Monday 31 December 2012

Christmasy Deliciousness

I've been having a bad day and to be honest I feel completely overwhelmed by things that need doing, not least keeping up with my blogs, writing for other people, socialising, clearing up the house (it looks like a dust bomb has hit it) and trying to get stuff done at the lottie before Andrew goes back to work. My depression is slowly killing me today, I guess I am coming down after the efforts of Christmas.

I've been asleep most of the day and have the worst headache and indeed ache all over (another bout of flu coming?) and if that isn't bad enough my letter 'u' is sticking. Oh dear me, my 1st world problems are horrendous *shame on me!*

Anywho :) I wanted to share a little of the fabulous food we had over the Holidays; food we grew ourselves of course ;)

First up is the Jack O'Lantern Pumpkin (if you remember, it was the only large one we managed to get this year). We've been enjoying it roasted and in risottos but we also included it in the 'big meal'.

As it was cut up we saved the seeds and not just for planting again this year oh no! We roasted the vast majority in the oven with cumin, turmeric, paprika and salt and they are the most moreish, yum-tastic healthy nibble ever! I hope you do the same soon - never waste the seeds, I promise it's hardly any trouble and you come across as a top chef!!

The flesh was cut up and blanched and then packaged up into bags for the freezer. A great tip so you don't get bored with it quickly. And this year it was added to the traditional veggie mash - oh yes, it was most excellent.

Every year since we acquired our plots we have made Christmas veggie mash with our own parsnips, carrots (usually our own but not this year due to the disastrous crop) and spuds (never our own, they are far too cheap and plentiful at this time of year in the shops) a gulg of olive oil, some freshly ground pepper and a few spices.
It made for fab Boxing Day potato style cakes too :)

The parsnips also get the roasted and honeyed treatment in our house - god save you if you try to get in my way when these babies are ready to eat, I turn feral.

The stuffing balls (and again see above warning) has our own leeks in as well as bought sausage meat, fresh cranberries and orange juice, breadcrumbs and sage.

The ever disgusting Brussel Sprouts were bought this year which really felt like a kick in the teeth. I hate them with a passion unlimited in its ferocity but I do like to see others (weirdos) eating them, loving them and knowing I had picked them the day before. This year was just not conducive to planting them with our re-jigging of the plots and making the beds bigger. I guess these look good though.

The best thing (apart from the parsnips and stuffing) in the world at this time of year is Sloe Gin or Sloe Vodka, it's up to you, we have both. We have a secret go to tree every year and make this delicious tipple, it tastes a little medicinal but I love the burn at the back of the throat and the smell. I was so fortunate to find these 50s port glasses in a local secondhand shop on Christmas Eve. I LOVE them and yes, I did fill them up a little too much - I didn't drink it all, honest!

That's all for now, I just realy wanted to share this and say THANK YOU to Andrew for making the best Christmas Dinner ever! Ever! xxx

Saturday 29 December 2012

Getting stuck in :)

Is there a better way to work off those extra Christmas calories than getting stuck into the Lottie? Well, considering the fact that the weather was fine, dry but cool though not cold and there was a complete and utter lack of any other people around the plots my personal answer would be ~ no, no there isn't.

We (and that includes Maggie for about 30mins before she started shaking - not working makes you feel cold!) had a fab time yesterday and even though the plot was water logged. We managed to feel the joy and just get excited with ideas and plans for the future; plus the bulbs are coming up :) Spring is on her way people; let's dance!

Here are a few wee photos I just feel like sharing. Okay, it is weed infested all over again, the water has made the place a swamp and I couldn't even face going over to 14b BUT it was also great conditions for getting some weeds up roots and all and gave us an excuse to try out our new coffee mugs and visit the Gleno shop for hard landscaping supplies......

  .....Andrew also dug up, split and replanted the 24a rhubarb over onto 14b. The roots and crown on that beast = wow!!! Again, seeing the new growth was so fabulous, a real kick in the butt to my mood which always gets worse in the depths of Winter. Haha - I laugh in the face of you Depression.

Love and kisses - we're going back tomorrow and have great plans to work extra hard. Could someone remind me to get my new music uploaded onto my MP3 player for the event? Thanks xx In return I have photos of Christmas dinner I have to share, Andrew did us so proud and there was homegrown and homemade food and drink ;)

Friday 21 December 2012

In the fullness of time

The days are getting longer again my friends and the World didn't end today either so I guess it's a good time to celebrate and a good time to write to you and send you a whole load of Winter Love.

I hope the dark days and the poor weather (in this Northern Hemisphere anyway) hasn't got you too down. I have had the flu for a month, it's been a nightmare; where does all that phlegm come from, why have I missed dinners out and friendly house gatherings due to looking, sounding and generally being a gross mucus-y monster :( ??

It all seems so very unfair, but it's not, not really. I have decided to believe that everything is happening exactly as it should be, that my life is going along just fine thank you and that no matter the darkness, Spring is sure to follow.

May you all be merry and bright, may your Christmas be fun and full of love and may you end this year healthy and with the ones you love. And hopefully with some great food you've grown yourself and fab Allotment based gifts from Santa (you have been good all year after all!) I'll share my own great food and drink with lots of photos and stories after the big day, plus I have a few books I'd like to share just in case you get money in your Stocking :)

Get ready for the start of those green shoots and remember that Mother Nature is just taking it a little easier and even she is dreaming of the joy to come, all in good time.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Our Wintery Back Garden

I have the flu, it's destroying me!!! How does the body make up so much of that yucky green stuff?? I am drowning in it and I'm in a terrible huff most of the time. But I have my 3 Mint tea, old movies on the TV, the Christmas tree is up and lights are twinkling so I feel OK otherwise. Maggie has a Christmas outfit which she doesn't seem too fussed on but it does look hilariously cute on her. The Christmas shopping is all sorted, wrapped and under the tree and my craft fairs are over for the year :) Plus I got an early pressie - a new just published book to review that I'll share with you next time.

So the back garden. I thought it would be nice to show it off as though things have slowed way down and colour is not abundant I am still proud of how well things are settling in. This will be our 3rd Christmas in this house but only the 2nd with a garden and I think you'll be quite proud of us too :)

Taken from Andrew's study. I could have gotten everything in at once but I hadn't gone out yet and so there was a bit of mess over on the left hand side where we keep all those different bins the council gives us. Ahhh the joy of cropping photos so your viewer only sees what you want them too, hehehe.

A little vignette of the colour that is in the garden - beautifully healthy green of the Camellia and Ivy; the blue of the sky with the bare branches of the Birch; Moss in amongst the rocks; the Jasmine leaves.

I think the handmade concrete bubble bowl is even better looking now it has aged, I love the algae and tiny bits of moss growing on that once white surface.

But to be true, this is my favourite thing outside right now (apart from the birds of course which I spoke of last time). The Winter Flowering Cherry which doesn't seem to care what time of the year it is, it's always got a few and I adore them, so delicate and papery but such a strong herald of hope and new life.

Winter won't last forever. There are only 6 more days until the days start to get longer again :)

Hugs and love

Monday 10 December 2012

Fancy Food for Feathered Friends

Oh I am on fire today with the alliteration blog titles :) Oh yes the Queen of the Geeks!

I'm going to ease myself into the Grow Our Own blog writing again with a little post on keeping our feathered friends happy, healthy and fat in these cold and dreary winter days. We all love it when birds come a visit our gardens  - little feisty fellows looking for scraps to take back to their nests and munch away on. My all time favourites (apart from the Robin!) are the teeny tiny Wrens - oh they are small but mighty and so bouncy :)

Anywho, I am waffling.

On Saturday I was at the RSPB NI Headquarters as a stall holder for their first ever Winter Craft Fair, you can read about it here. In a wee quiet period I ran over to the stand showing how to make Bird Cakes but the volunteers had (quite understandably) gone on a wee much need warming drink break. So I only got to take photos of the ingredients they were using and yes, they are Cheerios - who knew??.....

But clever girl that I am I logged on to the RSPB website (which is fab) and have gotten you a recipe to make sense of the whole thing> here. Oh my the birds in this pictorial guide are so happy it just makes you want to make some right now!

