Thursday, 30 April 2015


My NFT system is four two meter square line drain pipes running into a 110 mm soil pipe. All standard UK fittings.
At the moment I would gladly burn it!
I cut four square holes into the 110 mm to accept the square tubes.
An accuracy of +/- 1 cm.
Not good enough! It leaks!
I tested it on max water flow. No problems!
However when I adjusted the individual flows to between one and two liters per minute ( Ideal)
Water creep!
Drizzles Drops and Drips.
Now one drip can lose 20 to 40 liters per day.
Constant top up will throw my PH. Disaster!
Duck Tape. Do you call four rolls; Flock Tape?
Yes! I am a grown man and spending my day drinking tea and watching Duck Tape joints to see if it leaks.
I am dreaming leaks! The only time I stop thinking about leaks is,... When I take a leak!
Yesterday I spent two hours making a fitting. I cut and filled an exact square hole in a shroud to except a female fitting which I then glued in place.
This morning I glued this shroud ( fish safe silicone) to the 110 mm pipe.
This is the bottom pipe and the good news is it doesn't leak.
Same again for pipe three tomorrow!
Not worth the F***** Trouble

To add insult to injury, I also have a slug that is eating my lettuce plants!
I go out at night with a torch but cannot catch the little devil!
I am trialling red/blue spectrum LED lights at the moment. So What the neighbors think of me late at night with a torch in a purple lit garden I don’t know!

I have laid a trap for him with larger. The slug not the neighbour! Perhaps he is a bitter drinker!
Obsessive? Me? No!
I just need to lie down.

Saturday, 25 April 2015


This will be my last post on Spinach.
 I took this photo this afternoon just before we picked some for tonights dinner.
It is perpetual Spinach. We are now self sufficient. A continual supply of fresh greens for salads and other dishes.
However this particular harvest is not destined to join a salad.
Butter,flour and milk. A standard white sauce. I make it a bit thicker than normal and then add grated cheese. Our choice cheddar. I then scoop out the centre of a tomato and fill it with the creamed cheesy spinach mixture.
In the past I have always added grated nutmeg to spinach. It softens the sometime metallic taste. I find I am adding less to the AP spinach. I don’t know if this is because of an iron deficiency in my system or simply because it is fresher.

Fill the tomatoes. Bake for about thirty minutes.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


Some time ago I posted about a fish with a white tail.
Today sadly I removed another fish with identical symptoms.
This time however there were visible trauma marks. Bite marks.
I am convinced that he was attacked by the other fish.

On the first occurrence the victim was number four in the tank. About 50 to 60% in size of the king of the tank..
 I ate the king. 
This left two again a size differential of about 50%. Possibly with more fish aggression would be spread. With low numbers and marked size differential I now realise i was heading for trouble. Lesson learnt.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015


The dentist said, All OK!
I can’t help thinking something is missing

Sunday, 12 April 2015


Red chard is a new vegetable for me. I bought the plants at the tail end of last year. A remnants sale in the local garden centre.
Really for some sort of bio-load in the grow bed over winter.
The last few weeks with the warmer weather they have been growing like crazy. 
So Sunday both of us have a day off. Real food tonight!
 Instinctively I turn to the Mediterranean for inspiration.   
Finley chop  a shallot onion and four cloves of garlic.
I am always an enthusiastic user of garlic. Long ago I had a garlic crusher gadget. Today I crush it with the blade of the knife and then chop. If in doubt add another clove.
Fry in half and half butter/olive oil.
Strip the leaves from the chard.
Roughly chop the stems. Add to the pan.
Pour a full glass of good white wine.
Two good swallows should leave you with a half glass.
Add this exact amount to the pan.
Reduce. Add the chopped chard leaves, half a hand full of grated  Parmesan cheese and stir.
Finish off with a squeezing half a lemon.
By the time you have washed your hands it’s ready.
As I said this is a new vegetable for me. If you have a favorite recipe I would love to hear it.


Spinach for dinner

Three weeks ago I posted a photo of the grow bed. Just before i cut some spinach for dinner. Well guess what? Spinach again tonight.
I tried to take this photo from the same position


Routine Maintenance

One of the routine task you have to do is clean the filters.
I detailed the construction of the RFF from a water cooler bottle in an earlier post.
Cleaning involves removing the flow separator, draining the tank. Flush it out with a hose pipe. Couple of minutes tops!
What I really like is that you can see that it is clean.

To prevent light entering the translucent bottle and causing algae growth I keep it covered with a couple of black bin bags.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Grelos de Santiago

The small plant in the fore ground is Grelos. Grelos de Santiago.
I bought it on E bay Espana.
It is grown all over northern Spain and is a key ingredient in Caldo de Galicia.
This is a rich stew of pork, beans and potatoes.
Grelos is a member of the turnip family. However it is grown for it’s leaves not the tubar. They add a Kale type strength and bitterness to this stew.
When I have cooked this stew here in the UK I have substituted kale.
I am impatient to try this, once again but with the real thing.
To the English eye Grelos looks like Brussell sprouts.
A thick central stem, but instead of the, baby cabbages, broad leaves.
It is a pick and come again vegetable.
On the,” Camino”
A pilgrimage to the cathedral in Santiago it was a common sight. The thick stem, sometimes three centimeters wide with the broad dark green leaves flanked our journey.
At night in soup or stew a staple.
Roast beef? London.
Pasta? Roma.

Grelos? Galica the Camino!

