Sunday, April 13, 2014

I'm much better, and my husband somewhat so, but we're not going to attempt Mass this morning.

I'd better start with knitting as there's not going to be much of it here. I have just heard the radio say that Prince William was presented with a shawl yesterday “knitted by a woman in New Zealand”. That's got to be Margaret Stove, who of course designed and knitted one for him when he came to New Zealand aged nine months. I'll have to do some serious googling if the newspapers don't oblige.

Well, we had a grand week in Strathardle, in fine weather with many daffodils. My husband had a low blood sugar crisis on Tuesday as a result of going down the commonty to see our specimen trees, and in particular the Scots pine planted for his sister who died in 2011. It's doing splendidly, and he had never seen it.

It was getting back to the house that proved difficult. We managed that, just, but by then my husband was semi-conscious. We called in the Scottish Ambulance Service, who were brilliant.

I don't think there can be any question, in future, that we need someone else to be there with us. I couldn't have managed that alone. He'd still be down the commonty. This time the "someone else" was our niece, the daughter of the sister for whom the Scots pine was planted. She was brilliant throughout, and it was a good week.

We've engaged a man to look after the garden. Much of my dear vegetable plot has perished of neglect or marauders. He is going to put in a couple of rows of potatoes. Rhubarb is still there, and garlic both cultivated and wild, Welsh onions much eaten by deer but still hanging in there, Babington leeks I think – and Good King Henry.

Some may remember my history with this vegetable. I first heard of it in Dr Hessayon's “Be Your Own Vegetable and Herb Expert”, but the story is the same everywhere – a thoroughly satisfactory spinach substitute, grown for centuries in cottage gardens. Indeed, it has every virtue except one. It's perennial; very hardy; unliked by sheep, deer, and rabbits; doesn't creep underground like mint or seed itself all over the place like everybody else. (It's deep-rooted: stock can be increased by carefully digging up an established plant in the spring and cutting it into two or three with a sharp knife.)

The only trouble is, it tastes terrible.

After tenderly weeding my own little stock, I googled it yet again – and this time, I hit pay dirt: an article in the Guardian by a woman who has actually tasted the stuff and found it bitter. She says that the secret is to soak the leaves in salt water for half an hour before cooking-as-spinach. She also recommends it (presumably unsoaked?) in a salsa verde. I keenly look forward to trying both ideas.

And then it occurred to me, rather belatedly, that this is a classic instance of a common happening: someone authoritative asserts something, everybody else copies without question. The Royal Horticultural Society says it, so it must be true. (I'm guessing – I have no idea about the sequence of publication.) Cue Hessayon, Wikipedia, “Perennial Vegetables”.

As for knitting, I did little, although I have at least established the ribbing for the second sock. Back here, I am engaged on round 33 (of 136) of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl and will have more to say about that tomorrow, along with some pictures of daffodils, perhaps.


  1. To save a bit of Googling, my paper has it that Prince William met the New Zealand knitter who made the shawl presented to P George by the NZ government - and, yes, it was a Margaret Stove design. And he told her she may need to be knitting another, which many take to mean that there is another on the way, but since they have already let it be known that they want to have two children, doesn't necessarily mean anything of the sort.

  2. It is good to read that you are better today. I'm sure that your family (and your readers!) will be relieved that you won't attempt Strathardle alone any more.

  3. So very glad to have you back and to know that the medical things worked themselves out. Just wanted to let you know that you have contributed to my "world" knowledge albeit later rather than sooner. I have been reading your blog for a few years now and realized while you were on hiatus how little I know about Scotland other than the small bits you learn in a world history survey class. So I got busy and read some about Loch Fyne, Strathardle and Unst while you were gone. Most entertaining. Thank you for dropping those breadcrumbs over the years.

  4. Glad you got to go to "The Center of the Universe." I was worried you might be unable to make the trip again, and I so enjoy reading about your visits there because you enjoy them so much!

  5. =Tamar8:49 PM

    I eagerly await a report on whether salt really does help make Good King Henry taste better. I like spinach and the thought of an easy-care equivalent is appealing.
    By the way, would it help to carry something like a tube of honey or a candy bar with you, in case of a future low-sugar crisis? I think I've heard of such things.

  6. there's one story here, I can always ask my aunt who works for national radio in NZ. Sorry to hear your husband was taken ill, hope you're all recovering from everything ok. It's lovely to see you back

  7. Possibly he's one of those rare few non-knitters who actually appreciates how long fine knitting takes, so wanted to give her plenty of warning...

    The Telegraph has fairly full details of the shawl in question: