What I did this summer

“What I did this summer”

Hmm, that sounds like a horror movie title… well I don’t think my little life is anything quite like an American horror movie!

It’s been a busy summer and I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a few weeks now, to very little avail. 2015 has been a big year for me – though it doesn’t rightly feel like it, but I’ve made some big decisions and I’m happy to say they were all for the best – and it’s not over yet: who knows what will happen? This summer has flown by – and it’s not really been much of a summer. My vegetable garden is about six weeks behind; I’ve only just managed to harvest my first courgette and have been eating fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for the past two weeks or so. But more on my garden in another post! (She says, with all intents and purposes, as if it might actually happen…)

First things first, I’m writing this from my shiny new laptop! My trusty Dell, which I’ve had since third year uni, started spitting the dummy out a few weeks back: halfway through a major plot point in Grimm season 2, my computer decided to overheat and refuse to come back to life for more than 20 minutes. Maybe it was telling me my Netflix habit was getting out of control, or maybe it was just showing its age. Dad took it apart and cleaned up the fan but it was probably just the start of a few more problems – a five year old laptop has probably run its course. So after Dad losing his temper in PC World, with me and Mum chasing after him (queues + back to uni shopping rush = not a good day for the Loys), I picked up my shiny blue HP from Currys Digital in the Prospect Centre and, aside from adjusting to a new keyboard, I’m dead chuffed.

Mum and I entered our village horticultIMG_6954ural show: cue momentous stress and rage as pastry refused to play fair, rules were lately acknowledged (if at all) and little victories. Overall we were pleased with our hauls: a first prize apiece and a handful of seconds and thirds between us, we now have enough cake to last us through the winter.

Recently I got a Netflix subscription: I’ve been addicted to Grimm (Captain Renard, all the way!), caught up with Once Upon A Time, not to mention I’ve bookmarked a whole load of other shows to watch. However after seeing about a million fandom references on Pinterest, I bought the first series of Supernatural from CEX, and now I’m hooked. I may have to take in all my old DVDs, CDs and games to pay for the rest of the series. So instead of blogging like a good little girl, I’ve been sat in the sewing room scaring myself silly watching ghost stories.

IMG_6790When I’m not watching the Winchester brothers or wasting hours on Pinterest, I’ve been ploughing my way through a mammoth book series. At the beginning of the year, shortly after leaving the PGCE, I began to revisit a series I’d gotten about half way through a couple of years back and stalled on: Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. I’m currently over halfway through book twelve of fourteen! It’s been a bit of a quest getting hold of the books: I had books 1 – 8 already, purchased generally in bulk from the second hand bookshop in Pickering, but when they didn’t have the next ones, I think I went to every charity shop I could find within walking distance of work (or walking distance from St Stephens, I should say) to track down the rest. I now have all 14 and am so close to the end, it’s a bit scary! Stay tuned for a full post about this series.

Usually summers for me are a bit of a haze. Most people look forward to summers: teachers for obvious reasons, gardeners for the fruition of months of preparation, and others for, I don’t know, warmth, heat, sunshine. When you work in summer schools, it’s a little different: summer is our busiest time (or rather, May onwards). I’ve worked in summer schools now for six summers (which sounds like an age) and so I tend to spend the best parts of summer in apprehension of what’s going to go wrong next; I’m good at forgetting my birthday in the middle of July. Usually the end of summer is marked for me by a trip to the Nurburgring, and this year was no different! We went at the end of August and it was scorching: I got some interesting tan lines as well as a few laps in. Got some pretty good pictures as well, which eventually I will upload in a separate post about this bi-annual pilgrimage. Last trip of 2015 – sad times!

I’ve got a week off work now, hurrah, so will have time to prep a load of posts, but also to do all those things I’ve not gotten round to yet… like watching the rest of Supernatural series 1 and Grimm series 3, and get closer to the end of the Wheel of Time! ^.^

I’ll make a promise here, too: separate posts on what I’ve learned this summer in my garden, a recap of our trip to Germany, and a rambling incoherent piece about my book series.

Until next time!

