Friday 31 January 2014

Goodbye January

Well it's been a rough old month of the flu and more of the flu and then a wee bit extra for luck! The weather has been appalling and quite frankly I am ready to embark on another month :)

However, this month has also brought some joy in the shape of getting back into my blogging with renewed vigour, being featured in the ever glorious Grow Your Own magazine under the Ecotherapy section, meeting loads of fellow allotmenteers on Twitter and most recently, doing a guest post over on the lovely Simon's blog spadeforkspoon.

Me on Ecotherapy in Grow your own magazine - Grow Our Own Allotment Blog
Me in 'Grow you own' magazine
Guest Post time :)
Screen grab of beginning of guest post :)

I read in The Guardian that 'the blog' is now 20 yrs old. Wow. Grow Our Own, my humble offering, is merely 5 and a half years old but the changes I have seen in those years are difficult to believe. I remember feeling completely lost and alone, not able to find other allotment bloggers for ages and now, it's possible to be hooked up to hundreds of people in no time via Twitter, allotment forums, blog directories, magazines and Pinterest to name a few. I love this virtual world and my small space within it though had I known the exposure I would have picked a bloody better name, hahaha :)

Nothing much has happened on the plots as they sodden and well, did I mention I have had the flu ;) But plans are formulating and we are just waiting for a break so we can get started.

I decided for the first time ever, to try and make a wee photo/quote poster for you, you can download it with impunity (if you want to) and stick it up in your shed :) A pressie from me to you xxx

February 2014 - Snowdrop Photo/Quote - Grow Our Own Allotment Blog

Well I'm off later to have a lovely evening stay at a posh hotel with my hubby :) That's the best sort of thing to do on a very cold, windy, rainy Friday if you ask me :) Mine's a whisky, thanks!


Wednesday 29 January 2014

Expert No-Dig Advice - A book review

Charles Dowding's Veg Journal
(published by Frances Lincoln ( | @Frances_Lincoln) 

The hype about this book by Charles Dowding has been hitting the web-asphere for a little while now and I think the praise is well deserved. I received my own copy a good while back from the lovely people at The Aurum Publishing Group but having double vision means reading is slow, plus the flu = I simply couldn't find the energy to write a review before now. But never fear dear reader, the release date isn't until February 6th so this is still a valid pre-release review :) Plus I have a coupon code for you..

So what's it like? 
Well anything that purports to make growing your own easier, helping you 'become an expert mulcher and weeder', 'produce the sweetest-smelling compost', tackle those pesky enemies and 'understand..intercropping, companion planting...and crop succession' to say the least, is good by me. Plus it has great quality photography, colourful pages, authoritative writing and feels lovely in the hand.

Shame on me, I didn't know who Mr Dowding was before this book but seems he is rather famous in the organic gardening world and is actually a pretty darn respected. The work is condensed down into a very easy to use monthly journal with checklists and step by step guides. The concept behind it all is little and often and saving yourself unnecessary and ultimately unproductive work. All of this can't be bad, right? 

Being a journal it naturally has pages left for your own notes, as many allotment books do these days, and this is great for those of us who do things and forget the details such a seed names and dates planted. Being hardback it is sturdy enough to be thrown in with the wellies etc and taken to the plot each time. However, if you're like me and have a blog for all that and a camera constantly attached to your hand you  may not need this part, hehehe.

An utter delight of a book I am happy to say :)

To order Charles Dowding's Veg Journal at the discounted price of £12.00 including p&p* (RRP: £14.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG69. 

Alternatively, send a cheque made payable to: 
Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department, 
Littlehampton Book Services, 
PO Box 4264, 
Worthing, West Sussex 
BN13 3RB. 

Please quote the offer code APG69 and include your name and address details. 
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Hugs and Love

Sunday 26 January 2014

Big Garden Birdwatch - Live!

*a tongue in cheek, fun, survey write up*
Silly Hubby birdwatching - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

We are bird lovers in this household :) Though they may steal some of our finest produce at the lottie and always got the strawberries before us (we don't grow them anymore) we have ample feeders and trees/bushes for cover in our garden, not forgetting the little fountain for water and a bath at times.

