Over due intro to the plot #gdnbloggers

You can also view the video here.

Thought I should perhaps add a little context with where all of the fruit and veg that is grown comes from.

The allotment plot has been going through peaks ans troughs over the last six years, with some great successes and some rather wearing disasters. This is just brief overview of the plot. It is hoped that over the coming months, there will be some planning and preparation on the plot with it gradually being tidied up for the forth coming growing season. It is something of a mess at the moment, and turning it around will take some time and effort.

Cooking Allotment Squash #gdnbloggers

It will be soon that time of year again, where we cannot move for Pumpkins. There are two of our-well, Mama F’s-that are waiting in the wings to meet their merry end. In the mean time though,  you may have a few allotment squashes hanging around that need to meet their end.

There were a few round courgettes that were floating around looking rather sorry for themselves. Mama F has decided to make a curry type dish with them, and I just happen to be in the vicinity to catch it on film.

You can also view the clip here.

The recipe is simple enough. Onions, garlic and ginger were sauteed in a pan with some cumin. Ma then added spices to these, and cooked them through to infuse the flavour. She also added Punjabi Wadi-these are made of urid dahl and are effectively dried spiced dumplings-a bit like a bollywood oxo cube, just a bit grittier. These are spiced, and give a little more depth to the dish.



Once that base of the mixture is cooked through, chopped squashes were added. They were already in water, so there was no need to add extra. Allow this to all cook through, under cover so as to allow steam to cook the squashes through. The dish is done when the squash is tender, but not too squishy or mushy.

Depending on how coarse and stringy the squash is, this will influence how long you cook it for. Don’t forget to stir, otherwise it will burn. Keep it all on a moderate heat, just to make sure; this also allows the water to be soaked up.

You can also view the second clip here.

Not just a pot plant; She’s a lady. #gdnbloggers


Her name is Tulsi and she lives on the kitchen window sill. Woe betide anyone who tries to move her. If you do, the chances are she will die.

Or so the legend has it.

And the myth.

Mum  has had a Tulsi-holy basil plant-on and off on the kitchen window sill for a number of years. On the odd occasion, that the plant has moved from one side of the sill to the other and unceremonisously died, Mum has been quick to replace it. She really wants a Tulsi plant on the kitchen sill.

To you and I, the image might just look like a pot plant; it’s a basil plant, just not the sort to make your pesto from. (Though you can dry her leaves and make tea; it’s supposed to be good for you with a number of ayurvedic properties.) According to different versions of Hindu Mythology, the pot plant Tulsi is actually a reincarnation of a female deity. I did try to read it through, make some sense of the narrative; I do have some vague knowledge of the theology. Sadly, it made my brain hurt; there were lots of different variations and convoluted plot holes. So I can’t tell you which version fits or how.

Tulsi has pride of place on the window sill. Dressed in red thread, she has prominence. Mum makes sure that the pot plant is comfortable, watered and fed-dare I say it-religiously. I have observed how the plant does indeed throw a strop if it is moved two feed to the left and to the other side of the sill. It takes time for her to recover and re-leaf in most cases.


Plotting allotment progress #gdnbloggers

Just got back from the plot, and a good thing to as the heavens had decided to open. The allotment rent has been paid, and I have been handed a potato order form for next year. It is definitely autumn.


I spent the first part of the morning doing school work, there are always lessons to plan. Then I decided to go down to the plot and get my hands a little dirty; not to mention get attacked by sprawling brambles and their thorns. What you see above, is the top half of the allotment-from the blueberries onwards-and this year, this part has been largely unloved and cultivated. So much so, Mama F has been persuading me, as mum’s do, to do something about it.

I won’t lie, its all a bit intimidating.Over grown, full of grass in places; there are suppose to be six discretely formed beds where I can plant things. Three areas are home to both raspberry and strawberry, so tidying up is going to take some time and effort in negotiating around these. The first hour or so was spent battling brambles that edge the plot. Some but not all have been chopped back so that they are not overhanging or trailing into beds.  This the type of plot activity that I have purple gauntlets for, this and roses that now need pruning back. Without the gauntlets, I look like a scream queen from a slasher movie.

