Tuesday, August 28, 2007


We have moved and split in 2 - we are now here
and here
Please come and visit!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

We've moved

I've been thinking for a while that I need to do something different with the blog now that many people visit the website first and are primarily interested in photos of our cutting garden and workroom. I am probably most interested in the chance for conversation with a blog, the chance to bat ideas about with people.

I have decided to move to typepad and to split the blog into 2

One part Snapdragon's garden http://snapdragongarden.typepad.com/snapdragons_garden/
will be about the day to day events in the garden - flowers, things I am making, etc.

The other Snapdragon's Chat http://snapdragongarden.typepad.com/snapdragons_chat/ will be about the back issues that crop up while trying to grow the business.

I do hope that you will stop by and have a chat - all comments and objections welcome.

And I know it is a bind, but could the people who generously link to me please change the url?


Friday, August 10, 2007

Why do we hare around?

Why is it so desirable to be too busy? Is it an essential part of the human condition?

A lot of people tell me variations on the "I'm too busy" storyline. It tends to be "Oh you are so lucky, I am just too busy to buy from local shops" or "Oh you are so lucky, I am just too busy to help out at the school".

I used to think, in my insecurity, that it was actually being used as a synonym for "too important" - as in "I am too important to help with weeding playgrounds". Now I am deciding that it is a bit more complicated than that.

Like the jacket on the back of the office chair and the boasting about taking a Blackberry on holiday I think that this frantic "busyness" is perhaps itself a sign of insecurity - of needing to be seen to be doing things. A symptom of our tendency to judge people's worth by what they do for a living. A person who does so much that they are always "too busy" much therefore be more important than someone who has time to drink coffee in the sunshine.

We all live busy lives, "too busy" lives, but I also think that we all make decisions about what we prioritise in those lives. I know that when I use the "too busy" phrase it is usually about something I don't want to do anyway - I am, for example, "too busy" to go to the gym or have a manicure. That is indeed rubbish - if I hadn't prioritised reading or gazing at birds in the garden over going to the gym I would indeed have time - as well as a more toned derriere and nicer nails.

My resolution is to find some other, more honest, phrase to explain why I don't do all those things that I perhaps should (ironing, labelling school clothes, going to the theatre are a few more examples) and yet how there still seems to be time for making mayonnaise or embroidering baby shoes.

My theory of time is that expands when I slow down - today the baby housemartins are learning to fly from cherry tree to telephone wire and back. The air is full of their chirps.

We also have Timmy, the Jack Russell we fostered a while back, here for his holidays so I have my click-clicking shadow again.

The hares in the top photo were made as a response to a request for a boy's equivalent of the ragdolls - I toyed with a boy doll but had my reservations - these hares in oilskin dungarees were the solution. The one on the right sold in the shop this morning - the other is available for £28.95. NOW SOLD - Thank you (I might make more when I get time so e-mail me if you want one)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Boden????? Surely not

Yesterday Suffolkmum wrote a post about having been namechecked in a newspaper article as one of a group of "Boden bloggers". The article was a good example of snidely written lazy journalism, probably dashed off so the author could get away on holiday, and Suffolkmum was a bit miffed.

I would have been too and it is obvious that the journalist had simply visited the Country Living Magazine website and copied down some of the names without reading the blogs. Suffolkmum strikes me as someone who thinks a lot and writes sensitively and humanely about some very difficult topics. I enjoy reading her blog.

The article as a whole was poking fun at the Boden set - now I suspect that this is one of those groups that we all say "Oh yes, I know who that is" but would never admit to being part of. Even in my wildest fantasies I wouldn't identify myself with the smugly smirking models with "their" spookily groomed children in Johnnie Boden's catalogues. My self image is much more mucky.

And yet back to the article . . . we have decided this year to cut down on flying for leisure so shall be getting the train to Paris in October

. . . and Zoe has mentioned that she fancies holidaying in a yurt . . .and Euan watches airstream caravans on eBay and dreams of one parked in our drive . . .and we have a couple of Emma Bridgewater mugs . . . and a Cath Kidston ironing board cover . . .I've just finished Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach (but didn't find it boring) . . . the children have a lot of hand me down Boden t-shirts and I have a pink linen dress. Apart from the school fees, the guilty foreign holidays and the drawstring trousers I pretty much ticked the supposed characteristics of a "Boden blogger".

And yet . . . I am so many, many miles away. In muck.

Fairly depressing reading for a non-conformist though!

The photos today are more cornflowers because I forgot to mention that they last out of water brilliantly so you can cut them up and make jewellery, or if you are being more elegant, cuffs for candles and napkins. These will last a couple of days - ideal for flower fairies.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cornflowers blue . . .

Cornflowers with their searing blue are one of the essentials of the cutting garden.

