Monday, 27 May 2013

Wild Wild West

Sunday delivered us another beautiful sunny day so with no surf for Phil in the offing, we decided to head down west to Zennor Moor for a walk.  The gorse was filling the air with coconut aromas and the sky was so clear you could see for miles.  From up high you can see both coasts and today you could even see the faint shadow of the Scilly Isles on the horizon.

When we climbed down from high we walked back along the coast path.  There were plenty of climbers out today around Bosigran. 
We also bumped into grazing horses; employed to naturally manage the vegetation along the path.  They seemed to be enjoying the gorse in particular, nibbling away at the flowers, careful to avoid the prickly stuff.
We topped off our afternoon by grabbing a vegan Sunflower Burger (ginger, coriander and chilli tofu burger with tahini sauce, sweet roast peppers and fresh salad sprouts) from Blas Burgerworks in St Ives. 
Blas Burgerworks is sadly not totally veggie/vegan but they should be congratulated at least on providing a fine homemade vegan burger and clearly marking it up as such.  It's not cheap but it is very tasty (watch out for the fresh chillis hiding inside though!).

I searched for ages trying to find the song Zennor Hill by Martha Tilston to share with you all to no avail.  It was buzzing in our heads most of the afternoon as we walked around Zennor.  Check it out if you do find it but in the meantime, here are the lyrics. 
Zennor Hill
She had sea breeze hair, sun in her skin.
They charged into the ocean like horses wild.
We built castles, we dipped in
I watched them and
wished I'd been a Viking child.

There we stood on top of Zennor Hill

In the bud of life
And the land was still.

Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay High on Zennor Hill
Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay High on Zennor Hill

We walked all day to St. Ives Bay
And the Clementine sun it burnt our London skin.
Wild and happy-tired we ambled over hills
Beside the Cornish sea glowed as the sun fell in
And there she was our glistening harbour town.
Into the cobbled streets we ran down.

Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay High on Zennor Hill
Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay High on Zennor Hill

Well we had sea breeze hair, sun in our skin
We charged into the ocean like horses wild.
Wild and happy-tired we ambled through the waves
There the Cornish sea glowed as the land was still
There we stood below our Zennor Hill
In the bud of life
And the land was still.

Prayers for Sunshine

Well the Bank Holiday weekend didn't do too badly weather wise.  Shame about the rain today (Monday) but at least it was really nice on Saturday and Sunday.  It seems our prayer flags in the garden had been blowing our prayers into the wind for at least some sunshine over the weekend.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

There are Two Badgers!

Since last summer I had my suspicions that there was badger like activity regularly occurring in our front garden.  I finally had my proof when I started monitoring night time activities with an infrared camera from work. Ever since then, I bring the camera home every now and then to see what is happening.  Recently I had been wondering whether there was more than one badger as I started noticing a slight difference in size.  Last night I finally had the proof that I was right as both badgers were caught on camera at the same time.  The smaller one (possibly the female) left about two minutes after this shot.  I loved her tactic of trying to keep the food to herself by laying over it!


Below are a couple of previous videos of the badger action in our garden from last year which I have previously blogged about. 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

What the Frack?

We recently watched the film Gasland.  It is about fracking.   Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a means of natural gas extraction.  It's scary stuff and not just because of the effects it has on the environment and people's health.  It's also scary because I fathom to understand how any sensible 'authorities' would even allow such a nightmare process to happen.  But it does and it is a growing industry, now creeping it's way into the British countryside.  Be afraid, be very afraid and in the meantime, be informed.

The Wonders of Nasturtiums

In our garden we generally like to stick to growing plants that we can eat or use in some way.  There are some exceptions for aesthetic reasons alone but on the whole if we can't eat it, make it into plant food or use it to distract pests from our valuable food crops, it is hard to find space for it in our garden. 
Saved seed ready to be planted this year
Nasturtiums manage to look good and yet also provide for us in many ways so we always sow a few saved seeds or make space for them as they busily self seed each year.  They are a great sacrificial crop to distract black fly and cabbage white butterfly invasions (although it is always sad to see them devoured in the late summer).  In addition, and if we get to them before said pests, we eat the leaves and flowers in salads.  However not many people know you can also pickle the fresh green seeds.

