In a Vase on Monday – 15th July 2019

I’ve discovered, by accident, the magical effect of a sunset on sweet peas. It turns them into mini “stained glass” windows.

Picking them at 9pm, I suddenly find it’s too dark to take photos. Nights are rapidly drawing in. Mid-summer lulls you into a relaxed state of mind. Surely there will always be time to meander round the garden. Then, quite soon after the solstice, everything changes. There’s no streetlights here; dusk means picking your way through tall corridors of dark trees, along grassy paths, past the horseshoe wildlife pond. If you are lucky, you’re accompanied by a barn owl, sweeping along the hedge in eerie silence. You’ll marvel how such a large bird can ever catch any prey without being seen. But they make not the slightest sound and pass by like a shadow. If they see you, they don’t panic and madly swerve as some birds would. They barely acknowledge your intrusion, calmly changing direction and floating over the hedge to continue on the other side. They seem not to flap their wings, but soar and glide as if carried by the wind.

Our boundaries are made from farm posts and galvanised pig wire. We like to keep a connection with the surrounding fields. After all, our garden was once part of the farmland. We’ve simply borrowed the ground to grow fruit and flowers.

There are 10 beds, 1.3m wide by 3m long, divided by narrow slab paths. This year it’s a muddle of potatoes, broadbeans, Sweet williams, daisies and verbascum. A rickety A-frame of hazel rods runs through the centre, for sweet peas. This year I’m growing a combination of heritage types from Easton Walled garden and Higgledy Garden, and new varieties on trial from Mr Fothergills.

Amethyst and rubies; sweet pea flowers shine like jewels in the sunset.

My flowers are being sold at Six Acre Nursery, Costock, Leicestershire, with all proceeds going to Rainbows Hospice for children and young people. I am a voluntary fund-raising ambassador for Rainbows, and I also give slide shows and talks to garden groups for charity.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peaceful walk around my garden at dusk. There’s much to see, even in the gloom.

Links : Cathy In a Vase on Monday : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/in-a-vase-on-monday-think-pink/

Easton Walled Gardens : https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Higgledy Garden Seeds. https://higgledygarden.com/

Mr Fothergill’s Seeds https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/

Barn Owl Trust https://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/barn-owl-facts/

Notes: Most birds make a flapping, swooping sound when they fly. Owls have special edges to the front of the wing that breaks the air into small streams of wind that rolls to the end of the wing. Comb-like feathers further break down the air into even more smaller streams to create almost silent flight.

Infection – a Warning to Gardeners.

I’ve been quiet for a few days. Here’s why.

Four days ago, I was sweeping out the potting shed when I got a tiny splinter in the palm of my hand. It looked like nothing serious. A tiny dot of blood. I inspected the wooden broom handle and could see a rough patch. I hadn’t noticed it before. I nearly always wear gloves. But this time I was in a hurry, and didn’t put them on. I finished sweeping up before popping back to the house to run my hand under cold water. I fished out the splinter with tweezers, popped on a plaster and carried on gardening. And I never thought any more about it.

There’s always plenty to do here. Flowers to pick, weeds to pull out. But I started to feel ill. Not quite my usual chirpy self. I couldn’t think straight. I went on the radio on Wednesday, and I couldn’t think of any plant names. It seemed odd. I was struggling. I was somewhat preoccupied with family matters so I didn’t notice my hand starting to itch and turn red. But on Thursday morning, I woke up at dawn and my hand was swelling and stiff. And there was a red line creeping up my arm.

I rang my local doctors surgery and told the receptionist what I was seeing. I said I thought it was an infection. I might have mentioned that I’d had sepsis before, three years ago. She said there were no appointments, but she could offer me a telephone consultation, which I accepted. Then I sat and thought about it. The doctor would surely want to see my hand. That would take time. If it was an infection I needed antibiotics, quickly. So I phoned 111, and explained what was wrong. The nurse on the line made an immediate appointment for me at the urgent care centre in Nottingham. I was there within 20 minutes and was seen by a triage nurse 20 minutes later. Within 3.5 hours I had a prescription for oral antibiotics. I still had to find a chemist to buy them though, which can be a problem when you are feeling ill. Our chemist in the village closes at lunchtime, which can cause a delay.

Luckily, the antibiotics kicked in straight away and I started to feel better within a couple of hours. Today, the pain is easing, the redness is less and the line has disappeared. I feel exhausted and “not quite right,” but that might be the antibiotics, as well as the infection.

So the reason I am sharing this today is to remind all people, especially gardeners to look out for the symptoms of sepsis, blood poisoning, septicaemia or any kind of infection, and don’t delay in seeking help. Even a simple thing such a splinter, a rose thorn or a tiny cut can be deadly. An insect bite can be equally dangerous.

And listen to your inner voice. If you think you should get urgent help, ring 111 for advice or go straight to the A and E. I was embarrassed to ring up about a splinter! I apologised several times. Also, I’ve been brought up to do as I’m told by people in authority. So when told I must wait for a telephone consultation – I nearly did just that. But having experience of sepsis – following an operation three years ago- I knew not to take chances and delay treatment.

