Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Best Laid Plans!!

It's Wednesday today and I am actively making plans for the weekend:-

  • Some more digging (of course )
  • Clean the green houses (not as grand as it sounds but we have a beautiful wooden one my husband built and and a smaller glass one by the chicken run)
  • Clean out Chickens and Rabbits
  • Convince husband that after fixing four fence panels that blew down last week, that he'd really like to build me a new cold-frame – smile sweetly and run!
  • Make said husband a few cups of tea then ask again about cold frame
  • When he's finally said no to building cold-frame, smile sweetly again, and start building it yourself (with certain knowledge that the sheer frustration of watching you wield a hammer and nails near an old window frame will mean husband will have built cold-frame by end of day!)
  • Better do some more digging!

All intentions of digging the allotment and being the perfect gardener during the last few months of 2011 just didn't happen – I can't even blame heaps of snow and ice to hide behind the fact that the allotment was left totally unattended and in sore need of digging on the 1st January.

The temptation of having my first Christmas not working for a large corporation and being able to indulge the whims and fancies of my six year old daughter meant that I may not have had the perfect allotment, but I did have the perfect Christmas.

The new year is now here and I can say that my head has been turned and I am back into the motion of turning the earth and desperate attempts to remove as much mares tail as I can before it takes its firm grip again! Little and often seems to be doing the trick – even half an hour after the school run turns enough earth to make the effort of donning wellies and picking up the fork worthwhile and as we hit week two of 2012 I can see that my rewards are beginning to show.

My latest copy of “Grow Your Own” plopped onto the door mat the other day and to my delight it was an issue with FREE seeds falling out of it. Tomato, Leek, Brussels and Pepper. All staples of the growing season and always seem to taste that much sweeter when they come with the magazine as a freebie. I seem to have a determination in my soul this year which means I really will get seeds sown, repotted and growing at the right times this year. It's so easy to miss the window of opportunity and not quite get every ounce possible out of the growing season. I'll report back soon (and honestly) to let you know if my “best laid plans” do get fulfilled.

Well my time is up for writing tonight – the small person needs picking up from Street Dance lessons and a cold glass of wine awaits me in the fridge (the advantage of working from home for yourself is that you can have a glass even on a school night!)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Seven Happy Hens

We have seven beautiful hens living on our allotment.  Two of them are definitely well past their sell by date, but all will live out their days picking through the endless supply of veg and greens we are able to give them.  My daughter and I make a habit of naming them on arrival so my husband has no illusion that they are pets and not dinner!  They don’t have freedom over the whole allotment as we’d end up with little to reward our growing efforts.  But they have a large run and we select one or two in turn to come out with us whilst we are digging to collect all the bugs and generally have a good scratch about.

We were lucky enough to be given the frame to a large greenhouse that had been lost in the gales.  After deciding that a small mortgage would be needed to re-glaze it, we thought it would make a fantastic run once covered with chicken wire.  With the hen house on stilts and perches all around, they reward us with fabulous eggs and the best manure for our plot. 

I’d recommend having chickens to anyone that has enough time to look after them.  Like all creatures, they do require looking after, but are in no way difficult.  Clean water, enough pellets, corn and some fresh vegetation to pick through and cleaning out the coop.  Plus a regular once over just to check all are healthy.

Probably the one health warning I’d give to owning chickens is that they are a fantastic time waster – they are so funny to watch and each have their own character which means you end up leaning on your fork and just watching.  My favourite is when three or four end up dust bathing together – you can just see the delight as they dig themselves deeper into the dust bowl – ours have excavated under their coop as this remains dry all year round.

We cover half our run with a tarpaulin to keep the worst of the rain off and to prevent the whole thing turning into a quagmire and a small covered area round one corner just to give some protection from the wind on particularly blustery days  - you can easily see their knickerbockers on windy days which always makes them look like they’re in a hurry.  A little protection seems to be gratefully received.  Although I need it to be a less wet day tomorrow as the wind caught our tarpaulin the other day and quickly shredded it, so tomorrow we’re putting up a sturdier tarp and tying it down for the winter.
And just to finally introduce you, we have Florence and Henrietta (the two old dames), Alice, Aggy (minus a toe which she lost before we got her), Violet, Milly and Queenie.  All our happy Hens!

