Friday, 26 September 2014

Having a nosey at other plots

Our field is always so quiet that it sometimes feels that any work done must be that of fairies or leprechauns (though we all know they are cheeky and rambunctious, so probably not them). Often I'm amazed when I take a dander around that plants are growing and thriving as they are; though more often my true suspicions are confirmed - few plot holders are bothering.

I love to nosey around, always seeing something on another's plot of interest and I am overjoyed to say that new people have moved in to the plot beside us (14a) and clearance has well and truly started there too.

Isn't it fabulous that we plot holders all get the same amount of land yet not one person does the same thing with theirs! Each plot, each half plot is a slice of someone's personality and circumstances.

So here are just a few photos from around field A that caught my eye last weekend....

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Almost everyone has at least one birdhouse - this makes me very happy

 A love for sunflowers and marigolds
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What a fantastic colour to see all over the field at this time of year

The different states of plots at present
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Abandoned; dug over and covered for winter; still producing (and this one oh so neat!)

Moments of love 
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Such love has gone into painting this shed; Andrew being romantic *blush*; letting the birds share your table

I love these sort of little vignettes and I hope you do too, there will be less of them as the winter comes along and many people decide it's too cold/damp/dreary to go to the plots at all.
Love and hugs for your upcoming weekend!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Starting over or...

* Personally - I've been falling down a lot (metaphorically) recently and the allotment has not been a place of much therapy; life has seemed harder and more cruel in the past days, especially at the weekend and I just feel I would rather sleep all the time than have to face reality.
BUT...still I get up every day and I try. I try to read, to clean, to be alive to the beauty in the world.

* In Allotment terms -  The work on 14b has well and truly begun. Andrew has decided this is going to be his challenge and he's already made a lot of headway. You know I have been so ashamed of the place that never a photo is taken but this is where we are at at present. (Well, after I took this the apple tree was disposed off too and the digging began).
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top of 14b - the big cultivated area is where the squash bed was, the rhubarb will be staying 
I'll get Andrew to draw me a 'proposed plan' for the space; I'll share it when he gets round to it.
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Stunning sunflower on 14b
I think it's all down to Autumn, that time of year when there is work to be done; that sort I like to call 'constructive deconstruction'. There are plants to be lifted, finished crops to be cleared and bare soil is once again seen, leaving us with fresh thoughts of the future. Composting goes into overdrive with all the last grass cuttings and plants now past it; this is the time we get horse manure from the stables and everything seems to take on a glow, a radiance that suggests yes winter is coming but with cosy nights and chances to dream. The fact that the compost heap is warm to the touch is quite magical too.
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Horse manure on left, general compost heap on right with compost bin in front (why?...I don't know)

The early nights are coming in and the skies recently have been beautiful, we've seen a few from the plots, whether we are still working there or simply taking Maggie for a walk. We're also eating those delicious pumpkins and lots of beetroot - growing your own ties you into the seasons and these food stuffs feel like such a treat right now.

Our turnips were a bit of a disaster and we let them get too big, too woody and bug eaten. I lifted them all and said goodbye. I have to say though that it was a joy to see that area cleared and I got all those blasted big weeds too. As we look back over the year, we are learning (we are always learning) about the space we use for various crops and how 2 courgette plants are more than enough for us, we need to grow less potatoes too as we have had way too many, soft fruits do not work well for us (though we have a plan) and we really want to try asparagus again...see, the bare soil can be exciting.

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Really disgusting rotten turnip; a whole wheelbarrow of unuseable turnips; weeds and a sneaky carrot!
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before and after
I shall add my photos now, I think I have waffled enough. It's simply one of those days were I so want to talk to you but my mind is just wandering. In the next days I will have some little vignettes from around the field too, I hope you stay tuned for that.

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Maggie laughing :)
Love and hugs
Your Carrie

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Squash Harvest from 14b

The plot of shame (aka 14b) has had some good wee harvests over the year so far, it can not be denied. We got a good load of rhubarb, gooseberries and many bunches of flowers. Had we been more proactive there were also red currants and artichokes but still...