The other activity involved digging. Trouble is, I don’t like digging. My mum does, and she will quite happily dig and give me a running commentary as to how many weeds she has pulled or how much grass there was in clumps all over the place. I did however try to have a go today. There was some clod smashing done and some of the heavy clay in one bed was turned over. I decided to dig and smash around a couple of dandelions. As much as I tried to lever them out with a fork, they are rather deep rooted, and are going to need a bit more welly than I had in the tank today. With the playlist on shuffle and earphones in my ears, the bed was half turned over whilst I decided to sing very, very loudly. (Adele’s one and only, for those who want to know. Though I am not averse to Bond theme’s or Maroon5 being belted out).

Then I got distracted.


A look over my shoulder told me that there were a handful of yellow and pink raspberries ready for the picking. These are fall gold and autumn bliss. I did pick them, and they were promptly eaten alongside the last falstaff apple that was hanging off the tree. Not bad when you need a sugar rush on the plot. As well as the last bits of soft fruit, there were also a few flowers left to pick as well.


It might be getting colder, darker, and even starting to rain, but I am hoping to sort out the plot and get it ready for the growing season. I’m not sure yet, as to whether I will be planting garlic soon; though this can be done right up to the end of November. The focus is making the plot manageable. With first half of the plot, this will be easier; raised beds can be tidied up and grass pulled out and away. The top half is going to be decidedly more labour intensive.

This growing season has felt different for one reason or another. Not only is there going to be plot preparation, but also some reflection on how this year wasn’t as good as previous years.  I know that part of it has been my own busy life, and there will increased efforts to potter on the ploy to get a better life/work/mental health balance.

I’m deliberately mentioning mental health again, as being on the plot today helped clear the cob webs that have been lingering. Simply walking away from done school work-and it was done, I would never walk away from a half planned lesson-picking up the purple gauntlets and going to the plot for a couple of hours was lovely. I was able to get some zen-like focus back. Though that might have also been down to the apple and raspberries. The rain was starting through, and it was time to go home.


Hello, Allotment and #Destinationstartrek #gdnbloggers


Hello, allotment, I have missed you.  I have missed the grapes getting ripe, and being plucked from the vine. I have missed cutting the last of the roses, all of the glads are now done. I have missed you and quite a bit.

Today, after what feels like an age, I have made it to the allotment to see what is happening and what I might do next. Ordinarily, as this time of year, I would be thinking about or will have planted garlic. I haven’t got that far yet.

Over the last few weeks, things have been a little unsettled. Time has been challenged, stretched, I have been battling against cramped head space with lots of things competing for my attention. I have had lots of reports from Mama F who has helped keep things in relative check on the plot. To be honest, not a lot has fruited this year, so she’s just been overseeing it all. I don’t think this years lack of productivity has made things easier.

Going today, was case of taking stock. Taking a moment, to breathe. And when your shoulder feels like it is going to fall off as does your arm as adrenaline and cortisol drag you through a stress response; that is quite difficult.

Why do I mention that?

Well, that’s my stress response. First thing first, I’m okay. If I wasn’t, I would say. It’s all a bit implicit, rather than explicit. There is some anxiety invoking issues that my brain and body don’t really like. Explicit, in that whilst I feel okay and am coming to terms with recent challenging events, there is something implicit that is not helping and would rather I had horrible pain from time to time. Not all the time, but occasionally and it’s rather irritating as you ordinarily take thing head on and do them to the best of your ability. But we have plan! The idea is to work through these concerns, get a balance; feel a little more congruent and use the allotment to do that. The allotment has always served an additional purpose beyond plot to plate food; it contributes greatly for me in terms of maintaining positive mental health. It is something that I have always promoted, that gardening, horticulture, pottering on the plot has a positive effect on mental health. I would be daft to not practice what I promote.

That is why I have a picture of a blank bed. I am aiming to sort the plot out over the autumn and winter months, change the second half of the plot; nothing was cultivated this year in that area and it has effectively become fallow.

We have had some produce to cheer me up. The above chillies and garlic have met their fate in the base for tonight’s dinner which is prawns in a masala. The  base is simple enough: garlic, onions, ginger with carom and cumin are sauteed. Tomatoes are added to this, as well as the contents of a masala box and both fresh and powdered coriander.


The video can also be viewed here

As well as liking the allotment, I am also a fan of star trek. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the original series and it’s impact upon modern contemporary culture has been huge! As teenager, I remember watching ST: TNG as a precursor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer; that was the height of my Thursday nights. Subsequently, voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise followed. I might even find myself watching the extension of the franchise with the new one pencilled in for next year.

