Thursday, 27 November 2008

The crushing nature of depression

My dear GOOF'S (Grow Our Own Followers) I must apologise for my lack of blogging prowess... I am truly being suffocated by depression these days and have no oomph at all. I did desperately try to upload my video of the lottie yesterday but it just wouldn't work - Sorry, I'm sure you're upset, hehe.
Here is the lovely produce we collected on Saturday past though


More Pak Choi, the last of the turnips, a leek, 2 parsnips and loads of Beet Spinach. Apart from the Pak Choi, which we had in a stir fry on Sunday - the 2nd Picture shows a totally lottie dinner from Saturday night, with the now complusory HP sauce dollop in the center. YUM.
We also had a raspbery each - Okay, not a big harvest from this plant this year but I have hope and the 10 or so we did get were excellent.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Socks of Good Fortune

I had a feeling on Saturday that it may be a good visit - I thought this because I realised, while putting on my wellies, that I was wearing my favourite socks. I was to be proven right.....

To begin with the brand new beds in Field C have been marked out - lots of squares and posts with numbers on them - oh, I am looking forward to more sheds, more crops, maybe more cute n' crazy kids! This is brilliant, I just hope they know what they're getting themselves in to - hard work, that's what, hehehe.


And in our Field, A1 has now got 3 very sturdy looking raised beds made and set in one corner. Glad to see that, always thought A1 ought to be a good example to us all - maybe it will flourish from now on. Fingers crossed.

Then, on our own dear lottie, my Broad Beans had germinated. Hoorah - I love those little green shoots like they were my children. (Though I also can't wait for them to grow up so I can eat them - and that isn't my philosophy on 'real' children - just to clear that up!) Look at them, aren't they glorious, I put it down to Andrew's lovely safe environment of a Cold Frame. Then on leaving I also spotted my crazy primroses STILL flowering away; they haven't stopped since they were put in at the end of Spring, surely that just isn't normal!



Tomorrow I shall talk (and show) the bountiful harvest we collected - maybe this was also down to the socks - we shall never fully understand their power.......

Monday, 24 November 2008

Update on path - already!

I wrote an e-mail directly to the head of the Parks & Countryside Development sector of our Local Borough Council, after uploading my latest blog-ette on the Path issue. And lo and behold I got a personal e-mail back within 20 mins of sending my own. I was/am impressed.

Power to the people! my friends - both the official Committee letter on this problem and mine (eek) are going to be presented at a council meeting on the 5th December. The budget for the Allotments has totally run out but we will have to keep our fingers crossed that there is some Christmas spirit in that meeting and we will be granted our wish of better access.

I'll keep you posted.

The Lottie Path (take 2)

This wee video is just 1 min long - check it out.....Okay this isn't great - no Stephen Spielberg am I. But at least you'll get the idea. It was taken on Saturday before the really nasty weather hit - goodness knows what it's like now! Eek. I didn't even go on Sunday morning because I was a little too nervous.

video

There'll be another (better) video later in the week - of our plot. Bet you can't wait.

Friday, 21 November 2008

I don't believe it!

The reason I chose potatoes for my weekly Focus on... was due to the Poland Holiday and all that Vodka!!!
I have found a pretty informative website for you on the delight that is Vodka:
http://www.polishexpress.co.uk/art,world_of_polish_vodka,635.html
Fear not, it is written in English. Our favourite was the Bison Grass one (nothing to do with potatoes funnily enough!)~ Żubrówka, we brought some home but it's dangerous stuff so we haven't opened it yet!

Focus on... Potatoes

This is going to end up being massive if i'm not careful. The basics will be discussed here and links profided (as usual) for those of you who can't get enough spud knowledge!

I'm Northern Irish so to me it just makes sense to begin with what was the end for many ancestors - the potato famine and then i shall talk about wider history and nutrional facts. By the way the potato over there > is a Maris Piper, my favourite.

Info today comes from:



http://www.britishpotatoes.co.uk/ (brilliant for all things spud related)

So the Irish (or Great) Famine lasted from 1846 to 1852 and lead to the deaths of approx 1 million people in Ireland due to starvation and disease. Even compared to modern famines it can be said to be more destructive as it lasted for 4-5 years (!) as opposed to the more common 1 or 2 growing seasons. Around one eight of the population of Ireland suffered and 2 million had to emigrate to survive. Of course we are all aware that the devastation was caused by potato blight - or to give it its proper name, the fungus Phytophthora infestans. Which we still get to this day and indeed our allotments suffered from it this summer, though cutting back the stems at first signs seemed to halt the problem.

