Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Turn it Off!!

Yesterday, we went to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. That's two and a half hours I won't get back again. We are big fans of Harry, however, this movie is the least interesting of the lot. No action, plodding direction and a waste of Alan Rickman who makes a brilliant Severous Snape. However, I digress. Before the movie starts, there is a notice flashed on screen (in this case by a talking guinea pig - dont' ask)) requesting patrons to turn off their mobile phones. A very reasonable request one would think. Not so, I'm afraid, for the people in the row in front of us. Their faces were bathed in a deathly glow from the screens of their phones all the way through the film. What can possibly be so important that they cannot bear to turn them off for a couple of hours? Are they expecting an important call from the P.M? Do they expect at any moment to be called to save the world from terrorists? I hardly think so. No, it's more likely that they were ordering a take away for when the movie finished. Why is it, that no one can bear to be out of touch with their fellow humans for even a short time? I have to admit, that even Plum and I are guilty of this otherwise why would we be blogging? The answer to this is, of course, that we like to keep up with everyone's adventures, don't we?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Allotted Time

Birds, Bees, Butterflies, Benches and Books...
This week we have been trying to make our plot friendlier to wildlife and fellow allotmenteers. We have added a new bird table, made in a rustic way by my Bri, a new bench made up by my Bri, added a few birdfeeders ready for autumn on the Budle'... oh well let's call it the butterfly tree it's easier to spell. We found a large toad so he'll need a home and that will be coming up and also a bee house. The bench is for lounging around on when the days of weeding are done and all we will have to do is read books and drink tea and enjoy the plot for other reasons. We have a book called Alloted Time we could do with reading it, as we never seem to have enough of it. We would really like to enjoy the companionship of our neighbours who always are so kind and generous, like Julie who shared her very special crop of Spring onions with us, or Reg who gave us a beautiful giant cauli, Chris who offered us leeks, Hazel who shares a laugh with us and our dear friend Badger from the Badger Sett who started us off on this wonderful odyssey of learning to grow stuff. I do hope when things slow down a bit we can enjoy all the things our little plot can offer instead of us always running around like ants when they have been disturbed. Meanwhile I shall collect my books ready, get my cushions for the bench to hand and hope that our neighbours will drop by.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gardener's Delights

Dad's Garden
When I was about five years old, we moved into a house with its own garden. This became my Dad’s pride and joy. I remember helping him to carry load after load of stones he had taken out of the ground in a large tin bath and dumping them. He used to spend most of his free time in the garden, planting bedding out plants, the cost of which he was always complaining about but his passion was his lawn. I have never seen a lawn as well looked after as my Dad’s. It was like velvet . A pale green colour. He treated it, mowed it and admired it. No one, this meant me and my Mum, was allowed to sit or stand on it we could only gaze at it from afar. If we should want to sit out and sunbathe, we would have to sit on the paving in front of the lawn.

Whilst I was growing up, I had no interest whatsoever in gardening and could never understand why anyone would want to spend so much time outdoors when they could be doing much more interesting things like playing snooker, watching t.v or listening to records.
Now, however, I too have the gardening bug, and spend a lot of my free time down the lottie growing veggies. My Dad, if he were still here, would be amazed and, I am sure, proud of what we have achieved in such a short time. He would also be pleased that I am making use of the tools he bought and that are still good after sixty years of use.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Picking Up the Plot

We have finally finished planting and sowing, basically because we haven't got any more room! Now it's going to be harvesting. Yesterday, according to the Vegetable Expert, was the last day for planting leeks so we have planted a bed and squeezed another row in next to the onions. We have also sown two more rows of cos lettuce in one of the squares as we had to take up the Little Gems which we had planted too close together and hadn't been able to use before the slugs ate 'em.The peas finally appeared after six attempts and we have had a few in salads which has been great. Plum was so impressed with our Mange Tout and Sugar Snaps, that she has got all enthused about the Mediterranean diet because it is supposed to be really good for you and uses all the vegetables we have been growing and keeps you slim! So off she went to the library for a book called Truly Italian, so we are going to be having, apparently, Contorno followed by Insalata: are we going green or what?
But, very finally, we have done the last item on our 'to do' list, we've painted our picnic table which has been waiting since March when we first opened up the shed again. All we need now is some more sunshine and a picnic and no more 'to do's'

Friday, July 3, 2009

Growing Up....
Nature's Way...

Over the three years we have been running our allotment, we have had to learn a lot of stuff.

Previously to having our own plot, we helped JB (bottom of the plot) before which we didn’t know how to sow, pot on, plant out etc. Who knew that sprouts grew on sticks and that broccoli is called calabrese?
The first year we had the lottie was spent in getting it shipshape. We were lucky that we had inherited raspberries, strawberries, black and redcurrants from Fred, the previous allotmenteer however, apart from that, we had an awful lot of work to do. We had to dig over the rest of the plot, lay paths, remove a lot of rubbish, and, most importantly, put up the shed which didn’t leave a lot of time for planting. So, what we did, not knowing what to grow or how to grow it or what the various plants needed, was to sow the seeds of what we liked and see what happened. As it was, we were quite lucky as the weather wasn’t too bad and we did get some good results, especially from the raspberries which didn’t require us to do anything for them and the sweet corn and cos lettuces.
We bought all the gardening magazines which were very good at telling us to plant everything early so as to get a head start. However, in practice, this doesn’t work as it fails to take into account the varying temperatures of the different parts of the country assuming that we all live in Devon or Cornwall where it gets warmer much more quickly.
Last year, having learnt a little more, we became more ambitious. We constructed a cold frame for our seedlings which worked out well until a gust of wind took off the glass top and smashed it, together with a frame for the sweet peas, which didn’t work at all. We sowed a large number of cos lettuces which all came up together therefore we couldn’t use them all before they went to seed and we also lost all our tomatoes due to the unusually damp summer.
One thing for sure is, that growing your own veg is not a cheap way of providing food for the table. Sure, you can just have the basics, fork, spade, hoe, rake and watering can, however, need and want are two very different things and it is not long before you discover that you need a shed, and netting, canes, plant labels not to mention plenty of seeds to grow, compost, propagator, seed trays, the list is endless.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and this, our third year, we thought we had got it nailed. We drew up a plan of what we wanted to plant, and where. We have put up wigwams for the beans, peas and sweet peas, sowed the carrots in stone free compost, erected trellis to support our tomatoes and hold back the raspberries and constructed a series of poles for hanging baskets for basil and strawberries to keep the slugs off them.
So far, the beans haven’t come up, some birds must have stolen the peas, because we haven’t got them, and there is not a sign of a carrot in our box of compost. We have lost three lots of peas and have now sown our fourth, steamed the red cabbage and broccoli seedlings in a too hot greenhouse, covered our salad squares with fleece and found that the soil underneath had turned green, and had to re sow our mini pumpkins and our Hunter squash.
We have now given up reading about how to, and decided to follow Nature... and sow and plant much later, i.e. May onwards. In spite of all our trials and tribulations, we wouldn’t have it any other way as we have discovered that you will never learn anything without failing first and despite it all, when your crops do mature, it has all been worth it as nothing tastes quite as good as produce you have grown yourself.

Thank You Little Gooseberry Bushes

Never in my wildest imagination did I expect to be able to make eleven pounds of jam and have one and a half pound bags of fruit for the freezer from two little gooseberry bushes that only yielded enough for one crumble last year.
I now have lots of poring over recipes trying to find the perfect way to use them up. The fruit from the two bushes weighed in at fourteen and a half pounds and I only threw away nine small berries, the rest was large, firm and just perfect! So thank you little gooseberry bushes, please do the same next year.