Allotment Adventures: I Grew a Melon

I grew this!

So the big news of the week was that I got a melon from the vines in the polytunnel. It was a snack sized melon (about the size of a tennis ball) but I grew it and yes I am very happy with it, because it tasted really good, and I have plans for better growing next year!

But aside from that excitement, we had two really productive days on the plot. First up we finally repotted the blueberries, we did six on Friday, which freed up some buckets, which we repotted the cherry and two of the blackberries into and that then freed up two pots for the baby lemon and lime trees to go into.

Potted up finally

We also re-upped the woodchip where the pots live. And collected tomatoes and fruit and that was Friday.

On Saturday, we re-potted the last two blueberries and then tackled the bean and cucumber beds as well as monster courgettes. The cukes and beans were done and the beans had not been very productive, so it was time for them to go as for the courgettes, we planted four this year only to discover that they were hybrids, and they had taken over the plot. We were struggling to keep up with them. So I decided it was time to call time on this experiment, we collected 10 squash that we’ll use as courgettes (I grated most of them for the freezer) and two that looked like winter squash and are curing in the polytunnel. Clearing beds takes longer than planting them but we got it done and got all the plants chopped up and in the compost bays.

That done, Ma cleared all the mildewed leave off the other summer squash, while I collected woodchip to finish the mulching at the front of the plot, it all looks considerably tidier than it did!

Tidy

I potted up some mint and a spider plant from home and found a tidy baby lavender which is also in a pot. There are a couple of self seeded oregano plants that I need to dig up and pot on too, to say nothing of the knautia and verbena bonariesis that all over the plot.

Self seeded allotment plants

We also topped up the second round of potatoes, closed and cleaned the vents on the poly, watered and relaxed a bit while we discussed plans for next year. I am full of ideas, Ma would just like me to commit to no more plant buying (except the strawberries, which she has already agreed too!)

There is still a lot more to do this month, strimming, weeding the paths and mulching with woodchip, planting out some herbs, tidying up the area that the boysenberry is in, weeding the grass at the front of the allotment, tidying the shed and maybe painting it. There is also the ongoing things that need to happen, harvesting veg and clearing beds but it was nice to get some of the other things that we’ve been waiting to do done!

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Miscellany: Mourning Madness

It feels like autumn, the wake up light is back on, I’ve changed to a warmer duvet and I’m struggling for focus a bit. So a week that featured a team social and a party on Saturday just as I’m feeling the lack of light isn’t the best thing in the world.

However, I had Friday off work and with the Bank Holiday on Monday got some time to rest, although I today I feel like. I’m coming down with a cold, it’s not COVID, but I have a sinus headache and I’m a little bit more snotty and tired than usual. I’m blaming autumn. It’ll be fine..

I have used the extra time off wisely, two days on the allotment and sorting out the overflow of produce. What do you do with another 20 courgettes in 14 days? You grate the majority of them for freezing and make use of your new spiralising attachment for your magimix and you make courgette bread.

Aside from some food prep for the week, I also made applesauce and syrup, plum and raspberry compote, plum gin and more pesto. I’ve put the canning equipment away for a while, it will probably make an appearance when the big tomatoes start to ripen and I would like to can some dried beans but I don’t have the energy right now and I need it out of the way.

That’s sort of the theme of this week at work and at home, I need to get things cleared away so I can face the autumn, in a more organised fashion. Autumn is strictly the time of not winging it! Other plans for this week, consist of the usual walk with Sue and Sarah coming for dinner on Friday and…nope that’s it. A quick and quiet-ish week.

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Friday Links:

Happy Friday!

