Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Bees and borage

Bees love borage - two years ago I sowed some in the vegetable patch and of course now it's there to stay - and spreading all over the garden. As the bees love it so much and it gives, I believe, a lot of nectar, I will leave it there until the flowers are finished and then clear it out. I love the blue and it sort of helps take the eye away from the weeds!

Generous friends

My husband came back the other day with boxes full of seedlings. He works sometimes for an English lady not far from here and she is an amazing gardener. This year she has a surplus of seedlings and instead of throwing them out she threw them, metaphorically at least, into his car. But not only that - she took the time to write instructions for each lot. And better still, clearly knowing how instructions tend to go missing (the washing machine does wonders for instructions in back pockets!) she wrote them on the boxes! Tomatoes, celery, brassicas, chard (which I'd forgotten to sow this year) - not to mention a huge bunch of beetroot and some rocket.

I potted on some of the tomatoes and they are very happy in the greenhouse until they are big enough to go in the garden - we also need to clear a space for them but that's in hand. The rest of the seedlings are waiting outside the kitchen next to the hosepipe so they get a decent water quota in this hot weather. They will be planted out when they've grown a little bigger. I've also asked Max to build some sort of frame over which I can put cabbage white proof netting - I am DETERMINED not to eat any more caterpillars this year! A huge thank you for your generosity.

I'm excited about the tomatoes (Gardener's Delight). For the past two years we've had a pretty measly crop of tomatoes and with the wet weather just about gave up. Hopefully this year the weather will give us a couple of dry days at least and with all the tomato plants in the garden we should get a decent crop. Quite apart from using tomatoes in salads I love having too many as they get cooked up and frozen for future tomatoe sauces. I also try to make a few pots of tomato ketchup - you will never buy ketchup again once you've tasted home made...even my children say so!
You can see a couple of melons growing next to the tomatoes in the greenhouse - we bought four at the local market and as an experiment I planted two in the greenhouse and two outside. No prizes for guessing which ones already has little tiny fruits on them.

My family and other vegetables

Only my husband could send his 15 year old son into a sex shop without realising what he was doing. They were in Angers collecting some upholstery supplies for me and Ralph got bored (there's only one person working in the shop and it can take a VERY long time). So he told Ralph to go and check out the toy shop 50 metres away. It didn't occur to him to wonder why there would be a toy shop in such an out of the way place - he of all people (he used to be in the toy business) knows that there are few enough left in the town centres; and of course Ralph didn't think - he is after all 15. Off he went and in he went. The French don't like using anglo words very much so the very fact that this was called a Toy Shop should have been a clue in itself but of course Max hadn't really done the thinking and the name of the shop had been partially hidden behind another sign so he'd missed the rest of the sign, "Votre Espace Coquine", altogether.

Which brings me to the potatoes. We've started digging the Charlottes. A little early but with every plant there are at least six enormous orange slugs. At the end of the line we turned around and there was an army of them marching off in disgust. However, this afternoon I dug the ones out of the flower bed and there wasn't a slug to be seen. Why the flower bed? Well, the soil is very poor and it just seemed a good way to break up the soil and get lots of lovely manure in there all at once. I'll plant it out again in the autumn so it looks nice next year. We still have about eight more slug lines of Charlottes to go. These are in the new veg patch and quite a way from the moat so perhaps the frogs haven't come up this far. Also, the chickens don't go in there because of the electric fence - next year we'll plant potatoes outside of the fence.

Anyway, they all need storing so I was back in the workshop afterwards making my potato sacks. They are about 45cms x 60cms and after filling them we store them in a cool and very dark shed. I bring them into the kitchen as I need them and store them in the big vegetable rack covered over with a large feed bag - again cutting all light. This last is considered eccentric by the family but on the whole it prevents them from going green.

I've also been dealing with some of the garlic. Max rigged up a rack in the barn (see below) where we've put most of it but I suspect that some won't store for too long (they'd started bolting) so I've taken the smaller ones and any others that looked a bit ropey or had bolted and roasted them. I then put them into jars in olive oil. Oh, yes, delicious! Well, ok, they won't store for long either but at least we will have enjoyed them!