Saturday, 18 October 2014

A favourite Garden ~ La Roche Jagu

For no other reason but to annoy me, the weather here at home is dull and grey and there's been plenty of heavy rain. What a contrast from beautiful Brittany, where the weather was at least changeable but generally warmer, brighter for longer and with bluest sky. There were so many singing birds, butterflies, rabbits and birds of prey. The countryside is so rich and even in the rain it looks wild and mysterious.

Ugh, I got them post holiday blues alright! Plus my brain seems to be made of moosh since we came home, I'm really forgetful and slow...

I didn't really take many photos this visit but one place we both adore is La Roche Jagu - Ch√Ęteau and gardens.

Please allow me to share some photos with you of my most favourite areas...the vegetable and flower plots. I hope you too gather some inspiration as we have; this is the walk as it happened.

Clockwise from Top left:
* Pruned branches make this sturdy fence and chestnuts are left all over the ground for the squirrels.
* Tiny terracotta pots dangle from fences to act as hidey holes for snails and slugs
* Stones are drilled through and used as weights to hold down and let air through apple tree branches
* Insects have homes on the tops of arches by the climbers

Clockwise from Top left:
* Beautiful roses still in bloom
* The last of the apples in the orchard
* Stunning raised beds
* The air is so clear here high above the river Trieux.

Clockwise from Top left:
* Why not make your insect hotels into sculptures to enliven your space?
* Love the colours of these marigolds with the copper marker posts
* Box hedging used to create big beds full of flowers for the bees
* Leeks looking fabulous - love the slate for plant names

Clockwise from Top left:
* Still with the strawberries!!
* Small terracotta pots as plant markers and stored so sweetly for the winter; love the willow fence
* Love this idea for raised beds, using willow and right up to sitting height
* Beautiful quotes scattered throughout the garden "Each of my perfumes is a portrait of a woman!" Jean-Paul Guerlain 

Clockwise from Top left:
* Green manure of mustard fills one of the unused raised beds
* Visitors' bikes leaning against a beautiful tree
* Pumpkins written into as babies and now scarred with the cafe's name
* Would you look at that sky!!!

And after that, there's nothing better than some homemade cidre, just a little one ;)

The offical website - it does translate

Love, hugs and a friendly 'hello again'

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Must do autumn work

My dear friends, I'm still thinking of you and my Lottie in the wee hours. Our holiday is going super well and the autumn colours are glorious, the fresh food is heavenly and I think everyone ought to spend a little time in Brittany. Hi

Must do jobs for the Autumn

1. Remember to cut your lawn
It's a great idea to get on top of the lawn before the really cold and damp weather sets in. If your grass does get too long as it will be nearly impossible to cut it over the winter. Early to Mid October is the last real window of opportunity to cut it so don't mis out!

2. Plant spring bulbs
If you like the sight of daffodils and tulips in the spring then don’t forget to plant them now. Once you have cleared your borders of perennials and given them a good dig over, this is the right time to get the bulbs in. Also remember to check which way round to put the bulbs as it can alter depending on the type of plant. 

3. Dispose of waste properly
Make space for a fabulous compost heap friends! 
Remember that all those dead plants and grass cuttings will equal free food for your new plants next year and stop you having to go to a nursery with everyone else - nightmare. If your council provides a garden waste collection service stagger what you clear as you could be left with more rubbish than your garden bin can take.

Plus: If you have a lot of trees : leaf mould isn't the greatest of nutrient rich compost but is does contain fungi and micronutrients which conditions the soil keeps moisture in and increases worm activity. It's a fabulous mulch come spring.
4. Protect your pots
Winter frost is the ultimate enemy for your pots, making them crack or cause layers to fall off ( a very common occurrence with terracotta pots). To protect those not in use, put them in the shed up off the ground and prepare cardboard or bubble wrap to wrap them up with . Those being used and left out all year round should be raised up or have wee feet to help fight against plants getting waterlogged.
 5. Protect tender plants
The first frost of the year can arrive without any warning and can kill your favourite foliage. If you have any plants you know are susceptible to cold weather, get them in the greenhouse soon or have fleece at hand.
6. Don't forget to lift certain veg
Early autumn marks the start of the winter-season and the end of the summer-season veg, so don’t forget to do your final summer harvest, and clear the plants away. 

