Author Archives: Ros

Apples

Apple JG 1s

James Grieve apples

As mentioned in my last post, we have a small apple tree in the garden. It’s now the fourth summer after it was planted and, much to my surprise, it has produced an excellent crop. I’m surprised because the weather was pretty miserable when it was in flower and there was hardly a pollinator to be seen, but it seems at least one must have sneaked into the garden when I wasn’t looking.

It’s a triple tree, meaning that three different types have been grafted into the same stem – James Grieve, Cox’s Orange Pippin and Katy. In its first year, we had one apple – a James Grieve. In its second year, it produced a couple of Katy apples. Last year, we had about a dozen James Grieve. This year, the whole tree produced so many baby apples that I had to thin them out! This is exciting for me because it’s the first year that the Cox has bothered to produce and I’m looking forward to the results!

Today I decided to pick the James Grieve. Over the past 2-3 weeks, we’ve had a few fallers, both Cox and James Grieve,  most of them with worms inside. Everything worth saving on these has ended up either in the stew pot or in fruit crumble, along with several of the Cox that I picked early because I could see the worm holes. This morning, though, I found two perfectly good James Grieve apples on the lawn. Apparently, the tree got stressy after yesterday’s heat and decided to start throwing its apples about. So, since they bruise so easily and appeared to be ripe, I decided not to wait for a repeat performance. According to the internet, they aren’t supposed to be ready until September, but I don’t think my tree knows this. It did exactly the same last year.

Today’s pickings? Eighteen apples weighing a combined total of 6lb. Not bad for a little tree. Here it is:

Apple Tree 2s

Triple apple tree

The picture was taken in mid July. It’s mostly the James Grieve that you can see, though there are some Cox’s Orange Pippin behind. We have about twenty of those still left on the tree.

The Katy only  has three apples. This is because it hasn’t grown very much and is the smallest part of the tree. However, all three apples are a good size.

And how do the James Grieve taste? Well, I’m happy with them just as they are, but the experts on the internet say they should be used for cooking when picked early and I think my husband would concur. It would seem that not all of us sit eating chunks of cooking apple when we are supposed to be putting them in the pot…

Mysterious goings on

The night before last, somebody came into the garden and dug up one of my carrots. Just one. Which they left next to the hole so that the garden gastropods could have a nice feast. I found it there yesterday afternoon.

So now I have a curious mystery to solve: Who did it? And why?

I mean, the vegetable garden is in full view of the street and I’ve often thought that anyone wandering past could quite easily help themselves to tomatoes (last year) or beans (this year) if they had a mind to. All they’d have to do is reach out their hand. Then there’s the little apple tree. They’d have to be slightly more adventurous to reach that, but it wouldn’t wholly surprise me if we woke up one morning and found that someone had taken it into their heads to pinch some apples or knock them all off the tree for the sheer hell of it. But they haven’t. Instead, I’ve had several people stop by and say how well everything is doing and what a good idea it is to have a vegetable patch in the front garden. (We don’t have a back garden). Or they tell me how pretty the vegetable patch looks with the flowers as well or how good grilled courgettes taste – have I tried them?

And now, to cap it all, I’ve had a carrot very carefully dug up for me!

Why?

It makes no sense. If, for example, it was a four-footed beastie, why didn’t they eat it? Are my carrots really that bad?

Interestingly, my next door neighbour has had the odd plant dug up in the night as well. Again, no damage. Just dug up and left. For no reason. (Or none that we can see).

It’s all very mysterious.

These aliens that supposedly carry out experiments, are they not very good at putting things back when they have finished with them?

Did my carrot not pass quality control?

Have they signed a secret agreement with the gastropods as part of their plan for world domination?

That must be it. I mean, I also have a scab on my knee. Not just a little scratch, but a proper scab, as if I’d grazed it somehow. It’s even a bit sore if I kneel on it. Yet I have absolutely no memory of how it got there.

It’s the aliens! It has to be the aliens! They must have been in a hurry when they brought me back…

Unless it was the garden gnomes, just trying to be helpful?

