Tag Archives: peas

The trouble with chickens…

Plotting the downfall of mankind

… is that they are always plotting… they always look like they’re up to no good. In fact, I think chickens are probably responsible for secret revolutions everywhere. George Orwell was very wrong with his decision that the leaders would be pigs, as in Animal Farm. I understand the allegory of leaders being pigs, though that’s unfair on pigs. It would be chickens. They’re evil with their dinosaur feet and their beady eyes and their plotting ways. Pigs are fat and happy. Chickens are restless revolutionaries. I’m sure this is why Cuba is such a revolutionary place, because there are millions of chickens roaming about there. Our chickens mostly spend their time plotting the downfall of the dogs – the military junta of our sovereignty – and chasing Moll off. However, they have busily been stealing my blackcurrants and redcurrants – then pretending they had nothing to do with it when I asked them.

My laryngitis has subsided somewhat to a pointless hacking cough – and my voice sounds more like my own voice rather than Barbara’s from The League of Gentlemen. If you haven’t seen her, she’s a post-op transsexual taxi driver in a strange village. The operation was not particularly successful and she has a deeper voice than most men.

First crops


 Me & Stephen have been busy in the garden, as per… the polytunnel #2 collapsed  in his absence and he was most distressed. However we have begun our harvesting – only radishes, peas and lettuce, but enough to keep us going until the main crops start. The potatoes are already beginning to flower – the broad beans are fattening up. We have radishes the size of turnips and turnips the size of swedes. It’s been so dry though – not a single drop of proper rain, other than a light soaking a couple of mornings – since the third of April – that’s almost a month. Luckily, the existing polytunnel has a super-duper watering system courtesy of Mr Stephen and it’s lush in there, at probably tropical temperatures and humidity. Unfortunately, whoever is in there is often caught out by the watering system being switched on by Tilly. Tilly has had the blame several times for me getting a good soaking, although Stephen’s insistence that it is her is a little suspicious considering she doesn’t have opposable thumbs to turn taps or a single thought in her head other than where to bury bread rolls, eggs or bits of things she might want later.

We’re now full to brimming in the polytunnel and all the plots are bursting – not just with plants, but with les mauvaises herbes. Bad grass. Naughty grass gets everywhere and I’m so tired of convolvulus that I dreamt about it last night.

Considerably better than January!

Steve is convinced that things have grown exponentially since he departed two weeks ago – he’s right. We have full lettuce heads and tomatoes beginning to put out flowers too. I’m absolutely amazed and delighted by it all!

10 things I’m loving today:

1. The Boy’s improved mood after I threatened to withdraw his right to electricity if he answered me back just one more time.

2. Steve, stick-man, saying he needs to go on a diet because he’s reached 12 stone! He needed a bit of meat to keep him warm.

3. Radishes:

Fat radishes

4. Verbena… I’d have hundreds of verbena if I could afford it:

Hot pink verbena

5. Steve relishing the chorizo and pepper risotto last night; nothing like old favourites that weren’t old favourites a year ago! I love cooking here, even if I only have one work surface! We’re also infested by ants.

6. Lemon, glycerine and honey home-made cough medicine

7. Sleeping with the window open

8. Cheerful lettuces in rows:

Lidl value seeds... impressive!

9. Brocante season. I love a good rummage, me! Brocantes, vide-greniers and bric-a-bracs are French car boot sales. And they love a bit of recycling.

10. Spending hours looking through photos my Nana has entrusted to me of her final 10 years with my Gramps. Happy pictures of the most lovely people in the world.

And 3 things I’m not loving:

1. Tilly getting up for a wee at 4:00 a.m. on my red patent leather shoes and me not realising what she was doing until it was done

2. Coughing for half an hour before getting back to sleep

3. The smell of nettle liquid feed. Evil.

Harmless looking, but the most evil smell in the entire world

Beans, peas and farting.

Apparently, Steve turned the air blue in Charmé today. As usual, I got the blame. Apparently, my cooking gave him rip-roaring, blue flame wind. Meh. I don’t have wind so I don’t care.

Jake has been doing his second paid day of work. He has ably assisted The Aged P. I’m not sure who is worse off – my father for having to put up with Jake, or Jake for having to put up with my father. By all accounts, it was a success. Jake got some appropriate wellies – which was way beyond what Steve or I were capable of achieving with ‘nike boy’ – who has blue fits every time he has to wear them, including saying his socks don’t fit and saying he can’t walk. Meh. I think they kept each other very well occupied. Not only that, but Jake’s first 20€ was spent on a tool belt. I like that. He did buy some devil bangers, but that’s just as much a part of the real Jake as the tool belt. He’s now accumulating tools, and we are mucho proud. He did go in Leclerc and look at knives, but c’est Jake! He’s got great plans for his new-found earnings, including xbox gold membership and COD Black Ops.

I had a busy day of animals and plantings…

Broad beans

Finally my beans have emerged in both the polytunnel and the pot. Took a bit of time!!