Poor Man's Capers

Known as 'Poor Mans Capers', pickled nasturtium seeds are far from 'playing second fiddle' to the real and more well known form of caper.  These crunchy home-grown versions are a welcome addition to salads and pep up savoury Mediterranean style dishes. 
Here's the simple way I make them -
Pick them whilst still fresh, plump and green.  Measure how many seeds you have and then measure out an equal amount of vinegar (white wine, red wine or cider).  Wash, drain and dry the seeds and pop them in a jar.  Meanwhile boil up the vinegar with a little bit of salt (to taste but a rough guide would be 1 teaspoon to one cup of vinegar), a few crushed peppercorns, some pickling spices, sliced onion if you like, lemon zest if you like, even chilli if you like!  Simmer for 5 minutes then cool before pouring into jar with seeds and sealing. They are about ready in a week and will keep for months in the fridge.  This jar I made last Autumn is still good!

So keep a place in your garden and your heart for these rampant but colourful characters as they are more than just a pretty face when it comes to contributing to the edible garden.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Sun is Shining..... is sweet; make you wanna move your dancing feet.  To the rescue here I am!
Yes, sunshine in the evening at last.  To the rescue and how wonderful it is.  So we had a quick easy dinner and then off down the beach to bask in the golden evening light.  It's lovely to see sand, sun, wind and humans creating their own natural art.  It made us smile and we only hope that for our sake and all the tourists who will soon descend on our patch for the May Bank Holiday and the schools half term week holiday, that the sun will continue to shine down on all of us.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Seaweed Feeding Cornish Style

Most people are familiar with using seaweed as a plant food (well those that think beyond the horrible chemical feeds that some idiots use to grow stuff).  You can buy it in concentrated form in bottles in garden centres or on-line.  Before I lived in Cornwall that is what I did but now we can go directly to source with no plastic bottle involved. 
In certain conditions it washes up on the beach in big piles.  It doesn't happen very often so when that coincides with the growing season, you have to grab it whilst you can.  We don't take much (as we don't have a huge garden anyway) so hardly a dent is made in this free natural offering.
This time I used it around our strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrant and olive tree.  Not only does it provide a slow release feed but I am hoping its saltiness and sandiness will join efforts with our nematodes (biological pest control) in keeping the slugs and snails away. 
The added bonus is that it smells even more like the sea in our garden now (although I'm not sure that will continue to be as pleasant as it gradually rots down)!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Taking a 'Ch-ill' Pill

I pride myself on not getting ill that much.  Both of us do; and with me working in a university and Phil working in a hospital, we frequently come in contact with bug carrying customers and colleagues.  Yet still, whilst others around us snivel and cough, we mostly seem to get away with it......that is until now. 

Phil succumbed first just before the weekend with a full gambit of sore throat, aching, snot and tiredness and I have to say he soldiered on pretty well for a man.  The washing line was full of newly washed hankies and the weekend kept to a quiet plod as a result but on the whole he suffered in quiet dignity and got most of it out of the way come Monday morning.  The baton was then passed on to me starting with the uneasy grating at the back of my throat.  However, despite this and Phil's continuing  but slow recovery, we both managed to drag ourselves into the Monday morning mayhem of work.   To be honest, I thought I'd got away with it.

Tuesday morning arrived with a thud (to the head) and a fresh bag of cotton wool balls stuffed into every orifice of my head.  I was going nowhere apart from dragging my sorry arse down to the phone as soon as the alarm went off at 6.30am to leave a message for my boss.  I was in shock.  I don't get ill.  I don't even get hangovers (although people don't believe me when I tell them this).  Why was this happening now?  The past 18 months had been a blur of stress for various reasons but most of that was now in the past.  If anything was going to 'get me' it was more likely then not now.  But then, isn't that often the way?  The fact of the matter was that I could relax more now and my immune system decided to go on holiday as a result too.  Phil hit the nail on the cotton wall head when he said "This is how I get you to chill out".

So yesterday morning, when I finally woke up, I did a lot of staring out the window as the wind lashed the rain against the glass.  It was all I could do and you know what, it was almost wonderful.  I wasn't thinking about work, about family issues, about what I hadn't done in the garden yet, about the camper van we have yet to find, about my next big crazy project, about accounts, about anything that normally and continously fills up my overactive mind.  I was just staring.  Being ill had made me stop and I could do nothing about it.  I had taken a 'Ch-ill' pill.

