Sunday, 29 March 2009
I'm still not entirely sure that I like rhubarb all that much. But you have to admire its almost fluorescent pinkness. And I'm trying some new things this year. It's out with the crumbles, and in with the compotes, jams and syrups. But in the meantime, when we have our very first shoots of forced rhubarb, I guess you can't beat just dipping the end in sugar like a rustic dib-dab.
Anyway, more on rhubarb later.
Things are growing! Yey! Shallots, onions, spinach, chard, broad beans, peas, and the potatoes are chitting away nicely. No carrots yet though.
The parsnips are sulking, I think, even though I've covered them with another sheet of kitchen towel and am keeping them damp. I think I'm going to have to set up a second lot in the airing cupboard in the dark and see if a two-pronged attack may result in some success. And if nothing sprouts on kitchen towel then I'll 'throw them away' in a trough of soil and see if total neglect has any better results.
What else is going on... Adam dug over another bed on the plot ready for something to go in. I say 'something' as we don't have much of a plan yet. Probably potatoes... I weeded the onion beds and picked off the dead leaves from around the chard. And after all the hard work, it was time for some sustenance, so I made cheese scones, beef stroganoff (with the almost-last of our onions and shallots from 2008) and... wait for it!... rhubarb and orange schnapps. Wahey! (there's the bottle, look, at the back among the kitchen chaos). I think the general consensus among my friends is that if you have some slightly suspicious fruit or veg which not everyone likes, it can be greatly improved by steeping it in alcohol of some sort for a number of weeks, then removing the fruit/veg, and quaffing the results. Sian's rhubarb rum (or should that be 'rhum', Sian?) was proof of that.
I'm hoping the sweetness of the sugar and the flavour of the orange will counteract that tangy 'bleurgh' of the rhubarb which usually makes my teeth go funny. And I'm looking forward to some rhubarb and orange cocktails in the summer.
Friday, 27 March 2009
Something I forgot to mention... I've sowed a terrcotta army of tomatoes. Marmande, Alicante and Golden Sunrise are all now doing well and are a couple of inches high with the faint suggestion of the first pair of true leaves. We've also bought one of those plastic greenhouse things so they can leave the safety of their warm table by the window and go out in that soon.
Mum said she'll donate some cherry tomatoes - may be can swap a couple of plants - and Louise from the allotment is growing some of the tumbling hanging-basket variety, and has apparently sown too many, so that could be interesting. I'm not sure I remember to water things enough, but they'd be out of the way of the chickens!
Next year, black tomatoes, methinks.
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Maybe parsnips don't like me.
I have parsnip seeds scattered on a folded bit of kitchen towel, which I'm keeping damp by sprinkling water on it morning and night. It's on the kitchen windowsill so I'd've thought it's getting enough light. But. Still. Nothing.
So, what am I doing wrong? Should they be in the dark? Should they be covered? Should they be wet instead of damp?
I WANT PARSNIPS THIS YEAR!
Saturday, 14 March 2009
OK, I admit I'm a bit late in publishing this post, so you'll just have to cast your minds back a couple of weeks to the 14th, a lovely sunny spring Saturday...
We pottered about on the plot for a couple of hours, doing a bit of digging and sowing. The bulbs in the old wheelbarrow are growing now so it'll be interesting to see what we planted! I think we had some daffs and some bluebells, and the little ones might be scilla. We'll see.
I sowed the first two (nearly straight) rows of peas. I'm trying to be a bit more organised and have got three pea varieties this year, one which sows and crops quite early, one which has a long cropping period, and another which is later. So hopefully we'll have fresh peas right into autumn. Now we have to figure out how to keep the pea moth (?) off them as we had some teeny caterpillars in the pods last year, which takes a bit of the fun out of podding.
Also need to go on a twiggy stick hunt to give them more support. I've read that if you get really twisted gnarly twiggy ones it also helps keep the pigeons off... We're going to have all our peas and beans down the bottom of the plot this year. I still can't get my head around this whole crop rotation business - I have to go back to a diagram in a book every time - so maybe bunching our similar crops together will help.
While I was pottering about with the peas, Adam sowed another row of broad beans. The first shoots from a couple of weeks ago are just starting to show. I then sowed the first lot of carrots, including some exciting purple ones. Rather than sow them delicately in rows, like last year (when our carrots were, frankly, crap) we decided to try broadcasting them across a finely-raked tilth, a la Jamie Oliver... Anyone who watched the Jamie At Home series a year or so ago will have seen Mr. Oliver scatter carrot seeds willy, and indeed, nilly, across the earth and then pull up huge handfuls of small but sweet carrots. No Thinning Needed. Not sure ours will be that successful, but you never know.
What else did we do... Adam dug over the first bed, to get rid of most of the grass which had started to take over. Oh, and the big water tank Does Not Seem To Be Leaking (yey!!) so once we have it filled we can move some of the other water butts to go along behind the shed and then we have the perfect space to hang a hammock or two... Now we need some lazy summer days, cold beer in hand, picking fresh strawberries and simply, well, lounging. Not sure that happens much on an allotment, there's always something else to do.
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Gah! March! Already! That's getting on for a quarter of 2009, gone before I've even blinked! We're halfway to May already, and we all know what happens in May - the Allotments Start Going Crazy. Weeds! Beans! Peas! Other Stuff! I'm not sure I'll be ready in time...
Adam went to the plot at the weekend, taking a wheelbarrow, some netting given to us by a neighbour, a bit of handy guttering and a soil sieve thingy with him... not sure we'll use that last one but you never know.
Something I've realised since getting an allotment is that you never turn down 'junk'. You just never know. It may 'come in handy'. I also peer into local skips - just in case, you understand - and gaze at pieces of wood and old pallets on an abandoned corner plot nearby with what I fear may be a longing expression. Although maybe I just inherited certain qualities from my Dad, who never gets rid of anything which might 'come in handy' one day...
While Adam was at the plot he also filled the newly-patched water tank with water to just above the patch. We'll see if there's any liquid left in it next week. Oh yeah, didn't mention that before. The weekend before last we patched the hole with some evilly-sticky sealent and some plastic, and then celebrated the completion of our task by digging up some leeks and having a beer. So fingers crossed it doesn't leak now. We also bunged a big bucket over the rhubarb. Feels a bit mean to deprive it of light but boy, it tastes SOOOO much better :)
I haven't been to the allotment for a couple of weeks. It was cold cold cold last weekend so I stayed indoors and made muffins instead. Yummy. Baking's much easier to get on with when you don't have to remember to buy eggs.
And it's nearly spring proper. Yey! Little buds are starting to burst on the trees and I really should get on and start trying to germinate some parsnip. Any hints or tips? Last year we had (count them) none. Not one. Bah. I want our own roast parsnip for Christmas this year.
Or is that just planning ridiculously far ahead?
Thursday, 5 March 2009
Our potatoes are chitting in fruit boxes under the front window. And the chits (chits? technical term? anyone?) are different colours.
Stormy greys and moody blues on the 'Arran Pilot' first earlies...
Spring green above a plummy-purple for the 'Wilja' second earlies...
Pretty in pinky-red for 'Cara' maincrop...
Pretty potatoes... Who'd've thought?