Funny, Andrew bought a load of fat balls a week ago so we have them out at the moment anyway, but this would be a fun and messy way to entertain kids or indeed yourself on a blustery day.

Andrew also bought a gorgeous feeder 'Egg' at the fair which you just fill with bird seed and the birds have been all over it today (apart from when I took this photo - I scared them and hadn't the patience to wait for them to come back). Plus it is so gorgeous, a little piece of sculpture in the garden that also has a use :) It's made by a company called The Nuttery and you can get them online, all different colours, I think they're lovely. Being weather resistant porcelain, aluminium and stainless steel they can stay outside all year round and can be thoroughly cleaned too = happy me.

Oh, have I shown you a little of the garden! eek, you excited, you want to see more??...come back in a couple of days ;)

For now take joy and fuzzy warmth from this.... Yes, Maggie (she's still my 'wonder dog') !!!


Friday 7 December 2012

I'm coming back :)

Tomorrow sees my last craft fair of the year with my wee business Cherry Blossom Tattoo Photography. I'm going to be at the RSPB Headquarters for N Ireland in Belvoir Park, Belfast. Hopefully I get some nice photos of the day and of the bird cakes they are making etc. I'll gather what information I can on keeping our feathered friends super duper happy through the Winter too.

Then I shall be back to lottie blogging - hurrah!!

* Though please be kind, I may not get to the actual plot for a while as it is so cold, bbrrrrrr. Blog material may be more home based*

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Revamp of 24a

Ahh sweet, sweet 24a, the first plot we had, the first plot to have a sod cut in the whole blasted gardens. Our little haven and the plot that introduced us to the marvel of Ecotherapy, the taste of non pickled beetroot, the intense hatred a person can feel for a slug. Oh 24a how you have given so much to us; many chills, blisters, stings, heartache, fruit, vegetables, laughs, friends and a blog.....

Now, 5yrs on we are making changes for the better; 24a is getting a face lift to make it look more beautiful, safer and slightly more important, productive! You deserve it.

This is what is happening..... I got A to draw the plan as being an archaeologist he does it very mathmatically and to scale and what not; as an artist I do it all freehand and like to colour things in (nothing is ever in the exact place or the exact size etc).

There's really nothing happening at the allotments for us at present. The ground is sodden and anytime there has been a good day recently we have been doing archaeology stuff instead as A. has lots on at the moment.

We would love it to be drier and then the garlic could be planted and we could continue with the improvements around the site but Mother Nature has the final say on all that sort of stuff. Plus this weekend we'll be far away in Cookstown as I do a big 2 day Christmas Craft Fair with my Cherry Blossom Tattoo Photography teeny tiny business.

Ironically the sun is shining as I write this but it's blasted well freezing and it's that sort of cold that gets into your bones and stays there for hours after you have come home, had coffee, wrapped the blanket round you, turned the heating on and started up the gas fire...I hope you are having more luck than us at present and can still get out there. I shall try to get caught up on my blog reading today :)

love and hugs xx

Monday 5 November 2012

The humble Broad Bean

No amount of hyperbole could describe my hatred of Winter. I despise and fear the damp, dark, dreary days and the cold that seeps into my very bone marrow. If I didn't already have chronic depression I know that I would be a SAD sufferer. But, and it's a big but (I like big butts and I cannot lie, hahaha), I have found a small fragile flame of hope and warmth. It's like a little candle flame way in the distance sitting low on the ground in the midst of an eerie, misty country line, but it is Hope.


Yes, new life is here, the Spring lies within these babies in the greenhouse; the promise of a happier time with more sunlight and warmth in our days and I could cry with relief at the sight.


"Au milieu de l'hiver, j'ai découvert en moi un invincible été."
  - Albert Camus
(in the depths of winter, I discovered there was in me an invincible summer)

Saturday 3 November 2012

Pomegranate Jelly!

