Blooms in the gloom

It might be the bleak winter, but think of all the roses bushes currently having a good kip. There so many rose bushes on the plot, I have lost count. Each one is fairly well established now and produces a bounty of beautiful roses over the summer. This year, I was surprised see one or two still going in early November. Things have been all very confusing, given the heat wave and bizarre weather.

I used to have three different blooms on the plot. I have the rose bushes, would sink gladioli and then also sow Sunflowers. It’s been a while since the latter two were done, but who knows; next year might see a revival. Having massive great big sunflowers on the plot is a sight to behold. Are probably the one bloom that doesn’t feel like a cut flower and very rarely makes it home to a vase.

Roses are fairly robust, but do suffer in the heat. This year, I had far fewer blooms compared to previous years as we had so little rain. Roses need to absorb a great deal in order to manifest all of that foliage they come with. Planting dormant roses in the autumn and winter months allows them to bed down before kicking off in the summer. They do take time to establish, at least a couple of years. They build their crescendo slowly. When they do blossom, dead heading and having cut flowers ensures their longevity. I miss the scent that wafts from the kitchen sill when there is a fresh bouquet in the house.

When the roses are in full flow, I have easily collected a bouquet a week and then ran out of vases. In that case, they were distributed to loving homes. Some of roses are posh, they have names. The others are lost label roses and I have no idea what they are called. All of them, are beautiful and enjoyed. I do wonder sometimes, how much a bouquet might be priced at, even if the enjoyment of them is really quite priceless. The only thing to be mindful of, would the thorns. That and trying not to cut your fingers off when deadheading. As pretty as they are, roses can be vicious if not played with nicely.

The Glads are the other glamorous flower on the plot; some of which are bigger than me when fully grown. Depending on what is growing alongside, they often look like fireworks going off in random directions.  Glads are relatively easy to grow. I choose not to lift them; mainly as I can’t remember where I have put them, and really don’t like digging.

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This was rather special this year. A handful of allotment grown roses actually made into a very important bridal bouquet. The big red one in the middle is actually from Dad’s garden with all the fluffy bits from the shop. If I ever get that far, I’d like to think that I might have grown my own bouquet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing your own greenery

 

Thinking of this title, my immediate thoughts were about Cabbage and sprouts. I’ve yet to grown sprouts, and Mama F is rather intrigued to do so. The one time we had them at home, the stalks got attacked by cabbage fly and it wasn’t pleasant. Cabbage on the other hand, has been an interesting learning experience. I didn’t much success with growing from seed, so using plug plants has been far more useful. You’d think that you could plug cabbages in, and that would be it.

Not quite. Leaving them uncovered and exposed invites all sorts to munch away. You’re cabbage patch is soon decimated, you declare war on slugs and it all ends badly. Mama F builds cages covered with netting to held reduce the impact of flies and bugs. It’s a bit like an assault course trying to get in and harvest things, but the crop remains in one piece for the most part. There is certainly a lot of green, leafy things which end up on saag or pakoras. In my experience, the greener, more bitter a cabbage or green might be, the less likely it is to be attacked by anything. Not had much success growing red cabbages. Mum has possible had a couple grow, but there does seem to be more challenge with these.

There is always Spinach and Kale in some form on the plot. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve trundled along to pinch Mum’s crop for Spanakopita. You need armfuls for dinner, but it is something very straight forward to grow. I’ve always  broadcast sown the seeds and never bothered with plug plants. Plug plants would certainly help with spacing and reduce the need for thinning out. Every year, Mum sends me on a hunt to find the biggest leafed mustard green that I can find. We always end up with more perpetual spinach that we need, but it does get sown and grown. Kale is probably the more hardy of the two, and can be found to be growing along quietly in the middle of bleak winters.  And if it’s Rainbow or Vulcan chard, it’s rather pretty.

When it comes to greenery, this also covers herbs. There is masses of mint on the plot and Fenugreek is ever present. The latter is also a green manure, but wonderfully edible. It’s fire-y and bitter, but can be used in a similar way to spinach. Dried, it’s a burst of flavour when added to dishes that need a kick. FenMint should be contained; as I have found, it is unruly and get’s every where. It is however versatile, with a little going a long way.  Just think of all those mojitos….

An unlikely candidate for greenery, would be bolted radishes. Mama F starts of trying to grow Mooli. Only the weather plays havoc with fickle radishes and they bolt. When they bolt, they produce crisp, pepper flavoured pods. These you can snack on, or add to sauteed onions and garlic to make a curry.

