Allotment Adventures: Slow

I think I probably say every year that the allotment is behind but this year (mid July and I’m still waiting on the courgettes!) it’s really true.

Half of the beetroot bed, all sown at the same time, are refusing to grow. (I think that the rhubarb next to that bed is sucking up all the moisture. We had winter squash in that bed last year and the squash at that end were slower too. Next year we’re putting the gooseberry bushes in that bed so no more worry about why nothing wants to grow in that bed!). We’ve had mange tout and broad beans and a few raspberries and blueberries and some salad and potatoes. This week we took home rhubarb (not from my plot), a few blueberries, 5 beetroot, carrot tops (for pesto), salad and two plums.

We are waiting on, courgette, crooknecks, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, french beans, sweet potatoes, autumn raspberries and winter squash (which has started it’s growth spurt, Ma wondered if I needed to feed it as it seems to be trying to take over the whole plot!). There is a lot of squash in here, I know that we have uchiki kuri and butternut squash in there but I also sowed and then lost track of some possible crown prince, two types of pumpkin, the last couple of candy roaster and burgess buttercup seeds. So who knows what we’ll get!

I was so determined to do better for autumn/winter, I think I was too relaxed about summer crops but in for autumn are kale, leeks, cauliflowers and we sowed chard last week. To be sown are pak choi, florence fennel, cabbage and some late salads. I want to get another flush of coriander, dill and maybe parsley in before autumn.  I might also sow turnips, black radish and swede for winter too. There are three-ish beds empty right now so I have some space and we’ll probably have 6 or seven beds in use through the winter. We’ll get what we get.

While I may have taken my eye off the food producing ball, I’m really pleased with some of the other areas of the plot.

The herb bed has been here since my very first spring, but it looks so much better with the flower bed next to it. It seems to give it structure. Yes, I need to cut the sage back before it eats the dianthus in the corner. I’m so thankful to a colleague at work for gifting me so much of this bed, he’s responsible for the giant snowdrops earlier in the year, the crocosmia and the sisyrinchium that are flowering right now. The bearded irises are hanging on but not doing much. The two dianthus were bought cheap in the plant sale last year and the year before, there is a bronze fennel at the back that I got from Nina’s old plot and it’s still alive so that’s good, finally I put in the remaining flowers that survived being burnt alive in the cloche in May (I think shasta daisy and alyssum).

My other favourite new area is the pond and rose garden. It’ll take time to mature, I did not sow the red mountain spinach also known as red orache (Atriplex hortensis var. rubra), it seeded on the plot last year and we assumed it was a type of aramanth and let it go where it wanted to. Although I might grow it for eating next year, this one is crowding out my lavender! There is aramanth growing by the pond in front of the knautia macedonica. In amongst the roses there is another lavender and an oregano, the verbena was moved from the front of the plot and I have also bought and planted a lemon thyme, two campanulas and an eryngium planum and a centaurea montana or perennial cornflower and a white borage on the other side of the pond. 

It will need to establish and fill out, but it was a bare patch of soil and weeds last March, so I’m pretty happy. The roses I moved in winter but the pond area was a great lockdown project. I need to sort out covering the edge of the pond too but that’s a job for later!

Lastly the ‘wild’ area on the old plot, given how well things are growing there I feel it’s proof that my choice to woodchip the paths is good for the soil as well as for making the the plot look tidy, well in the winter, right now it’s a glorious mess and I’m really pleased with it, although I’d like the rudbeckia to start flowering, I’m beginning to think that it’s intimidated by the borage and the verbena!

 

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Monday Miscellany: New Normal

Happy Monday!

Is anyone else struggling and out of sorts? I am, my boss is, most of the people at work are. It seems like everyone is feeling a bit discombobulated right now, for me it’s about things going back to normal but not going back to normal, the concept of the ‘new normal’ because of COVID-19 has been around a while but living it, is I think making people grumpy!

I had a good week, won the team quiz, worked on the plot, canned 14 jars of rhubarb for storing, it wasn’t the world’s most dynamic or most productive but I got to the end of it feeling ok about it.

This week, is going to be more of the same but I have been sleeping really badly so I really need to work on that but if I was boring before lockdown happened (I was) I’m just more boring now!