The latest crop came in the form of some very lovely winter squashes - Crown Prince, the blue/grey skinned ones, two Sweet Dumplings and a juvenile Butternut Squash

I'll share what we do with them when the time comes but for now they are simply resting and hardening off in the shed.

Apart from that I cut myself a bunch of rudbeckias and did a lot of weeding. Andrew took down the string bean wigwam and composted the remains - he loves composting; the compost heap is already heating up!!

We stayed until the sun was going down, the plots so still and quiet, eerily so if it hadn't have been for that sky...

We were there last night for a walk and saw teenagers camping there at the bottom of field B. Not so sure that is allowed! We also spoke to Jim and he was telling us there has been some upsetting trouble around - kids lifting prize pumpkins and smashing them on the roads. It makes me feel sick to think that that simple joy of growing the biggest orange-ist pumpkin for your kids could be destroyed in seconds - people can be so cruel.

Anywho, not much of a post but really, it's all been weeding and that isn't terribly exciting to write about.

Love and big hugs
Carrie x

Friday, 12 September 2014

How to make Sloe Gin

A tasty winter tipple to liven the soul and set the throat on fire; sipping a wee sloe gin is becoming a little yearly ritual in our lives. We have a secret place where sloes are found but I shall say nothing more; one must guard one's source with one's life! It's every exciting collecting them and this year (after a woeful crop last autumn) they were big, juicy and hard to reach with many a big thorn on the gnarled branches = battle scars, giggles and feeling like eejits :)

Now before I go any further I must say that sloe gin is to drunk in small quantities, lingered over whilst preparing a roast for the oven, watching a christmas-y film. It is strong and I even bought the correct tiny antique glasses for the very occasion 2 years ago. Drink this responsibly, please! 

It's become fashionable again I fear as some of the big names in gin manufacturing have ready made bottles for sale now. But, this is how you are meant to do it - seasonally, with fun and patience - don't go for that premade muck, please. There's another point to be made; it has a very medicinal, earthy taste quite like a cough mixture so be forewarned, you may go through all this and end up hating it :)

So this is the perfect time for sloes - you usually get them September and October and they look like this...

Amounts needed:

  • 450g sloes
  • 750ml gin
  • 275g sugar

1 - You need to pick as many as you can, really get stuck in there and possibly have a friend to help.
2 - Take them home and put them in the freezer overnight - this makes the skins burst a bit = more favour.
3 - Simply put the sloes into a sterilised litre sized glass air tight container
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4 - Add sugar
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5 - Pour lashings of gin in (see amounts) and close lid!
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I should play with exposures between photos *blush*
6 - Mix it all up by gently tiping and swirling the bottle.
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You really ought to leave it to mix for as long as possible and every day, for the weeks at least, you need to jiggle that bottle to release all the flavour. It will be drinkable in time for Christmas and could even be a lovely gift.

N.B. The longer you can leave it, the more syrupy it tastes. Plus, even when the gin is gone the alcoholic sloes ought out to go to waste. With their strong earthy syrupy taste they are fabulous cooked with lamb etc

Hugs and Love

Enjoy your weekend xx

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Back to plot after 4 weeks!

Oh lordy bless us all but that was a bloomin' terrible bout of the flu and depression and bad weather which all added up to a month (a month!) away from the hard graft of the plots. Andrew had visited often to harvest (plenty of beans and courgettes and even sweetcorn cobs) but really it was never more than that.

So this is what I was confronted with on Saturday morning, but to be honest I thought it would be worse; the sun was shining and there wasn't another person in our field so it wasn't that awful :)

Andrew needed to get a few supplies and so as he quickly ran away again (haha), I cut the grass and started into the leek bed which was coming down with thistle, dandelion and nettle seedlings. I got all those blighters out and more besides using my wooden board, my trusty trowel and a dutch hoe.
It's a real shame these grass cutting photos don't show off the work better, it's the shadow from the netting that ruins it. Oh and say goodbye to the marigolds, there wasn't a leaf between all those flowers and the stems were burnt to a crisp.

