Posts Tagged ‘garden’

From Small Seeds Lettuce Grows

Friday, May 30th, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jon gave me a present. Jon runs an organisation called Sow the City and organises community garden projects throughout Greater Manchester. He’s the garden man of The Classroom which explains why he gave me compost. Not just any old compost – compressed compost tablets in a mini-plastic-greenhouse. He also gave me a packet of cos lettuce seeds and a set of instructions. He also wished me luck.

Thanks, Jon.

Thanks, Jon.

I waited until my return from Paris before taking on this green-finger challenge. I have a tendency to kill most plants, usually through over watering. I remarkably still have four healthy plants living in my bedroom, all of these having survived an entire year in my care. IT’S A MIRACLE.

On Sunday I followed the reasonably simple instructions.

  • Soak compost tablets in warm water for 10 minutes or until expanded.

How warm is warm water?! I am like my father when it comes to instructions and start panicking about the details. So I decided to just guess the appropriate water temperature and placed the 12 tablets in a small bowl with warmish water straight from my kitchen tap. I immediately wished I had chosen a larger bowl as the compost tablets began to swell and were soon about the size of the plastic eggs you find inside Kinder Surprise chocolates. It was brilliant! I stood staring at the expanding compost and even said “Oh cool!” out loud. That’s how neat it was.

Watching compost grow

Watching compost grow

  • Place expanded tablets in plastic container.

Not much explanation needed. I did that. It was easy.

  • Insert one seed into each tablet, replace lid and leave in warm, sunny place.

Surely one seed wouldn’t be enough? I like to increase my chances of success and decided to place two seeds in each tablet. I have so many seeds anyway – surely it is unlikely that both seeds will germinate?

Grow, my pretties!

Grow, my pretties!

Apparently I was wrong. After putting the lid on the container and leaving my little seed babies on my sunny windowsill, I checked their progress on Tuesday morning to discover that two seeds will definitely both germinate. I HAVE BABY LETTUCE! Every day the little sprouts get bigger and more impressive and soon I will be eating cos lettuce for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I just need to find a way of replanting them into a larger pot so that they can turn from baby lettuces into fully mature and utterly delicious lettuces.

Hello little green thing!

Hello little green thing!

The Real Water Lilies

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

When my parents were in town we caught the train to Vernon and then a shuttle bus to a small town called Giverny to visit Monet’s gardens. This was something I had been meaning to do for some time and as my Mum loves gardens it was the perfect opportunity. Thanks to the advice of some wise friends, I booked our tickets online the night before so that we could skip the queue of tourists as we all moved from train to bus to garden like a well trained flock of sheep. While everyone else went to the ticket office, we snuck in the back entrance. Smooth.

I went there knowing and expecting it to be tourist laden, and, of course, it was. But nothing really prepares me for the inner hatred that sprouts from me whenever I am in those sorts of places. I attempt to accept my position as a tourist and embrace my inability to change the situation or the people I am surrounded by, but I can’t help it. I hate it. Absolutely hate it. I blame the slight peevishness that I have inherited from my father’s side (sorry, Dad) so technically it isn’t my fault. I was born this way. But the sight of masses of tourists arriving in a bus, then following signs to stand around and take photos of something that represents something that once existed makes me want to hit my head against a wall. And then I participate in this circus… shocking.

Sure, I admit, Monet’s gardens were beautiful. There were water lilies just like in his paintings, and despite Autumn being almost in full swing, the garden was scattered with bright flowers. We had chosen to go on a good day and there weren’t that many other people visiting. You were able to get your photo of the pond and the bridge without someone standing in the way and ruining the shot. It was quiet and peaceful (apart from the occasional semi-trailer that roared past on the main road adjacent) and a pleasant way to spend a morning.

Monet's water lily pond

Imagine this with a blue sky – unfortunately we went on an overcast and drizzly day

In the gardens was “Monet’s House”, which I have to put in inverted commas because 1. he never owned it and 2. it had clearly been completely refurbished because no one can keep a house THAT clean. The tiles on the kitchen wall looked brand new, the pots hanging on the walls had never been used and I don’t think Monet had that poor taste in colours of paint for the walls.

