Mint tea anyone?

I deeply loved my Emma Bridgewater Great Britain teapot.  It was a little bit of retail therapy one day shortly after my daughter was born when my hormones were particularly prone to large swings.  Normally, I’m too cheap to buy a £50 teapot, but that day, I NEEDED it, and to hell with anyone who tried to stop me.

ImageIt was our beloved teapot for about 2 years until my husband dropped a glass on the pot.  The lid shattered, so for a few months we were using a small plate over the top to keep the steam in.  Then slowly we started noticing cracks in the teapot itself.  First little ones, then great big swooping cracks that got stained by the tea inside.  We tried to ignore the cracks, but eventually the cracks got too big and salts started leaching out of the outside.  Lord only knows what leached out into our tea, but let’s not think about that!  So, it sat empty on our counter for a while, as I just couldn’t bear the thought of throwing it in the bin.

ImageAfter a looking at a few videos on how to drill a hole into pottery, I decided to just give it a go.  I don’t have the fancy diamond bits talked about, but instead just used a regular masonry bit that I had already.  It worked like a charm!

ImageMy lovely cousin Jodie gave me some mint cuttings when I crashed at her place for the Observer’s Ethical Awards earlier this month.  No, I didn’t win, but the two of us had a really nice time at the ceremony and got to chat with some cool and amazing folks.  The highlight of my night was talking to Anne (don’t call her Annie) Power.  She is an amazing woman, and a total inspiration for never getting complaisant with one’s life.  But back to the mint.  After a week and half in water there were some nice roots sprouting.  Sprouting roots?  I’m not sure that’s the correct botanical term…

Anyhow, here’s the glorious transformation in its entirety, and now my kitchen windowsill basil has a little minty friend.  The whole process from drilling to watering-in took about 15 minutes, and I am kicking myself for letting that little upcycling job sit and linger for so long.



They might be giants – Sequoiadendron giganteum

Many of my fondest childhood memories took place while spending summers camping in the northern California redwood forests.  Standish Hickey was our family campground of choice, and I long for the steep trail (known affectionately in my family as “cardiac hill”) down to the Eel River and wading into the fish filled swimming hole.


I would like my children to share in these memories, but sadly, the wee redwood groves in the UK have young 100-year old trees, and they usually come in clumps of 5 or 20 trees.  The Scottish climate seems like it would be perfect for redwoods, so I wonder why there aren’t more of them growing about here.

After a particularly strong hankering to grow my own redwood, I finally bought some Sequoiadendron giganteum seed.   Now, I should note that I have collected seeds from countless pine cones here in the UK, and tried my hardest to germinate them several times, including soaking seeds, putting them in the refrigerator, and never had even one hint of sprouting.  So, I figured buying seed would likewise be a waste of time and money.  Perhaps our young trees here haven’t yet reached maturity in their seeds?  Perhaps my pine cones were just duds?


19 May 2014 Sequoiadendron giganteum seedlings


20 May 2014 Sequoiadendron giganteum seedlings


However, I am SOO excited that a few of my store-bought seeds have indeed germinated!  I will now need to quickly find some nice homes for these wee fellas so that they can start to lay roots some place safe to grow into giants.  Fingers are crossed that they continue to grow and can be potted on easily.

19 May 2014 Sequoiadendron giganteum seedlings

19 May 2014 Sequoiadendron giganteum seedlings

20 May 2014 Sequoiadendron giganteum seedlings

20 May 2014 Sequoiadendron giganteum seedlings

Planting out the veg plot

It has taken me seven years to figure out how to grow flowers in Scotland.  I think that if the little old lady who we bought our flat from could see our garden now, she might not break down in tears.  Two years ago she certainly would have wept to see its decline, but now that I have figured out what is flower and what is weed, it is certainly on the up!

I tried to plant some cabbages and cauliflower in the garden about four years ago, but within weeks of planting out lovely little baby plants, worms and slugs destroyed any semblance of green.   Needless to say, this southern California girl that was used to sowing any sort of seed straight into the garden and watching it thrive with lots of watering, was depressed, downhearted and determined to NEVER plant veg again.

But, my recent Great Energy Race (GERace) efforts have made me more determined to finally master growing vegetables and fruit in the garden.  I have had a great bounty from my red currants, so this year as part of the GERace, I planted four different berries – tayberry, raspberry, blueberry and cranberry.  I’m pretty confident that we’ll have a lovely berry bounty this Summer and Autumn, but I also wanted to conquer my fear of growing vegetables!  So…

After definitely pulling a muscle in my back last weekend, turning the compost heap, adding the best compost bits to the newly cleared veg plot and turning the whole thing over thoroughly, I am started again in a big way to see if I can start to learn how to grow vegetables in the UK.  Lord only knows, it’s not as easy as in California.  But at least I never need to water anything here!


So, my windowsill propagator has been putting in lots of overtime and I have tried my very best not to spend too much on new seeds.  But for about £10, I’ve gotten myself quite a nice selection of standards like carrots, radishes and parsnips, and also some less common fruits like tomatillos, cucamelons and physalis (Inca berry or Cape Gooseberry).  And of course lots of herbs for the kitchen windowsill too.  I am really looking forward to harvesting and eating my efforts, but I am also not getting my hopes up too much.  I’ve already planted out a litte cucamelon seedling after weeks of frost free weather, only to see this week’s forcast for a late frost…  Oh well, hopefully my reused pasta sauce jar cloche will protect it.


I was totally inspired this week after watching Gardener’s World, so I have sowed a row of radishes with parsnips, in-between carrot seeds sowed a week apart.  We’ll see what happens.  I need to plant a bit more though, but I think that my two pumpkin seedlings and the other fruit will take up a fair bit of the plot, so I should conserve space for them.  I will try my best to wait until the end of May to put these little guys outside to avoid a late frost disaster.


Happy Earth Day!

Despite the rain that has come down steadily all day today, I have had a glorious Earth Day!   There are lots of cucamelon, herb, pumpkin and tomato seedlings in the propagator ready to pot on, and tomatillo, poblano chilli pepper and epazote plants in pots ready to go outside.  This rainy spell is a good opportunity for me to put them in our cold stairwell for a few days to harden off a wee bit before planting in the garden.  I had been prepared to be mean and put them straight into the soil from my flat windowsill!  But I will just sow a few more seeds this rainy week to make up for not getting into the garden.

The weather was glorious over the Easter holiday, so I took full advantage of it and my sore back is feeling the brunt of my efforts.  But I now have a fully aerated, turned and relocated compost heap, with lots of lovely fresh compost worked into a fluffed-up bed ready for to plant out my seedlings.  Here’s what my tomatillos looked like a month ago, and now they are starting to develop flower buds.  They’ll need cross pollination to bloom, so it’s quite important that I get them outside soon for the bees to do their thing.

Early April tomatillo seedling

Same tomatillo seedlings just 2 weeks later after a repotting

Same tomatillo seedlings just 2 weeks later after a repotting