Sunday, 25 June 2017


For the past few years I have grown a small fruiting aubergine in the greenhouse in addition to the usual tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. If I am honest I don't really know whether I like the taste of the eggplant's fruit so this year I decided to replace the aubergine with an alternative indoor crop.

The plant that I selected was the cucamelon which is also known as the Mexican sour gherkin. Germination was practically one hundred percent successful and occurred within ten days of sowing. This left me with more plants than I probably needed. Not wanting to consign any of the young vines to the compost heap I planted two per ring, so sixteen plants. I expect that I have over planted by fifty percent but if so my error is not obvious as yet.

The mature fruit are described as being grape size. So far there are plenty of small yellow flowers but the fruit have not yet begun to swell. The books tell me that the fruits taste like cucumber with a tinge of sourness. Not a very appetising description! One feature of the cucamelon which does appeal to me is that it doesn't have to be grown as an annual. The roots can be lifted in the autumn in the same way as dahlias and over wintered before replanting them in spring.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Pea Green

I sowed my second batch of peas of the year yesterday.. Unlike the first batch I sowed them directly in the position that they will crop in, - hopefully at the beginning or middle of September. The first sowing of pea seeds took place in the greenhouse in March. They were sown in modular root trainers. I suppose that I ended up with about one hundred plants. These were planted out on either side of a stretch of netting wire in May.

In between today's heavy showers I was able to pull the first pods of the year. Their contents have now been consumed. Fresh peas from the garden are so much sweeter than their supermarket cousins which almost invariably have started on the downward slope to starchiness.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Grave Visitations

Over the past month I have accompanied my father to two church graveyards. On the first occasion he wanted to visit the grave of paternal great grandparents who had died in the middle of the nineteenth century. The headstone is made of Welsh slate and originally rested on four squat stone legs. The two at the front of the grave have been removed or disintegrated with the result that the stone now lies at a slight angle. The term for this style of headstone is I think, "table."

Neither great grandparent lived to a great age passing away when aged thirty seven years and forty two years respectively. Their daughter and only child Anne, (my father's grandmother) and who was born in 1842 was made a ward of court and was subsequently brought up by a distant relative who resided in the vicinity of Ballyshannon, Co Donegal. Family history would have it that her guardian somehow managed to get her funds mixed up with his funds but that any unpleasantness was resolved by a house being built for her and her husband.

Our second cemetery outing was to St Columb's Parish Church, Moville, (Moville Lower).This time my father wished to visit the grave of a youth by the name of Jack Bennett who had died on 1st August 1941 aged fifteen as the result of a swimming accident. His father William Bennett was the local chemist. My father had attended the funeral almost seventy six years ago. He and Jack were both pupils at Foyle, Jack a boarder and my father, two years his junior, a day boy.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Edible Thistle

It is over fifty years since I first saw globe artichokes being cultivated. They appeared to be very exotic to a young school boy, tall and strange. It was in the kitchen garden of Aberfoyle, (formerly know as Richmond), that I espied this member of the thistle family. It would be four or five years after that when I had my first opportunity to taste this vegetable which is just at home in the herbaceous border as the vegetable patch.

Two years ago I determined to grow on my own specimens. Although five of the seeds germinated and the resultant plants were planted out in the raised border surrounding the yard four of them succumbed to the local slug and snail population. The sole survivor should provide me with at least three or four flower heads for cropping this year. Not a big cropper.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Tales from the Discorectangle

Training did not stop for Easter. In so far as it it is enjoyable to push your body towards the extremes of its ability I enjoyed Tuesday's session. The usual ten minute warm up run was followed by dynamic stretching and running up eighteen flights of steps. That completed the main course of the session ensued, 5 X 300m with three minutes recovery between and thereafter 6 X 120m with a walk back recovery.

The 300m efforts were to be run at 800m pace or better. For me that is now a rather depressing 51 seconds. Thirty years ago that would have been 44 seconds. Tempus Fugit but not me! It's strange how decades of training enables one's body clock to select the right pace. My first effort resulted in a 51.3 timing. Thereafter the times became progressively quicker ending up with a 47 second result. The 120m efforts were really strides helping to get rid of the lactic acid that had built up as a consequence of the 300m runs.

Although he didn't succumb to the joys of the 300m efforts we were joined at the track by Malcolm East one the UK's best ever marathon runners. A near contemporary of my self he has a 1981 pb for the distance of 2 hrs 11mins 36 secs. That is serious running.

Friday, 7 April 2017

A Threatened Species

Whenever I spot a branch of the Ulster Bank or indeed any bank my thoughts are drawn to Alan Brownjohn's poem, " We are going to see the rabbit." For those of you are unfamiliar with this particular poem I should explain that it is about the last rabbit in England.

We might be a few years away from the total decimation of branch networks but the small town or village branch or sub office is now a rarity. Nine branches of the Bank in Northern Ireland are to close their doors for the last time in October of this year. In the Republic of Ireland the Bank is closing twenty two branches. I know we are told that most people now bank online but many don't, particularly the elderly. For a small business that could previously lodge its takings in a bank that was a few hundred yards away a twenty five mile round trip to the nearest remaining branch does not just incur an additional cost but also adds a greater security risk. Maybe government should impose a community obligation upon Banks to force them to keep branches open even if they are not particularly profitable.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A Pheasant Hanging.

When returning from a Christmas morning perambulation last December I espied the colouration of a cock pheasant in the undergrowth no more than ten feet from the side of the road. Stepping back to try to get a better look and expecting the bird to dive deeper into the undergrowth I realised that this particular pheasant was not going to be spooked by my presence. It and one of its fellows were hanging from a low branch with a collar of orange twine joining them in their morbidity. I expect that some hunting and shooting chappie had bagged them and left them to hang for a few days before preparing them for the oven. Three days on the brace of pheasants were still swinging from their vegetative gallows. It was tempting to remove the ,"kill," from what is after all my property. Purely in the interests of tidiness as you will understand.