Other Exciting Things This Month…

OK maybe not exciting if you get your kicks outside of the garden. I live a fairly quiet life (I’m always working, working, working) so my excitement levels definitely peak if I dig something up out of one of my beds and it’s got something it’s supposed to have at the end of it! I.e. not a maggot-infested root, which is definitely soul-destroying.

Recently I’ve discovered I can actually grow carrots! The soil in the beds is sandy and free-draining, which is meant to be good for carrots, however it is unfortunately stony, and I’ve heard from innumerable sources that when a carrot hits a stone, it splits into a fork and grows around it, hence why many people end up with carrots which look like they could act out various forms of the karma sutra.

I was fully expecting all sorts of ‘obscene’ shapes, but we pulled up some very straight looking baby carrots! I’m ever so pleased, and ever so proud. They’re only little, but I had some for lunch today and they were excellent, if I do say so myself!

IMG_1760Granted, the red mat sort of takes away their orangeness, as they are quite vibrant, but I am definitely pleased as punch. I’ve pulled up a few more, but there are plenty left in the bed, so we should have a steady supply of good straight carrots!

I also pulled up a load of beetroot. Now I realise that I have planted the beets far too close together, and so have been gradually thinning them out. I also discovered that I had a few plants that didn’t have the characteristic red and green foliage: they were mainly pale green, and kind of looked a bit like celery. Well, Mamma and I pulled some up – look what we found!

IMG_1756So we have some normal red beetroots, fine and dandy, and even that white on in the middle looks just like an albino beet, and fairly normal. But that dude, second from left! He looks like a monster, like Chthulu or Davey Jones! His roots have gone mental. We argued about what they could be for a while – white beetroot, celeriac, kohl rabi – but I think they are just a couple of white beet seeds that got in the packet.

I do love things like this – nothing’s ever the same!

 

 

The Wish List #1 – A Foray into Fruit

At our old house, we had a lovely orchard at the end of the garden, and in it we had a variety of apple, pear and plum trees. I can’t remember when the plum tree gave up the ghost: it has been a gnarled dead man’s claw pointing upwards at a sort of forty-five degree angle since the beginning of time. But I loved our apple trees, and when we moved to windy farm I sadly lamented their absence.

Then one weekend in July I went to Dean’s garden centre in Scarborough, and had a casual stroll down the fruit trees aisle, just out of curiosity…

Now, I discovered a while ago you could get a wonderful cider made of Katy apples – spelled right and everything! For years I’ve been mooning after having my own Katy apple tree, with dreams of maybe one day making my own Katy cider… And what did I discover, down the fruit tree aisle?

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IMG_1629Now in true modern day stalker style, I took photos of the trees and straight away showed Mum and Dad, and yearned away my little heart after them, in my mind planning all the apple pies I will make. After all, I didn’t win the best apple pie two years running at Middleton Village Show for nothing!

And then, on my birthday, rushing home from work, I almost missed this beauty, wrapped up with a big beautiful bow!

Katy tree

KatyAnd not only a Katy apple tree, but a Bramley as well!

Bramley

BramleysLook at this first-rate photograph as well – the water droplet running down the side of the apple! Is that not just the most amazing thing you have ever seen? I cannot wait to get these guys planted out in the garden!

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday

I’ve been listening to my ‘Flashback Playlist’, full of songs from my uni days, and they all bring back memories of specific places and people!

Here are a choice selection:

Kaskade – Move For Me

Such a chilled out dance song, I first discovered Kaskade through Deadmau5’s I Remember, one of my favourite songs of all time. I had to get his CD, Strobelite Seduction, imported from America. He doesn’t seem to have much of a following over here, but the CD is amazing, stripped-back, simple-sounding stuff with some stunning vocals. Lovely to drive to on a sunny day.

FrankMusik – In Step

I love FrankMusik, and I downloaded his latest, mainly self-funded if not totally, album, By Nicole, which is such a huge development step from the almost old-school disco beats on Complete Me. I told you I don’t know what I’m talking about with music, but I read the reviews on the Guardian and they use about a million different words to describe a boring-ass Timberland song, so there you go. In Step is such a great song, quite fast paced, and has great vocals from Vincent.

