Archive for July, 2012

Duck à la cauliflower

cauliflowersTime for some nauseating smugness and self-congratulation.

As ever (gotta LOVE that hubris), my cauliflowers have been a triumph. The weather’s helped; wet ‘n’ windy suits brassicas very well.

The fridge is stuffed with cauliflowers and I’m trying to dream up ever madder recipes for them. ‘Duck à la choux-fleur’ wasn’t too successful, but cauliflower cheese soup was. Recipe:

  • Boil softened onion and cauliflower florets (lots of ‘em) in chicken stock for 30 mins
  • Liquidise
  • Add grated cheese (strong cheddar) and melt it

Simple, but dead nice.

Posted on 27th July 2012
Under: Brassicas | 7 Comments »

Yellow beetroot: I was wrong. SO wrong.

Well, well. Blow me. I was wrong about the cylindrical yellow beetroot.

Turns out they’re delicious. Better than red beetroot – sweeter and softer, plus bigger and easier/faster to grow. Incredible.

So they’re brilliant and I heartily recommend you grow them. Just one problem: I can’t for the life of me remember what the fuck they’re called. Or which company sells them. Or in fact any useful detail whatsoever.

Still. A crop that’s great to eat AND absurdly easy to grow. That’s a first in the Soilman Allotment Experience.

I’ll be jiggered. Stone the crows. Fuck my boots (etc).

Postscript: I think – I THINK – they must be these. At least, they definitely look like this.

Posted on 19th July 2012
Under: Roots | 7 Comments »

The Works

I’m planning Works.

God willing, Aug/Sept will see the start of major building works at Soilman Towers. A single-storey extension will, theoretically, double our downstairs living area and magically transform our lives into ambrosial, dreamy perma-bliss.

Well, that’s the plan.

In reality, of course, it will be Purest Hell. Having no kitchen and choking on builder’s dust for 6-10 weeks will not be amusing.

The prospect of the actual works, though, isn’t the worst bit. The worst bit is the state-sanctioned extortion of the building ‘industry’. With the exception of our excellent architect, everyone is on the take, take, take. From the structural engineer (£1,000 for a 10-min visit and ‘plans’ which he hand-drew in no more than 5 mins) to Thames Water (£343 for an ‘application to build within 3m of a sewer’ – aka daylight robbery/blackmail bribery) to the ‘Environmental Assessment’ insisted on by the council (£200 for a grubby rent-a-moron to peer into a dying fern and declare it a natural habitat for bees).

Next to the professionals and public officials you encounter, the actual builders look honest. I swear to God.

I’d never encountered this before. I knew, of course, what to expect – in theory. Seeing the outrageous official scams actually play out in front of my eyes, though, has been a depressing shock. Al Capone would learn a thing or two.

No wonder no fucker can build anything in this country. If you doubt me, try it some time.

Posted on 10th July 2012
Under: Rants | 8 Comments »

Blue hydrangeas. Sort of.

hydrangeaI love blue hydrangeas. They’re gorgeous… er, when they’re blue.

But keeping them blue is a bugger. I have neutral soil, so it’s extra hard. But even if you grow them in a pot of ericaceous compost, you have to shovel in absurd quantities of aluminium sulphate – regularly – to stop them reverting to pink.

I’m failing with this one. There’s been so much rain [soilman.net 2012, passim] that the colorant is leached out of the pot almost as fast as I can pour it in.

Anyone got any tips for keeping ‘em reliably blue?

PS I’m beginning to fear the corn will fail this year. It’s SO fucking cold and wet that it’s put on pathetic growth. I can’t see it having time to fully grow, flower and form ears before the frosts.

Posted on 8th July 2012
Under: Flowers, Rain | 2 Comments »

Still raining

They’re running out of rain metaphors and adjectives on the radio.

They’ve done ‘torrential’ to death. Now they’re casting around for something more sensational. ‘Stair rods’ and ‘monsoon-like’ are undergoing a renaissance. ‘Record-breaking’ is a favourite.

As I write, great swathes of northern England are under flood warnings. By tonight, many Yorkshire folks will be floating on their sofas.

It’s all so grim I feel the urge to make light of it. But people have already lost their lives, and I fear there will be more by the weekend.

If you’re in the flood zone, stay safe.

Posted on 6th July 2012
Under: Rain | 7 Comments »

Cost of the Leveson Enquiry: c £3.5million… and counting

I didn’t see these figures published anywhere prominently. So I’m publishing them.

The total was £2,840,800 at the end of March. In the previous two months, it had risen by £900,000. Assuming the same rate of increase, the total is probably running today at about £3,500,000.

Who’s paying for that? You are.

Think about that for a minute. £3.5m buys:

This is not chicken shit money. And £3.5m isn’t the final bill. There could be many more months of this.

I was a supporter of the initial impetus for the Leveson Enquiry, so I’m not an ‘interested’ anti-Leveson agitator. Quite the contrary.

After a year of this Enquiry, though, I’m asking some basic accountability questions, viz:

1. Are we really happy about spending this much – with more to come? I mean, it seems to me that the second six months of the Enquiry really haven’t thrown up anything that the first six didn’t. Is there really anything more to discover that’s worth discovering?

2. Is the continuing humiliation of newspapers and newspapermen really, really improving or helping our democracy? Sure, Leveson’s shone a light on some utter wankers. But guess what: we knew there were utter wankers in the press long before day 1 of Leveson. How does it help to discuss the wankers in detail if doing so costs the same as 140 nurses’ annual salary?

Just asking. Convince me I’ve got my priorities wrong.

Posted on 4th July 2012
Under: Rants | 3 Comments »