Saturday, January 11, 2020

WINTER IN THE HERB GARDEN

Most days I go out into the herb garden to pick herbs for the kitchen. At this time of the year there is parsley, thyme, oregano, sage, the ever abundant garlic chives and rosemary, which are all good herbs for winter cooking.




Parsley has done a magnificent job of reseeding itself. It is even growing in the pathway cracks. You can never have too much parsley.


Oregano gets cut back several times a year to make sure it stays round and bushy with fresh leaves. Most of my kitchen uses are for dried oregano which I make from the fresh young leaves but I also use fresh oregano chopped with parsley and thyme in herbed polenta. A little goes a long way.

Dried oregano is wonderful when roasting butternut squash. Drizzle the cut side of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and a couple of pinches of the dried crushed oregano.
 

Sage also was trimmed back this winter so has plenty of fresh new growth. I love to use the fried leaves on top of risotto. This one is the common culinary sage, Salvia officinalis.


It has the added bonus of beautiful sprays of blue flowers in the spring.

S.officinalis flowers. Late March
This one is Salvia officinalis "Berggarten" which has the more rounded leaves. It can also be used in the kitchen although it has a stronger flavor. I use it mainly to add leaf interest to the garden.


I also have a very compact cultivar S. officinalis "minimus" which I have used at the front of the beds.


There is a small thyme bed at the base of the pillar planter. I try to grow a variety of thymes including lemon, variegated silver and German thyme.I shall have to replenish some of these thymes this spring. They get very woody with age.



Alyssum brings some welcome color into the winter garden as well as a sweet fragrance on warm sunny days.


Rosemary is just beginning to flower. For some unknown reason we lost most of our rosemary during the summer. I need to take cuttings this year to replace them.



This week was a tough week for me. Blood work, infusions, met with radiologist, a nuclear injection, followed by surgery on Thursday to remove the cancer and the sentinel nodes. Things are looking good and the preliminary biopsy on the lymph nodes showed the cancer had not spread. I await confirmation of this and the findings on the biopsy of the lumpectomy. Clear margins mean I will move on to the next phase-30 days of radiation! I started the weekend with a much lighter heart and really ready to get back out in the garden. It is perfect timing for the spring garden.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

HERALDING IN A NEW YEAR AND A NEW DECADE

In the words of Dickens "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" That sums up my feelings about 2019. We had exciting travel, wonderful visits with family and friends but a ghastly 4 months of chemotherapy. Then on December 17th my final round of Big Chemo. It can only get better from now on and into 2020.

I even managed to do a little gardening on my good days. I have a good winter vegetable garden with lots of broccoli, chard, kale and pak choi. The broccoli is almost ready to pick-a lot earlier this year than other years.


The pak choi is full and juicy and was often on the menu over the holidays.


The red cabbage are starting to form heads,





The cardoon that grew in one of the beds last year is back again. It will take up the whole of this one bed but worth it for the striking flower heads.


I am not without having made a New Year resolution for 2020. I will keep the pathways clear in the vegetable garden. It won't be easy as already hundreds of Ca poppies are sprouting, along with blanket flowers and feather grasses. Well! maybe just one or two will get to stay!
Next week begins part two of my treatment as I head to surgery. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Friday, October 25, 2019

COME WITH ME TO GUERNSEY

Have you heard of the island of Guernsey? If not maybe you have heard of the book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Or if you haven't read the book you might have seen the movie by the same name- not that the movie was filmed there. It was actually filmed in Devon because St Peter's Port, the town in the book, is far too developed for the 1946 time line of the movie.


Guernsey is part of an archipelago of islands off the coast of Normandy. It is a crown dependency of the British Isles but has its own government and laws.
Neither the book nor movie influenced our choice of island to visit when we went back to England this year. We toyed with The Isle of Wight and Jersey but in the end decided on Guernsey, taking a week out of our UK visit to fly from Southampton to St Peter Port.

June 13th 2019

 

I was relieved that the weather was good for the short hop, in a small plane, over the English Channel to the island, although I think we were both expecting it to be a little warmer than it was. The airport was small. We walked off the plane picked up our luggage and hopped into a taxi to take us to our AirBnB in St Peter Port, the capital. I had chosen it because it was in walking distance of the town, but that walk was actually 1.3 miles, which we were to do at least once a day and sometime twice. Because we had read about the inexpensive public transport on the island we decided not to rent a car. Our hostess Christine, met and showed us around our modern little ground floor flat and pointed out directions to the grocery store. We went out for a quick walk and picked up some breakfast supplies-milk, eggs, butter and crumpets! Then we took our first walk down towards the port stopping at an Italian restaurant for dinner. We never made it down to the harbor. Then it was back to the flat to plan our next day's hike.

