Tuesday 30 September 2008

The Duality of Rain

I'm sitting in my dining room which over looks the back garden (laptops are great). I have to confess I never use the room, though it is one of the nicest in the house - shame. Looking out I see a large bank of bright yellow Rubeckia's, Grasses swaying and I can hear the Bamboos, of which we have many. But it has been raining on and off all day, very dull to eye-piercingly bright sky in moments.

The rain has made the beautiful, top heavy Dahlia break, I had to go out and cut a large stem off and try to tie in the rest. I hope it will be okay; though I got a nice little bunch of flowers out the accident I prefer to see them all outside. This rain, it infuriates at times, yet at the same moment I am thinking "well at least the lottie will be well watered". The Duality of Rain. The wind on the other hand, that just makes me mad - whether I look out my window now or think of the lottie, with it's open site and little/no shelter.

One thing that is good, is that I was able to appreciate the little beauties out there, when the sun shone for a while. I love photography but only recently have I let it become my constant companion. Here are a couple of lovelies I noticed today. The one on the right is a seed head from a Celmatis and the other is the top right corner of the garden. The weather looks great, but I assure you a BIG grey cloud is coming...

Well I should go, I just saw that the Gurkhas have won their right to live in Britain. I am so glad, I signed that petition ages ago, must read all about it.

Monday 29 September 2008

In Memory....

Yesterday was the anniversary of my Grandmother's death from Cancer. It's been 12 years, and her husband (my Papa) died 6 months before her in March 1996. Both of them would have been very interested in the Allotment had they been with us now, in health. My Grandparents' home was one of constant baking and cooking and their back garden was bascially an allotment itself. A hang back from the war years. My Papa grew all sorts, I remember the gooseberries by the kitchen window, seeing potatoes lifted for the 1st time, big cucumbers, rhubrarb (do I remember correctly - did he make rhurbarb wine?) even a Grapevine in the greenhouse. I was too young to remember everything he grew.

Unfortunately, I was never to know them as an Adult woman, only a teenager and via a stroke, my Papa was 'gone' when I was really just about a teenager.

They were good people. They were and are still loved. x

September's nearly over!

I had Andrew all to myself on Sunday, which was lovely. We took a picnic to the Lottie but the weather was so nice we decided to go for a drive up the Antrim Coast, find a beach and run about on it with Maggie - it could be the last time we get a day like that this year. Don't worry, the allotment was still on our minds and we listened to Gardeners' Question Time on the way up (how embarrassing), there was a special on about contaminated manure. Funny thing is, as soon as we arrived at Waterfoot beach it began to pour! We ran up and down the beach in the rain, laughing and got back to the car soaked. Then, in the car again, the rain stopped, couldn't believe it.

Anyway, we had to go back to the Allotment before dinner time - the Runner Beans had to go, it had been bothering me. Over the past week or so they haven't been producing good quality beans at all, they've been distorted and twisted etc, the plants had obviously come to the end of their wee lives.

I got the honours and took to them with the scissors.

So all we have left in there are the roots of the bean plants (nitrogen fixers) and our very healthy but as yet barren, strawberry plants. I think, but to be honest I'm not sure, that next time it will be brassicas in this bed, again I'll be corrected if wrong. In the other bed you can see in these photos is one of the old potato beds, we have green manure growing in there, doing very well, if only all crops would grow as readily.

Sad thing about working on the lottie yesterday was I got no pleasure from it at all. Even though I had been looking forward to getting down there, especially with a job to do. After cutting down the beans and bagging up the stems etc, we just went home - I was too sick. Very weepy and when one of our lesser known neighbours came over to chat, I felt nervous and sick too. A good sleep helped though, curled up on the sofa with my blanket and then an Andrew-made dinner.

It's funny (not in a haha way of course) when that happens - when I feel worse for being out, even somewhere I love. It was quite dull then, I suppose and the week had been weighing on me so that didn't help, but I usually get a boost there. Odd.

I'm changing my profile picture to a portrait of me on the shed step, when I was feeling a bit better (Sunday Lunchtime). Here's a self portrait of me and Maggie taken on the lottie shed step too. Doesn't she look fine?! She knows how to work the camera.

Saturday 27 September 2008


Home Alone

It's the weekend, the time I usually look forward to - I get to spend loads of time with my hubby. But as I mentioned, today he is on Best Man mode and off shooting paintballs at people.

So, I did some gardening. The gardens at our house are a little more neglected now that we spend so much free time at the lottie. I have no excuse though, I'm here all day, every day and should really get out there. However my anxiety usually forbids that - I get very paranoid that people are looking and laughing at me. But I did it today again (after yesterday's 1st good result), cut the grass with the push mower. It wasn't fun though and although my arms are pleasantly achey, it was a chore - the grass was just too long for the wee machine to handle.

