Tuesday, 25 February 2014


14th February
Happy Valetine's Day!
Brett likes Bacalhau (dried salted cod), slightly more than me, so yesterday he put some in to soak and this afternoon he cooked it, and then he went to train ......... leaving me to flake the fish off the bones and skin; it's a horrid job your hands get all sticky with 'fish glue' - I washed my hands several times and couldn't rid them of the stickiness (they probably smelt fishy too, so there is a benefit to losing the sense of smell?).
Brett cooked dinner tonight, Bacalhau in a spicy tomato sauce with olives and mashed potato, it was very tasty.

15th February
Hoorah, no rain today.
We have three tomato seedlings through in the cold frame and the leeks are sprouting too. I sowed lots more exciting seeds today, until I ran out of compost: including physalis, red Welsh onions, garlic chives, melons, winter squash, courgettes - the cold frame is looking pretty full already and soon I'll be 'potting on', I don't know where I'll put everything (we need to put the polytunnel up).
Typical, we had a frost tonight; I covered the cold frame with a duvet!

16th February
I don't believe it!!!! I was told the hunting season had finished last Sunday, well it didn't, we were woken well before 7 a.m. by gunshot followed, six seconds later, by the sound of lead pellets raining down onto our roof and this continued relentlessly until we were driven from our home at about 10.30 - we went to CB to do some shopping, but most of the shops we wanted to go to were shut. At least I was able to buy some compost and we bought some draught excluder ................... for what???? To use instead of hotspot tape (which is very expensive) on our polytunnel which we are going to erect this week - I'm so excited.
I sowed more seeds this afternoon .......... and the forth tomato seedling is through! I'm so relieved that they survived the frosty night under their duvet. I couldn't find any type of seed trays to buy, it doesn't look as if they are used here; in fact there's quite a few gardening accessories that I haven't been able to find like a Dutch hoe (Debbie & David kindly sent us one), a garden fork - you'd have thought that was a given, but, no, here the enxada rules it's used for everything (unfortunately I'm not very good with one!).

17th February
Another frosty night but my tomato seedlings survived snuggled under their duvet.
The ducks are so funny; when we had a fence around them they tried to escape, now we've taken the fence away, so they can roam anywhere, they stay put just outside their shed - Brett thinks they look depressed!!!
We spent the day working out how to erect the polytunnel, of course we've lost the instructions, we bought it fourteen years ago; after a lot of head scratching we got the frame up and stable,
now we just need, door frames, doors, a trench dug around the sides (to bury the polythene in to anchor the cover to the ground) and then some help to put the cover on (and a windless day).
We had a grand total of seven tomato seedlings through by nightfall, plus the leeks, Florence fennel, bronze fennel - exciting times!
Debbie and David are coming back to visit us in June, this really made our evening! And this time (fingers crossed) we're practically guaranteed sunshine.

18th February
Thank goodness I covered the cold frame last night, even though it was raining, there was frost on the duvet this morning; but the sun was shining when we got up (yay!) and ................... 16 tomato seedlings through now (I planted 76 seeds so quite a few to go!).
By 11.30 there were 23 tomato seedlings!
Washing day always takes a lot longer than expected, especially when it hasn't been done for a couple of weeks (down to the weather not laziness); so we didn't get much done today.
The other day, in the supermarket, I noticed dried olive leaves for sale, to make into tea; so I looked it up on the internet and apparently olive leaves contain oleuropein and elenolic acid  and have a multitude of health benefits including: antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant, reducing blood pressure etc. so I thought I'd give it a go - NO I didn't buy the leaves from the supermarket, I picked fresh leaves straight off the trees outside the house; it tastes quite weak but not unpleasant, I'm drying some leaves to see if it intensifies the flavour - no it didn't!
26 tomato seedlings by their bedtime!

19th February
29 tomato seedlings when I opened the cold frame this morning.
We went to the builder's merchant and bought a roll of concrete wire mesh, I'm going to use it to make tomato cages and bean, pea etc (basically anything that needs it) supports. It will add form to the garden and I like the look of it, it's a rusty metal grid.
Brett attached  the door frames to the polytunnel and concreted them in place - I held things and gave my opinion!
The ducks are beginning to explore now, they like to sleep up outside the chicken run.
The ground is still too wet to work properly but I managed to hoe the broad beans  plant over a hundred cloves of garlic (in addition to the 150 which are growing well - we eat a lot of garlic!).

20th February {37!}
Bloody hunters at it again, not on our land (in the season they are allowed to hunt on Thursdays, Sundays and Public Holidays), but we have only ever had problems with them on Sundays and that's fortnightly not every week (but I still don't like them, they're killing all the song birds for sport).
We went into CB to buy all the things we couldn't get on Sunday and came home with a dog. Actually she's a puppy, about three or four months old. She was in a cage with two other dogs and she was shaking from head to foot, tail between her legs, every so often she'd dart over to sniff our hands, then the more dominant dog would push her out of the way. She looks like a long legged, short haired Jack Russell. 
She has the eyes of the cat in Shrek/Puss in Boots, 'don't hurt me I'm only a puppy' eyes (We found out later it was all an act, she can stand up for herself!). So we chose her, Brett is a sucker for the 'under-dog'!
She was sick three times in the car coming home, I caught it all in plastic bags! And she pooed once in the house; Looby has never messed in the house (well just a little wee when we were having to give her injections). Looby is very accepting of other dogs, she just plays a bit rough - she doesn't realise how big she is. But they seem to be getting on fine, they play chase (puppy in front, Looby behind)
until Looby manages to step on the little one then she (puppy) squeals and comes and hides behind me or Brett.
We went to dinner with P&M tonight, we took the puppy with us, we thought it was a bit mean to leave them alone together so soon after just meeting. It was a lovely evening, though P&M's dog weren't as keen on the puppy as Looby, poor old Tooby had to be locked in the kitchen.
When we got home there was a text from Sarah to say that she, James and Joyce would like to visit us for a long weekend the end of March/middle of April - I'm so excited.
Brett walked the dogs to the gate and back without leads, we've had the puppy for less than 10 hours and she already walks to heel!

21st February {41}
Brett let the dogs out as soon as he heard the puppy wake up, 7.00 a.m., and the puppy did her business (no mess in the house overnight), so we were very pleased with her (lots of 'Disney voice' praising!).
Alexandra has named the puppy, she's called Lily; it suits her and she responds to it.
Brett started the trench for the polytunnel; fortunately we managed to buy a spade yesterday or it would have been an impossible job. Lily followed him to the polytunnel and just hung around for a couple of hours while he worked - she wasn't on a lead, we had had her for just 24 hours!
I prepared some sweet potatoes (cut in half, placed in water, and put in cold frame), to grow 'slips' from, which will then be planted to grow sweet potatoes; they belong to the same family as morning glory and have the same purple/blue bell flower, so they will be rather attractive (and the leaves are edible). I sowed more seeds in my cold frame, it's practically full now we need to make another one.
I made kiwifruit jam (the kiwis were half price!),
Brett says it's the colour of pond water and because of the pips it even looks like frogspawn!!! It tastes good though (I think a bit like gooseberry), sweet and sour, I might try it in Greek yoghurt for breakfast. Hopefully this year we will have our own crop of kiwi fruit, then I'll need to have lots of ways of preserving the excess - I think they would work rather well in a relish too.
Lily has taken over poor old Looby's bed
and Looby is too nice to push her out (but she definitely isn't happy about it, bless her). The 'under-dog' is going to be bossy!
No accidents in the house today, we've been very vigilant with our toilet training.

22nd February {44}
Lily was good overnight (nothing to clear up), we are letting her out as soon as she wakes up, 7.30 this morning.
I had so many plans for the garden this morning and it was raining! And it was jolly cold too, 11C in the house. So the best I could find to do was the housework!
Looby and Lily have started playing together, Looby is still too boisterous (we forget she's still a puppy herself, probably about eighteen months) and now they sleep together -

Looby wasn't given a choice!
Brett carried on digging the polytunnel trench; he took Lily with him - the independent creature turned up back at the house about 1/2 an hour after they left; she was very pleased with herself!
Meanwhile I made scones
as we're off to visit Karina & Alex tomorrow.
Poor old Brett was reduced to watching the Rugby (Six Nations), via the written word, on the internet (refreshing the page every few minutes), I think he was a little jealous of Will who was watching the match live at Twickenham!!!

23rd February
Sunday morning and we weren't woken by hunters!!!! So the season must be finished, hoorah!
Lily doesn't want her food, she wants Looby's! Looby is very good about it but it's not fair on her; so this morning I kept Looby in the kitchen and put Lily outside with the barrier across the door - she climbed up and through it!!!! She has very powerful front legs and she just pulled herself up, 2', and wriggled through the gap, little minx.
We left the dogs in the shed while we went to Karina & Alex; we thought we'd be a max of four hours, we were six!!!!! But they were both alive and well when we returned.
We had a lovely afternoon with Karina, Alex and Sean. They have a very pretty piece of land about ten minutes from us with fabulous views of Monsanto and the Spanish mountains. Karina cooked a lovely savoury pastry that she told me the name of, but I've forgotten, made with a bread dough stuffed with mashed potato and onions then fried. We took our seeds and did a seed swop (I'm going to try to grow peanuts), and took out hard drive and did a film swop. And suddenly the time was gone and it was getting dark so we had to rush home to put the animals away, fortunately the chickens and ducks had put themselves to bed.
We had a very uncomfortable evening with streaming eyes and ticklish throats; smoke was seeping out of the stove door, we're going to have to sweep it tomorrow.
It rained this evening; there was a Fire Salamander
outside the house, they look very impressive.

24th February {57}
Masses of soot came out of the chimney, nearly three bags full; I looked up 'uses for soot' on Google and it can be used on the vegetable garden as a fertilizer (it shouldn't be used fresh as it will burn the plants). The stove works so much better now!
Pam & Mark came around this morning and we tasted the white wine (it didn't taste very good at Christmas) ................... it's really nice, Pam says like a Savignon Blanc! Now we've got to bottle it, we have over 90L each!
I spent the rest of the day sowing some of the seeds I got from Karina, the cold frame is full to the gunnels.
I got some exciting things planted though, like peanuts, loofah (which I didn't realise was edible if you harvest it fresh), okra, lots of different melons and cucumbers, sunflowers, pumpkins ........... the list goes on.
Lots more is coming through in the cold frame now - peppers (no chillies yet), courgette, melon, garlic chives, butternut squash; it's all very exciting (well to me it is!).

Brett finished digging the trench around the polytunnel, now we have to wait for a windless day to get the cover on - I can't wait.

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