Seeing sights and souped up

The summer holidays are over, Petal and I have done our adventuring, real life will be resumed shortly. A week spent afar, relaxing, writing and going slightly crispy has come to an end. There was some adventuring across a windy island, with a blue lagoon, fire mountain volcanoes and camels! I’ve had a camel ride before, I just can’t remember if that one involved one hump or two; these had one hump and a mood to match!

lanzarotenationalpark.jpg

This is the lava fields of the National Park. I understand and appreciate how it can  be awed at; but the 14kms of space odyssey-esque scenery was a rather spine chilling. The whole area is a desolate wasteland, the sort that you might expect in space; the sort of scenes from star trek and probably star wars. With no life,  it was rather eerie.

It did however make think of something to write in the future! There was a fair bit of writing  done. Having gone a little  crispy and sun burned in the first few days, applications of after sun meant hiding in the terrace bar with the notebook, pen and dictionary.

And whilst I was away, there were plot updates. We have a lot of tomatoes! I wasn’t convinced that we are going to eat so many and quickly, so decided that whilst the holiday laundry was on, soup would be made. Two thirds of the harvested and red tomatoes were used, as well as some sage from Dad’s garden. Jalepenos have gone red on the sill, so a few of these  have been chopped and dropped in. I did actually use a tarka base, with carom and black mustard seeds sauteed with home grown onions and garlic. So it’s not a traditional tomato soup, but a spiced tomato soup.

Pages, Plotting, and Petal #I am writing

Petal and I  are currently on our summer holidays, all two weeks of it. We have already spent a few days floating around Cambridge, by way of having time and just adventuring to a different beyond the borders of Middle England. This has lent itself to sitting in different spaces and writing.

As well as tending to the allotment-as hit and miss as it has been-there has been a parallel project this year of writing another book. This book is a work of fiction, the previous two projects have been non-fiction and allotment orientated. I chose to write fiction for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to; amusing as it is daydreaming and having a smile creep across your face, to put it down onto paper is really quite nice. And it is all on paper, I choose to hand write my stories long hand in ink in my notebook and then type up, prepare them further later on. It does however mean that I have to decipher my rather awful handwriting. Handwriting, that if you ask my mum, makes your eyes go a bit a funny. Second, the current work is about a topic that people might struggle to talk about, to process. I am writing about grief and bereavement, and I guess it is all borne out of having lost the last of my Grandparents just over a year ago. The process in part, is for me a process of reflection and getting a handle on my own experiences. Third, I have written non-fiction, writing fiction is a step beyond my comfort zone. It is a step towards doing something different, it is a step further in an ongoing process of development.

Writing this third book has been very different compared to the first two  and it will take the time necessary for it to be where it should be. I am not going to rush it and force daydreams to appear. There have been periods of time where there have been no daydreams, I have written nothing. Yet the plan, over the summer, was to make a dent and to write. So I have been trying.

pages

See, I told you my handwriting was interesting.

The current work in progress is all planned out and there is a distinct start, middle and end. What I need to maintain is a focus and get the job done. This is somewhat difficult, with writing being shoe horned in amongst different aspects of real life.

What you see above, is book three, being written in my notebook. The tea was very useful, and facilitates the process.  There is a vague plan, for a book four-that this is probably going to be garden related, in some shape or form. However, there is another idea that has started to niggle at the bag of my brain.

petalparagraph

A couple of very good friends and fellow gardeners, had proposed that Petal-the avatar-might have some adventures. This thought was as I said, niggling at the back of my head. Then, I had a day dream as I found myself thinking about. What you see above, is a burst.  A rough, unready, just a splatter, segment. I am unsure, uncertain to a great extent, as to where this is going to go. What I can say, is that there will be Petal Petunia-oh, she now has a surname-adventures. I will be thinking and hopefully daydreaming, to grow this initial burst.

I was thinking, about how I might play with this Petal Petunia burst. Only for something advertised by The Big Comfy Bookshop to attract my attention. They were doing something wonderful with the use of  Rory’s Story cubes.  So with some story cubes now in my possession, I am thinking that these may be useful.

If you get a moment, please go visit the The Big Comfy Bookshop. I have had the pleasure of being sat inside, nursing a big mug of tea and eating cake whilst writing book three.  There are not many independent bookshops out there, or book shops that really support the community to encourage and facilitate greatness. Plus being a bookshop, it is a heaven for every Bookworm.

There is a week left of the summer holiday, a second adventure is only hours away. The notebook and pen are stowed away in readiness.

Here’s to writing adventures!

