Monday, 14 December 2009
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Well, we're back from two weeks in the Indian sun. Now surrounded at home by a few heaps of washing, half-empty suitcases and a selection of hastily-organised Christmas gifts. (Note to self - if returning from holiday on a Sunday evening, consider booking the Monday off work too. Otherwise a week of exhaustion follows.)
Popped down to the allotment this afternoon, the first chance we've had since getting back from Goa. And everything seemed fine! The chilly weather has meant that the weeds haven't taken over as feared, though some of the grass is sneakily encroaching on the edges of the beds.
Last week my Garlic Lovers' Pack arrived (yey!)
So today we planted out about 100 individual cloves - nine different garlic varieties. Actually, ten, if you also count the garden-centre-bought garlic which Adam planted before we went away.
So we have ...
- Elephant Garlic - two MASSIVE cloves!
- Solent Wight
- Aquila Wight
- Early Large Purple Wight
- Lautrec Wight
- Iberian Wight
- Provence Wight
- Chesnok Wight
- Albigensian Wight
- and a random white variety from the garden centre. Can't find the label...
Here's Adam preparing four beds down at the bottom of the plot. And all four now have garlic in... That's going to be a lot of garlic!
And in other non-garlic-related news, the brassicas are doing well - the red cabbage especially is looking great. The brussels sprouts, however, are tiny! I'm not sure what's gone wrong this year but I doubt we'll have any to eat for Christmas. The plants are about 6 inches high and - although they're healthy-looking, the sprouts are about the size of a pea!
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
*Or, Slightly overwhelmed by all the excitement!
Excitement? I hear you ask... What excitement?
Well, there's a much-looked-forward-to holiday fast approaching, with all the sorting, organising, planning and packing that involves when heading off to somewhere that's 32 degrees and has palm trees. And if that wasn't exciting enough, I took a look at Our Patch Of Earth to find...
Thanks very much to Gary at Reads Allotment Retreat, it's very much appreciated! And also slightly strange to think there are People Out There reading and, I assume, returning time and time again to an insignificant blog that little ol' me wrote about chickens and vegetables! Funny old world...
And, here are the rules:
Post the award on your blog (including the above picture) along with the name of the person who passed it on to you and link to their blog. Choose 15 blogs which you have recently discovered and you think are great and pass it on to them. Don't forget to leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
Now, at the risk of being a party-pooper, I'm gonna have to do my own set of nominations when I'm back from sunnier climes in a couple of weeks. I think it deserves a little more thought and attention than I have to spare right now this minute.
And in other news.
I often visit a great site at Fennel and Fern and, on a whim, I recently entered a Garlic Giveaway - a competition to win a Garlic Lover's Growing Pack from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm, with nine (count them!) different types of garlic - that's enough cloves to make about 100 new plants.
And I WON!!! Yey!
So I think it's only fair to say a MASSIVE thankyou to Isabel at Fennel and Fern for running the competition, and to Darren at the Garlic Farm, who was kind enough to call me this morning to discuss the merits of garlic, top tips on growing conditions and when to deliver my prize (my Prize! Eeee!). I look forward to it!
And so to pack... Anon, chums...
Monday, 9 November 2009
Thursday, 29 October 2009
I have been remiss. Updates are not appearing on here as thick and fast as they should probably be. But there, look, I only posted once last October, so this is a vast improvement. And anyway, not much has been going on this month. Or at least, not much has been going on that I've been tempted to blog about.
We're onto chicken no. 5. A couple of weekends ago Lola had a cough on the Saturday, wheezed on the Sunday, and was dead on the Monday morning. Even as we were discussing the possibility of finding a chicken-certified local vet. And Lola! Good ol' faithful, had-since-the-beginning Lola! There were tears, as I wrapped her in newspaper...
I've put off blogging about it this long because our apparent lack of ability to keep chickens alive had me feeling somewhat ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, sad, angry... they were never supposed to be pets, exactly, but then they're not supposed to blimmin' well die so fast either. What are we doing wrong?!! Ah well. We discussed getting rid of Peggy Sue and becoming chickenless again (after all, where the run had been would make a fantastic veggie patch - all that poo!), but then a Saturday impulse led to us getting as-yet-unnamed-but-possibly-called-Alice.
