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Showing posts from March, 2012

Do Look Ethel! *

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People who know me well will be surprised to find me sporting a pair of gardening gloves because they know I love feeling the soil with my fingers when I'm working in the garden. Besides, having extra large hands for a laydeee, means my previous encounters with gloves have been far from satisfactory.

So, when Dominic at Quality Garden Tools offered me a pair of his beloved Ethel gloves to review a few weeks ago, I told him straight away that I was very happy to, but he'd be facing quite a challenge in converting me to his cause.
Well, Dominic can breathe a sigh of relief, because I'm totally smitten with them. I liked the simple measuring gauge he used to make sure the right pair was selected for me. I love their snug fit, so that I can still feel what's going on in the soil, plus the longer cuff so my wrists are also protected. The tougher material on the palm and fingers meant I could get to grips with pruning roses at home, and the always painful job of cutting back…

So What Exactly is Salad?

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Gilly's post last week reminded me I've been pondering the question so what exactly is salad? since the start of this Challenge. Carl asked a similar question at the beginning of the year, so the definition I came up with in reply and for our purposes is...

...it's salad leaves, sprouted seeds, edible flowers and anything you can forage to add to the bowl. There are also other seasonal 'supplements' you may have available to add: e.g. beetroot and other root vegetables during the winter; or cucumber, peppers and tomatoes in the summer for instance.
So far that definition has served us well. However, Gilly's got me thinking about it again. In her post she said:
I don’t want to eat a lot of salad over winter, I prefer warm vegetables and veggie-packed soups.

There's nothing wrong with that of course, and it got me musing about warm salads in her Comments:
...I’ve been pondering salads vs. winter – we need some recipes for warm salads methinks (when I’ve got …

VP's Guide to the Yellow Book

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Today sees the swanky launch of the Yellow Book for 2012 in London. It's their 85th year of raising pots of money for good causes, so now's a good time for us to have a quick peep 'over the fence' into the blogger gardens opening for the NGS this year :)

First up is Dawn of Little Green Fingers, who is a NGS first timer this year. Her Yellow Book entry says:
Set in 1/3 acre, this space has been designed to show that a practical family garden can still be beautiful. There is a large lawn with a sunken trampoline surrounded by mixed borders, ornamental vegetable garden, children’s play area and greenhouse
Dawn's garden in Hail Weston, Cambridgeshire is open from 10-5 on 9th June. My thanks to Dawn for sending me the photo of her garden :)
Next is my dear friend Karen, whose NGS entry title matches her blog: An Artist's Garden.
Her entry reads:
An Artist's Garden is a 140ft garden with slate paths leading to ponds, vegetable plots, cutting borders. The late summer…

You Could Be in Chippenham!

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Chippenham's making the mainstream media lately. A few weeks ago, it was featured in The Guardian's regular Lets Move To... slot* and now, this week Justin Webb mentions it prominently in his Radio Head column in the Radio Times.

He's talking about how the power of the internet is enabling people to keep in touch with their roots: in this case keeping up with the live commentary from the rugby game in Bath, the team he supports. He says:
When I grew up in Bath, BBC Radio Bristol was a fine station if you were no further away than say, Chippenham. But, my lovers, as we say in the west, Chippenham feels like a dream to me now.
My son and I - nearly 80 miles east of Chippenham - fiddled around a bit with the local radio websites and suddenly - as clear as if we were sitting in the Roman Baths - we were by the pitch.
So if you find yourself on a desert island like the couple in the cartoon, fear not. Just fiddle around with that laptop you magically have to hand and like me, you…

Salad Days: First Salad

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Well, it's March and we're nearly a quarter of the way through our 52 Week Salad Challenge! I've seen quite a noticeable shift in the growing season the last couple of weeks. Fresh new leaves like sorrel (reported by @I_Like_Cake) and foraged ransoms (@ediblethings) are coming into production. They're taking our tastebuds away from winter fare and into the tangy new flavours of spring/summer.
There's a marked change in growth too. The peas shoots I sowed at the beginning of the month are now just two weeks behind the ones I sowed a month earlier. And at last I've managed to provide a complete salad for NAH and me, so the 19th March now marks the earliest date ever I've managed to do that.
The picture shows our salad of pea shoots, beansprouts and leek microgreens. @simiansuter was right: the leeks are very strongly flavoured (in short bursts owing to their size) and were a fine contrast to the sweetness of the peas and the earthy beansprouts. Now my next cha…

Wordless Wednesday: Don't Fence Me In

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Work, work, work...

