Archive for the 'Travel' Category

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Planting Potatoes in Colorado

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While visiting family in Fort Collins, Colorado I watch Grandpa Roy plant some Potatoes. It was interesting and educational.

He roto-tilled the ground and then added some fertilizer called Bradfield Lawn and Garden.

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Then he added some Alfalfa pellets. Alfalfa is about 3-0-3 so provides some Nitrogen and Potassium. It’s also a soil conditioner because it has lots of organic matter in it and expands once it gets wet. Roses love it too and you can even put it in the compost pile to speed things up. Sweet!

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There were already some Onions in the ground and they had been planted through black fleece to keep the weeds at bay since Onions resent having their roots disturbed by weeding.

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It’s so interesting watching someone else work in their garden. Everyone does it differently. And everyone figures out how to grow successfully in their little pocket of the world. There is no right and wrong way. There is only a good harvest.

mtp

Camping in a Van

Last week we took a weeks holiday in a campervan. As a family we’ve never done that before and so it was all new. The children were very, very excited about it. I’m not sure what it was about a campervan that piqued their interest so much.

Maybe, it was the fact that it was a ‘house on wheels’ or that the beds were high up, like bunk beds but with little curtains that you could peep out of. But whatever it was, this was the most excited I’d seen them about anything, ever. Including, the time a policeman stopped and said ‘are you alright mate?’ directly to Jackson.

I was excited about our holiday too. I always look forward to camping-style holidays. I like getting all my camping cookware out and using my red kettle! But mostly, and I think this comes from the gardener in me, I like the fact that camping ‘forces’ you to be out of doors.

We BBQ’d every night. Some nights were lovely and sunny and we sipped wine and read magazines while the food cooked. Other nights were cold and we needed layers and blankets and extra coals on the fire to keep warm. But the fact is we were still out there, cooking. You just don’t do that at home.

I also have a teeny weeny obsession with dusk and the light that it creates. Ask my husband, I will stay out longer than anyone else. He’s freezing and I want to stay, ‘just five minutes longer?’. I want to see what it looks like when the candle flame starts to glow, or what my book looks like when we really do need the lantern to see.

The other thing I love about camping holidays is that you just spend time together, with no schedule. Often we would just ride our bikes around and around the campsite. Or sit and watch as the boys got filthy playing in muddy puddles.

Or when it rained we sat around the kitchenette table and talked and drank tea (and beer), and ate cake, and drew pictures, and read books. For hours. I can’t remember the last time I did that.

I’m starting to think that possibly, just possibly, I fill my time with too much stuff. Always coming and going, and thinking of a trip here or an outing there. And maybe what I need to do is spend some more time doing nothing with the people I love.

mtp

Spanish Vegetable Plot

I’m always intrigued by how other people grow vegetables. Especially when they live in a different country to me and have different issues to deal with. On my recent trip to Spain I explored this vegetable patch tended by the owners of the hotel we were staying in. They had planted everything in nice long, neat rows in their really red earth.

I was excited to see a Pomegranate tree. I’ve never seen one before and even though this one was only just bursting into leaf it was still beautiful. Apparently it fruits in Autumn.

This delicate Apple blossom was perfect against blue, clear skies.

A fledgling Herb patch was well served by the watering system…

…which, by the way was taken very seriously. As you can imagine once the season gets going there is little rain on offer for these plants so hugging the watering system is their only hope.

While we were chatting about the garden, Yvonne, the lady who ran the hotel, told me a little story about a Walnut tree she had back in her own garden. Years before her father had planted a Walnut tree in his garden, in the UK. He had sadly died in the year before the tree produced any nuts but when it did Yvonne carried a nut back to Spain and planted it there. Where it’s growing well. Gardens are so much more than plants, aren’t they?

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Giant Sweetcorn

Actually, this is probably not giant sweetcorn but more ‘normal’ sweetcorn. But wow, I wish my sweetcorn were this tall. Mine is about half the height of this one I found in Colorado. Sweetcorn really is a warm weather vegetable isn’t it? It loves to be baked in hot, hot sun and in the UK we just can’t offer that. But… I’m still hopeful that my Sweetcorn will give me at least one cob per plant. Anyone got any tips on growing bigger corn (apart from ordering some nice weather that is).

mtp

Denver Botanical Gardens

I recently visited the Denver Botanical Gardens and somewhere in the depths of the gorgeous, lush gardens, and ponds full of lilies there is a kitchen garden, quietly growing in the heat.

It’s compact but packed full of kitchen favourites, plus an abundance of the heat-loving fruits like Tomatillos (or are they Physalis, I can never remember)…

…and Kohl Rabi that is way, way bigger than it would have been in my garden back home!

The Calvolo Nero looks great with a backdrop of espaliered Apple trees.

And a terracotta forcing pot makes a decorative centre-piece to this purple Basil.

And… while digging around in the Pumpkin patch (as you do!) I found this perfect little custard Squash.

mtp

Florida Farmer’s Market

So…I’ll say this quickly… I just got back from a two week holiday in Florida. What can I say, it was gorgeous. No need for temperature details here but one thing I wanted to post about was this amazing farmer’s market that I went to in Orlando.

It was in the centre of the park, there was jazz music, tons of people baking yummy food and a myriad of stalls overflowing with Oranges, Lemons, all colours of Bell Peppers and hot Peppers and all sizes and shapes of Tomato – plus a few things that I’d never seen before, including a Pear-Apple hybrid!

The presentation – overflowing baskets – made me want to scoop up the whole lot and take it all home.

