There are a few reasons why I started working on my “garden” (yard) last weekend.
I am sure you can guess the first……Oh there she goes again, bloody Ballymaloe. But yes I am sorry, the place did give me faith that I could do more than weeding.
Also, I have had enough of keeping the blinds down to the windowsill – we are like the unconventional, freaky neighbours with something to hide – peering behind the curtains at the sound of someone coming to the door. We don’t keep them down so people can’t see in – it is so we don’t have to look out! At the yard. The sight of a jungle of weeds is a depressing affair so best to keep them down. It is only a little space but somehow it is so hard to keep in order.
Another factor motivating me in my sudden urge to do some gardening is my future Mother in Law (M.I.L.). Maybe a lot of you aren’t familiar with the feeling of sheer mortification when said M.I.L-to-be sees your garden in all its glory – a sea of green. A very small, rugged landscape of nettles, dandelions and creeping thistle . Sounds exotic almost, but I can assure you, it is not. Sitting over a coffee in the kitchen looking out to the back “garden”, you’d swear we were the only creatures living in an abandoned town in Fukushima. The weeds are even growing tall through the cracks in the patio. It’s totally embarrassing.
You see, my future M.I.L is a wonderful person who gets up at 6am to plant a garden for her village for ‘tidy towns’, in her spare time. She is someone who could enter the Bloom ‘Garden of the Year’ competition, and win, hands down. She is someone who shows up on a freezing December afternoon with her shovel and spade, wheelbarrow and an array of bulbs (while we are at work), waves her magic wand and transforms the front driveway back into a garden, before we get home.
So when M.I.L is over at Christmas my fear is that she will look out the back window. I do everything in my power to keep her preoccupied and entertained. I ensure she sits at the seat with her back to the window while we eat. I ensure she is in the armchair facing the television, again, back to the window. I make random chatter when she gets up to have a look out, as if I am distracting a child with a rattle. I feel awful. When Jeff asks me, how can he help with the cooking, I tell him, ‘Just don’t let your Mum look out the window.’ Sounding slightly psychotic. Anyway, I turn my back for one minute to scramble some eggs and there she is, M.I.L has managed to get to the window and is peering under the blind….No!!!!!!!! Jeff!!!! I give you one job!! I don’t blame her of course. It can get quite claustrophobic at times with all the blinds down. She is so gracious she never mentions that she spent yet another 7 hours last Summer working a miracle in the garden only to find we have let all the new plants die, allowed weeds grow up to our hips and that we let her beautiful hydrangeas fade away. How will I look after her only son if I can’t even tend to a few weeds, she must be thinking!! But M.I.L is too kind – she knows I am mortified. She simply smiles and offers to come and help next week, goes back to her seat and we enjoy our breakfast.
So all of this propelled me out of bed last weekend as sunlight streamed through the infamous blinds. I was going to make the most of the rare bright and sunny day. Rather than the mundane New Year resolutions of exercising and cutting down on chocolate, this year will be Garden Operation Transformation. And M.I.L has said she will teach me – perhaps I too will be a green-fingers goddess someday.
Now after a successful and enjoyable day of weeding I have a blank canvas so I can now start thinking about raised beds, herbs, flowers and dare I say it, even some vegetables!? I also think I managed to save the hydrangeas! Bonus! Furthermore the blinds have been raised almost ceremoniously like a flag being hoisted after a time of mourning. Let’s hope it is not too late and we haven’t already been ostracised by the neighbours! We’re normal, promise!
A chilly day in the garden should always be followed by a big bowl of hot soup. You will be tired so luckily this only takes a few minutes;
Carrot and Cumin Soup (Ballymaloe Recipe)
You will need:
- 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 45g (1¾oz) butter
- 110g (4oz) onion, chopped
- 140g (5oz) potatoes, chopped
- 560g (1¼lb) carrots, preferably organic, chopped
- Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
- 1.1l (2 pints) homemade chicken or vegetable stock
- 150ml (¼ pint) creamy milk, (optional)
Heat the cumin seed on a frying pan, just for a minute or two until it smells rich and spicy. Grind in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder.
Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, when it foams add the chopped vegetables and cumin seed. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar and toss until coated. Cover with a butter paper and a tight fitting lid.
Allow to sweat gently on a low heat for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables have softened slightly. Remove the lid. Add the boiling stock, increase the heat and boil until the vegetables are soft.
Liquidise and enjoy the new view!