New Year’s resolution: Keep It Simple

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a good Christmas break and are refreshed with great hopes for the year ahead.

This weekend it became apparent to me that I need to make my garden simpler to manage. Last year, somehow, things started to get over-complicated and the balance of Effort and Reward tipped slightly in the wrong direction. I think I bit off more than I can chew. Time and Space are two other dimensions that I need to reconsider in the mix. Both of which are limited and that also need rebalancing. I get so much pleasure from my garden (and love blogging about it) that the threat it could become too overwhelming to enjoy is something I want to avoid at all costs… so I’ve decided to simplify things. I’ll be using more plug plants and spend less time growing from seed, I’m going to avoid ‘challenging’ varieties, and I’m going to cut back the peripheral planting areas (that I enthusiastically expanded last year) to make everything easier to maintain. However, ‘Simple’ isn’t always ‘Easy’ to achieve, so I hope you’ll stick with me on my 2017 journey! Your visits, kind words and encouragement are always a pleasure. Thank you 🙂

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to so far this year:

Harvesting: There might have been a few heavy frosts this winter, but that doesn’t seem to have affected the slug population. Nor does that population seem to be in any sort of hibernation. There’s an epidemic of active slitherers and slimers, in my garden at least. Yet, despite flushing out an army of small slugs from my weekly harvest, they don’t seem to have done that much damage beyond the extremities. Once outer leaves are removed, skins are peeled, and everything is given a rinse or a scrub, I have some beautiful fresh veg and salad for the week ahead. Leeks and parsnips have required extra faith that something would be redeemable beyond the mud-clogged roots and bedraggled slimy leaves, but they have scrubbed up well. Very satisfying!

Stored: I’m also starting to use a few things I have stored in the garage. The red cabbages are much smaller this year as I grew them in large pots, three in each. Once cut open they need using up, so ‘grapefruits’ rather than ‘footballs’ suits the two of us just fine. The apples are also keeping well in the garage. A few sturdy stackable cardboard boxes, picked up from the supermarket veg section, have been perfect storage for them this year. I expect I’ll be making a crunchy apple, red cabbage and walnut coleslaw later.

Surprises: I’ve had a bonanza of non-stop fruits from my chillies, which I put on the sitting room windowsill to over-winter. Largely ignored, very occasionally watered (the soil is very dry), and quite cold behind the curtains at night (I have draughty single pane windows), they seem to be defiantly happy and keep churning out glossy red torpedos as if in some sort of Moscow Victory Day parade. They are still flowering too.  I hardly needed to have bothered with a Christmas tree!

I’ve been drying ripe ones by simply putting them in a metal dish next to the wood burner for a few evenings. Once they are bone-dry I pop them in an airtight jar and store them in the dark. I might try grinding them up to make some chilli powder, with the thinking I might remember to use them more in this sprinkle-able format. Any advice on that is welcome!

I’ve also been surprised by the coriander. This plant has survived under a tent of two panes of glass, which are open-ended to the elements. It’s doing much better than its pale, leggy brother (both bought together) which is in a warmer, enclosed cold frame. The fresh air seems to be doing it good, with a robust core and dark green leaves, even after some -5 frosts. Slow-growing at this time of year, of course, but every other week there’s been a stalk or two I can harvest. I keep meaning to cover the ends but I don’t think I will now.

So, what to do with all these parsnips? I’ve been roasting the first harvests but I’ve got a bit bored of that and fancied something different this week. A quick rummage through the Internet and my larder for some ideas, and I decided on a sticky parsnip cake and a spicy parsnip soup. Please check out my next 2 posts for pics and recipes 🙂



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