Back garden - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Back garden 2 - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Today, as we have for the last 7 years, we are partaking in the RSPBs Big Garden Birdwatch and trying to count the number of the various species that visit our back garden for a little something to nibble on. The time period is one whole hour and you have joined us after a hearty breakfast, Maggie out of the way, the seed, fat balls and peanuts topped up and coffee to hand....

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch form - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Hearty Breakfast - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

It has been 11 mins and after a feeding frenzy from the Sparrows and Tits, it has started pour down which is affecting visibility. Mamma G has just arrived and is now distracting us at the perfect moment - nothing is happening out there - plus we now have boiled cake, sausage rolls, sweet mince pies and wheaten. Mamma did her survey yesterday and it's funny to see both her and Andrew getting so excited at the great tits coming to see the egg seed feeder.

Mamma G keeps us well fed - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Our Robin is here - 28 mins late! He's here everyday all day but seems to be shy today...must be because I have my camera, birds and I don't get on.

Oh the rain has stopped and the sun is shining...umm shining right in my eyes and making it almost impossible to see the laptop screen - plus I'm in my dressing gown, it's white and reflecting - arrgh. We've decided to take a break for 15 mins anyway as Mamma has has her arm twisted and is going to have a cuppa with us :) I hope taking a break isn't against the rules!

Maggie has sneaked in and the birds don't even care in the slightest - I guess she isn't seen as a threat, haha.

Blackbird - oh goodness how I love that gorgeous yellow break in contrast to the black; they love the seed feeder that is low in the garden hidden behind the Winter Box. There's only ever one at a time in the garden, I wonder if that's normal.

Sadly we are at the end of the hour and no really exciting finds, no peregrine falcon (a pair live nearby) and no pheasants (from the big estate) nor did we have a visit from the long tailed tits, they will probably come now, such is our luck.

So, Andrew is now filling in the online form - the RSPB is awesome and fully embraces technology so there are no goodly reasons not to take part! They are on twitter @Natures_Voice and this is the birdwatch webpage..

 I shall simply list the results here...

Did you take part, were you one of the 136,000+ people who did (so far)?? Any interesting results?

Hugs and love

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Just resting; waiting...

I'm one of those people who feels they really ought to be doing something constructive at all times, every day, all day. It gets to the point where I can't sleep due to the things that I could be doing, should be doing... I'm my own worst enemy. I know I have rather poor mental health and I know that my medication makes me tired and the constant fights with those demons in my head leave me confused and exhausted but...Well it wasn't until I caught this cold/ manflu from Hades that I finally (its been months in coming) let myself rest.

'Let myself rest', ummm, that's a complete lie; I was forced to rest, body and mind. I have found over the past weeks and particularly since Sunday that I am weaker than water and yesterday I slept until 5pm. PM my friends!!

But as I lay there in bed last night I thought about it and realised that it was a blessing in disguise (as a lot of blessings are); I'm feeling more peaceful in my noggin and a little more willing to listen to my body. One golden thing about all this resting is that in closing my eyes I can see for miles... I can see into the past and think of what the future could hold....

Anyway, this all leads me into a beautiful segue into the recent package that come through our door.

Seeds! Lots of seeds :)

Joy upon joy, hundreds of little specks of HOPE landed with a small thud on the hall floor. They too are listening to their inner selves in a way, they are sleeping too and preparing for better days ahead. Nature always has the answer... it's miserable outside, there is little happiness to be found in the constant rain and cold, very little happiness to be found in the flu....maybe we all need a little hibernation or at the very least, to slow down.
Veggie Seeds 1 - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment blog 2014

Veggie Seeds 2 - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment blog 2014

I've written this up as a list and added a new page up the top so you can see as anytime what exactly we have chosen this year. Naturally this list will get much longer and I haven't even ordered my flowers or all the other things we need :)

Happy Photo ~

Confession time - I have been up for hours; showered, cleaned the en suite and then steam cleaned the en suite, put washing on, vacuumed upstairs and have already been writing this for over an hour!! I am such a hypocrite and will probably never get better at this rate! Plus the fact that the hall still hasn't had it's second coat of paint and it's driving me bonkers - I need to strap myself to a seat.