I grow mine from seed sown in April, though I keep intending to start it off in September and over winter the seedlings - perhaps this year.

I don't actually grow that many plants - just a single row - as the important thing is keeping on top of the picking. Let just a few flowers turn into seedheads and the whole plant will stop flowering.

In the case f cornflowers I find less plants is definitely more flowers.

Some flowers I sell at the van on Fridays but that still leaves a lot flowering through the week that still need harvesting so I have taken to drying them.
It is important to catch them at the right stage or they will disintegrate into (very pretty) petals. While this is ideal for confetti or for sprinkling onto tables it isn't what I want as I have plans for delicate cornflower wreaths.

This top picture shows the stage they need to be harvested at both for drying and as cut flowers- the centre of the flower a pointing inwards tightly - the whole flower seems to be slightly inward looking.

The lower photo shows the next stage - a much more open centre with the stamens spread out. Flowers like this will still dry but just won't keep their shape - if you want confetti just cut the heads off and put them on a tray somewhere warm and dark for a few days, pull them to bits and store them in the dark somewhere dry until the wedding - (if it is ages away, one of those silica sachets you get with shoes would help keep it all very dry).

To dry stems of cornflowers cut flowers as per top photo and then bunch 20 or so stems together with an elastic band. Hang upside down somewhere warm and dark until the stems are stiff enough to support the heads - probably a week to ten days.

If you are storing them wrap carefully in a shoebox and ensure that the stems don't tangle.

On a different note we had Baldernock Garden Club to visit yesterday evening and it was quite a different experience - I knew it would be as they phoned in advance t check they could bring wine. It was a lovely sunny evening with enough of a breeze to keep away the midgies and everyone was an absolute delight.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Farmers markets

Yesterday afternoon's Food Programme was about Farmers' Markets - amazingly, despite being a celebration of ten years of Farmers Markets it was an intelligent programme, not just an idealisation of the concept.

I actually have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Farmers' Markets. I love selling at them - the customers tend to be interested and chatty - but I have reservations about them being the answer for either the foodie consumer or the small producer.

There seems to be, to be honest, a big gap between the markets in Scotland and the majority of those in England (don't know about Wales or Ireland - Julia - did I read that your sister used to do markets????). To take a stall trading for 4 -5 hours in Edinburgh or Glasgow costs £70.50, add on petrol and any help you pay for and it means that to break even you need to sell about £200 worth of goods.

This means that unless you have a semi-industrial product with a guaranteed yield it is difficult to regularly attend markets. Everyone who grows their product has this problem - unless I have £300-400 worth flowers ready to pick on the Friday night there is no point in going, the salad, speciality veg and herb sellers are the same. The result is that the markets tend to have the same stalls no matter where you are in central Scotland - Caurnie Soaps, Ella Drinks, Inverawe smoked salmon. Now these are all good stalls selling fine products, but they are medium sized businesses selling to delis, health food stores and supermarkets, they are not the small scale farmer/producers that the markets were originally designed to support. The problem is that unfortunately these growing businesses are not really being joined by new ventures. There is not room at the moment for the Scottish equivalent of the French market trader with his couple of baskets of ceps or samphire.

This means that as a consumer the range of goods available at a Farmers Market is very limited - I did a quick poll round foodie friends and none shop any more at the markets, apart from Partick Farmers market "which has a good bread stall".

One of the questions raised by the Food Programme was whether the rules of a market over restrict the foods on offer, and whether would it be better to have food artisan made but from wider geographical area. I suppose this would in theory turn Partick Farmers market into something more akin to Borough Market. Should we in fact be encouraging people to do more of their weekly shop at a market - does there need to be bananas as well as carrots and swedes even though they cannot be grown commercially in the UK? Does it matter that many Farmers Markets are just a middle class thing? Should we be following Manhattan's lead in having Farmers markets in less affluent areas - should there be more funding available?

It was as I say, an intelligent programme that swam against the knee jerk reaction of "Farmers Markets" = "Good Thing".

I have one farmer friend who feels that, if the markets purport to help farmers, then he should be able to attend with any of his farm diversification be that vegetable boxes or bicycle maintenance.

Do people shop at farmers markets and do they find what they want there? What is more important, quality, choice or locality? The further you get into this food thing the more difficult it becomes.

I also hate buying my meat ready cut and shrink wrapped in plastic so that is 70% stalls ruled out.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Autumn is here?

This morning, walking across the garden to feed the pigs, I would have sworn that it was October.

It was beautiful - the valley was hazy with cloud the hills rising above it, all the plants glistened with water droplets and spiders' webs.

It was beautiful but there was no way that it was August.

Saturday was HOT. I fear it may we have been the summer.

I am making things for Christmas photoshoots so I fear I have brought it all on mysef!
Stipa gigantea