Ukraine Is Waging a New Kind of War

Britain likes to consider itself the cradle of free speech – until someone heckles Prince Andrew

Champagne and cigars are just fine. It’s Thérèse Coffey’s views on abortion that worry me

I have felt the suspicious glare of the police – the way Black Britons are treated is a disgrace. On Wednesday, it was reported that the officers in the Met’s armed units are angry that the officer who killed Chris Kaba was suspended and are contemplating handing in their firearms. I was horrified to learn that officers that shoot and kill people (whether ‘innocent’ or ‘guilty’) aren’t suspended automatically while the incident is investigated, they should want that, they shouldn’t be throwing their toys out of their pram. A unarmed man was shot, there is a family that doesn’t have a son or a brother, soon a child that will grow up without a father because they killed him. I grew up on stories of the Met’s racism, I had a friend at school who used to get a lift in from their dad and they were stopped at least once a month. I used to get a lift in from my mum and we were never stopped. Can you guess what the difference was? I live in London, I’m white and I live in a pretty safe part of London and through my life have had very limited contact with the police, but I don’t trust them. I’m fed up of the constant examples of their racism and sexism, I don’t trust them not to protect a police officer that does wrong, I don’t trust them not to over-react and I don’t trust them to protect me. I say this from a place of extreme privilege so I know it’s worse for my black friends. Mark Rowley was interviewed this week about the challenges of his new role and didn’t once mention Chris Kama or the issues that the Met has – they’re in special bloody measures. It may just be a few bad apples but they have comprehensively spoiled the barrel and the sooner they start to facing up to and dealing with it, the better.

There is no single ‘national mood’ – just ask Britain’s republicans

Can the working from home model survive the energy crisis? With the caveat that I work in Central London, it won’t change how I structure my week. I currently try to do two to three days in the week and the reduced travel costs more than make up for the raised energy costs. I think it might be different for people in larger houses, my energy use is already about a third lower than the average in my area for flat size.

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Allotment Adventures: Planting things

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when it comes to allotment tasks, I’m always late to do something. This year it was the leeks.

I should have planted them out in July but it was so hot and the soil was so dry and hard so they languished in the polytunnel until last weekend when we planted them out. My plan had always been for two of the square beds.

However there were so many, I stuck the leftovers in two other beds and put the last four in a bed in the polytunnel. I haven’t covered them so if we get anything useable great, if not we have others!

We also got around to attending to the back flower bed. We had moved two of the roses into that bed with the relocated peony last winter and added three Edelweiss lavenders. In the spring, Ma had weeded one of the lavenders and it had been in a pot ever since. We knew that bed was going to be weedy and in the spring I’d partially mulched with cardboard and spent potato compost. I’d intended to get to the rest of it but didn’t. It was watered a bit during the summer but not much and the roses had a pretty hard time of it.

The rain last week meant that the weeds all started to come back so it was time to do something about it. It was weeded, I laid cardboard down on the back of the bed that hadn’t been mulched in the spring and added compost over the entire bed. I replanted the lavender and added a hyssop and some pinks. That bed is all pink and white, it was unintentional but I’m hoping that everything beds in and it has a good spring and summer next year!

The flower bed at the front of the plot is also looking good with calendula, zinnias, petunias and the ever present californian poppies doing well. I also seem to have finally got some camomile in that bed too.

I topped the tomatoes and removed a bunch of leaves. They are coming to an end outside but the tumbling toms in the polytunnel are still going.

Finally, and also later than intended we got turnips, coriander, swede, chard, parsley and pak choi sown in modules to go into the polytunnel beds when we clear the summer crops and sweet potatoes out. We’re see how that goes.

Next week, we’re giving it two days, I hope to woodchip the paths, repot the blueberries and get the cherry and citrus trees in new pots. The cukes are coming up and I need to cut the leaves off the winter squash to encourage them to ripen the fruit they have!

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Monday Miscellany: Still a Republican

Happy Monday!

Despite the passing of Elizabeth II and a new King. I’m still a republican. Last week, watching President Macron, just be classy and comparing that with the way Charles behaved while signing whatever it was he had to sign on Saturday morning, was just embarrassing. I have French friends, I know that Macron isn’t all roses and sunshine, the point is that the French people got to pick, the British people don’t. I wrote about this in 2009 and my opinion has not changed.

I’m sad for anyone who has lost a family member and that includes the Royal Family. I’m sure that personally she was a nice woman but it’s not disrespectful to talk about an end to the monarchy because she’s died. If not now, then when? I believe that as a nation we should reform our constitution, including the role of Head of State. What qualifications does Charles Windsor have for this role? He’s the same age as my mum, and frankly she’s had lots of jobs, raised two children, gives to charity in time and money and understands the Constitution, I think she’s achieved a lot more with far fewer resources and can put her own toothpaste on her toothbrush.Should she be Head of State? If the position is purely ceremonial, why should he get the job? Why not pick the Head of State like we select for jury service, I bet it would cost less.

