One of the things I haven’t mentioned on this blog is that I’m rather a fan of hot chillis and – when I’m not out patterning shotguns or hunting – spend a reasonable amount of time in my (small) garden tending to whatever crops I’ve got going at that particular moment.
Last year, we had a fine year for chillis, tomatoes and cucumbers, with bumper crops and a harvest that lasted from early July into mid-January, which was very pleasing.
This year hasn’t been anything like as successful, unfortunately. I’ve had trouble germinating seeds in a way that I haven’t previously (I think some of them got “cooked” in a hot garage before the temperatures dropped last autumn) and I’ve lost seedlings to blackfly and aphids. Frost then killed the first batch of tomatoes and half of the pepper plants and by the end of last week, the whole situation was looking rather depressing.
For the experienced gardeners among my readers, let me simply muse that growing F1s, early, is always a risk: the tomato plants were nearly 3′ tall when they were planted out a fortnight ago – amazing performance for largely-unfed plants only 2 months old – but they were forced outside for lack of space in the house. The three days of frosts last week promptly killed them all.
The point of saying all of that is to explain that some funds intended for buying more patterning paper have had to be diverted to the purchase of replacement plants (it’s too late in the year to grow them from seed now), which means that the flurry of data / analysis which I’ve collected over the last few weeks will slow down for a while until I have the money to buy more paper.
That break in pattern testing will also, hopefully, give me some time to get back into shooting form. It’s surprising how fast one can get “rusty” when one isn’t out hunting regularly yesterday’s trip out which produced a bag of one for a rather larger number of cartridges with the new-ish Baikal 12 gauge is a testament to that. Pattern plates, let’s face it, are not as difficult to hit as departing pigeons in high wind. In the interests of fairness, it was only the second time I’d used the gun and I have come home with birds both times, but I wasn’t happy, put it that way.
A mildly-positive corollary to that poor shooting is that I now have a number of Gamebore Black Gold cartridge cases (I buy the odd box when I haven’t got any home-loads made up) collected into a bag. They’re rather smart and clean up nicely with a bit of acetone to remove the labeling and polish the brass. Another couple of out-of-form trips will give me a box’s worth, or so, of empties, which will be enough to make trying out the new 34g / #5 loading that I’ve been planning to experiment with worthwhile. I’ll report back when I get round to it.
One final note: a game-meat barbecue with friends today made for a pleasant end to the bank holiday weekend. Wood pigeon burgers with thyme were simple, but effective and used up about half of the birds in the freezer.
Meanwhile, this recipe, which used up the last of the pheasant meat kindly donated by a friend at the end of last season, was excellent. I highly recommend it – including (forgive me!) the tomato ketchup, which as gastronôme ingredients go, is somewhat unorthodox, but curiously effective. Add a drop of rice bran oil to the mixture described in the article however – it’ll probably cook better, in hindsight.