Dr. Mark Gardener
Dr. Christine Gardener

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Here you can find our diary/blog entries for 2010-11.

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December 2011 - Raspberry Coolie

We were given a load of raspberry canes a couple of years back (thankyou David) and they have taken well. So well in fact that they are taking over the garden! It was decided to move the current canes out of the four blocks and create a single new block that can be confined and generally kept under control. This is not a trivial matter as the roots go deep and find their way under the paving blocks so I have been struggling away for a week or two now.

Digging up old raspberry canes and creating a new fruit bed is not trivial

However, at long last I have consolidated the 4 metre square blocks into one 4 x 1 metre bed. The plan is to make some kind of restraint/support so that they are a little more manageable. Meanwhile the freezer is still fairly full of fruit.


August 2011 - Plum Centre

We recently aqcuired a load of plums (thankyou Rachel), amazing how many you get in a carrier bag! All ripe at more or less the same time... we decided to make them into something that would last slightly longer. Chutney and Jam seemed the logical options.

Chutney was facilitated by us having a few large courgetes (having been away for a while) and these provided a bit of crunch. The jam was made in two batches and turned out pretty well.

Plum chutney and plum jam - delicious. The spare plums shown here made another six jars of jam

The chutney was based on my stand-by recipe:
3 lb courgette
1.5 lb onion
3 lb plums
24 oz sugar
2 pint vinegar
2 tbsp coriander seed
4 tbsp black mustard seed
4 tbsp salt
1 tbsp chilli flakes

Combine together in a large pan and reduce by about half until syrupy.

The jam was based on simple 1:1 proportions:
1 kg plums (de-stoned and rough chop)
1 kg sugar
100 ml water

Simply warm the fruit and about half the sugar until the fruit is soft. Then add the rest of the sugar and boil for about 7-10 minutes to reach setting point.


July 2011 No pain... no gooseberries

Ouch... it's that time of year. The gooseberries are getting fat/ripe and playing hard to get. I really ought to have trained the plants into nice easy to get at shapes. However, I am stuck with scrambling bushes full of sharp spikes.

Gooseberry close-up  Gooseberry harvest
Gooseberries are moderately dangerous to harvest... but so worthwhile

We have a dessert gooseberry - thanks to John (the Frog) - and this has produced well for the past two years. I took cuttings too so there will be more and more. This year I estimate 3kg or so, not bad for a small bush. The stuff will go in the freezer for the time being. We made jam from the strawberries and blackcurrants recently... gooseberry jam next on the list.


June 2011 A surfeit of strawberries

It seems like a good year for strawberries. We have tons of them. Every day seems to bring another pile to add to the freezer.

More strawberries

The daily routine is to collect fresh fruit that shows signs of turning red, this keeps the blackbirds and squirrels at bay (slightly). Then we sort out enough fully ripe ones for the day and then any surplus are put in the freeer. The frozen ones are fine for jam or made into puree. As long as there are a few ripish ones in the box the rest finish off nicely, safe from marauding birds and slugs.


April 2011 Yeah butt, no butt, yeah butt

The dry weather is not helpful for getting the early vegetables growing. Fortunately I acquired some plastic drums that I was able to make into additional water butts. Thank you David Moore, these drums originally help detergent for farm use and are ideal.

Water butts have come in useful with the dry weather

I had quite a bit of trouble getting them fixed up though! First my hole-cutter was the wrong size and then I couldn't get the plugs to take the joining pipes. However, as you can see, they are now ready to go. Fortunatle just in time to get filled up. In spite of the extra capacity I am still nearly empty. I have more drums in waiting so it looks like I'll be extending capacity quite soon.


January 25th 2011 Burns Unit

It seemed like a good idea at the time; a community Burn's Night supper. It turns out that it was a good idea, haggis and whisky galore.. good job nobody had to walk more than 200 yards.

The "usual suspects" all up for a party

The haggis was brought out with great flourish to the traditional address. Nobody seemed to have a dirk so the most viscous kitchen knife had to suffice.

The address followed swiftly by the beastie and bashed wotnots

Well done to everyone for chipping in with especial thanks to Margaret (Hostess and haggis chef), Jim (host and procurement), Linda (procurement and serving), Geoff (the address), Chris (cooking and serving), Maureen (a mere trifle), Ruth (cooking), Julie (cooking) and John (whiskey). Could be a regular event.


January 2011 Community Walk

Early in January we went on the annual Weare Giffard Community Walk. This year we followed the track of the old Mill Leat from the Mill at Weare Giffard to the weir on the Torridge. On the way we passed under "Screw" and Beam Bridges.

The old Mill at Weare Giffard (now apartments)

Stopping to admire "Screw Bridge" before ending up at the weir on the Torridge

From the weir we headed back towards Beam house and then followed the old Rolle canal to the Tarka Trail and lunch at Torrington Station. After lunch we returned to Weare Giffard along the Tarka Trail and through the woods.

Many thanks go to David, Keith and all the organizers/helpers for a most enjoyable and informative walk. More pictures to be found here.


