Monday, 4 September 2017

I'm drowning in mushrooms!

They're everywhere. My freezer is packed full of sliced wild mushrooms. I have dried around 6kg (13 lbs) of mushrooms and they're now sitting in jars, ready for the pantry. I have a tub full of fried chanterelles in the fridge, waiting to become tonight's dinner. I also have a tub of creamy birch-bolete sauce in there, a massive amount left over from an even more massive amount we had for yesterday's lunch. AND I CAN'T STOP! I just can't walk away from an edible mushroom when I see it. It's an instinct, it gives me such an adrenaline kick! I know where to look, I know how quickly they grow back and I just can't stop myself from picking them. I absolutely love mushrooms, and this must have been the most prolific season yet, and it's only just started! 
I have stared giving them away since I'm running out of storage, but my hunter-gatherer instincts are making me pick more and more basketfuls of these little wonders. I wonder if there's a way I could sell them!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Mushroom season has begun!

Mushrooms - my absolute favourite thing to forage for - have finally appeared. At least the types I pick; I know there always are some mushrooms out there, but I don't pick anything I don't recognise. 

I already have two tubs full of sliced mushrooms in the freezer, and a third one about half full. And it's just the beginning!

My latest find is the beautiful large porcini mushroom pictured below - found it yesterday 5min from my house. S pointed out to me today that a certain gourmet online store sells them for £17 a piece!! Now that's a saving, I got it completely free :-)

I also stumbled upon a big patch of lovely chanterelles in the same spot a couple of days ago. I adore them - they make such wonderful sauce! They weighed in at 250g, I wonder how much that would have cost to buy!

I can't wait to go for a proper ''hunt'' to a large forest - maybe this weekend!




Birch boletes

Bay bolete

Monday, 14 August 2017

Autumn state of mind

It's the middle of August, everything in the garden is lush, green and abundant - and as a gardener, this is what I had been waiting for all those months. But today's cold, rainy and windy weather brought on a sudden longing for Autumn coziness. 

When I sat in my chair today, in my warm jumper and with a hot cup of tea warming my hands, I remembered how much I love long October evenings, the cliché-yet-delightful pairing of hot drinks and good books, gentle sound of rain and flickering candles. 

Also, I have found a few mushrooms this month. The picture above is of the lovely birch boletes I found on my way home from work last week. To me, this means Autumn is just around the corner and I will soon be picking basketfulls of mushrooms every weekend! That's another thing I really look forward to: long walks in the forest, foraging for all those wonderful fungi.

As much as I want to be in the moment and enjoy the summer while it lasts, on a day like this I just can't help but think about the coming months... It really does feel like mid-October today. Stay warm everyone!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Garden in full swing

The garden is doing beautifully - certainly a lot better than I expected in my first year of gardening. The picture above is today's harvest for a lovely vegetable soup, the first meal made entirely out of garden produce. I'm so chuffed!

We've also had a few BBQ meals already, even tough the weather hasn't really been BBQ-friendly. But since S built it all by himself, we had to test it - and it did the job perfectly. The simple meal of beef burgers, garden potatoes and garden broad beans we had the other day was to die for!

We have also had our first ripe tomato - they are coming along slowly as we haven't had much sunshine, but they'll get there!

First harvest of broad beans:

Onions laid out to dry - this is only about a third of all my onions!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Our new house: 1 year later

We bought our house last July. After many years of renting, getting the keys to our new home was a very emotional moment for both of us. Even though the house needed a fair amount of work done to suit our needs and aesthetics, it was love at first sight and the beginning of a great adventure.

There's still many things needing done, replaced or refreshed here. We have a tight budget and have only been able to do so much. But the house is definitely liveable; we have done a great deal of painting (the previous owners had painted the master bedroom blood-red; we changed it to soothing blue. The living room was 3 different shades of metallic paint; it's now all white with just 1 grey accent wall), we've replaced dark wooden blinds with light curtains, but the biggest change has happened in the garden. A big chunk of it has been transformed into a very productive fruit & vegetable garden; the pond has been removed (for safety reasons - we loved it otherwise!), the back fence has been replaced; part of the monoblock has been removed (and partially used to build a BBQ). We won't stop there - we still have a few projects in mind :-)

This was our living room a year ago (note the silver, gold and purple metallic paint):

And here it is now:

The garden last July:

And today:

We still need to replace the carpets throughout the house; hire somebody to paint the staircase (the only bit of painting we can't do ourselves); in a few years time - replace the kitchen; maybe one day install a wood burner in the living room.. I could go on. It will take us years to do it all, but it's an awesome journey and we've been loving every part of it!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

First harvests & gardener's pride

Isn't June the most amazing time of the year for gardeners? With all the lush greenery and harvesting your first crops you can finally see all your hard work paying off. I am absolutely amazed by the miracles of nature, I still can't believe all my beautiful tomatoes, aubergines, chillies, courgettes, carrots, beets, kale, lettuces and more have all grown from tiny seeds and many of them will soon be producing fruit and seeds of their own - the full cycle.

Incidentally, June is also the busiest time at work for me, not leaving much free time or head space for anything else. I admire people who live off their own land, all the farmers and homesteaders out there. I am trying to do my best with the little land I have, and I don't take anything for granted, I remember every sore muscle, every hour and every penny spent on this garden. But oh, the satisfaction I get from it is just unreal!

I do have problems with slugs and birds, with tiny caterpillars eating my gooseberry and currant leaves, with green fly infestation on my broad beans, with unpredictable weather and all. Nothing is perfect or easy, but it's all a brilliant experience.

I am one proud gardener... I made all this happen with my own two hands (and the help of S); I nurtured these plants to the best of my ability and now I am able to feed my family with these wonderfully fresh, nutritious, organically grown crops. It's the best feeling in the world!

Here are some of my veggies...

Monday, 22 May 2017

Garden update. Failures and successes

The garden now takes up most of my free time - sowing, planting, weeding, weeding and more weeding; first harvests and a bit of landscaping at the same time. I absolutely love my little paradise. It's far from perfect with its broken fence (hopefully getting replaced this summer), its clay soil, cold climate and lots of slug and mice visitors. But it's mine, and to me it's the most beautiful little garden on earth. 

Being in Scotland, everything seems to grow slower or start later than in the more southern parts of the country. I have seen photos of other people's gorgeous red radishes, mini green tomatoes and apples or even first ripe strawberries, while mines are only just starting to flower. The only crops I've been able to harvest so far in moderate quantities are lettuce and rocket. As a new gardener, this can be a bit discouraging, but I keep reminding myself that all I can do is make the best of what I've got. And the climate is something I definitely can't change! 

I am worried I might have problems with my garlic and onions due to the wet winter we had. I wouldn't be surprised to see some white rot. I've had a number of other failures, including:

- Nasturtiums - apparently they're supposed to self-sow and grow like crazy, but none of the seeds I planted has germinated.
- Pear tree - it's the second half of May and it doesn't have a single leaf on it. I think it's safe to assume it's dead.
- Violas - zero germination
- Comfrey - zero germination
- Mint - 3 plants bought and planted last autumn - only one has ''survived'' if you can call it that. The green growth on it is one single leaf the size of my smallest fingernail.

But other things seem to be doing well (if a bit slow) and I've already seen tiny red & white currants, miniature gooseberries, and courgettes the size of my finger. There's lots of blossom on my strawberries and one of my apple trees; the potatoes look very happy and the broad beans are growing fast - hope to see their flowers soon.

All in all, it's a very exciting time for a gardener!