Tag Archive | Growing Jerusalem artichokes

A Blogging Rest…

The Last few months have been extremely hectic in the Thrift household due to family illness, dog training, Christmas, birthdays, etc and I feel that this has all finally caught up with me.

Mr Thrift and I are in the so called ‘sandwich generation’, as we have teenagers and elderly parents who rely on us (three sets as my parents divorced when I was young and then re-married).

Unfortunately I have found this all leaves me ‘frazzled’ at times and lately I have been feeling very run down…….I’m sure there are a lot of people reading this that have felt the same.

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I have therefore decided to have a quiet few weeks, to give myself a chance to rest and re-charge my batteries.  This means I will be saying “no” to people for a change if they ask for something that isn’t urgent or life threatening.  I know I will find this very hard to do, but I’m not alone as most women struggle to say “no” and it’s time I became more assertive….

During the next month I have decided to make myself a priority for once, which I think is not selfish, but a necessity.  After all, as ‘Ovid’ said….

” A field that has rested gives a beautiful crop”.

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So I hope you don’t mind but I have decided to take a month off writing any new blog posts.  Instead during March I will post some of my favourite blog posts that I have written….I will try to find some old ones that most of you won’t of read before.

But please keep reading as I will be back in April, Hopefully full of beans again.

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In the garden this week:

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This week I have been trying to add a bit of colour.  My local nursery has been selling primroses for 40p a pot, so I bought a few to dot around.

I try really hard to only buy flowers that come back year after year and primroses and daffodils do this nicely:

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I’ve just got to stop Judy (my dog) from jumping on them now.

I also bought some posts to support my autumn raspberries and new summer raspberries.  Autumn raspberries don’t really need support but I did find they leant over my path last year, making it hard to walk down.

I used washing line between the posts as this worked wonders at my old allotment:

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This week I also decided to see what had happened to the jerusalem artichokes that I planted last March in my garden.

I don’t know if you remember but I planted five jerusalem artichokes in an old metal pot that had no bottom as it has rusted away.  I thought this would be good to contain my jerusalem artichokes as they are well known for spreading and I didn’t want this to happen.

I dug a great big hole to sink the pot into the soil and wiggled my fork deep into the bottom of the hole to help with the drainage on my heavy clay soil.

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I then filled the pot back up with a mix of soil and compost and planted five jerusalem artichokes into it.

This area is in shade all day, so I wasn’t sure what I would find when I started digging about…..but this is what I found….

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Some of them were bigger than I ever managed to grow at the allotment!  So I was very pleased with this.

I picked five of the best and replanted them adding some new homemade compost to the mix:

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I continued to seed sow this week.  I sowed my greenhouse tomatoes.  I had a pack of ‘Moneymaker’ which I decided to use up, so they are sitting warmly in an old margarine tub inside a propagator, again on my radiator.  Hopefully with some bottom heat they will germinate quickly:

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The flowers that I sowed on the 3rd of February are ready to be ‘pricked out’.  There is information here that tells you how to prick out seedlings.

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The flowers are french marigolds, antirrhinums and dahlias.  I will prick them out in the next few days.

During March I will be planting my onion sets in newspaper pots.  I will keep them in my cold greenhouse until they start to grow, as this will give my soil a bit more time to warm up before I plant them.

When I do plant them, they will go into the soil, pot and all – this stops any root disturbance and the pot will just rot away.

You can read how to make newspaper pots here.

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(Last years onions sets)

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During March I will sow red cabbages, white cabbages, corianda, mixed salad leaves, lettuce, greenhouse cucumbers, tegetes, sweet peas, cosmos and calendula.

None of the above will be sown directly outside as my soil isn’t warm enough yet.  They will sit either inside my cold greenhouse or inside my house for the moment.

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This week in the home:

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I have continued cleaning my kitchen cupboards and this week it was the turn of my knife and fork draw….I had things in it I had completely forgotten about!

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I also did a spot of sowing to repair Mr Thrifts coat pockets and our seat cushions in our kitchen.