I know. Don't say anything. I'm still not entirely convinced it was the right thing to do. At least they have a fairly pampered life with us while they plot their numerous escapes and pop out eggs every day before their untimely demise.
And I can keep working my way through the cupcake recipe book my sister got me for my birthday...
Sunday, 18 October 2009
We needed a wheelbarrow to take our tatties home today. Ok, not a massive wheelbarrow, but still, not bad for a couple of hours' work in the sunshine, and it feels like we've got all this food for free!
As Adam re-insulated the composte heaps with lots of dry grass, I picked the last of the tomatoes and the squash. Then we spent an hour or so digging up the last potato bed, and we ended up with half a barrowfull of Cara potatoes, as well as nearly a dozen winter and butternut squash, a bag of tomatoes and another big handful of dried borlotti beans.
I'm looking forward to eating these. They're not massive, but perfect for a meal for two, which is great as, well, we are two, and we eat meals. They should keep pretty well - especially if we can cure them a bit more in the sunshine - but that iddy biddy one on top isn't going to see the inside of a cupboard, as it's going to be roasted along with potatoes (ours), carrots, swedes and parsnips (all not ours, sadly) and a pheasant from the local market for our lunch. With lots of garlic and lemon. Yum.
And I wonder if I'll be able to resist making a Halloween lantern out of that orange one...
Update - ickle squash tasted goooood.
Sunday, 11 October 2009
How time flies when you're having fun! Since my last post we've had more tomatoes, more beans, and more potatoes. Also my birthday, and, oh yes, a new camera. Woo! But the weather's definitely turning, the courgette and tomato plants are looking sorry for themselves and the sunflowers in the garden are getting a little bedraggled. But still beautiful, especially if you look close up.
One of the first real signs that autumn is well and truly here - the borlotti beans are drying nicely on the plant. We've got a couple of handfuls of the dried beans now which we can store and use in something hearty in midwinter. They're sitting in a kilner jar in the kitchen, look nice and rustic.
The winter squash are also ripening nicely. We'll just give them another week or so to get a bit more sun. We've also got three small butternut squash, which is very exciting stuff indeed as I love butternut squash.
No real success with the sweetcorn this year. We've had three, maybe four decent sized cobs and a couple of tiny ones. But boy, were they tasty! The cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, red cabbage and purple sprouting brocolli are all doing fine. The netting seems to have kept the pigeons off so far!
The allotment as a whole seems to be going from strength to strength. Apparently the council-owned allotments are full and they've started sending people our way. All the suitable plots are now let, so the ones near us which are mainly overgrown with brambles and grass are going to be professionally rotavated, so we should have some neighbours which will help keep the path clear and the weeds under control But they're going to leave the big giant blackberry bush untouched, so we'll keep a little privacy. And get the blackberries!
We helped to clear some of the long grass on one of the adjacent plots and found this little fellow hiding under a rotting piece of plywood...
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Yep, I know I said I was going to make tomato and onion chutney, but hey, it just didn't happen. Instead, I made a couple of pots of simple yellow tomato sauce (see pic - it's just loads of chopped toms, onion, salt and pepper and oregano, all cooked until it reduces into a big yellow mush) which we've frozen, and then a whole load of really, really, REALLY tasty spiced onion and apple chutney. Mmm.
My mum gave us a bag of apples from her tree, and though they weren't technically cooking apples, I thought I'd give them a go in chutney. Along with the big bag of onions from the local shop for one pound something, it was all a bit of a bargain.
I did a quick search online for Nigella's Spiced Apple Chutney - which my good friend Sian made and gave me a jar of at Christmas (and my, it is GOOD, more please!) but couldn't find the recipe, so I just got a bit of inspiration and then made some chutney with whatever I had in the kitchen cupboard. Couldn't be bothered to go out and search our local shops in the vague change they might possibly have a mouldering bottle of white wine vinegar tucked at the back next to the tins of ghee and henna, or a packet of golden caster sugar hidden behind the garam masala and methi leaves; so normal vinegar and normal sugar it is.
So for all you recipe fans (!) here's my Spiced Onion & Apple Chutney one.
Ingredients: - MAKES ENOUGH TO FILL 6 REGULAR JAM JARS.
(NB I have a habit of making things by just chucking in a bit of this and a handful of that, which makes it very hard to translate into actual measurements - this is my best guess...)
