The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Saturday, July 10, 2010

This and That

It was the UK Masters last week. The toughest event in the domestic scrabble calendar - the top 16 players in the UK are invited and then down the ratings list for the reserves. So no easy games unlike in Swiss paired events where if you lose a couple of games you are likely to get a much lower rated opponent.

In the past it has been a straight round robin, but this year it was decided to add on another three games after the round robin stage. Which was a real bummer for me - for the first time in many years of trying I was leading after the first 15 games. The title would have been mine for the first time, after coming so close so many times before. I won the first of the extra games against Paul Allan so Lewis Mackay and I were two clear of the field with two to go. My spread was well ahead of Lewis so essentially I just needed to win one of our two matches. But the tile gods decided to abandon me. or to be more accurate smile on Lewis. So I lost the first match by a heart wrenching two points. Don't panic - I could still do it. But our opening racks set the tone for the decider - I had AEEIRRU, and Lewis was blessed with two Ss and a blank. His responding bonus to my opening dump of URAEI blocked my GROOMED bonus and so the game went, in the end me losing by thirty something.

Things are going better in the veggie garden...

Jean called in on Paul while I was away and told him the potatoes looked ready to her. So I have started harvesting them now, beginning with the rogue ones in the veggie patch from last years missed potatoes, potato 'pips' and spade-sliced-off sections of potato. I had been removing most of them when they appeared in the wrong places but left two patches to their own devices. So I have now cleared the area around the runner beans and have started to dig up the ones by the tomatoes. Jen has decided that the ones in the fruit-tree-bed-to-be need excavating too - luckily also the spare ones that I transplanted into the last gap. She knows she shouldn't go in there but makes a bee-line for it almost every time I let her out the back. I did a Basil Fawlty on her yesterday with the broken off potato plant which just ended up with her covered in dirt and giving me an equally dirty look.

Jen is actually my biggest garden pest. She seems to think my raised planters are her vantage points. The middle one is safe, with the hoops and butterfly netting but RP1 has paw prints in it - luckily the seeds seem to have taken it in their stride - npi. RP3 is the latest victim - we let Poncho and Jen out the back on returning from food shopping and I watched her run and jump straight in it. Luckily it is only half planted and just a few carrots squished before I dragged her out.

So on to the veggies.

Life In The Raised Planters:

My first sown surviving carrots appear to be maturing - how do you know when they are ready?
The lettuces are overtaking us now. I have picked a few of the small romaine ones to let the others (another dozen) reach a good size and the salad bowl ones are growing faster than we can eat them. And I have another sowing of the romaine variety on the way in here.
More spinach and rocket coming up too - one of my severed spinach plants re-sprouted. And another row of radishes...

The cabbages I left in there are pushing up the butterfly netting. Another half dozen need transplanting.
A second sowing of kale is doing well but will need to be moved as they are being swamped by the cabbages. Not sure whether to just move them into the veggie patch as they are still very small.
And another row of radishes...

My pickling onions seem to be thickening, as are the bulb onions.
I am still concerned about the leeks...

Yet more lettuces. Lucy has suggested making lettuce soup which I had no idea existed - I will definitely give it a go.
I have been harvesting a few radishes every couple of days - almost finished the first sowing. I had a go with the radish-top pesto after a trial run with the last of the first sown rocket. It was okay but I think I over-seasoned and garlicked it - the rocket was better. And I have another row of radishes coming...
More carrots - Jen permitting, kale and spinach - although only three plants germinated.
And the red onions that I just bunged in are now about to flower...

Life In The Veggie Patch:

Just over 6 lbs of 'free' potatoes so far, although some of these are the Jen ones.
The first of my peas have flowered and pods are appearing.
My runner beans are flowering, and the first wigwam has been covered. The second wigwam is well under way with one plant ignoring it and making a dash for freedom. The first obelisk is also very colourful, although they have only climbed about half way so far.
The dwarf beans are flowering away merrily. Another batch have been planted free-standing as the first ones don't appear to want to climb the netting.
I have transplanted the three surviving first sown kale plants and they seem to be appreciating it.
The cabbages are thriving. The first transplanted cabbages that survived the slugs and snails are now bulking up. Another dozen winter cabbages are now in the veggie patch.
I have now counted 11 baby tomatoes.
I am also tempted to pick some of the rhubarb - all three crowns look exceptionally healthy an it seems a shame not to have any home-grown rhubarb this year.

On the fruit front I have already picked as much weight-wise as I have potatoes! This is one of four main patches. And they will keep coming for the next couple of months. One batch of jam already made.

I have decided to branch out and make some elderflower cordial, in competition with Jean and Penny. So I went on the web to find recipes. You are spoilt for choice, but I was left a little bewildered trying to work out how much by volume the recipes actually produce. So if you use 3 pints of water and then add three pounds of sugar how come you still only get 3 pints. So I asked Penny - and she says it makes more as I expected. And on further questioning I discovered hers sound more like syrup with the amount of sugar she uses. Anyway I thought I would try this recipe. So I then scoured the web looking for citric acid, campden tablets and a suitable container and found all that I needed here. My package arrived this morning.

And then I branched out again as whilst looking I had come across the Collins Gem Food For Free book and that sounded rather enticing. So on to Amazon and I ordered a copy. And a couple of books on jams, chutneys and preserves. Awaiting my next package with eager anticipation.

Back to more mundane things and I have made a start on cleaning and tidying the house. Gerry and family are coming next week for a few days. So the sunroom is now looking a lot better with the dead flies hoovered up from the window sills.

And finally I have disproved the old adage Red Sky At Night as it peed down starting in the early hours and continuing on until late morning...

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