Writing Projects: Watch this space

 

As well as sowing seeds, there are a couple of writing projects that are waiting in weeks for different points of this year. All being well, these will available in March/April and then in December. There is a cook book pencilled for somewhere in the middle!

‘Retreating to Peace’ sees me work alongside a smashing group of indie authors on the Peace Series. You can find details here about the authors involved.

Sowing Aubergines

Very brief update today. Have finally got around to sowing aubergines. I have sown Black Beauty which is the traditional, purple skinned variety, as well as Clara, which is a white skinned variety.

I’ve not had much success with sowing and growing aubergines. The one time that I did have a fruit, the plants were called Black Prince and were rescued from a garden centre. I am going to remain undaunted and try again. These seeds are being popped into the heated prop and all being well, we shall see the seedcases crack and seedlings appear.

More Bollywood than gardener!

It’s been such a long time since I last donned anything remotely bollywood. I was feeling a bit wistful, and remembering some of the outfits that I have worn. These are three saris that I loved wearing and are rather special to me. Purple, as my favourite colour. Pink and polka dots was something of a vintage look, and a green one that I could just about breathe in.

 

No, I don’t wander down the plot wearing these. Wouldn’t go with the red wellingtons, now would they!

 

Don’t buy me roses….#gdnbloggers

Fellow blogger Sara Venn talks about what flowers mean to us in her recent blog on the The Physic Blogger and brings the fore the British Flower Industry.

A week tomorrow, it is the Feast Of Saint Valentine. For some it is  brilliant, a day of unbridled slush where there are hearts, roses and bottles of prosecco all over the shop. For others, it will no doubt be just another Tuesday (Guess which camp I fall into….)

There will be lots of roses. In all sorts of different colours, scents and pretty packaging. It is hard to imagine Valentine’s Day without roses. Though if we are savvy enough; if we try to create social change and move from minority towards majority views, we might be able to change the traditional flower for something else.

How about a dandelion?

The things get everywhere; are fairly robust, hard to get rid of and turn up when you least expect.

Don’t suppose that reminds you of love and romance?

Well, it could, if we changed our thinking patterns.

I joke, and say don’t buy me roses.

Buy me diamonds instead. (Ethical ones, please, thank you.)

And why?

Lemme show you.

 

Those weren’t flown in from the African Continent. Those were plugged into the clay of my allotment over the course of years and have become an established part of my allotment. One half the allotment, has an avenue of roses that are interspersed with fruit trees. In high summer-it does sometimes turn up, yes-that half smells amazing! Then, it comes to dead heading and having cut flowers at home. I have tried-and failed-to tot up how much each bouquet-and it’s usually one every nine days-might cost. It is difficult to put a price on those bouquets, least of all because of the intrinsic value. I love my roses, they make me smile, and remind me that whilst some days can be really quite shoddy, something thorny, can produce something wonderful.

floraltruggladrose2016

IMG_4916
pretty blooms

 

As you can see, I do like my roses. They do mean a lot to me, especially as they are home grow with love and care.

Don’t buy me roses, diamonds are in short supply.

Give me seeds and you might just bowl a maiden over.

Moonshine and Mooli pods #gdnbloggers

There are two parts to this blog post. The first involves the stash of home brewed wine that is developing rather nicely.

 

Today, I have bottled up a batch of Rhubarb and currant wine. This has been lingering for sometime and was brewed in August last year. One of many different varieties, the batch was racked off into small bottles, wrapped up and stowed away. When bottled, it was actually transparent-you could see right through it, and there was little or no sediment left behind. Like all the others, this batch has been wrapped up in brown paper so that it doesn’t fade.  I have taken a quick inventory, and we do have something of a stash developing. To date, we have bottled up:

  • Strawberry wine
  • Blackberry, plum and currant
  • Rhubarb and Currant

There is apple wine, blackberry and mixed berry and Rhubarb and goosebery left to do later in the year.

Most of the wine is transparent on racking, and you can see right through it. It is only through repeated racking that you get wine that is completely see through whilst keeping it’s natural colour. As the wines are so varied, they will need to be stored and allowed to  mature sufficiently. I have to say though, that the blackberry ones are a rather nice claret colour that does look rather proper! There id definitely more than one way to preserve alloment produce, and Petal plonk isn’t too bad at all.

That’s the home brew developments today. Then come the mooli pods. Mama F has found some Mooli pods-these are seed pods from bolted radiishes-in the freezer.

Very simple to make, Mama F created a sauteed base of onions, garlic and ginger before adding the mooli pods, tomatoes and potatoes. We might not have got any radishes, but the seed pods are edible and you can see use the produce that you do get quite effectively.

Chillies on the Sill #gdnbloggers

Bit of an update for you. I have just potted up four additional baby chillies.

You can also find the video here.

As you can see there are quite a few pots and not an awful lot of window sill space. These will no doubt find themselves shuffling around the house before settling into the poly tunnel sometime during June/July. There are three varieties of chilli that have been sown; jalepeno, cayenne and purple haze.