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It's good to enjoy the simple pleasures in life: one of them for me recently has been the pictured Forgotten English calendar I found in the January sales. It has all kinds of discoveries lying in wait for fans of the quirky and strange.
Last Monday's entry was more thought provoking than usual as it highlighted all kinds of strange occupations found in the early days of the census. As well as showing us a snapshot of occupations long gone, it seems being a little subversive when we can has deeper roots too. Perhaps declaring Jedi Knight as your religion on the census return isn't quite so original after all.

It got me musing on how we spend most of our lives letting work define us. Often one of the early questions when meeting someone for the first time is so what do you do? The idea being to seek out the common ground with the people we're talking to. How much more refreshing (and enjoyable) it would be to be asked so what do you like to do?
When NAH and I first met we …

Sprouted Seeds Fact Sheet

It's a relatively short post from me today as I'm away most of this week.
I'm planning quite a few downloadable fact sheets to supplement my weekly posts about salad. Here's my first on Sprouted Seeds - all squeezed into one page. You can use the zoom in button and sliders in the embedded page above to have a good look at the fact sheet to decide whether clicking on the link to download is for you.
You may also like the following posts: Let's Eat Shoots and Leaves! - a guide to sprouting seedsSeparated at Birth? Sprouted Seeds - comparing light vs dark sproutingThere's also a Page dedicated to The 52 Week Salad Challenge, showing the story thus far, with lots of extras and showing how you can be involved. It's never too late to join in!
NB The next Salad Days when we share our posts on how we're all getting on is Friday, 23rd March. The link takes you to the ones we've had so far :)

GBBD: The Guerrilla Garden

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I often talk about the public land by our house here on Veg Plotting, but I haven't shown you that much of it. Previously you've seen the hawthorn and blackthorn *, plus the snowdrops which I planted on the wooded slope next to our house and along the drive leading up to it.

The flowers are part of my guerrilla gardening activities and because the land right by us is woodland cum hedgerow, my planting is simple and mainly of spring flowers. The picture shows part of the footpath leading down to the path running next to our house and the local brook. I've used daffodils and Muscari, the latter reviled by many for their tendency to spread, but planted by me for their resilience. The dreadful ground left by the builders is keeping them in check.
I'm rather pleased by the way the Pulmonaria is spreading itself down the path. These were originally tiny pieces given to me by my friend Lu which I planted a couple of springs ago. As seems to be happening so often these days th…

Wordless Wednesday: Our Bathroom Smells of Pea

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How Advertising Works in Chippenham #31

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Operate your typical edge of town supermarket kinda storeDecide something quite different is neededTell your customers something's happeningWait for a blogger with a camera to notice the sign says in tiny letters at the bottom left: Image for illustrative purposes onlyEt voila! Since when has an image not been used for illustrative purposes? ;)
However, since I took this picture on 28th January all has been revealed. Last week the store had a massive revamp and there is indeed a wondrous new array of vegetables, fruit etc. on offer. It's going to take time to work through all the things I've not heard of :)
It turns out Chippenham's Morrison's is one of six stores chosen to pilot the supermarket group's brand new strategy. The link takes you to this week's article in the local paper which tells you more. If this is a success, it'll be coming your way too. Such power in the hands of Chippenham's people! ;)

Salads for March

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March is the exciting month when at last lots of possibilities present themselves in terms of seed sowing and summer harvests start their transformation from dreams into reality.
It's also time to experiment a little, so I was pleased to find the pictured lettuce seed mats in a local shop this week. I'll write about these more fully in a later post.
Here in the south west of England I've sown lots of other leaves this week. If you live further north you may have to wait until later this month - see my What's the Weather for Salad? post on how you can work out the best dates for salad growing where you are. Do also bear in mind how fickle a month March can be and the rate in which your particular soil takes to heat up and adjust your sowings (or protection) as necessary.
So far I've sown (mostly indoors and in modules, so the windowsills are getting a bit crowded!): Lettuce 'Little Gem' - fast growing and produces sweet, smallish leaves. One of my favouritesMang…

Get In!

