticed several rather funny comments… The “did the earth move for you” headline was WAY overused, and someone even commented “my ten year old slept through it – which makes me feel a bit better about her overhearing (or not) middle of the night nookies..”.

Those apart, these struck me: first of all, did you know that Market Rasen, the epicentre of the earthquake, in Lincolnshire, is “near” Manchester? it is according to the London Free Press in Canada. “The quake’s epicentre was 205 kilometres north of London near Manchester and it struck just before 1 a.m. local time”. um. Ohhhkayyy.

More amusing than erroneous press reports (and the proliferation of local press reports with the head line of “earthquake hits <insert local town>” – no, the earthquake was in Market Rasen, you idiot, it was just FELT in <insert local town>, as it was in many other parts of England!) were the comments that some people made. ThisisScunthorpe, a town to the north of Market Rasen (and where a close friend happens to live – and i haven’t spoken to her yet, i’m willing to bet she slept through it) had a few funny comments: hi, from somewhere, wrote “i fell down the stairs and my girlfriend landed on me“. um. you’re not quite doing that one right mate.. shocked from scunthorpe wrote, in a variation of the earth moved overused gag: “my bed was rocking even more than usual last night 😉 lol“, and Kay, also from Scunthorpe wrote “I remembered my geography teacher from school telling me earthquakes in England weren’t unheared of, so I suppose I knew what’d happened tho strange thing to think about!! Bless my boyfriend tho, who clung onto me for dear life while muttering ‘don’t worry, it’s juust the wind’!!“, which gives lovely imagery.

Over on other sites there’s the inevitable comparisons of the “in MAHH dayyy” type.. in Buckinghamshire, since they don’t have an earthquake to compare with, they settled for comparing it with the Bunsfield explosion. “I never heard or felt a thing.
Now when Bunsfield went up my WHOLE house shook but last night’s quake never even woke me.
” Yes, dear, that’s cos Bunsfield was a) a lot closer b) a different type of explosion. I think something that causes ground vibrations over hundreds of miles is more impressive than a big boom, personally.

There were the inevitable naughty/saucy comments: ThisisDorset had some lag make a rather naughty comment: “My old pal was in a Northampton lap dancing club he said the 5′ 9″ blond on his lap never moved that much before.The Earth done a wobble. ” No shit, sugar… to the even naughtier: “My partner Paul and I were lay in bed after some rather delightful sex and suddenly we felt the house shake from side to side. We laughed today because we thought that our earth shattering sex has now made it to the news lol” which may be just too much information, dear..
Different things are being blamed for the shaking – Someone in London reported: “At about 1 a.m. this morning I was suddenly attacked by my wife. This is unusual, because my wife does not normally attack me at any time, and certainly not when I am asleep in bed. Anyway, I awoke to find her punching me forcibly in the ribs and shouting “The house is falling down, the house is falling down…!” With that she ran downstairs, only to re-awaken me a few minutes later exclaiming, “It’s alright the house isn’t falling down after all, it must have just been Brucey (our Pyrenean Mountain Dog) trying to get into the fridge again.” I fell back to sleep, remembering fondly the far off days when I was single, didn’t get woken violently in the middle of the night, and didn’t have a Pyrenean Mountain Dog which has to be taken for long walks all the time.” Have to say, first time i’ve heard a dog, even a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, being blamed for a ‘quake.. Someone else thought it was a ghost (and should have her caplock key taken away from her – i’ve retyped (including spelling errors) to spare my readers the caps): “Woke up suddenly and felt my bed shaking slightly and items on the tops of my wardrobe (Suitcaes) were moving, i thought i had a ghost in the house.I checked my 3 children who were all fast asleep and checked the rest of the house,everything was fine but it was weird didn’t really know if i was dreaming or it was a ghost, found out at 8.15 it was an earthquake“.

Still on the “its not an earthquake, its..” issue: Another person said he thought it was his wife snoring (and unfortunately i closed the window and can’t find the site again for a link) – i bet he’s popular with his wife this morning, he gave his full name, and a reverend too! (and he’s not alone, i just found someone else who blamed his partner’s snoring: “I was woken by a loud rumble to find both my bed and bookshelf rattling. Thought it may have been Jt snoring!!!“) Another person thought there was someone hiding underneath the bed, jumped out and yelled at the non-existent person to come out of the bed. I bet she was relieved to find it was only an earthquake. John Meers had a similar reaction: “I was woken by a “crashing noise”. I was convinced that somebody had broken into the house and had tripped over in the dark. I searched the house to see if this had happened, found nothing. Had no idea it was an earthqwake until morning news.

