Allotment Adventures: Tidying Up

We’ve hit the point of the year when our efforts are all about maintenance and readiness for next spring.

Ma is on a weeding ban (I think it’s fair that the 73 year old doesn’t weed), but we started with collection, I ‘picked’ tomatoes from the polytunnel and watered the beds in there. I also gathered two cabbages and some mint.

Ma started to clear the beans off the arches in the winter squash bed and I started to empty the back compost bed. We used some of this compost to top up the potato pots.

Then Ma riddled the compost while I weeded, with breaks for refilling the wheelbarrow with compost for riddling! One of the squash beds was lower in compost and more weedy than the other, so we laid cardboard on the bed and covered with the riddled compost. It will probably need more in the spring but this works and we made it.

That done, we decided we’d had a good day and went home, only to find that Ma had left her shoes at the plot! So back we went. While Ma was changing shoes, I checked the carrots, we have carrot success!

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Monday Miscellany: Time off

Happy Monday!

Last week happened. It was pretty normal. I got my flu jab, went to the Southampton office for the day. I was not amused to be out of the house when the night buses were still running, although it was a seamless journey and I’ll take trains running as advertised as a win! Let’s see know it goes when I go down again next month…

It did suck to only see daylight from the train and it was a horrible rainy day so it felt gloomy all day! Yes I know, it’s October, but I reserve my right to be unhappy about it every year!

Ma and I had a great day on the allotment and other than a walk with Sue and therapy, I have done almost nothing else. Sometimes I need a break, apparently it was this weekend!

Everything else is normal. Yes, the country is a laughing stock, but there’s not a lot I can do about that. My brother took the youngest nephew to see QPR at the weekend and they won! Nephew described it as “the best day of his life”. I love kids at this age, they are just so interesting and funny!

Plans for this week are simple. A day off for a haircut today, I’m beginning to look like a yeti! I’m WFH Tuesday and Wednesday, office Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, I’ll be decorating the plot for the Pumpkin Walk and slinging mulled wine behind the bar from 3pm. The organisation for this is intense and it’s looking quite spooky already!

This is from a couple of years ago!

On Sunday, I’ll be having a quiet day, with no people in it because I have to be the office on Monday 31st. It’s hard to believe that I used to do five days in the office every day, I’m exhausted after three now!

Have a good week!

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Tomato Soup

At this time of year, the amount of soup I eat/drink increases, it’s the best way I know of using up veg, the ‘kitchen sink’ soup is my thing.

At the moment, soup is my go to dinner for the days I have to be in the office. By the time I’m home, I have no inclination to cook, having soup in the fridge ready to heat up, is one less decision to make

At the moment, I’m slowly bringing in the green tomatoes from the plot to ripen and am making a lot of tomato soup.

I started of with this recipe and then made it a tiny bit more simple, I still skinned and roasted the tomatoes but started to roast all the other ingredients too and dumped it all in the food processor with stock added.

Tomatoes ripened off the plant don’t taste nearly as nice as tomatoes straight off the vine so roasting them is a great way to intensify the flavour they do have. Roasting everything together means less faff and less washing up which is always a good plan for me.

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Allotment Adventures: Plant All the Things

So the last couple of weekends on the plot have been busy.

We’ve (mostly Ma) cleared a lot of the summer beds, in the outdoor beds, the cherry tomatoes and summer and winter squash are gone, in the polytunnel, I’ve cleared a bed but left the sweet potatoes for a bit.

We got 22 small winter squash. It’s weird, last year I had to take nine squash home with a wheelbarrow, this lot came home in two buckets.

We found a home for the 70 plug plants that we were given (chard, turnips, swede, winter lettuce and rocket) along with some of the things Ma and I sowed in September. In the poly, the bed is planted up with lettuce, chard, rocket, pak choi and coriander.

I’m also trying to clear out the plant shelves in the poly because I want to put a bunch of other things (sweet peas and flowers) to overwinter but I don’t think I want to have all the herbs that need places in the poly over the winter. So all the pinks are in the bed next to the polytunnel, some herbs have also gone out.

Outside, we have a bed of chard, two beds of turnips, a bed of rocket and a bed of swede.

Winter beds

I’m nervous about their survival but like in spring, it’s plant Sparta!