This, oddly enough, is our favourite thing to do and our favorite time of year. There is something truly wonderful about getting the plot back in order and seeing clear soil again. Plus you really don't need any of those nasty grubs and bugs that would eat your now past their best plants to linger in the soil for spring!!
7. Remember to feed the birds and other wildlife
Just because you will be spending less time in the garden over the winter period, it doesn’t mean you're the only one not still craving a tasty nibble by the shed. Continue to feed your birds (any any other visitors you know of) as they will find it hard over the winter to find food, they will thank you for it.
The basis of this post was given to me by in a press realease. They conducted a survey of the top jobs gardeners forget to remember at this time of year.  I've added and subtracted information to make it more me and allotment based :)
Love and  hugs

Friday, 3 October 2014

Weekend work on Plot 24a

By the magic and wonder of the internet I have scheduled this post to go live on Friday afternoon even though I am on my holidays. Ooohh spooky. Around the time you read this I shall either be in Ireland or on a boat or in France - hoorah!

The time had come to do a massive clear out on 24a. This, my friends, made us very happy. We love to rip things out of the ground and tear them up for the compost heap. I think in fact that making compost may be the best thing about owning an allotment sometimes, especially when so many things can and have gone wrong for us this year.

I started my time on Saturday with the removal of the purple cornflowers and the zinnias. They had passed their best and the zinnias were sort of gross and diseased now even though they still had flowers. It felt fabulous to have the area around the apple trees clear again and I'm sure they are enjoying the free root space too. Getting everything out, including the flowering weeds that we didn't want in the compost took quite a while and I was eaten by bugs (I have 4 big itchy lumps on my lower back, grrrr).
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flowers all gone now :)

I captured this rather lovely photo though so I think it was worth it :) Is it just me or are there a lot more spiders around this year?!

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pretty spider's web

One sad thing I noticed were the state of the gooseberry bushes in this long back of 24a bed. They have been well and truly decimated by sawfly. I hate sawfly! But at least this year I got over my 'eeow, yuck!' feelings and picked off every last one I could find, with my bare hands. *proud grin*

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the gooseberry enemy!
Elsewhere Andrew was super busy with the new asparagus bed on Saturday but on Sunday he worked with me on 24a. After the simple joys of digging and adding manure and digging...etc on 14b, his time on 24a was a little disheartening; the carrots and celeriac had failed due to carrot fly (which also affects the celery family) and all needed removed. This is the second year our carrots have been crappity and it's getting very annoying.

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the damage caused by carrot fly :(
However, from the very same bed we lifted this large hessian bag full of perfect beetroots - happy dance. They have been so delicious and I look forward to getting stuck into the rest of them.

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beautiful, bountiful beetroot

Now, apart from some parsnips this bed is empty and Andrew has already started to dig and add manure etc. Next year it shall house our sweetcorn and courgettes and you know that has to be good soil as I loves my corn.
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Clearing and digging in manure
So apart from all that I weeded the path area which was becoming a trip hazard and once the rains come, a slip hazard too. Did you know we here in NI had the driest September since 1910 when records began, I think there was an average of 6mm of rain fell in the whole month. Will the heavens now open? eek
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weeding that blasted path
So there you have it. Of course there is lots more to be done, under the strict supervision of Maggie, who sat on next doors overgrown plot for a better view the whole weekend. Boy does she work us hard :)
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Maggie the wonder dog

Love and hugs

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Plot 14b - the Plan

What you've all been waiting for!

This first plan is of 14b as it was only a matter of weeks ago; a mess, a plot of shame, that plot which we shall not speak off. I could barely make myself take a photo of it and generally just pretended it was nothing to do with me.

This was how it was laid out but you know, you just know it never looked as neat and tidy as this. The cut flowers are just diagonally across from 24a, I guess we're looking at the plot from a different direction than usual here but this is the way Andrew roughly sketched it.

Well, let the World rejoice as Andrew has well and truly kicked bum and gone mental at clearing and digging and making this place somewhere super productive, low maintenance and quite frankly, awesome. He has removed so many ill performing plants, plants we never even harvested fruit from and finally uncovered the carpeted area, which looks in good shape, the weeds were merely sitting on top of it.

Yes dear friends we are going to try the old asparagus again, enough time has now passed for us to grieve the first bed we had that New Zealand flatworm destroyed. This new patch has mainly been our squash bed for the past few years and the soil is delightful. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

One thing you will notice about this plot of pure awesome is that we don't have to worry about rotation of crops and many things will just be living where they are planted. The cut flower bed for instance has some stunning roses and poppies in it, the blackberry has long been producing well in this position and the sloe berry hedge is quite new (start of this year?) but has settled in well and thriving.

