Thursday 31 May 2012

Lady Magnon Is Driving Me MAD!

Lady M was stamping about in the kitchen yesterday morning; she couldn't find the milk. As it happened, I'd given the dogs the remains of the old bottle, and had only just replaced it by a brand new one in the fridge. I knew there WAS some, and I knew exactly where it was.

So, I opened the fridge door and..... NO MILK. 

She said I was going bonkers, and I'd have to check into the local lunatic asylum. I searched everywhere.... still no milk. For a nano-second I began to think she was right (that I WAS going bonkers), then, having checked the bathroom, the studio, the barn, and the oven, I eventually found the bottle in the glass cupboard.

'There, you see, you ARE going mad' she said with a knowing smile on her ever-so-smug face.

Luckily Cro does still have a few working faculties, and as soon as I touched the bottle I could feel that it was cold.... it HAD been in the fridge, and somebody else (guess who) had put it in the glass cupboard.

There's no fooling Cro! It's HER who's going bonkers; not me! She not only forgets what she did just a few seconds before; but she ALWAYS tries to put the blame on me!

p.s. She's off to Blighty this afternoon, for a spot of babysitting. I'm holding the fort!.... AGAIN.

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Wednesday 30 May 2012

Detestable Weeds.

I have an irrational hatred for two plants (weeds); I can show you their mug-shots, but unfortunately I am unable to offer their names.

Above is my most hated. It is very fast growing, and has yellow staining liquid that instantly appears at any broken or cut stem. It's an inocuous looking plant, but every time I see one my blood begins to boil.

The other one is this red-stemmed 'usually' ground hugging beast (here it's at home in a wall at Haddock's), that has very loose and delicate roots. Pull it away from its home and one always leaves behind plenty to regrow over night. A real nasty.

Meanwhile, here's a Haddock's update. Everything doing OK, all growing correctly, and no bugs to speak of. I've put in 4 varieties of tomato; 6 Marmande, 4 Portuguese, 4 Italian plum-tomato Roma, and just 2 cherry tomatoes.

The Courgettes in the foreground are really flying, and I wouldn't be surprised if our first crop doesn't arrive within 30 days. As you can probably see, I've been hoeing; keeping another posse of weeds (not the ones above) at bay!

The photo makes it all look quite small.... my back says otherwise.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Grumpy and Ollie.

Exactly two months to go before my two London based grandsons will be here.

Grumsy's getting excited, the dogs are getting excited, and Grumpy just can't wait.

We've got plenty of new games for them, plenty of new toys (including the ride-on mower), as well as all the old favourites.

I'm busy growing enough fruit and vegetables for everyone, so now it's simply a question of PATIENCE.

Ollie (the small one above) looks very much like me at his age; or should I say, I looked very much like him. He also has a good appetite, and draws a lot. I'm just waiting to see if his dress sense is as finely honed as mine as well. Heredity is a wonderful thing!

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Monday 28 May 2012

First Few Mushrooms of 2012.

I had to search-out the smallest 'plate' in the house to present my first foraging bounty of the year, otherwise they would have looked just plain silly. The weather has been perfect for Girolles, but, frankly, they're just not growing in the quantities we used to find years ago. I ate the above yesterday morning; when cooked they just about fitted on the end of my fork.

Many years ago, at this time of year and after our current type of weather, I used to go out with a large basket more than once a day, and fill several boxes which were sold to the merchants who travelled from farm to farm in big white vans.

I understand that two of my favourite mushrooms are particularly susceptible to pollution; the Girolle (above), and the black Trompette des Morts, both of which are without question in decline here.  One can but wonder if pollution isn't the culprit. Even in an area where there is hardly any industry, pollution has a way of tracking you down.

Maybe next week I'll be knee-deep in mushrooms.... but somehow I doubt it.
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Sunday 27 May 2012

Obesity and the Beast.

I'm not averse to occasionally watching either Hugh Fearnley-Thing or Jamie Oliver on TV. Their programmes can be amusing, informative, and occasionally both.

But recently, whilst channel hopping, I came across this bleached, spiky-haired, 'person' above. I don't know his name, but he appears in a programme called 'Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives', which, if you enjoy the combination of 'shit-n-shouting', can be found on The Food Network.

I have never seen such a disgusting food programme. Rather than promoting gastronomy, the aim seemed to be to find the most horrendous, artery-clogging, rubbish in all of America. For example; imagine a HUGE multi-layer burger, dip it in batter and deep-fry, cover it with cheese and some kind of white blob (faux-mayo?), and serve to a hairy, obese, red-necked, truck-driver; that's about as good as it gets.

The way the programme is put-together is also worthy of some comment. No shot or dialogue is of more than 2 seconds duration (which I presume says something about the attention-span of its viewers), and the presenter has his face almost permanently stuck into the side of some vulgar, lard-saturated, burger (as above).