Friday, 30 September 2011

September's Indian Summer

Life rather overtook things this summer, but I'm back and ready to start writing again.

 I am filled with a mix of feelings today - we're experiencing heat like the middle of July and look set for an even hotter day tomorrow which will be the start of October!!! And in the midst of all this as I look out of my office window onto our allotment, I can see a neighbour busily feeding an autumn fire!  And I think that epitomises the whole year.  Not one plant seems to know when it should have started or finished growing flowering or fruiting.  Our apple tree in the midst of its confusion decided to produce a second set of blossom just as our fruit was perfect for picking and I seem ready to pick yet another bunch of sweetpeas. And yes to repeat myself it's October tomorrow!

The crops have overall been good this year with some stunners including a forest of curly Kale and spuds to die for.  Both of which should see us comfortably through the winter.  And some amazing pati pans / courgettes and beetroot. But there have been some things which were a little lack lustre!  Our sweetcorn was reasonable but a fair few of the cobs were only half the size they should be and our sprouts are only just making a feeble attempt at becoming sprouts, although there is some time for them to get ready for the Christmas table.  And our poor little plum tree!  It valiantly produced its first full amount of blossom and even managed to set some of its fruit, only to have the weird hot spring remove all moisture and make them all drop off.  To add insult to injury we had muntjack dear get into the allotment and they cropped the first three foot of the tree completely.

I've had a great year for storing things for the winter months with some fantastic jams and chutneys.  I'll get some recipes on here in the next few days.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Buds appearing

It's been torrential rain in the last week so the plan of getting the final part of the allotment dug over has been put on hold - lets see what weather tomorrow throws at us (Today of course was the first bit of fine weather and was spent being taxi service to various parties and ballet lessons!)

I have managed to escape for an hour out there though and spent the time looking at the first buds appearing on the fruit trees and bushes. We planted a plum tree year before last and were rewarded with a single blossom - definitely hoping for an improvement on that. And also an apple tree which was certainly more successful.

We've also inherited some gooseberry bushes (a nice red variety which are sweet enough to eat straight from the bush) and some blackcurrants. Both were on a fellow allotmenteers allotment. I couldn't believe how strongly the roots smelt of blackcurrants when we planted them out in January. Such a surprise to smell such a strong sweet smell of summer at this time of year.

The Raspberries definitely need some attention though as they are starting to take over one end of the allotment - I think some drastic reduction needs to take place. Amazing what you used to be able to get form Woolies - They are a great thornless variety which enables my young daughter to be the very present raspberry rustler as soon as they ripen!

I'm intending to get some seed trays started tomorrow - mainly some tomatoes (courtesy of my husbands uncle in Luca Italy) and some hot chilli peppers. I always grow too many chilli plants. They make the perfect gift in late autumn to hand out sewn on cotton or silk thread to hang in the Kitchen - I love to have a supply of them right through the year and they dry nicely like this and last through until the next season. I also think that they intensify their heat once dried. A lesson learnt when four where put into a chilli con carne and was inedible - only to hear the plaintive cries from my husband of "well they were only tiny so I put a couple of extra ones in!"

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Our Plot!

We hit the jackpot with our allotment! At the end of our garden is a gate - through that gate is an allotment field and we had the opportunity to take on the one directly outside our garden.  Five years later and we're utterly hooked - I could never now imagine life without an allotment.

Hardwork? Of Course! But it's our down time - at the end of a stressful day we get straight out there and dig / weed or generally just potter about for hours on end.  Although summer time usually brings on the temptation to wander out there and just stare at everything contemplating what should be happening next, whilst taking one or two sips of wine.

Even five years ago it was relatively easy to come by a plot, but how different it is for people now.  The waiting list grows by the day and you can wait months or even years for something to come up.  All I would recommend is however long that list is, just get your name on it.  People's interest dwindles and councils are now pouncing on "fallow" plots and ensuring that if you don't use it, you lose it!  So you can end up going up the list much quicker than you'd think.  Also larger plots that come up are being divided into "micro plots" in order to scratch at the ever growing  list of those waiting to start digging.

However small your plot seems you will be amazed how much you can grow.