Thursday, 28 August 2008
(By the way, that's our own potatoes, runner beans and beetroot there, you know, just a wee bit proud.)
On the other hand there is something delicious in seeing this...
Dead. Gone. Succumbed to the lovely blue pellet on the soil.
Slug : "What is that? it's a pretty colour, I wonder does it taste nice, ummm, no!
Carrie: "Ha ha! Got you, you blighter".
Don't judge me!!
Ohhhh, we found this cool caterpillar. We have no idea what it is but it was so weird and special to us that even Andrew was persuaded to let it live, though in the hedgerow, not in our plot. Look at it up close - there's hairs and red bits and a horn thing. Cool!
All the other cabbage white caterpillars that we have had, never got a chance to be photographed and viewed by the world - Andrew, need I say more?
We also found a lot of ladybirds everywhere, they did a fantastic job on the green aphids etc and they're so pretty. It had been a while since I'd seen one, now they're all over the place. This is interesting, a ladybird larvae, I'd never seen one of these before. This picture was taken way back in June by the way, so I'm sure he's all grown up by now.
Sunday, 24 August 2008
So scarecrows then, there's a few, the penultimate one really scared me, honestly, how sad!, the last one made me laugh. Zoom into the face!
Thursday, 21 August 2008
Update: the lettuces are a mixture of many types - From one packet we have Leaf Salad (lettuce mixed) and the other is Red Salad Bowl.
The lettuces came as a mixture of three different ones, cut and come again, I think they were free with some magazine or other. My goodness the amount of money saved in growing you own is brilliant. I would buy about two bags of mixed lettuce in Tesco a week (£1.25 approx each), and these plants just keep on giving. We actually planted a couple too many, so last night a red lollo rosso? was just plucked straight up and brought home. It looks like a wedding bouquet...
This is our favourite variety, you'd often see Andrew walking around the allotment, supposedly working, but really eating leaves straight off the plants. The other varieties, I swear, look just like the ones from the Peter Rabbit books.
The perpetual spinach is my wee secret joy, I love spinach and when in Barcelona a few years ago, had a dish (many times) of chicken with steamed spinach, prunes, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. So good and my first experience of the ingredient (were it wasn't boiled to bits). I don't eat much red meat so it's great for the iron levels too, good in sandwiches and lovely stir fried. Oh, I could sing it's praises. Don't forget, if you're harvesting some for a meal, cut loads, it wilts away to nothing whilst cooking. I've noticed some other people put up seasonal recipes on their sites, good to look at. (All the cookery programmes have websites now too).
This picture is a basket full of the stuff - Spinach (Leaf Beet) plus one carrot and the lettuce perched on the side.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
First thing we noticed is that the darn blight has effected lots of people's potatoes and tomatoes. It's upsetting. But, if like us (read down below) you cut off the leaves of the potatoes plants; the crop below is fine. Cut back early though, the blight spreads all over the place. Not too sure if there is any hope for the tomatoes in the same situation.
The terrible weather had also allowed the mushrooms in the compost (free from the council) to grow like crazy. It took about an hour to get rid of them all, though we all know there's a million others in there just waiting for me. Pity they weren't edible, we've had a mighty crop.
Had to get rid of the broad bean plants too, chocolate spot, I think it's called - the top leaves were all curled up and well, looked like they had lots of chocolate coloured spots on them. We cut them all down and harvested what there was, even the pods that looked brown had perfectly healthy beans inside.
Got rid of the coriander plants too, just because they were plain wick!
Lastly Andrew turned and mixed the compost - it looks great and now the mixture fills one of our bins to the brim. Who would have thought I'd get excited by compost?!! I suppose the knowledge that in autumn we won't have to buy lots of bags of the stuff is part of it. Always nice to safe a few quid, eh?
Dinner was a lot of broad beans, runner beans and some beetroot, with a little bread. The perfect detox after the pain au chocolat and croissants etc of recent days.
Whilst there we were struck by the fruit and veg and how good it was - fresh , good quality and readily available in even in tiny convenience shops. Also it makes you think - most of the residents there live in apartments and gorgeous though they are, it leaves little room for growing plants and especially vegetables. But they do it, they use the space they have to the best effect. Geraniums are everywhere, on little balconies and we even noticed 'allotments in a box' being sold - these ones are mainly soft fruits...
On the 1st evening we had a delicious meal of lamb leg chops and green beans with a olive oil (eek, it my have been butter) infused with thyme. So simple but cooked to perfection. Good grief, we are definitely growing french green beans next year - total converts.
Friday, 15 August 2008
We planted out some we had grown in modules in May, around a bamboo cane wigwam, 6 canes - 6 plants on the outside. We also planted 6 more seeds (which are so pretty) on the inside of each cane - thus having an amazing display of 12 plants per pyramid. They have been constantly giving beans - BIG ones as the name suggests since July and look set to continue well into September if not October. We have a glut of them, (the more you pick the more they produce) but they are so nice and it's fun to give something so long and tasty to family; the plants themselves are a talking point with every visitor.