 

 

Wuthering Heights revisited

View from Top Withens - by Graham Hogg

View from Top Withins by Graham Hogg

Wild, windswept solitude; a place where the spirit runs free. That, for me, was the original attraction of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. I was a young teenager when I first read the book and was gripped from the start. My English teacher had asked that we read just a few chapters at a time so that we could discuss it as we went along. However, I finished the book within a couple of days, apparently no more capable of restraint than some of the characters I was reading about.

Earlier this year, when I was too ill to do much else, I decided to read it again. I could remember almost nothing of it: A vague impression of wild and windy moorland and a ghostly Catherine crying through the window at night was all that I could recall, so I wanted to remind myself of the story and find out whether it still held the same magic as it did nearly forty years ago.

It began well. Emily was a great storyteller, of that there is no doubt. However, the more I read of the story, the more I began to lose sympathy with its characters, continuing to read only out of a somewhat morbid fascination as to how it would all turn out. Whilst I had been dimly aware that there was a darker side to the lives of Catherine and Heathcliff, I was completely unprepared for the depth of ugliness into which the tale descends. For me, it began to read like a nineteenth century version of Twilight in which Edward is rejected by Bella and spends the following years taking long, slow and painful revenge on everyone with whom she is connected.

Perhaps because of this, I found the end a little disappointing at first. Having painted such a remarkable portrait of her anti-hero, it felt almost as if Emily was disposing of him simply in order to set the young people free and hence bring the story to a satisfying close. That such an apparently strong and focused individual should end as he did, didn’t feel entirely believable. As Nellie puts it in the penultimate chapter:

He was neither in danger of losing his senses, nor dying, according to my judgement: he was quite strong and healthy; and, as to his reason, from childhood he had a delight in dwelling on dark things, and entertaining odd fancies. He might have had a monomania on the subject of his departed idol; but on every other point his wits were as sound as mine.

On further reflection, however, it occurred to me that this is exactly how depressive illness can look from the outside. Those looking in often have no idea what is going on in the mind of the person who is ill until the depression overwhelms them.

The book was written at a time when mental illness and suicide were very poorly understood. It wasn’t until 1823, for example, when Emily was five, that those who had taken their own life could be buried in consecrated ground. Even then, it was far from generally accepted that they would ‘rest in peace’ and they were frequently buried, without ceremony, in an out-of-the-way corner of the churchyard where there was little risk of anyone encountering their unquiet souls.

It’s against this kind of background that Emily is using her characters to explore the tensions between true love and the restraints of early Victorian society; between suicidal ideation and popular belief, taboo and superstition. Catherine, for example, does not marry below her station and Heathcliff – an orphan – is shunned. Similarly, Catherine is buried, ‘to the surprise of the villagers’, in a neglected corner of the churchyard. Of Hindley, it is said that, by rights, his body ‘should be buried at a crossroads without ceremony of any kind’ and of Heathcliff that his burial was ‘without ceremony’.

In the light of this, the words of Lockwood in the closing paragraph of the book are worthy of note:

I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth.

Ultimately, perhaps, Emily uses Heathcliff’s demise not so much to bring about the redemption of the young people as to provide for the possibility of his own redemption and that of Catherine, Hindley and (by extension) all those who are tempted by suicide? If so, it’s a more powerful book than I ever realised.

‘The soft wind breathing through the grass.’

As I have said, it was the wild, moorland beauty that originally captured my imagination in Wuthering Heights. Some years later, I was to end up living for a short time in the village where Emily Brontë wrote the book. This was not by design. I had no idea that Haworth was the home of the Brontë family before moving there. Nor did I know anything about the area. Yet of all the places I have lived, it remains my favourite. My love for the moors has never died.

Ruins of Forks House - Haworth Moor - by Graham Hogg

Ruins of Forks House by Graham Hogg

A week ago, my youngest daughter graduated from York University. This is a good few hours away from Somerset by car and the unforgiving nature of the ME/CFS meant that there was no way I was going to make it to the graduation without some careful planning. So we elected to spend a week in the Yorkshire Dales – Nidderdale to be precise – and to break the journey both there and back with an overnight stay half way. This worked well. So, after more years than I care to count, we found ourselves back in the Yorkshire Dales. (Some may have noticed my absence from the blogs).