Keane – Spiralling

Oh my god, one of my favourite songs ever! I never, ever liked Keane before – thought them boring mum music, too slow, nothing interesting. And then, bam! These electronics and synths hit me in the face, and I think I listened to this song three hundred times in about a week in first year of uni. The DJ in the Indie Room at Tru Nightclub used to laugh at me every time I requested it and would play Electric Feel by MGMT. But this song is absolutely perfect – it actually makes you feel like you’re spinning around.

The Veronicas – Untouched

These twins, with their creepy heads-not-really-attached-to-their-bodies album cover (or so I think anyway) managed to make a song without much real sense in half of their verses unbelievably catchy. I think the intent with the lyrics is to capture some of that wordlessness or senselessness when you are obsessed with someone, so much so you can clearly barely articulate proper words. But the guitars, which are almost just noise, but not quite, and the wonderful strings give this a dark undertone, and make it into a dirty dancefloor song that sooo never got the attention it deserved, and I love it! It’s almost my ideal pop song – breathy female vocalists, check; rambling incoherent lyrics, check; fuzzy unclear guitars, check; random string section, check!

The Lark Ascending: My Favourite Piece of Classical Music

I am so pleased to discover that my favourite piece of classical music, The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams, was voted #1 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame – and I didn’t even know about it to vote!

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/apr/27/first-world-war-inspired-the-lark-ascending-favourite-classical-music

http://halloffame.classicfm.com/2014/chart/position/1/

From about 11 minutes onwards is my favourite part. The soaring orchestra always bring tears to my eyes!

A lot of people call this a cozy rural piece, but I think for me there are some truly sad moments in it, and yet some beautiful celebratory passages.

Simply the best 15 minutes of your life!

New Addition – The Raised Bed Diaries #8

On Wednesday, Mum and I had a riding lesson, which was fun trying to see how much we’d forgotten while we’d been away. The riding school we go to is just up the road from the Irton Garden Centre, so smelling of horses and sweat, we went for lunch and then a trawl around the shop.

I got a strawberry plant, which I planted out this afternoon in a container.

Strawberry Plant

 

Looks a right beast!

After we’d been in the garden centre, we drove to my Nana’s to pick up my tomatoes. They seem to have shot up as well! Maybe I should leave all my crops alone a bit more often.

I planted some marigolds and poached egg plants (or, as I like to call them, scrambled egg plants!) in the bed a few weeks before we went away, and they’ve just started poking their noses out of the ground as well. Mum says she thinks my mangetout and onions have grown, but I can’t see much difference. Maybe I need to stop looking at them!

I have my asparagus plant to plant out this weekend, and the radishes to plant out as well. I also need to start my second sowing of salad leaves and radishes, if I have enough seeds. Busy, busy!

Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

http://www.amazon.co.uk/b/ref=amb_link_181271247_2?ie=UTF8&node=4656884031&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-1&pf_rd_r=0EC3P8DDQQXAT6JRWH4P&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=489452247&pf_rd_i=266239

Amazon have released a list of 100 books that they recommend you should read in your lifetime. I was pretty impressed to have read 35 of them by 23, and also quite chuffed to see some of my favourites in there, like Birdsong, Atonement, and The English Patient. I also think I have over 20 more on either my bookshelf or on my Kindle, so there’s time yet!

People often get quite heated about these sort of things: I like to read them for inspiration for future reads more than anything else (I added To the Lighthouse, Murder on the Orient Express, and My Man Jeeves to my Amazon wish list), and just to see how many I have read. Often it seems like the angsty academics (or more likely, failed wish-they-were-angsty-academics) kick off about the lack of classics, or the choice of classics, or the inclusion of this many modern books at the cost of a few more dusty oldies, but this isn’t a definitive guide. It’s subjective, obviously. The Guardian have been running a series on The 100 Best Novels, and the comments are always rife with criticism, outrage, and uproar from the keyboard warriors who think because they read this book, it is simply better. Calm down!

