2nd Anniversary

I know I haven’t written any updates for a while (I think this is the first one this year) but I felt I had to write a quick post today as it’s my 2nd birthday on the allotment. I know! 2 years! It’s hard to believe it was 2 years ago, I was finally able to call plot number 8b mine. Here’s a quick reminder of what it looked like 2 years ago.

I feel I’ve come a long way since I took on my little plot of overgrown weeds and brambles. I’ve certainly learnt lots and managed to grow quite an array of fruits and vegetables including peppers, pumpkins, onions, leeks, strawberries, cucamelons, squashes, courgettes (marrows), spinach, tomatoes and of course rhubarb.

Here’s what it looked like this morning.

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I find the difference in the colour between the photo from 2 years ago and this morning absolutely incredible. 2 years ago I took over an area of brown land covered in rubbish and today I have a wonderfully green allotment plot. I’m pretty proud of that!

This growing season hasn’t really got going yet and all I’ve done so far this year is regularly top up the compost bins with kitchen scraps but I’m looking forward to all the wonderful plants I’m going to grow. As well as the usual – squashes, pumpkins, onions, leeks, strawberries and rhubarb I’d also like to have a go at growing aubergines.

I did visit the plot last week with my sister who was visiting for the weekend. It was a flying visit, mainly so my sister could see what the allotment looks like in real life. I picked some of the spring onions, which I’ve used a few times since in salads. There are still loads left on the plot – I may be sharing these with friends as I’m not sure we’ll be able to eat that many.

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As you can see from the following photo my plans to move the water butts from the back of the shed to the side have, so far come to nothing and the water butts remain resolutely behind the shed! They are, however all steadily filling up with water. Great – lots of water is exactly what I’ll need come the summer… until it dawned on me, I’ll have to empty each of the water butts before I’ll be able to move them to their new positions. This is going to be a lot of work.

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No damage to my plot from Storm Caira over the weekend. The plastic greenhouse had blown over but, to be fair that’s been known to end up on its side in a light breeze so I was pretty lucky it was still on the plot at all, and not relocated to a neighbouring garden. Even my neighbour’s fence that I felt sure would not survive, was standing! The fence had blown down in the previous strong winds and, looking at the way it had been put back up I felt sure it would not be upright when I arrived on the plot this morning. Clearly I shouldn’t judge other people’s fencing skills because it withstood the storm perfectly.

While I’ve not been on the plot Louis and I have been busy at home. We’ve decorated his bedroom. It just needed freshening up really so we changed the flooring, painted a wall (his colour choice!) and bought him a new bed. Thank you Jane from the cafe for the fab new Lion King duvet set!

The days are definitely beginning to lengthen – it was still light at gone 5pm today despite it being rainy and overcast all day. I’ve promised my 2 helpers we’ll be back on the plot in the next couple of weeks – we have seeds to sew and weeds to pull up! I’m really looking forward to another season of growing and spending lots more time outdoors.

Happy Holidays!

Not much happening on the plot at the moment. I’ve continued to pop down to put my kitchen scraps in the compost bins and to check everything’s ok but, apart from that there’s really not much going on.

Michelle and I met on the plot last week and she helped me move the chrysanthemum and strawberry/raspberry plant to make way for the water butts. It was a pretty easy job but it was nice to have help. I’d already cut it back a few weeks ago so it was small enough to not be too awkward to pick up. Michelle helped dig the hole for it in the far corner of the extension and we judged it almost perfectly as it dropped in with very little messing around. Hopefully, it will have enough room where it is now.

I also had to move the strawberry/raspberry plant from the same bed. Having tasted the fruits in the summer and being somewhat disappointed they weren’t more strawberry/raspberry hybrid (they’re just strawberries!) I decided the best thing to do with the plant was to plant it in the strawberry bed. I was going to put it on the edge but there was a convenient sized gap right in the middle so it’s gone in there. Here’s a photo of the strawberry bed with the strawberry/raspberry plant in it but, honestly there’s no way I can point it out to you as it looks exactly the same as all the other strawberry plants. The strawberries have done fantastically well this year. I planted a handful of plants just over a year ago and look at them! They’ve spread over nearly the whole bed. Hoping for lots more strawberries next year.