We planned for three beds of garlic but bought 4 garlic cloves, which wasn’t enough, so we planted two beds with what we had and used some of last year’s bulbs to fill out the gaps, I’ve bought some more bulbs including some elephant garlic too, I’ve chosen Provence Wight and Rhapsody Wight, which are both softnecks and produce pretty early garlic as we won’t really grow enough for both of us for the entire year and this way it doesn’t get too affected by rust.

We also planted the shallots that came with the garlic, and a bed of broad beans. Once the extra garlic has been sown we’ll have nearly every bed annual planted up, 18 out of 22.

Garlic and Broad Beans

What is mostly on my mind at the moment is tidying up. I’ve got to get to the weeding! We’ve done some, one of the winter squash beds, I’ve done some clearing near the paths and planted a thyme to see if it’ll spread and suppress some of the weeds.

Before
After

As the season slows down, Ma won’t come every week and I’ll try and get to a couple of hours of it each week. Before that, we have more to do but it’s all doing well.

View

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Monday Miscellany: Sleepless in Ealing

Happy Monday!

Alice in Wonderland for Grace

It’s been busy at work and I’m trying to be proactive at home. It feels like I have to finish all the things before more birthdays and Christmas come along to hit me in the face!

Over the last two weeks, I’ve went to Grace, saw Marina Hyde talk about her new book and there were shenanigans with Ma, involving whiskey! Like everyone else with a brain, I despaired over the state of the Government. Four chancellors in four months seems totally reasonable!

Although I have a entire month and a half before it happens, I’m wondering around the flat working out what needs to be moved before Barney the wonder dog turns up at the flat! He’s a very curious dog and he shows his love and interest by eating/chewing stuff (Labrador problems). Barney is joining the family who are coming over to celebrate Ma’s birthday at the beginning of December. The beneficial side effect is that the flat will be much tidier!

I’m dealing with my usual SAD sleep issues. People with SAD tend to sleep more in the autumn/winter but my sleep is weird anyway and peri menopause is not helping. Having said that I do feel that I’m coping better than usual but the clocks haven’t gone back yet!

Plans for this week are a flu jab this morning, lots of work including a trip to our Southampton office. I’m taking this Friday and next Monday off work. I just need a pause.

Have a good week!

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Allotment Adventures: Rest

Last weekend, Ma and I looked at the weather forecast and decided that there wasn’t going to be much allotmenting. I had planned to spend some time on Saturday but got side tracked by the mice, I spent about an hour and an half, we got another melon (will that ever not be exciting?), kale and a humungous parsnip, I took the green tomatoes that were turning and picked my first from the massive tumbling tom plant in the greenhouse. I also because I can’t help myself did some speed weeding, basically find an area that needs attention and fill a bucket with weeds. It made me feel slightly better about all the things that need attending to but that I don’t have enough time for.

One weed free patch

Last week, the weather was colder and although it’s milder in terms of temperature this week, it feels like the end of summer. Sometimes in October, the weather is glorious and you can eke out the summer but this year, the garden feels like it’s done. Part of that feeling comes from this summer being such a slog, we’ve had produce but I struggled in the heat and the garden struggled with me, the winter squash are all tiny, which yes, I did grow some smaller varieties this year, although we’ve had tomatoes, there were only one or two weeks when we truly had more than we could handle. Every summer is different and every summer has it’s struggles, I’d take 2022 over the washout that was 2021 but I’m ready for a new season.

Another melon

For a lot of people on the site, October and the Halloween event marks the end of the gardening year and they won’t be back until next Spring. As you know, this has never been my plan but we will slow down a bit in November. This is the first winter that I don’t have any massive building projects but there are things I want to do but we’ll start with the October jobs, I need to take in the winter squash and pull down the beans. The sweet potatoes need to come up at some point but as they are in the poly, I will leave them as long as I can. The entire plot needs weeding and a good tidy up. There are things to sow and plant too. The garlic arrived this week with 10 shallot bulbs and they need to go in the ground, we also need to sow the broad beans, we didn’t get to them last year and Ma missed them so we’re going to make time to sow and over winter them.

