Knit witz-Not just for Granny

I’ve just seen this on the BBC website, the Banksy of Knitting was the headline that caught my attention. I don’t often listen to Radio 4, it’s just something I would want to listen. Except when I want to learn about something!

Knitting at the BBC

The piece touches on a number of areas. Street Art, the knitting Nanas, even maths. The lady interestingly states that it’s not just older ladies that to do. Gentlemen too, knit. We just don’t assume that they would. Bit of a social stereotype there.

Then I found this.

A gripping yarn

It’s a rather broad documentary, and who would thought that knitting could offend people? And no, I don’t think about the sheep to needle process. There is a whole word of history of knitting. Knitting whilst milking a cow, features. Oh, and the American Civil war, who would have thought that this was a political plotting circle.  The most suprising for me, was the prisoners knitting. Who would have thought it? Then there is guerilla knitting. Have heard about it, but never quite got my head around it.  I really didn’t know about how knitting one, purling one, could have political ramifications.

Knitting has had something of a boom and rebirth. It has become fashionable and bit of a vogue thing. There has beeen a charity initiative for charities supporting older adults. The Philanthropic nature of craft, is not something that you would otherwise think about.

No longer something for the mature, Granny and Nana lady. I’m not yet either one of those. I was taught many years ago by paternal Granny. My memory is making a long pink scarf. Took me a while, and I would always do my best to not drop stitches. I still drop stitches, and make things bigger than they should be. I can’t read patterns, but probably should learn to read them.

That is the Magic Square project. I have been knitting that on and off for over a year. All panels have seven or fourteen rows. Each stripe has either seven rows in stocking stitch or three in the other one- No, I don’t know what it is called. The aim is to get it big enough, may be with another half a dozen or so panels, and then trim  it with knitted and beaded border.

Floral Frivolity on the Plot

There are many folks who believe that there is no point having flowers on the plot if you cannot eat them. But I do rather like them. With the chillies and tomatos sown, the growing season seems  very far far away. If germination is successful, and the slug and snails don’t eat the babies, I would like to sow summer squashes. These like many other vegatables and fruit benefit from pollination. Pollination can happen by the wind and also by the bumble bees. Bumble bees require pretty flowers.

There are already dozens of rose bushes on the plot. William Shakespeare 2000 is slap bang in the middle of the plot beneath an arch around which two roses bushes are growing. As usual, I do plan to sow sunflowers and also gladiolus. Sunflowers as they are a burst of colour. Also bumble bees rather like them and appear to be quite doped and drunk having flown onto one. Gladiolus were a surprise success last year, these were not only pretty but the bumbles appeared to like them too.

This year mum has requested chrysthanamums.  These seeds are waiting to be sown. I doubt very much I will be sowing them yet, due to it still being  a little cold. Plus I will rapidly running out of window sill space. I am not very good at sowing flower seeds. I tend to lose them to slugs and snails as well in the four tier blowaway.


Pottering on the plot 24/01/15

After a very long time, I wandered down to the plot today. Courtesy of my mum’s sister, I had manage to filch some strawberry runners. Probably not the best time of the year to uproot them, but I do have a plan for these things. There are three beds of raspberry canes that I planted last year. These are upright canes, that as of yet, still look a bit brown and sticky. Have yet to start sending off green shoots. I am told that these are two years old, so I would hotly expect some raspberry fruit at some point in the growing season. I forget now which variety is where. But the varieties are

  • tulameen
  • Malling jewel
  • Glen Cova

The earth around the canes is very bare. This only means that this is vacant space for weeds and other such nasties. In order to reduce this amount, I have slotted into the filched strawberry runners. Might even see if I can find some more. But these will hopefully send out more runners and the space on the beds will be maximised with soft fruit. Whilst I have grown strawberries before, and I have autumn bliss raspberries, I’ve never considered cultivating them both with this technique before.