June 14th 2019

We picked up the bus in town and headed out to the start of the first hike to Huet Bay, a place where Renoir did many of his paintings when staying on Guernsey.




We met a French couple on the trail who told us we must stop to have scones with clotted cream at a little cafe down on the beach, which we did.  We had our own Cornish pasties with us which we supplemented with tea and scones.


Then we found our way back to a bus stop and back to St Peter Port to pick up dinner at Marks and Spencers and back to the flat.

June 15th 2019
The following day's bus ride took us to a completely different aspect of the island. Instead of the rocky shore line we started on a wide open, deserted beach.


We went down onto the sands and walked the whole way across to where we picked up the coastal trail. It was wonderful to walk along a beach again. We were soon to learn a lot more about how this island has had to defend itself in the past. This beautiful stone tower dates back to the American Revolutionary war when France allied with America causing the British to fear a French invasion.


Later, during WWII  the Germans either modified some of the towers or built their own concrete defenses in preparation for any British attack, some of which were an eyesore.


The hike was much longer that stated although we felt that we might have lost the trail at some point and started following the signs meant for a race event. We had veered away from the coast and now made our way back arriving at this this scenic, natural harbor with stunning colorful ice plant growing on the rocks.


I struggled to climb up the backside to get a better view.





Here are are just a few of the flowers I photographed on that morning's coastal walk.


The small, harbor restaurant looked a promising place for lunch and an oyster delivery van outside had David's mind set on a plate of oysters. It was not to be as the place was under refurbishment and would not be opening until the following week. We never did find anywhere to eat so we found our way up to the main road and waited for the bus outside a house. We had no idea what time the bus would arrive and it began to rain. The owner of the house came outside to ask if he could help us and offered us a ride into St Peter Port which we accepted thankfully. He dropped us of outside M&S where we had a quick lunch and did our shopping for dinner-Smoked haddock and asparagus with Jersey potatoes. Then the mile walk back to the flat. Did I mention it was uphill? Actually uphill then down hill and the reverse every morning.

June16th 2019
The next day's hike found us heading towards the rocky coast again. This time the bus was crowded with French hikers. We all alighted from the bus together and headed out down the country lane, passing charming thatched cottages, and down towards the cliffs.



Once on the trail we never saw them again. This time the walk took us to a small beach where one of the stone towers had been made into a museum.








Those stone masons certainly did some fine stonework.


There was a little cafe down at the beach with a young girl and boy tending the store. There were incredibly polite telling us they had made the sandwiches themselves. We shared a sandwich and a carrot cake and a coffee. Then with directions from them we headed up the road to the village where we waited for the bus back to port.


And yes, it was dinner in again that night.

June 17th 2019

We awoke to fair weather and the promise of calm seas. It was a good day to take the boat over to Herm island. The island is in the Parish of St Peter and measures a mere 1.4 by .5 miles and is a short ferry ride from St Peter Port.  


There are no cars on Herm and just one small hotel close to where the boat docks. If you wanted a quiet place away from it all then this is it. Even with the number of people that got off the ferry as we walked around the island you felt like you had it to yourself.










We couldn't have chosen a more perfect day.

June 18th 2019

The next morning we took the bus out to a more remote windswept area. Not a soul in sight as we took the track down to the cliff path. There was a feel of rain on the air as we passed by several German bunkers.


And more reminders of those early WW11 years and the invasion that never happened.


We were disappointed to see the rape has escaped from the fields and now covers vast areas of the coast.


And then the rain began and we were miles from anywhere. We managed to find a stand of pine trees under which we found some decent shelter until the worst of the squall had passed by. Then we headed to the nearest road with bus service and headed back into town to our favorite Marks and Spencer's Cafe, in time for a late lunch. There was a cruise ship in port and the town very busy. On the way back to the flat we enjoyed walking through Candie Gardens.

June 19th

Our last day and a bus ride to Fort Hommet and a lovely sandy beach.



For a couple who grew up by the seaside there is nothing quite a good as a walk on the beach.



Back into town we walked along the promenade to find the La Valette Gentleman's swimming pool. A salt water pool refreshed every day at high tide. Guernsey has one of the highest tides at 35'




We then went in search of the oldest pillar box still in use. It was installed in 1853 although it wasn't the first, that was in Jersey in 1852. We had to climb and awful lot of steps to get up to it with a new set of steps around every corner.



We almost missed it standing as it was behind a railing instead of on a street corner.



The V stands for Victoria.



Our last night we took a final walk down to the Italian restaurant and back up again to our flat. One thing-we felt very fit after our week stay on Guernsey. The next morning the taxi picked us up and took us the easy ride back to the airport for our flight back to Southampton.

What I wouldn't give to walk on one fo those beaches right now!