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January 2015

Posts on January 2015

Potato planting here we come...

Zena Robson

27 January 2015

Potato time is rapidly approaching and there will be a bewildering array of seed potatoes available to choose from. Seed potatoes are certified as disease and virus free, thus they are not the same as the spuds you buy in the supermarket. They are divided into groups, depending on how long they take to produce a crop. The ones that take the least time are called First Earlies, which can take as little as 10 weeks. This makes them ideal for growing in Potato Bags or similar as they can be removed and the bag or pot used for something else. I also think that they are the ones to try out if you have never grown your own potatoes, as they are over and done with by the time the dreaded blight is about.  There are many First Earlies worthy of note, ‘Pentland Javelin’ being especially disease resistant. ‘Duke of York and ‘Red Duke of York’ are brilliant for roasting; ‘Rocket’ and ‘Epicure’ are excellent salad potatoes; ‘Vanessa’ has a red skin and makes a brilliant all-rounder.  There is some debate about the need to ‘chit’ First Earlies, but it is advisable for all other types. ‘Chitting’ simply means ‘sprouting’ and is achieved by placing the seed potatoes in something like the bottom of an egg box with the end that has the most ‘eyes’ uppermost. Put them somewhere bright but not hot and leave them alone until the ‘chits’ are about 1” long. Then they are ready to plant out but care must be taken not to break them off as they will not re-grow.  First Earlies should be planted by the end of February. If you decide to have a go at them in a bag or pot, put the container where it will stay before filling it or you will not be able to move it! Potatoes need to be in a sunny place and I also find that placing the bag or pot onto ‘feet’ of some sort will help with drainage.  There are various ways to plant but this is the easiest. Use a decent compost with a bit of oomph to it and fill the container to one third. You can also add a fertilizer that is high in potassium – specially formulated potato fertilizer is available. Place about three seed potatoes onto the compost then top with another third. Place two more seed potatoes onto that layer then top up with remaining compost. This does away with the need for ‘earthing-up’, which is the practice of adding more compost at regular intervals as the leaves start to show through. The containers will require watering if conditions are dry but don’t overdo it or they will rot. Second Earlies and Maincrop potatoes are best grown in the ground. Plant Second Earlies such as ‘Charlotte’ and ‘International Kidney’ (also known as ‘Jersey Royal’) in March and April; Maincrops such as ‘Desiree’ and ‘Pink Fir Apple’ during April. These will give you a crop into September. There is also a group called ‘Sarpo’ potatoes. These have been bred by the Sarvari Research Trust and are said to be very blight resistant and also drought tolerant. They tend to be mostly maincrops.  All Second Earlies and Maincrops need to be ‘earthed up’ to encourage the formation of tubers along the stem. Never eat green potatoes that have not had this treatment as they are toxic. Don’t grow potatoes and tomatoes near each other. They belong to the same family and are prone to the same diseases. Zena Robson works at Woodborough Garden Centre www.woodboroughgardencentre.co.uk   

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New Year, New Skill

Sam Bertram

20 January 2015

With a new year brings a fresh perspective on life and that often involves learning something new. Jeannette Therrien is a glass artist who runs courses from her studio in Ogbourne St George. It’s a visual feast of kiln-formed glass, deep-cast glass (sculpture) & stained glass – there are so many things you wouldn’t imagine possible.   Originally from Essex, Jeannette’s love of children and creativity spurred her on to train as a nursery nurse.  After qualifying at 21 Jeannette went to her father’s homeland of Canada where she became a nanny for a creative family.  Despite loving her time in Canada she found it rather cold, and missed the English Spring, so after a few years she came home.   After a few years working at a nursery in London Jeanette came to Wiltshire when she set-up a business in caravan and camping in Swindon, which she did for the next 20 years.     However, like most of us we all crave change in our lives and Jeanette heard about an Access course in Swindon for older students.  This was closely followed by a three year degree in Ceramics and glass at High Wycombe and it was here she discovered glass – she loved the colours and the different techniques.     And she hasn’t looked back.  After teaching stained glass in schools and setting-up Wagon Yard Artists in Marlborough in 1998, she eventually moved to Ogbourne St George in 2001 and built her own studio.  Here she holds her popular classes which draw students from Windsor to Bristol with her close proximity to the M4.   Her courses are weekly - Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday morning and Tuesday & Wednesday nights.  And every few months Jeanette runs workshops on Saturdays for the whole day for those who can’t make it in the week. The classes are extremely friendly and relaxed with a choice of 3 different techniques to learn during term.  These are Kiln formed glass, foiling or the Tiffany technique and stained glass.  Jeannette can also be found teaching at Marlborough College Summer School and participates in the annual Marlborough Open Studios.   When Jeanette isn’t making glass or teaching she’s walking her dog Rupert or spending time with her nephew’s children.  Her current challenge is to walk the whole Ridgeway with a friend – they do 6 miles at a time.  They’ve got to Uffington so far so there’s lots more beautiful countryside to look forward to.  She loves the village where she lives and the countryside inspires much of her work.   Jeanette does love the sea and her campervan makes it easy for her to get a sea fix when she needs it.  Last year she went to Wales and one day she hopes to drive in her van to Italy.   There’s so much Jeanette can do for you.  Her tablemats, coasters and plates are stunning.  If you’re installing a new kitchen then consider a bespoke glass splashback to really give your kitchen a lift.  She also does glass panels and fun glass creations such as flowers for the garden. It’s extremely difficult to photograph glass and do it justice, a single image doesn’t show the depth, so I’d really encourage you to go along and take a look.  Just email or phone for a visit and Jeanette would be delighted to see you.   www.jeannettetherrien.com  

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Wiltshire's Museum of Kitchenalia

Emma Kay

7 January 2015

The history of British food; how we have shopped, cooked and dined is a complex and rich area of study. By the late eighteenth century the country had evolved into a culinary model not dissimilar to what we recognise today. The explosion and popularity of coffee houses are reminiscent of our own addictive relationship to high street chains, such as the ten Costa Coffee shops of varying sizes located in Swindon alone. Celebrity chefs made the headline news and wrote best selling recipe books and people of all classes ate fast food and street food that varied from French beef casseroles to take away pigs trotters. Emerging Bazaars like Fortnum and Mason and Faulkner (now House of Fraser) were establishing themselves as early as the 1820s. The most famous of which started life as a Grocery – Harrod & Co. Kitchen utensils were the latest gimmick, sparked by innovations in metals and ceramics and generating a whole new breed of burglar. In short the Georgian age was a revolutionary period in British food history and this is reflected in the collections of the Museum of Kitchenalia, a mobile Museum research project based in Wiltshire. You can find out more about the Museum and the history of food and dining during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in 'Dining with the Georgians: A Delicious British History', by Emma Kay available from Amazon and Amberley Publishing or by visiting www.museumofkitchenalia.co.uk

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