Pottered around, heeling in the  rochester peach tree that had become a little lopsided with the buffeting wind. This is tree that started off life as a variety in Canada. I would love to have fruit from there, would be rather novel having home grown peaches in Birmingham. Not many buds have formed yet on any of the trees, sadly. The Braeburn apple tree may have a couple of buds that are still tightly closed. Otherwise, the fruit trees are looking rather scary and skeletal. Last year, the falstaff apple tree did provide about half a dozen apples. We also have a worcester pearmain, and syvia cherry tree, along side the victoria plum and concorde pears. The victoria plum fruited once, the pear tree has yet to fruit at all. My main concern about these trees is the frost once they get their blossom. I cover them, mum would rather I didn’t. She is rather vocal about that, and reckons that is the way to kill off the flowers.I am not prepared to argue, but should probably re-consider and be resilient and keep them covered.

Had a quick look under the cabbge netting. It’s all very green and leafy under there. Spotted some brocolli, but not an awful lot. And there are the tiniest of cabbages too. Think it’s time to whip out the blue pellets of doom. Whilst there is a crop in there, the slugs and snails are already snacking on what should be mine.

#thisgirlcan : Allotmenteering

Me, and The Champion's league Replica, I think it's a replica.....
Me, and The Champion’s league Replica, I think it’s a replica…..

When I tell people, that I have an allotment. Other than almost killing the conversation, the response is usually a scoff and a spot of “what you? Thought that was all about old men.”

Newflash. Think again.

I’ve had the plot now for three years, I was container gardening two years prior to that. And I am certainly not an old man. I’m thirty years of age, and a woman. You do not get to call me old.

I’m not the only girl on our site, it’s actually fairly equal. But I do wonder how many there are across the country. Plus, like many other parts of the society around us. Maybe gardening is no longer a blokey bastion, with cloak and dagger shed conversations. Times are a changing.

It might historically have been a bloke’s playground, on the ground as it were. And even on the box, all the gardeners, with the exception of Charlie Dimmock and Carol Klien, have been establishment gentlemen. I’m quite glad, that television personality Fern Briton has been involved with the Big Allotment Challenge, and the contestants have been fairly representative. Allotmenteering has had something of a renaissance. More and more women are getting allotment plots. Women, of all ages, from all walks of life. The allotment, is not longer the strong hold of aged men. It is no longer, a closed shop.

I like my allotment. I dislike going to the Gym. I’m not anti-Gym, it’s just not for me. I don’t dislike the idea of getting worked up and sweaty with kettle bells. The same happens when you trundle up and down a plot with a wheelbarrow. Pottering around, can give the same opportunity to be mobile and raise your heart rate for that recommended 30 minutes twice a week.  The plot is hard work, it requires commitment and determination. There is exercise to be hand. Trust me, there is something of a calming effect to be experienced when walking up and down passed your roses and gladioli. It even involves braining slugs and snails, but one is not some weak willed maiden, going all knock kneed. If a slug or snail wishes to take me, then it is going to have a duel on it’s antennae.

Allotmenteering is an alternative learning experience. You become aware of success and of failure. You acquire alternative knowledge and understanding. You gain, an alternative perspective.

It is more definitely not for those who are likely to give up, or for the figuratively faint hearted maiden. It is however, for everyone. I know that some allotment sites can be cliquey, political mindfields of gerberas and gladioli. But that is not something to be focused on.

I am proud to be a young-ish woman, who has allotmenteering as a hobby. It is something that I enjoy, that I am passionate about and like to share with other like minded people. I do believe that it is for everyone, that gender, colour and creed, are of no consequence. A spade will not worry about who is using it. Allotmenteering doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone, and it is a beyond the norm hobby. But I like it. And I plan to continue with it, for as long as I possibly can.

Allotmenteering, #thisgirlcan

Big Allotment Challenge 2015: Epi Four

This week, it was tomatoes, tears, tantrums and jams.

The two key area for me were the tomatoes and the jams, quintessentially two good parts of allotmenteering. To be honest, it was through watching the show last year that I started making preserves myself.

With the tomatoes, the contestants had to grow and show as usual. You’d think that growing tomatoes is fairly simple. Lots of people do it and not always because they have an allotment. I do hasten to add, that in this context, with a show, being on show is the key. I watched this segment, as though I was watching penalties. I was sat on the sofa, huffing and puffing, about how complex-and competitive-tomato growing could be. Huffing and puffing, as I grow them-you have seen the previous posts about them-but never get them going red. Yet the contestants did that, no problem. In their fairly swish, heated greenhouses. And they were nice specimens.
Specimens. They are not exhibits. They are tomatoes. You eat them. And that was my biggest problem with it. I do hasten to add, that there was a tomato jam later on that they had to make as part of the eat challenge.

These were very pretty, very red, bountiful crops. The most pampered tomato plants in the British Isles. There were techniques and there were tears as some of the crops didn’t quite get there. Another thing, that got on my wick, Some of the contestants had bought plants from a garden centred. You can get tomato seeds anywhere, and the plants just need a little bit of TLC to get them growing. I’m not completely against plugging in plants. I do that with cabbages, and in the past, I have cheated and bought plants when things were a bit late and my seeds had died a death. This did slightly irk me. I am not for cheating. I would rather sow seeds and follow my goods from cradle to ladle as it were.

The floo’ers. No comment. I didn’t pay any attention there. Sorry.

I was too busy waiting for jams. Last series, the jams made me realise just what else you could do with your crops. This week, interestingly, there was a savoury jam and a sweet jam. And there were dramas, with jam that was burned, jam that wasn’t going to set. I had genuine empathy for that, I really did. That does happen. I have experienced that, and wanted to cry with having burned the bottom of the jam pan. The jams didn’t look like jams to me, more purees. Perhaps I expect a bit more wobble. Next week, it’s pickles and chutney’s, so I will definitely be paying attention.

Tomatos: Heritage and brandywines

Sat here with the FA Cup on in the background, I am seed shuffling. Seed shuffling tomato seeds. I have now got 12 baby seedlings, sat nervously on the window sill. I am hoping to sow some more in the coming weeks, The plan, is to have tomatos and chilli peppers in the poly tunnel.

So far, I have sown a money maker, true black brandywine, purple cherokee, yellow stuffer, marmande, and cream sausage. A few of these are heritage varieties, and some of them the big beefsteak variety. They are also a diverse range in terms of their colour spectrum.

Last year, Marmande were lovely. Just a bit green. They have a lovely knobbly surface that you just don’t find in the supermarket. I also had purple cherokee. Again, this was a productive cropper. There were tomatoes, big ones too. Smudges of purple. rather than fully, failed to move much from green.  The tomatoes that we see in the supermarket, are those beautifully round, smooth, spherical creatures. Yet not all veg is smooth, uniform and standard. The vast majority of it, is actually wonky. Yet we don’t buy it, and it sadly goes to waste.

Having rooted around the seed stashers, I have located my tomato seeds. Once more, I am trying to select the varieties that I would like to sow.  Have already sown a few yellow tomatoes, but there is a yellow brandywine that I quite like the look of. There is already a pinkish one, that rules out the pink brandywine. There is something definitely more solid about a beefsteak tomato. The plants are different too, in terms of the leaf shape and they get quite tall.

I have quite a few tigerella seeds, freebies, I think. Might try these to see what kind of fruit they are, beyond their novelty stripes. It is a heritage variety, interestingly. Lastly, there is Roma VF. Meant to be good for sauces, so we shall see as to how productive it. Most likely going to be used just like a conventional red tomato.

Potted up tomatoes and chillies

The first of the tomatoes have germinated and come through. I think I have six surviving germinators, with one keeling over with the cold. These have been transplanted into yogurt pots from their modular compartments. I have to say, that the trick by Allotment Lena works. Where you use a spoon to transplant from one place to another. There appears to be less root disturbance. There are not many that have come through, yet money maker tomato seems at this stage to be the quickest out of the blocks. There were 24 sections in the modules, and so far seven have come through. I think I may have made the compost a little too damp. Going to see how many more come through, and then I will look at sowing some more. Was thinking about where to put these when they grow larger, and the poly tunnel seems to be the best place. I have always grown tomatoes outside, and never had them ripen. Putting them into the polytunnel is probably going to be more useful.