November 2010 - 3 wise men?

We went to London recently to see the blessing of the crib parade from Holy Cross school, along the New King's Road. Not often you get to see camels in the middle of town. It was all very jolly and the kids seemed to enjoy dressing up and parading off to church.

Blessing of the Crib Parade - Holy Cross School, Parsons Green.


March 5th 2010 - a few bright days

Amazing how a bit of sunshine makes a difference. I managed to get out into the garden over the past few days and do a bit of construction work that I had meant to get finished around Christmas time.

A bit more block paving and now the arbour/seat can go in place. A good place to sit if we get any summer.

Fist of all I dug away a few areas of turf and put down more paving blocks. Then I constructed a seat/arbour (from a kit). It needs a bit of final levelling as the ground is not level/flat but that is a task for later. Our back garden faces pretty well south and can get very warm. If we get a decent summer then a shady spot to sit would be very welcome. I can do optimism.


February 5th 2010 - Fred the Shred and the green shoots of recovery

A nice sunny day; although still quite soggy underfoot. I decided to do one of those outdoor tasks that I have been putting off for ages. I chopped back an elder tree and shredded up the wood. We get quite a few flowers and berries from the tree but it is overhanging the (bottom) garden a bit too much and needed a trim. The shredder made short work of the branches and they ended up in the large compost bin.

Fred the shred makes light work of elder branches. Elsewhere the chard is springing back after winter

Whilst trudging up and down (no electricity at the bottom) I looked over the veg. beds to see that all was well. It was nice to see the first shoots of the rhubarb poking through, the garlic poking up and the chard (which has survived the winter). I even managed to rummage up some lettuce that had been hiding in a cold frame since November.


February 1st 2010 - under the weather

It seems that winter lingers on; we had a mild dusting of snow yesterday (overnight) but it is sunny and quite pleasant for the time being. However, I see that rain is forecast for the coming week. I took the chance to visit the bottom garden and check for parsnips. There are still quite a few left and if they are not eaten soon they'll start sprouting.

The parsnips are here somewhere

First job, find parsnips. Fortunately I left a plant tag at the point I left off digging around Christmas so was able to relocate the buried roots.

A few nice parsnips for dinner

Luckily the ground was pretty soft and it was easy (although messy) to dig up enough for a meal (mashed with cheese and spread over a kind of courgette ratatouille mix - gardener's pie). Now (Feb 2nd) it is pouring with rain and I do not feel like getting wet gathering more; perhaps there will be a lull in the rain..


January 30th 2010 - moving trees

The snow is gone but spring is still a long way off it seems. Today I took the chance to move some wood from our outside store into the dry. We have plenty of wood but not enough dry storage so I take the opportunity to re-stock whenever the pile seems dry enough.

Logs ready for the wood burner

As I was moving logs I noticed several unfortunate wasps; they had evidently hidden away in an attempt at hibernation, to no avail I am sorry to say. At least the sun was shining today although more wet/snow is forecast. I am so far behind with my garden/outdoor tasks!


January 2010 - snowed under

Not long after the Weare Giffard community walk we had our first 'serious' snow. Because of the steepness of the hills it has been a challenge to get out without a 4 x 4 car (which we lack). When the sun shines on the snow the scenes are glorious but when we had some mist early on things were quite 'atmospheric'.

Mist and snow make for gloomy but interesting pictures

Cold weather descends on Guscott

Today everyone rallied round and helped to clear some of the snow from the road. We were out with shovels and spades and soon cleared away the worst of the ice and snow. The grit bins are now completely empty - hopefully we will get fresh supplies soon.


January 2nd 2010 - A long walk

Today we went on the Weare Giffard community walk. Thanks to David Moore for leading the way. We started from beside the 'park' in the middle of the village at about 10.30 am.

The start of the walk in Weare Giffard

From Weare Giffard we climbed pretty steeply out into the hills and there were a few stiles and the odd stream to negotiate.

A few obstacles along the way

Eventually we ended up at Great Huxhill Farm for lunch in their barn - thanks very much - jolly welcome the stop was.

Lunch in a warm(ish) barn

After our pit-stop we headed off on the way back to Weare Giffard. This was mostly downhill (thankfully) and with some wonderful views along the way.

A view looking Northwards towards the Torridge valley

All in all we covered about 7 and a half miles and returned to Weare Giffard around 3.30 pm. Thanks very much to David Moore for leading from the front and to Keith Hughes for leading from the rear (as it were). David arranged access with the local landowners so thanks to al those who provided access and 'facilities' en route.


January 1st 2010 - Frosty start

The New Year dawned bright and clear. At least I assume it did as I was not actually conscious at dawn. We decided to get out early and visit RHS Rosemoor; we are members and it is only a few miles down the road.

The Winter garden at Rosemoor

We had a nice stroll around - there is always something to see. It can be a source of inspiration as well as a source of great envy; hardly a weed in sight.

Winter sunshine at Rosemoor

Then it was back to reality; Chris has marking to do and I need to chop some wood. I expect there are a few other pressing matters that need attending to but they can wait!