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Allotment Adventures: The Weedfinder General Returns

With the general relaxation of lockdown rules last Saturday, the allotment committee decided that people like my mum could come back in! Which we were both very excited about.

Four and a half hours on the plot and I finally felt like I was getting somewhere because I wasn’t worrying about the weeding and the jobs that needed to be done.

So I halved the old broad bean bed, fed and watered and tied up the tomatoes (again!), I got one side of the paths weeded (the battery ran out after that), I cut back the gooseberry bushes (they didn’t produce and they are going to be moved in about 3 months so I didn’t want them to get too out of control and I wanted to weed around them), we put the Grandparents ‘plague’ in the rose garden, I weeded the flower beds, the rose garden and around the apple tree.

It felt like loads but there is more to do. I’ve been feeling really behind on the plot this year, how behind well I don’t have courgette yet, but things are growing, this week, we got rhubarb, carrot tops for pesto, beetroots and blueberries. The first winter squash bed is really stretching out and the tomatoes are setting fruit, tiny fruit but they’ll grow…

I’ll be there tomorrow to have a quick check and pick some more blueberries but the next tranche of work begins on Saturday, when I might just finish this list!

  • cut the grass on the paths and at the back of the plot
  • pot up the calendula, replant some of it in the flower bed under the plum tree
  • put up a bigger cage for the kale
  • pot up the blueberries
  • cut back the mint and the lemon balm
  • weed the paths (again)
  • plant up the bulbs in front bed
  • find a location for and plant the thyme plant
  • halve the old broad bean bed
  • ‘fence’ in the pond area
  • deadhead the roses
  • sow florence fennel
  • sow more beetroot
  • sow salad leave
  • sow pak choi
  • keep everything watered and fed
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Friday Links: Hamilton Day

Happy Friday!

I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks because it’s been pretty difficult to deal with the news. Anyway this weekend, we’re going to get some relaxation of rules because the death rate is down, whether it will stay that way is anyone’s guess, but if we are relying just on the common sense of the public, we’re buggered.

I got to see the nephews last week and after a pretty fraught week, today I get to see Hamilton and tomorrow Mum gets to come and be on the allotment and stay the night. These things make me happy.

Here are this week’s links…

In the Covid-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both.

CSAs for the 1 Percent

The government’s treatment of Mark Sedwill has been cowardly and unfair. The Tories generally and Boris Johnson in particular are bullies and cowards, there be a few brave men and women of conviction amongst them but none in Govt. Johnson wouldn’t put up with it. This is a man who wanted to have a journalist beaten up.

The coronavirus ‘long-haulers’ show how little we still know

It’s worth remembering in this time that not all sadness is COVID related. This is both beautiful and sad. ‘This most ghastly season’: when hope turned to loss for one family of fans

How mindfulness privatised a social problem

The Conquest of Bread. Interesting.

Britain’s persistent racism cannot simply be explained by its imperial history.

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Monday Miscellany: Rain, Wind and Nephews

Happy Monday!

This weekend, Ma and I went to Shefford. It rained but it was lovely to see the family. Since we last saw them, L’s nan has died and B has been in hospital for a non-COVID issue so it was nice just to confirm that everyone was well.

I did some allotment time this weekend but rain stopped play twice! After the mini heatwave during the week, the weather has become very ‘British’ and there’s been lots of showers.

Other than that, I ran the team quiz on Friday (so I couldn’t win) but it’s pretty much been life as normal (for COVID).

Plans for this week are really exciting! I need to do a bunch of ironing and hoovering, work on the plot and do a bunch of actual work (the kind that pays me!)

Good news is that Ma can come back to do the weeding at the weekend, we are both very happy about that!

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Allotment Adventures: June

So I had a list 2 weeks ago and this is where we are with it.

  • weed the paths
  • cut the grass
  • weed the top of the plot
  • weed the beds
  • pot up the verbena
  • half the old broad bean bed
  • plant out and net the kale
  • change the netting on the cauliflower bed
  • sort out the second squash bed and plant out the squash
  • thin out the beetroot
  • stake the third tomato bed
  • plant up the new blueberry plants

As ever it’s the weeding that’s a problem. I am feeling a tiny bit more in control of the plot but I really need to cut the grass!