 

The Icelandic Adventure April 2018

This is by far my biggest adventure to date. I went to Iceland. Generally, I am very fortunate to have wing-people. Be it siblings or friends. This, this was very different. I did this by myself, much to the amusement of some. Why there, it’s so far away; do you know how cold it is there, Punam?

An amazing CPD opportunity arose, where by I could meet fellow Psychology teachers from across Europe. This was a conference that happens every two years, and I rather fancied making an adventure of it. It’s not that I don’t adventure alone, I do. Just not so close to the Arctic circle.

I’m glad that I did. Iceland is beautiful, Reykjavik is phenomenal. I also met some fabulous like-minded individuals. The camaraderie within the teaching fraternity really is second to none. If you are a Psychology teacher, go find the ATP and also EFPTA; you won’t be let down.

There was a bit walking on this trip, in doing the Golden circle tour. The double waterfall was one of the most soul-tingling experiences ever. I stood there, really quite mesmerised. There a couple of geysers, one big, one small. I will never, ever, complain about rain here in Britain. Icelandic rain comes down in King-size sheets and does more than drench you. Thank goodness, for a Birmingham Blue-coloured hat that Mama F had crocheted for me.  I stood between two tectonic plates, walked passed the dunking pool of unmarried mothers. That was really quite sad and eerie.

The secret lagoon. What do I say? An experience beyond words. It makes me smile as I sit here writing about it. Must have been what two, three degrees, but stepping into that water. That was something beyond magic, I tell you.

This was by far the trip of a life time. Scared the living daylights out of me, whilst giving me butterflies, but I did it. I was very lucky, to have met up with friends and colleagues; this did do something to help me get rid of the nerves.

I did have some sadness too. I actually looked at the coach seat next to me, and there wasn’t a sibling or someone significant there to elbow. That is another story, I  guess.

Gallivanting to Glastonbury

Apparently, Glastonbury is magic. An interesting hypothesis, that I decided to test out. This was effectively my four day summer holiday. On my list, was the tor, the abbey, chalice wells and also the Goddess temple. This was a time to reflect, rest and colour my soul. This was also an adventure that I wanted to make the most of.

Getting to my digs, seeing the Tor was something of an experience. Its quite imposing and my immediate thought, was how the flip to get up there. Luckily, the taxi driver told me the safest route. Taking it, I realised that it wasn’t easy getting up there. I’m not the fittest of people, so taking it slow was key. That was rather important.

Journeying up the Tor is a process of reflection. You also meet interesting people along the way. You all have the same aim, to get to the same place. Part of me felt as though I was channelling Chaucer on the ascent. I did move slow, I took my time to savour it. Getting to the top, I was met with people greeting the sun. There is magic at the Tor, something beyond words. I did struggle making the climb, and I was aware of my own capacity. I made that climb, I got to the top, no matter how much I swore as I walked and wanted to give up. At the top, there is so much to take it, to survey what is before you.

Coming down, is a different feeling and leads you to Challice Wells.

The Abbey, is something out of this world. There is absolute magic in the air there.  I spent hours there, absorbing it all. There is the alleged grave of King Arthur. Though I don’t think I felt his magic there. I felt the magic of people.

The tree. Oh, my, the tree. I think it was a Maple, but it is a magic Maple. The only tree in 35 acres that was so vibrantly red. Standing there, it was breath taking, it was grounding and a process of meditating. There was just something about the tree, it’s beauty and being a force of nature.

Talking of power. The Goddess temple. Go. Absolute serenity, with the essence of the divine. I felt such calm, such power, I couldn’t possibly type the exact nature of it.

 

A year of dresses

 

This year, has  been a year of dressing up. I don’t think I ever had so many different outfits. Then again, I had fairly good reasons for wearing them.

In April I dusted off, arguably what will always be my favourite sari. It’s Imperial, Cadbury purple and always make me smile. It is also swooshes fabulously on a dance floor when busting a move to Bon Jovi.

Then came the annual international conference of the Association of Teachers of Psychology in July. Every year, I have a think about the dresses for conference, for the gala dinner amongst everything. It is always a great event, dressing up is part of the excitement. I clearly have a thing about vintage inspired swing dresses, so purple was factored in. The came the gala dinner. This was different. I actually wore an Indian outfit, and liked it.

And blimey, it’s been an Indian outfit summer. The weather certainly helped with a massive, Bollywood wedding. A family event that was nearly a year in the planning. With it came the outfits.  Quite a few outfits.