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NAH and I have been watching the GB swimming Olympic Trials with great excitement this week.

NAH because his ex-training team mate Stephanie Millward has secured her place on the paralympic team and me because I'm loosely involved with the hopes and dreams of Michael Jamieson, pictured on the left.
Since December I've been looking after Smiths News' Community Week blog, which brings news of all the company's fundraising efforts for various charities.
They're also supporting Michael's efforts to reach and compete in London 2012. He's the son of one of the staff working at the head office in Swindon and he trains at nearby Bath University.
Both NAH and I have trained at this pool and can vouch for the superb facilities there. It's also very close to where Threadspider and I go to the fab talks put together by Bath University Gardening Club.
After our disappointment in not getting the tickets we'd hoped for the Games (to the swimming of course!), it&#…

Wordless Wednesday: OOTS in Bristol

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Go here to see who else is wordless this week :)

I've Got the Commenting Blues

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Readers and writers of Blogger blogs can't have failed to have noticed there's a new Word Verification (WV) kid on the block.
A few weeks ago, Blogger opted to use the captcha method: i.e. the one we were grateful we didn't have when reading blogs on other blogging platforms.
I believe it's because quite a lot more spam has been getting though lately and Blogger are trying to make it more difficult for the bots. Trouble is, it's a hell of a lot more difficult for humans too :(
As a result I've been tinkering with the way comments work on Veg Plotting. The WV so many of you hated has gone. So far this hasn't increased the amount of automated spam arriving in my comments. *crosses fingers*
Instead there's been a phenomenal increase in the amount of spam trapped by Blogger's spam filter. I also started getting around 10-30 spam comments per day in my inbox, as I'd opted for forwarding comments to my email.
So last week I switched off that option. Result…

VP's VIPs: Charles Dowding

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You can imagine how thrilled I was to see a the above tweet and top tip from no-dig and vegetable growing guru Charles Dowding in my timeline :) I was even more thrilled to visit him at Lower Farm last month and see where he produces salads leaves for sale year-round and also teaches his day courses.
Charles was just finishing off a couple of things when I arrived, so I took the opportunity to have a good look around (with his very friendly cat, Catmint as my guide) and take some photos in the late afternoon sunshine. It was the first day this year when the promise of spring could at last be felt in the air.

I then joined Charles who still busily working away. At first we enthused about our favourite apple varieties (with many in common) and the recent news that soil could be beneficial to health before settling down comfortably for a walk around the farm and for a more detailed look at the subject of salads.
How long have you been growing here and how much space do you have?

I've b…

GBMD: A Subversive Plot

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Discovering I might be growing subversive salad last week, reminded me I've been wanting to share this marvellous 2011 TED lecture by Roger Doiron of Kitchen Gardeners International for some time. It's just over 18 minutes long so grab yourself a coffee, settle down and enjoy. Roger puts across his thought provoking message in a humorous way*.

If the embedded video isn't working for you, then try this link instead.

Sometimes gardening has a reputation for being rather fluffy and lightweight which in itself isn't a bad thing, especially when lots of things in life aren't. However, this offering for Muse Day shows gardening can also tackle some pretty fundamental issues in a positive way. You might also like to look at: Guerrilla Gardening - self help for public plantingIncredible Edible Todmorden - growing food for an entire townThe Pansy Project - plants against homophobiaTherapeutic Landscapes Network - the garden as a healerThe Pothole Gardener (NB his videos are …