The asparagus bed is dug, manured and ready to go.... The gooseberry bed gone and the carpet lifted. Also note the minty green mesh fence running the length of the left hand side - good fences make good neighbours eh?

This blog post has been brought to you by a slight headache and very sleepy eyes - without coffee all is darkness and chaos. I'm off for a coffee now and some chocolate (naughty). Then I shall come back and write about the heroic work we did on 24a at the weekend...

Love and hugs to you all

Friday, 26 September 2014

Having a nosey at other plots

Our field is always so quiet that it sometimes feels that any work done must be that of fairies or leprechauns (though we all know they are cheeky and rambunctious, so probably not them). Often I'm amazed when I take a dander around that plants are growing and thriving as they are; though more often my true suspicions are confirmed - few plot holders are bothering.

I love to nosey around, always seeing something on another's plot of interest and I am overjoyed to say that new people have moved in to the plot beside us (14a) and clearance has well and truly started there too.

Isn't it fabulous that we plot holders all get the same amount of land yet not one person does the same thing with theirs! Each plot, each half plot is a slice of someone's personality and circumstances.

So here are just a few photos from around field A that caught my eye last weekend....

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Almost everyone has at least one birdhouse - this makes me very happy

 A love for sunflowers and marigolds
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What a fantastic colour to see all over the field at this time of year

The different states of plots at present
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Abandoned; dug over and covered for winter; still producing (and this one oh so neat!)

Moments of love 
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Such love has gone into painting this shed; Andrew being romantic *blush*; letting the birds share your table

I love these sort of little vignettes and I hope you do too, there will be less of them as the winter comes along and many people decide it's too cold/damp/dreary to go to the plots at all.
Love and hugs for your upcoming weekend!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Starting over or...

* Personally - I've been falling down a lot (metaphorically) recently and the allotment has not been a place of much therapy; life has seemed harder and more cruel in the past days, especially at the weekend and I just feel I would rather sleep all the time than have to face reality.
BUT...still I get up every day and I try. I try to read, to clean, to be alive to the beauty in the world.

* In Allotment terms -  The work on 14b has well and truly begun. Andrew has decided this is going to be his challenge and he's already made a lot of headway. You know I have been so ashamed of the place that never a photo is taken but this is where we are at at present. (Well, after I took this the apple tree was disposed off too and the digging began).
'' ~ An allotment blog
top of 14b - the big cultivated area is where the squash bed was, the rhubarb will be staying 
I'll get Andrew to draw me a 'proposed plan' for the space; I'll share it when he gets round to it.
'' ~ An allotment blog
Stunning sunflower on 14b
I think it's all down to Autumn, that time of year when there is work to be done; that sort I like to call 'constructive deconstruction'. There are plants to be lifted, finished crops to be cleared and bare soil is once again seen, leaving us with fresh thoughts of the future. Composting goes into overdrive with all the last grass cuttings and plants now past it; this is the time we get horse manure from the stables and everything seems to take on a glow, a radiance that suggests yes winter is coming but with cosy nights and chances to dream. The fact that the compost heap is warm to the touch is quite magical too.
'' ~ An allotment blog
Horse manure on left, general compost heap on right with compost bin in front (why?...I don't know)

The early nights are coming in and the skies recently have been beautiful, we've seen a few from the plots, whether we are still working there or simply taking Maggie for a walk. We're also eating those delicious pumpkins and lots of beetroot - growing your own ties you into the seasons and these food stuffs feel like such a treat right now.

Our turnips were a bit of a disaster and we let them get too big, too woody and bug eaten. I lifted them all and said goodbye. I have to say though that it was a joy to see that area cleared and I got all those blasted big weeds too. As we look back over the year, we are learning (we are always learning) about the space we use for various crops and how 2 courgette plants are more than enough for us, we need to grow less potatoes too as we have had way too many, soft fruits do not work well for us (though we have a plan) and we really want to try asparagus again...see, the bare soil can be exciting.

'' ~ An allotment blog
Really disgusting rotten turnip; a whole wheelbarrow of unuseable turnips; weeds and a sneaky carrot!
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before and after
I shall add my photos now, I think I have waffled enough. It's simply one of those days were I so want to talk to you but my mind is just wandering. In the next days I will have some little vignettes from around the field too, I hope you stay tuned for that.