Happiness arrived in a cardboard box last week all the way from America. I received some homemade jelly from the very beautiful and extremely generous Anne - Pomegranate Jelly. Oh my goodness, it is utterly divine. I have a new food crush *blush*

I remember it so well (I don't know why); I was about 7 and there was a lady standing in the fruit and veg aisle at the supermarket with one or 2 Pomegranates cut open to reveal those amazing little pink jewels within, she was encouraging people to try it. I was entranced, took a few seeds and popped them in my mouth - never before had I tasted anything like it and in fact I hadn't tasted that flavour again until this delicious jelly arrived.

It's a little like cranberry jelly but not, it's more fragrant and a little bit sweeter but it hits lots of spots on the tongue at once that don't usually go together in the way cranberry jelly does. I guess that's the only way I can explain it.

Oh but I am in love and Anne (angel that she is) also sent me a bag of my favourite Sweet Pea seeds 'Cupani' and some vibrant Cosmos in sunny orange, oh just perfection. I really hope they like it here in Carrick, I would love those colours in a vase together, how exciting to the eye!

So publicly I say - thank you Anne. Thank you for introducing some exotic-ism into my dull Autumn days and for giving me seeds to aid dreams about Spring and Summer 2013 - a truly priceless gift xxxx

Friday 2 November 2012

Tidying up and harvesting

You would be so proud of me last weekend when I went to the lottie on both Saturday and Sunday :) The weather was doing okay so we needed to spend time there before it's just raining all. the. time. ... November, how did it get to be November already?!

Anyway, I started off in a good mood >

And then went over to the top of 14b and saw this>

It put me in an even better mood! Hahaha, there is nothing better than constructive destruction, it's my favourite activity. This mess is our Jerusalem Artichoke row and for a while now it's just been allowed to do whatever because basically, it's way up there at the end and it's easy to pretend it belongs to someone else *blush* But no longer, I have taken ownership of the disaster area that has been 14b and it is slowly being tamed.

After :)

Plus this is all from one plant. I know! no need to screw your face up, they aren't pretty. They have a look about them that only a mother could love, well I am that mother and I love them, see their potential and will have them roasted up and eaten soon. (Disclaimer - I do not have human children but I do realise that you don't eat them)

So as always happens to me when I do a big clear out and I have my head phones on (lucky it was just me and Andrew at the plots - I was singing Emeli Sande quite loud and probably very badly indeed) I got carried away. I started pulling a few weeds up and then ended up destroying one of the worst weed patches we have ever had. Up there between 'the big bed', the compost bins and next door's shed isn't somewhere we tend to go often, especially as this year the pumpkins were in a different place, not that bed.

So I shall very happily and with a bit of pride it must be said, show you a before and after :) There is more to do but I had so many weed flowers up my nose I felt dizzy and we have also decided that we need some sort of netting fence/ windbreaker up there too so why dig it twice?

On Sunday I moved on to the bottom of 14b and ripped out the beans. Oh it was joyful to grab handfuls of bean stalks and rip, tear and pull them from their bean pole wigwams. I imagine it all looked a little horrific from afar, as if I was fighting for my life, but nope I was just having fun.
We got some Borlotti beans from the far wigwam but not much, it was a pretty disappointing year really. I have saved seed though for the first time ever off this. And Andrew has eaten a good handful in some soup and he's still alive, I think he actually likes them.
The runner beans? They all just went into the compost, seriously there are only so many a person can eat and they just kept coming and going stringy really quickly, it was a battle, they won. Though I guess I had the final say.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Fruit and Veg all over the wall

We are finally getting the kitchen decor finished up - hurrah! I have 'before' photos and some 'during' and soon enough there shall be 'after' ones too. I shall share but bare with us as the weather here is dry and the lottie calls today again. So I thought I show you some of the photos that are going up into a massive multi-aperture frame I have... I'm a proud lottie mum :)

Do you put up any of your photos of your homegrown food up on your walls?

Wednesday 24 October 2012

New seeds - new hope

Hurrah for new seeds!