I always find sowing so thereputic.

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Well that’s it for now.  Don’t forget for the next few Fridays I will be sharing some older posts with you.  However I will still be around to answer your comments.

Thank you for reading my blog and your continued support over the years.

I will be back as normal in April.

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The New Kitchen Garden Is Taking Shape & Seed Sowing Begins

At the beginning of each month I usually post ‘What to do in the kitchen garden’, but as this is now repeated each year I will just put a link to each month instead.  I will then have the time to write about other things that I have been doing.

‘What to do in the kitchen garden in March’ can be found here, if anyone is interested.

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There has been a couple of days this week where I have actually taken my coat off while working outside in my new kitchen garden as the sun was shining and it was just lovely to hear the birds singing.

I started off the week by planting two ‘Victoria plum trees’ that I ordered at the same time as the apple and pear trees that I planted last week.

I have read on various occasions that plum trees do not grow well as cordons, which is why I decided to plant them in pots, as I am short of space in my garden.

When the roots have filled these pots. I will replant them into bigger pots.

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I then turned my attention to the shady side of my kitchen garden. 

The top corner of my garden receives no sun whatsoever, so this seemed a good place to store my canes,etc. and have my two compost bins.

I laid the two broken old slabs that I found buried in the soil and put my old compost bins on top of them.  I put the bins on slabs so that mice and rats can’t enter them from underneath.  The bins have no drainage underneath, but they have made wonderful compost in my garden over the years, which is why I decided to keep them.  It will seem very strange making compost on such a small scale now, compared to the vast amount of compost bins and heaps I had at my allotment.

I also neatly stored the few things I salvaged from my old allotments:

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This area looked really ugly from my kitchen window so I decided I needed something to screen the area off.  I found the cheapest way to do this for now was to buy a pallet for £1 from my local garden centre and paint it with some old fence paint that I had lurking in my shed, so it blended into the garden….and it does look better from my kitchen window now:

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I then decided that the shady side of my plot would be a good place for my jeruselum artichokes.

I brought a big metal pot back from my allotment in January, which unfortunately had no bottom as it had rusted away.  I thought this would be good to contain my jerusalem artichokes as they are well known for spreading and I didn’t want this to happen.

I dug a great big hole to sink the pot into the soil and wiggled my fork deep into the bottom of the hole to help with the drainage on my heavy clay soil.

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I then filled the pot back up with a mix of soil and compost and planted five jerusalem artichokes into it.

(I bought the jerusalem artichokes from the allotment in January and they have been sitting happily in a pot of soil waiting to be planted).

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I have continued to dig the new kitchen garden to make ‘fixed beds’ and I have now finished one side of the plot and I have managed to dig my first two beds on the remaining side.  The soil is such heavy clay, the digging really is hard work, but I console myself with the fact that it will never be this bad again if I keep improving the soil each year.

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Along the right hand fence I replanted some comfrey that I brought back from my allotment and I also replanted the rhubarb that I had just ‘heeled’ into the ground, as I wasn’t one hundred percent sure where I wanted it to go.  This area receives only a few hours of sunlight each day in the summer, so I will need to see how well the comfrey and rhubarbs does….though I suspect it will be fine.

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So the kitchen garden is beginning to take shape:

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I also finally started some seed sowing this week.  It is very strange to only sow a few seeds at a time, as I have been used to growing for four allotments.

I have sown  cucumbers, peppers, lettuce and tomatoes (to grow in my greenhouse) and I have sown some red and white cabbage for outside and corianda and mixed lettuce leaves (for my window sill).  I have also sown some lobeilia as I love this in my hanging baskets and it is so expensive to buy.

  I decided to start my onion sets off in newspaper pots to give them an early start and I finally got around to planting my garlic in pots, though I am extremely late doing this so the bulbs may not split into cloves as they should….but I thought I would give it a try anyway.