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And here’s the empty bed ready for the water butts to be put into place. It doesn’t look like it will fit many, does it? But Michelle’s measured it for me and she assures me it’s wide enough for at least 3, maybe 4.

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It’s nearly christmas and I’m almost ready. Unusually for me, I haven’t made any gifts this year, they’ve all been shop bought. The closest I’ve come was the present for my friend’s daughter. I found this doll’s high chair in a charity shop:

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and painted it so it ended up looking like this:

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I’m rather pleased with how it turned out and the little girl I gave it to seemed to like it too, which is the main thing.

I popped to the plot today to take the kitchen scraps for the compost. We’ve had such a lot of rain lately the site was waterlogged in places – not the best way to find out I have a hole in one of my wellies! Luckily it’s the old pair and not the new snow boots. A bit late to ask for a new pair from santa but maybe I’ll be able to find a pair in the January sales!

Rhubi is looking a bit sorry for herself. I cut her right back a couple of weeks ago, as per my gardening books but I’m worried she looks a bit…well, dead. I’ve had a look at the blog post from this time last year and I was worried about Rhubi back then too so it’s clearly the time of year when she looks at her worst!

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Here’s how I left the plot this week.

Happy Christmas!

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Cutting back and Christmas Lights

Still not much to report from the plot – just that time of year I guess. Louis and I have still been busy though.

I popped to the plot this morning. I had some kitchen scraps for the compost bins. I wasn’t expecting to do much else but, as is often the case the gardening just sucks me in and I ended up cutting back the chrysanthemum. Although there were still flowers all over it they were obviously dying back so I decided to take the plunge and start the process of moving it. This is what the chrysanthemum looked like when I arrived:

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Here’s what it looked like by the time I’d finished.

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It felt really drastic and a bit wrong to be honest but I think it was the right thing to do. I thought about digging it up and replanting it in its new spot but I felt it had been through enough today so I left it where it was. I suspect the shock of being hacked back and moved on the same day would have been enough to finish it off!

After I’d finished cutting back the chrysanthemum I had this little visitor.

I’m always happy to see robins and I love that the plucky little things take full advantage of any newly dug or uncovered soil. I also love how brave they are and will happily get really close like this one did today.

Louis celebrated his 19th birthday last weekend. No party this year, just a gathering at the pub after the cafe on Saturday. I had planned on making a birthday cake for him to take to the cafe but I was feeling so rough with a cold, decided against baking. So pleased I didn’t bother baking because look what came into the cafe!

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Yep! 3 Batman cakes! So pleased I was too ill to bake.

 

I no longer buy balloons (single use plastic) but these balloons popped up on a local facebook group on Saturday night. A local lady no longer needed them but, as they were still almost fully inflated, felt they could be passed on rather than going in the bin. I collected them on Sunday morning in time for Louis’ birthday on Monday. The balloons are still inflated a week later so when we decide to take them down, I’ll do the same thing and offer them on to someone else. I’m hoping I’ll be able to track them and see how long they last.

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On Louis’ day off college this week we took a trip in to London. I love London and don’t go in nearly often enough. The main reason for our visit was to see the Carnaby Street christmas lights but also to have a mooch about and see what else might be going on. We found a totally amazing place to have lunch. I thought it was an old cinema, until we went upstairs and found it was actually a working cinema. Such a beautiful building – we’ll definitely be going back.

After lunch we wandered along Piccadilly and found this fantastic gelato shop. Very pleased to find they sell this in Waitrose!

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A little further along Piccadilly is my favourite shop in the world – Fortnum and Mason. They already had their christmas lights up – the outside of the shop had been decorated to look like an advent calendar which just looked amazing. The inside of the building is so beautiful – if you ever have the chance to visit you really should, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Whenever I visit F&M I always treat myself to some chocolates. They have such a huge array of chocolates, part of the treat is the time it takes to choose (and, of course they come in a super cute box!)

The Carnaby Street lights were wonderful! I knew Louis would love them because they were all sea animals – and all made from recycled materials. Fantastic!

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The other thing I did today at the allotment was cut Rhubi back – today was clearly the day for destroying things! I seem to remember doing this last year and it felt like the right thing to do, despite her looking a bit sad by the end.

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This is how I left the plot this week.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeds and Star Wars (Star Trek?)

