Thursday, March 24, 2011

Growing vegetables: Peas

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Some people may find at times, that growing vegetables and gardening in general is something daunting and complicated by lots of information. Whilst difficult to make sense of for some, for others, gardening comes more natural. We both have encountered gardening throughout our lives and although we had created a flower garden in our previous home, it was while living at La Pasera that we started growing vegetables in a much bigger scale. My advise to people is to get a good book and not to be frightened to experiment, ask a friend for advice and to adapt the information available to the particular conditions your garden presents you in terms of soil structure, sun exposure and amount of rain.

Here at La Pasera, we have heavy clay soil, frost is rare as we live so close to the coast but high humidity and abundant rain fall do present us some challenges. One of them is how to increase the growing season and the range of vegetables we can grow.

Peas are a vegetable that we greatly value in cooking and like to grow as many as we can so that we can eat them fresh as well as preserve in the freezer after blanching. We found that although the heavy soil is slowly improving with the organic matter constantly being added to it, peas used to have a poor germination rate and we had to sow several times in order to get a few plants. The method we now employ works very well for us and the little extra work is well worth it as we guarantee a vary high germination rate a lot faster than using normal methods as described in all gardening books.

We love sharing our ideas and what works with the villagers, some of whom have adopted our methods. There are some local gardening techniques that we have incorporated and adopted to our particular needs with good results such as the use of well rotted farm manure for onion planting but this will have to wait for another blog entry.

To get back to pea growing, La Pasera style, we pre-soak the peas overnight in a bowl of cold tap water and in the morning we cover them with a damp cloth and are kept in a plastic container in a warm place until their tap root starts to show, the longer the root is the more vulnerable this is when it comes to handling the pea but the more you advance its growth. This way, we only use the peas that have germinated. They are planted in half a drain pipe using a mixture of well drained soil we make ourselves with our compost to which we add very well rotted manure, our own leaf mould and  some fine grit or vermiculite.

This process only takes a few days and once you sow the peas, they will take a further week to start showing through the soil. You need to ensure you place the pipe in a warm and protected position while keeping the soil wet at all times. It will be just another two weeks before they are big enough to transplant into their permanent place in the vegetable plot. As we cram in the pipe as many peas as we can get, their roots become entangled and you need to be careful while transplanting to ensure you damage their roots  as little as possible, they should be about two inches tall and will have plenty of vegetative growth. Water them in well and stake with pea sticks when they start developing the tendrils.

This is a very unorthodox or unconventional way of growing peas, most gardening books will not advise you on this method especially with the root damage that you might cause when transplanting but it works extremely well for us, the peas do not seem to mind any of the stages along the way and we certainly advance their growth. If you plant peas in the traditional manner, it may take up to 4 weeks for them to germinate especially if the soil is still a bit cold, but if you grow them La Pasera way, they will be two inches tall by the time you plant them out in about 4 weeks.

We have peas and mange tout currently growing in 3 different stages and the first lot has started blossoming in the past few days. Not bad if I may say so and I look forward to some shelling peas if all goes well.

Beetroots, lamb´s lettuces, raddishes, sweeds and turnips are other vegetables we grow this way. Other advantages from this method is that we can protect the young plants whilst they are at their most vulnerable stage from weather conditions and pests without the use of slug pellets or chemicals. Yes, it is rather fiddly and time consuming but well worth it. Several villagers have adopted and adapted this method. It is always good to share experiences in the garden. Good luck if you try this method.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Home-made hand cream with beeswax

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Hand cream makes sense. If the skin on your hands is in good condition and intact, then the less likely you are to get infections, cuts and abrasions will heal better, your nails will be less brittle and dry rough skin will decrease. Men and women alike should use hand cream. Our lifestyle means our hands tend to get washed a great deal due to the work in the garden, kitchen, workshops and wood store. Having the cats and handling them at regular times of the day also means hands are washed more frequently. Maintaining skin integrity is important and therefore we use hand cream.

Commercial hand cream is often scented heavily or it contains numerous additional ingredients that we'd rather do without. The advance of technology and the development of nano particles is also something that concerns us as we wonder why it s necessary and the long term effects of using them is questionable in our minds.

We came across this recipe some time ago and adapted it to our own. The main ingredients are natural beeswax, almond oil, olive oil, water and pure essential oils. It is an easy recipe and results in a usable, natural hand cream that seems to work well.

The wax and oils are slowly melted in a bain marie until blended smoothly together. The bowl is removed from the heat and the the distilled water is carefully whisked into the mixture until emulsification takes place. If you add the water too quickly, it will separate when cooling and your end product will be unstable, When completely mixed and smooth, 50 drops of essential oils are mixed in until totally blended. The essential oils are chosen for their healing, antiseptic or therapeutic properties. The cream is divided up and placed in suitable containers and left to totally cool before the lids are placed.

One observation we have noted is that when we use commercial hand cream, our cats Wentworth and Gawber, do not like being stroked or held but with our home made product it does not seem to bother them, in fact they seems to quite like it and will often take an inquisitive sniff of our hands.

Basic ingredients: 80grams of Bees wax,  150 ml of almond Oil, 150 ml of olive oil, 50 drops of pure essential oil, 75 ml of distilled water.

Please note: essential oils have various properties, please conduct your own research before using them,

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Fruit flowers

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Two varieties of wild prunus - hopefully now the frosts have stopped, a good harvest of wild plum looks likely.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Rambling Pictures - Photograph of the day...

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Just a quick post to let you know about my latest blog..(yes yet another). Rambling Pictures features a photograph a day, random, thought provoking, interesting, controversial, ideas.....Subscribe or take a look via the link in the sidebar.

In addition, I publish, on-line, a monthly photograph album that reflects my interest in nature and natural spaces. You can access it by clicking The Photographer above or for a preview of February's photographs, click here.