I like the fact that you were given a woven basket to shop with. I felt like the head cook of a stately house, browsing the kitchen garden and picking only the best produce for my recipe. Gorgeous!

I’m always intrigued to see what other people grow in their kitchen gardens. So, when we went to visit my sister-in-law, Kristin, I went straight out into her back garden to inspect her ‘square-foot gardening’. I was amazed (and I must admit slightly jealous) by what she was growing in such a small space. 

Practically, everything Kristin was growing was bigger than the plants I had in the UK. Her corn was nearly 7 or 8 foot high, and her Basil plant was huge and very healthy (we got a bucket-load of leaves from it to make fresh Pesto). She was also growing a ton of Jalapeno peppers that were already fruiting, a Watermelon and lots of Cherry Tomatoes.

I had assumed that since Colorado is so dry that it wouldn’t be the ideal place for growing vegetables. However, it is sunny; over 300 days of sunshine per year. And the bottom line is that you can provide water, but you can’t provide sunshine, especially in the UK where I live. 

For me it’s always touch and go with veg like Sweetcorn, Tomatoes, Melons, Basil and Chili Pepper – will they ripen in time, will they get enough sunshine? In Colorado they certainly don’t have to worry about that.

mtp

Holiday at Home

Okay so this post isn’t strictly about ‘my tiny plot’ but I wanted to tell you about something we’ve been doing this week that I feel comes under the same umbrella as growing your own, leading a more simple life and generally looking after yourself and the environment at the same time.

We’ve been on holiday. But we stayed at home – at least we used our home as a basecamp from which to go on day trips here, walks there, or just stay in and have a movie day. I’m calling it ‘Holiday at Home’ after the campaign, during the war in the 1940s, for more people to ‘holiday at home’ in order to conserve money and curb unnecessary travel for the war effort.

Holiday at Home is designed to give us more time together (very little traveling), with all the comforts of home (ideal when you have a small child), and the opportunity to explore in and around our favourite city (Bath).

This has been our schedule:

Day One: Exploring Bath and Geocaching (waaay too complicated to explain here so it’s best if you follow the link)

Day Two: Day trip to Glastonbury (officially full of weird things)

Day Three: Movie Day at home (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone still rocks!)

Day Four: Pig Hunt in Bath (with a map and everything)

Day Five: Trip to Blenheim Palace (wow!)

Day Six: Boat trip from Bath to outlying villages (we saw three Herons and a Kingfisher)

Day Seven: Walking on the canal and swimming at the Bath Thermae Spa

Day Eight: BBQ in garden

I realise this is not for everyone (nor am I suggesting it should be). But it’s been great for us.

The Pros are many:

It’s cheap. You don’t have to pack. You don’t have to travel. You don’t have to get someone to feed your cat. You can plan your days far in advance. You can cook your favourite meals and put them in your freezer to eat while you’re on holiday.

The Cons are:

The weather may be sucky (be prepared). You may have the urge to do the washing (resist). It’s easy to be sucked into ‘house stuff’ because people don’t really believe that you’re on holiday (ignore the postman).

But in general it’s a great way to spend a holiday. It’s not really an attempt to reduce our carbon footprint. I have to admit, Holiday at Home is not our only holiday. No, Holiday at Home is more an attempt to see if we can have a holiday on a low budget and near our home and still have great family time. So far, so good!

mtp

Keep Austin Weird!

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I’m in Austin (Texas) right now for the SXSW Interactive Festival. That may explain why I haven’t posted anything over the past few days. Not only have I been sat in darkened rooms absorbing all kinds of geeky info that will help me be more ‘interactive’ but I’ve also been on a one-girl mission to break the world record for eating the most American diner breakfasts in one week. Austin is cool! Apart from the fact that it’s warm it also seems to be a city that is full of bars and restaurants and no shops (which is great since I’m very poor this month). There’s not much greenery in Austin (since it’s so darn hot I guess) but I did find a little piece of spearmint heaven in one small coffee shop.

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And they even provide toys for the local wildlife – bless!

mtp

Italian Seeds

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We’ve just returned from a romantic sojourn in the beautiful, misty and mysterious city of Venice (is Venice a city – I guess it is). First things first – Venice is beautiful and everyone must go to see it at least once in their life. It’s the law. Secondly, there are no taxis (well if you don’t count water taxis) so my feet are officially ‘killing me’ after walking what felt like the length of Italy along tiny cobbled streets and even smaller stone bridges. But…I’m not complaining because I managed to squeeze in some seed shopping (yes! I found a seed shop – in Venice.). To my complete delight we rounded a corner after exiting the Vivaldi violin museum (did you know that he was a priest before a composer?) – and there, large as you like, was this stand, groaning under the weight of beautiful, coloured seed packets. Yey! Myself and some Chinese tourists could hardly contain ourselves as we tried to turn the little stand without being totally rude and whisking it around just when the other is reaching for a packet. Still, after much deliberation I decided on three packs – a Tomato variety called Pomodoro a Grappolo Robin, a thin-leaf, ‘Italian’ (is there any other kind?) Basil called Verde Compatto, and a vegetable that is completely new for me Raperonzolo, which can only be described as looking like a white carrot. I asked the shop-keeper how to cook it and, as he didn’t speak English, he made a chopping action with his hands and then pretended to eat something. I’m not sure if that means you should eat it raw, or not, but at least it confirms that it ‘is’ for eating. Anyway – I’m soooo excited about growing my Italian seeds that they now have pride of place in my seed box (ie. right at the front).

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