Nidderdale was beautiful, though not as wild and bleak as Haworth Moor:

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Not quite Wuthering Heights revisited, then 😉 However, on the way home, I just couldn’t resist a visit to the village we once called home:

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Following the leader – or not!

I rarely comment on politics, as my silence, even on Brexit, shows. However, the current leadership row in the Labour party has me intrigued. That is, I started out being somewhat angry and frustrated because it seemed like a pointless distraction at a time when the country really needed to be holding together. However, as the situation has continued to develop, I find myself watching with increasing fascination over the way different people are responding.

The argument that has been given, repeatedly, by those who engineered the vote of no confidence, is that Jeremy Corbyn is not a leader. But what does this mean, I wonder? I mean, it’s been claimed that he has no vision. Yet, if the figures are to be believed, the public vote of confidence in him now numbers over 200, 000. That’s 200, 000 people who have caught this vision that he doesn’t have and are following him. Doesn’t that make him a leader? Well, apparently not.

One of the more major gripes has been his apparent indifference to the ‘Remain’ campaign in the lead up to the EU Referendum. This is interesting because the one thing that nearly everyone in his party seems to agree on is that he is a man of principle. So, surely, the next question that must be asked, if Jeremy is looking luke warm about a campaign, is which of his principles is the campaign not living up to?

Well, people have done this and come up with the stated purpose of the ‘Remain’ campaign as the obvious candidate. Clearly, Jeremy really wanted to leave!

Did he? Or could it possibly have had something to do with the campaign itself? For myself, I’d put a pretty good bet on it having something to do with theatrics and gimmicks and (dare I say it) possibly even lies that were all too apparent in the ‘Remain’ campaign. And I say this as someone who voted to remain, so it’s not about personal bias against a particular viewpoint. Rather, it’s about a method of campaigning that is all about trying to appeal to the voters rather than presenting a case with integrity. I would suggest, if he’s anything like me, that a man of principle isn’t going to sit easily with any such campaign.

It’s also been said that he ‘just doesn’t get it’ on immigration. Really? I’m quite sure Jeremy does ‘get it’. I’m sure he knows full well how some members of the public feel about immigration. But I suspect he also knows that (to put it bluntly) they are wrong about it.

The UK is a wealthy country and has (or had) one of the strongest economies in the world. That’s why people come here. They come because, in a wealthy country with a strong economy, they believe there is always going to be enough for them to be able to pick up a few crumbs off the floor, especially if they are prepared to work for them. In other words, they come because they believe there is already enough to go round. We know this because it’s been shown that immigration falls when our economy crashes and rises when it is stronger.

However, many of the folk in this country don’t believe there is enough to go round. They believe they have to fight for what they have. Hence they resent anyone else coming and getting it. And why do they believe this? Well, some of it will be because we have lost the industries upon which their livelihoods once depended. There are areas of the country where this is a real problem. However, at least in part, it will also be because that’s the lie that those with the wealth and the power would have them believe. They call it ‘austerity’ and they tell us it’s necessary. But this is always going to be a lie in a country with a strong enough economy to have an ‘immigration problem’ (as opposed to a refugee crisis). Somebody, somewhere, has got the money and presumably believe they deserve it. The ‘austerity’ lie is just a convenient means of ensuring that they hold on to it, with immigration being an equally convenient means of encouraging the population to point the finger away from them.

So does Jeremy ‘get’ immigration? I would suggest he gets it only too well, which is why he isn’t going to play smoke and mirrors with it like the rest of those in power. If there isn’t enough to go round, it isn’t because of the immigrants.

Then it’s been said that Jeremy is stubborn and won’t do the decent thing and resign. Excuse me? He is the elected leader and the elected leader has a responsibility first and foremost to the people who elected him. They are the people who must say if he is to step down. Until they do, as a man of principle, he going to hang on in there, whatever it costs. And, let’s face it, it takes a fair bit of courage to stand with a beleaguered cabinet in front of a Prime Minister who is determined to humiliate you and now has every excuse to do so. It’s not fun. But it’s what true leaders do. Call it stubborness if you like. I’d prefer to call it commitment and perseverance.