This probably belongs in Friday Links but I’m going to refer back to Tony Benn (the man that gave up his title to be an MP) and his five questions essential to a democracy

A transfer of power has happened in the UK this week and we are not asking these questions and I’m feeling pretty salty about it.

Aside from the state of the nation, the rest of the week was busy for work and allotment but quiet for everything else, I did three days in the office and by Friday I was absolutely fried. Now we’re out of August, I need to make more of an effort to be in the office, so I really need to get my weekend prep mojo back. I didn’t do so well this weekend, I had plans but I got distracted by some books. Which is absolutely going to be my epitaph.

This week was also the smallest nephew’s birthday, my favourite quote of the week goes to him arguing with his brother and telling said elder brother that he didn’t have to listen to him “because he was seven now”.

Plans for this week are the same as ever, I’m in the office Tuesday and Wednesday, but off work on Friday, this is to have an extra day on the plot because there is a lot of work to be done to get it winter fit. On Saturday, I’m going to a 50th birthday party and it’s back to the grindstone.

Have a good week!

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Friday Links: London Bridge

Happy Friday!

I started this post on Tuesday, and at that point the new Prime Minister was the big news, then the new government’s energy bill would have been the the news and then yesterday, the Queen died.

I remember when Princess Diana died and the way it seemed that the whole country went nuts, this already feels similar. I will say that dying in your bed, in your favourite house, surrounded by your four children is a good death. We should all have that luck.

The country is about to embark on a few weeks of pomp and circumstance, like you wouldn’t believe and King Charles III, is not a prospect that fills me with joy. Let’s hope this King Charles manages to avoid the fate of the first King Charles but there are questions about the monarchy and its place in the constitution that need to be dealt with. We’ve ducked a lot of questions because the length of time she’d been on the throne made the institution seem timeless. It’s never been timeless and a lot of the things that look ageless, are relatively modern inventions, post Victorian even. Whether we know it not, things are about to change…

Here are this week’s links

The loss of the Queen will test a divided Britain

Liz Truss’s faith in the power of markets will be tested to destruction by a winter of strife

What’s Missing From Empathy

I’m a psychologist – and I believe we’ve been told devastating lies about mental health. I’m not sure that they are all devastating lies, but yes, mental good health is circumstantial. It’s hard to be mentally well balanced when we are juggling finances, work, family and everything else and it’s hard to stay healthy if we are unhappy. Some of it is about the internal though, we sometimes just need to be aware of it and be resilient. I’m struggling a bit at the moment, the answer is to recognise that and not do what I want to do (stay in bed all the time and sleep and not do, or see anyone) but to do the things that I know will help me cope better, even though I don’t want to do them because it sucks to have to do them. My prayers at the moment (yes that’s a coping strategy) tend to be along the lines of “thank you God for all the things are good and yet, Lord please know, that I am fed up!”. Now I do this, because I have no real choice, I need to work to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach, I come from a family culture that is more about kicks up the backside and getting on with it (see the first point) and because therapy and age have given me insight and coping strategies aka resilience. Circumstantial change does need to happen, but that’s going to take time, in the meantime, we need to help ourselves while working for that change because there isn’t another option.

It’s not just Covid: the triple threat that could overwhelm the NHS this winter. A reminder to go and get my flu jab.

Things are difficult, so of course my beloved football club are making it harder. Chelsea sack Thomas Tuchel and target Brighton’s Graham Potter. If the football goes ahead on Saturday, we’ll have a new manager.

Savouring bedtime alone. This is from the Single Supplement and it’s true, my bed is one of the best things about being single!

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Food lately

It’s the middle of September and while I’ve been dealing with a slight overload of produce. These have been some of the meals that are helping me deal with it!

Baked feta and tomato pasta. I’m late to this one because I didn’t have the right amount of tomatoes! This is low effort and tastes like you put a lot more work into it than you did!

Beetroot risotto. The beetroot has been amazing this year and this is a great way of using it up and has the added advantage of using raw beetroot (although I would recommend grating it in a food processor because washing up is easier than your kitchen looking like a murder has occurred!). You can skip the lemon zest and feta but it’s much nicer with it!