- good glug of olive oil
- approx 20 small onions, peeled & chopped
- 15 apples, peeled, cored & chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 250g raisins
- half tsp smoked paprika
- half tsp turmeric
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 1tbsp oregano
- generous sprinkling of salt & freshly ground pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- 600g sugar
- 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 100ml malt vinegar
Put olive oil in a BIG pan. Chuck in onions, apple, garlic and give them a good stir 'til they're well mingled and just warmed through. Chuck in everything else and stir and stir. You won't see much liquid at first but a lot comes out of the apples when they start to cook. I cooked mine on a low simmer for a couple of hours until it had reduced down a bit and was brown and glossy and sort of caramelised. It's spiced, but not spicy, but I guess just put in less paprika if you want to avoid any kind of warming tang.
Now it's in the cupboard for a few months to mature or, urr, do whatever it is that chutneys do when you're told to leave them for a few months.
It's the paler chutney at the front, by the way, the really dark stuff in the taller pale-blue-lidded jar, and the one to the right is good ol' onion chutney, made in February. (February! Gah! Better get eating!).
And yeah, I know, the pic isn't great - but have you ever tried taking pictures of jam jars in a dark store cupboard when you can't see what it is you're taking a picture of? But never fear, blog-readers! I'm getting a new camera for my birthday in, ooh, about a week! Woop woop!
Sunday, 20 September 2009
I have a confession. We've cheated a bit. Ok, maybe not really, but I feel like we have.
We went to a garden centre yesterday morning, and I got distracted by the little trays of veg. Now, I've been thinking for a while that we should have sown our winter and spring veg back in May, or June, or July, but we just never got around to it. And while it's not like we'll starve without our own home-grown winter greens, it'd still be nice to have some that we'd grown ourselves.
We did sow some leeks a few months ago, alongside the swedes and carrots, but haven't ended up with half as many as we really wanted. So into our basket went a tray of little leeks. And as for red cabbage, well, that's a Christmas essential, so we obviously needed a tray of those too. And we had some purple sprouting broccoli last spring, but haven't sown any this year either, so a tray of those as well please... And what's this? A sign saying 4 for £10? Then we definitely needed to get a tray of cauliflower too, even though they weren't very successful last year, with all but one mouldering away on the plant. This year, they'll be fine, I can feel it.
So, £10 later and we were the proud owners of many, many baby leeks, 12 red cabbage, 14 PSBs and 12 cauliflower plants. Yey!
Down at the allotment in the afternoon Adam discovered that one of our compost heaps has produced some rather fine compost, (never thought compost would be so exciting, but it just kindof appears from nowhere!) so he hauled out a few bucketfuls while I attempted to transplant the little leeks into the seed bed for a bit of fattening up alongside their slightly larger brothers and sisters. Then Adam dug over a couple of empty beds which I'd - coincidentally, and handily - weeded last week (see - it must be fate!) and in all the brassicas went, with a good dollop of compost underneath. We also netted the tops of the beds so that the pigeons can't eat them and maybe it'll stop some snails too. I also relocated the little brussels sprouts plants to the same bed as the caulis, as they were in danger of being swamped by the artichokes.
We picked a courgette, more beans, dug up some more potatoes and have another big bag of yellow tomatoes. I'll definitely have to make something this weekend or they're in danger of going to waste. Maybe pasta sauce... Yum!
Sunday, 13 September 2009
The yellow tomatoes are ripening - I picked a big mixing bowl full yesterday, along with a few red ones and a few cherry tomatoes from our grow bags in the garden. Yum. Now I have to decide what to do with them. I'm thinking about making some tomato sauces to freeze and maybe some chutneys too - the local shop is selling sacks of onions at a ridiculously low price (I'm not so bothered about our lack of onion success this year now, seeing as how they're so cheap to buy down the road!) so some tomato and onion chutney could be just the thing. And it'd be nicely matured by Christmas.
Did lots of weeding yesterday, tackled the four worst beds which had the biggest weeds on. What's the phrase? 'One year's weeds, seven year's seeds'? In that case, we're doomed... we're going to be weeding forever.
Adam's away this week so I took it nice and easy, had the radio on, and stopped for an egg mayo sandwich and a cuppa for lunch in the sunshine.