Thursday 16 January 2014

Signs of hope and happiness

As you may remember, last Saturday I wrapped up as warm as I could and went to the lottie to see for myself the glory of the horse manure delivery. (Who in their right mind ever gets to write a sentence like that!) Anywho, I was suffering with the flu and didn't want to just stand about whilst Andrew shovelled some into the compost heap (see below) so I took myself off for a wee dander round our field (Field A - the first and best, haha, I'm biased).
steaming horse poop - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Naturally I started with a walk through 24a to get to the path out. Goodness I love Kale and the 3rd pic is off a little glass globe style thingy on a pole :)
Kale in the winter sunlight - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

More yummy healthy Kale - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Glassy, globe like abstractness - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

So this was the first time I had my good camera out with me for a long time; these are just some photos I liked, searching out moments that spoke to me and trying to capture them 'in camera' (ie. no computer effects used). This year I really do want explore that side of myself again - hopefully the blog will benefit :)

Let's fly, let's fly away - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Things just want to grow, given half a chance! - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Much work to be done - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

So much joy in such a small thing - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Finally back at our plots and this is all I am willing to share of the disgraceful 14b. A wilderness if ever there was one and somewhere that is soon to be attacked, once I get over this flu. There are fabulous plans in the making for this half plot - so far our work hasn't quite paid off over there but we are determined.

Rhubarb poking through - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Artichoke somewhat past it's best now - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

A little duo of happiness, two blue anemones  - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

 Back then on 24a and I thought these were pretty cool; naturally freeze dried raspberries. Oh and two suicidal gnomes - sad, so sad....

Freeze dried raspberries on the plant - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Suicidal gnomes - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

Hope your day is going well, better than the guys above, that's for sure! We just got a packet full of packets of seeds through the letterbox :) Andrew ordered some vital items, we'll also pick some fun new things together. I'm going to let him open the packet and see everything first. So much happening and people think Winter is a dead boring time to be a gardener!

I just ran out into the back garden with my hot water bottle and saw that YES the Snowdrops are through and starting to open :) Happy signs indeed :)


Monday 13 January 2014

What a pile of horse ****

Poo! Of course that is what I meant ;)

Andrew is lucky enough to know a fabulous (almost never ending) supplier of horse manure via work and it's only up the road. So, as they didn't want all of the mountain of the poo they had, we got a big roasting hot, steaming pile of it delivered right to our plot on Saturday. Two happier allotment holders you never did see!

'Grow Our Own' allotment blog

Even with the flu ( and boy I am suffering big time this year to the point of having the posh hankies with balsam in them) I simply had to go and see it for myself. Is that wrong?? I'm not generally scatological but come on people! If you read this blog you are bound to know how utterly glorious good rotting manure is to a gardener. Now Andrew, well he is a bit more obsessed than I and excitedly exclaimed that I 'must stick my hand into the pile just to feel how hot it is'....maybe its because I'm a girl, maybe its because I'm sane, I don't know, but I passed on that one. I don't feel I've missed out.

'Grow Our Own' allotment blog

But I did find that I was a little too overcome with giddiness and pride, maybe that was the fever. No one else was around and the light was perfect so I am so glad I had grabbed my 'proper' camera on the rush out of the house = photo time :) Yes I am the sort that revels in taking pics of even the crappiest moments (literally in this case), so is the you follow me or him on Twitter? We had a chat about this pile of poo quite openly on Twitter before I got a chance to visit - exciting yeh? No shame, eh?
I'm am also extremely grateful for my Christmas pressie wellie socks which I wore. Such cosy tootsies and legs, and super sexy...obviously :)
Sassy Socks on Etsy (welly socks) - Grow Our Own
Seem my camera lens steamed up on return to the house - I only noticed this now as my glasses had steamed up too

I took some more photos of around the field which I'll share later..

Saturday 11 January 2014

Apples and Whisky

I remember telling you we got rid of the fruit arch way back at the start of December and thus lost our 2 pears, 2 apples and 2 plums, sad times. But we did get 2 new apple trees and I mean NEW as they are the Ecklinville Apple (or Echlinville, if you prefer), recently released for us commoners at a garden center in Co. Down. It's all rather an exciting tale to tell if you're a history geek like myself and my hubby :)

What?! They've spelt it wrong??
Well now, this story all stems from the rather powerful and influential Bishop of Down and Conor in the early 1600s; Robert Echlin. He was originally from Fife in Scotland and more than likely had another estate in Co. Down. His descendants built a lovely grade B1 listed house in acres of gorgeous land during the 18th and 19th centuries and it is still there today. Only now it's a whisky distillery which I think we shall just have to visit :) Anywho, that estate is where the Echlin Ville apple tree was reared and still thrives today.