Pea babies

The peas in the good soil in the lean-to are a lot bigger than those in the polytunnel but they don’t have to put up with being pecked by the chickens. Steve bought more polythene today so we can re-make the polytunnel – hoorah! Thus the chicken ladies are out of a dirt-bath hammam, but needs must. I can’t sacrifice seeds to nosey chickens. It’s bad enough they’re IN the trenches you dig and ON the spade and AROUND your feet, pecking your shoe laces and sitting on the spade. Tomorrow, they are being shut out. Such is life for a chicken. Not that they don’t have enough space to make room for, but I’d love to dig a straight line trench instead of digging in L shapes around me, moving from one side to the other just to escape chickens grubbing over the soil like old ladies with a new charity shop arrivals box. It’s like someone went in Oxfam with a box and shouted “Dior… Chanel… Kurt Geiger…”  – they’re all over it.

Preparing lunch of worm sashimi

Not only that, but my savoy cabbage have popped up a couple of leaves, as have the red cabbage. The cauliflowers are darkening up their baby leaves.

Infant cauliflowers

Although it must be said, cats are still big news here. Bird and Fox get more and more comfortable every day. Here’s to their long and happy dwelling in co-habitation with us!

Fantastic Mr Fox
Gorgeous Mr Birdie

Ahhhh! Subarashito omoimasu, desu ne!?!*

*Japanese is better at most languages I know for expressing the wonder of things!

I was beginning to despair. I know TS Eliot says April is the cruellest month, and he’s right to some degree, with so many of my loved ones having failed to make the distance in April, but January was beginning to feel pretty cruel, too.

However, the snowdrops are not a symbol for no good reason at all. Not only is the earth warming, the ground softening, but Winter’s coat-tails are disappearing into the distance, finally. Thus with life. We have thousands of little signs of growth and new life. Mother Nature reassures us all is not dead.

I planted some leeks at the beginning of January, in amidst unusually warm days. They were slow to take, but yesterday, I noticed little growths popping up through the soil. It’s taken a month, but then we have had some much colder weather and I don’t think the lean-to has been over 5° for more than 5 days at a time. I reckon I’d use 2 or 3 leeks a week for leek and potato soup and leek and potato strudel, and most of those will come from frozen, so 150 leeks will do me nicely! (if an unbelievable amount!!)

Autumn Giant leeks

Not only that, but either the begonias or petunias are beginning to flourish. Lesson #1 of 2011: label your plants! I can’t begin to say how annoying it is not to know which is which! I’ve been meticulously labelling ever since.

Begonias or Petunias!!

I was also beginning to despair about the peas. The peas had already surfaced in the poly-tunnel, but they were slow to take in the lean-to. Yesterday, they too were beginning to show.

generic French peas!

I think I’ll be a bit more adventurous with types next year, but this year, I want lots to eat and lots in the freezer by September. If I don’t have 10 kg of peas, I shan’t be happy!! I want enough for special fried rice and my spring risotto and ham and pea soup for next winter to get us right through until the early crops. I like how the little pea on the left looks a bit like an alien baby emerging from Sigourney Weaver in Alien.

I’ve got 2 lots of potatoes chitting already (couldn’t be bothered to just leave them til later in the year – and whether chitting works or not, it seemed a bit pointless not to bother)

Mona Lisa potatoes

Apparently good for being mashed, baked potatoes, boiled, in salads or for yummy Duchesse potatoes (I like the French for yum-yum which is miam-miam. It’s vaguely Japanese-sounding and cute!!) We’ve also got some salad potatoes chitting – Amandine. I’m going to plant them on the plot we dug up last autumn – the soil is good but potatoes are so good at breaking up the soil. Hopefully, I can get about 30kg from them, though that won’t last long. We go through at least 5kg a week, so the more the merrier! I may get  a little more experimental with my potatoes this year, since we enjoyed planting them and digging them up so much. I should be here to shore them up and look after them, too.

Today, I’ve planted in some carrot seed of Steve’s from 2006. Maybe they’ll grow. Maybe not. Not a problem if they don’t.

Just in case it was getting all vegetative here, I’ve planted Achillea Summer Berries to keep the flower balance. I’d love a huge cottage garden and I really want lots of perennials and self-seeding annuals around the courtyard for later in the year. I want it kind of riad-y and yet also cottage garden-y. I have great plans!!

I have also got lots of sweet peas going – can’t have enough of these! I’ve already got some I started off in November: Winston Churchill (well, you’ve got to remind these French people of the might of England!) I just looooooooove cut sweet peas – the scent of them is magnificent… and they just keep giving. I’ve got Winston Churchill, White Supreme, Appleblossom and Chatsworth all planted. I could seriously grow nothing but sweet peas. They’re so easy, so joyful and so giving.

Finally, I’ve got some cauliflowers, parsnips, saffron crocuses, thyme, rosemary and broad beans all on the go. Here’s to happy returns of things grown. Funnily, I’ve been looking through Steve’s photos from last year and the place looks so green, so verdant. It’s hard to imagine it being quite so lush!! At one point, it was so seriously overgrown you wouldn’t think we could get it back under control!!

A little rampant!!