I don’t feel this picture conveys the massive girth of this parsnip

We also have an embarrassment of free plants coming from a friend, Michael who overbought and so I have some plant plugs coming to me, chard, rocket, swede, turnip and some lettuce to add to the things we sowed a couple of weeks ago and aren’t doing as well as I’d hoped but we’ll give it a go, coriander, chard, turnips, pak choi, spinach. We have free beds outside and a bed in the poly so we’ll plant them and hope. They may not do well and Ma and I will live off the kale, cabbage and cauliflowers we did get in the ground in good time or we’ll have more and be happy about it. It’s a strange thing to be going into October with beds full and growing things.

The longer term work is longer term, I’m moving the corner rhubarb right at the front of the plot, into the middle of the rhubarb patch and I have a spare rosemary to plant in that corner. It’s been there since I’ve had the plot and we split it a while ago and that did not help, I think it needs a more sheltered place to be, everyone sort of steps on it where it is and I want some cover at the front. I’m also moving one of the raspberry beds, it’s my fault, they are in a bed next the main path through the plot and getting on my wick. The bed before the compost bins in partially in shade and so I’m going to move them there when the cabbages in that bed are done, and use the bed by the path for something better behaved like beetroot or carrots! I need to move the rose that came up in one of the compost bins and may actually put an arch at the back for the yellow rose. I’d like to cut back some of the trees at the back of the plot because I’m tired of catching my hair on them. The final tidy up of the year needs to be the boysenberry area, the whole thing needs weeding, mulching and getting into order. The fun project are strawberries. We’re going to have two strawberry planters, and move the elsanta’s we have in the bath into them and add 30 more plants, 10 each of Malwina, Malling Centenury, and Honeoye. I’m excited about strawberries. It would be nice to get more than a handful and we should have enough plants to make that work, for 2024. If we don’t we’ll get another planter next year! (sorry Ma).

So lots to do but after this month we do it a bit more slowly.

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Monday Miscellany: Return of the Mice

Happy Monday!

Morning sky

Last week we had our first cold snap of the autumn. Not cold enough to require heating but colder than it’s been. As ever in Autumn I was on alert for mice trying to come in their usual spot (my kitchen) and had checked all the traps etc the but they were attacking from another front.

The cupboard of doom. Which I discovered on Saturday morning. Little bastards…

The cupboard of doom is where the meters and hot water pipes are, it has some access to the outside and the outside of my flat is where the porch is being rebuilt. So with the weather and the disruption, it’s sort of expected but I am not ok with mice. There were no signs of mice last weekend so this is a very recent assault on my peace of mind.

So I took everything out of the cupboard, I removed anything that might be remotely tasty to mice, I threw some things away. I hoovered and bleached. Then I put poison down (I don’t believe in humane traps, it just encourages them), and put everything back in the cupboard.

I’ve also ordered some peppermint spray, more poison and a little sonic thingie. None of these things are foolproof but they all help. I’ve rechecked the cupboard on Sunday and there were some tiny signs but less and none this morning.

It got more unruly as the day went on

Other things last week; work, three straight days in the office; lunch with Ma on Tuesday (but only because she left stuff at mine at the weekend and wanted it but it was lovely anyway!); battling the flicky fringe (damp weather and my hair do not play nicely together); wine tasting and general silliness with Ma (we are much more sensible nowadays but the wine/gin/fizz goes in and the fun comes out!); I finished a couple of books; a friend became a Grandma; Joe won supporters man of the match at football and scored a goal and he decided to play, even though they didn’t win; and; there was another melon from the plot. It was generally a much more together week because I’ve finally come to terms with it being autumn and instead of being resentful of it and switched into coping and with coping comes slightly more productivity. I know it doesn’t make sense but generally, I do better under pressure and autumn/winter is constant low level pressure!

Wine tasting

Plans for this week are to repel the rodent invaders, take some stuff to the charity shop, make vanilla extract and plum gin. I’ve promised the guys at work courgette cake and I have a lot of work (you know the kind I’m paid for!) to do. I also need to get my brother something for his birthday, which is next week! Grace is on Saturday and I’m expecting a delivery of garlic bulbs.

Have a good week!

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Friday Links: Everything is Chaos

Happy Friday!

There are words for the state of the country right now, but I don’t have them right now, but isn’t this so much better than chaos with Ed Milliband?