I’ve also made other progress, behold the pond area!

I took up two of the pots of potatoes and used the compost to mulch the area around the pond. I’ve also planted up a lemon thyme (I need to find a place for the other thyme plant bought at the same time), some campanula and a white borage (I did a swap with my plot neighbour, a white for a purple). It’s not exactly as I imagined but I’m happy enough with it and it’s actually come together for less than £45 (including the price of the pond!). The red flowers, came from another allotment friend, and the pond weed from a different friend, the aramanth just grew, the lavender and verbena were re-located from other areas of the plot, as were all the roses.

Ma got a letter from the crem where my grandparents ‘rosebush and plaque’ are saying that if we can’t get up to water the rosebush then there’s very little point in paying to keep it there. So we’re going to relocate the plaque to my rose garden and plant some more irises there. My grandma’s dad was a gardener, so I think she would appreciate the plot, and I like to think of my grandad on the plot, probably tutting at the weeds!

Which means that the only things I have to do on this area is fence it in and plant irises. Although I will also want to give it a really good mulch again as I did that in spring but didn’t have quite enough compost!

In other news, the kale has been planted out and I sorted out the other squash bed. Neither of them are quite what I wanted to do but perfect is the enemy of good and the plants that went into this bed (a mixture of winter and summer squash) were not in the best of health. I’ve put them in and we’ll see what happens. I do need to build a bigger cage for the kale and I’m going to try and get to that tomorrow.

The cauliflower bed got weeded and got a cage, it took ages to put together because I was determined to use the netting that we had and I basically had to thread three pieces of the stuff together. I really need to find a better solution to plastic netting but for now, I’m going to just reuse it as much as I can!

Other work on the plot, I weeded round the gooseberries, and dug up the daffodils and tulips, they need to be replanted into the flowerbed at the front of the plot. I’m planning on putting all of the spring bulbs there and then when they die back the self seeded flowers can do their thing, there will of course be californian poppies, (their already in the bed, but I’ll also scatter some afgan poppy seeds there and maybe re-plant some of the self seeded calendula there, so spring bulbs and then wild (ish) flowers.

I now have 5 blueberry plants that need planting into buckets so I’m in desperate need of some ericaceous compost. For any of you still counting that makes 11 blueberry bushes in total and I’ve promised that I’ll stop at 12. The 5 new ones won’t start to really produce for a couple of years, but my three oldest plants are really producing this year so I’m hopeful that by the time I hit 50, I’ll be self sufficient in blueberries. I’ve been feeding them (and the roses) with an ericaceous feed, which does seem to have helped as I don’t have enough rainwater (what with there being hardly any rain!)

I pulled up all the mangetout last week and am about to sow florence fennel in that bed, and I potted up quite a bit of the verbena bonariesis that had sown itself in the broad bean bed. I’m going to halve that bed to give me a path and then sow pak choi in it. I also pulled up the radishes and salad in one of the beds, I’m going to pot up the self seeded calendula and then sow some more beetroot for mum and salad for me in there.

So jobs for the next couple of weeks:

  • cut the grass on the paths and at the back of the plot
  • pot up the calendula, replant some of it in the flower bed under the plum tree
  • put up a bigger cage for the kale
  • pot up the blueberries
  • cut back the mint and the lemon balm
  • weed the paths (again)
  • plant up the bulbs in front bed
  • find a location for and plant the thyme plant
  • halve the old broad bean bed
  • ‘fence’ in the pond area
  • deadhead the roses
  • sow florence fennel
  • sow more beetroot
  • sow salad leave
  • sow pak choi
  • keep everything watered and fed!

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Friday Links: A Government run by Bugs Bunny would be more efficient

On Wednesday mornings, Sean Bean is presenting a programme called Legacy of War, which explores the impact that war experiences had on entire families and down the generations. It’s been interesting last week’s was about John Beckett, who was a facist. To listen to his children talk about it and about him and about how they see their father’s attitudes writ large into today’s politics is alarming and relevant right now. Really worth a listen.

There has been a lot of news this week, and I can’t read about any of it. Marcus Rashford is brilliant and the UK govt is full of idiots, who couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery. So here are some links that are not about the trash fire that is my country this week!

