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Archive for October, 2012


For those of you who are of a Halloween disposition, I bring you the scariest pictures from my image library…

We start off with some rather capricious spirit guides, the tupilaqs I bought in Greenland back in 2008 when I went hiking around Nuuk for two weeks. (An outdoorsy take on being a flâneur, I guess, meandering about in solitude on the fells around Nuuk…)

Tupilaq

Wikipedia calls tupilaqs “avenging monsters”, but my tupilaqs are definitely just examples of folk art, created as souvenirs for tourists. I love the one above, though; she’s clearly connected with abundance; fertility, good hunting of both seals and birds, and in that respect I think she translates easily into a gardening context.

The next one is more decidedly moster-ish; a lizard-like diamond-patterned skin, large claws and an open mouth. The impression, though, is softened by the soft tones of pink and green that comes out of this reindeer antler having been left to rot somewhat. The rot produces this lovely pastel colour spectrum in the bone, and the contrast between the sharpness of the diamond pattern and the polished surfaces makes this an absolute treat to handle.

Tupilaq
And now… Now comes the scary part… Mommy dearest!

My Mum the witch

I love this picture of my Mum as a witch… It goes a long way in showing her personality. She works in a kindergarten, and the picture was taken an early morning when she had gotten dressed for work, complete with blackened teeth and my Dad’s walking stick (which he made himself).

She had dressed up for Fastelavn celebrations in the kindergarten, in Denmark this is the dress-up holiday of the year for kids, rather like Halloween in the North Americas, and my Mum loves to dress up… She doesn’t do stereotypes, though, so rather than going with the pointy hat and the broom-stick she obviously dressed as a witch from the folk tales.

The picture was taken quite a few years ago, but I still use it as an example of what kind of upbringing I had. Whenever people think I’m a bit strange or odd I can just show them this photo of my Mum and they will go “Ahh… I see…”!

However, to finish off on a more traditional Halloween note, have some (store-bought) pumpkins!

Hokkaido

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So the freezing nights over the weekend did their thing, and the dahlias responded as predicted:

Dead dahlias

No more dahlia flowers for me this year, but considering that they bloomed consistently from the end of June on to now, I think they’ve proven themselves worthy.

And to imagine that all this came out of a few packets of seeds – that weren’t even all used! (Remember, I sent half to my Mum, and I actually didn’t even use my own half completely because I just didn’t have room in the windows in the apartment…)

I think I will leave them where they are today and just enjoy a lazy afternoon, having finished painting the rear of the annex today. I’ve had a nasty cough for the last few days, so I’m planning on spoiling myself with a woolly blanket over my feet, a novel in my hand and perhaps the odd swig of red wine in my mouth. (Ooh, perhaps I should mull some wine? I know it isn’t Christmas yet, but mulled wine is excellent for a sore throat…)

Allright, so here’s the recipe:

First you take 5 sticks of cinnamon, 20 cloves and – if you are so inclined – the rind of an orange. Stick it all in a jar, cover it with snaps, vodka or similarly strong spirits (Rhum would work very well, as would brandy or cognac.) and leave it for roughly 12-48 months.

Mulled wine extract

Okay, so that might be an exageration…What I mean to say is that each year at the end of December I prepare a jar like this and then I leave it until Christmas comes rolling round again.

Depending on how much mulled wine you make during the holiday season, normally a small jar will be plenty. I’ve used this 300cl jar for years and it has never come up empty… Perhaps because I don’t know many who like mulled wine, but never mind.

To make the perfect mulled wine you need a quarter of a jar of this extract, two bottles of wine, a cup of sugar and as much additional alcohol as you’d like. When I was an au pair in France I was taught in the Danish Church in Paris that you should add one bottle of snaps for every four bottles of wine – adding the snaps AFTER you’d taken the mulled wine off the heat, but this is not a recipe I can recommend. You’d get drunk just standing next to the punch bowl…

Mulled wine

A mug of wine, mulled and ready to drink. Except that in Denmark mulled wine is normally served with raisins and almond chips.

I love the taste of the warm wine with the spices; it’s perfect on cold evenings, especially when you have a cold or a sore throat. (I currently have both, so that’s my excuse…)

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I have a tit problem. Or rather, the tits in the garden have a problem. They seem to be rather confused as to what consists bird food and what doesn’t.

