Early morning swim

Just kidding; it was an early morning strim. Had to be out and into the harness at 730am this morning to beat the heat. And strimming is a warm activity. Especially as the setting on the handle is set to a taller person. And naturally I didn’t stop to readjust the angle, just strimmed regardless. I’ll pay for it later.

First up was to actually find the clothes line. The weeds (sorry, wildflowers) up near the potting shed were getting waist high. So with a few deft circuits it was back to looking manageable. I even tried to tentatively strim between my first terraces. But I was too worried about lopping off some carefully planted grasses and flowers, so it will have to get the hand weeding treatment later.

I paused long enough to admire the gladiolus that have opened up in the shade garden opposite, and the lilies which are opening too. Can’t wait to actually have time to weed properly in there, and rearrange the bed in spring.

Then up to the top of the property to try and make a path up to the forest. The brambles are creeping out of their hiding places and making it a bit difficult to wander up there. And one tends to create a wonky path as you spy a verbascum trying to put on rapid growth and shoot up. It’s the wildflower equivalent of killing slugs. We have to get the verbascums as they turn into strimmer defying thick stalks. Only the thick blade will despatch them once fully grown, and I only have the plastic line threaded on to the machine right now. And if they do get away their furry sneeze-inducing pollen gets everywhere. Is it pollen? More like triffid spores. A very successful weed indeed.

Once I had mastered the path to the forest, plus a small detour up to the source, it was way, way down to the lower terraces. Boy do they need taming. The grass is high, but a lovely soft almost deschampsia flexuousa like consistency. And easily strimmed. But I will need to go by with a lawnmower later to pick up the bits. Beats raking.

I had no hope of getting into the vineyard this morning. Already that heat was seeping over the mountain and warming me nicely (doesn’t do to say that the sweat drips off one’s nose as one strims). But I decided that the first terrace above the vineyard could be achieved. It’s the sort of viewing platform for the vineyard. The place where people stand and say ‘oh my’. But not in that gasp of appreciation of a beautifully tended piece of ground. Oh no, this is the ‘and you want to get grapes out of that thicket?’ kind of place. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof.

Oh my. But at least I could pull out bracken and pile it up for some purpose I will think of later. And then get the level down to grass. It’s such a lovely sensation when you tame a wilderness. But it was getting hot and I had run out of petrol, so up I went to the house to the only place I could think of to cool off. The pool.

Bliss. But no rest for the idle. Time to get those leeks planted. There are 61 in total, and they were actually a doddle to plant. I just had to put them in the weedproof fabric holes I had made for the beetroot. Which were ripped out by the deer. They had left the full sized onions alone so I don’t think they have a taste for onion breath and planted the crop without a cloche. There are two more cloches for Bernard to build this week. I want to protect the swiss chard and sow more beetroot, but they have to be secure.

And being so close to the onion bed for the first time in weeks I decided they could be harvested. This heat is predicted to last a week, so they can dry out nicely in the sun.

Jan worked heroically on the path above the onions and just below the strawberries. And would you believe there is grass under those weeds. So the potager looks almost orderly.

I had planned on retreating from the heat for the afternoon. But made the mistake of ‘just collecting a few jostaberries for a tart’. And hours later I had almost four kilos. It’s so hard to stop. The fruit is black and ripe and if I leave it another day it will rot. Or shrivel, or something. So on I went. Luckily it was a bit cool if you sat underneath the monster fruit bushes. So didn’t get too burnt.

And it was peaceful standing at the sink picking over the fruit, dividing it into 500g quantities, bagging it up in my lovely hefty bags (thank you Sarah!) and placing them carefully in the freezer. The deep freeze is doing its job: it is piled high with white currants, jostaberries, raspberries, frozen peas, frozen broad beans and loaves of bread. And milk.

The jostaberries were destined for the year’s first fruit tarts. I was wonderfully distracted by a visit from Bernard and Pierre who walked up to say hello. Mad, it’s too hot for walking uphill if you ask me. But here is the result. Had to make two as the oven is so large that it’s a shame to waste the heat.

I know, the photo isn’t centred and the picture looks odd. But they are big tarts and I can’t stand back far enough without exposing messy house behind. One will go to Andrew’s tomorrow and the other we can have when Glenn and Agnes visit Thursday. I made two small ones with the leftover pastry so we have had a sample. Deliciously tart but sweet and the short crust pasty (home made this time, no more store bought stuff) was as rich as shortbread. Had to work very very fast with the butter in this heat.

Right, time to shoo yet another butterfly out of the room and get down to having a rest. Dinner of fresh broad beans, just harvested onions and garlic, rice, mint and lots of parsley. Light and refreshing.

We are in butterfly heaven this season. I have never seen so many. And if you start to think that there are way too many zooming into open doors and windows and having to be shepherded out, at least you can console yourself with the thought that Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t turn these lovely creatures into a Birds-like horror flick.