Just one visit to the plot this week – a very pleasant hour this afternoon in the sunshine. I had a box full of kitchen scraps to go in the compost and it was my turn to put the shared bins out for collection in the morning so I headed down at about lunchtime today. It was an unexpectedly sunny day but quite cold. We’ve had the first proper frosts this week (I’ve had to scrape the car a couple of times before heading off to take Louis to college) and quite a bit of rain so the ground was pretty soggy (my new boots aren’t looking quite so new)

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After I’d put the bins out and chucked the kitchen scraps into the compost I had a quick wander round and quickly realised there’s not much to do so I decided to have a look through the seeds I have in the shed with an eye on thinking about what I might grow next year.

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So, it turns out I have quite a few packets of seeds! I have onion, leek, cauliflower, onion,  chard, onion, pepper, pumpkin, onion, carrot, brussel sprout and onion seeds.  Oh – and did I mention I have onion seeds?!  I have no idea what posessed me to buy so many onion seeds but I reckon I could fill my whole plot and overspill in to my neighbour’s plot if I plant them all. Anyway, I organised the seeds into sowing order – most of them can’t be sown outside until January, but that will come round quick enough. There was also a packet of green manure seeds in there but some of you will remember the nightmare that was the green manure bed from last year so they are staying firmly in the shed!

I came across a box of garlic while I was in the shed. I haven’t tried growing garlic yet and I like the idea of producing my own as I use it a fair bit in my cooking and it would be great to use fresh cloves I’ve grown myself. I also remembered the jar of dwarf pumpkin seeds Michelle gave me which I’m looking forward to growing next year alongside the more standard pumpkin varieties.

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I also found this box of funky veg. J. gave me it last year and I didn’t get round to using it. I thought it was just purple carrots in the box but when I looked there were 5 packets of seeds in there for things like yellow courgettes, striped tomatoes, red brussel sprouts and multi coloured chard ( no onions! YAY!) A couple of years ago, the cafe had a donation of purple potatoes (they were a novelty for Halloween) I took a bag but when it came to it I just couldn’t bring myself to eat purple potatoes, it just went against every instinct I have. (I suspect lots of people felt the same hence the amount donated to the cafe!) I’m hoping the fact I’ll have grown these myself will change how I feel about strange coloured vegetables but we’ll see.

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While I was there I spotted lots of activity on the chrysanthemum. 2 butterflies and loads of bees. Not sure what type of butterflies they were but they were beautiful and so lovely to see on the flowers.

Yesterday, Random Cafe catered a local Sci Fi Palooza. No, I didn’t really know what a Palooza was either – turns out it’s a gathering of scifi fans, some of whom come dressed as their favourote scifi character. At one point I found myself serving a cup of tea to a guy in a full Star Trek uniform (I’m actually impressed I was able to identify the costume!) I’m not sure if that means I’ve peaked or hit absolute rock bottom in my life but it was certainly a new experience for me! I’m not a sci fi fan atall (did you guess?) Despite this I found I had Star Wars cookie cutters and some Dalek cake decorations in the cupboard which I used to make these.

I came across this on the plot today. How sad is that? All that’s left of the cucamelons!

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No change on the plot this week and no real plans for the coming week apart from popping down to bring the bins back in.

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London, Leeks and Ladders

Louis’ been off college this week and I was hoping to spend some time on the allotment with him but, as it turned out we didn’t manage even one visit. I spent about an hour there this morning while Louis was still in bed (flippin teenagers!)

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My sister and nephew visited from Leeds at the beginning of the week and we spent a day in London. I grew up in a London borough and even though I still live just a 20 minute train ride away from central London I don’t go in very often but when I do I’m always reminded how much I love it.

After looking round some very weird and hugely expensive clothes shops my nephew insisted we visit we walked to Covent Garden. There is always something going on in Covent Garden – that day there was a sword swallower and a guy with a dancing skeleton puppet.

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We also saw this amazing display of pumpkins. I have never seen such an enormous pumpkin. I have just done an online search (honestly? I wasn’t sure the pumpkin was real because it was so big) and it turns out the giant pumpkin was grown in Hampshire by 2 men who have been growing pumpkins since they were 11 years old. The display is inspired by Cinderella, it took 20 people to manoeuvre the pumpkin in to place and it weighs a tonne. It was on display until today and its seeds are going back to Hampshire to, hopefully produce more huge pumpkins. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say anything about what they’ll do with the flesh – imagine how much soup you can make with a tonne of pumpkin!