Greek salad. It doesn’t need a recipe but this is a great way of using the cucumbers and tomatoes. I get extra smug points because I grew the onions too! I soaked the onions in vinegar and water for 10 minutes to take the ‘bite’ out of them. This was my saviour dinner in the heat wave because it required no cooking, just chopping!

Finally, this has been in rotation too!

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Allotment Adventures: Abundance and maintenance

There’s a tendency at this time of year to feel that we are nearly done with gardening. The summer plants are coming to the end of production, the nights are drawing in and it feels like we can start to slow down and start to hibernate for the winter.

Produce haul

I have never found that to be the case. We have always done the grunt work of shaping the allotment during the winter months and this year is probably the first year that we aren’t going to do lots of building work on the plot over winter. However, we are starting to think about the things we need to do that will shape next season, September is not the time to stop, it’s the time to set up the plot for next year!

This weekend, after harvesting and watering the polytunnel, I changed plans. There is a massive pile of woodchip by the gates and we need to get it all gone before the allotment Halloween event. In order for me to use the woodchip we needed to weed the paths. So Ma and I weeded at the front of the plot and wood chipped it. I also cleared the middle path of the worse of the verbena and borage, in the hope that I’ll be able to walk down it without being bitten!

Lining the paths
Wood chipped

It doesn’t look like much but it’ll really help condition the soil and improve the health of plot over all. We really need to do the other half of the plot over the next couple of weeks.

Over the next couple of weeks, we need to woodchip everywhere else, repot the blueberries (B&Q are delivering the ericaceous compost tomorrow!) and pot up all the things that need it. I need to paint the shed. We still haven’t sown some of winter crops and so that has to be done next week.

Petunias

I’m going to take a day off next week to give it a bit more time and really get it into shape. Then we should be in really good shape for winter.

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RHS Wisely

For my birthday, my lovely friend Sue, took me to RHS Wisely. It’s the first time, I’ve ever been and it was one of the hottest days of the month, but Sue and I still managed to cover some ground and I found it fascinating.

Cosmos
A meadow test bed
The world food garden from above – this garden is the allotment of my dreams…
Picnic – Sue and I are never under fed!

It

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Monday Miscellany: Time to get serious

Happy Monday!

Schools are back this week and while parents of the country rejoice and people who hate summer rejoice because it’s nearly autumn, it’s time for me to knuckle down and and prepare for the darker days. Yes, this time of year I am a broken record about how much I dislike this time of year. The truth is that I do like autumn when the air is crisp and the days sunny, but I live in England, those crisp and sunny days are as rare as hen’s teeth. England generally, and my part of it in particular, does grey and damp really well not so much with the crisp and sunny! I could cope with the bad weather if the days were longer, I’m not good on eight hours of daylight. Right now is bad enough it gets dark at 8pm, by October, I’ll be a basket case.

Anyway, I’m going into this year with a better battle plan. Golden Hour and a bath before bedtime are requirements Sunday to Thursday, yoga every day and stricter meal planning are all happening this month. It’s boring but it works and it’ll get me through the winter with my mental health more or less in tact.

Practically, I’ve used my cost of living payment from work to buy a heated airer and a dehumidifier, if I’m limiting heating this year, I don’t want the flat to be damp and I want my clothes to dry in a day or two rather than a week.

In ‘tell me you’re middle aged without telling me’, last week, the lid of my magimix broke again. I’ve had it (a 4100) since I moved into the flat, in that time I’ve had four lids. It’s not me, it’s a design flaw, they crack in the same place, in the same pattern AND in the newer models, they’ve changed the design, but I’ve spent over £100 quid on replacement lids and when the fourth one finally bit the dust last week, I snapped and bought a new one. So this week I’ve bought a new food processor, a heated airer and a dehumidifier, other things I’ve bought this week include compost, a charger pack and an iron. If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room…

Plans for this week are mostly work. We have a new starter to the team and by the end of the week, everyone will be back in the office after the summer and then the final push towards year end starts.

Grace starts again this weekend, and we have a ton of work to do on the plot. So lots to do…

Have a good week.

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