Some people will seize on anything to drive their pet project home, from the distasteful immigrant-hating: “I blame the immigrants. Its obvious their bone structures are heavier than our indeginous bones, thus weighing down our country`s earth plates ,resulting in the inevitable consequences we witnessed this morning, I`ve been warning about this for quite some time!! Mark my words they will cause a volcano next!!” to Global Warming: “(quote by someone else)’global warming has NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER on earthquakes. go back to middle school and learn about plate tectonics.’ WRONG! Or, to be more precise, still being evaluated. Scientists are wondering more and more about if the ocean effects tectonic plates as the pressures involved are tremendous. Global warming is having a significant effect on sea levels. Ice removal may also have a direct effect.” and the rather cynical “Lets see the government try and blame global warming for this one!

So there you have it. Earthquakes are caused by global warming, immigrants, fridge-raiding dogs, vigorous sex, snoring partners, and burglars. And Lincolnshire is near Manchester. that one still makes me laugh..

was sitting watching the box and knitting tonight when the sofa started shaking. I initially thought Michiel was shaking the back of the sofa to get my attention, or jess was scratching. I looked around. she wasn’t even on the sofa. I looked at Michiel. he shook his head to say.. “‘snot me!”. “earthquake?” i said. “something”, he said.

We waited 10 minutes. the news began to report it – BBC news website first, then BBC news 24. Only 4.7 on the Richter scale, milder than the one in 2002 (which was 5.0, and i do remember that one too) but it seemed to go on for longer – the one in 2002 i remember thinking that the dog was leaning against the foot of the bed and scratching with that one too.

So it gets me thinking. Who do i get to play in the filmGenevive Bujold, or Victoria Principal? maybe not. not with that afro, anyway.  (no, not Ava Gardener.. please.. I’m not that old!) …Genevive Bujold it is. at least i have the hair right. even if i do have to loose some weight…

my seeds are growing up!! I peeked at them this morning and to my amazement both tomatillo seedlings, the golden sunrise tomatoes, one of the cauliflower, one of the alliums and one of the sugar snaps peas were starting to peek through the surface..

you can just about see the seedlings coming up through the surface.. maybe there’ll be more tomorrow?
One solitary pea seedling coming through.. the first of many, i hope!

Its been a day of concentrating on the garden. On the advice of the lovely people at GYO i heeled in the raspberries (because bed 3 is a) not ready and b) the raspberries are not ready yet to be properly planted out because of the risk of frost, so it was recommended that i heel them in, which i did. I just hope they’ll be okay. I had put them in the coolest place in the flat for a week, the closet of doom, it was dark in there and of course they tried to grow towards the light.. which is why they look a bit spindly at the moment. I just hope its not too much of a shock for them. I did find lots of lovely worms under the soil which is a good sign!

the heeled in raspberry canes – 8 glen ample on the right, 4 malling leo on the left

I also dug up the celeriacs (well, pulled them up) and i didn’t get much from them, the root ball hadn’t really bulked out and i think this was because i didn’t strip off the outer leaves, next year i know better. We had them for tea tonight, as part of a mash, with lincolnshire sausage, boiled whole onions, peas and a white sauce (which is just about my favorite comfort food going).

Herb pots made from large yoghurt pots

Today also saw me sowing some herb seeds & making some nice pots. I’ve got some huge yoghurt pots from lidl, 1 kg pots, which once the yoghurt has been eaten got cleaned out and i knocked holes in the bottom, then painted them with 2 coats of blackboard paint. Once dry, they were filled with compost, seeds sowed and the pots labelled with the herb they have within them. I think they look really good and i’ll be doing more of them, although they’re really only big enough for windowsill herbs. I’m looking forward to having a whole windowsill of herbs. I sowed sweet basil, mint, flat leaf parsley, leaf coriander, and garlic chives today, but i’ve others to grow too – not least the list of basils.. someone shared a lovely photo of tomatoes, basil and marigolds in their greenhouse over on a GYO thread on basil growing today, and i would love to have a greenhouse like this.. marigolds, basil and tomato of course is one of the classics of companion planting – something else i hope to reproduce! [and yes, the more eagle eyed amongst you will note i got the date wrong on the pots.. i thought it was the 24th today! oops!]

Some more photos to share:

herb pots in situ. They’re covered with clingfilm to help trap heat/moisture and encourage the seeds to germinate.
In the garden signs of spring are coming along: my garlic has germinated, and its so hard to get a decent pic of a clove pushing through with my camera, the thing keeps going out of focus!!
spring flowering bulbs coming through – don’t ask me what’s what, i can’t remember what i planted where!
I like this photo – the rose leaves growing against the brickwork. This is a rose bush i inherited – left by the previous owner of the flat, its been pruned a few times by mum, and i’ve mulched it in the hope of encouraging new growth. It was in a very sorry state when i got it, it had been quite neglected, which is a shame as it produces lovely white-pink blooms every year.