I love the way gardening makes you turn into a positive, forward looking person. Here we are standing on the verge of that huge void (also known as Winter) looking into the darkness that lies ahead, the chill, the lack of sunshine and colour all round. But, as gardeners we are also planning the new crop rotation, planting those blubs that hearld spring and getting ourselves all ready for another year :)

Here is a fabulous package from Vegetable Seeds (there is a linky button on the right side) - it contains, prepare yourself...
Parsnip Tender and True Gourd Turks Turban
Calabrese Green Sprouting Sweet Corn Sweet Nugget
Leek Musselburgh Squash Sweet Dumpling
Dwarf French Bean Annabel Squash Uchiki Kuri
Climbing French Bean Blue Lake Beet Rainbow Chard

Plus we have broad beans (always Aquadulce) already planted and very impatiently we wait for that first hint of green... :)

* What are you going to try this coming year; any new adventurous plants going into your plot?

* What are your faves, that ones you just can't do without?

Friday 19 October 2012

The worst, yet I get an award?!

I have been the worst blogger known to humankind of late. I do apologise, I really haven't been well. I know I told you a little about it last time but things are truly very bad and now I am in between two different zones of mental health teams and both are asking to work with me; I am still not sure what the do-lally is going on and as a result I am slowly (ironically) getting much more ill due to the upheaval.

So I have been finding it hard to talk, walk, read and write. I have tried to take a photo every now and then but to be honest even looking outside makes me nervous never mind going out there!

Here are a few little pics of some fabulous harvests we have had though -

Yummy beetroots, runner beans, parsnips and celeriac

The last of the tomatoes ('Gardener's Delight' ~ a truly apt name)

Our only big pumpkin - now ripe and the same size as Maggie :) This shall not be carved so don't tempt me, it's the only one we have and I swear everything shall be eaten, even the seeds shall be roasted and memory of it lingered over all winter. Oh, last year we had an attic full of Pumpkins - they got quite sickening in the end :(

Apart from that the rain has scuppered any plans for work at the lotties - they are a swamp.

But! I did receive an award from my lovely friend Annuk (a jeweller and blogger). I am to link back to her at Annuk Creations and tell you 7 things about myself....ummmmm.....
  1. I am allergic to peanuts, intolerant to onions and just plan rude to mushrooms.
  2. I stood on a snail last night - yuck, it makes such a gross crunching sound and you slide on your sole at the same time.
  3. I adore roses but hate, hate, hate the smell of them (there, good to get that off my chest)
  4. I love anything to do with cute (not realistic) drawings of Unicorns :) I believe!!! haha
  5. I have size 3 feet.
  6. I am an excellent baker but I don't bake anymore because I am so good - I eat it all.
  7. I will not answer the phone unless I know who is calling - weird I know but true all the same. Phone me on my mobile and all is well, I can see the number...
There you go, terribly interesting I'm sure. Again I am sorry for the lack of blogging content this week, times are hard and my head is not a nice place to be.

Hoping you are all well and looking forward to sowing seeds, planting those bulbs, taking cuttings for next year. Yuck and *big raspberries* to Winter xxxx

Friday 12 October 2012

Strawberry clear up, sloes and death

Okay, it's late on Thursday night and I am yet again sedated for the 4th time today. Knowing that the day is almost over calms me and for a moment of two I have been quite clear in my mind. I thought it would be nice to write a blog - it's so much a part of the real me.

So, I really hope you have your strawberry beds all sorted out for the winter! Of course I would have written about this 2 weeks ago when I did mine but better late than ever. Now my plants were brand new this summer so I hadn't much to do, just cut off all the runners (goodness there were about 8-10 radiating from each plant with plenty of babies on each) and chop the top leaves off. Then I gathered up all that lovely straw (perfect for the compost bins) and weeded = happy days.

Before ~


Strawberries can be left in the same place - yay for no worries about crop rotation! If yours are 3-4 yrs old, runners are you ticket to new, tasty, hardy, FREE plants for you and all your friends. They very conveniently have little roots and are so ready to get going that you can simply let them plant themselves :) but you know, put them where you want them!! Alternately pot them up :)

Andrew also found a darn good sloe tree within Maggie walking distance and so the inevitable happened - we have started on the 2012 vintage Sloe Gin. I am quite sure that there are other things you could do with sloes but I am happy to make a tasty beverage.

