Welcome to our allotment blog. We've got a plot, now we're trying to figure out what we're doing! So please join us - put the kettle on, sit back, and dream about Living The Good Life...

Sunday, 17 August 2008

They're taking over!!!

We popped to the allotment during this week to pick a 'few' veg, and ended up with a whole carrier bag full of courgettes. It's obviously that time of year when the courgettes decide to go mad. We've had stuffed courgette, barbequed courgette, fried courgette, a mousakka with courgette in,
the funkily-named 'courgetti spaghetti', and now I've made a whole load of courgette chutney. And still, when we went to the plot today we came back with another bag of courgettes... and that's not counting the ones still in the fridge.

We also picked the first scallopini squash, which we simply chopped into eighths, skin on, and baked with olive oil, salt and pepper. Delicious, light, slightly buttery taste. Yum! Everyone should try it.

Today we had a big weed and tidy up session as we're due to be going on holiday next week for a fortnight. Good ol' parents have agreed to keep an eye on things, though we're not expecting them to start weeding and digging, just the odd splosh of water here and there (if it ever stays sunny for more than a day) and the chance to pick whatever's available to take home. My poor mum is going to be overrun with courgettes...

Do courgettes freeze? I doubt it. Drat.

Part of the general tidy up involved digging up all the remaining potatoes and onions, plus picking a couple more squash, a couple of cucumber, some runner beans and the aforementioned carrier bag full of courgettes. The potatoes were our maincrop, Picasso, and were a decent size - we even got a couple of jacket potato-sized spuds which is great. As for the onions, well, we had some titchy ones as well as some absolute monsters. Strange, seeing as how they were all planted the same time, in the same bed, with the same conditions. I was really pleased with the onions, cos' as well being pretty much hassle-free, I thought quite a few would have gone mouldy in the ground, what with all the recent rain, but only 5 had to go straight in the compost heap. Here's the onions drying in the sun...

I think I'm going to have to dedicate some time to preserving and pickling (or something) this week, or our families may end up with a big bagful of courgettes on their doorstep before we go on holiday. I enjoy sharing the fruits (and veg) of our labour, but I admit I'd prefer to be able to store it for future use, especially as I'm not sure we've planned far enough in advance for the winter.

Here's our haul - and yes, we did have to use the handy fold-up wheelbarrow to get it home - that's a half sack of potatoes and a nearly full sack of onions in there! No way I'm carrying one of them home with my delicate girly arms!

Oh, you may also spot a little purple kohl rabi on the side. this time it's gonna get boiled and maybe mashed. Barbequeing one last month was not really a success.

And as far as 'not successes' go, the asparagus peas are right at the top of my list for Things We Will Never Grow Again. We tried them, little wiggly pods that they are and, frankly, they ming.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Ethical overload

Not much to report from last weekend I'm afraid - well, not when it comes to the allotment anyway. I spent the weekend at my friend Jo's house in Stoke on Trent. She and hubby Martin are expecting their first child in November, and it was great to see how she's 'blooming', help her choose some baby clothes, and see how her own veggie patch in their garden is coming along.

On another note, I've just read a book which has given me food for thought - A Life Stripped Bare: My Year Trying To Live Ethically by Leo Hickman. As a journalist/writer for The Guardian Leo undertook the challenge to try to live more ethically, everything from the food he and his family ate to the clothes they wore and the bank he held his accounts with.

But the steps and struggles he went through did made it seem more, well, do-able, I suppose. At least to make a start and change those things straight away which aren't such a massive step. Also, I was quite shocked that a lot of this 'ethical' stuff I just hadn't really thought about before.

Anyway, it's got me thinking... I tried to buy an apple at the supermarket the other day and there was not one - not one! - from anywhere in the UK. 'Hmm,' I thought, 'maybe it's not quite UK apple season... Aha! A neighbour had fresh plums on their tree at the weekend, I'll try that.' But the only plums there were from Israel. So... umm... strawberries! 'British strawberries' as the label proudly stated... but then they were £1.99 for sixteen strawberries (yes, I did count them) and even for a surge of ethical-doing-good-ness, that's a bit steep.

Organic, Fair Trade, air miles, local, European certified this and something else recommended that. It's a minefield out there. Is Fair Trade stuff flown from Kenya more ethical than organic stuff shipped in from Spain? Who knows???

I felt I had to share this with you guys. My gut feeling tells me that you fellow allotmenteers may have some stories to share or hints and tips...

I admit to feeling slightly smug, as I calculated our household annual Carbon Footprint online, and we came in at 2 tonnes under the UK average! But that's still 2 tonnes OVER the world average. Hmm. I get the train to work, Adam rides his bike, we recycle everything our council will accept, plus we have a compost heap and the all-important allotment, but I'm sure there's more, much more, we can do.

So I'm starting with household cleaners and detergents.

I ordered some soap nuts online today. I'll let you know if they're any good...

...and I'm sure that lemon balm in the garden is good for something.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Squash brings a smile

Much excitement down on the plot today! (Well, it's probably just me.) One of our squash plants has three little squashes on! Hurrah! I actually did a tiny little jig of joy when I saw them! The variety is 'White Custard' and it's one of the little flying saucer style summer squashes that you can cook with the skin on.

We've also picked our first yellow courgette today - along with lots of green ones - and there's a nice round courgette growing nicely too. PLUS the cucumbers are really getting carried away.

Above is a kind of support I put up with canes to keep the cucumbers off the ground, also because the bigger plant was starting to grow over the smaller ones and I didn't want them to get swamped. We ate a freshly- picked, small but perfectly formed cucumber along with hunks of cheese and chunky bread for lunch. Very rustic, and very tasty.

What else did we get up to? I did lots of weeding, 'cos with all this rain the weeds are getting a bit manic. I also tied up the tomato plants as some of those had put on a growth spurt too (no red tomatoes yet), and I sowed some spinach too, a variety which is apparently good for summer sowings and shouldn't bolt. Also pulled up a dozen or so small onions which are now drying outside (I'd like a bit of sunshine but at least it's not raining.)

Adam began weeding the overgrown strawberry patch - a mammoth task. 'But wait!' - I hear you cry - 'didn't you clear the strawberry patch already?'. Yes, indeed I did, some of it back in the winter and some in early May with Jo, but the weeds have once again taken over. I blame the patch next door which has run to rack and ruin since the plot holders' rotavator broke. Then they seemed to lose interest...

Adam also dug a bit of manure into the ex-broad bean bed... Did I not mention the manure? Last week we popped to the garden centre to get a plant for our garden, and on the way back saw a place selling well-rotted horse manure for 50p a bag. Too good a bargain to miss! So we took ten bags, filled the back of my tiny Ford ka, and drove the 5 miles back home with all the windows open. It was a very hot day... poo!

Here are some pics to get you all up to date with what's going on down on Our Patch of Earth...

Little French beans, yellow courgette, pretty Swiss chard, baby runner beans, our first round courgette and a lovely cucumber flower, which the bees seem to like.

Here are our very healthy looking squash plants (they've got bigger than we expected, otherwise we'd have put them further apart!) and part of the sweetcorn patch in the background.

Louise gave us ten little cauliflower plants a week or so ago - 5 different varieties: Cheddar, Emeraude, Nessie, Gitane and Graffiti. They've now been planted out and covered with netting to try and keep the pigeons at bay. Why do pigeons like brassicas so much?