I’ve finally worked out the sowing schedule (unless i buy anything else. which i’m not planning to. apart from seed spuds). Its taken longer than i thought as i’ve been waiting on some other packets of seeds to arrive from various sources, but i’ve finally got my list, and made a start on it.

sugar snap peas and pea ‘douce provence’ nestling in toilet roll tubes. When they’re ready to go out then the whole thing can be planted straight into the ground – the cardboard rots and provides nutrients to the soil, and it prevents root disturbance which peas hate.

On Thursday evening i sowed a variety of tomato seeds (2 each of: moneymaker, costoluto fiorentino, gardener’s delight, golden sunrise, red pear, san marzano and tigerella), 2 tomatillo seeds, 2 each of capsicum ‘sweet rainbow mixed’ and ‘sweet colour spectrum’, 10 sugar snap pea seeds, 10 pea ‘douce provence’ seeds, 10 nigella ‘persian jewels’, 10 more regular blue nigella, 10 allium christophii and 5 cauliflower ‘snowball’.

yes that is my hand in the way, and yes, the seed markers do look a bit like tombstones.. 

I’m trying a new method of planting this year, which is shown below: planting in small seed trays that fit into a gravel tray – the seed trays have holes, for drainage, the gravel tray doesn’t, so it doesn’t get waterlogged or drip all over my windowsills (which they did last year!) and the propagator lid fits nicely ontop.

seedtrays inside gravel trays with propagator lid ontop. Works for me!

the first of these seeds should show up around 28th, the rest over the next few weeks. be nice to see some greenery 🙂

In terms of the sowing schedule, it reads kinda like this: (and you’ll notice that some seeds are repeated for several months)

January:  tomato, garlic, parsley, sweetpea, allium christophii

February: Peppers, tomato, tomatillo, cauliflower, garlic, shallots (sets), parsley, basil, nigella, aquilegia, sweetpea, allium christophii, broad beans lemon balm and lupin.

March: Lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, spinach beet, courgette, aubergine, peppers, tomato, tomatillo, butternut squash, sweetcorn, peas, radishes, celeriac, carrots, kale, cauliflower, shallots, leek, onion seed, spring onion seed, sage, thyme, chives, parsley, basil, nigella, ipomea, cornflower, aquilegia, sweetpea, allium christophii, sunflower, night-scented stock, marjoram, lovage, feverfew, sorrel, lemon balm, mustard greens, celery leaf, rosemary, comfrey, mint, broad beans and lupin.

April: rocket, corn salad, lettuce, swiss chard, chard, spinach, spinach beet, courgette, aubergine, pepper, chilli pepper, tomato, tomatillo, cucumber, squash, sweetcorn, peas, beans, beetroot, radishes, celeriac, carrots, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, onion and spring onion seeds, sage, oregano, chives, basil, borage, nigella, melon, ipomea, cornflower, aquilegia, sweetpea, sunflower, nightscented stock, cottage garden annuals (a mix i have), tarragon, marjoram, dill, lovage, feverfew, sorrel, lemon balm, mustard greens, celery leaf, rosemary, comfrey, mint, broad beans, pak choi, lupin and foxglove.

May: rocket, corn salad, lettuce, swiss chard, chard, spinach, spinach beet, courgette, cucumber, squash, sweetcorn, peas, beans, beetroot, radishes, carrots, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, onion and spring onion seeds, sage, fennel, chives, borage, melon, nigella, cornflower, aquilegia, sweetpea, sunflower, nightscented stock and the cottage garden annuals again, tarragon, marjoram, lovage, feverfew, sorrel, mustard greens, celery leaf, rosemary, comfrey, chervil, mint, pak choi, broad beans, lupin and foxglove.

June: rocket, corn salad, lettuce, swiss chard, chard, spinach, spinach beet, peas, beans, beetroot, radishes, carrots, kale, spring onion seed, chives, borage, aquilegia, night scented stock, cottage garden annuals again, lovage, mustard greens, celery leaf, comfrey, chervil, mint, pak choi, lupin and foxglove.

July: rocket, corn salad, lettuce, swiss chard, chard, spinach, beans, radishes, carrots, kale, spring onion seed, borage, mustard greens, chervil, pak choi, lupin and foxglove.

August: rocket, corn salad, lettuce, swiss chard, radishes, foxglove, mustard greens, chervil, and pak choi.

September: corn salad, poppy

October: corn salad, poppy, broad beans

November: parsley, broad beans.

December: garlic, parsley

the more eagle eyed amongst you will note that peas aren’t due to be sown till april and that some things on the list for february haven’t been sown. yet. Peas: the folks over at GYO reckon  you can start peas now indoors, so.. i’m going for it!

Obviously i’ve a lot to sow yet, and some of it is going to be staggered/successional sowing.. but its all fun!! Oh, and i need to update my varieties list at some point i suppose..

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