So let’s put this into context.

I’ve never done that before. Having these outfits for the wedding, was a big deal. From not being silver-I’ve been going grey since 16, I’m mid thirties now-so having to go back to being raven haired, to wearing outfits that only exist in movies. Outfits that tall, beautiful, model types wear.

I woke up at half two to  have my hair and make up done. Looked in the mirror at six, nearly scared myself. That woman in the photos, she really doesn’t look like me.

‘Wow, you look different.’

‘Punam, that you? I almost didn’t recognise you.’

That, that is a big point.

I don’t do glamour. I don’t do hair, make up, eyelashes and swooshing skirts.

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But for that day, I felt like a princess. I was still me beneath it all, that’s for certain.

I am not what you see in the Indian bridal mags. That’s an uncomfortable thought, when the world around us is based up on physical appearance. What we look like, is what we get judged on.

Three days after the wedding, I had a massive hair cut. I’ve not coloured my hair since either. I actually got ID’d when my hair was black. It’s been a struggle, trying to defend why I don’t dye my hair. There is sadness too, what with the ID’ing; to look that bit younger. Having silver hair as woman, is viewed as being negative. For a man, not really a problem.

Being me whilst wearing all those of outfits has been incredibly important and still is.

 

Bounty of books

 

It’s that time of the year again.

There are gifts to buy, people to meet and good times to celebrate.

There may be someone you know, who might like one of mine.

Never underestimate the power of a book.

Be it how to grow chillies, how to make jam.

Be it healing after a loss, or chasing rainbows with a spot of romance.

You never know what you might find in the pages of a book.

All of them are available in paperback, links to the right!

Garlic and Chillies

As we approach December, seed garlic has been in the ground for a while. Depending on what variety it is, is only starting to send up green shoots. There have some rather harsh frosts already, and these are no doubt having some form of effect on the cloves planted. There isn’t an awful lot else on the plot-well, Mama F’s- so garlic is certainly something to keep an eye on.

It has been a long time since I cultivated garlic, and Mama F was rather eager to make sure she had some growing. When I have planted garlic, I have always planted it in the October-November window. This would then lead to a crop in June, July and August. We have both soft and hard neck varieties, with Elephant garlic in there as well.

Sowing and growing your own garlic is relatively straight forward. Break up the bulb, to then separate out the cloves. The ground should be well drained, free-draining ideally. Heavy clay tends to be quite sticky and gloopy. Make a hole, using your finger or a dibber. Slot a clove in to cover up to the tip. Don’t leave the clove exposed, as you may have to then fight with the birds who eat it before you do. That is mostly it, you might want to feed the garlic in the Spring. Between now and then, green shoots should rise up and the bulb start to form. If you are a particularly windy site, you might find that green leaves start to burn but this is nothing major to worry about. Keep your garlic weed free, leave enough space to clear any wayward weeds.

Garlic varies in it’s flavour and it’s strength. Mama F requested strong flavoured garlic, it is a staple of the many dishes that we have in our kitchen. I do find that home grown garlic has one hell of kick compared to it’s supermarket equivalent and this does varies across the varieties. The size of cloves will also be different. I’m not sure how that impacts on flavour and vigour.  To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend planting your left over supermarket garlic. I’m not sure that would be useful.

Be aware though, there is a nasty critter called Allieum Leaf miner that rather likes all things garlicky,  onion and leeky.

With Garlic being mostly quite straight forward, Chillies are a different kettle of fish. There is both an art and a science to growing chillies. It is early, very early to start to sowing and growing chillies. Now, is the time to think about what you want to grow and how.

There is a whole armada of capsicum out there. From the superhot, to the super sweet bell peppers. Take your pick, choose your pepper. Your choice will determine how things kick off. In the past, I have sown chillies a day after Boxing day, in a heated Propogator. Chillies, depending on their variety, germinate at different times. Sow too early, you have leggy critters. Sow too late, and you might one or two chillies. Looking after them, you have to strike a balance. You could have beautifully leafy, luscious beauties and no chillies. Or you gave not so leafy, but fruitfully abundant plants that have you ready to  make chilli jam. I don’t think that I have ever grown one plant that is the same as the next. There is also the weather and making sure that plants are robust. Watering too often, plants might be okay with it, and so amble along. Arid and dry, plant has a panic and sets fruit to survive. Growing chillies is not boring, and all bets are off.