Heat Wave Thoughts

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Today’s forecast (18th July 2013)  from the Weather Channel

Those of you who live in a climate where summer temperatures routinely hit 30 and above for weeks and months at a time probably look on in puzzlement at the UK (and all the fuss we are making about the weather) which is currently basking in very hot temperatures (for us) for the forseeable future.

Our houses are designed for the most part to keep the cold and the damp out and are not always the best when it gets hot. But like most humans, we adapt  – given a couple of days to get used to the idea, so I get up earlier and water plants at the coolest point in the day. I am also practising revealing body parts that are normally swathed in socks and thermal underwear, eat later and do things a bit more slowly.

Of course if I did things much more slowly I would indeed be exhibited in the zoo as the three-toed sloth that I am. I do most of the things that absolutely need to be done and then ignore things that can wait till another day, having discovered that if you ignore them long enough they have a habit of not needing to be done at all, or someone else, racked with impatience will do them instead.

Here are a few slowly snapped pictures to share with you this morning. We start off with the ex-chervil. Doc once commented that we don’t show the gaps in the ground, the plants that didn’t grow, the failures, so here just for him is a special photo. One evening there was a happy plant, the next morning….

Ex Chervil For Doc

… we think the dog may have watered it while no one was looking

But in my hand, Doc, is one of the first sugar snap peas that I grew from your collection and they are good and sweet and snappy. I don’t know that they will do that well on account of the heat, but I am enjoying picking and eating them as I go.

Doc's Peas

We also put a couple of rows of lettuce plugs in last month which grew rapidly and successfully. There was an odd ugly one which Brian said was ‘red gem’ or so it had been labelled. When I harvested one yesterday it turned out to be a rather wonderful radicchio inside. We have never had good radicchio because the rain always seems to stick their leaves together at the top, a bit like balled roses, but no rain, equals great radicchio.


We have flowers! Here is a lily for Heidi and I am pleased to report that we vanquished the early lily beetles this year and they haven’t re-appeared so far, so we have enjoyed this one with its beautiful curly petals in peace and unmunched quiet.


We had the paths at the front cleaned yesterday, never done that before and the moss and green stuff has all gone, so hopefully when the cold and ice return, we won’t fall on our bums, slithering towards the front door. This beautiful soft and furry leaved plant (Stachys byzantina or Lambs ears) ended up covered in grit as a result, so I have been out there trying to clean it up. It is beloved by the white and golden bees that visit and lives happily in the gravel garden. Anything that the bees like is all right by me!

Stachys byzantina (Lambs ears)

We are mildly obsessed with French tarragon, that wonderful herb that goes so well with all manner of foods. It is slow to grow and tricky to keep going through a cold winter. We were sent some by post from Rome and we have potted it all up and it is doing very well on the windowsill. We also have a South African blue basil which we traded with a man at the Garden Centre for two oca plants. I love trading plants, such fun!

The photo below is of tagetes lucida, also known as Mexican tarragon, or winter tarragon. I have bought a little one and am hoping it will do well as it is supposed to be a tough plant but we will see as this is not Mexico!

Tagetes Lucida

Tagetes Lucida or Mexican Tarragon

Fat HenI carefully sowed some special marigold seed that someone had sent me last year and even went so far as to plant them out, only to realise that the plants I ← had nursed were in fact Fat Hen, a weed I was unfamiliar with, but apparently is edible and which has been used as a pot herb for a very long time, (thanks once again to @Rhizowen on Twitter) but I didn’t want Fat Hen, I wanted marigolds so they had to go.

Zeb has found a shady spot to sit in when he wants to be outside but he tends to go in mostly when it is like this and he likes to sit quietly and plot his next move at times like this. I put the kitchen thermometer next to him to see what the shade temp was.


I have baked once since it got hot.  I thought I would make French bread. I had forgotten how sticky and impossible dough can be when the weather is warm and I wrestled a couple of baguette shapes together and then gave up with the rest of the dough and shaped it loosely onto a tray and baked it off. The loaves stuck together but do we care really, it is all food. It had a good crust and an open crumb but my regular sourdough is a lot easier to handle than this stuff.

French Bread


Here is a picture of carrot and coriander soup from when B was still feeling delicate. You will note that one bowl is topped with sourcream – that was mine !