What If Working From Home Goes on … Forever?

Percy Pigs for breakfast and sourdough by bike: the new food world that I won’t give up

New Zealand did ‘support bubbles’ first. Here’s what England can learn from them

Underworked but exhausted? That’s not burnout, that’s ‘boreout’

With time on his hands, our restaurant critic turns chef

How companies are selling the summer that isn’t

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Monday Miscellany: Support Bubble

I have a weekly catch up with my manager on Friday, it’s never a really long meeting, we talk through his diary for the next couple of weeks, talk about what I’m doing, catch up on how we’re feeling, things we’ve observed around the business that should go into the bucket for audits or risk planning. Writing it down it sounds much more high level than it actually is, often I remind him to go for a walk or campaign for him to have more of a work/life balance! We’ve been doing it since October and we continue with it now. All of this explanation to talk about his comment this week, that I’m always cheerful and take things in my stride.

I find this fascinating because as most of the people that love me know, I’m very often grumpy. Clearly, I try to be professional and not bring that grumpiness to my work because I have taken to heart the advice someone gave me, “You’re feelings are yours, you’re not allowed to inflict them on a bunch of other people who are trying to deal with their own feelings”

This has stood me in good stead generally, but the real reason, I am coping with lockdown and perpetual working from home (aside from continuing to have paid employment – which is such a relief!) can be summed up in the first photo, look at that sky at 10pm. It’s light, the sun is mostly shining and comes up about 4.30am.

One of the things, I’m acutely aware of is that this won’t last forever and I’ll be working from home in the autumn as it gets dark. That has some good points, yay for not having to commute but boo for feeling trapped in the house.

I need to make some changes to my space. I need a desk that isn’t my kitchen table, so I can have another screen and maybe a docking station and keyboard. To do that, there needs to be some re-arrangement of my living room, which has a knock on impact on the bedroom and the cupboard of doom. I know what needs to happen and I’m working on it.

This weekend, my support bubble arrived with a car and we went to do some shopping, for the plot and for me. We couldn’t get everything, we did get some thyme, I finally got a new airer and Ma got a stepladder. This was secondary to seeing Ma and getting to hug her. The second best thing was sitting at the table across from her, talking and eating. I’m adjusting to the new normal but I’ll never adjust to losing this normal so soon (Ma tells me that she’s going to be way over 90 before she shuffles off this mortal coil, so I have at least 20 years more!)

The rest of the weekend was sent catching up on the allotment and the house, oh and it was World Gin Day on Saturday so there was this.

Plans for this week are as ever, work. I’ve got a bunch of interesting stuff to do this week, some of it genuinely interesting and some of it interesting because I have to learn how to do it before I get it done!

In the flat, this is the week of the cleaning the floors. Last week, I cleaned my bedroom floor (even under the bed) and it made a huge difference, so I need to do the same to all the others. Of all housework tasks, I loathe everything that involves cleaning floors, hoovering, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, I hate all of it. If I could ever afford a cleaner, that’s pretty much all I’d really want them to do. Well that and the occasional oven clean!

On the plot, it’s do all the things on last week’s list that I didn’t get to on Sunday!

Fortunately for me, it’s June, it’s light and my energy levels are high, I need to re-establish my grip on the dirt levels in the house before my energy levels plummet and then it just takes much more energy to get anything done!

I hope everyone has a good week.

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Recommended Reading

So yesterday I read this, and honestly some of the recommendations made me cross. Some of this might be cultural but really…

So quotes from the original article in italics…

I am feeling very low on energy these days. I want to read about some real love with a happy ending that gives me hope of a happier world and future.

Try An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole! It’s lovely and smart and tender, and like all true romance, it has a happy ending.

An Extraordinary Union is a good pick, I also note that it’s the only rec in the article written by a black person and about black people. So romances by black people or people of colour.

How about Girl Gone Viral – Alisha Rai, The Boyfriend Project – Farah Rochon or The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang.

So far in lockdown I have read most of the novels of James Herriot and would be grateful for a recommendation of something similar. I’m looking for a book(s) set in a rural or natural setting, with nice people, fairly low stakes, lots of laughs, and evocative writing.