Really, I urge you to get some for next year, for the allotment or home. They are lovely steamed with a little olive oil, or butter if you're my Mother-in -Law (hehe) or in the wonderous risotto that my husband makes. There's probably loads you can do with them but I'm no cook.
I forgot to take a photo of said yummy risotto - but here is one to full that void for now, they're only wee in this pic, I'll have to update it.....
Note the time people, I can't sleep and thank god for blogging....
We had a delicious risotto for dinner yesterday with our own broad beans and runner beans in it, as well as other yummy stuff. So, I thought it was about time I started writing about actual growing, harvesting and eating stuff from our plot.
The Broad Beans we grew were Masterpiece Green Longpod and they were/are brilliant. They were started off in modules and then when ready, I planted them out - 3 rows of 4 plants each. (We also gave some left over to Bill at the far end of the field - he wasn't there at the time and we later saw that his father Bobby had planted them in his own plot, cheeky!) As they grew we erected some simple supports out of bamboo canes and string; it seems to have done the trick.
The only problem we had with them was Green Aphids, Andrew can easily kill any nasty bug, I can't, but found that the soapy water spray was an excellent solution (excuse the pun) in effectively annihilating the blighters for me. Other than that the only problems have come from the wind burn - our site is very open to the elements - and the abundance of produce! That was easy though, they freeze really well, we LOVE them and our family has taken some off our hands too. Oh and tasty tip - pinched out growing tips are yum, so green, if that makes sense, stick them in your salad. Now Tesco doesn't sell that wee treat.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
Maggie has been very active in the start up and management of our plot. Let's face it, according to Luke (4 yrs) in the plot next to us, it's her plot in the first place. She sniffs everything and likes to have a wee taster of any successful produce, all from the comfort of her little spot by the shed, where she has to be tied up like, well, some sort of animal!!
Anywho, here's Maggie at the start; checking out the quality of the soil and consulting Andrew on the plan. And beside that, here she is at the plot's sign - doesn't she look proud?!
Mainly she holds the general over seers role - pretty much a yes man (girl) and isn't really bothered. She is a great attraction to the plot and everyone seems to love her, a wee pat on the head or a tickle behind the ear will make her your friend for life. Add to that a whole load of very unexpected and in Maggie's case, very much loved presents from Mark and Charlene who have the ajoining half plot A24(b) and she'd do anything for you. Well sit at least, she's not so good at tricks or indeed, gardening.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Okay so I know there are terrible, heartbreaking wars and famines and unspeakable acts inhumanity going on everywhere as I write/as you read, but this was important to me.
For the last 10 years (actually my whole life in varying degrees) I have suffered chronic depression, anxiety and a severe lack of self-esteem. I am crippled by it. The Allotments have been a quite literal life saver. We all know about the wonderful advantages of being out in the open air, watching our own produce grow and meeting like minded people (dare i say friends) not to mention the benefits to body and purse in growing and eating one's own fruit and veg. But do not underestimate the profound benefits a scheme like this has on mental well being. I'm nervous going down there but I am proud of what we have achieved and the in roads I personally have made. I want people to know more about the Allotments and to benefit, in whatever ways, from them. I just know I have. Okay maybe my cup overflowth, i just wish the local rag felt the same as me, even a wee bit.
Rant over. I feel better now......
Monday, 11 August 2008
The allotments were first brought to our attention in an article placed in the Carrickfergus Borough Magazine 'Compass' (issue 16); a pretty good quarterly. Once my Husband saw this, he was on the phone and e-mail to the Head of the Parks and Countryside Section- Stephen Daye. After filling in an application form on-line, we received an anxiously waited for conformation letter on the 14th April - we had an Allotment - A24(a); a half plot. It is 13 x 6.5 meters sq and costing a mere £35 to rent per year. We were very happy.
I think it was that day, or before that let's be honest, that we visited the site off the Beltoy Road. The Allotments were, a field, just a plain old field....
As you can see there were some mown lines to delineate the plots but that was it, eek! It looked so big. In this picture, apart from my shadow, Andrew is over by our plot if you can see him, hehe. Follow my shadow and go left a bit, that's A24(a). On the other hand you can click on the photo and see it large scale.
May was mainly all about digging and more digging and more digging. We also met some really nice fellow allotmenteers and started to plant fruit bushes and sow seeds. We encountered problems with water availability, especially as it was a gorgeous month - rain free. Though water taps were installed we had to resort to other methods, as there was a problem with the mains, a valve or something (I'm a girl, I didn't pay enough attention). We were lucky in that there was/is a stream beside the plot which was a life saver for a long time, then towards the end of the month, the council delivered water regularly by bowser (is that the right word?). It was a constant source of grumbling yarns with other people and friendships were made over quiet moaning sessions (so not a bad time really when we look back).
Apart from that the only interesting thing was the arrival of our lovely shed. Sheds were slowly popping up all over the 2 fields at this stage, which was good as that glorious weather was beginning to become temperamental. We got ours from Castle Sheds, only a little one but bought for us by Mamma G and big thanks go out to her. An allotment plot just has no soul without a shed - I think. I even made curtains for it.
Well that's you up-to-date enough, the blog will start properly from now...