Carrot and Coriander soup has to be one of the easiest soups out there. Chop carrots and an onion, sweat till soft, add stock and fresh coriander, whizz till blended with either a stick blender or a food processor, season to taste and serve.

Carrpt amd Coriander Soup

And I am treating myself on a daily basis to cherries which came first from Turkey, then from Greece, from France and finally yesterday from England. I love cherries!


So that is a snapshot of where we are at, today is supposed to be even hotter and I had better lift a paw and move slowly and elegantly  towards the shower. Take it easy wherever you are!

32 thoughts on “Heat Wave Thoughts

  1. ardysez

    Having just come from a sweltering UK, I can attest that it is very uncomfortable with above average temps coupled with the humidity. You have done exactly what we must do in our hot months, chores morning and evening, and move slowly during the day. Loved see the things from your garden, wondering what our little plot of winter leaves will be like when we get home in a couple more weeks. Sitting in sweltering Florida at the moment… But in air conditioning!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I think the humidity is way higher in Florida than here, all those swamps and heavily breathing alligators and manatees. I have seen the documentaries ! I have other bits and pieces from the garden to show you but it will have to wait till it is time to lift a second paw xx Jo

  2. Jan

    Ooh, love the open crumb on your bread, that’s something for me to aim for. The lambs ears are particularly beautiful…is tarragon part of the marigold family? I sympathise with your slow mo movements in such hot weather. Here in Queensland our houses are built to be as open as possible and so in what we call winter they can be uncomfortably cool, but even so, on hot, humid days….there’s a limit to what you can take off! I don’t like extremes of temperature one bit….it bothers one! I hope B and Lulu are better now, i loved your lovely sweetpeas. Don’t forget to keep well hydrated while your heat wave lasts and carry on in slow mo. if you’re really uncomfortable indoors you can wet a sheet and drape it over something like a clothes airer and then train a fan onto the sheet so that you get water cooled air blowing towards you – it’s quite effective.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Now you’ve asked me something… French and Russian tarragon are members of the daisy, sunflower, aster family Asteraceae. The Mexican ‘tarragon’ is a tagetes which also are in this family, so I guess yes, but this is all from looking it up and the finer points of botany are beyond me. I would like an open as possible house, or one built from thick old stone walls with a central courtyard with a fountain and cloisters. I am waiting patiently for my own sweet peas to flower, my neighbour’s ones were sown last autumn so are a bit ahead of Mrs Sloth’s which are thinking about flowering, but not really yet. I am not sure about the sheet, the dogs might bark, oh just reread that – I thought you meant drape me in a wet sheet… yes excellent home made air conditioning I like the sound of that Jan :)

  3. Melanie

    Your pictures are so sharp and colorful. I love to see what’s (or what was) growing in your yard. Everything always looks so green. We are having a heat wave here too (in the 90’s F) and soon things will start to go brown if we don’t get some rain. Good advice to move slowly and water in the mornin’. I mean to go water/fertilize my herb bed and tomatoes this morning before I shower. When it’s hot out, it makes me hungry, so I find myself scavenging around the fridge alot looking for something else to eat. I am growing some French Tarragon this summer for the first time. I have used it in the panko breading for homemade chicken nuggets/strips and in salmon patties. What do you like to use your tarragon for?
    I love cherries too! I’m thinking I want to make a dessert with them soon, since I’ve not baked with them much and I’ve seen alot of blog posts using them. I’ll have to ponder more today what to make.
    Hope you are having a wonderful, slow relaxing day!

    1. Joanna Post author

      You are much hotter than us! We are about 82-84 here. I like French tarragon with chicken like you, also with pork, fish and with egg dishes it is very good, but I add it to all sorts of things. I chop it up and put it in my bottle of home made vinaigrette too. I think I am getting addicted.