According to the British Potato Council (they 'love potatoes') our humble spud was an exotic gift brought back from Peru by the Spanish conquistadors in 1534. It had been cultivated there for approx 6,000 years. Their popularity then spread through France via Germany and then on to America again, to complete a circle. There is much more to this, but I'm bored and I'm sure you don't really mind me skipping head to nutritional values....

Tatties are a carbohydrate which in this case means mainly Starch, not easy for the body to digest so, essentially it acts as Fibre. It 'provides bulk, offers protection against colon cancer, improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lowers plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, increases satiety, and possibly even reduces fat storage'!!!!

It also has healthy benefits in the form of but not exclusively: Vitamins C , B and B6, Potassium, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc. Plus they are low in fat and Calories - hoorah!! And Holy Moly I didn't know it but it's the UN's International Year of the potato (IYP). Surely we must celebrate?! You know I heartily recommend the British Potato Council's website there is so much info and recipes etc.


Now I leave you what a caution - potatoes can be TOXIC! I know it's scary, but read on...


'Potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, toxic compounds, of which the most prevalent are solanine and chaconine. These compounds, which protect the plant from its predators, are generally concentrated in its leaves, stems, and sprouts. Exposure to light, physical damage, and age increase glycoalkaloid content within the tuber; the highest concentrations occur just underneath the skin. Glycoalkaloids may cause headaches, diarrhea, cramps and in severe cases coma and death; however, poisoning from potatoes occurs very rarely.'

That's why you have to keep earthing up your plants - keep off the light. So keep an eye on the ones you eat and avoid green ones as it can indicate toxicity.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Potato - grow, harvest, eat and enjoy!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

New people

It's an exciting time, we have new blood arriving on the plots, some people have obviously realised that a whole plot for instance is too much and now we are getting people in who will take that unwanted half, gladly. One of them is Leslie, a nice friendly chap who came over to say Hello. He has just received his keys and will be in Field C. So Welcome to him! Good Luck too, we all remember what it's like to start a fresh!

I have also seen a few other new faces and a new name on the Allotment Forum. Welcome, welcome. The new plots in Field C are also being marked out in preparation of handing over to more brand new tenants. We're growing FAST!

This is John from Field C - he's our youngest lottie holder, I think he's 15 and he is a very passionate allotmenteer. He's somewhat of a wee celebrity - interviewed in local and national papers and on the radio as one of the representatives of the scheme. This was the first time we had said hello.

Good work by others

I didn't feel well at all on Sunday, though it was much better being at my lottie than at home, that's for sure. When I'd finished for the afternoon I dandered off a little to look at the progress people were making on their own little bits of Eden. I could see from our plot that work had been done and it made me happy to see it. Momentum seems to have been running out quickly, which in some cases I can understand - many didn't realise the extent of what they were taking on, the weather hasn't been good and now we can only spend time there at the weekends (a time which is precious to us all - especially those who have children I'm sure).

But still, let's concentrate on the good work done by some. Digging over, improving soil (the storms have obviously delivered a lot of free seaweed!) and the making of new beds. I'm afraid I only dandered around a bit of our field (A) and field B, I honestly felt a little nervous walking on the (now clear to you) mess of the paths. I'm sure Field C has been working hard too! In fact I'm sure they have, some of them are full of lottie passion, such as 'Douglas' - who is actually called Donald, oopps, my mistake!



Of course there are some who still have much to achieve - to put it politely.



Yes, this is a plot. There is definitely a plot under there somewhere.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Random Harvest (I LOVE that film)

This isn't about the film though, it is about the glorious harvest our wee plot gave us as a welcome home present. Here is the now standard harvest photo, but wait til you get the full run down of what's in there...

2 Pak Choi, 4 baby Lettuces, 3 Parsnips, 1 Leek, a massive handful of Parsley and 4 gorgeous wee Turnips. I was very happy, let me tell you.

The Pak Choi was used in stir fries (I was heard to proclaim "It's like real Pak Choi" - what an eejit) the Lettuces were eaten by me with a little cranberry sauce (more about that later) and last night Andrew made the best dinner ever with the rest and some couscous (which we'd grow ourselves if we could darn it!). He simply roasted the parsnips, leek and turnips and mixed it all up with couscous and lots of lovely flat leaved parsley. The only other ingredients were Ras el Hanout (Moroccan spice mixture) and a little salt and olive oil - Heaven!

So to the lettuces. They are growing away beautifully under one of our little mini polytunnels and are so tasty, especially lifted young like this. I am genuinely surprised at how well these little tunnels are doing, they were a good buy alright and to think, I almost doubted their necessity (apologises Andrew!).

Yes, the cranberry sauce and lettuce mixture. This comes from the 1st meal I had when we arrived in Krakow, I was so impressed by this dish I wrote it down in a notebook whilst eating it (never done that before). It had a Lettuce mix of course but added to that was grilled chicken strips, cashew nuts, Sunflower shoots (!) Basil mousse, a few perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes and Cranberry sauce. My socks were blown off - simple but my my so tasty. (If you've never had Sunflower shoots before - they taste a little like firm/ripe melon, beautiful.) Poor me I had hardly any of those ingredients but I made do.


We aren't the only ones to be enjoying the success of their lettuce. These ones are so cute in their little rows; they were planted in between corn until recently. I don't know the names of this lovely couple but they gave us a very big handful of said baby sweetcorn a few weeks ago and it was gorgeous - green fingers on that plot alright.

They aren't 'real' polytunnels but Andrew brought home some used Water Cooler Butts from work and cut their bums off. They have been very effectively used as cloches for 2 of our Parsley plants. Look how this plant was trying to escape (that's before I chopped it down for dinner, hehe), goes to show you don't have to pay for purpose made stuff, eh?



Lastly, for today, I'd like to mention our Leeks and how we've been blanching them with bits of drainpipe. It was found way back in the spring in a little stream along with lots of other dumped household stuff and we thought it might come in handy - we were right. I have an intolerance to 'real' onions but can eat leek, so it's an important crop for us. Using the collars around the young plants makes them grow up to have a longer, thicker white bottom half, where most of the flavour is. Gosh, I'm full of tips today! (This pic doesn't show our best ones but it gives a good idea).

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Wonderful Lottie

Well, when we got back to our lovely Lottie I was so pleasantly surprised. The only thing that appeared to look neglected were the Parsnips, but their leaves were due to die back and had been for a while, so that was no shock. Hoorah, for A24a!



So there was bad weather when we were off enjoying ourselves in Poland. But I was proud to see it hadn't put people off too much. The Plots were looking pretty much improved! More on that tomorrow. Ours just needed a general tidy up and weeding. The Marigolds also had to go - a sad day actually as there isn't a lot of colour on our plot now and they were my wee babies. But Good News is that in their place I have my bulbs coming up - ah, the circle of life!



Another happy surprise was the amount of rotting the new compost bin had gone through in only a matter of weeks. It was absolutely full to the brim, now you can see how much it was shrunk compared to the other bin behind it. Hoorah! Although I was a little annoyed to see this wee blighter poking through one of the other bins, ah nature, it will always win.

Monday, 17 November 2008

A video!!! (and a bit of a rant)

Andrew is off for a mo, leaving back a DVD, I'm a mess and have to keep occupied. So I thought I would try and publish my 1st video post.

I took this on Sunday afternoon when we came home from Krakow. It is a very short piece on the poor drainage on site - it is a problem all over the 3 fields. This is the path between Fields A and B and it isn't the worst bit - I really sank down in that area! Thank goodness for wellies!!!

The paths are really a shameful issue on the lottie and as a person with visual problems (permanent double vision) it is something I personally wish could be sorted out a bit better. That's without even starting on the fact that there are many older people who have to cart things down to their plots, walking on this - it is so slimy and that the Allotments are supposed to be accessible to everyone under the Disability Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 - http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2006/uksi_20060312_en.pdf.

video

Okay, if you can get sound on this video - I make a comment saying it is kind of fun. Getting mucky in your wellies is - that's what I meant. Not being scared about where you put your feet.

A Bad Day

I'm having a BAD day (depression and panic). I did want to write about the Lottie and show you pics - we had a wonderful harvest yesterday and worked quite hard. I also had a good dander round the plots in field A and C and met 2 new people. I'll tell you stuff tomorrow- right now I'm off to hide under a blanket......

P.S. It was very nice to see people had been on the site whilst I was away - thanks for the interest guys, bug hugs all round.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Welcome home (to me!)

