Allotment Adventures: Harvest

After the excitement of the Open Day, this week it was time to get back to work, those of you following along will remember that last week, I had a big long list of stuff to do. Here is is in all its glory

  • Weeding, especially the strawberry, salad and courgette beds (bloody bindweed)
  • pull up the peas and relocate the bucket tomatoes
  • Sow some lettuce in the leek beds
  • Toilet rolls on the leeks on the second bed – this will blanch the stems but I’m not so worried about that but I want to see if I can stop the fox sunbathing there and destroying my crops
  • Sow the pak choi, chard etc, that I’ve been saying I’ll sow for the last couple of weeks
  • plant my cabbage plant out in the brassica bed
  • plant out the tarragon
  • sort out the strawberry runner situation
  • cover the spinach to protect it from the pigeons

as you can see we didn’t do much of it. We were out for about 5 hours, we did work, we watered and fed everything. We cleared the peas and took the bucket tomatoes outside.

We weeded the top of the plot and admired the mystery plant which is developing fluffy red flowers.I loo rolled the second leek bed in an attempt to prevent the fox using it as a sunbed!Over the week and again on Sunday I checked the tomatoes and removed lots of leaves. It looks like we’ll have quite the harvest of tomatoes, I’m both excited and apprehensive.

I also had to cut back the borage. It’s infested with blackfly and I was worried about the squash. The baby blue hubbard squash is doing really well but there were some signs of blackfly so I removed those leaves and cut back the borage. This year has been crazy for ants and thus blackfly, I think it’s the lack of rain and mild winter.Also doing really well is the butternut squash I planted on the remains of the rubbish heap, it’s a bit of a monster and look squash…We spent a lot of the time we were on the plot, harvesting. The potatoes all came out of their sack (just over 2 kilos), the french beans were ready, there were cucumbers (taking it to five for the week) it felt amazing.And on Monday morning, a photo of last year’s harvest for this week popped up. I knew that the raspberries were earlier this year and gooseberries and rhubarb have been bad but overall, I feel that there is a lot more going on this year!

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How I Grow: Beds

This year, the allotment site was entered into the Ealing in Bloom competition, we had a first visit in June and I’m told that the judges were disappointed that more of our individual allotments weren’t entered into the competition.

There is no way that I’m going to enter my plot into a contest, I was happy to win runner up for the prettiest plot but it was totally unexpected. However, it did get me thinking about how the 120 odd plot holders on the site decide to plan our plots out.

My plot was designed by accident there was no big plan just a series of small decisions. I inherited a big open space, it had been dug over the previous autumn but left to it’s own devices after that. In order to get the waiting list down and to prevent newbie allotment holders getting overwhelmed, the committee only lets out plots in half plots. Joe had decided to give up the top half of his plot so he could keep his shed and loganberries. So my new plot had no shed or storage, it did have good sun, 43 year old raspberries, three gooseberry bushes, a blackcurrent bush and two very healthy rhubarb plants.

It had been worked as an open plot, in rows the raspberries went across the plot but all the other fruit was at the side of the plot. It looked like a lot of work. So we started digging over a strip and weeding. By the time we were finished, I knew I was not going to be digging in all over once a year, I was completely shattered.

I had read a couple of how to allotment books, which stressed the importance of working 0ut a system of allotmenting that fitted in with the time you had. I knew that my allotmenting would be evening and weekends only and that I was unlikely to do anything more than watering and picking in the evenings. So a system of beds was likely to be the best option for how I wanted to garden. Also, the allotment is heavy clay, so it seemed that a system of beds would help me improve the soil, I was growing in.As I realised what I was up against, we laid down weed fabric so we could keep the weeds from spreading and I cut out beds as and went I needed them. When there was a delivery of woodchip, I covered the weed fabric with it.