By the afternoon I was showing improvement and my mind swiftly took advantage.  There was washing up to be done and my devil mind was whispering as much in my muted ear.  I succumbed and with washing up done, noticed that perhaps I could just finish off my accounts and then tidy up some paperwork that was sitting there too.  After all that had been there for more than two days already and surely that was too long.  An hour later, the devil mind had done its work and I was once again knackered.  I should have followed the instructions on the 'Ch-ill' pill prescription instead.

It's a really hard lesson for me to learn.  As soon as I start feeling better, my mind needs to be occupied and I'm off again, too quickly, in a turmoil of things to be done.  I have the same problem with my bad back; as soon as it starts to feel normal again I start acting like a puppy and heaving stuff around. 

I blame my parents.  Both are in their 70's, both are recovering from cancer in the past year, both are pretty active for their ages but both find it hard to accept their limitations.  My dad, who is almost 77 and in the final stages of treatment for prostate cancer, will come home from his treatment and then clean the windows before going to do some more work up on his vegetable plot.  Then he complains he is tired.  My mum (71) meanwhile, who underwent major surgery in January which is meant to take at least 6 months to recover from, will do the washing, make dinner, have a potter in the garden and oh, did I mention that is after both of them have taken the dog for a two hour walk.  They may be slightly nuts but I admire them for their stuborn, 'get up and go' willpower, even when they do complain afterwards of tiredness.

So I need to learn to find the balance.  I want to get stuff done, I want to be active but I also don't want to be ill to make me understand that it is okay to chill out too.  So how does this crazy woman, who as a kid did her homework at lunchtimes so I could do my own thing when I got home, learn to 'chillax' a bit more?  Answers on a postcard please......

...oh and good luck with that as it's day two of me being ill and here I am at home in bed writing this blogpost in the face of ever increasing throat glands when I have a feeling I would be better off doing some staring out the window!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Arriving Late to the Caldo Verde Party

Everywhere we went in Portugal we started noticing one dish that was on the menu, or to be found ready made in the chiller aisle of larger supermarkets.  Eventually we noticed that each time we went to Eurasia restaurant the soup was always quite similar, a wonderfully simple but tasty potato and greens soup.  Looking back it was only when we returned home and were looking for some Portuguese inspired recipe ideas that one particular dish seemed to jump out at us; Caldo Verde (translates as 'green broth'), otherwise known as the national dish of Portugal.  With all the times we had been to Portugal it took us far too long to realise the importance of this soup.  A simple Internet search revealed that the vegan versions of this soup were very popular the world over and after looking back through some of our vegan recipe books, it could be found in those too.  Sometimes the obvious is right in front of us and we still don't notice it!

Recipes for this soup can be quite varied and traditionally it contains chorizo sausage, but it always contains potatoes, onions and greens (usually kale).  Sometimes chili is added for a little heat.  It's one of those dishes that you can just adapt by adding whatever vegetables you have to hand or that need using up.  When we returned home from Portugal our over winter kale harvest was begging to be used before the Spring herd of slugs and snails attacked, so it was the perfect time to discover and experiment with this recipe.

If this dish has one defining characteristic it is that the main body of the soup is blended first and then the finely chopped greens are added and cooked for a short time only; just enough to soften them.  Like many other simple 'peasant dishes', the deceptively simple ingredients produce a dish that is 'greater than the sum of it's parts'.  Usually it is started by frying an onion in olive oil but for an even healthier version just add the water, simmer the ingredients and add a drizzle of good quality olive oil when you serve. 

Basic Caldo Verde Soup

1 large onion (diced)
4 large potatoes (peeled and cubed)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups kale or other greens (finely shredded)
2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Add the onion, garlic and potatoes to a pan and add boiling water to cover the ingredients by one inch.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Blend to a smooth consistency with a hand blender.
  3. Add the shredded greens and bring back to a boil, being careful not to catch the soup on the bottom of the pan (add more water at this stage if the soup appears too thick).  Simmer for 5 minutes and serve with a drizzle of good quality olive oil. 
Bom apetite!