On the way home from London we popped in to a charity shop near my mum’s house. My sister and I love a rummage in a charity shop for a bargain and I did quite well in this one thanks to my sister’s eagle eyes. She spotted both this allotment cookery book and a pair of boots which happened to be my size. I’ve only had a quick flick through the cookery book but it looks pretty good. I wore the boots to the plot this morning and they’re perfect. Being snow boots they’re going to keep my feet nice and toasty over the winter months. Michelle pointed out they look far too clean but I don’t think it will take too long before they’re filthy.

It was Halloween this week and although we no longer do the trick or treat thing anymore Louis did enjoy trying on the killer gorilla mask in Morrisons on Wednesday.

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We’ve had a couple of frosts this week so Michelle advised me it was time to cut back the dahlias. It felt quite brutal!

My other (plot) half made an appearance this morning. I very rarely see him in person, I just know he’s been there by the obvious changes on his plot (and the scary birds he leaves in the shed!) so it was nice to catch up. He picked some cauliflower and broccoli and gave it to Michelle and me. So dinner this evening was cauliflower cheese made with allotment cauliflower. It’s the first time I’ve ever made it so I’m well chuffed with myself. Just need to decide what to do with the broccoli.

I decided to harvest a couple of leeks and a spring onion. The spring onion’s nearly as big as the leeks. I’m not sure if this means my leeks are pitifully small or I’ve grown enormous spring onions?!

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The only other job I did on the plot today was move the ladders into the shed and take down the cucumber/cucamelon structure. I really want to be able to use the ladders again next year as I felt they really helped to contain the pumpkin and squash plants and stopped them invading the rest of the plot but I’m worried they’ll be damaged if I leave them out over winter. So, they’re safely tucked away in the shed ready for next spring.

The chrysathemum still looks amazing – huge, but amazing. I’ve decided once it’s finished flowering I’m going to move it to the far corner of what was the pumpkin patch. There really is nowhere else I can think to put it where it won’t be in the way.

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Here’s how I left the plot today. It all looks really empty with the ladders gone and there’s not really very much to do down there for the next few months so I may not be writing the blog quite as regularly as I have been up to now. I will, maybe update every few weeks depending on what’s happening.

Week 89

Not many opportunities to make it the plot this week due to all the rain but I managed a couple of visits.

Louis had an unexpected day off college on Tuesday so we spent the day in Beaconsfield with helper number 2, his mum and baby brother and sister. We visited the model village which Louis and I hadn’t been to since he was about 3 years old. It was actually much better than I remembered. We were really lucky with the weather – one of those gorgeous, cold but sunny Autumnal days.

I made a flying visit on Thursday with a huge bag of kitchen scraps for the compost. I picked them up from a lady who had messaged me through a website called ‘ShareWaste’. It works very much like Freecycle – you register on the site either as someone who is willing to collect waste or someone who can donate it. Then you use the site to find people in your area. Anyway, I collected a huge bag of kitchen scraps which are now happily rotting away in my compost bin not a landfill.

I met Michelle on the plot this morning. Gino was there aswell and, as ever when I talk to Gino I learn something new. This morning I got a lesson about dahlias. He told me they will keep coming back every year, all I have to do is cut them back to about 6″ and they’ll re-grow and flower again next year. This is great news because I love my dahlias. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about whether they would flower again so it’s nice to find out they could be with me for years.

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Talking of flowers – the chrysanthemum is in full bloom! At last! It looks amazing. To think it started off as a tiny, non descript plant in a pot and has grown into this I still find almost unbelievable. I still need to think about moving it to make way for the water butts but it’s going to have to wait until it’s stopped flowering.

J. from Random Cafe gave me this bag of Alliums this week. I think I have to let Louis plant them again don’t I?

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The grass on the paths has grown really well. Still a few bald patches but generally the seeds have taken well. Gino commented, this morning the grass was looking a bit long. I don’t have a lawn mower so I took a pair of shears to it (I know, totally ridiculous, right!) I’m not sure it’s made much difference but at least I know it’s been cut!