So when Andrew came back I was lost amongst the leeks and had my headphones on = jumpy moment :) He had gotten his gardening bits and bobs but also a new lead for Maggie. With this one we were finally giving her more freedom with a stake in the ground and two leads linked together so she could have a wee run. Her training has been a little too good though, haha, she just sits there beside the shed as always and doesn't move. I hope to change that though.

Andrew's big job for the afternoon was clearing out the broad beans and then getting excited and rearranging the compost bins. I swear this man is in love with compost! From three bays and a black bin we now have two and the black bin. He seems very happy and who am I to take that from him? It looks delightful, unnecessary maybe to it that day, but hey....

Here is the kale for winter looking super at the moment; the birds aren't getting to it and there aren't any caterpillars in there either - hurrah!! for now. Our broccoli has suffered though as we used this very netting system over them and though the birds couldn't get in, there were caterpillars galore in there already and they have destroyed most of the leaves (though I have hope the plants will recover). Bum, you try to stop one predator from stealing your food and another gets a free ride!!

But the happiest thing of all is the harvest right? Here is just some of what we took home. I had wimped out by this stage and was sleeping on my feet - it was the first physical work I'd done since the flu ended. So I got these few items photographed then took myself and Maggie to the car. Andrew also brought a big bag of courgettes, blue dwarf french beans and what I think could be the penultimate harvest of french beans.

Love and Hugs for another day.
Tomorrow is a fun post about an adult beverage you could get out there and make for yourself too if you hurry ;)

Carrie xx

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Reacquaintance with Field A

Boy it's been a really long time since I took a walk around the plots on our field, though as you know, it's also been a really long time since I have been on the field at all.

Well I went on Saturday and Sunday there and it was, for the most part, okay. I still felt extremely weak and tired from the flu but it was a joy to get back to our plot and see the changes. I will talk of 24a tomorrow and show pictures of our harvests etc but today I thought I'd ease us all back in with some photos of random scenes around Field A (A for awesome, hahaha)

Starting with the plot of shame, our shame, 14b....
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Cosmos still going well, apples on the tiny 'family tree', a pumpkin 'Crown Prince', artichoke flower
 Walking over to the opposite side of the plots...
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Seriously, if I rolled up in a ball I would be the same size as this pumpkin!; nasturtiums in the compost; amazing display of sweet peas; a pretty darn run down shed :(
 Way over at the opposite side, wow, it had been so long...
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cameleon (not native); grapes on the vine; rather abandoned plot but still has beauty; hops :)

The return walk to 24b....
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So I hope we all feel more acquainted with the place again and tomorrow I'll focus on our 24a, just don't talk to me about 14b for a while (a few months would be good).

Love and hugs

Friday, 5 September 2014

Sarah Raven's 'Cutting garden journal'

Over the past week or more I just haven't given a damn. I push myself to make things and to try and do bits of housework but in actual fact all I want to do is sleep. The flu, depression, constant anxiety and self hatred take it out of a girl. I'm exhausted.

One thing that has helped is the lovely book I was sent to review on cut flower gardening. Not too much reading, gorgeous photography, plans, projects and inspiration for next year's 14b flower patch.

I may have fallen in lust with this fabulous Sarah Raven's 'Cutting Garden Journal'. Sarah is a goddess of all things cut flower and I just love that she has written a easy, go to book helping people like me to be more confident in her area of expertise.

First off, it is an absolute joy to the senses; the touch of the paper, the layout, the photography. It is sort of a cross between a coffee table book and a how to manual, so stylish but full of great know how and precise instructions.

For us it is going to be a guide to getting our beds right and full of exactly the right plants. Raven even tells you the best variety of the best plants to grow; how to grow them, where they'll grow best and how long the stems should be cut for the best look!

This is the saviour of 14b (yes we were talking about it again, keep it or get rid....). Now we can have the room we want for vegetables and such but know exactly how much room my flowers need too.

A great book to look over again and again, especially now the dull darker days are creeping in.
It was released yesterday, so now you can rush out and get your copy ;)

Hugs and Love