Peggy Sue's managed to find a way of escaping the chicken coop. We saw her jump up onto the top of the cage door, so we put some bamboo canes across the top to stop her begin able to flap and flutter up there, but she's still found a way to get out into the garden. Hmm, I'll have to keep an eye on her...
Monday, 7 September 2009
Friday, 28 August 2009
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Gah! The evil blight has struck.
At the weekend Adam pulled up all our Marmande tomatoes. They were just starting to turn orange, too, the majority having survived the attack of the chavs. (Please note I am speculating wildly here; the vandals could as easily have been embittered old folk as delinquent yoofs... but somehow I doubt it.)
Anyway, it doesn't seem to have affected the other two tomato beds yet (touch wood) and we ate our first red tomato straight from the vine. Now we need just a bit more sunshine, please, to ripen the rest and help the sweetcorn along.
And we have beans, beans and more beans. We're leaving the borlotti to ripen and will dry the beans for storage. The French beans are delicious, crunchy and juicy, even the ones we missed and picked when they were six or seven inches long. But the runner beans are not great - a bit stringy and fibrous, even when we get them when they're tiny. We're thinking we may not bother with runners next year and go for different varieties of french beans instead.
We have a baby butternut squash, 'ickle and green but still that recognisable skittle shape. And a handful of winter squash, some green, some yellow, as well as summer squash and courgettes.
Oh, and potatoes! Still un-blighted, and we're working our way through digging up the second earlies - delicious.
The damsons have ripened (sorry Mum - forgot to tell you! The damsons are ripe!) and we've picked some, but not as many as we'd hoped. Enough for just about two bottles of damson gin for Christmas. And the blackberries on the giant bush next door were plump and juicy, so I've made some bramble jelly (which hasn't quite set so will probably end up swirled through some yoghurt, at which point I'll pretend it was intentional) and some blackberry flavoured vodka. Mmm.
And I haven't mentioned the parsnips for a while, have I? Well, after all that faffing around with kitchen roll and windowsills and toilet roll and greenhouses, two (count them!) have survived and seem to be doing well. Now I'm willing them to grow big and strong and pointy and hope they don't just put all their effort into pretty leaves.
Bank holiday weekend coming up... lots of weeding in store. And does anyone know when is the best time of year to move strawberry plants?
Sunday, 23 August 2009
I have realised I don't really know what to do with artichokes. I know you can cook them - boil them? - and then somehow pull off the petally bits and eat the bases with butter or hollandaise or something dippy and tasty, but that's about it. Except for the choke or some unappetising aspect which nestles at the bottom and which you should avoid.
Sounds like it's fraught with danger. Plus they're really spiky. Ow.
Sunday, 9 August 2009
We've been lucky, up 'til now, not to have had any sort of trouble on our plot. Other people have had lawnmowers stolen, tools nicked, and even - on one occasion - a shed burnt down. But we've escaped. Until now. When we went to the allotment on Saturday it was to find that someone - or maybe many someones - had turned our wheelbarrow of herbs upside down, and also pulled up all the stakes that we'd painstakingly (pain-stake-ingly, geddit?!!) tied our tomato plants to. We'd also acquired a heap of broken glass, and we still can't work out where that came from...
Gah! I cursed and sweared a bit, but then wandered further down the plot to realise that actually, it wasn't so bad. The bed of tomatoes at the far end had been completely ignored, as had the rest of our patch of earth. Adam said he had visions of all our courgette and squash plants, growing away merrily, to have been trampled, corn flattened and bean poles crushed, but it was only the beds right by the shed which had warranted any unwanted attention.
But our poor tomatoes, which had been a little bit neglected but were bravely producing plump, juicy fruit, were either pulled up by the roots, decapitated or twisted and crumpled, lying on the ground. We put the stakes back in and re-tied as many plants as we could, but it'll never be the same again. Our crop is not going to be as big as we'd hoped.
I'll have to get in touch with the secretary and find out how the bid for a big fence around the allotments is coming along.
On a brighter note, our first summer squash was picked, and we have lots and lots of beans.
Sunday, 2 August 2009
Dear me it's suddenly August. The allotment's gone crazy, and what with various weekends away and Adam having a knee operation, it's been a bit neglected. There are now many, many weeds. Grr. And raised beds to make. And things to plant for the winter.