Is it any wonder that obesity is becoming endemic? Food programmes don't get any worse than this..... I dare you to take a look; OK then, don't! 


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Secret Garden.

Every garden has an 'awkward bit'; an area that just never looks quite right. The entrance to our 'pump house' was one such area, only with a certain amount of danger thrown in.

Originally the door to the pump house was about a metre below the pool surround, with no way to get down. I think I used a few well-placed stones. It was a death trap.

With grandchildren becoming ever more adventurous, I decided to landscape the whole area, and started by constructing the three fan-shaped steps. Then came the 10 flagstones (which are still uncleaned), and the small wall with the urn. All, I'm happy to say, is now reasonably safe.

But really why I'm writing this, is because it's now become one of my favourite corners of the garden. Most of what's been planted either side of the path have been given by friends, and they all have meanings. Some may remember the Peenk Peexy rose (Pink Pixy) given to me by my friend Philippe, and the fabulous blood red Weigela which is still in full flower. There are also some fine Irises, and other things with names that are unknown to me. I even spotted a single pale Foxglove.

It's only a tiny area, and I don't go down there often, but when I do, it's always a minor pleasure.

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Saturday 26 May 2012

Did I Mention Elderflower Champagne?

The picture above shows the few simple ingredients you'll need to make this seriously delicious fizzy Summer drink. I told you it was easy.

6 heads of Elderflowers (just the flowers, preferably picked after the sun has been on them), the zest of a Lemon (no white stuff), the juice of a Lemon, 650 gms of Sugar, 2 tablespoons of Vinegar, and 6 litres of cold water.

Don't wash the flowers, just dislodge any bugs. Place all the ingredients in a clean plastic bucket, stir, and cover. Leave for 24 hrs.

After 24 hrs, strain the liquid through muslin into the flip-top bottles, and make sure they are tightly secured. Wait for at least 2 weeks before sampling, and do remember to open the bottles outside, they can be very fiery. 

Just after the bottling, we drank our final bottle from 2011. It was just as good as the day it was made. I shall knock-up another batch tomorrow. Cheers!

N.B. Occasionally the alchemy/chemistry doesn't work, and there is no FIZZ. If this happens, check your bottles have really tight fitting caps, make sure your flowers are picked when it's dry and sunny, and start again. Good luck.
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Friday 25 May 2012

Bearing Up!

Which would you prefer to see written in your passport as your 'Place of Birth'; Kathmandu or Woking?

Lady Magnon should have been born in Kathmandu, but a sudden outbreak of Yellow Fever meant that her pregnant mother was advised to leave, and head back to Blighty. I should explain that Lady M's late father was 'Our man in Kathmandu'; in fact he was responsible for setting-up Nepal's very first foreign consulate, back in the ****'s.

The unborn Lady M was then carried by bearers across the mountains into India, from where a ship eventually took her back to England's leafy Surrey, and her birth in Woking.

As is traditional, the bearers went on strike half-way across the mountains, and my father in law had to negotiate crazy terms in order for them to continue. Not really what you need when 'slowly' rushing for the Maternity Ward of a hospital on the other side of the world.

The photo above is NOT of the actual bearers; a similar one does exist, but somewhere back in an English loft.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Red Fruit Season.

We have Strawberries.

I'm lazy, I grow mine in special terracotta Strawberry pots, that sit on the wall surrounding our terrace; 9 plants to each pot. This way I can control their water supply, manage the wretched ever-present slug problem, and also grab a handful every time I pass by.

Before long, this year's Cherries will be ripening, as well as our tiny crop of red currents and raspberries. 

There will be no glut this year (last year was exceptional), but there WILL (we hope) be bowls of red fruits on the Magnon's meagre table.

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Wednesday 23 May 2012

Pearly Portals of Paradiso.

The plan was to have a leafy grape vine ARCH over our new gated entrance to the cottage. 

Well, it's partially there, but it's going to take a while longer to reach the effect I'd envisaged. Even so, it'll look OK when all the grapes are hanging down.

re. This (scruffy) side of gate; we are still waiting for a couple of lorry-loads of crushed limestone to arrive for the car parking area. It's been so wet that my bloody JCB man didn't dare risk his lorry sinking into the mire.... The Big Sissy.

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Tuesday 22 May 2012

Cro's Challenge. The World's Most Beautiful Packaging.

Surely, this has to be the world's most exquisite piece of packaging design....ever!  Even the Queen has given her seal of approval. Congratulations Brasso.

However, if you think otherwise, maybe you could post your own preferred example some time before the end of 2012 or even 2013. (Not Brillo please, it's been done to death)

This is NOT an invitation to one of those A to Z, Round Robin, thingies. Just an idea for whenever (or IF ever) you should suffer from Bloggers Block.
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Monday 21 May 2012

Journée Champêtre. Lumberjack.