The chillies are starting to get a wriggle on, and these have also been transferred from modules to other pots. I did have a panic as some of them looked a little shrivelled. I had thought thought that I had lost most them. Much hand wringing ensued. However, covering them with a propogater lid, these were a little revived with the heat and light being trapped to warm them up again. The cayenne chillies were the quickest to come through, and with the Aji Limo chillies are the more robust looking. Pumpkin and raindrop chillies are by far the daintiest of the lot.  Debating, as to whether I sow some more. Unlike last year, I don’t plan to plant them directly into the ground in the poly. The plan is to plant into pots, based upon previous experience.

There are eight varieties in all, I am still waiting for orange and chocolate habaneros to germinate. In previous experience, these do take a while. I don’t particularly want to pop them into a heated prop, as they end up leggy and wiry.

Big Allotment Challeneg 2015: Epi Three

Peas, lilly growing, dips and crisps. That was the order of the day with this particular episode.

You’d think growing peas was simple. I’ve done it myself, I’ve even done it whilst working with young people in school gardening clubs. Yet it all seems a bit more complicated when it comes to the show bench. Loved Lena’s pea sticks, that to me is the traditional way of growing peas. However, if you want proper, show stopping peas, use the corden method. You grow them up, trim off the tendrils. Alot of time was dedicated to the growing technique of show stopping peas. Right down to how many you would expect in the pod per the variety.

There was even pea-gate. The Pesky pheasant was chomping things. I don’t wish a pest on anyone, but how many folks have pheasants running around. Pigeons, maybe.

Haven’t sown peas in years. Might try them soon, I do have seeds some place.

Lillies. Aren’t these toxic to cats? Again, I phased out with the flowers. The growing and cultivation, the decorating of the candelabra. I can see why people would sow flowers, I can see how the logic lies when being Bumble bee friendly. But when am I going to be decorating candelabras?

Then cam eat, and the crisps and dips. That’s logical, things you can make with your produce. But why leave this til the end? Eat is important, it is the very premise of growing. I love Thane, her comments are useful, and she stands by using your produce. Eat and grow should be the collective fulcrum of the show. The make can be part of those two components.

Chillies 2015: Progress so far

A couple of weeks ago, I set about sowing chillies seeds. You can see the one post here

Positioned in front of a warm window, there have been daily checks as to what might have germinated. Remember, this is unheated propogator. To date, I have had more success germinating this way, rather than using a heated propogator.

I had bought some more fresh cayenne seeds, and these have germinated. The older ones are clearly not viable, as the early experiment hasn’t come through. I intend to sow a couple more fresh ones, that is the unopened pot in the picture above, Was always something of a risk, using older seeds. The second sowings are coming through. Most have cracked through their seed cases. I am just waiting on the orange and chocolate habaneros. Might actually resow those too, but they are probably just taking their time. The danger is, that these are going to become leggy and gangly as they reach for the sunlight. Going to wait a few days, to see if there is few more germinators before I take the lid off. There is a cold snap due, and I don’t them to get a fright and keel over.

‘Big Allotment Challenge 2015: epi two

Caught up with this last night, after the Hampton Court Documentary. I didn’t want to get behind.

The one striking thing with this series is that the contestants are different compared to last years. They are more competitive, and there is clear indicators of how good they are at both growing and cooking.

First came the growing challenge of cucumbers. I was glad, actually, that there were growing tips. Such as sowing seeds on their sides and also pinching out. That was a good educational component, I actually learned things that would help me. So far, I have not had much success with cucumbers. And respect to Rob, for a heritage cucumber, when everyone else went with standard yellow ones. Plus. I think Rob is the eye candy that all the girls on the plot are cooing over.

Cut flowers, I zoned out for, and hugged. I have no idea about larkspur flowers, I did see the seeds. Can’t say I would try them. Currently looking at chrysanthemums for mama.

Last was the eat challenge. There has been alot said about Thane being negative. I disagree, her feedback this week was good. It was constructive, and expert. I listen really carefully to what she has to say, so that I can incorporate it into what I do when I am preserving. Thane Prince is a like a good, effective, considerate OFSTED inspector. The lollies and syrup was a good idea, something that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought about.

What I will say, is that the feedback is indicative of the quality of the contestants. In terms of how skilled they are, how resourceful they are. The extent to which they use their products.