      I like eating fresh cherries more than cooked and I like cherry jam, but it is not easy to source morello and cooking cherries here, they are mostly sweet cherries that are available to us. Black Forest Gateau if you were feeling like a challenge is a delightful confection of light chocolate cake, cream and cherries, but I have never made it. Hope your days are slow and easy too! x Jo

  4. Misky

    Hi. I am also doing the sloth-thing, and I love that someone else less patient than you keeps tasks under control. Well done you. I must try this, and see if it works in this house. I’m confused, as usual. Is the photo that looks like petite French marigold actually your Mexican tarragon? I’m growing French tarragon. First the neighbour’s cat thought it smelled so nice it wee’d all over it. So I cut it back, and it suffered a bit from that, but seems happy again. Then the cat wee’d on the basil. One day I might wee on that cat, and see how it likes it.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Misky back from the Spam :) Sometimes things just don’t get done at all, but hey that’s the way it is. The photo is the Mexican tarragon, aka winter tarragon, aka tagetes lucida. I think they grow it in places like Arizona. If you fill a laundry mister bottle, the sort you use for ironing (that is if you are the sort of person who irons, this sloth hates ironing) then it is a good thing to return spray the cat with. Harmless to everything but their dignity.

      1. Misky

        This naughty kitty is a night-stalker, so I’m asleep when it dislodges compost from the pots and then dislodges its bounty where lovely greenery once thrived. Andy-the-Builder says sprinkle black ground pepper around the soil of the pot; they’ll sniff for a piddle place and sneeze themselves off to a new location. I will try the pepper trick first, as I’m not required to stay up all night with mister in my hand. 29.6c at the moment. I think I might moan….

        1. Joanna Post author

          Sounds like you are declaring war. It’s a splendid 27 in the kitchen here and I am going to climb on my branch and meditate for a while, maybe with my eyes gently closed :)

  5. ray@garlicbuddha

    32 degrees Celsius in our office and like a sauna. Enjoying eating out in the garden in the evenings. Got an indian dhal vibe going inspired by Rick Stein’s current series. Love dhal and sourdough! Roll on the weekend!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I saw on twitter that Dan L is doing a coconut and garlic naan and a chickpea bread this weekend, so maybe that would go with the dhal? Not long to go now till the weekend. My house is a bit cooler but not much. But the sitting out till after dark is lovely and cosy!

  6. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    How lovely, Jo! I’m so glad you’re getting sunshine, but sorry that it’s been hot for you. It doesn’t seem hot compared to the weird 45C days we were getting here in Sydney last summer, but by the same token, I whinge and moan when the weather here falls below 10C, which must make all of my UK friends laugh at me. Our houses really are adapted to the climate they were built in, but the climate is now changing so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Still, I’m glad it means you’re getting gorgeous flowers and radicchio, even if the chervil didn’t make it.. :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am adapting with each day that this continues and am a perky sloth this morning – up at 5, dogs walked, bacon sandwich and coffee, tomatoes and plants fed and watered, and just having a little contented sit and a comment reply session xx

  7. hotlyspiced

    That’s very hot weather for the UK. We have the reverse problem with houses here – they are good at keeping out the heat but useless at keeping out the cold! I love the look of your furry plant – I don’t think I’ve seen one like that before. I hope Zeb’s able to stay cool. Over here in hot weather we freeze treats in water and when frozen give to the dogs. They have to lick and bite the ice to get to the treat and it’s a great way for them to stay cool xx

  8. Ann

    I am in Celia’s camp – hating the cold weather we are having at the moment. Though we do get lovely sunny days so I end up going outside to get warm and putting all my warmest clothes on to come back in! I sympathise about the chervil – Spot has watered a few plants for me with the same result.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I have fenced off some newer plants from the phantom widdler. But that is what they do, particularly if Foxie or a cat has been through and scent marked. I don’t mind low temps if the sun shines, it’s low light levels and long nights that are hardest on my spirits.

  9. heidiannie

    Your garden pictures are rather fine- thank you for the lily!
    My French tarragon died – and I don’t think anyone urinated on it either. It just died- I had three plants in a long planter and they all went down together. I am not happy about this crazy weather, either. The rain wouldn’t stop, now we have heat index warnings and dangerous alerts telling us to stay inside during the hottest parts of the day. This is ridiculous! I like it cold. Then you can add clothing to warm up. Heat takes you down to skin (and wet sheets, apparently) but then you can’t take anything else off.
    My garden is a disaster with only the cucumbers growing.
    And I’m baking in my garage oven which means I can’t smell it and everything gets burned. No bread because everything bready is going moldy almost overnight- even with air conditioning.
    Anyway- it is hard not to talk about the weather when the weather is CRAZY HOT!
    I enjoyed this post very much, Joanna- :D