Saturday, 4 April 2015


A few miles south of my home The Kennet and Avon Canal winds its way through The Vale of Pewsey
Built between.1794 and 1810. It links London and Bristol.
 Needless, to say along it’s length there are many pubs. Boat men are thirsty people.
The Barge Inn at Honey Street is one such gem. Segments of an episode of ‘Morse’ the TV series were filmed here. I do not know wether the actor, John Thaw was a beer drinker but Morse himself would have approved of the ale.
By the side of the canal time passes slowly. You watch the clouds tempting the White Horse, cut into the hillside opposite, to run after them. She never does! Perhaps the moon will have more luck? Another round?
It is also ‘Crop Circle Central’. 
Croppies, from all over the world come to; not really sure what they do but drink beer and talk. Nought wrong with that.
 One Sunday afternoon I waved at a low flying helicopter. That’s Goldie Hawn they said.  I don’t know. The helicopter dig wiggle it’s tail!
I use that anecdote sometimes to remind my wife. After all these years I still merit the occasional wiggle. Even from two thousand feet!
Today it’s wet and cold.We choose the local pub for our pre Sunday afternoon snooze drinks.

I got chatting. A local boy in his eighties told me; No!  Chronologically speaking that’s not accurate. Geographically  it is.
Anyway we got talking about the K&A as us locals call it.
He told me that his grandfather, a bit of a Jack the Lad, in his day pushed a hand truck through the Bruce Tunnel. Oh yeah sure!

The Bruce Tunnel allows the K&A to pass underneath Savernake Forest. Just under 500 meters long it is the only tunnel on the canal and took three years to complete. 1806 to 1809. 
There is no towpath.
 In the days of horse drawn boats the horses went over the top. The boat men would pull the barge through using the chains fixed to the walls
Even today taking a boat through a tunnel is a strange experience. You hang around a bit at the entrance to make sure nobody is coming the other way. You then sail into the darkness. There are no lights except the boats own.
You steer literally for the light at the end of the tunnel.
The brick walls throw back the sound of the diesel engine on tick-over.
There are drips. At least two always hit me. Cold and dark.
Last time we went through I kept the navigation lights on but switched off the bow light. The grandsons sat on the front with torches. To help me through.
 Their torches guided the way but their eyes lit up the day!
And then you are out! Once more,  back into the light.Generally a bit warmer too.

Just after Christmas in 1895 the frost set in. The canal was frozen for seven weeks reported The Marlborough Times.
His grandfather Mr Bob Davis had been asked to collect goods from Burbage Wharf Goods Station.
Now I was listening.
He said that his grandfather had heard that the canal was frozen and decided to take the short cut through the tunnel.
The ice cold wind blowing from the East through the tunnel had frozen the water in layers.
Cracks radiated out as he slowly pushed the trucks into the darkness.
The chains on the wall were helpful when the trucks broke the surface of the ice.
Half way through near the pumping station the ice was thinner.
He sank through the ice up to his knees. The lower level of ice held up.
With the chain in one hand and the trucks in the other he finally emerged from the end.
Now I was reading. 
He had produced clippings from old editions of The Marlborough Times.
“The extent of the cold can be somehow gauged from the fact that when he emerged triumphant at the other end of the tunnel there were icicles about a foot long hanging from the trucks.”
His achievement was witnessed by Mr Briant. a ganger on the railway, who at that time resided at Wotton Bassett.
When asked..............
“ I’d never do it again, even if I had the chance is Bob’s verdict.
The pub door opened. The cold wind entered.
We looked at one another. No. me neither!
But his eyes lit up the pub.

I will never go through that part of the canal again without thinking of him and his grandfather.

Friday, 3 April 2015


Long ago the days were white and the nights were black.
Radios had to warm up.
Small children wore short trousers and balaclava helmets. Knitted by their grandmothers.
Food had to warm you up.

Bacon pudding
Mix four ounces of suet with eight of self raising flour. Add a pinch of salt, grate in a large onion. Add water as required.
Roll out. Cover with rashers of bacon. Roll up to form a ’Roly Poly’
Bake in the oven for about an hour.
Mash cabbage and gravy go well with it.

Ah! We had eaten half before I thought to take the photo!


Today I finally switched on the NFT system.
I have a four day holiday for Easter and thought now or never.
This is a dedicated 1400l Litre/hour pump in the sump. This pump will run 24/7 or CF ( constant flow) I have a tap with a return line to the sump so I can control the flow. An added benefit of this return flow is water splashing into the sump. This will create additional oxygenation in the water.
So I stand back to admire it and it overflows!
I am using old plastic bottle tops in the “Trickle Tower”. I guess I put too many in. They flowed back and blocked the tubes. Fished them out.
So far so good.
I have fifty holes in the NFT tubes. This is the main area for watercress.
I got a little impatient. I bought some cheap plant plugs in the supermarket.
These are; Apache chili, peppers and lettuce.
Tomorrow I will rinse the dirt from their roots and put them in net pots with a little clay ball media to hold them in place and then put them in the NFT.
NFT or ‘nutrient film technique’ is simply plants in a tube with a constant flow of very little water or near film water. The trick is the water must be super clean.
From the sump my water flows into each of the four pipes. The pipes discharge onto a simple dish scourer pad. It then flows down into the “Trickle Tower” filled with bottle tops. On into another scourer pad filter and then into about six liters of K1 media before rejoining  the sump.

The NFT gurgles.
When the main pipe runs I hear splashing.
The pump in the EP tank trickles.
I love the sound of water.

Happy Easter.