One book that often crops up on these lists that I’ve tried time and time again to get into but never get past the first fifty pages is Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. It’s just impenetrable to me, and it sits on my shelf like a constant reminder of reading failure. Then again, when I was fourteen or fifteen I must have picked Dracula up about ten times and failed to get past the Brides in the Castle, and then for my Masters entry essay, I threw myself at it and read it in about an afternoon. Similarly, I’m not the biggest Dickens fan, but after reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood twice now and watching the excellent BBC TV show, I am now swiftly becoming a convert.

It’s all about growing! When I was 16, Birdsong was my favourite book. And yet now, I have no one single favourite book, but rather a selection that I love, and they are invariably individual and personal, and for the most part, remind me of a certain time or person or feeling. At that point, is it less the book and rather the personal connection that makes them memorable?

Isn’t that one of the themes in Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, which I finished recently? Another book missed off the list!

The Watering Can Fairy! – The Raised Bed Diaries #7

We went away on holiday for a week to the Nurburgring in Germany, and I spent all holiday worrying about my crops, especially the ones in the cloche. However, it seems like the watering can fairy has struck, and some kind soul has watered my plants!

In the last post, I showed how a courgette was gently peeping out. The hotel we stayed at in Germany had its own little vegetable patch and a polytunnel, so I was dead nosy about that. They were only growing herbs in the polytunnel. Every time I saw the veg patch, I got all angsty about mine. At the end of our holiday, I was mega sad to leave (it’s always that bittersweet feeling of wanting to go home and have normal stuff for breakfast rather than hard bread, and staring out at the great yawning gap from now till the next holiday) but excited – and apprehensive – to see what had happened to my plants.

They’ve exploded! A huge flurry of growth seems to have happened while I’ve been away. I don’t know if it’s just the absence that makes them look so much bigger, but I’m sure they’ve put on a bit of a growth spurt.

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I’ve had to repot my broccoli because they had outgrown the little pots. These broccoli plants are monstrous, they’re outgrowing the pots faster than I can pot them out. I need to find somewhere for them to be planted out.

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But the real victory story here…I left for Germany with one courgette – I’ve come back with seven!

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So I’ve repotted them in individual pots. And two more courgettes are coming through, which is amazing considering I thought I’d killed them all.

My salad leaves, spinach, beetroot and radishes all look grand. I think I’m going to plant out my radishes and see how they fair.

Overall, I’m so pleased nothing died! Everything seems to have flourished so much while I’ve been gone, maybe I should leave them alone more often? I hope it’s not a reflection on me! Now to find the watering can fairy……

Courgette!! – The Raised Bed Diaries #6

I thought I’d killed my courgettes. I was reading so much contradictory information about courgettes – they need to be in modules, in pots this deep, in pots that deep, half-filled, no soil on top, lots of soil on top, on their edge, on their side, behind glass, out on the plot… it went on and on! After seeing nothing for three weeks, I’d all but given them up for goners. And then, on the day we’re about to go on holiday, I see this little guy poking his nose out!

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It was like the greatest moment so far! I was convinced I had killed them all. Even if I just have the one (I can’t remember how many I planted!), I will be dead pleased – and you don’t really need more than one courgette plant anyway.

Not sure how they’ll do while we’re away – I have these visions of coming home and finding everything all shrivelled up and dead. But hopefully all will be well and I’ll have a lovely little courgette plant growing along merrily!

A full and flourishing cloche! – The Raised Bed Diaries #5

We’re going away soon, but my trays in the cloche are coming along very nicely indeed!

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(L-R) Radish, Beetroot, Salad Leaves, Spinach. Below: Runner Beans (freshly potted) Courgettes (in tray) and Broccoli

There seems to be a weird sort of gap in the middle of the radishes: either my hand slipped when I was planting them or I overwatered them and they all swam into their neighbouring modules!

The runner beans have been freshly potted so I don’t expect to see much till after we’ve been away.

The courgettes are my main worry: they’ve been in over 3 weeks and nothing has happened.

The broccoli was already sprouting when I bought it, and I’ve repotted out into those round containers. It is growing at a great rate of knots, but I don’t know where I’m going to put it when I’ve run out of big enough containers.