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The onions and garlic are in my cold greenhouse and the rest are in propagators inside my house.  I do have a greenhouse heater, but it is expensive to use so I try not to use it until I have too many seeds to keep inside.

Just in case anyone reading wants to know how to make newspaper pots, you can read about it here.

Newspaper pots are great to make as they are extremely cheap and environmetally friendly to use, as the recycled materials decompose when you put them in the ground.  This also helps the plants that do not like root disturbance, e.g. swedes, that can be sown in the pots and then planted a few weeks later, still in the newspaper pots.  The plants find it easy to grow their roots through the damp pots when they are in the ground.

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Anyway, that’s enough for today.

  I hope you still enjoy reading my blog, even though I have given my allotments up – I still enjoy writing it.

I am looking forward to the challenge of growing as much fruit and vegetables as possible in my small

7.5 meter x 6.4 meter plot.

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I will be back next Friday at my usual time.

I’m Sorry Monty Don, I Think You Are Wrong…

I’ve had another busy week at the allotment, though it has been a bit murky at times due to the cloud of pollution over the UK.  I thank my lucky stars that I don’t have asthma, as I know I wouldn’t have been able to work outside if I had.  Many asthma sufferers have been struggling this week with high level of pollution in the air, which is apparently due to “a mix of local and European emissions and dust from the Sahara”.

By Thursday this week, I had begun to miss the sunshine and was hoping that things will get back to normal very soon.

The flowers at my allotment haven’t been bothered by it all though and they are giving a lovely Spring display:

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I am also really pleased with my woodland area this year too and I have already seen insects buzzing around the flowers:

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The last photo shows my ‘Forget-me-nots’ which I planted in the hope that they will self seed all over my woodland area, as I dedicated this area to my good friend who passed away last year.  I don’t want to forget her, which is why I planted the ‘Forget-me-nots’.

When I first took over this plot, the area was full of couch grass.  The previous plot holder (my dear friend Eric), told me that vegetables do not grow well around the tree, as the tree roots take all the moisture.  This is the reason why I decided to make it into a sort of Spring garden / woodland area.

I took this plot on in January 2012 (plot number four) and it looked like this:

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I quickly covered the area under the large old plum tree, with weed suppressant.  I left it like this until the Autumn:

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I then removed the weed suppressant, which had killed all the weeds and started planting Spring bulbs.  From then on I have been dividing and transplanting any plants I can find, to fill the area.  Last summer I also gave the plum tree it’s first big prune, though it will take a few years to get the tree back to how it should be.

This photograph below shows how the area looks now.  You can just see the Bluebells growing around the tree, which will hopefully flower soon:

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Before I start to talk about the jobs I have been doing at my allotment this week, I thought I would just show you something I noticed on my broadbeans:

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If you look at the edges of the leaves you will see little notches.  I have been asked on various occaisions what causes these notches.

This is the work of the ‘Pea and Bean weevil’.  The adults are beetles that are approximately 4-5mm long, but they are very hard to find as they drop to the ground when they are disturbed.  Their larvea eat the root nodules of the plant in the soil.

I have never yet lost any plants due to the Pea and bean weevil as most broad beans seem to tolerate the damage, but in theory a bad attack could kill your plants.  I make sure that my plants are healthy by feeding them in the Spring with a general purpose fertiliser (I use blood, fish and bone) and if the weather is dry then I water them.  This way I ensure my plants can cope with an attack, as I garden organically and don’t use chemical sprays.

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At the allotment this week I have been spreading compost around my summer raspberries and my autumn raspberries and around my fairly young fruit trees.  By spreading compost, I am adding nutrients to the soil, conditioning my soil and it also helps to retain water when the weather is dry.

I think it also gives the area a ‘neater’ feel to it:

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Last Friday on Gardeners world, Monty Don talked about his compost heap and once again told us not to put perennial weeds in our compost bins, which is advice that is always given in books and on the TV.

  I think Monty Don is wonderful.  He is so gentle and his passion for gardening really shows through the program (and I adore his dog too).  However, on this occaision I have to disagree with you Monty, as I know for a fact that you can compost perennial weeds, as I do it all the time.