And it's become a bit of a chore, again. I think it's just a phase, but it all seems like Such An Effort.
But we went down there this afternoon, staked all the tomatoes and nipped off all the side shoots. Did some weeding. Gathered our onion crop - a pitiful amount when compared to last year. Maybe last year was beginner's luck? Thought about strimming the paths. Tried to ignore the shameful, embarrassing, hideously overgrown "strawberry patch" (see, it's that bad I've even put it in quotation marks). Did some more weeding. Adam found a brown slug with orange frilly bits (yuk). Looked at the damsons, which are starting to go a bit purple. Ate a blackberry. Ate another one which was really sour. Decided they're not ready for picking after all. Examined the carrots - looking good! Cleared all the dead broad bean plants. Forked over the now-empty onion bed. Didn't pick two yellow courgettes - they're still a bit small. Put weeds in the compost bin.
No pictures I'm afraid. Camera screen still broken, and not being able too see what you're taking a picture of takes some of the fun out of it.
Next weekend (next weekend, always next weekend) we can spend a long time there and really get on top of things. I hope.
Saturday, 18 July 2009
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Wahey! Potatoes! I still get over-excited digging up spuds, especially when you can hold up the plant in a celebratory manner and say "Look! Look what we've got! For practically free!!!" So after four, or was it five, plants, we'd got a good half-bucket-full of tasty new potatoes.
We also had a big handful of broad beans and mange tout, as well as the first artichoke bulb (bulb? head?) which I haven't quite worked out what to do with yet. I'm hoping to sow some more mange tout next weekend, to see if we can get a late crop from them. They've been a bit neglected this year, but these ones tasted so good, even if they were a bit old and crinkled, that I want more! We're also keeping an eye on the blackberry bushes too, as I have plans for jam, puddings, cordials and various blackberry-infused alcohol concoctions.
Loads of bees are bee-ing (!) attracted to the purple alliums, which were dancing about in the wind like cheerleaders shaking purple pom-poms. The bees clinging on for dear life. Although if they do get shaken off, hopefully they'll head over to the squash and courgette...
Sunday, 5 July 2009
A lovely day on the plot today - not too hot, and not too cold, with a little shower of rain to make it easier to weed. Did lots of weeding, and also transplanted some squash plants where two had germinated in some places and none in others. We've filled all the gaps now but we sowed butternut squash and a varied selection of summer and winter squashes all in one bed, so it'll be interesting to see which ones have ended up where. We've just got the beginnings for some squash flowers and some yellow courgette flowers so hopefully in the next couple of weeks we'll get the first harvest.
Picked all our gooseberries and made gooseberry chutney and gooseberry and summer fruits jam. Mmm. Now I need to make some scones and get some clotted cream for a real taste of summer. And the damsons are looking good so we'll keep our eyes on those to make damson gin again for Christmas.
We're continuing to dig up our early potatoes, which are delicious, and the main crop ones are flowering now - some even have little tomato-like fruit on - are you supposed to cut them off??? The runner beans are flowering too, and the carrots are looking good after a slow start. I sowed the last of our orange carrots and some more purple ones so hopefully we'll get an ongoing crop as soon as some are ready.
Last week Adam put some water butts along the edge of the plot, which makes watering much easier as we don't have to walk the whole length of the allotment with watering cans. Just need to do the odd one-off trip to fill the water butts instead!
I'm still taking pictures on my camera without a viewfinder or screen so it's a bit of a gamble if I get the right thing in shot and in focus! Here's a quick pic of the plot... nice and green but the grass needs strimming again! It's never-ending!
Saturday, 4 July 2009
...now they're getting on fine. Lola stopped laying for a few days, maybe in protest at this new creature in her space, more probably, because of the hot, hot weather. She gives little Pegs the odd peck every now and again, usually when Peggy gets in her way or has a treat that Lola wants, but Pegs seems to be holding her own and there hasn't been a repeat of the incidents which led to them being separated. Hoorah!
Anyway, back to allotment business... Popped down there very quickly this evening to dig up some potatoes for dinner, and also picked a load of gooseberries (the berries of geese? where did that name come from?) and a dozen of the very first raspberries. Mmm.