The first signs to look out for are listed on the NHS website :

. High or low temperature

.Chills and shivering

.uncontrollable shaking

.fast or irregular heart beat

.feeling or acting differently from normal- you do not seem your usual self

. A feeling that something just isn’t “quite right”

There are 250,000 cases of sepsis in the uk every year. 46,000 people die every year as a result of the infection – says the UK Sepsis Trust.

Remember, it’s never too trivial a matter to seek advice. An infection can follow from a dental appointment, a tiny cut, a graze, a thorn, a splinter, an illness of some kind, such as a kidney infection. A throat infection. It can follow an operation.

I always thought only babies- or elderly people suffered from sepsis. Before I got it three years ago, I had never heard of a normal healthy adult getting sepsis.

Anyway, after this week’s episode, I’m sure I’ll feel much better in a few days. The antibiotic course is for 7 days and doctors stressed the importance of taking all of the tablets to the end of the course.

This evening, I’m feeling well enough to walk slowly to the gap in the hedge. The crop is ripening. It will soon be harvest time.

Links : NHS Advice https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sepsis/

They say – Seek help immediately if you think you have an infection of any kind.

I am really grateful to the NHS for the excellent 111 service and walk-in centre. Nurses deserve a medal for all they do.

https://sepsistrust.org/get-support/support-for-survivors/post-sepsis-syndrome/

I’m on twitter @kgimson

On instagram karengimson1

Please share this post on social media.

Update: I’ve had to change antibiotics due to a bad reaction. Not out of the woods yet!

LEGAL NOTE: I’ve been reminded to say, I am not medically trained to give advice and would never do so. I am not recommending any treatments. Your actions are your own decision. This blog post is merely re-telling my experience and hopefully promoting discussion and further thought. Such a shame that you have to worry about litigation, when you are only trying to do some good. Amazed to see this post has been viewed 93,000 times. Apologies if I can’t keep up with replying to comments. Thank you x

Gardening On the Menu -Book Review

MARTIN AND Jill FISH

2QT Ltd (Publishing ) rrp £15.99 -or £12.95 plus £3.95 postage direct from Martin.

ISBN: 9781912014569

This week I made the most delicious chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted, and it had a surprising ingredient: Beetroot! You couldn’t taste the beetroot, but it created a really moist and flavoursome cake.

Here’s the recipe, taken from Martin and Jill Fish’s new book Gardening on the Menu.

Ingredients

30g cocoa powder

180g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

225g caster sugar

Pinch of salt

225g beetroot, boiled until tender and left to cool

200ml sunflower oil

1tsp vanilla essence

3 eggs, beaten

100g plain chocolate, chopped small in a food processor

2lb loaf tin, greased and lined.

Method

Sieve the flour, salt and cocoa powder together in a bowl. Stir in sugar and chocolate.

Peel and finely grate the betteroot. I whizzed it in a food processor then added the oil, eggs and vanilla essence and whizzed some more.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in the beetroot mixture. Fold in slowly and don’t over-work.

Pour the batter into a prepared loaf tin and cook at 180C, 160C (fan oven) gas 4 , for 1- 1 1/4 hours. It is cooked when a skewer comes out clean. I placed tin foil over the cake after 45 mins as it was burning on top. Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle top with icing sugar.

I found mine kept for 2 days – it was so tasty everyone dived in and ate it! I froze some to see if that worked, and it was fine.

Here I am adding the beetroot mixture to the dry ingredients.

Looks a lovely colour

lovely for a picnic in the garden. Travels well, wrapped in foil.

I’m going to try the next recipe in the book – beetroot chutney, which looks delicious.

Martin Fish, who ran his own nursery, and presents gardening programmes on tv and radio, gives talks all around the country on growing all kinds of fruit and vegetables. For the last few years, his wife Jill has joined him for a talk called Gardening on the Menu. The cookery and gardening book is based on their talk.

Martin has been growing vegetables since he was a teenager and he draws on his many years of practical experience to give easy-to-follow tips and advice on getting the best from your crops.

Jill shares her selection of family favourites with recipes including roasted feta stuffed onions, red onion marmalade, parsnip cake, chilli jam, apple flapjack trifle, and raspberry chocolate pots.

Strawberry and Chocolate Muffins with a Cheesecake Topping

Toffee Apple Pie

Tomato Soup

Martin gives expert advice on choosing the varieties to grow, and how to get the best crops. There’s useful advice on what to do when things go wrong including how to deal with pests and diseases.

Here they are, giving a growing/ cookery talk and demonstration. I met them last summer when they spoke at a Rainbows Hospice fund-raising festival lunch.

Photo credit: the last five photos are by Jill and Martin Fish.

A really useful book, helping you grow better crops and showing you what to do with bountiful harvests. Highly recommended.

Links: www.martinfish.com

E mail : Martin@martinfish.com

Martin was show director for Harrogate Flower Show for five years, and now writes for various publications including the weekly Garden News and broadcasts for the BBC Radio Nottingham and BBC Radio York.

I have one free copy to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment below to be included. Do also say if you don’t want to be included in the draw. All comments are welcome. Please feel free to share this post.