The beds we had made worked well. They allowed us to weed a bed at a time and we didn’t have to be digging all the time, which I loved! Even without edging them the allotment looked well cared for. So in the autumn we (I) decided that we’d fill in some of the space that was under cover with square beds. Then when we got the metal frame down and looked at the bottom of the plot from the herb patch, I thought we could use the space for more than 2 beds and we dug it over again, covered it up and eventually bought more beds for that section and that was all our beds in.At the moment though it looks like this and I’m pretty happy with it. If I had to take it on again knowing what I know now, I would probably think about a couple of larger beds and I would get it all under cover sooner but this way of working the plot works for us, there is enough space for growing things and it makes it easy to keep on top of the work (well easy for an allotmenter, it’s straightforward but still quite a bit of work).

The thing about a plot, is that the work is never done. You can always improve on the layout because what you need it for changes depending on the season, what you’re growing and how often you can get there in a given season.

I do have plans for next season, one more long and square bed, a mini size bed by the greenhouse, We are going to take the raspberries in so I have a clear path from the shed and the greenhouse down to the rest of the plot, I want to frame some of the beds we already have in, and having talked about it for about 6 months this winter I will move the gooseberry bushes.

 

 

 

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Best/Worst 3 to 9 July 2017

Welcome to Monday, hopefully this week, will be a better week than last week was but I will be as awesome as I was last week. I did really well even though the week itself was a ‘mare.

Best

Eight years in the flat. I love where I live, the flat is so very me. Sure there are downsides to living where I do, the rent, the housework, the bills and so on, but overall, I’m lucky to have somewhere to live that’s safe and to have a decent landlord.

Family. Ma and I treked up to Ben and Laura’s for Oli’s school fete. They are lovely boys and it was fun.Crops. We’ve had courgettes and salad and raspberries. But this was the first big harvest.

Worst

Work. I had a really positive can do attittude about work this week, which work had basically kicked out of me by Friday. Never ask if the week can get any worse after a particularily bad Wednesday because Thursday will be worse!

Trains. Thursday and Friday were the days of train nightmares. No trains out of Paddington on Thursday night, severe delays on the Piccadilly on Friday morning. The really hot weather didn’t help with comfort or tempers either.

Honourable mentions to an empty train at Northfields on Wednesday. It doesn’t happen often so it should be celebrated when it does, it was the last time this week that the trains weren’t mucked up; sunshine; watering; and making cocktail cherries.

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Friday Links

God it’s been a difficult week. I started it full of optimism and cheer and it has been beaten out of me. However, all things good or bad eventually come to an end and this week has. Here are the links from this horrible, no-good, very bad week….

The pressure to leave London. Never experienced it. So couldn’t say but I am from here and maybe that makes the difference.

Spending your money on experiences not things might not make you happier. Whenever I read that I should spend my money on experiences not things, I roll my eyes because really before spouting off that line think about it. It reveals such privilege, if you have nowhere to live and no money for food then spending money on those things is going to make your live much better than going on holiday or a hot air balloon ride. If you have secure housing and money to meet your basic day to day needs (and think about all of the things that you can’t do without, that make your life easy – food, housing, clothing, a phone, a computer, a bed, a sofa, a fridge – the list is pretty big even if you are a minimalist.) Then, yeah, things might not make you more happy and experiences might. But that list of essentials is a pretty big ask in monetary terms and people who all of that spouting about experiences over stuff is really annoying.

The Declaration of Independence in a tweet. This is fun but I still like the person who wished the US ‘Happy Treason Day’ best

Sali Hughes on not changing her name when she gets married. Absolutely. I’m not attacted to my name because it was my father’s or is the rest of my family’s surname. It’s mine, I’ve always had it. And because of this:

It seems to me that the trend for maintaining one’s own legal identity is less about stating my feminism, more enjoying the self-worth and maintaining the individual status that hard-fought progressive feminism has given me. I’m not keeping my name to make a point. I’m keeping it because it’s who I am. Not someone’s wife, nor someone’s mother. But myself. And I’m enough, whether I catch a man or not.

Hilary Mantel says final Wolf Hall book likely to be delayed. Damnit! I’ll have to re-read A Place of Greater Safety again. But if you haven’t look up her Reith Lectures on the iPlayer Radio app, they are really worth the listen.

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Allotment Cooking: Carrot Top Pesto

One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt about growing carrots is not to leave carrot thinnings lying around because the scent attracts carrot fly. The second thing I’ve learnt about growing carrots is to sow thinly (I’m working on that) because thinning carrots is no fun.

