Toilet Roll Parsnips

I’ve just sent messages to friends who live local, asking them to save me their empty toilet roll tubes: No I’m not collecting for a Blue Peter appeal or going on a recycling drive, I want them for parsnips.

I was reading a blog the other day that is written by a lady in France, in it she mentioned that she had never seen parsnips for sale so she grew her own. This prompted me to look into why you never see them in Italian markets. Turns out the story I’d been told previously about them needing a good hard frost to germinate is wrong. Parsnips are fussy germinators apparently and like the soil to be warm when they are sown, and once they’ve popped their heads above the ground they don’t like being disturbed until harvesting time. So I’ve decided to follow the advice of the French lady and have a go at growing my own using the toilet roll method.

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I’ve read that sowing directly into the ground can be an ineffective way of growing parsnips: the moody little rooters can be quite erratic flourishers. The toilet roll method aids the grower and generates more success. Some people first germinate the seed upon damp kitchen paper before planting, but this can be problematic as leads to possible root damage during potting on into the toilet rolls. Literally all you need to do is fill your empty toilet roll tubes with potting compost and sow a solitary seed inside it and keep it warm. Once growing water the seedling from inside the cardboard tube, don’t let the outside of the tube become soaked and when big enough plant the whole thing in the ground. This method is said to ensure all seeds germinate and there is very little root disturbance.

Parsnips need a long growing season so should be ready around mid-November, but the beauty is they can be harvested from ground to plate in minutes, as there’s no need to harvest what you don’t use, the cold earth will keep them fresh. My only word of advice is, if you have chinghiale nearby, keep them protected as the wild pigs love anything sweet.

I’ll keep you posted to how it goes throughout the year.

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Nocturnal Barking

For several nights the dogs have been odd, Alf has been sniffing the air and grumbling, while Olive has been nervous. At first we put it down to the thunderstorm we had a few nights previous. I’ve heard dogs can sense the electricity in the air and it can make some feel uncomfortable: If your dog suffers during storms, a trick is to rub them down with a tumble dryer sheet, it stops the static making them feel bad and they smell nicer too. Believe me it really works.

Last night, Alf ran up and down outside and it was difficult to get him to come in. He was obviously onto something. The night was filled with barking dogs, the four at the farm were having it large, Antonio’s dogs at the bottom of the lane joined in and our two also had burst of shouting out. As ours stay indoors at night, when bedtime came they soon calmed down and the Italian dogs continued until after a couple of glasses of wine I fell asleep and heard them no more.

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At six o’clock this morning Alf wanted to go out for his early morning run, I opened the front door and he dashed up to the lane, he started barking and I thought he was doing his usual barking at ghosts, nothing there to merit his actions. He went out of sight and I heard him crashing about in the undergrowth on our land. Olive was desperate to join him, and as we usually send her to fetch him back home, so she ran off to join him. The early hour was dominated by the barking of dogs, the farm dogs, our neighbour’s dogs and our two. I tolerated it for about twenty minutes and decided to investigate what was causing the noise. Alf and Olive were really going at it, the noise was indescribable, I went into the back garden and saw they had cornered a chinghiale, (pronounced chin-gee-yare-lay).

Chinghiale are wild boar and the one they had trapped was still striped, so was young, it stood as tall as Alf and snorted in annoyance as the dogs took turns to approach it and bark loudly. Concerned in case an adult was near by; as they have been known to disembowel dogs in an instant,  I stepped forward and called the dogs away. Olive must have sensed it was folly to get involved with a boar and came away, this gave the animal room to manoeuvre, and it ran straight towards me, I side-stepped as it passed and grabbed Alf who was up for a game of chase. Tonight I think we’ll be keeping a close eye out for chinghiale, and maybe restrict the dogs’ playtime to just outside the house.

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