'' ~ An allotment blog
Maggie laughing :)
Love and hugs
Your Carrie

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Squash Harvest from 14b

The plot of shame (aka 14b) has had some good wee harvests over the year so far, it can not be denied. We got a good load of rhubarb, gooseberries and many bunches of flowers. Had we been more proactive there were also red currants and artichokes but still...

The latest crop came in the form of some very lovely winter squashes - Crown Prince, the blue/grey skinned ones, two Sweet Dumplings and a juvenile Butternut Squash

I'll share what we do with them when the time comes but for now they are simply resting and hardening off in the shed.

Apart from that I cut myself a bunch of rudbeckias and did a lot of weeding. Andrew took down the string bean wigwam and composted the remains - he loves composting; the compost heap is already heating up!!

We stayed until the sun was going down, the plots so still and quiet, eerily so if it hadn't have been for that sky...

We were there last night for a walk and saw teenagers camping there at the bottom of field B. Not so sure that is allowed! We also spoke to Jim and he was telling us there has been some upsetting trouble around - kids lifting prize pumpkins and smashing them on the roads. It makes me feel sick to think that that simple joy of growing the biggest orange-ist pumpkin for your kids could be destroyed in seconds - people can be so cruel.

Anywho, not much of a post but really, it's all been weeding and that isn't terribly exciting to write about.

Love and big hugs
Carrie x

Friday, 12 September 2014

How to make Sloe Gin

A tasty winter tipple to liven the soul and set the throat on fire; sipping a wee sloe gin is becoming a little yearly ritual in our lives. We have a secret place where sloes are found but I shall say nothing more; one must guard one's source with one's life! It's every exciting collecting them and this year (after a woeful crop last autumn) they were big, juicy and hard to reach with many a big thorn on the gnarled branches = battle scars, giggles and feeling like eejits :)

Now before I go any further I must say that sloe gin is to drunk in small quantities, lingered over whilst preparing a roast for the oven, watching a christmas-y film. It is strong and I even bought the correct tiny antique glasses for the very occasion 2 years ago. Drink this responsibly, please! 

It's become fashionable again I fear as some of the big names in gin manufacturing have ready made bottles for sale now. But, this is how you are meant to do it - seasonally, with fun and patience - don't go for that premade muck, please. There's another point to be made; it has a very medicinal, earthy taste quite like a cough mixture so be forewarned, you may go through all this and end up hating it :)

So this is the perfect time for sloes - you usually get them September and October and they look like this...

Amounts needed:

  • 450g sloes
  • 750ml gin
  • 275g sugar

1 - You need to pick as many as you can, really get stuck in there and possibly have a friend to help.
2 - Take them home and put them in the freezer overnight - this makes the skins burst a bit = more favour.
3 - Simply put the sloes into a sterilised litre sized glass air tight container
sloe gin - '' ~ an allotment blog
4 - Add sugar
sloe gin - '' ~ an allotment blog

5 - Pour lashings of gin in (see amounts) and close lid!
sloe gin - '' ~ an allotment blog
I should play with exposures between photos *blush*
6 - Mix it all up by gently tiping and swirling the bottle.
sloe gin - '' ~ an allotment blog

You really ought to leave it to mix for as long as possible and every day, for the weeks at least, you need to jiggle that bottle to release all the flavour. It will be drinkable in time for Christmas and could even be a lovely gift.

N.B. The longer you can leave it, the more syrupy it tastes. Plus, even when the gin is gone the alcoholic sloes ought out to go to waste. With their strong earthy syrupy taste they are fabulous cooked with lamb etc

Hugs and Love

Enjoy your weekend xx

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Back to plot after 4 weeks!

Oh lordy bless us all but that was a bloomin' terrible bout of the flu and depression and bad weather which all added up to a month (a month!) away from the hard graft of the plots. Andrew had visited often to harvest (plenty of beans and courgettes and even sweetcorn cobs) but really it was never more than that.