We have had three large candles standing on the table on the covered terrace, and it seems the tits have mistaken these for food. Now, had it been late in winter with little food around, perhaps it would have made some sense, but considering that we’re still just in mid-autumn I really don’t understand why candle wax seems such an appealing dish.

In this picture you can see the marks of the tits in action along the left rim of the candle. (Obviously it wasn’t light while they munched on it.)

Candle or dinner?

Now, clearly I can’t have the birds eating my candles, but since they clearly like to snack on stuff around the terrace I figured I’d find them something more suitable. I’ve now hung four bird feed balls on the terrace, and just in case this doesn’t catch the fancy of the tits I have also placed one in a candle holder so it can remind them of the candle wax they seem to enjoy.

This is undeniably bird food

Meanwhile, the candles have been moved inside and out of reach of the tits. I do hope they will continue to come play on the covered terrace, even though I’ve removed the candles…

(Oh, and the terrace is also a popular playground for a small wren that likes to jump around on the furniture and climb in the clematis vines…)

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They survived the whims of a hap-hazard gardener, they survived a two-hour ride on public transport, they even survived a sustained slug attack for months (okay, the entire summer), but will our heroes be able to survive THIS?

Frosty dahlias

I had hoped our area would stay just clear of the predicted frost so I could see the very promising purple dahlia buds turn into flowers, but I guess that’s unlikely to happen, considering that it will be even colder tonight. Still, they put on a great show, all together, and I think that growing these from seed is probably the most satisfying garden activity of the year.

For now, though, there is nothing to do. I’m off to the city for the weekend, so I can’t cut them down and lift the tubers until next week. The frost is only on the surface, though, so it will just kill the flowers and leave the tubers unscathed – and the freezing has been so light that there is actually a small – very small – chance that the flowers will have survived well enough to be left standing for another week, considering that temperatures aren’t likely to dip below freezing again during the week from Sunday onwards, but you just never know.

Also, a few words of wisdom… When you wake up in the morning and see frost on the lawn it is NOT recommended to rush out to take pictures of your dahlias in your bathrobe; put on some trousers, or it will not just be the dahlias that feel a touch of frost…

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Why, pot up cuttings, of course!

A month or so ago I cut the flowering stems of some sedums and put them in water, hoping they would root. Well, four out of 8 did, which is less than my normal success rate with sedum cuttings, but never the less it’s something, especially since I also have three sedum cuttings potted up in one of the windows of our city apartment.

The ones in the city apartment were potted up in their entirety, including the flowers, but I decided to use a different tactic on these. The rooting stalks of sedums normally also produce new leaves, so I cut away everything but the roots and the new leaves.

Sedum cuttings

I potted them up individually in a rich potting soil (intended for growing tomatoes and other such hungry plants), so they should have enough nourishment until spring when I intend to plant them out.

Sedum cuttings

Each pot has a set of roots and a small set of new leaves, and I’ve put them all in a tub of water overnight so they will get a good soak. I will lift them out of the tub tomorrow morning and hopefully this will be enough water to last them a while, since I intend to leave them inside for at least a couple of weeks so they can continue rooting without worrying about frost.

(Mind you, the sedum cuttings I took last year survived being put out into the freezing cold winter, even though they did die back from their new growth and had to start over in spring. This meant they were significantly shorter than my other sedums this year, but that was actually a good thing, since they didn’t flop all over the place like the sedums I moved from the fern patch to The Puddles.

The Puddles in AutumnMost of the sedums in the photo above have flopped and then tried sending upright flower shoots, except for the cuttings from last year who just grew their flowers on short stalks. (And yes, I know I need to get the leaves out of The Puddles ASAP, but I will do that some other day,)

So for now, with my cuttings potted up, I will relax with a glass of red wine by the cosy fire and then head off to bed.

Roaring fire

-Is it wrong that I think this is a lovely way to spend a Friday evening? After all, I think I have outgrown the clubbing days of youth several years ago… (Okay, I might sound like I’m 74, even though I’m 34!)

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WRONG!

True, our small apple tree might not produce a crop big enough to warrant a large juice-making session, but when I went out there yesterday and started picking I did get a large bowl of apples. (The bowl is 40cm across, so it holds a fair few apples.)

