Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Am I Going Mad?

First of all: This is NOT an April’s Fool entry – though it might sound like it…


I started weeding the vegetable garden today to get it in shape. Last year the weeds completely got the better of me and I ended up completely abandoning it – so the plan this year is to start out on top of the weeds and stay there!

However, having started the weeding I realised just exactly why I struggled so much last year. There are roots and roots and roots all over the place, and combined with the quick grass it’s just… Well, weeding it seemed impossible!

So I’m taking a rather radical step; basically I dig up the soil to a depth of 8″ and then I sieve it. It’s hard work, but not as hard as it sounds, really – and the result is VERY satisfying!


At first I figured I’d sieve it and then store the sifted soil in the shed that has a concrete floor until I was ready to put it back in, but obviously this is stupid and involves me carting soil around more than I need to, so tomorrow I’ll use another tactic and dig up the soil of one area and placing the unsifted soil on another area of the vegetable garden and then sieve it directly where it needs to end up.

Of course this not only gets rid of roots but also stones, bits of broken glass and pottery and so on, and the sifted soil really feels like something you’d pay good money for in a garden centre!

It won’t eliminate weed seeds, of course and some small roots will invariably pass through the net – but it will be a different game from last year, and as an added bonus the soil will be light and fluffy and perfect for sowing. I’m really quite excited about this, in case you hadn’t noticed…


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I confess: I’ve been more of a flâneur than a gardener for the past many months…

But now spring has truly sprung and this weekend I threw myself into the garden, secateurs and shears in hand, ready to get going. After all, you’ve got to cut back before you can start to add, right?


So I pruned the roses and the hydrangeas, cut the semi-hardy fuchsias down to ground level, chopped off half of the winter jasmine and basically nothing was safe in the garden!


This is what the pile of cut-off looked like Saturday afternoon – it doubled in size on Sunday… Eventually I’ll fire up the old oil barrel and get rid of it all, but for now I have a mountain of twigs and branches. It’s very satisfying to have cut out so much dead, grey growth from last year; it is a very visible way of marking that now the gardening season has started in earnest.


The greenhouse is my favourite result. I know, I know; it’s bare and there are broken panes and it’s all a bit rubbish – but before I started on it the grape vines literally filled the entire space and the ground was covered in wooden pallets, broken flamingo boxes and lots of broken plastic pots. Basically I haven’t used the greenhouse since I bought my house and didn’t  touch it last year.

This year, though… (Famous last words?) I’ve cleared out the rubbish, cut out 3/4 of the grape vines and might get around to replacing at least some of the broken panes. Essentially I have an almost blank canvas in there. I don’t expect to grow anything very interesting in there; some tomatoes, some chillies, some cucumbers… But with the foliage of the vines it should still get a lush, pleasant look eventually.

It may not be Kew, but it’s my little, scrappy greenhouse and I rather look forward to enjoying it over the coming seasons. I want to put a comfortable chair in there so I can sit there on those summer evenings when you want to sit in the garden but it’s a bit too chilly…


Of course I had help, both in the garden and in the greenhouse. Well, some of the time my helper was on the roof of the greenhouse, but I guess that needs inspection too, right? (The rest of the time he was basically getting in my way or trying to snatch the secateurs out of my hand…)



So there. Getting back to gardening – and blogging.

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Family stuff


I spent my weekend driving over to visit my grandmother and pick up my share of the contents of her house. She’s been in a nursing home since March, and she deliberately decided to hold on to the house so there’d be a place for her visiting family to spend the night for free, as many of us have a fair way to travel – but now she has decided it is time to sell, and by January 1st there will be new owners.

This is a house that I’ve loved a lot; my grandparents moved there when they handed over the farm to my uncle over 20 years ago, and somehow when I first walked into that house it seemed like walking into exactly the same home as back on the farm. It had the same “vibe”, just in a scaled-down version. As my grandmother’s room in the nursing home is an even further scaled-down version of that home.

And now the house will be a new home; the new owners want to knock down a few walls, build an extension towards the garden – and the view over the Great Belt – and breathe their own life into it. I look forward to sneaking past and peering over the hedge to see how it turns out.

My grandmother enjoys that the majority of her possessions are being divided while she is still here to learn who gets what and hear how appreciative the whole family is of her belongings. Out of an entire house full of furniture, kitchenware, knick-knacks etc., so far only 5 moving crates of “stuff” have had to be donated to charity – and a load of vintage dresses went to a company that provides costumes for theatre and film productions. Of course a lot of books will also end up being donated; I have around 3,000 books already so I restrained myself and only came away with around 100 books from her shelves.


I also got some rather nice objects, ranging from solid silverware to an old teapot of questionable taste (but I love it and specifically asked my mother to pick it for me!), but the most amazing object is this little bronze-age cauldron. After my great-grandparents’ farm burned down in the 1930’s the courtyard cobbles were removed to be used for the foundations for the new farmhouse, and under the cobbles this was found.


It’s not pristine, of course, but for a 3,000 old vessel I think it’s in pretty good condition. And while I have plenty of antiques if you go by the standard definition that it’s anything over 100 years old, this pre-dates the Colosseum by 1,000 years! It used to stand on a shelf next to my grandfather’s desk. (He was also the one to fashion the rather odd stand that doesn’t QUITE make it stand straight…)


Another favourite is this sauce ladle, made from a sea shell. It was given as a present to my great-great-grandparents, though nobody knows when – but my grandmother speculates that it might have been for their wedding in 1894. It is… Well, let’s call it quirky! I’ve never seen anything like it, and to be honest I’m not sure how much I’ll end up using it – if ever. (My share also included one sauce ladle in silver-plate and one in solid silver.)

There are also two dressers for me and a wardrobe – but I couldn’t fit those into my little car, so when I go to Jutland for Christmas with my family I’ll rent a van so I can stop by my grandmother’s house on the way home and pick up the furniture.


Ever since I was a kid I’ve said I wanted that wardrobe. It was in the upstairs guest room on the farm, and I used to hide away in it with books and a torch when I was a kid. A friend told me it looks like it could lead to Narnia – and perhaps it does. It didn’t come with any fur coats, though.

It was a nice weekend, though. Saying goodbye to a house – even if I’ll stop by there once more on Christmas Day I won’t spend another night there – and bringing some little bits of that home with me to my own home.

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I hit two pheasants simultaneously today on my way home from the supermarket. THUMP! THUMP!

Obviously I pulled over as soon as I could and walked the few hundred yards back to where it happened. One was… Well, it had gone under the wheel, so it was more like pâté than pheasant, really. The other had just been hit on the head and was otherwise intact.


I brought him home in my trunk. After all, even if the killing was accidental I would feel horrible if I didn’t put him to some sort of use.

His body will become a nice winter roast one day, and his feathers will become my mother’s New Year’s head-dress. (Yes, I can skin a dead animal – AND make something pretty for my mum… That’s what being a gay country bumpkin is all about!)

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Me And My Girls

So… Last week I accepted a job near the Flâneur Garden, so basically I’ll now be a complete country bumpkin living in the sticks… Well, I celebrated the new job by buying three hens!


Above is Nora. She’s my favourite… For one thing she’s the one who comes closest to being sociable so far – though they arrived here 48 hours ago, so I’m assuming they’ll get used to living here soon enough. But also she’s in a bit of a state, having been bullied rather badly by the cockerels at the farm, so she has some bald patches on her back and on her chest. New feathers are growing out, though, so she’ll be pretty and healthy-looking within a month or so.

And “Nora”? Well, read Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” about a woman who ends up running away from an abusive marriage and I’m sure you’ll understand why that had to be her name…


This is Nora (to the right) and her sister. They’re both white Sussex – a breed I actually reared in our back garden when I was a kid and teenager – but the third one has a tendency to hide, and her black colour with a brown collar makes her rather more adept at hiding, hence the lack of photo-documentation for her. The third one is called Magda; she’s a Jersey giant, so I wanted to give her a name that reflected her body shape… Something with a certain level of gravitas! (Because damn, she’s heavy – and likely to reach 11-12 pounds in time…)

I wish I had a photo of Magda to share, but I’m trying not to be too intrusive while they get used to their new surroundings. Fortunately they seem to have understood that the hen house is their home, so they go there themselves around sunset and all I have to do is close the door.

(And the reason Nora’s sister hasn’t been named is that I simply haven’t thought of a name that suits her – and also that I just don’t know her personality enough.)

So there. I have chickens… More life in the Flâneur Garden! I’m rather in love with them – there’s something very comfortable about hearing the occasional clucking of the hens out in the garden.

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No, it’s not another kitten, don’t worry. I have my hands full with just the one, thank you very much!

Rather, it’s a little bit of my family history I’m buying into.

I’ve bought a small (12 litres) fruit press!


The largest juice producer in Denmark, Rynkeby, was founded in the village of Rynkeby in the 1920’s. It had started a few years previously when a widow and her daughter started a little cottage industry in juicemaking and it became such a hit that they turned it into a real, industrial production. In the early 1930’s my great-grandfather bought the first set of industrial machinery (partly hand-powered, partly electric) from the factory, and ever since then my family has been meeting up during the autumn school break to make apple juice.

Funnily enough, when my great-grandfather’s farm was expropriated to make way for a huge housing estate of concrete blocks (Vollsmose), my grandfather ended up buying a farm in Rynkeby, and this is where we now meet up at my aunt and uncle’s place and make some 1,200 litres of apple juice every year. We still use that machinery to this day.

Well, I have a glut of apples in my garden – more than I could possibly eat – so I need to find uses for them. And why not make juice? I mean, I’ve done it since I was barely able to walk, so…

I have a while before the apples are ripe enough – which is great, since I need to work out how to preserve it. Back on the farm we bottle the juice, cap the bottles and pasteurise the juice so it literally keeps for years, so I’ve just ordered a small bottle-capper gadget (nothing like the sturdy ones we use to the larger-scale family operation, but it should do the trick) and a load of caps. I can do pasteurisation in the ovens (I have three) and recycle various bottles, so while it will take absolutely ages to get it done on my own, at least it’s feasible.

I’ll test it tomorrow with grapes (I have a glut of those, too), just because… I mean, a man and his newest toy =/= patience! Though the grape juice can only be frozen since the bottle-capper won’t arrive until next week… (And no… I’ve tasted enough attempts at making wine that turned out really bad! Not going down that road… But I know how to make juice!)

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