So this is what I was confronted with on Saturday morning, but to be honest I thought it would be worse; the sun was shining and there wasn't another person in our field so it wasn't that awful :)

Andrew needed to get a few supplies and so as he quickly ran away again (haha), I cut the grass and started into the leek bed which was coming down with thistle, dandelion and nettle seedlings. I got all those blighters out and more besides using my wooden board, my trusty trowel and a dutch hoe.
It's a real shame these grass cutting photos don't show off the work better, it's the shadow from the netting that ruins it. Oh and say goodbye to the marigolds, there wasn't a leaf between all those flowers and the stems were burnt to a crisp.

So when Andrew came back I was lost amongst the leeks and had my headphones on = jumpy moment :) He had gotten his gardening bits and bobs but also a new lead for Maggie. With this one we were finally giving her more freedom with a stake in the ground and two leads linked together so she could have a wee run. Her training has been a little too good though, haha, she just sits there beside the shed as always and doesn't move. I hope to change that though.

Andrew's big job for the afternoon was clearing out the broad beans and then getting excited and rearranging the compost bins. I swear this man is in love with compost! From three bays and a black bin we now have two and the black bin. He seems very happy and who am I to take that from him? It looks delightful, unnecessary maybe to it that day, but hey....

Here is the kale for winter looking super at the moment; the birds aren't getting to it and there aren't any caterpillars in there either - hurrah!! for now. Our broccoli has suffered though as we used this very netting system over them and though the birds couldn't get in, there were caterpillars galore in there already and they have destroyed most of the leaves (though I have hope the plants will recover). Bum, you try to stop one predator from stealing your food and another gets a free ride!!

But the happiest thing of all is the harvest right? Here is just some of what we took home. I had wimped out by this stage and was sleeping on my feet - it was the first physical work I'd done since the flu ended. So I got these few items photographed then took myself and Maggie to the car. Andrew also brought a big bag of courgettes, blue dwarf french beans and what I think could be the penultimate harvest of french beans.

Love and Hugs for another day.
Tomorrow is a fun post about an adult beverage you could get out there and make for yourself too if you hurry ;)

Carrie xx

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Reacquaintance with Field A

Boy it's been a really long time since I took a walk around the plots on our field, though as you know, it's also been a really long time since I have been on the field at all.

Well I went on Saturday and Sunday there and it was, for the most part, okay. I still felt extremely weak and tired from the flu but it was a joy to get back to our plot and see the changes. I will talk of 24a tomorrow and show pictures of our harvests etc but today I thought I'd ease us all back in with some photos of random scenes around Field A (A for awesome, hahaha)

Starting with the plot of shame, our shame, 14b....
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Cosmos still going well, apples on the tiny 'family tree', a pumpkin 'Crown Prince', artichoke flower
 Walking over to the opposite side of the plots...
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Seriously, if I rolled up in a ball I would be the same size as this pumpkin!; nasturtiums in the compost; amazing display of sweet peas; a pretty darn run down shed :(
 Way over at the opposite side, wow, it had been so long...
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cameleon (not native); grapes on the vine; rather abandoned plot but still has beauty; hops :)

The return walk to 24b....
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So I hope we all feel more acquainted with the place again and tomorrow I'll focus on our 24a, just don't talk to me about 14b for a while (a few months would be good).

Love and hugs

Friday, 5 September 2014

Sarah Raven's 'Cutting garden journal'

Over the past week or more I just haven't given a damn. I push myself to make things and to try and do bits of housework but in actual fact all I want to do is sleep. The flu, depression, constant anxiety and self hatred take it out of a girl. I'm exhausted.

One thing that has helped is the lovely book I was sent to review on cut flower gardening. Not too much reading, gorgeous photography, plans, projects and inspiration for next year's 14b flower patch.

I may have fallen in lust with this fabulous Sarah Raven's 'Cutting Garden Journal'. Sarah is a goddess of all things cut flower and I just love that she has written a easy, go to book helping people like me to be more confident in her area of expertise.

First off, it is an absolute joy to the senses; the touch of the paper, the layout, the photography. It is sort of a cross between a coffee table book and a how to manual, so stylish but full of great know how and precise instructions.

For us it is going to be a guide to getting our beds right and full of exactly the right plants. Raven even tells you the best variety of the best plants to grow; how to grow them, where they'll grow best and how long the stems should be cut for the best look!

This is the saviour of 14b (yes we were talking about it again, keep it or get rid....). Now we can have the room we want for vegetables and such but know exactly how much room my flowers need too.

A great book to look over again and again, especially now the dull darker days are creeping in.
It was released yesterday, so now you can rush out and get your copy ;)

Hugs and Love
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