  It does take three or four years for perrenial weeds to turn into lovely compost, which is why I have a separate compost area for my perennial weeds, but it is worth the wait.  After filling my compost bin, I just cover the top with weed suppressant and wait.

If there are any weed seeds in my compost after I have used it, then I just hoe them off, once a week when I am routinely hoeing my plot.

This week I finally finished emptying one of my compost areas.  This compost area was nearly four years old and you can see in the photo below what lovely compost it made:

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If you want proof about using compost made with perrennial weeds, then take a look at any of the photos on my blog…it really doesn’t spread weeds, provided you hoe every week in the growing season.

Incidentally, the weeds have started to grow here in the Midlands and so my weekly hoeing sessions have begun:

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This week, I also spread the above compost in my polytunnel.  Sadly the mizuna and corn salad were both flowering and it was time to prepare my soil for new crops:

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You can see in the left hand photograph below, that the soil looked quite worn out with lots of old roots in it, so I gave it a really thick layer of compost:

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Another job I completed at the allotment this week, was to finally dig up my remaining Jeruselum artichokes.  I normally complete this job in February or March, but I am a little bit behind this year.

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Jerusalem artichokes are one of the easiest vegetables that I know of to grow.  In February or March, I dig up any that remain in the soil and replant the biggest ones, approximately 30cm apart and 30cm deep.

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Every other year I dig manure or compost into the bed before I replant them and in November, I cut down the old stems so they don’t suffer from the wind dislodging them from the soil.

 You can dig them up all through the winter when you need them, as they store really well in the ground and they rarely suffer from any pests or diseases.

One thing to be noted though, is they are thugs and once you have them you will find it hard to get rid of them.  So make sure you plant them in an area away from the rest of your vegetables, or you will regret it.

My Jerusalem bed

My Jerusalem Artichoke bed

My family love Jerusalem artichokes roasted in olive oil and my daughters eat them like sweets….but be warned, they make you a bit ‘windy’ and I have never dared to make ‘Jerusalem artichoke soup’…I wonder if anyone reading this blog has made it?

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I also finished putting the plastic coated chicken wire over my swing at the allotment this week, so it is now ready for a plant to grow up it.  I simply tied the chicken wire on and used three canes to hold the chicken wire up at the top.  I can’t wait to see my plants growing over it in a couple of years.

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And finally this week I completed a job that Mr Thrift has helped me with over the last few weekends.

Remember recently I coppiced the Hazel to use, well it left the area kind of bare.  I decided to make this a smaller woodland area, so we collected a few bags of leaves that were going spare at our allotment site (the council bring them in the Autumn for people to use) and spread them deep around the trees.  This should help to stop the weeds.

I also used some old wood that I painted with wood stain, to make a barrier so the leaves don’t edge over onto our grass area (and this will make it easier for Mr Thrift to mow the grass in summer).

  I made a mental note to myself, to plant lots of Spring bulbs in the Autumn.  I do hope I remember.

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Well that’s enough for today (I’m sorry I do pack a lot into my blog, but I do love writing it).

Thank you for reading today.  I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

The Start Of A New Gardening Year.

I thought I’d start today by saying a ‘Big Welcome’ to anyone that has recently started to follow my blog and a big ‘Thank you’ to the Somerset Waste Partnership, who have included a link to my blog on their website here,  I feel most honoured.

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This week there has definitely been a feel of spring in the air, as temperatures have been mild compared to the cold, winter weather that we have had lately.

I have noticed that bulbs are growing nicely, the tiny shoots of my autumn raspberries are forming and unfortunately the weeds are starting to germinate.  In fact, I saw my first dandelion ready to open its yellow flower this week.  This is a stark reminder that the soil is beginning to warm up and spring is on its way and it’s now time to finish winter jobs.

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Before I went on holiday last week, I laid plastic sheeting over the beds that I will soon be planting my onions and shallots in.  This will help to warm the soil nicely for them.