Last week, I thinned the carrots and ended up with a massive bag of carrot greens and I had to find something to do with them. I had vague idea that I would make pesto with them. So after washing them, which took forever, I did.Proper pesto is a regional thing, made with basil and pine nuts and is probably pounded with a pestle and mortar by Italian mammas but only in a specific part of Italy. I am English, we’re known for taking food from other countries and changing it beyond recognition and liking it like that. From spagetti bolognaise to chicken tikka masala, there isn’t a food culture we haven’t played fast and lose with.

The same applies to pesto. For reasons of economy, I usually make mine with rocket although I have dabbled with nasturtium pesto too. I don’t often have pine nuts in the house, they are phenominally expensive and more generally I just use mixed seeds, which works for me although seems to be undocumented on the blog. This version wasn’t all carrot tops either, there were some spring onion thinnings in it but I don’t think enough to make too much of a flavour difference.All the recipes I found had some basil in them, I made a version with and one without and felt the version with had the edge, however the most important thing not to forget was the salt which seemed to have more of an impact on how bland I found it.

Finally a word about my measurements, I’m very lax about this and most of the recipes used cups, which I do here but a cup of carrot tops for me, looked something like this. So remember it’s a rough not a precise guide!

3 cups of carrot greens

1/2 a cup of basil leaves

1/2 cup of grated parmesan or italian hard cheese

1/4 mixed seeds

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon seasalt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Olive oil (Extra virgin is best but it workes with the normal kind!)

Add everything but the oil to a blender bowl. Start to blend and add olive oil until you get the consistency you like. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

 

 

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Allotment Adventures: Award Winner

Last week was a bit of wash out on the allotment front, I was ill from Tuesday to Thursday so didn’t get to the plot, thank goodness that the weather was colder and there was rain, otherwise my poor plants would have been stuffed.

The Open Day was on Saturday and I did a stint at the cake stall and the plant stall.There was a bar too!A friend from work, who lives nearby, came to visit and I showed her around and offloaded two courgettes, a crookneck squash and some herbs on her!

But the real surprise of the day was my award of a runner up for the prettiest plot.My allotment neighbour, Tana, had shown the judge round last week and the judge had apparently been very taken by my how pretty it was. That inspired Christina to set a new category and someone else had a prettier plot! Darn it! I’m chuffed to bits, I love my plot but I’ve never thought of it as pretty, I’m glad that my efforts to introduce some bee friendly elements has helped it though!

I also took advantage of the plant sales to buy three tiny hidcote lavenders, a cabbage, a tarragon plant for the herb bed, three hollyhocks for next year and a day lily.

The only bad thing about the day was that I spent about 8 hours on my feet. After we kicked the visitors out, we had a barbecue and by the time that was done and went back to my plot to collect a courgette, a cucumber, the potatoes (Charlottes) that my lovely neighbour Joe gave me, and some peas. I got home about 9.30. Sorted the peas out and went to bed!

On Sunday, my only plot goals were feeding everything and getting the excess tomatoes and one romano pepper plant into buckets. Three trips to Wilkco’s later, I was done although the greenhouse is looking very full. My aim is to have them outside, once the peas are cleared but for now it’ll do. I have nine different types of tomatoes on the plot now. My original four (Jen’s tangerine cherry, orange banana, amish paste and red cherry)  three mystery ones that were a gift from another plot holder but I think there is a black tomato in there, and from Laura some gardeners delight and moneymaker. A couple of plants aren’t doing fantastically but 34 tomato plants is about 22 too many!

I harvested four more courgettes (the glut seems to be upon us already!), spinach, salad leaves and more peas. I also watered and fed everything and did some ad hoc weeding.My timehop for last year had two photos of the plot so I took some photos from the same spot for a compare and contrast. It’s only when I see the pictures, I realise how much work we’ve done!

I never end a post about the plot without list of work to do for next weekend. Here it is.