Yesterday it poured until about 9am. Then at 10.00am (reluctantly) we went up to the field beside the church to enjoy all the fun and laughter of our village's annual 'Journée Champetre'..

There was a drinks stall; awash with revellers.

A flower stall struggling to contain all the eager buyers, who were desperate to acquire the very best plants.

A few exciting animal exhibits, including this baby donkey.

And a couple of brown cows.

We came away at 10.05am, just as it started to pour again; then it continued to pour for the rest of the day. What larks, eh!

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Sunday 20 May 2012

Caught Red-Handed.

Now we know who's responsible for all the missing dog food. Someone whose name begins with an M.

'M' is never really happy without his mouth inside a sack of food; LITERALLY. 

Talking of names; we've decided to call our new ride-on mower 'Rory'.

Have a good Sunday; it's pouring here, and the village is holding a 'Journée Champetre'. More like a 'wash out' methinks.

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Saturday 19 May 2012

Haddock's is Rockin'.

Haddock's has really come to life over the last week or so. Almost everything is now planted, and is doing well. 

Unfortunately I had to replace my 6 Courgette plants as ants got into the roots inside their seed pots, and the plants were looking sick. My own fault.

Now I must go and sow my first row of French dwarf beans, after which I'd like a few hours of nice steady rain please.

.... and it's come just on time; thank you!

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Friday 18 May 2012


I think I previously used the word 'collection' to describe my few Weigelas; probably not quite appropriate as I have just four different varieties.

I'd like to find more, as they really are the simplest flowers to grow, and they behave themselves well.

They are the perfect flower for 'non-gardeners' such as me; you snap a piece off a neighbour's plant, and stick it in the ground. Perfect.

The second plant, and this last one, look very similar, but the second one becomes pale pink inside when totally open, whereas this one stays red all over.

I could easily become obsessed by these fellas, but being both lazy and reasonably sensible....

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Thursday 17 May 2012

That's lovely, boyo.

The pool is now open. A little early maybe, but we are toujours optimistic.

Nothing was amiss; no dead animals, no electrical machinery munched by mice, no drowned politicians. The water was reasonably clean, and the small amount of green algae on the sides and botttom was soon cleared.

When I last looked, the water temperature was a dire 15 C..... much too cold to swim unless, of course, one is Swedish; when a good thrashing with some birch twigs usually stems the tide of any onset of hypothermia (ahem).

It may not look like it in the top photo, but the surrounding 'beach' flagstones were very dirty (having spent about 8 months under a tarpaulin); cleaning them was my job for yesterday afternoon..... Mrs Mop; that's me!

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Wednesday 16 May 2012

May Flowers (not Mayflowers).

The hot weather has brought out several of the more 'blousy' of our flowers. The yellow and burgundy Irises are fantastic.

These small purple flowers are self sown, and come up every year. The red things (I told you I was a flower cretin) I bought at market.

And these big white Irises are just completely over-the-top. Aren't they great!

Elsewhere my ever growing collection of Weigelas are all in flower. I'll have to do a separate piece about them later.

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Tuesday 15 May 2012

Sparrow Grass.

The seasons roll by, and each offers its own little treats.

We have just returned from market where the aroma of Strawberries was overwhelming. I didn't buy any as our own are very nearly ready.

However, I did buy some Asparagus (€2 for 500gms) which was fabulous. Last year I bought a small bundle at market that I'd stupidly failed to notice came from Spain; it was almost tasteless.

We always buy the green Asparagus, we prefer the flavour. And we eat it the most simple way possible; either boiled or steamed, with Mayonnaise.

In England its common name is Sparrow Grass, or sometimes even just Grass (although this could be confusing if asked for in Brixton). In Texas (US) it's known as Aspar (or Asper) Grass, and in the US's Mid West it's known as Spar Grass. London Market barrow boys generally use the term Sparrow's Guts.

Whatever you call it, now is the season to enjoy it.

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Monday 14 May 2012

X Marks Chez Cro!

No comment (not even this comment is a comment)!

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Didn't your mother tell you; it's rude to bark with your mouth full!

You give a dog a bone, and all he wants to do is bark.

Bok started him off (out of picture), then Monty just has to follow.... but his heart's not really in it.

Anyway, good try Monty; but next time just drop the bone for a couple of seconds.

He actually has a gorgeous deep intimidating BARK; the old softie!

Sunday 13 May 2012

Cro's New Toy.

With considerably more grass to mow this year than last, I thought it was time we kept up with the Jones's, and bought ourselves a ride-on mower.

I know two small boys who will like it..... but it's MINE...... MINE...... MINE!!!

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