Go to Krakow, I beg you - it's great. The people are friendly, the streets are clean, food (and especially beer) is so reasonably priced and there is so much culture (both the history and cafe type). Plus, they are fellow allotmenteers but mainly they take it a bit further and have old medieval style strips of farm land for greater yield. (I wasn't quick enough to get photos of the 2 lotties I saw from the taxi - sorry.) At the very least you have to have respect for people who can make the humble potato so wonderful (vodka of all flavours!)


So home again and off to visit my poor, neglected Lottie. I've heard the weather hasn't been the best so I'm a little nervous.........

Friday, 7 November 2008

Good Stuff

Just to let everyone know - this is BIG for me.....
I am feeling pretty good today. I haven't had to take one sedative all day and I feel unusually calm for someone who is going on Holiday tomorrow and has things to get ready. My mood has lifted a little - enough for me to feel it and for Andrew to see it. And, I have joined a new forum group with people who just couldn't be more welcoming if they came to my front door with a muffin basket. Today has been a good day.

These days need to be published, they come rather rarely and without notice. When they go, I forget they exist as well.

Focus on POPPIES

I'll be away on Remembrance Sunday and on the 11th November - going to Poland for the week. So I thought I would Focus on the humble Poppy, a beautiful flower, favourite of many and one with powerful symbolism. I will, hopefully, be growing some next year on the plot, for my own enjoyment and for the seeds - for me to eat, or maybe the birds I haven't decided how greedy I'll be yet.

So today's information comes from the ever reliable and informative Wikipedia at : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poppy and the extremely informative pages of

The Royal British Legion at :
http://www.poppy.org.uk/index.php/remembrance.html

The Poppy is one of the showy-est flowers there is, especially in it's most well known colour of bright red. It can however be found in an abunadance of colour varieties - just showing how popular it is. These include white, yellow and even blue (Himalyan). They are grown for their glorious flowers and seed heads but are also beloved by Bees who use their pollen, Bakeries for the gorgeous seeds and Drug lords for the Opium (a Narcotic formed from sap released by immature seed pods of Opium Poppies [Papaver somniferum] DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!)

Poppies have long been mentioned in Greco-Roman myths in relation to death and sleep or indeed, both - eternal sleep. But they also connected them to the promise of resurrection. In Commonwealth countries the Poppy has been adopted as a symbol of remembrance - for those who died in the 1st World War and all other conflicts since then. Paper or plastic Poppies are worn on the lapel, (or attached to little wooden crosses or made up into wreathes) up to and including the 11th November when the end of the 1st World War is marked with a minutes silence. Having ended at 11 o'clock on the 11th Day of the 11th Month 1918.

On the British Legion website http://www.poppyfactory.org/history.html there is a short but very interesting background to the 1922 factory of disabled ex-service army men and women who assembled rembrance poppies and in fact still do to this day. However we can not take credit for the idea as it came primarily as a result to Colonel John McRae’s poem “In Flanders Field”, leading an American lady to start the trend in 1920. (The poem can be found on the Wikipedia page).

It's the Corn or Field Poppy that is used at this time, as it grows best in poor, untended soil. After the horrific battles of the 1st World War, poppies were found to be growing all over the trenches and battlefield scars of the fields, a sign of life after such carnage and also of blood, which would have soaked the very soil they grew in.

Poppy seeds can be eaten, think of the lovely poppy seed cake and bread crusts topped with seeds. However, beware, unconfirmed experiments suggest that eating a lot of the seeds can lead to false positive drug tests for opiates!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Poppy. Grow; cut and put in a vase if you like; eat the seeds maybe; enjoy. And remember.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Composting - we LOVE it

Sunday saw the completion of the trinity of compost bins on our plot! We brought round the 3rd one from the back garden, which hadn't been used since we got the lottie anyway.

We visited Mamma G before we started to fill up this one. There is a very large, huge tree in her back garden which drops a tonne of leaves every autumn. This is the last year of its life - it's really not well at all any more and the wall beside it is falling down too. I got to gather up the fallen leaves and was enjoying doing it, but the excitement went up a major notch when i was presented with the leaf sucker-upper/shredder machine! I love boys toys so much. I gathered up 2 big black bags of shredded leaves for the plot.

Back at the lottie, Andrew got straight to work - he was rather excited, how cute. He had lots of leaves, garden/kitchen waste, cow poo and that bag of shredded paper. Remember the last time I spoke about 'Grow Our Own' compost? - well it was the same idea. Layers of each material were put on top of one another in a vast sponge cake type fashion. Leaves - g/k waste -paper -cow-poo, and repeat until bin is full. Eh Viola! another bin of (soon-to-be) Black Gold.