Last week Phil gave us some of his left-over sweetcorn plants, (who in their right minds has left-over sweetcorn? You'd find a place, surely?) which was great as we had a million gaps to fill. They all seem to be doing fine, as are two small pumpkin plants he also gave us, and two cucumber plants which mum gave us - only one plant germinated out of three spots, each one had at least three seeds in! Not a good year for cucumber, squash and courgette, I think we're going to have to buy two or three courgette plants.
Also saw a million ladybirds on the broad beans, no doubt attracted by the blackfly which haven't seem to have been affected by me squirting them with soapy water last week. So now I'm going to look up varieties of British ladybird and see how many we can tick off.
Longer visit for weeding planned tomorrow.
Friday, 26 June 2009
The new hen has been named Peggy Sue. Not just 'the little one' which Adam may have preferred. But Lola has turned out to be a bit of a bully - after a couple of days of chicken harmony she started pecking and being very possesive of the nesting/laying box. So now they have separate sleeping areas and all seems well. We'll re-introduce them slowly and see what happens.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
Yum yum yum. The strawberries are ripe.
And we've got a decent selection of food from the plot today. Alongside the strawberries we got a couple of bunches of shallots, potatoes (the very first crop of potatoes!) and peas. Sounds like there's a good dinner on the way!
There's nothing quite as exciting as digging up potatoes. It's a bit of a lucky dip 'cos you never know if you're going to get a couple of big'uns or a load of little'uns. We seem to have a better yield from a couple of plants this year compared with last year, so hopefully this variety won't be another explode-in-the-pan-when-you-boil-'em sort, and we can have some nice new 'taters for tea.
Today we did quite a bit of weeding and strimming, which tidied the place up a lot. The weeds weren't as bad as I'd expected which was great! I planted out four brussels sprouts plants which a friend from work gave me, and we also transplanted some squash plants as two had germinated in some places and none in others. The carrots are doing ok (miracle!) and the swedes have also germinated so we'll have to keep an eye on them and see how they get on.
But we've had a bit of a sweetcorn disaster - only 8 out of about 35! AND we put at least two kernels in each spot! So we may have make a trip to the garden centre to fill in the many, many gaps.
Oh, and although hen #4 doesn't have a name yet, she's already provided some comedy moments. Lola's a bit broody, and keeps hunkering down in the nest box. So what's a new little chicken to do, but copy her? And if there's no room left? Then just sit on top! Looks pretty comfy to me!
Saturday, 20 June 2009
We now have a new chicken. She's only 15 weeks, so she isn't laying yet. And compared to Lola, who's about one year old, she's tiny. She's a different breed too, a Lohmann cross (brown/ginger and white). And because she's so young she doesn't yet have much of a comb so she looks a little bit like a golden eagle gone wrong.
No name yet either.
Pics will follow!
Sunday, 14 June 2009
Angie just died. Literally. In the last hour or so. She was crop-bound before we went away for the weekend (when food gets stuck in the crop, often from eating long grass or similar), but we'd massaged her crop and got some olive oil down her and she'd started pecking about again and eating her food. She wasn't laying, but she was drinking like normal, which was a good sign. And then this afternoon she pooed a big mass of compacted straw, but she seemed fine, rootling around, having a dust bath and generally being chicken-y. Then she went in the nest box a bit early this evening and when Adam went out to check on them half an hour ago she was dead. Just like that.
And Lola - typical Lola - was standing on Angie's head.
Now I feel like crap. I feel incredibly guilty. Especially after Ruby. I thought Rubes would be our one bad luck hen and from here on in it'd be plain sailing. Adam says we haven't done anything wrong, but I feel awful. I guess Lola's good health and constant egg-laying counts for something. And we did say that they were outdoor creatures, just here for their eggs. But it's hard not to get a little attached.
How come no ones else seems to have bad luck with their chickens? On other blogs I read they're always laughing at the chickens' antics and counting their many, many eggs.
But now? Jeez, I don't know. Do we get another one? I think we have to. We can't have Lola on her own, they're sociable creatures. Or maybe we should call a halt to the whole chicken thing, and take Lola back to the chicken farm.
Ok, let me bring you up to speed. We've had two weddings in as many weekends, so haven't been to the plot as much as maybe we should at this time of year. We did make a visit last Sunday, with our friend Erica, who was fantastically helpful with pulling up weeds and picking elderflowers from the back of the allotments. We now have four bottles... hang on, no, three - we've already finished one - of elderflower cordial. Mmm. I'll have to make some more before the elderflowers have gone, it's just too delicious.
