Saturday, 22 July 2017


My daughter gave me the book by Michael Pollan for my birthday. The first name that I came across was that of Montagu Don as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board - this in 1996.

It made me think of what gave me my love/hate relationship with gardening, the love of the garden and the despair when pests and weeds take over. (I get round the latter a bit by having wild areas).

I have a watercolour on the stairs by my mother's father of the rose garden at his house in Liverpool at St Anne's Mount, Aigburth. These were painted between the wars and you can see biplanes in the top one. When they sold up - around 1936, they built houses on the garden. He was a keen gardener and later, when he lived in Bowness, kept bees. My mother also gardened and I remember as a boy mowing the lawns and raking the gravel at our house in Coniston. So, I suppose, something was passed on.
I am not a meticulous gardener - too many weeds, too lazy probably, and like things that self seed, like surprises when a plant appears in the wrong place even if it does not work. And I am pretty useless with fruit and veg - I try but . . .
Blackcurrants and plums are ok and easy but somethings eats most everything else. This year the blackbirds had most of the redcurrants and the strawberries were a disaster. I sowed chard and only two seeds germinated!

So why try and take our land of nearly two acres (0.8 hectare) and make a garden?

When we first saw the site it just asked to be shaped and planted. I took favourite plants with us and carefully made a bed in which they were temporarily housed - very temporarily as the builder plonked his concrete blocks and stuff on the top - so we lost the lot.

My sister-in-law gave me six or seven damson suckers and these do well (when the spring frost does not get to the blossom) and gifts of plants have helped immensely. We are still waiting for the Davidia to sport its handkerchiefs.

Now everything is so big, trees need pruning, in the winter ash branches crash down from eighty feet up, seedlings are out of control. Once we lived in an open site but now it increasingly looks like a clearing in the forest!

But I quite like that - we have created paths, dug a pond, made veg and fruit beds (still cannot work out why the raspberries are good this year but the strawberries are rubbish) and gaze up at the eucalyptus R put in as a four foot sapling, cricking our necks.

It is good to get down to things like gardening, in fact have just had to pop out to kitchen and get the bread going. As I use our 45 year old Kenwood chef with dough hook I wait till R goes out as it is noisy.
I make spelt flour bread - 300g white, 200g wholemeal, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix well. Put 1 tablespoon sugar in 300ml warm water and add 1/2 teaspoon of dried yeast. Let it get going and froth then add to flour in mixer bowl and let it rip for 5 minutes or so.

Butter well a bread tin (I had endless trouble to start with sticking loaves but a good smear of butter works well). Put dough into tin and then in a warm place to rise. When that is done I don't knock back, just into hot oven (220C Aga) 15 minutes uncovered, then 10 minutes covered with foil. 
Turn out, slice off end, smear with butter and get indigestion.

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