Here are some links:

The era of low interest rates is ending – its legacy is inequality and toxic politics

Our country yearns for unity – but Truss’s government is mercilessly dividing it into rich and poor

Hilary Mantel knew how corrosive deference to monarchy can be – and why we must resist. I do feel that Hilary Mantel is shoehorned into this argument but I don’t disagree with the point.

Britain is crying out for radical solutions, but Labour still thinks it’s in the 1990s

The Tories’ huge gamble offers a fabulous opportunity Keir Starmer’s party must seize.

Not going out: how the cost of living crisis is destroying young people’s social lives

Harry Maguire blunders are a warning to England – right now he is not up to it. Been saying this for ages, I don’t get the Maguire love at all!

From the £25,000 wreck to the £25m home with an indoor pool: what three house sales tell us about modern Britain

Asthma attacks in more than 1m people linked to UK cost of living rationing. With winter coming and given that people with asthma have been excluded from the COVID boosters, this is scary. I pre pay for my prescriptions, it’s £10.81 for 10 months and was something I signed up to as soon as I started HRT. My regular HRT and asthma prescriptions would cost about £118 a year so this saves me about £10 a year, however, any other prescription I might need over a year are also covered by this, so no extra surprises if I get sick. Doesn’t help if you don’t have that £10.81 a month in the first place though!

Italy’s Giorgia Meloni is no Mussolini – but she may be a Trump. The thing I find fascinating about Meloni is the way her positions on society are so nostalgic. She’s pro marriage and family but grew up in a single parent household and isn’t married to her partner and the father of her kid because ‘he doesn’t believe in marriage’. She’s been involved in politics since she was a teenager and has as far as I can see never had a job outside of politics. She calls for Italy to be united but didn’t join the coalition for national unity. In this election she’s been able to look at the system and not be implicated in it, so it’ll be interesting to see if she’ll be able to defend that ideological purity when she’s in charge.

The markets are in meltdown – but at least Kwasi Kwarteng’s doomsday cult isn’t to blame

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Allotment Adventures: Alas, tomatoes, we hardly knew you

We’re having a cold snap this week, so at the weekend, I said goodbye to the majority of the tomatoes. It was time, the weather hasn’t been helping and so many of them were splitting and ruined, so we took all the bigger ones out. Ma wanted to give her cherry tomatoes another week so I let her and the tumbling tom and one of the plants in the polytunnel remain.

Empty tomato beds

So there are green tomatoes everywhere and three empty beds. We also took all the lazy housewife beans in for drying. The gigantes are still green so they hang on but the weather is colder and things are dying, except for the weeds, they continue.

I got to the grass under the plum tree, it’s not finished but I made a dent and Ma collected produce and watered things, we are getting rain but not loads.

I know it doesn’t look like much but there was grass all the way to the edge of the flower bed

Ma and I also fixed the covers on the cauliflower and kale and brussels sprout beds. It’s all ok, but there is lots of tidying to do, we’ll get there.

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Monday Miscellany: Autumnal

Happy Monday!

I did have a cold last week, so I stayed at home and slept a lot and thanked God for the ability to work from home. I was not the only one, it seems like the entire team was sick last week and Sue had a cold too, there is a lot of it around, it feels like we are back to normal and because most of us haven’t had the usual colds for the past couple of years we are all getting them.

Mine was relatively minor but I’m over going into the office when I’m sick, I did that for years and about seven years ago had a really bad run of colds, coughs and finally bronchitis and the worst chest infection that I have ever had. Post COVID I feel no need to tough it out. So there!

I’m making up for it this week by going in on a Monday. We have a new starter and we’re a welcoming bunch so this week I’ll be in for three or four days, depending. Yes I’m going to be tired by the end of the week, but I have no other plans so it should be fine.

The only things of note I did this week (other than shout at the radio about the stupidity of the current shower of idiots that comprise the government and at the England team) was feed Sarah pizza and catch up (lovely would 10 out of 10 recommend!) and cut down all the tomatoes on the allotment, although I feel I should point out that Ma did most of the chopping!

This week is all about coping with life and autumn, which I will find trying but will equally survive. So I hope you all have a good week and survive any trials within it!

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