Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spatial Squeeze

Stopped by the allotments while I was out walking the dog this morning, and added my name to the waiting list: 
"Don't hold your breath."  I was told.  That said apparently the waiting time is single figures of years, rather than double!
In the meantime, back in our garden we are rapidly running out of room.  The veg bed is full.  I need to replace those seedlings that didn't survive being transplanted (or have been chomped by slimy invaders), but otherwise there is no room at the Inn.
Today the following progress has been made:
Potted on leeks into drainpipe tubes (can be grown in the pipes, and makes them grow straight apparently).
Potted on swede into an outdoor planter (no room for them in the veg bed)
Potted on lettuce into pots.
Potted on rocket (which smelt amazing) into planters (kept in potting shed for the time being because they have been germinated indoors)
Sown a tray of radishes (french breakfast variety).
Sown some cabbage directly outdoors to replace those that were chomped by the slimy invaders.
Also yesterday, started a second crop of tomatoes.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Larger Garden

From my Twitter feed Neil h selected the following Tweet and asked:
If I won the lottery, I'd definitely have to have a bigger garden

Go on then - what would you put in your bigger garden?
This was prompted by having spent the day in the garden, doing all those little jobs as you do, just trying to keep things up together.  We've been spending quite a bit of time planting seeds and potting things on with a variety of different vegetables, we're trying to grow more of our own this year, rather than buy from supermarkets where the produce has been shipped or flown miles from overseas.  Part of the plan is to grow our own and then supplement that with locally grown produce.  We do however seem to have rapidly run out of room, and so first on the bigger garden list would be more room for veg!
Following that, I've always been one for structures and sculptures in gardens.  Now that's probably not everyones cup of tea, but given our climate you have to have a shed or two to escape to when the rain comes down, and sculptures add variety to the plants.  I've always had some kind of artwork in the garden, but I hasten to add I am NOT a fan of gnomes.  We do have seven dwarfs in our garden, although I fear one has drowned himself in the pond because I can only find six at the moment. 
That brings me nicely to the third thing, water.  A pond.  Or in the case of a big garden a lake.  It would have to support wildlife though, so it wouldn't be a boating lake, no sir, no pedalos in my pond!  We currently have a small pond, which is home for an amazing collection of different species, including the resident fish and frogs.  I find myself actually loosing time when I'm out feeding the fish, because I just like to watch them.  My GF has named them all and we have seven orange goldfish (goldies 1 thro' 7), two white goldfish (whitey one and whitey two), and two shubunkins (Tom and Clancy).  I guess the beauty of a small pond is you can actually see the fish, so maybe I'd have to keep something smaller for therapy value to!
The final thing I would have to have in my large garden is time.  Time to look after it and time to enjoy it.
Thanks for asking Neil, hope that explains the logic behind the tweet?

Friday, March 28, 2008

An Unconventional War - but great food!

I invited my audience to review my twitter feed and pick a tweet that they would like me to expand on.  So far three people have taken me up on the offer, and I'll spread the replies over three separate posts, in the order they were received.  So first up:
"Cauliflower and broccoli cheese war awesome. Bonus, made enough for tomorrow night too :-)"

Hi Alan, I arrived here via Will's place. Can I cheekily request a post about the Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese War?

Pleeease don't tell me it's just a typo, a cheese war sounds most exciting
Confession time, I'm afraid the "war" is a typo, it should have been "was", predictive text can at times be the bane of my life!  Perhaps what worries me the most though must be the number of times I use the word war, mistakenly or otherwise in texts for it to become the first choice of the predictive text algorithm. 
That said there has always been debate around how to make the perfect cauliflower cheese in our house, it doesn't quite border on war, but can lead to some heated debate.  So here for the record is the perfect way:
Place six eggs in a pan of water and bring to the boil, cook until hard-boiled, drain and cool with cold water.  Leave to one side in shells for later.
While eggs are cooking, take a head of cauliflower (add broccoli and/or leek if you wish), clean and separate into florets, include leaves if they are in good condition.  Place in a pan of cold water and heat.
Whilst vegetables are cooking, put two ounces of butter into another pan and melt of a low heat, add to this two ounces of self-raising or plain flour, mix together to form a roux.  Slowly add a pint of milk to the roux a little at a time, stirring continuously, and allowing the milk to combine, when all the milk has been added slowly bring to boiling point, without allowing to boil over or burn.
When vegetable have been partly cooked turn off heat under vegetable pan and allow to stand.  They should still be firm, and not allowed to be overcooked and go soggy.
Return to the cheese sauce, as it reaches boiling point start to add about half-a-pound of strong mature Cheddar cheese, a little at a time.  Allow cheese to melt into the sauce and keep adding until all the cheese has been combined.  Next flavour to taste.  Depending on your personal tastes now it's time to add something to the cheese sauce to give it a little bite; options include but are not limited to adding any or a combination of the following:
2 teaspoons of ground cumin and/or cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons of strong English mustard
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce
Stir in seasoning well, and turn off heat.
Peel eggs and slice lengthways and place in the bottom of an ovenproof dish.  Next drain vegetables and return to their pan.  Add the cheese sauce and gently stir to thoroughly mix sauce and vegetables, when mixed spoon out into ovenproof dish on top of eggs.  Sprinkle a light grating of cheese on top and then add six strips of rolled, smoked back bacon on top.
Place all in oven and cook at a low to medium heat (120 Celsius), until bacon is cooked and top is pleasant golden brown.
Serve with crusty wholemeal or granary bread. 
Will feed three to four people.
So there you go, sorry, Three Legged Cat if that is not what you were expecting, but take it from me there is debate about the cheese sauce, but this IS the definitive method.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Audience Participation Time

OK here's the deal.  I could be blogging more than I am, nuff said.  I do however Twitter, so go to my Twitter page, find a tweet you like the look of, copy and paste it into the comments of this post, and I'll write you a post all about it!
That should mean there is at least one post to read (courtesy of my resident stalker).
Go on, you know you want to!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Exercising My Green Thumb!