It's a damn shame but we don't grow any veg at all at home and we only have one blueberry plant in the way of any food. Andrew cut it back last year and we didn't really get anything off it this summer - I was not happy with him. We have been thinking about growing our lettuce at home, cut and come again stuff but at the same time, the house is up for sale and goodness knows what will happen there.

Forgive me the indulgence of putting up some pics of my favourite parts of the garden. It isn't at it's best now but there's always stuff to look at. I love bamboos (especially after our holiday to Japan) and bright flowers growing through darker shrubs, I'll grow some more Bishop of Llandaff Dahlias at the lottie next year. I never buy flowers so it will be nice to have some of my own to cut and bring home - I don't touch the ones in the garden - they're too pretty where they are.

Today I met Andrew's Robin friend, I have christened him Franklin. But put a pic of him up and wee Maggie has to have her's up too.
Well we have a compost bin in the garden at least - oh, no, we aren't adding to it anymore. The stuff in it is pretty good and will be used soon in the back garden, then the bin itself will be taken to the lottie, then we'll have 3 there. We are already taking everything to our plot anyway so it won't be any different. Thank goodness the council sells them cheap (£5 each). So I'll have all yesterday's cuttings and the grass from today to take round, plus all the usual kitchen waste and loo rolls etc.
**My Hubby is home! (4.30pm) covered in big bruises and lumps, but happy and exhausted - now he has the drinking aspect of the day to follow; oh cripes! **

Friday 26 September 2008

Nature's candy!

We haven't been to the lottie since Tuesday night, ridiculous. Andrew has been so busy with work; it's all his fault!

We were able to go down tonight for 20 mins before he was off on Best Man duties. Dressing your male friend up like a girl and getting him drunk is hard work, I'm sure and this is the 1st night! Tomorrow is the main event.

Anyway, it was very worth while. Our 1st Autumn Raspberry was ripe, one day later, it wouldn't have been the same. So pretty and soooo tasty - of course we shared it. There are others coming too.
We'll be back on Sunday, stuff to do and growing plants to look at. I'll write all about it next week.
I did some gardening today, just tidying up the raised bed and the patio area out the back. Tomorrow I'll do the lawns and the rest of the weeding etc. I never did gardening on my own before, but the lottie has given me more confidence - it's great. I'm going to use the push mower from the allotment instead of the electric one; work out those muscles. Also there is a lot of stuff from today to be shredded. I LOVE COMPOST, and I don't care who knows it.
Well, just me and the dog tonight. I'm not going to watch GW! Last week put me off, there's bound to be something on all those tv channels for me, surely.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

A few photos

I haven't been feeling too good, not good at all. To cheer myself up I was just looking at photos of the Allotment. There are a couple from the weekend that I forgot to share...

Here is a new caterpillar chrysalis on the lintel of our shed door. Looking at this I realised that this process has always fascinated me; the complete reinvention of oneself. Also it reminds me that 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle was my favourite book as a child and hence, is probably where my difficulties come from, when it comes to disposing of the blighters when they are eating my plants. (I still have a copy of that book upstairs!..).

Then there was this one. I call it 'Diamonds'. It is of course water droplets on our baby cabbages, if they were diamonds I wouldn't be sitting here right now, I'd be rich, rich beyond my wildest dreams, with a cabbage/diamond plant income to fund my extravagant lifestyle!!!! Well that's a lie; I love to blog, so I'd be sitting on my yacht writing away about the photos Jeeves had been sending about the Lottie.

I'm talking nonsense! Just a bad day and trying my hardest to cheer the heck up.

We were there last night for literally a couple of minutes. Nothing to do, but we needed to clear our heads. It was only 6:30pm when I took this photo of the sun setting from our lottie bench. Beautiful, yes, but the fact that it is getting darker so much earlier now is really quite depressing don't you think. Soon we'll only be able to go to the Allotments at the weekend.

Monday 22 September 2008

A beautiful autumn weekend

This morning I had a panic attack and during it I pulled something in my neck/shoulder, I heard it - yuck! So it's uber sore and I'm not sure about this typing lark, anywho...

We had the most beautiful weekend, especially Saturday. The sky was so gorgeous I took a photo, goodness how much better does this view make a day seem?
I got my hair cut in the morning, so was able to talk on and on about the allotment as I sat there; I get panicky (hate feeling trapped) and turn into the waffle Queen. Unfortunately it seems the whole place may have heard me, Andrew said I was talking rather loud, but I had a hairdryer at my head most of the time. Sorry! Anyway after that we went to the lottie and were met by this gorgeous day. I even got a little tanned on my arms.

I spent the whole time cutting the grass, going round the beds with the shears takes a lifetime, but it's worth it. Ladies - use a push mower when cutting grass, it works those arms good and proper - no bingo wings! Never let a man take this job from you, honestly; the lawnmower is MINE on our plot. I was lucky, inspired to push to the max in the heat of the day by a friendly young man with his own magic mower. This was so fun, it blew bubbles as he went along, he was aiming to 'cut the grass' on the whole allotment field, he said there were enough bubbles to do it. Having kids at the lottie is so much fun.

Andrew turned the compost in No. 2 Bin and the stuff looks good, there was a lot of steam coming off it. I tried to capture it in a photo but it didn't work. We also used some of our own compost from NO. 1 Bin in the permanent bed, gorgeous stuff, very pleased with it indeed. 'Black Gold' I call it, hopefully the raspberries will love it and give me lots of berries, yum. After all that, we needed a wee treat - lollies! I'm a Polly Pineapple girl, Andrew is a Joker guy, excuse the pun.

On Sunday the weather was still warm, though cloudy. We were greeted with this amazing sight as we arrived in the car park. This is Buzz a young trainee Harris Hawk. He had just been put through his paces on the playing fields. I'd never been fortunate to be so close to one of these birds before and questions just spilled out of my mouth about the whole Falconry thing. Fascinating. I just place that sort of past time in the medieval period, as Andrew said, it is the sport of Kings. Wonderful, I hope it isn't the last time we bump into them.

When we got to our shed, there was another surprise. Wonderful, laminated RHS Yearly Veg Planners. They tell you when and what you can sow indoors/outdoors, plant out tubers/seedlings and when the harvest period is - Bloomin' Brilliant. We're putting one up in the shed and I have one home to put up in the kitchen. We have no idea where they came from but Thank You to whoever put them there for us, we love them.
This neck/shoulder pain really is too much. Not much housework for me today, how sad :)

Friday 19 September 2008

GW and Joe's Allotment.

I don't like Joe's Allotment. I don't think he would care, so it's okay that I write that.

This is just a short blogette, as I was just so despaired by his carrots (?!!!) they were tiny, tiny, little, ity-bity marbles of orange. His pumpkin on the other hand made me wince with rage (never mind the even bigger ones his friends had on their plots), as I tried to grow them and FAILED, failed I tell you! - he just plants them and danders off on holiday, I stared at my pumkpins plants and talked to them (very quietly); nothing, zip, nada.

Lets not even talk about him burning tomatoes, blighted tomato plants, yes but the toms themselves?... By the way I still can't bear the awful GW theme music or the terrible camera work. Though I do like Toby and Carol.

Today (Saturday) thinking back I also remember him saying he doesn't have time to be doing this allotment, and he certainly doesn't come across as someone who knows anything about it - what are we supposed to be learning here from 'the expert' gardeners' world team? I'll still end up watching it though, despite myself....

Family Focus

Hello! I'm in a good mood at the moment - eating a Cabury's Fudge bar and drinking coffee at the same time, ummm, melt in the mouth.....

So last night during the regional news on BBC 1 NI (Newsline) there was a regular segment called Family Focus. I don't know if it's a weekly thing or not but I am aware of it's long running existence. Anyway, last night they were talking about Allotments and their affect on family relationships. Now that got my attention, and today I tried to look up the piece on line and watch it again. I only found this, which is admittedly the first interview with the family back in October 2007, a guess they still have to put up the updated video.
I am aware that it says 'fanily focus' up there but I copy and pasted the address!?

The jist of last night's update was that after a year of owning and working on an allotment, the family (the Williamson's) are feeling closer, spending more time together and the children are eating better, particularly one of the boys who had a dislike for vegetables. I'll have to keep looking at their website and see if it gets updated soon, then I can share the second half of the story with you properly. (By the way, they had a qualified gardener from a local nursery on hand to help them out - cheaters!)

It seems that Allotments are just plain great for everyone, news worthy, research worthy and dare I say it - fashionable!! Yes, I dare, we are on the wave of a revolution, the Allotment is King and Long Live the Allotment!!! I pledge allegiance to growing my own.

Our AGM, in the paper.

Andrew bought the other newspaper for the Carrickfergus area last night. It cost a mighty 10p more than the one I spoke of at the very start of my Blog; the one that I deemed uninterested in the Allotments and therefore just plain wick. The extra 10p seems to have paid off, as our little AGM was given a write up and 2 photos. Unfortunately the photo of Gary, Andrew and me was not included but I have a feeling I was caught with my tongue out at the time, so maybe there's a reason!

It seems that we have a waiting list of 65 people looking to join the club and grow their own. It seems to have really been a major shock to the council - they only started with 36 plots in April (when we were lucky enough to get ours) and then it quickly jumped up to 98, were it stands at the moment. Now that there's 65 more in the works, it makes the single 36 plot field sound rather ridiculous.

Andrew and I were down at our plot last night for some produce and a wee look. We brought the rain with us, honestly, it started the minute we arrived and stopped when we left (are we cursed?!). We did have a nosey round though at everyone else's bit of Eden and some were very impressive but a lot more were very disappointing. I would say that approximately a half of them were in a sorry state. A lot of this could be put down to the terrible weather and the fact that there is a flooding problem (God love those in Field B - I had no idea), but equally where is the determination, the drive to make the best of this brilliant opportunity. Now is the time for digging digging and more digging in preparation for the spring!

Again I get all pent up and will just have to stop talking about this issue. As you know I am passionate and thankful for the Allotments as it seems to have really contributed to a bit of a turn around in my depression and anxiety; my patch of mud means so much.

Thursday 18 September 2008

So bored!

I didn't sleep last night, well, I had 2 hours sleep so technically I did, but I don't think that counts. I am exhausted and finding it hard to concentrate. Been looking a seed catalogues and on-line seed websites, for something to do. It really ought to come under the heading of 'research' but I already can't remember anything and I'm too tired to care.

I'm meant to be looking into Asparagus and stuff for the permanent bed. Andrew has already ordered our bare rooted Autumn Raspberries ('Joan J') and some Garlic ('Solent Wight'). Never ordered plants off the Internet before so interested to see how they look after travelling. I know I certainly look bedraggled after a long journey, and grumpy too!

Hope to get to the Allotment tonight, after Andrew gets his hair cut. I was reading that you can compost human hair, for the briefest of moments I thought 'Oh, bring yours home' and 'I'm getting mine cut on Saturday, brill', then I wised up - it's just gross!!!! Do all allotment holders go through this? I'm constantly looking at skips and wondering about whether there's anything useful in there AND I've become scatological - I see farms and think, 'well rotted manure - wonderful, should we go in and ask?'. There has to be a limit to this madness! I'm obsessed, well usually, when I'm not knackered!

Wednesday 17 September 2008

New Harvests

Here's a wee run down of what is growing away at the plot for the future (don't forget we are still eating potatoes, carrots, beetroot, lettuce, runner beans, spinach and sweetcorn at the moment).
In this bed alone we have Pak Choi, more carrots, more mixed lettuce, scallions and more turnips (they were a surprise for me, I'd been complaining that we'd finished them all). I thinned them out on Sunday and everything is very healthy. I have high hopes for the Pak Choi, fingers crossed.

Elsewhere we have leeks fattening up nicely, parsnips, beetroots and spring cabbages. Oh and a great turn out for the books - our own chillies, loads of them. We have 2 different types (under a mini greenhouse we bought in Woolworths for next to nothing) both flowering and producing fruit, one is a Jalapeno, but this one is miles ahead and it's the one with no label! Andrew ate a big bit out of one of these, but it wasn't hot - not ripe yet. I thought he was mad when I saw him crunching away.

We also have radishes but we're not interested in them - they're for Mamma G and Anne to eat. But look how cute they are; I managed to get this photo just mins before Mamma G ate it up straight from the bed; the beautiful redness shining at her was too tempting.

There's nothing wrong with them, I just don't think we'll bother again. They are a little fiery, peppery but mainly (and I mean this for all radishes I 've had) watery. It's not exactly wasabai is it!

Credit Crunch

It seems everywhere you look these days people are talking about the credit crunch, and food shortages, the world is not in a good place right now. On the BBC News website I read today that most people can't afford a balanced, healthy diet. Research by PruHealth has discovered that 1 in 5 people can't afford to eat healthily. Of course we infer that this means the elderly, students, single parents and therefore children - in other words those most in need of good nutrition are being denied it. What is they are saying about this winter?, for many it will a toss up between heating and eating. This can't go on.

I've just had my lunch, stir fried spinach (from the lottie) and prunes. Gorgeous and I would believe, rather healthy. This cost me next to nothing and living in a one income household, that's pretty darn brilliant. What I'm getting at here is that we need to start, collectively, using our gardens or getting allotments and growing what food we can for ourselves and our families. How does it feel to give some produce to Mamma G when she comes down to the lottie?, to regularly bypass the veg aisle in Tesco because we have what we need at home? - bloody brilliant!

Mamma G is even thinking of expanding her own harvest potential by growing more stuff in the back garden. She is great at getting lots out of pots everywhere but things may soon move up a gear, and here, here to her!

Monday 15 September 2008

The Permanent Bed and Adaza Hoe

Can you tell I'm enjoying myself, writing about the allotment? I wasn't feeling good over the weekend and indeed today I'm not that much improved but looking at my photos I feel better and I love to waffle on and on.

So to the last entry of the day (I shall leave the new harvest stuff for another day), and this one is about the permanent bed. It's pretty much ready to go!

Very 1st thing we did on Saturday was go to Sunnybank, our very local nursery and get horticultural grit to dug into the new raised bed. I really like Sunnybank but I think I've told you that before. Andrew dumped it onto the bed and later in the afternoon I worked it in. I was using the large fork and was wrecked a minute after starting, when James walked by. He opened up a whole new world for me by lending me his Adaza Hoe. It makes the work so much easier, and doesn't pull on the back. I'd never heard of one but now I have kindly been sent 2 websites on them and I'm hooked, only I'll have to wait for a birthday or something before I could get one. Look them up, they go by Adaza (get-digging.co.uk) and Adze (on Wikipedia), used by everyone all over the world for all different purposes including woodwork.

We've just got to order our plants now for the bed. Asparagus, rhubarb and autumn raspberries are the things we're going for. I can't wait, though the asparagus will be few years before it can be harvested, we're hopefully getting 6 raspberry canes (jam and cakes galore!!!) and I've been eating rhubarb and ginger scones lots to get into the flavour. Research, you know. I'm going to have to get back baking in the kitchen, only how to stop myself eating everything?....

Not all hard work

There's always plenty of time for a chat on the allotments and luckily we have some good friends with which to waste a little time with. James was back on my radar on Saturday, after what seemed like weeks, every time he's thought about going down recently, it would rain on him! And of course where would we be without Gary, our next door neighbour. And indeed where would he be without us for a break? I've seen 'The Plan' - implemented by January eh?, ummm we'll see.

Along with chats there are the frequent coffee breaks and on the rare occasion of good weather - going into the shop in Eden for a lollipop (Polly Pineapple or Mars Bar ice cream, naughty).We have a radio in our shed, which seems like a great idea but this one is a wind up one and for every 5 mins of winding you get 20 secs of air chatter (or so it feels). We (by that I mean Andrew) thought it would be cool to listen to BBC Gardener's Question time whilst working away; it isn't!

I'd advise anyone to have a cute and cuddly dog on site at all times as well. Tickle time is great fun and Maggie also gives a wonderful excuse to go noseying around other peoples plots and have a natter; she needs a walk every now and then. Of course she attracts fellow allotmenteers too, who can't walk past with out giving her a wee pet.

Enlarge this photo to see Maggie's tongue!!

Our Path

The other big job on Sunday was laying a path down the middle of the plot and straight up to the shed. Anne, my sister-in-law, wanted rid of some old paving slabs; we needed some cheap/free, so.... The weird thing was there was just exactly the right amount to do all we wanted, creepy, but in a very good and highly eco-friendly way!

Recently there has been a lot of rain and we've noticed that the plot gets very squelchy when walked on, especially with going up and down to either the shed for a tool or bucket or to the compost bins at the other end. We are, I have to say very lucky with our plot compared to other members, where we are in the field isn't too bad for flooding (there is a slight gradient working away from us) and we have everything done with raised beds. But, you always want things to be the best they can, so this path was a good solution. It's a big rough and ready, with a mix of different coloured squares and hexagonals and it's just recessed into the soil, not laid with sand/cement or anything, but I love it. Each stone is a stride apart and I have to say Andrew did a great job and just before the rain started. I also got a step up to the shed out of it, which if you knew me (all 5ft 1inches) you'd understand how good that is!!

So thanks Anne x


So one of the big things achieved on Saturday was finally going and collecting some seaweed off the shore. We live by the sea, so there really aren't any excuses as to why it took so long, but it's done now. We've had a good few stormy days/weeks here in Northern Ireland so the beaches were known to be covered in the stuff but really, we weren't expecting this...

(Note the right photo has our wonderful Carrick Castle in the background.)

Every inch was covered in free, organic soil conditioner! We took 4 bags and you wouldn't have noticed, brought it back to the allotment and Andrew raked it out over the grass to let it dry out a good bit in the sun. Saturday was gorgeous in Carrickfergus and our wee plot smelt of the beach; lovely. We even had lollipops in the afternoon.

When it was time for home, the seaweed was gathered up and taken home with us. Andrew put it through the garden shredder (no problems and fun too). Back in bags it was ready to be taken back to the plot on Sunday, when it was put on the permanent bed as a mulch.

I have looked up the benefits of seaweed in a book - The Royal Horticultural Society: Essential Gardening Techniques by M. Beazley. None of our collection of books says much more than this and many say a lot less....As a Soil Conditioner it is 'rich in minerals' and as a fertiliser it 'has a strengthening effect on plants, particularly when they are young'. From others on the allotment, well, they just know it's good stuff and people have been using it for donkey's years (good enough for me, though I will not eat the darn stuff, I draw a line).
Some of the seaweed also went into the compost bin, along with lots of paper shreddings, cardboard and leaf mould from Mamma G's garden. It is roasting, the warmth hits you when the lid comes off and it's too hot to touch if you poke a finger down into it. Seems to me like it will be goods stuff.

Sunday 14 September 2008

A warm hearted killer?

This is the 1st of a few posts about the lottie from this weekend. So stay posted.

Ok, there was mass destruction of my Alchemilla Mollis and the Redcurrant bush by blasted caterpillars. The green ones with the thin yellow stripe (Cabbage Whites?). I picked them all off, believe me it took a long time, there were so many and many, many baby ones too. I put them in the bucket with all my weeding and thought, "there, munch away" but then I got nasty...They all ended up in the compost bin, with the weeds. Our compost bin is roasty toasty at the mo (more on that later) so the idea was, treat them like Lobsters. By this I mean lull them to sleep/death. I think this is a pretty kind way to treat my nemeses; they get to eat as much as they can, feel all cosy and safe and then DIE! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Friday 12 September 2008


So you watched the 1st of the new series of Gardeners' World? What you think?; I quite liked Toby but it's takes a while to get onto my planner on Sky, you know the series link? He has time to prove himself. Next week Joe should be on - Allotments!!!! I don't like his (oh controversial!) but I am interested in all things lottie.

That's all for now. Have just had some red wine and not too easy to type, hehe. Big weekend of work on our plot ahead so hopefully lots to tell you on Monday.

Happy weekend x

Thursday 11 September 2008

Inagural General Meeting

Yep, we had our 1st general meeting last night in the Carrickfergus Civic centre. It was rather exciting, or am I just a wee bit geeky? We elected our full-time committee members so now we're official and can set up a bank account and everything. We already have some money in grants waiting for us but until last night we couldn't put it anywhere; I have a good feeling about the people we elected - things are going to get done now! There were so many ideas flying around, the people that took the time to come, really care. I was going to take a photo of everyone, but to be perfectly honest, I was deeply disappointed by the turn out - approx 40 people out of 96 plots? Not so good. I mean come on, this is our Association and at the very least, there was free cake.

It was all very professional feeling - we finalised the wording of constitution for instance. I've never been to an official meeting before and, wait for it....I spoke! I had had a terrible day at home - I've been honest up til now about things so I'm not going to stop - I was bulimic, had tremors, a migraine and a panic attack. But I was there because it means a lot to me, I just clenched those shaky legs and busied myself by taking notes. But when an issue was raised about disabled access and inclusion (another passion) I spoke out. It wasn't until I got home that another panic happened. I was listened to, I still can't believe it, little old me, my views taken seriously - it was a good moment.

I'm shocked also, that we made a profit on the Fun Day and that there is so much monetary funding out there for schemes like this. We also discussed very important issues such as security, fixing the flooding problem, insurance and obtaining manure deliveries. The council has given us compost, quite a lot, in the past, but it isn't the best quality and we all could do with some proper manure to add to it; remember these fields have been football pitches for over 60 years, they need a lot of TLC.

A major problem with the site is wind - I think I've mentioned this before. It was deemed a good idea to get the Woodland Trust involved in helping us pick the right sort of native hedgerow plants and trees to plant as windbreaks. We may even learn about laying hedges - see loads of great ideas. With tree week coming up soon as well, we need to do our bit....

I came home feeling better, personally and about the future of Eden Allotments. And I still can't believe I talked!


I'm going to get a little bit of lunch now but I thought I just had to log on for a mo to say a big THANK YOU everyone who has been so kind about this blog. Most notably Gary and the BBC Gardening Message Board friends I've made, who I learnt last night like this collection of ramblings and photos. Writing this is a joy and I look forward to things happening on the plot so I can share them with you. Also it's lovely to have an outlet for my thoughts and feelings about stuff - I spend a lot of my time alone you see. Well Maggie's here but she isn't much of a conversationalist!

I have stuff to tell, so I'll be back later.......x

Tuesday 9 September 2008

September Blues (2)

Is it just me or is it all rather bitter sweet at the moment? The crops are being lifted or picked and some things are gone altogether now, yet we have the joy of lovely food. I realise this is what allotmenteering is all about but really, how can you not be sad to see such empty spaces in the plot?

We are of course already thinking ahead and learning about crop rotation etc, so that's helping. We have the new big bed which needs dug over and planned properly too. But soon the runner plants will be gone and last night I lifted the last of the turnips. Great wee harvest basket picture admittedly.

We have got new stuff sprouting - carrots, scallions and pak choi and there are spring cabbages doing well. The leeks look good now, the chillies are ripening and we still have lots of potatoes. But again, I just seem to focus on the fact that the sweetcorn plants and wee apple tree are giving up their presents and will soon be gone /bare and the massive (unfruitful) pumpkins need composting. Could you imagine me as a farmer! And goodness what if it were wee lambs going to slaughter; I need to wise up!

Right then, 'Grow our own' Compost

Glorious stuff, your own compost. A sense of the full circle of life, not to mention saving money on muck! It always feels slightly wrong paying for other peoples' rotted stuff - like modern art -I sometimes feel, "hey I could do that myself!".

So, this is something we can all do and again - my favourite thing - save money, whilst doing so. Andrew has been an avid composter for a few years now, I don't know how many times I've been called over to smell the stuff and feel how good it is, not the mention the heat - "Oh, get in there" he cries, "It's brilliant!". That was only when we had a bin out in the back garden, the passion has intensified now we have 2 (and thinking of a 3rd) at the allotment. The enthusiasm has rubbed off though I must say. I was once in Greenpeace as a teenager (oh, the rebellious nature of my youth, hehe) and was fanatical about glass recycling, now that's covered by the Bryson House recycling collection, I'm now someone who looks for paper to shred and collects every potato peeling. Nothing gets past me.

We got our bins from the council - £10 each I think, I'm sure Andrew will correct me if I'm wrong. (I was wrong.....they're £5 each - thanks honey!)
First thing we do with them is drill holes in the sides, all over, this really helps the process we've found and gets air in around the rotting stuff. It doesn't get damp in there and therefore not stinky. Of course you know what you can and can't compost (no cooked foods, big bits of wood and nasty weeds etc), for the most part it's grass and dead flowers, bits of veg but you have to balance this with dry stuff like newspaper, cardboard and even hay (let the grass lie out if the weather is good). Whatever you do, make sure it's small bits of things, cut them up or use a shredder. Look how much fun a garden shredder is... The pic on the right is all our old squash plants and half our garden hedge clippings.

Well rotted manure is great too, from farm animals; not meat eaters - I recently learnt that you can use hamster, rabbit, gerbil etc droppings too, never thought that household pets were so Eco friendly. We only have the wonderful Maggie - a dog, don't even think about composting that stuff!!!

Apart from what you put in the bin, layering the stuff and turning it (mixing it up) is the most important thing to remember. If you have loads of grass put loads of newspaper on top etc. Try to create layers, like a sponge cake. Kind of.

Soon with a bit of heat and some luck (as always) you should get good soil conditioning compost. Though it's always good to have a bag of muck in the shed too, I like to have a back up! Here's and after and before picture of what's going on with our bins at the mo.
Note about Autumn leaves:
When there are loads of leaves dropping at the same time, it's much easier to make a wee leaf pile; they take a good while to rot down and thus slows up the the bin system. Just plonk a few poles in the ground and surround them with chicken wire, shove them all in and make sure the leaves get wet. Then forget about them.

Monday 8 September 2008

And the Winners are.....

Hoorah! The results of the best kept allotment competition are out. I just checked the news on our Eden Allotment Holders Association Website. The competition was sponsored by good old Sunnybank Nursery.

So...Drum roll please...
1st place went to Bobby!
We all know he deserved it; how could he not win! (note previous blog entry)
2nd went to Bill.
Incidently Bobby's son and a selfless helper to everyone who could do with a hand.
3rd was Godfrey.
Have to say I don't know this gentleman, but well done to him too!
Enjoy those vouchers guys.
On a personal note, we are a tiny bit sad we didn't get a mention - I put forward the introduction of a 'Good Effort' rosette or maybe just a list of 'Other Plots That Were Pretty Good Too'. Anyway, well done to our 1st ever prize winners - they have a nice lunch to look forward to as well.

Here are Bobby and Bill way back in April.

No news but anyway...

We went shopping yesterday - Clothes and accessories; my favourite. I didn't get anywhere near the plot, though we both did some gardening at home in the evening. Now we have loads of hedge clippings for the compost, which is great. Andrew got a shredder last Christmas and loves it, so everything is finely cut. I'll do a wee section on compost later. Ours is going very well - we have one bin full of good stuff ready to use and another about half full but in need of turning etc.

Yip, I'll right about compost later, with photos of course. Who on Earth would think THAT would sound exciting to me 6 months ago?!!!!

Saturday 6 September 2008

Weather men/women have much to answer for.

Today was nasty, rainy and really bloomin' windy down the allotments, where there really isn't much shelter or indeed people. Thank goodness for our shed and coffee to warm us up. Maggie refused the dry and muck-less hut for a nice mucky bum and legs, what can you do?
The permanent bed is now edged and just needs more compost in to make it another big raised bed. We've decided against a diagonal path in favour of a straight one of slabs - better use of space. We're looking out now for some asparagus plants and other lovely things to plant.