While me and Erica weeded, Adam sowed leeks, swedes, more parsnips and more carrots. (Yeah, we know it's maybe the wrong time of year for sowing some of these, but we figured we'd give them a chance. You never know.)
The strawberries are ripening. Sorting out the strawberry bed is, once again, getting near the top of the To Do list, as it's completely overrun with weeds. We'll create a brand new strawberry bed somewhere else, I think, and transplant the best plants once they've finished fruiting.
This weekend, we haven't been to the plot At All. We intended on popping down this evening to water things and do a bit of a check-up, but honestly, after driving to the Cotswolds and all the wedding excitement and camping as well, we're just pooped. Camping was great fun, but at this time of year the birds wake everyone up at some ungodly hour, so there's no chance of a lie in. Luckily we had a spot in the shade so we didn't get boiled in our tent. But what fantastic weather for a wedding/camping weekend. We were so lucky.
And, in other news, my camera's broken. It still takes pictures, but the screen is just kaput so I have no idea what I actually taking a picture of. So the next few posts will either be blank or have some random point-and-click experimental images... Here's one of the allotment from last weekend.
Sunday, 31 May 2009
The tomatoes are planted out. All 66 of them. Phew! Digging trenches in the sun is hot work. We've saved six tomato plants - three of each variety - to put in growbags in the garden so hopefully, if the dreaded blight* strikes again we'll have some tomatoes at least.
They looked pretty big when they were in their seed trays, but they seem a bit weedy now they're planted out in the Big Wide World.
Hang on in there guys! Don't wilt!
*I now have strange images of an allotment-themed range of superheroes and villains in my mind. The Dreaded Blight would obviously be the criminal mastermind of the piece, but I guess he'll need some henchmen. Bindweed Boy and... urr... umm... ... .. Dr Weevil?
Maybe this train of thought has already gone too far...
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Another sunny day down on the plot. And lots of watering to do. We're running low on water - we have lots of containers of water in our sheds which the last plot owner stockpiled, but even then, it's scary how much water you get through just watering the essentials. Out allotment site doesn't have taps or standpipes - instead everyone relies on their own water-catching devices and water butts, and when it's sunny or there's a long dry spell, there are a couple of wells on-site, one of which gets a hand pump attached. Not the one near us, unfortunately, that remains a bucket-on-a-rope job. And when I say 'near' us, it's two plots down and three across, so it's best to take a couple of containers and a wheelbarrow. It's all very eco-friendly, but not so friendly on the legs as there's a lot of walking involved.
On the up-side, we've nearly have our first strawberry. It's red - just not quite red enough to pick yet. At least, not today. Maybe tomorrow.
The peas are podding, as are the broad beans. The other beans - runner, borlotti, french - need some canes adding. The tomatoes need planting out, so hopefully it won't be too windy tomorrow. And a friend from work gave me four small brussels sprouts seedlings, which is great, as we were really late sowing ours.
Sometimes I long for a small veggie patch with a few raised beds where we can only plant two potatoes and have three tomato plants in a grow bag and a small selection of other things. It'll be small and manageable and rustic and pretty. Then I try to forget the fact that we need to dig over the tomato beds before the plants can go in - in this heat! - and that the chard and spinach needs pulling up, and instead I try to remember the fun we have and the great sense of community we get - not to mention our own amazing fruit and veg - and it's much more worthwhile.
Even if I do feel like I'm going to scream if I have to lug a watering can about once more...
Monday, 25 May 2009
After my moan about the weather last time it seems Mother Nature listened and pulled some fantastic sunny days out of the hat. What a couple of scorchers! In fact, it was almost too hot to do anything at the allotment, so we were grateful for Dad's help, as he came for a visit and strimmed our nearly-overgrown pathways.
Over the weekend we... added more supports to the peas, planted the courgettes, cucumbers and squash (winter, butternut and acorn), weeded the carrot bed - there are some carrots coming through, I'm sure of it! - earthed up the potatoes, weeded the garlic and onions, sowed about a million brussels sprouts - a bit late, I know - and watered everything, which takes many, many, many trips to and from the water butts.