While Andrew finished that up I took more pictures - this is my favourite one and one of the main reasons why I'd like lots of sunflowers next year. The birds obviously love this!
By the way - you know this - now's a great time to look after our little bug and birdie friends. Nuts and seeds for the birds (just think of poor, starving Robin Red Breasts) and hidey-holes for ladybirds etc - piles of bamboo canes and old logs etc are the way to go.

Thanks!

You know I just have to say thank you to whose people who have encouraged and supported me in my blogging. I have to go get lunch now when I ought to be writing today's blog, but I received some lovely e-mails this morning from followers of Grow Our Own and I had to reply and look at the wonderful sites they had recommended for me. You guys know who you are and I thank you for getting in touch.

You know I've been feeling pretty bad recently and very isolated. This contact with the big wide world is the best thing I've ever done.

I'll be back later!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Thought this might be interesting - map of our site.

http://www.carrickfergusinbloom.org/allotment-location-map.pdf

It has been brought to my attention (by Mo - thank you petal) that I didn't tell you which number our plot is on the map! We are the proud owners of Field A 24a.

A new friend in Field B

During my wanderings at the weekend I came across a very hard working gentleman in Field B. Forgive me, as I have a head like a sieve - but I believe his name was Douglas. I somewhat crept up behind him in order to get my photo, not the nicest thing to do - I'd hate it if someone did it to me - but he heard me anyway and I got this lovely, smiley face welcoming me to its owner's plot.

Douglas' plot is excellent. He hadn't been down in a few weeks but the place looked great. Granted he had been working hard all day. Like us, he has gone fot the raised bed system and it's working well for him, though he also has indulged in a lovely patio area and an orchard is on the way in another section. This is a man with plans, with ideas and with passion - he exudes it.

Just before I arrived over there he had cleared out his potato bed, a job he hadn't been looking forward to - due to the blight we all got over the wet summer. I guess he was expecting some mushing, stinky crops, but like us he had cut off the foilage at the 1st signs of blight and thus had a wee surprise. Happy, healthy little potatoes to take home for dinner. (I laugh at the Tesco bag).

That wasn't all. He decided to lift some carrots to let me have a look at the difference between sowing in situ and planting out seedlings. My, the ones which had been moved were weird! All the roots had tangled up around each other and one carrot was actually 3 twisted together. The other ones however were glorious. Perfect. Funny though, just after lifting this one, Douglas noticed a beetroot, he'd forgotten about. Goodness lifting it was a very pleasant surprise - it was huge! Look at his face.

Being very much into eco-friendly allotmenteering I was intrigued my the little turf wall all around the plot. I thought it was covered in weeds, however it was actually lovely little alpines, planted into the overturned sods! They were all taking and some were even in flower, what a lovely idea - to look at and for insects to feed upon. In another corner there was an elorabate bug house - logs with many holes drilled in them and stacked under a thigh-high stone doorway, in front of which lay a little pool for (hopefully) frogs etc.

Well done Douglas. Inspirational, even with some very bad drainage issues around his field and in his own plot in one quarter. It's somewhere I'll be nosey-ing around again.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Broad Beans and a Cold Frame Lid

Come with me as I travel back to the 1st of November. Things were going well - I had already got new shoes in Belfast, had the best lunch in Avoca and now I was at the lottie with my hubby.

Andrew had made the cold frame lid at home days before but of course we couldn't get to our beloved plot until the weekend to fit it. He used some wooden batons and screwed car port, corrugated plastic on top to create a secure and effective top (glass would have been easier and cheaper but it's not allowed on our site for insurance reasons). So while he fiddled about with henges and screws, to great effect it must be said, I sowed some broad beans.

I get rather excited when I get to watch a (successful) plant grow right from my sowing to picking the produce. Then of course there's the joy of ripping it out of the ground, chopping it up and composting it - ah, the circle of life! Anyway, I got myself all set up in the shed and did my thing with the 'Aquadulce Claudia' seeds, which are very pretty and feel lovely. Just multi-purpose compost in seed trays, I planted 24, some for us, some for Mamma G and some insurance policy ones (just in case). It felt great and after a nice watering they went into the newly improved cold frame - perfection.


So as Andrew perfected the positioning of his work of art and safely placed some tender plants (and my seeds inside) I took a dander. And low and behold, my daffodils are starting to poke their little heads up from the flower bed. Ah the sweet victory of spring over the harshness of winter!!!




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