There is the most tenuous of links between Star Trek and Horticulture. I remember watching Neelix growing tomatoes in a cargo bay, there was Keiko the botanist and at one point Janeway and Chakotay end up on a planet where they have to grown their own food. On a more contemporary level, we have had a certain British Astronaut growing seeds in space; so this whole thing is not entirely without foundation.

It’s funny, even though they were on the poster, I don’t remember seeing Picard, Janeway or Archer….

I did hear a certain George Takei; I heard  but did not see, as he was delivering one of the paid talks and I didn’t book any. He sounded lovely!

It was months ago, that I decided to put a star trek convention on my list of things to do. After all, I had already gone to an Angel/Buffy one, it made sense. Lo and behold, I saw this advertised! Naturally, I had to go along and see what it was all about.

The first part of my journey had mild fury as the trains from hobbitland to the centre of town were not running. In true persistent fashion, I hopped onto the rail replacement and made it to the NEC all ready to go. My first thought? “Wow, how many red shirts are there?” Some of which were in the queue for Costa, which rather amused me. If you are in Command, you may need a strong Americano.

As with the buffy/Angel con, there was loveliness in being with like minded people. For the record, I am a blue shirt. (Trainee counsellor, psych teacher, I think that qualifies….) The highlight for however, was this. Being sat in the Captain’s chair in a replica of the TNG enterprise.

Yes, it was as cool as it looked. (no, no one is trying to beam in to my right, it just looks like that…)


Plot produce ideas from Petal #gdnbloggers

Sometimes, typing up things only gets you so far! Thought I might try and make some videos of plot produce and provide a different dimension. You’ll have to forgive the rambling and wobbly camera work.

Squashes and beans can be really very prolific on the plot, and you soon run out of ideas as to what you can do with them. You could stuff the marrows and patty pans, or cook them them as a curry. Yep, sauteed with some onions, garlic and ginger, you can make a really simple Indian inspired dish. It is up to you how spicy you make it-and if you have some home grown chillies, you can add these!-maybe even add some home grown potatoes.

Squash and beans you tube link.

We had a spot of drama with the tomatoes this year. From not thinking that they would be productive, to quite a few green tomatoes. These were all removed from the vines as dreaded blight appeared and left to ripen. There was soup made at one point, in efforts to use them all up. Tomatoes can be use as the basis of many Indian dishes. Once you have made a tarka base, you can add fresh tomatoes to form a gravy base that gives the dish body and helps to infuse the flavours that you are cooking with.

Tomatoes and squashes you tube link.

Compared to previous years, the plot has produced quite a few chillies and across different varieties. Some have been quite mild and used in Mama F’s, others are bit a more potent. These more potent varieties make really nice chilli jam! Unlike traditional jam, this type doesn’t have to set or wobble; it only has to gloop. This is really simple to make and depending on how hot or sweet you want it, you can moderate this by using different chillies.

Chilli Jam you tube link

Petal, Punam and a preserving pan! #Gdnbloggers


Do I look nervous? I was trying not to pull faces.

I was kindly invited by the Nuneaton Federation of Allotment Associations to their meeting and to talk briefly about preserving. This was my first proper public engagement (beyond the blog) and it was rather exciting to be asked along and share my learning experiences.

What you see above is the photographic evidence of myself, Petal-she is there!-and my preserving pan. There are also yellow tomatoes there, I had also taken along some courgettes, Petal’s Potted Preserves and a couple of books too. I think this helped, especially as I waved around scotch bonnet, declared it was lethal, yet had pots of scotch bonnet chilli jam for sampling. It was really refreshing actually, to see people sampling and enjoying the preserves that are documented in the books.

It was really good fun to meet the allotment holders; there were a number of different allotment committees present from across the Nuneaton and Bedworth area. I spoke about how preserving was a creative way to use your produce when you can’t give away your courgette glut for love nor money. Plus, the only limits to what you can jam, jelly or chutney were your imagination and what you grew. This was a really good experience! I really did enjoy talking about Petal’s preserves. (Petal is the avatar,remember?) It reminded me of how the allotment community is very good at sharing, at learning from one another and helps both people and produce to grow. I certainly would not have got as far I have today without the help and guidance of other plot holders.

Petal-and me-have had our first experience of doing a talk; who knows, there might be more!

(if you want to be part of that journey, hit the contact page, and get it in touch!)




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!


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.


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.


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….)


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