 

Tomato time! #gdnbloggers

“Get them home before the blight comes.”

So said the Allotment Secretary as I trundled home with trug number of two of tomatoes. It started with trug number one and a couple of carrier bags.

We have had quite a few varieties on the plot. These are-if I remember correctly-tigerella, latah, moneymaker, yellow stuffer, cream sausage alisa craig and marmande. I may have missed out a few.

Anyway, I’ve been complaining acutely over the course of the growing season as to how little produce I have managed to sow and grow. I may have over looked the productivity of the thirty two-ish plants that were grown across the two family plots.

I remember having that many plants, and dividing them between my plot and mum’s. I had a feeling, that there would be quite a few if all things went well. Now, having seen a few of plants on neighbouring plots start to with and go all very baroque gothic with would be blight, I have harvested a fair amount.

For fair amount, read poundage and one big massive puddle. I have maybe one trug full left, which I might harvest next week if the airborne blight is still away in distance.

Some of the fruit are actually turning; there are splodges of red, yellow and orange floating around. I have to say, that it is the latah one’s that are by far the reddest of them all. Even moneymaker is somewhat orange hued and not red.

As you can see, there is an assortment of different shapes and sizes. Once you have sown and grown your own tomatoes, you cannot look at the generic shop bought ones in the same light. There is also the question of flavour-the distinct tomato-y-ness. The fibre of the fruit, is is squishy, solid or just a flesh that is held up up by sugars.  This lunchtime, as I sliced up a yellow stuffer for a side salad, I realised why it was a stuffer and not a salad tomato. It had been looking at me for days, pleading to be used. Although moneymaker is uniformly round, there are other varieties that are less pretty. And thank goodness that they are! There are quite a few knobbly marmande fruit, with their rather weird and wonderful shape. It is a shame, that in most instances, not many people will eat what is lovingly termed ‘ugly fruit’. It tastes the same, is of the same edible quality, and proves that nature loves wonkiness. There are far more wonky things, compared to the bland, uniform, tick all the boxes, don’t make a fuss variety.

That puddles is huge, and would probably make a lovely green tomato chutney. I’m not particularly feeling the chutney at the moment. I have some hope, that within the confines of a warm environment, these fruit will turn. In which case, they can be used in Mama F’s kitchen and I might even consider investigating pasta sauce  of some kind. There is also the option of ready made tarka mix as well, that could be interesting.

So the growing season hasn’t been an entire bust; the tomatoes are okay. I’m sure I have spuds to lift as well……

 

For now, it’s all okay, and smelling of tomatoes. (Trust me, that is not attractive….)

Kindle Promotion: One day left!!!

There is only one day left to get e-versions of both books at 99 pence!

Just think of all the courgettes and things that are now in full scale glut.

Both books contains recipes and ideas that might prevent you from going slightly too doolally and lobbing courgettes and beans as far as you can. If you ever wanted to make your own jams, jellies, pickles and preserves you can find some potentially useful nugges that I have learned from experiments.

You can find links on the blog: right hand side, or you can go click on the page that says books above.

Once the countdown deal is over, both books will revert to their pre-promotion prices. So go have a butchers and share far and wide.

From #Gdnbloggers to #Indieauthor

August 17th 2016 was a rather important milestone. It was one year exactly since I pressed publish and published ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’. This is the first of two books, and was the start of an interesting adventure.

#Plantpottales was the product of fevered writing, and a deep rooted desire to share what I have experienced whilst having an allotment. Based upon this blog, the book extends to some extend some of the learning that is documented in these cyber-pages. I didn’t write it to replace, but as an accompaniment. It is an additional source of information, that can be accessed and used.

I wanted to write a book, it seemed a challenge and a good thing to do! It call came from guest blogging, and with encouragement that is the legend https://mrplantgeek.com/ He is also the chap who indirectly helped create the #bollywoodgardener. Without his encouragement, I don’t think the book light bulb would have switched on. It was not easy to write the book, I had a list of ideas and wanted pictures. Throwing together is probably a better description, as I remember having all sorts running through my head.

There was distinct movement from being an allotment garden blogger to an indie author. I had never in the first instance, termed myself an garden blogger-yet this was another lovely group that I have found!-but it did make sense to me; I am blogging about a garden, it just happens to be an allotment garden. This is a dynamic linear development, I am still a garden blogger and I happen to now be an indie author. I self published,  don’t have an agent, a publisher; I am also still learning about the process.

Didn’t stop me from writing a second book.

There is a fantastic indie community, and if you are on FB, you can find their page here. Indie Authors and Book Bloggers They also have a website, http://indieauthorsandbookblogs.weebly.com/ where you can find information about this fantastic community. They have an affiliate magazine, that I just happen to be in this month http://pub.lucidpress.com/b9f1a33c-1afa-4708-b466-3811378f474a/?src=fb

There is also a cracking good garden bloggers community, that started via the twitterverse https://twitter.com/gdnbloggers and they have also been immensely supportive. There is also the gdbbloggers website where you can find further details.

To me, having self published two books is an achievement. It is something that I am very proud of, and want to share with anyone who will listen! I appreciate that not everyone is green fingered, not everyone wants to know about garlic and chilies; yet you never know. There was just something about holding a book with my name on, and knowing that I wrote it.

I remember walking passed a bookshelf in a well known book store, it was headed ‘Gardening’. To me that felt like a set of goal posts, and the thought in my head was that one day, I might get there.

It is however important in my head to keep a few things straight. In the first instance, I have written about a very niche interest. Gardening and cooking isn’t necessarily everyone’s cuppa tea. So that means that interest in the books might not equal or plumb the depths that heavyweight Gods and Goddesses of Horticulture. Second, Rome wasn’t built in a day-I have been there, I know-and writing is a process. Neither of the books is perfect, but I have given them my all, I will continue to do so.

There are further books to be written, I know there are. I am half way-ish writing book three; there have been struggles with that, I can tell you! At the moment, Book four has a cover image but no content, and that is likely to be a gardening book. Book three, is definitely not gardening and is something of an experimental work in progress.

I have enjoyed this journey so far, and I do hope that it will continue. And the key word is hope. Hope, as you never know.

 

Spot of Adventuring: Brighton, rocks.

petalbagone

Stuffed with chocolate, squash and crisp, Petal’s bag accompanied me on a seaside adventure. The seaside adventure is slowly becoming something of an annual Summer Bank Holiday tradition. Last year, I was fortunate enough to go Bournemouth. This year, Petal and I pootled to Brighton. This was my second visit to Brighton, having travelled there for a Psychology conference. I liked to so much, I wanted to return and this time, for another and different jolly. (The conference was epic in its own right!)

brightonbeach.JPG

Saturday morning, and I am standing on the beach. Normandy is about 80 miles ahead of me somewhere. The sun is only just coming up over Brighton pier.

It was positively magical.

With hardly anyone around-apart from the obligatory treasure hunter with their beeping metal detector-the beach was at it’s quietest. Was also quite warm actually, nineteen degrees and soon cranked up to be scorching.

We had travelled on Friday, and thankfully weren’t at the mercy of striking train staff. I made a return visit to Planet India; Planet India is by far one of the nicest Indian restaurants I have visited. Plus, for some daft reason, there is always an Indian restaurant frequented during a holiday. I remember being in the North of Crete and going to have an Indian dinner. It happens! Planet India is pure vegetarian restaurant, and the food is amazing. If you fancy an Italian eatery, then pop to Edenum; good food and lovely staff! Two places where I have enjoyed eating, and think are worth a mention if you are ever in that neck of the woods.

On a previous visit to Brighton, I had walked passed The Royal Pavilion in the evening and it was rather pretty as it was lit up. I actually managed to go in this time, and have a good look around. On the outside, the building does rather echo the architecture of the Taj Mahal. I’ve got the advantage of having seen the Taj, so I can see the similarity. On the inside, there is a heavily Chinese and oriental influence. I do rather like History, and the history of this building made it a good visit. We even saw a bride and groom who were celebrating their nuptials as we passed through the Music Room.(She looked stunning, and had a beautiful bouquet). I have to say, that it was the first floor that got my attention; the section on Indian Army soldiers who were housed there during the war and also Queen Victoria’s apartments rather left an impression on me. Plus, as I work with veterans from time to time, seeing how the Pavilion was used as war hospital did underpin the experience.

Then there was the West Pier. I do remember seeing pictures of this and even reading about it. There were some vague memories of it being burned down, and some rather grainy BBC footage of smoke. And there it was, as large as life. The structure is all bones, and because of that, it looks a little sad and unloved. I couldn’t help but feel that it needed a bit of hug. The obligatory walk down the main Brighton pier was taken; we didn’t have fish and chips, or ice cream for that matter, but it was a nice walk.

There was a lot of walking around Brighton, and that isn’t a bad thing. A lot of Brighton is accessible on foot. We wandered around the North laine and also the older lanes. If you need a rock, a shiny one and set in platinum, then the lanes is your ticket for finding one. (So is the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, to be honest, but that was my first thought.) A lot of Jewellery shops, and lots of shiny stones; but also lots of quirky indie boutiques. We ended up in ‘That little Tea shop’ and had a lovely cuppa with cake. This place is rather cool, with war-time inspired furniture and fittings. A real gem, and a cracking good cuppa.

As you can see, the weather wasn’t bad! I have the slightly burned and crispy feet to prove it. It is always such a gamble going to the sea side on August Bank Holiday weekend. Good fun was had, with good food and a very chilled atmosphere-well, actually no, the hotel was boiling, even with the constant whirring of a fan.

All in all, a lovely adventure. Cheers, Brighton, you were fab.

 

 

Not over, not yet. #gdnbloggers

Dear allotment, I have not abandoned you. It might feel as though I have, but I haven’t. Honest.

trugglads

This year’s growing season really does feel different. As though my mojo has dipped, and the erratic weather has made it feel even worse. I’ve also spent a lot less time on the plot due to real-life commitments, and this goes towards amplifying the feel of discontent. I am seriously missing something this year and trying to reflect upon how I might improve things now and also for the future. It’s not all gloom and doom:

There are tomatoes everywhere. Green ones, yellow ones, striped ones and sometimes even red ones. I rather hoped that there would be; last year, we had triffids but no tomatoes. So we have fruit, and I’ve been clipping vines of fruit off so they ripen at home. We do have a few that whilst sat on the window sill, these have ripened. Technically, not all is lost and I have actually been able to make chutney. That did help with the lack of mojo, especially the part where I play with my preserving pan. I have, however, done a lot less playing with the preserving pan in comparison to previous years. The only preserving I have done, is the home brew! I thought I should give that a rest for  a bit, least of all on the blog. So  all is not lost with the tomatoes, at least. There is probably going to a poundage of green ones clogging up the conservatory for a brief period of time. I shall have to decide what to do with them, other than chutney.

You know, I have never ever, managed to get a proper cob of corn from the plot. Until now, that is. Mum had great success, and bounced home with three big cobs that once grilled, were a rather nice tea time snack. Needless to say, I was a bit envious. Especially, as I had sown all the seeds, and then divided everything between our two plots.  I swear, that we have different micro-climates and soil across the two and this means differences in crops.

The one thing that has actually kept me buoyant, would be the flowers. There were sunflowers on the plot this year. So glads and roses have been the main focus. Admittedly, the roses were a little slower and not as productive as they have been previously. The glads are also somewhat delayed. However, it has all been pretty. We have had stonking great big beautiful bouquets for the kitchen. (If I ever acquire a husband, he’ll have to box a bit clever should he ever want to provide me with flowers.)

 

Petal’s Preserve goes a bit…boozy #gdnbloggers

There have been a lot preserves made, in terms of jams, jellies and chutneys. I have also had a go at steeping fruit in alcohol to make liqueurs of a kind. This year, I have used fruit from the plot to test out my home brewing kit that was sat unloved for the best part of twelve months. Plus, we have a lot of courgettes, squashes and spinach flying around and this seemed a way of avoiding the gluts.

The recipe that I have used is simple enough-the Sister Sparrow fruit wine recipe-with fruit being placed into a fermenting bucket. Boiled sugar syrup is poured over the top, with yeast, nutrient and enzyme being added when the must is cool. This is left to ferment, before transferring and racking into an air-locked demi-john. Once clarified, the liquid can be re-racked. (This involves transferring from one vessel to another using a siphon and the best quality gravity that you can obtain. It is a two person job, and I tend to borrow a willing parent.) This involves drawing off the  liquid and avoiding the sediment of yeast et cetra at the bottom.

It all started with strawberries, there were quite a lot of them. This first batch was something of a learning experience, having not had a big enough bucket. I may have got a little enthusiastic with this one, and rushed the process. The wine is now bottled-prematurely,  I think-could have done with sitting for a bit and being racked again. It is however, a rather pretty pink, and tastes okay! I’ve wrapped it in brown paper, so that it doesn’t lose the pink colour.

So that was the starting point, and I have to say I was bit enthused as to what I might do next.

Today, I have some time working with two would be wines. The first, was summer wine. The second was apple wine. The summer wine involved rhubarb, left over strawberries as well a hotch pot of red, black and white currants. This was transferred into a demi-john, and will be left to clarify. This is the second rhubarb wine; a previous version involves the combination of Rhubarb and redcurrant, minus the strawberries. I have to admit, that when it is was in the Demi-John, it looked a lot like I had blitzed a plastic ‘My Little Pony’. (Please don’t do this, you do not wish to be in trouble; that is a figurative statement). That is two. Three, three involves blackberries. As a teenager, I read ‘Blackberry wine’ by Joanne Harris, so this was actually the thought in my head. If wine could talk! The batch made actually involves more than blackberries, there are plums and even more currants in there. The currants were rather rocking it this year! At some point, I will try and make some pure blackberry wine, rather than have additional ingredients.

Apple wine is a little different compared to my previous home brew experiments. I had quite a bit of apples stashed in the freezer as well as some freshly harvested ones. These were cored, peeled and sliced, combined and stewed down to a puree of a sort. Once this has cooled, the magic ingredients will  be added so that it can all ferment for a bit.

Think that actually brings the tally up to five different batches. With blackberry wine being considered, the aim of these is to practice. On the plot, there are three grapevines. These are boskoop glory and Madeline Sylvaner. Whilst these are dessert varieties, I believe these can be used to make home made wine. This is basically why I have grape vines!  Many of the experiments need to stay stashed for a while, they will need to mature and build their flavour. As nice as the strawberry wine was to sample, it will be cloistered away for a while.

S’not all roses and butterflies #gdnbloggers

gladsroses

Looks quite pretty, doesn’t it?

A staggering great big bouquet of roses and glads, all grown on the plot; do not be fooled by the roses though. They were really quite thorny and somewhat vicious as they were cut. I have the scratches to prove it!

As aggressive as the stems were, the bouquet is simple reminder of the successes that can be had in having an allotment plot.

Thing is, this year, the season doesn’t feel as much of a bumper success as it might have been. It feels rather different compared to the previous seasons, and I’m not quite sure of what to make of it.

As we broach the end of August, I will have been dabbling in GYO seven years exactly. I have had an allotment plot for a little less. Something has seriously dented my allotmenteering and GYO-ing mojo.

In the first instance, the plot is not as productive as it has been previously. I think half of it, is exactly where I want it. I know, more or less, everything that is going on and how. The rest is something of an overwhelming wilderness where it does feel as though I have quite literally lost the plot. Mum’s plot on the other hand, is heaving and we are now officially sick of marrows and courgettes.

I’ve yet to get any marrows or squashes; the slugs and snails are chopping through what plants remain. There were strawberries, all now done and dusted having gone into wine. Currants were harvested, and they too have gone in home brew. Tomatoes are actually doing well; these are trussed up regularly, and one batch of green tomato chutney has already been made. In the poly tunnel, the chillies are on something of a go slow. Potatoes need digging up, though we have had small batches as and when required.

So what is it, that makes it all feel a bit, well, meh?

I have yet to break from work for a summer holiday; my summer holiday is delayed until the middle of September. Over the last ten weeks, work has been busy and there has been less opportunity to go play on the plot. With the plot being behind where it should be, that’s a double whammy.

I do have some time in the coming weeks re-commune with plot; that’s basically where I go wander, survey and try to formulate a plan as autumn and winter draw in. I can only describe the sensation as having lost a football match where you have been subjected to something of a goal rout. There is a serious loss of spark.

On a positive note though, it will be a year this week that I self published ‘Playing with Plant Pots: tales from the allotment’. I am as proud of it now, as I was a year ago; there was also the second book as well. I am taking both of those as a reminder that being on the plot can be positive, it is a learning experience and I enjoy it. There is a third book-not gardening and also fiction-that is in progress. Part of me is twitching, thinking, about writing another gardening book. I have the cover in mind! I just don’t know what I might put into it.

This could just be a duff year, or the figurative seven year itch. I really cannot tell you.

Let’s hope the meh lifts.

 

harley-quinn

"It's amazing whacha find in people's glove compartments!"

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

(Somewhat) Daily News from the World of Literary Nonfiction

My Big Allotment Challenge

A fine WordPress.com site

The Incompetent Writer

Getting better at writing, the slow way.

The Write Edge

A writer's haven. A publishing solution. A reader's delight.--By Ekta R. Garg

rachelmankowitz

The Cricket Pages

digwithdorris

News from under the earth

allotmentinmygarden

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Dreamwalker's Garden

Growing Your Own Produce and Remedies

donquiblog

A Whimsical Food and Travel Blog

Allotmentals Plot 103

Allotment, garden and daytrips

FoodFrom4

Meat free recipes from number 4

forking belle

sow and scoff: allotmenteer meets baker

The Kitchen Table

News from the allotment & recipes from home.

could do worse

adventures in London

beansandtoast

allotment, cat, crafts, food, pens, etc.

%d bloggers like this: