Friday, October 30, 2009

Beneficial neighbours

Councils live to regulate, or so it seems. But we've got something much better going with our neighbours. When we needed to rebuild our chook run, our neighbours offered that we could build it against our shared fence. This has resulted in a much tidier poultry palace and saved us money in terms of the far wall of the construction. Today our neighbours shared with us their laughter at one getting out and sitting atop the fence when we were on holiday (I seem to have identified and fixed that gap since) and also said that since the chooks have been against the fence, they no longer have any problems with slugs eating their delphiniums. They have been feeding the chooks sometimes through the fence and love the company of the clucking chooks when they are working in their (very beautiful) garden.

Communication and sharing between neighbours - much better than endless council regulations.

In other garden news, I've pulled the last of the seeding silverbeet out and gifted it to the chooks. I'm leaving the celery to go to seed but the borage can stay in its messy spot until the celery has flowers for the bees.

Earlier in the week I bought punnets of beetroot, lacinato kale and coriander. They are now in the ground and filling the gaps where I didn't sow seeds in sufficient time. We are eating salad greens from the garden almost every night now.

I've started to plant out my pumpkins and zucchinis - slowly, just one a day and tonight's one I put a cloche over the top of it. Mostly to protect it from the blackbirds but also any inclement weather. I found some Maori potatoes from last year and cooked and ate a few, then mounded up the remainder.

Hurray for tinned baked beans. Perfect for a Friday night when funds for fish and chips are too low. The eleventh commandment in my house is that Sandra shalt not cook on Friday night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

hippie? hippie.

I've just convinced Favourite Handyman to do some dishes and sat myself down with a cracker topped with kefir and a cup of nettle tea. There is grey showing through my hair as I've given up dyeing it - carcinogens and feminism. I'm wearing home made pyjama bottoms made from thrifted fabric, a t-shirt from the Farmers closing down sale almost four years ago and a sleeveless fleece which I found at the Sallies earlier this month. On the floor beside me is my peggy square knitting, made of undyed brown wool and then bobbly green/red/yellow variegated wool from a cardigan which my daughter outgrew and I then unravelled to reuse. Further to the corner of the study await my next books: Three Ages of Women and The NZ Woolcraft Book.

This morning I planted out my Giant Russian sunflowers and repotted lots (but not all) of my tomatoes plus my biggest basil. Most of the tomatoes are staying inside for a fortnight more, but I put a couple out under the lean to. I had planned some more gardening but then the children came and found me.

I've just pulled three loaves of bread out of the oven. They are all white loaves bar the wholemeal in the sourdough starter. No doubt Fionn will be pleased but I prefer at least some wholemeal in my bread. I rang Terrace Farms tonight and ordered 20kg of organic flour but I will be on supermarket flour for the next fortnight until the order is milled and couriered to me.

I have managed to jimmy up the mechanism on my manual mincer. So it is back to the mortar and pestle as the food processor broke even before the mincer. I made a little bit of pesto (mixed leaves of parsley, rocket, coriander and basil which may be a mixed success) and then I had had enough. The hummous can wait until tomorrow.

This morning I made muffins - proper chocolate, the kind with brown the whole way through. Or that is what Fionn considers proper chocolate muffins. I put some mashed banana in but didn't manage to sneak brazil nuts in like I often do. Brazil nuts = selenium.

In the morning I will fashion lots of work and school lunch food out of today's kitchen projects, corral everyone into their allotted Tuesday morning places and then turn into a paid working woman. You would still be able to see the hippie hair but the nettle tea will be out of sight and my clothes will be black and purple.

And not pyjamas.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

family reunion

We headed off to Blenheim on Friday afternoon. Fish and chips and slides and swings at Murchison then we drove through the Wairau Valley as dusk fell. There were rain clouds ahead and then on top of us and the valley was beautiful in this half light framed by mountains. Usually we drive through in bleaching sunlight and the miles and miles of monoculture grapes, tanalised posts leaching toxins into the water table, sprays and other resource hungry inpouts all to put a product on the tables of the rich all get me furious.

By 9pm we were in Blenheim and I didn't much care where stayed so long as I could find my bed soon. We found a reasonably priced motel and the children slumbered. Up with the birds at 5.45am, they didn't find similarly excited parents.

After breakfast we had some spare time before visiting hours at the hospital. Fionn and I wandered through the car boot sale and I loved being in a more multicultural setting than our home town currently offers. The music from a group of Pacific Island (possibly Vanuatu) men was impressive, coming from singing, some guitars, a stick of wood and an instrument made of a string attached to a big box with a piece of wood. I think they are in Marlborough to work on the vineyards. My family variously sought out new lives in New Zealand from Ireland, Cornwall, Alton (Hampshire, England) and Scotland. Favourite Handyman and I loved loved loved our five years in London. I also love seeing other people out here learning and living in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Our world should be the oyster of all who are keen, not just the rich.

Up at the hospital, my parents were also visiting Grandma. I've got a little arthritis-like feeling in my hands at the moment, just in the place where Grandma's knuckles are huge and have been in pain for years. They are the least of her worries right now as she contends with fractures in her back and a (crushed I think) vertabrae. I sat on the floor where I could have my own kids in my lap when they wanted easily and looked up at the woman who I have been visiting since my earliest memories. This is the woman who until this current hospital stay drove the long trip to Nelson alone (she is 83) for specialist appointments without a second thought. She has raised five children, run a household and helped with farm work for more than six decades. The other awareness I came to sitting there, with Mum just behind me, was that I will be in hospital visiting my own mother one day, just as my Mum is now. I'm lucky to have so many people around me right now.

Once we found our cabin in Pelorus, then it was time to head to the big rellie session. Grandad, my parents, lots of uncles and aunts, cousins and my cousins' children. That was lovely, especially to see the children having so much fun together. The older children found sticks and went on pig hunts and my daughter found a plastic bike and careered down steep hills. Again and again and again. Grandad slipped away early on - he is also unwell and so missed the photo session.

This morning I left the children with FH and drove to Grandad's. I didn't want to go without saying goodbye. I am so glad I did. I grew up hanging around Grandad whenever I visited, watching him in his workshop, accompanying him on plumbing jobs, learning to milk the cows, feeding out hay and grubbing ragwort. Now I take the children with me and I never talk to Grandad on my own for more than a minute or two until today.

On the way back, I stopped at a roadside stall called Pelorus Peasants and bought a wee souvenir - a seedling of the pumpkin 'ironbark triamble'.

Through to Nelson and I stopped at my favourite tiny suburban stall in The Wood and bought marigold seedlings and some red peppers and an aubergine. We all checked out the Nelson Museum which is so wonderful and sophisticated.

A play at the flying fox playground at Wakefield and then we were off back to the Coast. Twice we had to change route just before home because of accidents and I am so grateful that we are all alive.

Back home there were some new arrivals:
1. first Flanders poppy out.
2. seedlings through in the windowsill of either pumpkins or zucchinis.
3. more purple irises.
4. more chrysanthemums, more nasturtiums, bigger lettuces, water down in the chook run, more germinated silverbeet and lettuce, the celery starting to run to seed. It was obviously good weather here.

I am going to let the celery run to seed and provide more food for the bees. Tomorrow I need to do a LOT of work in the garden. Besides all that weeding and wood stacking, I need to make MORE garden! I need more space for pumpkins, potatoes and zucchinis. Plus I need to repot heaps of tomato seedlings, mostly not for planting outside just yet but for some more food and to get bigger in the next 2-3 weeks. Oh and plant out sunflowers.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I've had a superb weekend, best for a long time. Why? Because my brother came to visit us, all the way from Perth, Western Australia. The children and their uncle quickly formed a mutual adoration bond and there will be talk of Uncle Pete for a long time to come.

Quake in your slime slugs - Uncle Pete left heaps of DB export in the fridge and some of it is going to entice you to drown in it. Maybe the slugs will die drunk and happy but the main thing is that they die. We got the last of the whitebait from 2008 out of the freezer for Pete and it was lovely to have such a delicious food (500g whitebait mixed with one egg and quickly fried and then served with lemon and pepper - none of this padding it out with flour nonsense) served with our own eggs and home made bread.

Today I made something called country apple cake which the children asked for more of. Such a request baking-wise always counts as the pinnacle of success round here. Tonight I baked more sourdough bread. Andrew Whitley's cromarty cob recipe (which is on this or my old blog - Sandra in the garden - somewhere I'm sure) makes excellent sandwich bread. I use tins as you can fit more in the oven this way and get a better shape for school/work lunches.

Moved some sunflowers outside today. They will have to do well under the lean-to - there is no way I would remember to bring the plants in and out each morning and night for the proper hardening off technique. They are giant russians which I didn't get to seedling stage last year. Properly tall sunflowers - very exciting.

Gardening roundup:
Vegetables in the garden (some growing, some currently producing): some Maori potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, leeks, lettuces of various kinds, miners lettuce, various asian greens, rocket, beetroot, garlic, celery, globe artichokes, florence fennel, jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, lemon.

Herbs in the garden: coriander, Italian giant parsley, chives, garlic chives, marjoram, oregano, English winter thyme, lemon thyme, French summer thyme, sage, curry plant, feverfew, comfrey, bay trees,

Flowers in the garden: roses (pink, red, white and yellow), gladioli, marigolds, livingstone daisies, red poppies, chysanthemums, dianthus, pansies, irises, bluebells, one tulip still going, fuchsias.

Seeds in a tray or pots in or outside the house: sunflowers, lettuce, silverbeet, basil, coriander, pumpkin, squash, zucchini, basil, coriander, beans, tomatoes (sungold and tigerella), chillies, celery.

Friday, October 16, 2009

good and bad

1. Us knitters of Wetville are busily knitting peggy squares to turn into a blanket to send to Samoa for tsunami hit people who no longer have blankets. My lovely friend Nina has also organised a whip round of clothing and toiletries and linen and bedding and a local courier has gifted the delivery cost to get it to Lower Hutt to go on a container at the end of the month. I even knitted on the sideline of the boy's swimming lesson today.

1. Nasty council. We have a wonderful swimming school here in Wetville where the leader tries to make lessons as affordable as possible and sets it up as pay as you go and you don't pay if you are away sick (or any other kind of away). But now the council are muscling in and today I discoverd I have to find a term's worth of fees all at once and suddenly attendance has dropped because lots of people can't find that kind of money all at once and next year the council are taking the whole thing over and want more revenue from it. In low income coastal town like ours, this spells an awful lot of children not learning to swim and upping their drowning risk.

2. We are going to get a piano. My very very kind parents are letting me have the family piano and Mum got a quote to get it over from their place to ours and offered that they would pay up front and I could repay over few months. I am super excited. Now I know why I got our daughter out of our bedroom - so that there is room to put the piano where the children's bunks were. Our lounge is a shade too small and probably too hot on winter evenings.

3. The clematis has flowers. I also have marigold flowers and for dinner had a home grown salad of tatsoi, another nameless asian green, pak choi and various kinds of lettuce. Yesterday I repotted some tomatoes and sewed seeds of pumpkin, squash and zucchini, plus one echincea seed, some beans and lots of coriander. I used these peat circles which you soak and then they grow into a cylinder and you put the seed in the top. Then you put the whole thing in the ground later on. An unnecessarily expensive way of growing things but Fionn was keen and sometimes I indulge my offspring. Sometimes an icecream, sometimes a special kind of gardening pot.

4. I have been sewing, but not much since I started knitting for Samoa. My party skirt is over half made.

5. The solo parenting stint while Fh was off tramping went well. Even better, it is now over.

6. Not a lot of experimentation in the kitchen lately. I've got a cromarty cob mixture in the hot water cupboard as I type, making the production sourdough part. I'm going to alter the rise times and method to hopefully get it ready for baking in the morning. Following the instructions has worked very well in the past with this recipe and now is time to see how flexible it can be. I do hope and plan on it being more successful than the chocolate cake which Fionn and I made earlier in the week. Altering three ingredients plus the method of mixing the ingredients together is a little too much altering.

7. I had some gorgeous rhubarb cake at coffee group today and Ruth kindly gave me the recipe to take home. It is from a playcentre recipe book, though I don't remember better details than that.

8. Writers' group was a great evening on Wednesday with another new and talented writer joining us and last month's new person sharing some wonderful writing and enticing stories with us also. I'm still writing far too much stuff on bad motherhood. I live it, I write it, I guess. Some time I hope to grow out of bad motherhood. But since Wednesday I have started writing some of my cousin Mary's stories down and I want to get a photographs to go with it. Family but not mothering. Progress perhaps?

8. BEST OF ALL, my brother is coming all the way from Perth, Western Australia to stay with us tomorrow night. He has never even seen Brighid, who is now 2 years 8 months.

2. This government. People who I have encountered too often including today who think that poor people are bad and deserve only to pay taxes, not to receive services.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

garden & home made notes

Beautiful day today. I have grown a globe artichoke! An actual artichoke. Oh the excitement. Now I have to re-read my recipe books and find out what to do with it.

My jerusalem artichoke plants are growing nicely.

Three of my rose cuttings are growing really well. Not sure that any of the others will survive, but three is a saving of about $60, not to be sniffed at. I am supposed to snip off the buds the first year and give the plant the chance to put all energy into strong roots. I really wanted to know what colours I had and thought I would leave just one on each. But today I accidentally knocked my one bud off. Peeled it back thougfh and saw it is a gorgeous red. Excellent. I like a bit of deep, rich, extravagantly bold, red. The yellow banksia rose I bought from the garden nursery last year (my only full price shop rose, bought with the freebie $20 credit from my loyalty card) has extremely tiny flowers and while it is pretty, it needs to be moved now I can see this. The spot I have it in needs big, bold and blowsy. I bought a five metre roll of rigid netting to stake my roses against along the warm north facing back of our house. We have already got the warratahs to hold it in place (we live not just in wetville but also gustville) and it is laid out on the lawn ready for Favourite Handyman.

I transplanted my shop-bought leek seedlings today. Last year I never got around to it, leaving the punnet lying around for months. They are fiddly and time consuming. I really should mark out a row and sow some direct from seed. I've had a couple of small salads from the garden this last week and the lettuces and other greens are now shaping up nicely for regular harvests.

At the garden shop today I said 'no! no no no way!' to requests from my children that I buy a statue of a weird robot thing, a buddha, a flax, several other small natives, a water feature pump (no, we don't have a water feature), a gaily coloured children's watering can, several roses (actually I asked myself for one of those but I was strong and resisted), potting mix and of course a goldfish. I did reach deep into my heart and let them choose a $4 punnet of six flower seedlings each though. So now we have dianthus and livingstone daisies to add to our garden.

Our glasshouse share plan is no longer. The neighbours' landlord is kicking our lovely and favourite neighbours out so he can move in. We will miss our chats over the fence with our kind and generous friends.

Lots of work to be done in the garden, plus a truckload of wood to stack. But it is term-time again tomorrow. I've been sewing as well. This morning I made button holes for the first time ever. My next step is connecting the waistband to the skirt and it appears not to match exactly. So I'm putting that off for tonight. Progress on the paua baby coat has stalled since I finished the back and then mucked up the left front. I also received an email from Mum about knitting peggy squares for Samoa which I want to fit in soon. Which means motoring on with the baby coat as I have a rule of not starting a knitting project until the previous one is completely finished.

The story I wrote for FH's niece apparently went down very well and now I would like to write one about the chooks for a Christmas present for the two sisters. If I get the camera paid off in time then Fionn and I can illustrate it with photos. I've also got writers' group in only three more nights and as I am the enforcer of the rule that we must always bring something to share... better get my creative writing head screwed on next.

ghosts and drugs

Am I on about the devil, big pharma, again? Again?

Yup. Have a look at this blog post on the ghost writing of articles reporting on new drugs, articles which are important for FDA approval in the US. And here and almost definitely wherever you are.

Earlier this week the front pages of our newspapers were full of a really big deal: that pseudophedrine is going to be made a class B2, prescription-only drug as an attempt to reduce access to this substance by P labs. Apparently it can be used to make P (methamphetamine). A sample article can be found here. Nowhere, nowhere did I see any alternatives to big pharma's products discussed. The growers of lemons, garlic, ginger, cayenne, manuka honey, apple cider vinegar (quick random sample of ingredients I know to be of use for dealing with colds and influenza) have not a smidgen of the power of big pharma.

I remember reading about pseudophedrine when my daughter was tiny. Unsuprisingly, given it's drying effect, it has a negative effect on a mother's breastmilk supply. Unsuprisingly, given the power of big pharma, this information is not widely disseminated.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Today I put a payment down on a camera for our family, something to chart our changing lives and growing children with. The old camera, a super-cheapie from Tchibo in the UK which has served us well, is dying and either doesn't work or takes very grainy photographs.

Sure, I would like to be able to post photographs on this blog often and with ease, but the actual clincher for paying money down today is the thought that if something happened to one of my children, economising by delaying a camera and thus having really huge gaps in our portraits of their lives would never seem worth it.

Tonight I went to see the very beautiful and wonderful movie Everlasting Moments. In this movie, a Finnish woman living in Sweden before and during World War One wins a camera in a raffle. She uses it, this rare thing in her community, to record her world and it also gives her another life outside of the drudgery of poverty and the horrors of a drunken and violent husband.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Things which annoy me

When our government funds heaps of vaccines and heaps of antibiotics when what many families need is a good quality food and shelter.

When the big pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money from the sale of
a) vaccines for small babies
b) antibiotics for small and not so small people whose immune system is already compromised
c) lotions and potions for children with eczema
d) inhalers and steroids for children with asthma

a, b, c & d are all linked in a huge portion of cases in my view.

But nobody makes much money out of poor families eating well. A budget which alloows for fruit as snacks instead of a budget range bought biscuit.

Which is why funding for our local healthy eating programme is under threat right now and yet I betcha anything that pharmac continue with multimillion dollar funding of vaccines and antibiotics and steroids and and and and this year and next.

Making an effort

Rearranged my half of the study this morning. Acres of dust gone, no idea how we breathed comfortably before but I guess my body is well attuned to dust. I took about half of the fabric stash I was gifted down to the Sallies today and found some sewing patterns in my size to enable me to use up the (substantial) remainder of the fabric. I have found various long lost buttons and patterns and notions. Tomorrow night I am babysitting for a friend who has a tidier lounge floor than me so when the children are in bed I am going to cut out the rest of my skirt pattern (started in August) on her floor.

The dreaded spectre of Christmas (yes I am a Christmas grouch) is looming already. I have broken the news to my parents that we are going north to be with my elderly grandparents this year (first time since I got married nine years ago) and they were so quiet (not like Mum at all) that I'm even contemplating taking the kids to them early and having a special thing with them then.

I'm also crap on birthdays. Haven't always been but I am now. My children were both born close to Christmas and the whole fandangle craziness all together makes me want to hide. But FH's niece turned five today and I managed to get Fionn involved and we made and sent something. Something non-consumerist because I just cannot face sending more stuff to a family which I know is chock full of stuff already. What we did is that I have started a letter telling I5 of stories of her cousins and aunt and uncle. We added photos and a card and got it all bound and hopefully it is a wee bit of a success. Now that I've started, I'm aiming to do more stories, or at least the story of the chooks, for I and her sister C3 for Christmas.

My other project at the moment is knitting for a friend in London. Many knitters of my acquaintance are really lovely people. They knit for other people a lot of the time. In this respect, I don't stump up very well, only very rarely knitting for someone who is not myself or one of my two children. But Marion is a very special friend, the first really good friend I made as a new mother in London. Her second child and my Fionn are the same age and as she was pregnant with number three before we left London, I got a buzzy bee for the bump and passed on a few baby things before we left. Now, too far away to do anything more useful like babysit or make meals, I thought I would knit for the new baby. My experiment with knitting socks on double pointed needles failed. Maybe I will try another time. So back to the wool shop and I settled on knitting this kiwi classic in a blue green mix which is suggestive of paua shell. I might even get organised enough to make a paua shell necklace (or get paua buttons) to go with it.

Sometime between now and late December, I also need to get out some of my still large stash and have a go at sewing a shirt for Favourite Handyman. When I made shorts for his birthday he initially though I was sewing a shirt with the fabric and seemed so enthusiastic that I thought I would have a go for Christmas. Maybe it will turn out to be Christmas in six years' time - took that long between buying the shorts fabric for his birthday in 2003 and receiving the actual shorts this year.

So I guess I am making some effort to be a good girl. Maybe it will work, maybe not.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The evolutionary origins of surplus

I began to review Tristram Stuart's book Waste here. Tonight I want to come back and share what I learnt and thought from his chapter, (11) 'The Evolutionary Origins of Surplus'.

Many people assume that society's blase attitude to wasting food is a
recent phenomenon and that in the past people were more frugal , and food was
too valuable to discard. If this were true, rectifying our current leveles
of waste would simply be a matter of reverting to earlier customs.
But the history of human wastefulness has deeper roots than late capitalism or
consumer culture. Waste is a product of food surplus, and surplus has been
the foundation of human success for over 10.000 years. Everything we call
civilisation depends upon it. (Stuart, p.169)

So Stuart begins what for me was one of the most interesting chapters of the entire book. I love it that he goes beyond the radar of the current romanticism regarding historical food practices. While I am skating near this particular soapbox, how 'bout I just jump right on top of it, regardless of how it wobbles? Women, indeed households, in the past, did not form these seamless beautiful harmonious units of supportive wonderfulness all the time. Women (just for starters) got turfed out for being 'witches', a term which could be used to encompass any lack of convention which others did not like. Extra-marital affairs ripped apart families in the past just as now. Daughters in law often lived long lives with no say in the household in which they lived.

More specifically, food practices in New Zealand (this would apply to Australia as well as to other countries to some extent). White, or Pakeha, New Zealand settlers overwhelmingly came from an industrialised country. While their seventeenth century forbears in the countryside may well have made their own bread (but is it Beowulf where we see that bread making is a specialised/centralised activity from a loooong time ago?). If you lived in a Glasgow tenement or the crowded hovels of England's industrialised cities, there wasn't a wee green patch out the back to grow veges and chooks on and an aga in the flat for making the daily bread. Many of our ancestors were dependent on the shops more than us. If you were Irish, then your tradition may have been the easier to make (timewise) soda bread rather than yeasted bread.

So while high country farmers made their own bread (as per Mona Anderson's descriptions in A River Rules My Life about life on Mt Algidus station in the 1940s - note that even there it is the cook's job and for the entire staff rather than a housewifely activity), bakers sprang up in even quite small townships in colonial New Zealand and supplied households with pre-made bread. Yes indeed my great grandmother made her own lemon curd and ginger beer and her sponges were legendary (especially to my father, who made the right move of marrying their darling granddaughter). But she didn't make her own bread. Her daughter in law, my grandmother, baked cakes and biscuits and scones and pikelets (the morning and afternoon teas were amazing when my younger uncles were still at home) and she preserved fruit and made jams and jellies. She wasn't yearning for the days of making her own bacon though - her Kenwood mixer and pressure cooker, later the automatic washing machine, the dishwasher and then the microwave, were useful and appreciated. My Dad remembers home made bacon as he also grew up on a farm, and loved it when they started to buy shop bacon - he said it was a lot nicer. The Italians and the Spanish may have had beautiful curing recipes and traditions, but colonial New Zealand was settled by an industrialised and industrialising Great Britain and while diy was functional, it was not necessarily beautiful.

Oooops. Back to the evolutionary origins of surplus. Oh dear. Too tired again to talk about potlatches. Too much ranting. At least my children are asleep now. I'll try again on the evolutionary front later this week.

Turn it round, upside down, make it new.again

We've just had two nights away, staying with my parents. On the Saturday, Favourite Handyman and I left the children with their grandparents for the whole entire day, 9am to 7pm. It was absolutely and totally wonderful. Everyone enjoyed themselves and I am sure we will do this again. I have come back ready to turn the place around. Brighid (2 years 8 months) is now sharing a room with her brother instead of her parents. As I type, they are both playing slumber party antics and at least we have another week to train them before school starts again. To put the extra bed in, I took out a set of drawers. The too big clothes for the children in that set of drawers can go somewhere else, high in a cupboard and I can have drawers for all the fabric I was given earlier this year. Has to be better than storing it on the floor.

Then I think we might rip all the wallpaper off the children's bedroom walls. Creamy ripped off-ness will be nicer than the current gloomy heavy green look. We might even go squiz at the second hand duvet covers at the Sallies and see if there is something special for Brighid's new abode.

I do also fancy ripping up the lino on the kitchen floor but as I would have to sand and polish the floorboards straight away, I'd better practise some restraint... Instead I should start baking mroe bread as I have gone off shop bread entirely (even vogels/burgen tastes pappy now). Last week I realised that in the entirety of our small wet town, it is impossible to buy a single bagel. Not a single one. The only thing to do is to make my own. Looking for a bagel recipe next. The excellent Andrew Whitley has neither bagel nor pannini recipes in his Bread Matters book.

Judging by the lettuces, it was sunny while we were away. There are still a few gaps in the garden and I bought leeks to go in them this afternoon. I ignored the exhortations by gardening columnists last month to get seedlings in and now I am paying for my laxness. Still, bought seedlings are way better than bought produce from the supermarket.

I do have seedlings for tomatoes and chillies (and sunflowers) on my windowsills. Judging by the prices in the garden shops for these particular plants, I've made a good decision to sow these myself. This week the children and I will prepare our neighbours' glasshouse for planting. Fionn has been very keen to buy some peat circles for growing seedlings in and today I softened and bought some. Chemistry in action you know, educational. I don't have pumpkin and zucchini seeds in yet so they can go in the peat circles (it appears that you soak the circles and they blow up with the seed inside them according to the instructions).