    1. Joanna Post author

      I have had tarragon just die like that – I think it is one of those herbs that hates wet feet but I am not that expert on herb growing. I know it goes dormant in cold weather and last year’s is only just coming back. I might try and take them indoors this winter. So much weather is more extreme than ours here and I am amazed how even though so many of us live in built up environments we are still profoundly affected by it. I hope you get some better weather soon x Jo

  10. maree

    Oh Joanna I do feel for you…I love the heat but I really dislike humidity as it seems to suck all the life out of you.
    Its been14C here today and I have just lite the fire and finished making a big pot of pea and ham soup and a stack of cheese muffins for the beloveds’ dinner tonight.
    Your garden photos are delightful and Zeb is looking very dashing in the shade. I love cheeries too and cant wait till the new season.

    1. Joanna Post author

      We have a nice breeze going just now and I am settling into the hot weather nicely, takes me a few days and I am there. Though your soup and fire sound very cosy and comforting – it will be Spring for you soon x Jo

  11. themondaybaker

    Lovely photos! The cherries look particularly inviting. I feel like I’m on half speed at the moment. It’s strange that I can cope with much higher temperatures abroad but at home I struggle. It feels a sticky and clammy heat and we’re just not geared up to it. But the poor cat is struggling more than we are – he just flakes out in various rooms (and our fruit cage!). A furry coat is not a good thing to have at the mo!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thankyou ! The cherry bowl is empty right now but I have been eating slices of chilled water melon today which is yummy in this weather too.

      I have a friend who sends me photos of her beautiful cats flaked out in varous rooms and I can assure you the poodles do a lot of flaking too. Damp towels can be useful for pets to lie in if you have a hard floor and they are very overheated. I like the sound of a fruit cage, what do you grow in it?

      1. themondaybaker

        Alas the only hard floor we have is the kitchen and there isn’t really space for him in there. He keeps sleeping on his sheepskin cushion under the spare bed which you’d think would be too warm, but I suppose it is shady under there most of the time and he seems to like it.

        We have a redcurrant, blackcurrant, some strawberries and some raspberries in the fruit cage at the moment (plus the cat!). The strawberries haven’t done as well this year, largely because the currant bushes are bullying their way across the bed. The blackcurrant has done really well and I’ve had a go at turning it into cordial which is delicious! Particularly when added to cold cider which turns it a wonderful vibrant pink colour. I like to think that there is a portion of fruit in there somewhere to offset the alcohol. :-)

        1. Joanna Post author

          thought of you today reading The Guardian, interesting naan bread cooked in a wok and a piece saying how wonderful blackcurrants were. B is allergic to all currants and most English soft fruit, his parents had a small market garden and he developed the allergy helping out picking and packing as a child, Strawbs being enemy no 1:)


          1. themondaybaker

            Allergic to strawberries?! That’s terrible – they seem so inoffensive. Poor B!

  12. narf77

    For some reason I couldn’t post my reply, I will try again! The bread looks lovely to me and I wish I could turn out bread half as nice, I would be proud as punch :).

      1. narf77

        Not sourdough I don’t! I consider myself in prekinder when it comes to sourdough. I was able to make vinegar bricks with “Herman” my first starter (that will teach me to name it after a man!) and it turns out he was predominately lactic acid with very little yeast. I got some good starter from a friend on the mainland and Audrey came to live on Serendipity Farm but I haven’t been game to really explore what I can do with her as the memory of Herman, days and days of feeding and ultimately vinegar bricks that even the possums wouldn’t eat keep coming back to me. I hate failing (even though I know that it is the only way to learn ;) ). I do a pretty mean regular bread based on Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls simple white loaf but I would love to master a good sourdough.

        1. Joanna Post author

          Ah – I would be happy to offer help if I can. Narf. Some thoughts on vinegary bricks – all of which I have done – poss causes, either building the starter with too much old starter to new flour and water, using too much starter in the final dough, using starter which hasn’t been ‘refreshed’ but baker is too ‘frugal’ to dump,, leaving the final dough for several days in the fridge before baking. Any of the above will give you a very sour bread. The mildest sourdough breads come from using a formula and process, timings, temperatures etc similar to ones like Hamelman’s Vermont in his book ‘Bread’. If you would like to talk through what you do, thrn feel free to drop me an email. x

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