Monet's house

Monet’s house

His studio was the most ‘real’ looking space although all of the paintings hanging on the wall were replicas that had been done by artists who had never even met Monet. Needless to say, it was disappointing. As I walked around inside the house, I couldn’t help but feel that I was in a Monet-version of Disneyland. Everything was fake. On reflection, the gardens I had just admired were also fake – there’s no way that Monet would have spent that much time, effort and money on maintaining the garden. He certainly didn’t have a troop of gardeners ensuring there were always lilies available for him to paint.

Monet's garden

Yes! No tourists!

Giverny itself would have been a gorgeous little village had it not been overrun by tourist cafés selling over priced and terrible food. We wandered slowly through the town, looking at the little houses and the decent interpretive signage that had been installed outside some of the main points of interest did provide an interesting insight into the history. But it did just add to the Disneyfication of the place, and all I could think was how much I would hate to live there.


A nice little house in Giverny

Overall, I did manage to let myself enjoy the gardens and Giverny, but I was really happy to get back on the train and return to Paris, where you can avoid being sucked into the tourist traps and life is actually somewhat real. Sure, as soon as I step outside my front gate I will spot a tourist, but here they are observing the real world of Paris, or just visiting the Louvre. And I never go there, so no heads against walls for me. Would I recommend going? Yes. Would I go again? Never.

Flowers in Monet's garden

Despite my whinging, I did like these flowers a LOT.

My Little Garden in Paris

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

It’s amazing what can happen in three weeks. I have returned to discover that Becky and my little vegie patch in the middle of Paris has come alive and is producing like crazy. Clearly the Parisian half sunny/half rainy weather has made our garden very happy because everything has tripled in size and look what delicious goods I found:








The first pick from the crop.

I am going to eat the tomatoes for my lunch. I am expecting amazing things.

Ma Vie à Paris

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

I have realised that I haven’t written about life à Paris for quite some time. My focus has shifted to my experiments in the world of linoleum and paper and I haven’t kept you up to date with the latest and greatest happenings in Gay Paris. Times, they may be a’changin’, but I shall now redeem myself with a longwinded discussion on the ins and outs of the French capital. Vous êtes prêts? On y va!


Allow me to start with what everyone is talking about – the fact that it is now June, and therefore apparently summer, yet I am wearing pants, a long-sleeved shirt AND a cardigan. Today the sky is covered in varying degrees of grey cloud and the forecast for this afternoon is rain, rain, rain. This is seriously going to disrupt my friends’ and my plans of having a picnic by the canal. Sure, the sun doesn’t set until after 10pm these days, but that’s difficult to enjoy when you can’t actually see the sun anyway. We had a week or so of glorious sunshine and last Saturday I got sunburnt. The following day I was wearing jeans and a jumper. Something is wrong here.


France has elected its new President, Monsieur Hollande, and he seems to be fitting in just fine. I haven’t really heard much about him, nor have there been any scandals involving him and a younger woman (yet). So really, he’s quite boring and we can tell this just by looking at him. He looks like a maths teacher (or, as I have been informed by my American friends, a MATH teacher). Not that I have anything against maths teachers – they just make for fairly limp Presidents. Maybe Sarkozy will give him some hot tips on how to be a slime-ball.

In the meantime, France is gearing up for the NEXT election where they vote for their local representatives. I really don’t understand how this works because it seems candidates can stick their hand up to be a representative in any area of France that they want. I’m sure there are some rules, but it is probably just as long as you have a friend who lives in that area or you went camping there once then you can be a candidate. This has resulted in the extreme-left candidate from the Presidential election (Melanchon) challenging the extreme-right candidate (Le Pen) in an area in the north-east of France. This is risky business and could result in Melanchon not being elected which would be a DISASTER because really he’s the only candidate with any sort of human sentiment. It would also mean that Le Pen gets in and every foreigner in France will pack their bags in anticipation of their departure. Anyway, we shall see. I believe the first vote is this weekend, with the second round the following week. Exciting times.


The latest in summer fashions are in the stores and despite not having been shopping for at least three months, I can report that the style for this season is beige, beige, beige with FLURO PINK or FLURO BLUE or FLURO ORANGE. It is extraordinarily awful. The BoBos have been out in force when the sun does peak its head out from behind the clouds and big, thick-rimmed glasses are still a must.


Weird and disgusting as this may sound, the latest craze in the French food world is… American hotdogs and hamburgers. WHY?? I really don’t know. Actually, I do. While BoBos are proud of their native country and French ways, they also crave the style of New York and therefore a van driving around the city selling over priced hamburgers (on gross sweet ‘hamburger’ buns I might add) is considered to be “trés Brooklyn”. The hamburgers I can manage, but the other day I noticed a new restaurant on Rue du Faubourg St Denis that is a “New Yorkaise” style hot dog restaurant where you can buy a “real American” hot dog for 4 Euros. They even were proud of the fact that you could add fake “mustard” in your sausage in a bun. Needless to say, I haven’t tried these hot dogs and never plan to. I’m happy to stick to good traditional French food that is full of fat and cheese and cream and everything that is delicious and artery-clogging.

Life aux Récollets

Life in the convent is plodding along nicely. The next few weeks will see the departure of some residents who have become good friends. It is a hard aspect of living here – I get to meet so many great people but often they will leave after a short period of time. It is nice to know that I will have people to go and visit in Italy, the US, Canada, Poland, South Korea, Germany, Greece… But still. It would be nicer if they would just stay here.

My electricity still turns off at least once a day and the internet continues to be painfully slow. There hasn’t been much action from the ghost downstairs but I think he/she might come out when summer finally arrives. Becky and my vegie garden is growing like crazy and we will have tomatoes before we know it. We just need to build an anti-rabbit/bird/mouse/snail/monster contraption to save our plants. Something is very, very hungry and likes eating our green-leafed plants. Very annoying.

So I think that is about it. Most of you will have heard or worked out through amazing sleuth-work that I am now a single lady living in Paris. This has both its ups and downs as emotions are still quite raw and so any form of romantic liaison between people on the street can result in floods of tears. This is problem considering Paris is the city of love and sitting on every second bench or lying under every other tree are gross, soppy, lovey-dovey couples kissing and cuddling and doing all sorts of French things. I have considered going over and asking them to stop but I have refrained. Anyway, life is all about changes and growing and discovering new things, new places and new people and that is my plan. I would just like to sun to come out so that I can wear a skirt. I’m bored of pants.

Potting About

Monday, May 7th, 2012

For months I have been eyeing off some dirt that runs along the sides of the driveway behind the Récollets. So much vegetable-garden potential. Recently some gardens have popped up and after some investigations I discovered that the plots are given out to people who live in the community and who have no garden space of their own. As a resident of the building, I figured I should be allowed a slice of dirt, and so I inquired and I am now a proud land owner (well, user as I haven’t bought it nor do I own it in any way) in Paris!

Recollets garden

Lots of little gardens

Becky and I are sharing a 180 x 100 patch of clay that we are hoping to turn into a blossoming, productive and essentially delicious garden. On Saturday we ventured to Truffaut, a garden and animal centre, and purchased plants and a 40L bag of soil improver.

Interesting fact: Carrying a 40L bag of soil improver from a shop to a train to home is about as fun as carrying a 40kg flat-packed shelving unit on the metro. Becky is wonder woman and carried it most of the way, while I mastered the ‘drag it along the shiny floor’ technique.

Anyway, we now have massive muscles and yesterday we planted our new plants. We have snap dragons (did you know they talk?! Becky showed me this for the first time… wow.) and marigolds; a lavender plant; some bulbs which we are hoping to see again soon; beetroot; various sorts of tomatoes; tiny lettuces; and mint, parsley and basil.

Vegetable garden

So much potential

We will soon be producing truck loads of vegetables and selling them at market stalls. And in the meantime, I can stick my head out of my window and throw rocks at any one who is attempting to steal our produce. You’ve been warned.


Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The skies of Paris may be grey, but the tulips are holding strong.


Pretty, pretty tulips.

That’s Dutch blood for you.

Spring Time in Paris

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

As I write this I am sitting next to my window, facing out into the park behind my apartment. I am sitting on my dining/work/extra-space table as it is the only thing in my apartment that puts me at a high enough level to look through the window properly. Today is too beautiful to not appreciate in its full extent.

It is Sunday afternoon and the first official day of Summer Time. Paris is alive. The park is full of families having picnics, children playing on the swings, old people sitting on benches watching others go by. There are also the occasional drug dealer and homeless person but everyone blends together.

Last night Europe moved its clocks forward an hour and there appears to have been an instant effect – people are wearing shorts and tshirts, the new leaves on the trees have burst out of their buds, and everyone is smiling. It is definitely contagious – the only thing keeping me inside is the banana bread that I just took out of the oven. After a slice of cake and a cup of tea, the Parisian sunshine and I are going to get acquainted.


The magnolia (I think that is what we decided it was last year) is back in bloom

Lost in Paris

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Another day wandering aimlessly through Paris – I got slightly lost today (on purpose) and stumbled upon areas that I didn’t know existed. I felt an extreme sense of “I have no idea where I am” and loved it. I found lots of cool cafes and a whole new section of shops to explore with my fellow female travellers at a later date.

Highlights include finding the Movida cook book (a spanish tapas cookbook written by the people who run the restaurant Movida in Melbourne) for the low, low, low price of 5 Euros. It’s a soft cover and has a different image on the front but it is the SAME BOOK. I was stoked. Also, walking through random back streets of Paris in the sunshine wearing just a dress and stockings. No jumpers or jackets required. Most other people on the streets were rugged up for some reason… Couldn’t they see the sunshine?

Lowlights include the intense heating system used in Galleries Lafayette – every time I go into that shop I want to leave immediately due to heat exhaustion. Also, the pathetic scoop of Belgian Chocolate ice cream from Häagen Dazs. I knew it was a bad decision as soon as I walked in there but I was craving ice cream so much and couldn’t find anywhere else. At least the small size means it was a ‘diet ice cream’ and I can eat something else delicious as well!

I had a lovely day today – I went for a seven kilometre run this morning along the canal and to Parc Buttes de Chaumont where I had the lookout and a view towards Sacre Coeur all to myself. Sure, on my way home I may have been somewhat stalked by a Tunisian man who decided we should run together but who just slowed me down, but let’s just forget that.

The sun has been shining all day despite original forecasts for it to be overcast and the park outside my window is blossoming, blooming and bursting with new leaves and flowers. So pretty. The only problem with leaf growth is that our view becomes less and less, but who wouldn’t want to stare at that amazing vibrant, granny-smith green all day?


Look at all the colours!


Look at the flowers! So, who can tell me what these are?

Now I am home after spending the last four hours walking around the city, my back is sore from carrying my bag and my feet are going numb. But Tom just called to ask me what delicious treat I want from the boulangerie for dessert and I am about to whip up something amazing in the kitch (by that I mean I am making up a recipe and am extremely worried about whether or not it will work). Now that’s the good life in Paris.

My Ever Evolving Opinion of Bugs.

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

So it has been brought to my attention that bugs aren’t all bad. I would like to state that while I did complain about excess bugs, my main issue with them is when they get in my house and start crawling on my things. They can live free and happily in the garden (preferably away from the gate and not in my car’s side mirror) for as long as they wish. And I’m also not one of those wimpy-girls who screams and jumps on chairs when there’s an insect around (unless it is a brown, flying cockroach. Those things freak me out.) So there we go. Anyway, according to this brilliantly compiled Garden Note from the Ag Department, those bugs I was complaining about are actually helping me grow tomatoes in my vegie patch. So come one, come all, little flying critters. Just stay outside, please.