  • weeding, especially the strawberry, salad and courgette beds (bloody bindweed)
  • pull up the peas and relocate the bucket tomatoes
  • sow some lettuce in the leek beds
  • toilet rolls on the leeks on the second bed – this is to blanch the stems, I’m not so worried about that but I want to see if I can stop the fox sunbathing there and destroying my crops
  • sow the pak choi, chard etc, that I’ve been saying I’ll sow for the last couple of weeks
  • plant my cabbage plant out in the brassica bed
  • plant out the tarragon and day lily
  • sort out the strawberry runner situation
  • cover the spinach to protect it from the pigeons

So it’s not too long a list but it’s quite a bit of work.

 

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What I’ve Read – June 2017

June was a quiet reading month. Mostly because there’s no time except on the commute. I’ve had so many weekends, where I haven’t read at all because it’s so busy either on the plot, doing housework or actually talking to people! However, I have started to make inroads into the TBR list on the Kindle with the overall goal of having it down to the 40’s by the end of the year. It’s currently at a shocking 72!

The Flame Bearer – Bernard Cornwell (bought)

Until the next book, I’m finished with Uhtred of Bebbanberg. It was nice to see him back in Northumbria and in Bebbanberg and if there isn’t another book then we’ve left him in a good place. I’ve really enjoyed reading them straight through and there is lots in the book to think about.

Pipe Dreams – Sabrina Bowen (Kindle TBR list)

I’m reading through the series, look I like them, I like that both the main characters have to face up to the big and small ways that they mucked up. There’s a bit where the heroine realises that she’s been a cow, for completely understandable reasons but still and basically works to change that. Of course it’s a romance so everything moves quickly but the book has one of my new favourite lines ‘responsibility is the flip side of joy’. Why yes it is…

Dominion – CJ Sansom (Kindle TBR list)

I really, really enjoyed this. It’s alternative fiction and starts with the idea that Halifax not Churchill became Prime Minister after Neville Chamberlain resigned in 1940. From there Britain makes peace with Germany instead of fighting on. The book starts in 1952, Britain is an authoritarian state with Beaverbrook as PM and Mosley as Home Secretary. Churchill and Atlee are leading the Resistance. It’s not too difficult to imagine the world th at Samson has created and I found it really odd and horrifying because it was so believable.

Just Right – Erin Nicholas (Kindle TBR List)

Easy read after Dominion. All the bits of Nicholas’ books that I like but I don’t know a bit angsty. I just expect people who have difficult relationships with dead parents to have their shit sorted by the time that they’re 30 (because I did so well at that…).

Tangled in Texas – Kari Lynn Dell (Kindle TBR)

When I need easy reading, small town or cowboy America does it for me. I can’t do contemporary romance set in London because I can’t handwave all the things that aren’t right in them away. But these are so far from real life for me it’s fine. I know that small town USA is probably not all that much fun in real life and that I would be driven completely insane but books like this one are easy and I can handwave what’s going in because I know nothing about Texas, small towns or rodeo. As for the actual story, it was fine, there was enough going on to keep me occupied. I found the changes that the hero and heroine went through more or less realistic and I liked that they both worked through them in a more or less adult way. It’s great how you can be aware of other people’s issues whilst completely not noticing yours and that’s how arguments happen!

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel (Kindle bought)

I failed at reading this a couple of years ago and it was 99p on Kindle and Helene was raving about it and so I tried it again. I read a lot of end of the world stories and as they go this was ok. I didn’t quite understand the raving of either the reviews or H. It’s mostly set 20 years after a flu has wiped out civilisation as we know it but goes backwards and forwards and is far too full of coincidence. I don’t know, it didn’t strike a chord for me, but seems to have for loads of other people. f would rather read The Reapers are the Angels again….

After All – Erin Nicholas  (Kindle TBR)

More small town escapism

The Left Hand of God – Paul Hoffman (Kindle TBR)

I’d read The Left Hand of God ages ago and the Last Four Things has been sitting on my kindle for ages. So I re-read TLHoG to remind myself before I started in on The Last for Things. Honestly the style of the book is all over the place but I like the mashing of the worlds and it moves along at a clip but I can hear the author all over it so it’s hard to lose yourself in the story.

 

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