Slow Sunday, garden memories & a recipe
Autumn vegetable & peanut stew
It’s the simple things
I took the above photograph when I lived in Bath, UK. That vine was so beautiful each autumn as it climbed across the garden walls, and turned those gorgeous colours. It was an absolute joy.
For my new subscribers
I often write about ordinary things, as a counter-balance to the daily onslaught of news – mainstream and social media. Noticing simple things, reading or writing about them, calms the brain by exercising positive neural networks. The more you live at a slow, ordinary pace, noticing simple things; the happier your brain becomes. As autumn turns to winter I will start recording these letters, at a pace that will relax weary minds, and give the brain a bit of time out from all the hurly burly.
Garden memories & how things always grow back
There were two shared gardens out back at my home in Bath, where the vine above dressed the walls in patterns of colour each autumn, on misty mornings and drowsy sunlit lazy afternoons. Old stone steps ran from the top garden to the bottom one, which had a tall wooden gate at the end out onto a quiet street, full of little independent shops. Those gardens were shared by the people in the flats within the townhouse my boys and I had our apartment in.
When Harvey and Rowan were younger they played with the other kids in the flats next door and below, climbing over walls and running around five gardens, one of which used to be a cemetery. The graves were all grassed over and there was an incredible tree, absolutely huge. Each summer it’s leaf covered branches filled both the bedroom windows, it was like living in a treehouse.
I love trees, and across the road there was a park full of them. Once one fell down in the middle of the night. I woke up to a terrific sound, looked out of my bedroom window and saw nothing. I went back to sleep. In the morning I discovered the sound had come from the other side of the flat. Out front a huge tree in the park opposite was down across the road, it had taken out part of the roof next door.
After returning from my gap year that turned into three, no one was using those shared gardens out back. They were completely overgrown and I could do whatever I wanted with them. Down in the bottom garden I started to plant up a tiny urban forest. I put in a plum tree and apple tree on dwarf root stock, and there was already a greengage I’d planted years before. The apple tree was called ‘scrumptous’ and the apples were absolutely delicious, when you left them on to turn a deep red.
I underplanted those trees that would form the canopy of my forest garden, with autumn raspberries, fruit bushes, perennials like collards and herbs too. The following year the wall between this garden and the church garden fell down. It took everything out, except the greengage and apple trees. So, I started again.
The following year I woke again in the middle of the night to another really loud noise, and this time I did see what had happened when I looked out of the bedroom window. A huge branch the size of a tree trunk had come away from that beautiful large tree in the church garden, and fallen across the wall and railings of our gardens, taking out the top railings and chunk of old stone wall, along with the bottom two thirds of the top garden – which I had started turning into a kitchen garden – and the top two thirds of the little urban forest I’d been recreating. And so, I started again.
That beautiful tree that had lost its huge tree-trunk branch, was pollarded right back. My treehouse was gone and I thought it would never grow again. I was so sad, but it did grow back. Nature is marvellous, and you and I are nature.
I never felt I was living in a city in that flat, even though out front there was a main road full of traffic – motorbikes revving up, ambulance sirens, and young lad racer exhausts on Friday and Saturday nights – because the gardens out back created a green leafed, tree-filled, insect, bird and small creature oasis, that smelt of damp soil and nuttiness when it rained. Where the sun painted old stone walls and a shed stood filled with the smells of gardening. A world all of its own.
The greengage tree gave a terrific umbrella of greengages each summer, soft, sweet and oh so juicy. I always meant to pop a hammock up underneath, but never quite got round to it. I had an allotment once and the person on the one next to mine was horrified if I lazed around reading books, or lying in my hammock. I didn’t take any notice though. Sometimes lazing is important.
Each autumn as the air cooled, little birds continued visiting those gardens looking for worms. There were magpies chatak chataking and lots of crows sqwarking. There was also a badger that came at night. I don’t know where it went in the day. I had a shed in the bottom garden and would sit in the doorway when it rained, listening to the plip plopping of rain drops running off the roof onto a bucket. I threw weeds into that bucket that I didn’t want on the ground, like bindweed.