I will keeping an eye on these on the coming weeks as it is still rather cold and light levels are yet to increase. For now, the seedlings are growing slowly, and I don’t mind that. Taking their time, the seedlings can establish in their pots and gradually become stronger. Chillies need a long growing season and the early stages of development are important for the growing season to eventually be productive.

With the chillies now on the window sill, the next job is it sow aubergines and tomatoes. I am likely to sow the aubergines first and then tomatoes a few weeks later. They are part of the same family, and neither should be sown too early. I really don’t fancy gangly, leggy seedlings that keel over and another set have to be sown. Mama F did actually ask this morning if I had baby aubergine varieties, and pootled off to check the seed catalogues. I’ve not had much success with home sown and grown aubergines. I have got the odd flower, but not fruit. Every year, I debate as to whether or not I will sow them, this year was no different. I suspect Mama F and I will end up competing, trying to grow them in two different plots. With Mama F then competing with her sister-last year, my aunt managed to grow an aubergine, and there was excitement-so you can imagine the drama.

There is half a plan now as to how the growing season might start this year. Before long,  I will be thinking about beans, squashes and things. There are so many things that I need to double check before things kick off and properly.

In the meantime, I will be keeping an eye on the seedlings, and hoping that they don’t keel over!

Magic Squares and Chillies #gdnbloggers

The chillies have had something of a spurt; with the low light levels and lack of direct heat, they have become leggy. When leggy, seedlings stretch towards a source of heat and light, stretching upwards and being at risk of keeling over. This can be quite disheartening when you really want seedlings to grow.

Of the forty something seeds grown-scotch bonnet yellow, purple haze, cayenne, jalapeno and purple haze-we have approximately 15 seedlings that are some wiry, tall and gangly. I would rather they didn’t keel over. so I have decided to pot them up today. Using multi-purpose compost and some 7cm pots, chillies are being made a little more comfortable.

 

You can also find the video here

For me, this is the first transplanting. There may be another pot change, before they end up in their final pots in a at least three months time-ish. After that, any surviving plants will live-hopefully-in the poly tunnel. As you can imagine, this is something of a lengthy process, and we are only at the very start of the growing season.

Currently. the weather-in Britain, at least-is fairly hit and miss; it is cold outside. I, like many other Britons, scraped frost off the car windscreen this morning. This directly impacts upon all the tiny, dainty seedlings that might have already taken up space upon the window sill. I am keeping my chilli seedling away from the window pane. They will still get light, they-hopefully-will have some protection against the drop in night time temperatures.

With the heated prop empty, I have sown an emergency batch of about a dozen cayennes; it all felt a little thin on the ground. I shall monitor these over the next week to see what happens with them

So, seeds have been sown, they have germinated and grown. I like that feeling of new beginnings, as we look forward to the new growing season. I have written before, that allotmenteering and GYO both impact upon mental health; for me, that is really important. Least of all, because I teach about it, I am a trained listener and currently enrolled on a Diploma for Humanistic Counselling; the plot has a profound effect on me, my wholeness and the way I view the world. It all helps me to obtain mindfulness and improves my mental health.

You may have seen that I rather like colouring. I also knit.

Couldn’t be more different from gardening, could it?

For the last year, a knitting project has been on pause.

blankettwo.jpg

With the chillies adjusting to their new pots, I quite fancy a couple of hours revisiting knit one, purl one.

 

blanketone.JPG

Spicing up #Bluemonday #Gdnbloggers

Apparently it’s blue Monday; the one day of the year that is really quite miserable and not so nice to experience. I guess there will be many for whom, today is awful and there may not be much sunshine to light gloomy clouds. I am currently sat here, working on diploma work as School Work Sunday slides into Monday; but I did find something to take away the tinge of Monday blues.

fourchillies

“Punam, I saw some leaves in your box.”

Those were Mama F’s exact words this morning as I tumbled out of bed. (School work Sunday was really  quite intense, and topped off by the Sherlock Finale, I felt as though I had watched a penalty shoot out this morning. Yes, we do like Sherlock…cute, clever-one hell of  brain-and completely unobtainable. He makes a good book boyfriend!)

Having been told that there were leaves in my box, naturally I had to go find out what the deal was. I have fished them out and set them onto the window in food bags.  I am keeping a close eye on them, so that they don’t keel over. The danger lies in them becoming leggy with a lack of light. I think I have officially ruled out any yellow scotch bonnets appearing, as well as Nigel’s outdoor chilli.

Oh, there was a video! Hold on….

That was uploaded yesterday, onto the youtube channel, hopefully it will develop in the coming year.

Anyway. This blue monday business. If you are feeling blue, then I am sending you sunshine. I am also hoping, that someone might send you a text, make you a cuppa, or send you a smile and hug. You are not alone; even when the darkness feels heavy and as though it will not lift, there is always something. That something is you.

You are never alone.

 

Here.

Hope is a chilli seedling #gdnbloggers

chilliseedling120117.JPG

It is the very early days of January, and as I type snow is falling but landing as slush. In spite of this, seedcases are cracking and the unfurling of seed leaves is being observed as we have germination.

Possibly as I moved the heated prop from one side of the house to the other.

There had been some hand wringing as a week on from initial sowing, not a lot was happening. I double checked the prop, made wet those pellets that were drying out and moved the whole thing.

Expectantly, I have be checking the prop regularly to see results. It was only this morning that I saw the seedling above. I was aware that seedcases had cracked and in most cases; the heated prop is rather full. This is probably not helping things heat up quickly.

But there is a tiny, delicate looking cayenne seedling that has made it’s way into the world. What we do next, is to give it another day or so and then it will be fished out and kept somewhere warm and light. Else it will shrivel up and it really will be Goodnight, Vienna. In the absence of grow lights, I will be having a good think as to where this might be and hoping that I am able to protect this and any other seedling that might appear from cold temperatures. This occur even indoors, when seedlings are kept near a window. They get light and warmth during the day, but the windows still radiate cold when the night falls.

As delicate and dainty as this seedling might look, this seedling represents a new start. A new start on plot, with the hope that things will be productive this year with last year being something of a grey spell. I will keep an eye on the heated prop, hopefully there will be a few more to keep this one company.

 

To talk tomatoes #gdnbloggers

It’s okay, I am not thinking about sowing them; it is still too early, and I am inclined to wait at least another four weeks before I start sorting out runners and riders. Even then, I will be thinking about tomatoes and their sixth cousin, the aubergine. For now, I am thinking and reflecting on what might be whilst taking stock of what has already been experienced on the plot.

In 20 16, thirty two plants made it passed the initial seed and germination stage. Think these were sown in late february-most likely started off in the heated prop-as by March, the seedlings had already sent out their baby seed leaves and were about to send out their frilly first true leaves. These were then pampered and kept safe at home on a window sill so that the might establish and be sufficiently robust enough to be planted out. As you can see, we had a fair bit of fruit. Trouble is, very few turned red on the vine. In addition, there were fairly early blight warnings that led to plants being stripped of fruit and cast aside before it struck. Blight struck tomatoes are not particularly pleasant to look at; a putrid shade of puce and stomach turning. This has meant that much of the crop is ripened at home, somewhere warm and light. Ripening does happen eventually, it just takes some time to get going.

You’d think a red tomato was a red tomato. On the contrary, there are  many different varieties, each with their own unique qualities that determine productivity, attractiveness to the taste buds and what you might eventually do with the end product. Not all tomatoes are red, and I have sown and grown some rather nice yellow ones as well. Also, you get the odd ugly one that is really quite amusing. Doesn’t look particularly attractive, but that does nothing to hamper the taste. Food becomes that more interesting when it’s not perfect, but beautifully ugly. You can still eat it after all, there is no supermarket or political mandate as to how your fruit and veg might look. Wonky, uglu fruit and veg is something to shout about and not to be dismissed. (Trust me, I once wondered why I had curly beans; turns out they were never straight to begin with.)

The very first variety that ever tried was a cherry tomato called ‘Minibel’ and that was a fairly simple, straight forward introduction to growing tomatoes. Since then, I have decided to experiment and sown quite a few different varieties. Such as:

  • Latah
  • Money maker
  • Gardeners delight
  • Cream sausage
  • Tigerella
  • Marmade
  • Aisla Craig
  • black cherry
  • Yellow Stuffer
  • Brandywine
  • Shirley.

And those are the ones that I can remember, there is probably a list somewhere. These have been used in salads, Indian dishes; I even made a sage and tomato soup that was rather nice. I am still a little curious about beefsteak varieties though; I rather like marmande with it’s tendency to be sizeable with rather intriguing green shoulders. Brandywine tomatoes are something that I might look into a little further; these take time and with mega-bloom like flowers the development of fruit is somewhat delayed; that or I like something of a quick response when it comes to tomatoes. I have definitely noted the lower yield with these as well; it is much lower than other varieties and I suspect this is why I haven’t made many sowings in recent years.

It would be entirely odd to not have tomatoes on the allotment. I tend to transplant them into raised beds, occasionally they might get plugged into the open ground. I do find however, that productivity is somewhat hampered with the clay, so raised beds are a safer, more equitable bet. I did try transplanting into the poly tunnel; alas, that was a learning curve. We had triffids, yes, but not many tomato fruit. So back we went outside with all subsequent tomato growing.

As mentioned above, there are no plans to sow any tomatoes yet. The heated prop is currently full, and I am going to wait a short while. This allows me to have a look at the tomato seeds and see which ones are going to be sown. Marmade may well feature, but I also fancy trying Roma VF alongside.  I have not sown and grown this variety before, and a request was made by a sibling that we could try a plum variety.

We can talk tomatoes, but we’re not sowing them just yet.

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