So it's a bank holiday, and like all good Englishmen, I was out in the garden, or in this instance mostly in the potting shed because it was raining.

There were lots of seeds to plant, and seedlings planted earlier in the year to pot on. So I've planted:

Sweetcorn (in Blue Peter style in cardboard toilet roll tubes, to promote straight growth, see pic),
Rhubarb (long term investment, as it probably won't be in a condition to eat for two years),

Potted on:

And planted out into the great outdoors (hope we don't get too many hard frosts):

I've also be training our Wisteria, so that it grows over the arch, above our front gate, rather than trys to entangle itself with every passer-by.

Finally I moved the sensor from our digital weather machine, so that it is not in a little micro-climate that makes it read 15.7 Celsius when it's actually snowing!
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Reading someone else's blog recently I came across a post about noise (since reading it, I've forgotten who's blog it was, otherwise I would put up a link). It reminded me how I hear different noises now to before we moved.

Birds Singing. Every morning on my walk to the station I can hear bird song. I hear it at other times too, but in the mornings when it is early it is most noticeable. Recent weeks it has been the male birds, staking out their territory and seeking pretty female birds to make more beautiful music with.

Trains. A constant tune in our lives, as we can hear the trains pulling into and out of the station. It's actually quite a therapeutic noise.
[Update: Just as I'd finished this post, and hit publish, a steam train came through, whistle blowing, engine puffing]

Fire Station. We are close enough to know everytime they have an emergency call, and here the fire tenders leaving the station.

Police Spotter Plane / Coastguard Helicopter. Both of these are based at an airfield near us, and it's quite common to hear one or both at all hours. Either taking off or coming back into land.

Football Club. Just nearby, most noticeable when the local side is doing well!

Royal Mail Sorting Office Air Conditioning. When the wind is blowing in the right (or wrong, depending on your point of view) direction we can hear this running when we're in the garden. It's a low hum and so easily tuned out.

Fog Horn. Only when it's foggy but easy to hear many a ship in The Solent. Strange because I never really considered that we were that close to the sea.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Middle Name Meme

Someone half-tagged me while I was away on holiday (and goddammit I think he might have done it here too.  The same person then twittered at me, about writing a post or two.  Now there are a couple of posts in the offing about our holiday, but given that it rained all week I need a little time to make them interesting!  So in the meantime, I will pander to the demands of my audience (does that work in the singular or should I have said fan or perhaps interested bystander? ) or at least because Will nudged me, respond to the tag.
Here goes:
 The rules: You must list one fact about yourself for each letter of your middle name. Each fact must begin with that letter. If you don't have a middle name, just use your maiden name. After you've been tagged, you need to update your blog with your middle name and answers. At the end of your post, you need to tag one person for each letter of your middle name.
My middle name = Richard
R is for  Radio.  I was once on the radio.  A little local radio station it is true, but for about half-an-hour I was a special guest on the mid-morning show.  At one point I was actually running the whole thing when the DJ answered a phone call as the last record ran out and the producer got me to improvise for what seemed like an hour-and-a-half but was probably about 90 seconds.  Sadly the radio station went out of business but somewhere I have a cassette tape of my moment of fame!
I is for  Inventive.  At work I have a nickname; "The font of all knowledge".  Not because I know very much but I am normally the go-to-guy when someone wants something done quickly and they have no idea where to start from.  I seem to be able to be inventive at short notice and start things off.  Like any thought process they evolve over time, but I have started so many work strands that sometimes it seems like I know alot.
C is for Creative.  I wish I could blog more.  More often that not it is a time thing, I simply run out of day, and sadly at the moment there are more important things to be done, and I have to prioritise.  At the end of the day the ole' blog falls down the priority list considerably. If I could ever get my pda to work properly with gmail then I might be able to blog more often in the meantime I just have to make do with my pc at home and occasionally lunchtimes.  However, I digress.  Why I chose creative was that writing is something that l like to do.  I like to write my blog, I'd some day like to write something more grand.  I know many people who think they have a book in them, and I count myself amongst them, but with the realisation that at the moment it just ain't there.  I need improve.  In the meantime I write here.
H is for  Hotels.  I've stayed in a few.  Mostly for business trips, and as a result they are often paid for by the person or organisation that I have travelled to see.  It's interesting that when someone else is footing the bill they often put you up in style.  Trying to impress, which I have to say is very nice.  Fortunately I don't have to travel far too often, however when I do it's nice to be so well treated.
A is for  Alan.  Which is my first name but would have been my middle name if my parents hadn't realised that my initials would then have spelled RAW.  So they swapped them around.  I've never been able to decide whether or not that was a good thing, but I do like them the way they are.
R is for  Reading.  I read, alot.  I never have a shortage of unread books, in fact this morning I added to that collection with a nifty 20% off voucher that I had for Waterstones.  I always have at least one book on the go, more often than not more than one.  If I haven't got a crime or thriller novel, then it'll be natural history or travel, and usually there will be a science fiction paperback lurking about too for good measure.
D is for  Disaster Recovery.  In a former work existence I was responsible to dealing with emergencies that result from spillages of oil.  This meant quite an unpredictable existence for the time that I was doing it as you never quite knew what was going to happen when or where.  That said it was quite a fulfilling job and never a dull moment.
As it's taken me so long to get around to writing this I'm not going to tag the seven people I am supposed to.  That said, if you want to have a go please do, and post a link to your response in the comments here so I can stop by for a nosey.

Friday, March 07, 2008

H is for Holiday

Gone away for a few days, so no posts until I get back.