There was so much life out back there, and such peace. Once, when there was a street party one summer – more of a music festival really, not the sit down kind – I made chocolate muffins for my kids to sell outside the tall wooden gate at the bottom of the garden. It was only later when we ate some ourselves that I realised I’d forgotten to put the sugar in. Amazing that we didn’t eat some straight away and discover this sooner. That’s how excited we were about the street party and selling our muffins.
We also had two allotments as well, which I turned into no-dig beds for planting into. This made it doable for my busy jam-packed life. At the top of one of my allotments there were huge trees and I could hide under them if I felt like it, to read books and watch the wild life. I went there in all weathers with Harvey and Rowan. Every one over there did their allotment differently, and every person had a story. There’s something about growing food that levels everyone out. And all the human concerns get left behind, as you lose yourselves in the soil, the creatures, the plants, the planet.
Warm blue skies
A couple of today’s ago I was enjoying warm blue skies, even though it is autumn. The tree and window box plants out front were very still. The rooftops on the street were dry and the sun and shadows rippled across the walls of my sitting room, as the tree out front rustled it’s leaves. I heard an early morning car rumble out of the street, and the bin men throwing sacks of rubbish into their huge cart. It reminded me of when I visited my sister earlier in the year, in Vejer de la Frontera. There, the bin men came at the end of each day, two of them in a tiny dumper van the size of a car. They seemed to enjoy their work, laughing and swooping the bin bags people had left outside their homes on hooks, into the open-topped, tiny dumper, which moved across the cobbled winding pathways. I wonder where you are, and what the weather is like with you, perhaps you’ll tell me in the comments along with the favourite things in your life.
One of the cornerstones of an Ayurvedic healthcare plan, involves balancing the qualities the different seasons bring, through food and lifestyle choices. Autumn brings dry, windy, cool, erratic, rough qualities. And so, you need to consume more of the opposite, especially if you have a predominantly vata constitution, or vata dosha out of balance. When vata dosha moves out of balance symptoms that start to show up include a racing mind, skipping meals, nervous system fragility – noises seem too loud, life can feel overwhelming as your nervous system is lacking insulation, dry skin can start to appear and constipation, as well as feeling restless, spaced out and ungrounded – I introduced the autumn season and some Ayurvedic tips in last weeks post .
Ayurveda recommends carrying out a cleanse in between the seasons, to support your body to adjust to the changing conditions. You can find some links where I explain how to carry out a simple Ayurvedic home cleanse here here here and here
During the autumn foods need to be warm, nourishing and stewy. Here’s a recipe for a cosy, warming, nourishing stew just perfect for autumn days, but also nice for my friends over in the Southern Hemisphere.
Autumn vegetable & peanut stew
As the days get cooler and we move into autumn, Ayurveda recommends we eat more well-cooked stewy meals. They will nourish the nervous system and keep you feeling cosy and warm on the inside. This all helps with lowering stress levels and supports you to keep on an even keel, if the world is feeling a bit crazy.
This is one I used to like putting into a food flask and taking down to my shed or to the allotments. When it rained I enjoyed eating this soup while watching the raindrops plip plopping onto the leaves, and the robins searching the soil for worms when the sun came back out. At the allotments there was a dormouse to be found sometimes, curled up and fast asleep, and squirrels always, trying to make off with my lunch. I loved cooking with the food I’d grown.
Ingredients (for one serving)
1/ 2 cup cooked farro
4 cups stock
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 chopped leek
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seed
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 cups chopped spinach
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup peanuts
Toast the peanuts in the oven. Saute the leek and garlic until soft then add the celery, ginger and spices. Saute for a minute or so then add the stock, peanut butter and farro and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the spinach and parsley to cook for a minute or two, then season with lime juice and rock salt to your tastes and add the toasted peanuts.
I hope this soup nourishes you as much as it nourishes me. It is also nice with chicken in.
While enjoying the turn of the seasons on this little piece of the planet where I find myself, I’m also dreaming of Mediterranean seas and Vejer de la Frontera.
Warmest wishes, till next week.