Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Butter Brilliance

We were about to embark for France when I noticed that the cap of one of the gas burners in the kitchen was slightly misplaced. I put my finger on it to return the metal disk to its rightful position, only to find that the burner had not been extinguished and the iron casting, heated by its surrounding flames, was crisis hot.
I jumped in agony as the tip of my left index finger burned to a frazzle.
Now, when I was young, in the early 1920s, and our doctor. Dr. Daley, lived several miles away and made up all his medicines in a shed in his garden, the home cure for burns was butter. And the results were magic when this every-day substance was applied by my mother.
So, without hesitation, I stuck my finger into a slab of butter, and kept it there for a few seconds to make sure that the burn was coated thoroughly. The pain was considerable. I worried about possible inabilities for our stay in Dieppe.
Every so often I returned to the refrigerator to re-butter my finger.
In an hour or so the pain had subsided and I saw that the end of my digit was almost white. It had a hard covering of dead and senseless skin.
Would it be possible to use my hand in the normal way? Yes, it would.
The pain went and, instead of a blister and a painful end to the finger, I had a hand with a perfectly useable and painless extremity.
There was no blistering, no pain, and the finger, now without sensitivity at its tip, was in use as normal.
Five days later the dead skin of the burn started to fall away. Scissors, deftly used, cut off the dry edges attached to living flesh.
Now, in place of the dead skin, newly exposed pink skin started to firm up and regain sensitivity.
There may be lots of solutions to burns, but by God, for this immediate cure, butter, as an ancient country recipe for pain relief and recovery, could hardly have been bettered - even in this medically advanced age of ours.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Vegetables in pots (latest developments)

I wrote in this blog last year of my experiments with growing vegetables in pots in my London garden. Now, in the spring of 2009, a new idea has come about with the purchase and delivery of 3 plastic sacks for growing new, salad, and main crop potatoes (the bags being 17” or 43 cm. tall and 14”or 36 cm. in diameter, and supplied with 5 seed potatoes for each sack).
As my London garden is small (4 paces by 16 paces) and with potatoes not to be planted in the same soil for several years, the compost filling would have had to be replaced each year. And where would I put the spent compost in a mostly paved garden?
So I decided to use the sacks for (roughly) the rotation of crops, retaining their compost filling – being a mixture of my home-made compost mixed with the contents of grow bags – the latter being excellent in quality and obtained at a minimal cost.
Wanting only new potatoes, which are very special to eat and hard to obtain, I will use the 3 bags for: sack 1 (BEANS) for dwarf French beans and dwarf Italian courgettes, sack 2 (ROOTS) for early potatoes (Swift) followed by a planting of carrots and beetroot, and sack 3 (BRASSICAS) for Swiss chard, leeks and lettuce. The correct rotation has been plotted on paper for the next 3 years.
I will write on the results and conclusions.
Beside these sacks I am experimenting this year with growing potatoes in buckets (with drainage holes and crocks). As last year, there will be broad beans in buckets, asparagus in a large pot (mainly for the foliage), parsley in a pot, thyme in a pot, sorrel in a pot (having over-wintered well), salad leaves in a pot, leek seed in a pot (to be planted in sack 3 when handleable), tarragon in a pot, fennel in a pot, a globe artichoke in a pot (decorative), tomatoes in last year’s ground (now soaked with dilute Jeyes Fluid because of blight), mint in a sunken bucket, rosemary in a pot, sage in a pot and, new this year, autumn-planted garlic in the ground and shallots in the ground (both in a limited space – but they do not need much.
For fruit, there is the productive and trouble-free black wine grape (Triomphe d’Alsace) giving shade from the arbour and fruit along its 73 metres length around and about and back and forth around the garden’s walls, an espalier-trained Morello cherry growing on the north-facing wall from daffodil-planted ground and, in pots nearby, a fig, a pear and an apple.
I am trying yet again to grow mistletoe on the apple, binding in the seeds beneath bark with string. These experiments were coated with rubber solution as protection from the elements. To blend the pale string bindings in with the colour of the bark, they were then coated with soil before the rubber solution set.
For the decorative aspect, there is an earthenware trough of spring crocus and snowdrops. Pots of tulips and lilies will give small blocks of bright colour. Impatiens (busy lizzies) will give masses of colour throughout the summer months, with fuchsias and geraniums (pelargoniums) providing the same.
Roses (The Reverend F. Page-Roberts and Typhoon – the best rose ever) grow from earth in a corner of the garden.
The winter-flowering cyclamen will become dormant in their pots, as will the generously-flowered mahonia.
On the kitchen windowsill is a splendid jalapeno chilli (having flowered and fruited summer and winter), the last year’s Bolivian begonia corm coming to life, and an aloe vera.
So, as spring appears and leads to summer, there will be a lot to watch and look after. What an interesting year of pleasure lies ahead.