Had to get rid of the squash plants today too. That was my job - I love to rip up and destroy as much as I like to watch things grow and flourish! All the plants were only producing male flowers and no fruits/veg. Very disappointing but at least it hasn't gone to waste - in the compost bin. Nasty plants though; I seem to be allergic to their spiny tendrils. Still have to get rid of the pumpkins but that's going to a big job and will need Andrew's help. So disappointed by them - they were free and sponsored by Carrickfergus in Bloom.
I think we got the penultimate harvest of runner beans today - the plants are starting to look tired and the newest beans are very weak and fall off easily. But can't complain, picked a whole basket full today and we have about 9 bags now blanched and frozen, and a further 4 or so just ready to use. Andrew thinks we've saved about £20 at a rough estimate from these wonderful plants, hahaha Tesco! Look at our freezer drawer! and of course the usual harvest picture - Goodness I love taking photos!
We had our 1st sweetcorn cobs today as well. Was very dubious about them but, my goodness I have never had some so sweet and tasty. Everything on the following plate is from the plot, apart from the sausage! The potato has black pepper in it and the beetroot has BROWN SAUCE - just to explain their funny colouration. I can't believe I ate everything on that plate.

Friday 5 September 2008

Happy News!

I am officially a co-tenant of the plot. My lovely hubby wrote an e-mail to the council allotment officer, and it's official WE own it. I'm super duper happy. Look at my profile picture and imagine a bigger grin - that's me tonight!

Unfortunately we can't go there tonight, the weather is just nasty. But I'll be there tomorrow with bells on.

Ripped up loads of newspaper for the compost bin - that's as far as allotmenteering goes for now, apart from my big smile.

I saw my Doctor today by the way - he could see a difference in my mood, I put it down to OUR plot.

Thursday 4 September 2008

Last couple of days

We've just been taking quick nips down the allotment these evenings, it's cold, windy and generally not the most pleasant place to be, plus I have the cold.

Andrew ate another James Grieve apple on Tuesday night I think it was. It wasn't ready - the pips inside there translucent, but he ate it anyway. He thought it was like a super tasty Redburn, I thought it was like the most bitter, sour Granny Smith apple ever produced on this earth. I took a tentative nibble and, in a very lady like fashion, spat it out again! We took a nice photo of said apple and the tree, which I have recently mentioned (2 tree varieties in 1!, which may be very very common, but still impresses me).

I also took the last harvest from the main pea plants, the ones with all the powdery mildew. Once I'd finished that however, I just started hacking back the plants themselves - they weren't producing anything more and well, the mildew was just ugly and I like pretty things in my garden/plot. We'll have to get rid of the stems and leaves rather than compost them. I'm quite jealous in this respect as a few people on the site have little fire pits/chimeneas and they burn everything infected. I love fire, in a healthy way! and think it would be nice to burn stuff and watch it with a coffee, all cosy and such. And we could use the ashes, I think - potash, right? Anyway, they're gone.

The beetroot is also finished - well they're in the fridge but they needed lifting. They were great, definitely grow them again.

We also picked some lettuces and turnips; Mamma G got home from Italy last night and we thought it would be nice for her to have tasty stuff in the fridge. Today is quite a nice day, I think, maybe she brought some good weather home!

Took Maggie for a walk this morning and cried the whole time 40 mins of it! I feel low today again but writing about this has cheered me up a little. I've been talking to some really lovely people on the BBC Gardening Message Board and someone mentioned Ecotherapy. What I'm doing at the allotment apparently - known to help with mental health probs. Going now to look that up on the Internet. (Update: 'The Prince's Foundation of Intregated Health' is one of many good write up on this!!!)

Oh, the sun is just out from behind that cloud, hoorah! Maybe the Allotments will dry out a bit today. Look at our road...

Tuesday 2 September 2008

More Weekend stuff

Heart broken that that was our last summer weekend; the weather man said that 1st September is considered the first day of Autumn - I'M NOT READY! It's already getting darker sooner and on Sunday, I couldn't see in the port-a-loo and we had to put the headlights on when driving home.

So, anyway, at the weekend we got some Green Manure for one of the old potato beds. It was a Thompson and Morgan variety, just multi-purpose stuff. The other old potato bed has Pak Choi, Scallions and Carrots in it, they're germinating fine, especially the Pak Choi which I'm very excited about. The carrots are the same as in the ones we're eating now 'Autumn King 2' and the Scallions, we have been growing throughout the spring/summer, 'White Lisbon'. Once they are all over, we have more Green Manure for that bed too.

Stuff we Found

Apart from actually gardening we also found some interesting stuff while digging around in the beds and weeding. I actually managed to get some more pics of bugs, though not the ones on our parsnips - Andrew squished them.

We also have some Prehistoric flint - an End Scraper and a sharp edged cutting thingy. There was also some 19th century black ribbed glazed earthenware. Andrew is the archaeologist, and knows exactly what they are and although very interested in the subject, I can't remember the details. Here they are anyway....

Best thing though was finding a horse shoe! All rusty and with the nails still in it - exactly what we wanted for the apex of our shed - for luck.

Then to top it all off, I found Alan, I had forgotten all about him, he was being smothered by grass and pumpkin tendrils, but I think he's okay. He is our ironic gnome.