To the lighthouse

I’ve just returned from Germany.

The highlight was the wedding of my friends Nick and Fynn.

They got married in a lighthouse on the North Sea coast of Lower Saxony.

The landscape feels very familiar yet different.

Flat green swathes of agricultural plain surrounded by an arc of blue sky are pierced by distant church spires and lines of trees.

Prehistoric standing stones mark an ancient barrow or burial ground.

This part of the world attracts birds like the heron, stork and crane as well as smaller birds such as wagtails, robins and wrens.

I saw a marsh harrier from the train.

On the Baltic coast wide expanses of mud flats and channels are revealed at low tide.

They fish here for brown shrimps.

After the wedding – a group of us was lucky enough to be invited to an old thatched farmhouse in Grossenhain, forty minutes drive away

Nick and Fynn’s friends live there – Axel bought it 50 years ago!

Angelika was kind enough to show me around the vegetable garden there.

She gave me some bean seeds to grow next year – Saxa, Red Kidney and Turkish Pea.

The Backhaus was built using reclaimed bricks some of them from the 12th century

We had homemade rye bread and courgette buckwheat soup for lunch in the old backhaus.

They mill the grain for flour here and bake in a huge bread oven.

Axel made apple juice with a hydropress.

I’d love one of these and may trial one next week at a local homebrew shop for £25 an hour if I can get some helpers to make it happen!

It doesn’t need any electricity – just water at high pressure piped into an internal rubber bladder which then forces the juice out.

Me and Rojana

I also stayed with a couple of Sacred Harp singers in the medieval city of Bremen – about an hour to the south of Wremen.

My host at the start of the trip was Rojana who writes and draws inspired by her dreams.

On my return to Bremen I stayed with Inga who is an excellent cook.

We went for supper at a Taiwanese restaurant in the “bohemian” quarter of the city.

Mock duck with orange sauce and pak choi, “chicken” and banana curry, buckwheat noodles and shrimp, mock tuna with green beans

We also cooked together.

This is one of the cakes we made!

Manner Torte, a hazelnut sponge covered with whipped “cream” studded with chocolate wafers

She also gave me the recipe for this vegan pate which is meant to resemble leberwurst or liver pate – but which is, in fact, infinitely superior!

We also had a sing at Inga’s – where I had the chance to renew old acquaintances and make some new ones.

I was exhausted when I got home!

5 from 1 vote
Red Bean and Smoked Tofu Pate (or vegan leberwurst)
Author: Cath
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 200 g smoked tofu
  • 1 tin kidney beans, 240g net weight
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp dried marjoram
  1. Gently fry the finely chopped onion in olive oil until transparent 

  2. In the meantime, crumble the smoked tofu with your hands and place in the bowl of a food processor

  3. Open the tin of kidney beans and drain and rinse before adding to the tofu

  4. Add the fried onion and the spices and puree everything


  5. Add salt and pepper to taste


No Dig really does work!

Lush, dark,and rich

Some courgette plants are now in a bed mulched with cardboard and rough home made compost three months ago.

The moist soil underneath is lush, dark and rich and teeming with worms.

That’s in sharp contrast to the dry and dusty bed where I have mange tout peas growing – fleeced to protect from the pigeons (see my previous post).

The deeply mulched bed in the foreground with the fleeced mangetout peas behind in a bed which has had no freshly laid compost since last year

I gave them  a good soaking and they seem to be doing OK despite the lack of mulch.

I’ve staggered the sowing of peas to try and eke out the season so they don’t all come at once.

Poor germination

I haven’t had much success with carrots – it could be that the seed really is too old.

I may have better luck with a new packet I bought from Real Seeds – called Manchester Table Carrot.

I came across this website while looking for the right carrots.

Sowing like mad to keep up

I also sowed some “Kyoto Market” spring onions and some more squash (North Georgia Candy Roaster and Hungarian Blue) – all in modules – to go with the Hokkaido onion squash seedlings that are already big enough to go out under fleece.

My friend Julie saved the seed and gave me some.

Monday morning was devoted to sowing beans.

The six purple ones are two kinds of runner beans and the five massive white ones are Giant Greek butter beans which I can’t wait to try.

They were another gift – this time from Kate Poland who runs Cordwainers Garden in Hackney.

Bean seed
These beans were all given to me by my friend Kate

I also sowed some Cherokee Trail of Tears climbing beans which I’ve never tried before (not shown).

And some Cosse Violette are going in – they’re a purple french bean that cropped well over a long period last year (see gallery below).

Borlotti beans – both climbing and dwarf varieties – will be the foundation for many delicious meals throughout the year as they can be dried and stored (not shown).

Major motivation

My friend Tierney came over and helped plant out the courgettes and squash as well as some more mangetout.

The peas will hopefully climb up bamboo canes and extra chicken wire tied along the fence of the new bed.

I cleared nettles the other side so we don’t get them growing through and stinging our hands when we pick the peas in about six weeks time!

The stingers went on the new compost heap.

More compost – it’s officially an obsession!

Much of the past weekend was spent turning unfinished compost from my black plastic dalek bins into a big cubic metre open heap and layering it with grass clippings, partially rotted leaves and newspaper as well as the odd bit of kitchen waste.

I have added some QR compost activator which I bought from Chase Organics.

It’s reputed to speed up the composting process so it’s ready within 4 – 6 weeks.

It was devised by May Bruce (one of the founders of the Soil Association) just after the war based on a Rudolf Steiner recipe using a biodynamic preparation of seven herbs/medicinal plants including valerian, oak bark, nettle and yarrow.

Tierney proudly shows my Mum, Jan, the results of our labours

Meanwhile a massive mother heap at the bottom of the garden is yielding valuable growing material.

A major project in the next week or so will be to excavate the rest of that.

I’ll lay it around the blackcurrants, gooseberries and globe artichokes.

Then I’ll then underplant some of them with six strawberries I got at a plant swap.

And in other news…

Tierney and I also planted out cucumbers (fleeced initially as they haven’t been hardened off) and some more mixed lettuce that glowed like jewels in the freshly watered dark earth.

The new bed
The new bed complete with a cardboard path – edged with garlic chives and planted up with leeks and lettuce.

We moved the brassica cage (it protects the plants from pigeons and cabbage white butterflies) down the main veg bed ready for the magic caulis, the red cabbage and the cavolo nero kale that will be ready to set out in a couple of weeks.

That left the Nine Star perennial cauliflowers without protection.

After a bit of faffing we came up with a structure that works perfectly and adds an ethereal quality to the garden I think!

A veiled beauty in our midst.