Saturday, 26 July 2008

Suddenly it’s Summer It's days like these when my Welsh genes remind me I'm in the wrong place. Sitting here in the sticky early evening heat, you can feel the air throb. The blue skies that accompanied the dry heat of the afternoon have given way to a total covering of sickly grey cloud. I have to stop and listen to every distant rumble to check if it's a plane or thunder. At least the Swifts are still flying fairly high. feasting on flying ants and hopefully cutting a decent swathe through the mosquito population. Every now and then, the thickness of the air is cut through by the high pitched squawks of the local squadron of Ring Necked Parakeets. Earlier this week, the air was so still at night that I could hear the horses whinnying in the fields on the other side of the valley.

I keep promising to sit out at dusk and look for bats. I haven't seen one since the unseasonal hot spell we had in April. I fear that the erratic weather we've had since may have done for much of the local population. But I must do this soon, maybe even brave a full on assault by mossies and midges and organise a two person bat walk by the lake at dusk. If the weather holds, Tuesday may be a good day to try, with a lunar eclipse from 9pm onwards. But astronomical phenomena are a pretty good way of guaranteeing cloudy skies. so just leaving it to chance may be a better option.

The recent hot weather has brought my rather sluggish tomato plants almost up to speed. They are starting to flower at last, so there my yet be some home made tomato sauce and chutney to go on the shelves of the larder we made last weekend. There have been rumblings of more action by disgruntled hauliers over the Winter, when fuel prices are expected to climb again. In case of temporary breakdowns in the food supply chain, we decided to convert the downstairs coat cupboard into a long term food storage area - a small larder where we can keep tins, dry goods and my home made preserves.

I am old enough to remember the bread strikes in the early 1970's, and my mum baking a loaf every other day. I remember the warm yeasty smell as she left it to rise by the fire when I got home from school. I don't know if I have the patience to make yeast based loaves that often, but if the need arises (sorry - I've just realised what a bad pun that is) Howard or myself could make a loaf of soda bread within an hour. I guess we could go down the breadmaker route, but to me that feels like one electric gadget too far.

In spite of the financial constraints, having an allotment makes the idea of a three day week not such a bad idea. Whether the amount of food you could harvest instead of buying at the supermarket would be enough to make up for the shortfall in wages is questionable, but you'd have the time to at least try.

The notes for the last weekend of July pertain equally to the first weekend of August in the Wartime Weekend Gardener -

Sow more Spring Onions

Thin carrots. Some of the thinnings should by now be large enough to be cooked as "baby" vegetables and served with butter and black pepper. Another reason why it's better to buy butter than margarine

Thin parsnips. Same as for carrots. My mum sometimes used to fry leftover boiled parsnip in butter, then top with demerara sugar. Mashed and formed into curved sausages, these were the wartime delicacy "Mock Bananas"

Now for a bit of fun - keep and eye on turnips, rocket and swedes for flea beetle damage. In the WWG, various banned chemicals and methods, such as chimney soot, are mentioned. But a modern method of control is to wrap your hand in sticky tape, glue side outwards. Gently brush your hand over the plants, and the beetles will jump up and get stuck on the tape. Hours of fun for gardeners of any age.

Oh yeah - it's my birthday this Sunday. I guess if my mum had pushed a bit harder I could have shared my birthday with Mick Jagger instead of the likes of Jo Durie, Christopher Dean and Mystic Meg. Someone else is the footballer Kevin Friday, the subject matter of the song "The Man Don't Give A Fuck". He was born exactly ten years before me, and laid to rest in the same place as all my grandparents and several other relatives. But I also share the day with Kim Fowley, and somehow an eccentric, borderline psychotic musical maverick is more "me" than a middle class social climber.

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