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 I also planted my shallots in newspaper pots and put them in my cold greenhouse, to give them a head start.  Next month when they have rooted, I will plant the shallots, still in their newspaper pots, as the pots will compost down in the soil.  This will also help to stop the birds pulling them up, thinking they are worms.

I will show you how I make the newspaper pots in my  blog post on Monday.

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Also before my holiday, I cut back my Michaelmas Daisys, ready for the year ahead.  They look so unattractive at this time of year and yet they look so beautiful in the autumn and attract many beneficial insects:

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The rhubarb is going nicely now.  I don’t know what variety I have, as I inherited it with the plot, but it is a very early variety.

Two weeks ago I covered some of the rhubarb with a bin to ‘force’ it.  This will give ‘sweet tasting pink stems’ in a few weeks.

The Rhubarb at my plot

The Rhubarb at my plot

This week, I cut back my autumn raspberries to ground level, which is a job I do every February.  Autumn raspberries are treated differently to summer raspberries, as autumn raspberries bear fruit on the new year’s growth, so they can be cut right down to ground level at this time of year.

I have had my autumn raspberries for quite some time and unfortunately they have quite a lot of couch grass and bindweed in amongst them, so I decided it was time to dig them up and start again in a different bed.

I split a few roots and replanted them in a new bed with plenty of compost worked into it and in the next few days I will feed the plants by scattering some sulphate of potash around the roots.  I was very careful not to transport the weeds too.

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Another job I completed this week, was to dig up all my Jerusalem artichokes.  My family love these roasted in olive oil and my daughters eat them like sweets.

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Jerusalem artichokes are one of the easiest vegetables that I know of to grow.  Each February, I dig up any that remain in the soil and replant the biggest ones, approximately 30cm apart and 30cm deep.  Every other year I dig manure into the bed before I replant them and in November, I cut down the old stems so they don’t suffer from the wind dislodging them from the soil.  You can dig them up all through the winter when you need them, as they store really well in the ground and they rarely suffer from any pests or diseases.

One thing to be noted though, is they are thugs and once you have them you will find it hard to get rid of them.  So make sure you plant them in an area away from the rest of your vegetables, or you will regret it.

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Remember the area between my summer raspberries, that I prepared the soil and sowed grass seed in the autumn?…I have now edged it with a plastic ‘Lawn Edge’ from Wilkinson’s and gave it a quick mow on a high setting (as it was so long) and I think it has really made a difference:

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This week I have also opened up my oldest compost heap.  It is now 3½ years old and it contained all types of perrenial weeds.  As you can see all the weeds have completely died off and a beautiful, sweet smelling compost is left.

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This proves that perrennial weeds can be composted, provided they are left long enough to fully decompose.  So many books I have read tell people to burn them, which really isn’t a very environmently friendly thing to do.  This way you are returning them to the ground and adding nutrients into the bargain.

One thing to be noted though, there may be weed seeds in the compost, which is why I quickly hoe off the seedlings as they germinate.

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I spread some of the compost in my polytunnel, after I gave it a quick weed and dug up the last of my turnips and celeriac.

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The winter salads are doing well in the polytunnel and are ready for eating and I planted some ‘leggy’ broadbeans that I couldn’t plant earlier due to the wet weather in January.

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For those who are new to my blog, my dad has a small area on my 4th, newest plot.  He had his own allotment for many years, but sadly age caught up with him and a full plot became far too much to manage.  Last Spring, he asked if he could possibly have a small part of my plot to look after and I thought this was a great idea, as I can make sure he doesn’t do too much.

  I love it with him there.

April 2012

April 2012

So finally this week, I bought our old garden chair from our back garden at home.  I put it in a small area next to my dads patch, so he can sit down when he is tired.  I made a little table out of bricks and an old piece of crazy paving, so he now has somewhere to put his flask of coffee when he sits down.

I finished it off with some left over woodchip and I think he will be pleased when he sees it.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at 6pm.