When The Potatoes Ran Out

There comes a time when conditions become so bad – so unremittingly awful- that you have to find previously undiscovered inner strengths to help you get through it. Call it primeval, call it survival instinct, call it a circle of life kinda thing. And for a Scot, it presents the ultimate test. 

Two days ago we ran out of potatoes. This is the sort of unexpected mental torture which you don’t read about in newspapers or on Twitter. And I don’t think The One Show has done a special on it yet.

While we had paid particular attention to maintaining essential supplies such as wine  it would seem we had taken our eye off provisions you expect never to run out of.

I’d always thought pasta was mainly consumed by people who either couldn’t cook, or couldn’t be bothered to cook.  But pork chops, beans  and pasta? What sort of madness is that? I’m all for experimental cooking and new recipes but there just comes a time when you have to say no no no. Unless you’ve very hungry. And there’s a foot of snow outside.

My wife was very sympathetic to this highly sensitive issue. “Get it down you, caveman” as another spoonful of vermicelli was ladled onto the plate.

It was OK.

Thankfully a new batch of King Edwards have been secured at The Asda, and life has returned to normal.

Well not quite. One of the little reported side effects of all this bad weather for country types like me is what I’m calling ‘greenery deprivation’. It’s an affliction caused by a sudden and dramatic loss of anything of an olive hue. We miss it. It’s why we live in rural areas.  Apart from the unusual smells that is. As we enter our fourth week of ‘white hell’ (copyright all newspapers)  monochrome views still dominate and show no sign of giving up the green fields below quite yet.

There is an oasis of greenery. It’s under our trampoline. I’m thinking of hosting a party for those suffering from ‘greenery deprivation’. No tall people allowed though. We could drink cider and look at photographs taken last summer. Can you get scratch and sniff grass cuttings? That would be nice as well.

This current cold snap brings unexpected new tasks to while away an afternoon. We’re having parsnips tonight. Our parsnips. Nurtured in our soil since last May. There’s just one problem. I’m not quite sure where they are under the snow. A new and exciting garden adventure is taking shape. Hunt the root vegetable. Perhaps those still under the trampoline could help.

And there’s one new job to do. Hacking down icicles so enormous our house looks like it has jagged teeth on both sides. And these are proper icicles….the kind knocked up by Mexicans on a very poor day rate in the Disneyland back lot and tacked to buildings for their snow season in Orlando.

Must go, blackbirds are at the window requesting more food. Now where’s that boiled pasta when you need it. Maybe it’s a bit like Red Bull…it gives you wings.


Holy Moley

Click on this image for more fine work from Ian McWilliams on Flickr

Damn. They’re back. On the lawn. After a summer spent largely underground happily breeding and eating worms my little furry friends have organised themselves into a formidable subterranean brigade with the sole intention of annoying the heck out of me.

So the traps have been set. It will be a battle to the death. And unless they learn to pick locks, climb stairs and wield a large club then I will win.

For the moment they are ahead.  Expect further news as and when.


Bad Spuds

Bad Spuds

There are many good things to consider when gardening comes into your life. The fresh air; exercise; the huge pleasure from providing  sustenance for your family; the desire to make your shed a second home; a cold and calculated need to kill everything which dares enter your precious plot….the list goes on.

There is a dark down side and that is when it doesn’t go to plan. This afternoon I dug up all my maincrop (“choose Sante- blight free!” trilled the promotional blurb in the catalogue) with the intention of storing the three sacks in a cool dark corner to sustain the Vole family well through the winter.

The advertising blurb was right. The blight didn’t affect the crop but virtually everything else did. Hideous small creatures popped out of beautifully drilled holes in every second spud to say hello; some were mouldy; many were green; others well…simply didn’t look particularly pleasant.

I spend hours in the garden. I LOVE it. But I was disappointed to discard much of the produce I had grown. So instead of chips, mash and bakers every night until March we should be through them with a couple of family size cottage pies.

Sometimes I feel like paving over the garden. Today is one of those days. I am sure it will pass. 

Good Spuds

Good Spuds

Blushing Beetroot

For more of this photographer's fine work click on this to go to his Flickr page

Am writing this in our kitchen after a very traumatic 24 hours. You can still smell the trauma. Literally. More on that in a moment.

Beetroot have taken over my life recently. My village of Hamsterley held its annual ‘Hoppings’ event at the weekend. And for all amateur gardeners a new and potentially rewarding event…a produce show in the social club. One category caught my eye  – beetroot.

So I dug all mine up the day before the show; selected the three best (or three which were the same size); brought them inside; washed them and prepared my acceptance speech.  I’d checked on the internet how to show off such vegetables and was confident. They were whoppers. I went to bed and fell into a confident slumber.

I’d read that they should be kept in salty water overnight. I forgot but woke up at 0525 and went down to immerse them. Was it too late? How sad had my life become?

And so to the day of the show. I prepared the three little darlings and strode down the street towards the show area.  However all confidence evaporated when the show judge who was taking the money at the door looked at me, then at the entries, then uttered the killer phrase “you shouldn’t have cut the tops off” .

Deflated I trudged home, having lost all interest in the stupid competition. The afternoon wore on and word spread. The vole’s beetroots had been placed…..third.

Now I’m not that competitive but for something I have grown to be recognised by leading authorities in the horticultural as the third best in our village, on a Sunday in August, is worth celebrating. I now have a very nice rosette.

And now back to the kitchen, and that smell. Yesterday I boiled two huge pans of beetroot for pickling purposes. And then I forgot about them. For hours. The pan is a goner…and the less said about the poor beetroot the better.

However, today’s a new day. The beetroot I rejected yesterday as not suitable are now boiling nicely. I’m keeping a very close eye on them. Want a jar?