And lastly for now, I must share the sad news that we have had to say farewell to another of our fancy goldfish. Awesome Fred was, just that, Awesome, hence the name but we had been very ill for months and despite all we could try for him, he was just getting worse; living upside down and recently not able to right himself or eat :( Poor guy, he has been buried with love.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

I haven't forgotten you know

Things have been bad, super horribly bad in my head since we last talked. So I am sorry I haven't been online and writing away, sharing stories and photos. I hope you will continue to wait for me and I know you will all understand.

Lots of shake ups with my mental health care team and I am so lost and up in the air :( Plus my photography has had a boost with a new camera (yay) and I am in a gorgeous shop now, so everytime I feel okay or am not sedated, I'm taking photos and trying to learn what all the fancy buttons do.

Just working on keeping myself calm and sleeping lots. Things will get better, I have hope. Big hugs to you all xxxx

Monday 24 September 2012

Paths, pruning and a pumpkin

Andrew was off for a few days (hurrah) so we got to spend some time out and about at a National Trust Estate, worked hard at the plots and also got some art up in the house - you know, all those things you really want to just get cracking on with but time (or the lack of it) gets in the way...

So the paths - I have to say that the Council still isn't doing the majority of the work they really ought to be - there are overgrown pathways at the plots still and on Saturday I took a fall :( Well Andrew and I have taken it into our own hands and the grass paths around our plot edges have been cut down to nought with shears first and then lawn mower-ed with our little old fashioned hand powered/sweat powered machine.

This strip took 2 hours alone, but on the plus side I have sore and toned arms :)

Andrew pruned back the fruit arch yesterday and found an apple up top which he ate as his reward and I cut back the blackberry (or bramble berry as I like to call it). It makes me nervous, still after all this time, to do what I call 'proper gardening'; but this was easy enough, just cutting the stems that had fruit on them this year and tracing them all the way back to the ground level. I was all eager to do the tying in of the newer stems but it's so darn fiddly and with double vision I just hadn't the patience. There were other things to be getting on with.

I am still on top of the weeding on 14b (mostly). I shall take a bow here if you don't mind - it's blasted hard work with so many untended plots surrounding us and blowing their nasty seeds onto my lovely soil.

Lastly - here is our total pumpkin harvest for the year. It wasn't the best year for us, haha. This one looks good from afar though :) They will taste lovely I know but this time last year we had an attic floor carpeted with glorious squashy -ness. Nevermind :)

 I have a photo of an amazing one on our friend's plot. I don't know what he's feeding it but it's twice the size of my head, goodness know he will lift it.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Autmn Clear Up - part 2

Oh for shame, it has taken a whole week for me to get myself in gear and show you the further fabulous adventures of the clear up, for shame indeed. Without further time wasting, here is the broccoli and kale bed makeover.

Main things - Broccoli gone, weeds gone :) Kale delicious!

This was the pea bed and some random cheeky poppies too ;) I may have had something to do with that *whistles calmly to deflect attention*. All cleared now (big good strong poles and netting saved) and looking good. Plus the mint has been planted in the huge barrel we found a few years ago washed up on the beach - grow until your heart is content Mint plant of mine :)
Really would like to point out that the mess behind the now ex-pea bed is the other part to plot 14. We have 14b, that jungle behind the wind break is 14a *rolls eyes*....

Have you pruned back your Summer Raspberries??? It's time my friends.
Cut out all those canes that had the fruit on them just leaving a few inches above ground level. Then secure those new canes that have grown this year, that rubbery twisting wire would be good but honestly we have never had any problems with good old string.
We do have a sneaky way of tying it though....
twist the string a couple of time in between the wire and the cane - it acts as a cushion so the cane isn't rubbing against the wire in the blowy winds of Winter. No need to thank me - just sharing the knowledge ;p
Finally a teaser for what is to come......
Maggie is trying to give a hint here, by placing herself exactly on this spot and letting me take her photo, she hates her photo being taken, so you know she feels strongly about this.
does that bed not look a little big to you? Seems Andrew may not know when to stop!
 Hugs, have a fab weekend xxx