Finally, it’s been said that Jeremy is ‘unelectable’. Well, they may have a point there. But that’s got very little to do with whether he is a leader or not. It’s got much more to do with whether the country is willing to follow him, which is another thing altogether. Ask anyone what they look for in a leader and they will say things like, ‘Honesty. Integrity. Someone I know I can trust. Someone who cares.’ Well, it looks like they’ve got all those in Jeremy Corbyn. As I have said, nearly everyone in his party seems to agree that he is a man of principle and that the leadership row has nothing to do with his character. It’s about whether or not he’s electable. In other words, it’s about his policies – the things he is standing for. And that’s another interesting one. Jesus was a leader. But the people didn’t want to follow him so they killed him instead. Jo Cox was a leader – at least as far as her constituency was concerned – and it only took one person to kill her. In the end, it’s not about whether or not the person is a leader. It’s about whether or not we want to follow where they are going.

So, Labour MPs, The Mirror, The Guardian, the rest of the media and anyone else pointing the finger. Please stop telling me that Jeremy Corbyn is not a leader or doesn’t have vision. Instead, have the honesty and decency to admit that you don’t want to follow him.

Seed time and harvest

According to the 18th Century hymn, seed time and harvest are among ‘all things bright and good.’ That looks to me like a pretty good description of June so far in this part of the world.

Early in the month I was still frantically sowing seeds because a significant proportion of the carrots, swedes, poppies and beans I’d sown earlier had never shown. This seems to be quite normal for climbing French beans – at least the ones I’ve got. But the carrots, swedes and poppies? A phrase from one of my Dad’s gardening books comes to mind: ‘Ants steal seeds…’ Certainly there are plenty of them scurrying around my vegetable patch, although I have yet to catch one in the act!

So, yes, seed time in June; with some gloriously sunny weather in which to do it, followed by plenty of rain to help the seedlings grow.

Then, this week, I have harvested my first vegetables for the year – a handful of beans and a courgette. This is nearly a month earlier than last year, despite the fact that the earliest seeds went in a month later (in the second half of April).

Here’s how things stand at the moment:

IMAG0188s

The bean plants vary in height from 6″ to the top of the 8′ poles. The two courgette plants are putting in their usual bid to take over the world. There are a few carrots and swedes from the first sowing, but most of the later seedlings are still too small to see. The cornflowers are nearly in flower. The nasturtiums are growing nicely, but don’t look like they are going to flower any time soon.

Meanwhile, the herb garden is trying out life as a wilderness. The chives have tired of holding their heads up and are trying out the horizontal life instead (I know the feeling).The sage has nearly finished flowering (which saddens the bees immensely), but the oregano is about to start (which should help cheer them up).

We even have a few strawberries (on a plant that came up in the middle of the vegetable patch last spring and got planted amongst the herbs because I hate killing things and there was nowhere else to put it):

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So, wherever the UK, Europe and the rest of the world are headed following a certain referendum, all is bright and good in the garden 🙂 And for that – the wonder and beauty in God’s world – I give thanks.

The sage awakes

Here it is:

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‘The sage awakes to light in the night of all creatures,’ says the Bhagavad Gita. I think it’s talking about a different kind of sage, but I like it all the same. ‘The sage awakes to light…’

I planted this over a year ago. It started as a tiny seed and had grown into a small bush by the end of the summer. Over the winter, it slept. And now this! (The photo was taken last week, when the sun was shining).

I had no idea it would do this. I mean, I knew that sage had flowers and I knew that the bees liked them, but I had never seen them. I just thought ‘some herbs would be nice’ and put in the seeds. What a wonderful surprise! I love it!

Very sun. Many purple. Well excite 🙂

The bees love it too:

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Interestingly, despite the fact that both awake with the light, the words ‘sage’ and ‘sage’ have different roots. According to the Oxford dictionary of etymology:

  • Sage, as in the plant, comes from the French suage, which comes from the Latin salvia meaning ‘healing’.
  • Sage, as in the wise person, comes from the Latin sapere meaning wise.
  • Sagacious comes from the Latin sagire meaning discern acutely.

 

But perhaps this doesn’t matter, since it seems that sage awakes the brain anyway, which is going to make anyone more discerning. Maybe I should try it?