The tree was here when we bought the garden, so it is now the apple I’d have chosen. It is a Lobo, which is all right, but I’d have preferred either an Ingrid Marie or a Cox’s orange, the former being – to me – the quintessential Danish apple and the latter being sweet like candy. When I was a child I preferred Cox’s orange over any other apple, and the dog we had at the time agreed with me. In fact, she wouldn’t eat ANY other apples, which was a bit bizarre for a dog that otherwise seemed to eat anything she could lay her paws on…

Lobo apples

So… Does anybody know if lobo apples will keep well? To me they seem rather like the sort of apple you need to eat straight-away, but I might be wrong.

I’ll bring the lot back to Copenhagen with me, since The Flâneur Husband has requested an apple pie, and if the internet provided me with NO information whatsoever about how to store lobo apples, at least it told me that they are very popular for making apple pie with in Canada!

Speaking of storing apples…

We took a small field trip during the family juice making, visiting Ørskov Frugt, the fruit whole-sale company that my uncle delivers his cherries to. Wow… That’s fruit on a completely absurd scale!

Ørskov Frugt - boxes of apples

Each of these huge crates is full of fruit waiting to be processed before it can end up in a neat plastic bag in your shopping cart, and it really was an amazing sight. In the Danish plant alone they process 36,000 tons of fruit each year; that’s a LOT of fruit salads, pies, jams, cakes, and whatever else you could think of!!!

The company started out as a small family farm with an orchard, and the present owner’s father had the idea to collect fruit from neighbouring farms and sell it to retailers back in 1943. It’s still a family business, but now they also have processing plants in Poland and deliver to most European countries as well as to Australia, Chile and other far-flung places.

But I was talking about apples… Remember how I showed you a picture of two small kids throwing apples into an old bath tub to wash them? Well, here it was done in a slightly more impressive way:

Ørskov Frugt - washing apples

A clever piece of machinery transported the apples from the huge boxes and into a canal of water were soft brushes cleaned the apples, and this was very impressive until we reached the next step:

Ørskov Frugt - sorting apples

Swimming along merrily in another set of canals, the apples are then sorted by size and directed into these swimming lanes that are released one by one so each crate of prepared apples contain the same standard of apples.

Ørskov Frugt - storing apples

We then passed the vast storage rooms for the clean fruit. Fruit like apples and pears will actually keep completely fresh for at least 6 months when stored professionally, so when you buy an apple in May it might have been harvested in August originally and kept in an oxygen-free storage room like this one for months on end without loosing too much of its freshness. Still, when you buy apples in May or June, remember how much energy has been spent to keep that fruit fresh; each of these storage units holds 100 tons of fruit, and each is cooled down to 3 degrees Celsius and kept free of oxygen; that doesn’t happen without a serious energy consumption…

Anyway, I buy apples in May, too, so it’s not like I’m sitting too firmly on my high horse. Just be conscious of it, okay?

However, when we buy apples in the supermarket they tend to come in slightly smaller portions than the 1-ton crates above, so here’s the next step:

Ørskov Frugt - packing apples

And there you have it. Your little bag of apples is ready to be sent to the supermarket for you to buy it.

I must say, though, that much as I enjoyed the visit and was awed by the amazing machinery, I think I still prefer to was apples by hand. At least as long as I don’t have to wash 36,000 tons of them!

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There isn’t much bloom left in the garden these days. The sweet peas are clinging on to their last flowers, and the rudbeckias are doing their best in front of the covered terrace – but they will look much more impressive next year when they’ve settled in more!

And then there are the dahlias in The Sunny Border.  They just won’t quit!

Dahlias

The colour combinations are completely random, as these were grown from mixed-seed packets, but I might label some of them so I know where they will look their best next year. For instance, the coral on in front definitely looks out of place with all the whites and the pastels, so it should perhaps be given a spot in a different bed next year….

The prettiest part of the garden right now, though, is probably the lawn. A few areas are still green because there are no large trees or shrubs nearby, but large swathes are coloured brown with oak leaves, yellow with mirabelle leaves or purple with cherry plum leaves.

LeavesAnd in some places, like the photo above, a few cherry plum leaves dot the yellow surface of mirabelle leaves and create quite a beautiful spectacle in their own subtle way. I think it is quite the loveliest thing in my garden, even surpassing my much-beloved dahlias right now. -Though probably not so much when I start raking them up… That will be quite a job! And of course the dahlias need to be dug up, probably next week once the first frost has killed off the plants above ground level. And the lawn really needs a final (high) mowing. And spring bulbs need planting. And I’m sure there is much else to do, but right now I am sitting by a warm fire, enjoying the sound of the wind shaking the trees and the sight of my yellow lawn with purple dots.

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