Not a perfect gardener!
When I was a young Norfolk lawyer, worried about making a mistake, my boss told me that the sign of a good lawyer was not that we never make a mistake, but that we know how to get out of it having made one! And I carried that through both my lawyering and my management consultancy days and, now, my Mad Herb Woman days.
This past weekend, I delivered two full days of cookery courses. During the hottest days of the year. My Rhino does not have shades yet. So I did a sort of Heath Robinson set up before the course as I knew I would not be able to really keep an eye on The Herbs during the cookery days. Using cardboard box sides, polystyrene layers etc... And I move the herbs down from the top shelves to the bottom ones. Usually works. Except this time, I forgot three pots of beautiful Foxley Thyme. I went into the greenhouse to find them... frazzled! Crisped... Fried... Dried out... Dead??
What do you do when your plants have dried out or overheated?
You have to act quickly, but they can usually be revived – nature is clever like that. I popped the pots into a large bucket of water in the shade. They bobbed about happily for some time and the compost was eventually drenched. The frazzled leaves began to unfrazzle. They should be fine. Remember - herbs are like us. If they get a shock, they need a lie down in a cool, dark room with a cup of tea! So, if a herb has been moved, transplanted or ignored, always make sure to put it in the shade, give it a large drink of water, and leave it to settle.
In these days of Instagram perfection, I am happy to be imperfect. It is the reality of gardening. Take a look at the inside my greenhouse after two days of cookery course - just putting pots, odds and ends anywhere and everywhere – and the build-up of long grass and detritus outside the greenhouse. (Excuse Chuck, he's not very good at posing for the camera.)
Now here’s the after!
If you ever need a bit of inspiration to get on with a task, try taking some “before shots” and send them to someone. If you’re silly enough – like I am – that someone might be the whole of your social media following! Nothing like a bit of public humiliation to motivate one into action.
Zingy Lemon Drinks (without the E Numbers)
I LOVE lemon flavoured drinks, especially on hot days, and even though autumn is nearing, we’ve still had some scorchers! But since I don’t like to shop in supermarkets, I usually make my own herbal teas and drinks.
- So first, I make myself some herbal tea, using freshly cut Lemon Verbena from the garden and added to boiled water. There’s your herbal tea recipe.
- For something a bit more special, leave the herbs on the stove and let it simmer for quite a long time, allowing it to reduce. Keep an eye on it though – you don’t want to boil all the water away.
- Then remove the boiled Verbena, and drain the liquid into ice cube trays.
- Add some freshly chopped leaves into the trays. I like to include Lime Mint too, or another citrussy herb, just to add more flavours to the mixture.
- Pop your ice cube trays in the freezer and wait for a hot day (or whenever you fancy adding something zingy to your beverage).
- Add to fizzy or still water, and you’ll have a delightfully lemony drink instantly.
- Add Gin if you like... at an appropriate time of day of course.
The Bees – a Young Swarm
My beekeeping buddy and I have two mature bee hives, and one swarm in a small hive – a swarm is a young colony that hasn’t built much of their honeycomb home yet.
The problem with getting a swarm of bees at this time of year is that they do not have a huge amount of time before the cold really sets in to build up their stocks of honey. Which they need for food during the year, when there are not so many flowers about. But there is still time now for them to venture out of the hive to forage for food to make honey for the colder months.
So while the honey levels inside the hives are low, we need to give them a bit of extra energy, by feeding them a mixtures of sugar and water.
Many beekeepers do this anyway when they remove honey from the hive at the end of the honey-making period. They take the honey and give the bees back sugar and water. We don't do that - we leave most of the honey for the bees. So generally it goes against the grain for us to give them sugar and water. But with a late season swarm, you have to. Can you see the photo attached of the bees? They have made honey! And are dipping into it themselves. Well done little swarm!