When I arrived at the allotment this morning and checked the shed this is what I found

Something’s had a nibble on the sunflower head I left in the shed last week. I forgot to take a photo before I tidied up but there were sunflower seeds all over the shed floor. We think the mice (?) may have been in the bag of straw aswell so I moved it so it’s hanging from the ceiling. I fully expect the mice to still be able to reach it but at least I’m giving them some sort of problem solving activity! The sunflower head has gone into the compost bin and I have a nice tidy shed again.

The other thing I put in the compost today was my bamboo toothbrush. We switched to bamboo toothbrushes about a year ago in an effort to reduce our plastic waste.  When it comes to disposal, you just cut the bristles off and chuck the bamboo handle into the compost. I’m not sure how long it takes to rot down but it feels good to not be adding more plastic to landfill.

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Here’s how I left the plot this week. Half term for us next week. Not really sure what our plans for the week are but it will, hopefully involve at least a couple of trips to the plot. Admittedly there’s not much to do on the plot at the moment but I’m sure I’ll find something for us to do.

 

 

 

Week 88

This week has been all about furniture. I’ve been looking at replacing my dining table for a while now and I finally found a second hand one I liked which I picked up this week. The old one is in mum’s garage (I have plans for it!)

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I also decided this would be a great time to change my bedroom around. My bedroom doubles as my craft space and I haven’t been happy with it for some time so I picked up some second hand furniture that I felt fitted a bit better than the wardrobe I was using. I then had the incredibly frustrating job of trying to get rid of a perfectly good wardrobe that nobody seemed to want. After countless messages from various people all week it was finally picked up by a lovely lady this afternoon – such a relief it’s gone! 

So, after a week of huge upheaval and climbing round bits of wardrobe in the hall, everything is back to normal and I have a much more useable craft space. I even took some time to paint it to match the rest of my bedroom.

With all this furniture removal, this week hasn’t left me much time for the allotment and I’ve only been down there once and only for a couple of hours but it was quite a productive couple of hours. And what a gorgeous morning I chose!

Like last week, it involved quite a lot of clearing and harvesting. I harvested the last pumpkin and cleared the rest of the plant. The bed is now empty with just 2 ladders looking a bit weird with nothing growing up them. The pumpkin is in the shed with 2 others mainly because I just don’t have the space for them in my kitchen (I have a very small kitchen!)

 The cucamelon and cucumber plants have also been pulled up and are in the compost bins. The cucamelon plant really surprised me. I thought I’d just pick the last few cucamelons before I dug the plant up. There were loads on there – it took me ages! They were hiding all over the place. Even as I was pulling it out of the ground I kept finding more. Almost a whole punnet full – which is loads when you remember how small cucamelons are. If I’m honest I’m not sure I’ll grow cucamelons again next year. They were definitely fun to grow but I don’t really know what to do with them. They are nice pickled, according to a quick Google search and they go well in a salad but, apart from that there’s not much else. I have a few in the freezer so I may add this latest haul to them and use them in my morning smoothie.

I also dug up the sunflowers from the same bed. I chopped their heads off (not as gruesome as it sounds!) put the stalks in the compost and made a sunflower smiley face – well, you have to, don’t you?!

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I know I said I wasn’t going to harvest any more rhubarb but I just couldn’t resist. That’s definitely (almost certainly!) the last Rhubi harvest this year.

 I was hoping the chrysanthemum would have flowered by now but it hasn’t. It’s so close, I can see the pink petals all folded up inside. Maybe next week.

The dahlias are still looking gorgeous with so many flowers on them – I really wasn’t expecting them to flower as much as they have. I really don’t know how long they’ll last so I’m just enjoying them while they’re there.

After all the clearing this week both compost bins are full. I haven’t turned them for a while but if I want some decent compost out of them I’ll have to get in there and move it all about soon. It’s a difficult job though because I have to use a fork to reach the bottom of the bin but then the length of the fork makes it really difficult to turn the compost over. Ideally I would like a compost bin that looks like a tombola bin so you just turn the handle and all the contents spin but they’re super expensive so, for now I’ll have to stick with my very awkward fork procedure.

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 Here’s how I left the plot this week. The grass is looking decidedly long – I might have a go at cutting that next week. Apart from that it’s going to be all about preparing the site for winter.