The early potatoes are flowering, as are the broad beans...
We also picked some mint to take home and made some mojitos - Cuban cocktails with white rum, mint, lime and lots of ice. Refreshing and delicious. If anyone wants the fool-proof recipe, let me know and I'll post it.
Now we just need to go and do a serious weeding session to get rid of the couch grass around the edges of our beds, and it'll look neat again!
The chard has bolted with the warm weather. Need to sow some more now, and some more spinach. And we have to plant out our tomatoes which are hardening-off in the garden at home.
Wonder if we have any ripe strawberries yet... yum.
Monday, 18 May 2009
The weather is definitely against us. Not only does it seem to rain every time we want to go to the allotment, but the wind somehow up-turned the mini greenhouse so on Saturday we found pots of compost and just-sprouted seedlings flung liberally all over the patio. I was not a happy bunny.
We have three parsnips growing. Three. After all that effort. Hmm. That's another thing I am Not Best Pleased About. And the carrots aren't germinating either. Whoever knew carrots were so picky? They grew fine in our first allotment year! Maybe I'll have to try growing them at home in a trough instead, to give them a bit of TLC.
The tomatoes are getting leggy on the windowsill - we need to somehow give them some more light but don't have any more space. It's a dilemma. Having said that, one of the Italians on the allotment was planting out the smallest seedlings a couple of weeks ago on his plot. But then he's probably got the time to pop down every day and potter about, giving them all the love and attention they need. Ours need to be a more rugged, determined, Bear Grylls type of tomato, able to stand anything the world throws at them. Even blight, if possible.
So, I have no idea how things are at the plot, haveing cruelly neglected it for two weeks. Tsk tsk. Last I saw, all the beans were merrily growing away. Maybe they need some supports already with this wind... And HOW is it mid-May already??? We haven't sown any courgette yet! Agh!
Ever feel like things are getting away from you?
Friday, 15 May 2009
No allotment news from last weekend, as we were off celebrating ten years of being together by staying in a yurt in a forest clearing in the Cotswolds...
It was all pretty basic...
but we had a whole forest to ourselves...
where we could make a fire...
hang our hammocks...
cook good food...
drink some beer...
and enjoy the peace and quiet...
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
Forgot my camera on the last allotment visit. And it's always when you forget something that you want to take a picture. One of the bulbs in the planted-up wheelbarrow is just starting to flower. I thought we'd planted bluebells but it looks different to how I'd expected. I'd show you a picture and see what you think, but... *shrugs*.
We only had a short visit to the lottie at the weekend as we had a busy bank holiday visiting friends, but on Saturday afternoon Adam got all busy-like and pootled off to the allotment to do some more digging and bed preparation. Then I wandered down, sans camera - doh! - and hoed around the onions and shallots. And we sowed sweetcorn and squash. In the same bed. Hopefully the corn will grow nice and tall and the squash will meander around the bottom, keeping down the weeds.
We've got to the point when we're almost running out of beds, can you believe it? Even though it looks like we're got lots of space we've worked out we need three beds for tomatoes (yes, maybe we've been a bit over zealous with the toms this year, especially if they get blight again, we'll end up with three beds of mouldy sticks) and we haven't even thought yet about the pumpkins, cabbage, leeks or sprouts. Gah!
Anyway, here's a pic from last weekend, just to brighten this post up a bit...
I think the grass needs cutting...
Saturday, 2 May 2009
When eggs seem to be getting more and more expensive in the shops, it's nice to have our own supply.
We fenced off half of the garden this week to re-sow the grass. This the hens did not like.
Angie (possibly THE most stupid chicken In The World) tried to climb through the plastic netting. The holes are about 1"x2". Her head and feet could fit though ok - through seperate holes, obviously - but she seemed confused as to why the rest of her body then wouldn't follow.
She didn't get through.
We also put a board across at the top of the garden to stop them getting to the pots by the back door (these plants are especially interesting and peck-able now that the majority of the garden is off-limits). Lola then decided to try and fly over this barrier. It seems no one has told her that chickens' wings are less than useless. She made it about a foot into the air - mainly by jumping - then decided to hold onto the top edge of the board with her neck, while frantically flapping her wings, scrabbling her feet, and with a slightly manic look in her eye.
She didn't make it over.