The bit I like the best is that Bishop Echlin also had a 'bishop's palace' quite close to our allotments in Kilroot. Check out my super cool map :)

It's only recently that we heard about the tree being available for purchase and we knew it was the one for us (or two for us, as Andrew got money off in return for a wee history lesson given to the owner of the nursery!) Now they're planted I can't wait for the fruits, I really must start a Pinterest page dedicated to all things cooking apple - eek!

planting an apple tree (pt1)  - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment blog

planting an apple tree (pt2)  - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment blog

As they are going to be trained as espaliers Andrew lopped off a good bit of the stem and put in training wires as you can see above. A great wee tip when tying your tree stems to wire is to make sure there are a good few twists of the twine between the plant and the metal or you will get lots of rubbing = damage to your new favourite trees.

I just thought you might like to know that wee story.. funnily enough the idea for me telling you about it came to be a couple of days ago whilst eating an Egremont Russet Apple (one of the ones we had to dispose of - oh it was delicious!)
Egremont Russet Apple - 'Grow Our Own' Allotment Blog

And just to round this whole blog post off...I am having a medical whisky, hehehe - it's a Talisker 10.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

looking both ways

I've been dragged through a hedge backwards, tangled up in the brambles, scratched and aching on this, the other side. Seems the Holidays have taken their toll once again on my mental health and winter has given me the beautiful gift of the cold and enough phlegm to fill a swimming pool (yes that is an utterly disgusting vision but true). All the begging in the world, all the fist shaking at the sky has been in vain as I have endeavoured to be cheery, to take many photos and make memories, share time with my friends and be present in the moment. This time of year and I simply don't get on.

I have a wonderously clear view of myself now, with all this...I'm a bulb. Well, at least I would like to be a bulb, hiding deep down (at least twice my height in depth) underground, warm and snug in the darkness whilst the rest of the world gets on with things, only ready to emerge after the winter. Rather like a poster I once saw ..'life begins after coffee', for me 'life seems to begin after winter' hahaa. My ability to live, write, create and fight my depression all comes with a dependency on Vitamin D (i.e.sunshine) accompanied by a free and easy approach to socialisation (no long, internal struggles with what I ought to be doing). 

However, we did have a lovely little Christmas, please don't get me all wrong. Yes, it was difficult and emotional and such like but Andrew and I spent it together and that was perfect. Breakfast was lingered over and consisted of cava with cranberry juice (and berries) in it and homemade pancakes with crispy pancetta = yum!

Parsnips have been the best thing about Christmas and the days after. Oh my! I knew the 'tender and true' wouldn't let us down even though they looked rather ugly; taste is what matters and they are bursting with parsnip-y goodness. We had them roasted and mashed with carrot, mashed with potato, mashed with carrot and potato and fried as little cakes...can't get enough. Somehow leftovers are even more enjoyable than the main meal itself and they go on for days, just add Cranberry sauce and away you go :)
Our Christmas Dinner - Grow Our Own
P.S. the stuffing balls had our own leeks in it, yep, proud veggie grower here :)

It's hilarious but I got a pink leather tool belt from Andrew as one of my presents! Funny how a man's mind works sometimes; I laughed until my throat ached but then saw that it wasn't a joke gift and he had actually thought I would get a lot of use out of it and love it. I shall use it on the plot but, well, you know...tool belts aren't famously a girls' best friend, hehehe. My dear friend also got me an allotment related gift in the shape of gorgeous hand knitted (and again, pink) wellie socks! I can't wait to use them, they are so warm and soft. I think both gifts would benefit from being shown off whilst in action...await further pictures ;)


So now we try to look to the future and the first of the seed catalogues has arrived :) The plot is soaked through which is kind of good - takes the guilt out of our hands as we can't do anything, rather than we can't be bothered to do anything. Oh we have plans, many plans and I am determined to be more of a fixture there this year, I think that and not being such a bully to myself are my only resolutions. Though they are ones I make every year...

Love and hugs to you all