Oh man, James Herriot novels are such a good idea for what to read right now. Nothing but a vet roaming the English countryside and having some animal-centric hijinks. What could be better? Well, a couple of things come close, which is why we’re all here.

The best books I know of for that kind of pastoral low-stakes playfulness would be the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. They have a reputation for being very frilly, but they’re mostly just about people running around small towns in Canada getting into small scrapes and then looking at the beautiful natural landscapes all around them and pushing through. I would also recommend Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, which is a little more satirical in its humor than Herriot is, but is also extremely funny and ends up being very kind to most of its characters.

I’ve read Anne of Green Gables and it’s lovely but no even if you’re trying to introduce people to new things, this is not a good pick. Try Gerald Durrell. Other recommendations? Lark Rise to Candleford, try Jack Sheffield’s Teacher, Teacher, Miss Read might even be your thing but not Anne of Green Gables.

Can you recommend books as madcap, inventive, and hilarious as Eoin Colfer’s Plugged and Screwed? I’ve tried Google and Goodreads to no avail. Help!!

Ooh, this is a tricky one. My normal go-to author for this sort of request would be Jasper Fforde (The Eyre Affair is a start-to-finish delight), but when I suggested Fforde, you wrote back that you already read and liked him. In that case, I have to assumeyou have probably already read both Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, the two best other sources for this particular kind of quirky British genre humor, and at this point I start to come up dry.

You’ve suggested Jasper Fforde but he’s read them, how about Nick Harkaway – The Gone-Away World, Tiger Man and so on. Why no love for him?

Finally for the things that I’ve been reading during lockdown, not everything but all of these were bought and read while I was in lockdown.

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown

Say Yes to the Duke – Eloisa James

Normal People – Sally Rooney

Girl Gone Viral – Alisha Rai

The Unhoneymooners – Christina Lauren

This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor – Adam Kay

I’ve also re-read a good chunk of my Georgette Heyer collection, The Thief of Eddis books by Meghan Whalen Turner, lots of Chalet School books and the What Katy Did books because sometimes you just need to be told!!

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Allotment Adventures: I need to spend some time

So last weekend, I didn’t do any work on the allotment. There is always work to be done but I’m still missing my work partner and so I need to do double the work to keep up and I’m not keeping up. I know that it’s my first full year of having the whole plot and I know it took me ages to get the first half more or less how I wanted it.

The new half at the back is in the much less stage of development, the soil is banjaxed and every dry, it feels like the only thing that grows is bind weed and because it’s so very dry, the paths are cracking and I can’t really get to the roots of the weeds. I’ve still not sorted out the other big bed and I really need to get plants in there.

So it’s all difficult right now. Even so, my brain is working on next year’s set of infrastructure improvements. All the new beds are getting another layer of planking because, there is bindweed coming up in them already, I don’t have this problem at the front end because my beds are deeper! We need to really mulch all the paths with a deep layer of woodchip because the soil at the front with a couple of years worth of woodchip is in much better shape. (I love my beds and paths but if I can condition soil under the paths that’s good for if I want to move anything and when it’s not my plot anymore)

At the back, I’m going to move the compost area right to the back of the plot, because the bird boxes are occupied and it’s really shady so I’m going to set up the compost area there and add some beds to the area that the compost bins are in now. I’m also going to make sure I have enough space for a greenhouse or a polytunnel because I’m going to have one by the time I’m 50. So as difficult as I’m finding it, it’s still giving me ideas!

I’m making it sound terrible but we’re done with the first crop of the year, the broad beans are done. I’ve pulled all the beans and taken the plants up. I’m going pot up all the self seeded verbena bonariensis, halve the size of the bed and it will be the second kale bed this winter.

I’ve got a ton of jobs, so here’s the list:

  • weed the paths
  • cut the grass
  • weed the top of the plot
  • weed the beds
  • pot up the verbena
  • half the old broad bean bed
  • plant out and net the kale
  • change the netting on the cauliflower bed
  • sort out the second squash bed and plant out the squash
  • thin out the beetroot
  • stake the third tomato bed
  • plant up the new blueberry plants

Here’s the list of the jobs I want to do but will probably not get to:

  • paint the shed
  • move the compost bins
  • pond area
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