All posts by horticultural 'Obbit

Chronicling the mis-adventures of a would be allotmenteer. Author of 'Playing with Plant pots: Tales from the Allotment' Available on Amazon in ebook and paperback http://amzn.to/1UvWUkb (paperback) http://amzn.to/1QRgVBZ (Ebook) Full buy links at www.horticulturalhobbit.com/books

One month to go: Behind the Scenes

It’s a month til Diwali. A whole month, ti Behind the Scenes goes live on Kindles.

It does feel as though this piece of work has been simmering away for a long time. It has certainly been my focus during the pandemic. As such, I do feel as though it has been forged and developed through an altogether rather unsettling time.

Behind The Scenes is an eclectic piece of work. There are distinct universes that exist within this book. We have the fragments universe, which has so far yielded Fragments and Kangana. Then there is the convergence with the Peace Novella Series Universe.

Characters from these two different worlds come together in a way that we’ve not experienced before. There is also the apocalyptic Battle of Gravelly Hill Interchange. This is important. This is a book set in the city of Birmingham. England’s second city. As such, there is reference within the pages to local cultural and social places. All of which contribute to Birmingham’s Iconic Identity as the city of a thousand trades.

We also, allegedly, have more canals than Venice.

You can pre-order your kindle copy, by using the links below.

UK:https://amzn.to/3cDsjPM

US:https://www.amazon.com/Behind-Scenes-Punam…/dp/B08K863S5G

Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Behind-Scenes-Punam…/dp/B08K863S5G

A book of two halves sits before you.

In the first half, what happens to the characters from the author’s novels when you aren’t reading them; what is the rest of their story? See what happens with Gorbind Phalla after the romance of Kangana. Devan Coultrie from Peace Novella Series has a life beyond making Montana Moonshine.

There are even a couple of new characters. Who is the mysterious Pencil-Sketch, and The Lady Aurelia is just dying to meet you.

In the second, meet the many different people who live in the City of Birmingham. A street preacher who yells his message, but one day disappears. Two strangers share a romantic encounter at The Kerryman Public house. What if there were spies in Birmingham, and what happens with the exhibits of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery when the visitors aren’t there? There is even some romance in Medieval Birmingham with the Lady of the Manor.

These all culminate in the apocalyptic Battle of Gravelly Hill Interchange.

Colourful creativity: Knitting

You may recall that at the start of lockdown, I decided to start knitting. More specifically, I started to knit socks. Well, it’s been six months since we went into lockdown, and since then my knitting has somewhat escalated. I have knitted five pairs so far. With four pairs currently cast on. These are the ones that you see in the image above.

I like knitting; it’s really relaxing and therapeutic.

It is also somewhat addictive. I mean, how much yarn does one woman really need? I have found myself being seduced, quite regularly, by the Sock Yarn Faerie. For now, I have enough sock yarn. I have enough yarn, to keep me going for at least another six months. Seriously, not more sock yarn.

For now.

Knitting has been really important lately. As teaching and counselling get busy, I am reminded to take care of myself. To not push myself, so far, as to burn out. This has meant stopping all work at 6pm, to sit down and knit. To take the time to practice self-care and ground myself. As such, the projects you see above, are all now at the point where I have to start knitting the feet. I’ve also finished a book, so I have more brain space for these, and I think I need it. I need to socks to help get over that book, before I start writing another.

All being well, there will eventually be complete pairs.

I’m not that worried about odd striping to be honest. I quite like having odd socks. Not all of them are blue, either! I do have some bright red yarn, that reminds a bit of football socks to be played with.

I tend to knit very ‘plain’ socks. That is to say, stockinette stitch. More recently, I have been trying to find patterns for circular needles that are varied. I’m still teaching myself to read patterns, to visualise them so as to be able to execute them. Also, I have discovered leg warmers and wrist warmers as possible extensions to the knitting creativity.

I think leg warmers are next on my list to try for definite. I’ve got wool, some needles and the patterns to steer me in the right direction. The wrist warmers need some reflection. Not sure if I can use some of the sock-wool for those.

The needles that I use, are circular needles, rather than flat. These have been a revelation. I have tried knitting socks flat-right at the start of lockdown. This process does seem to be more effective, productive and more enjoyable. Most of what I have knitted, has been me-sized; socks for me. I did knit one pair of gentlemen’s sized 9’s as a gift for a family member. Mine don’t tend to take so long to knit! Those took about a month, in between bits of real life.

Was a useful learning experience. I now know how to make fella-sized socks; if ever I chose to repeat that experience.

Behind the Scenes: Pre-order

A book of two halves sits before you.

In the first half, what happens to the characters from the author’s novels when you aren’t reading them; what is the rest of their story? See what happens with Gorbind Phalla after the romance of Kangana. Devan Coultrie from Peace Novella Series has a life beyond making Montana Moonshine.

There are even a couple of new characters. Who is the mysterious Pencil-Sketch, and The Lady Aurelia is just dying to meet you.

In the second, meet the many different people who live in the City of Birmingham. A street preacher who yells his message, but one day disappears. Two strangers share a romantic encounter at The Kerryman Public house. What if there were spies in Birmingham, and what happens with the exhibits of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery when the visitors aren’t there? There is even some romance in Medieval Birmingham with the Lady of the Manor.

These all culminate in the apocalyptic Battle of Gravelly Hill Interchange.

The Fragments universe is set to expand!!!

Click on the Image to Pre-order your Kindle Copy

Goes live 14th November 2020

ROmance Writers COlouring book

You can find Maria’s Obsessed by Books Design page here.

Something really exciting to share with you.

I am part of a colouring book!

Created by Tracey and Helen’s Romance blog this has been designed by Maria Lazarou.

And this would be my page.

To get your copy, click on this link here.

Happy Birthday, Plant Pot Tales

plantpottales

I like today. I like the date. 17th August.

Five years, ago, about tea-time, I pressed publish. My book was out there. The first book, that I would write. I didn’t know what was about to happen.

No, it wasn’t perfect. No, I didn’t know, at that point, what I should have done, or how.

But man, was I about to learn.

I have continued to do so, too. Over the course of five years, I’ve learned a great deal, and will hopefully continue to learn. Learning, is never over; as teacher, as counsellor, I know that is true. The journey has been pretty interesting so far.

This blog, was the basis for the first book. Without this blog, without the support of the gardening world, both here in Britain and beyond, the book, probably would still be a pipe dream, Worse still, it would probably be a page of inky jottings that were going nowhere fast.

This book, has moved. It has flown to the US. As a paperback, it was stocked in an Indie bookstore; it was on a bookstand! In fact, a few of the books were. At least 3, of what is growing-oh, there’s an unintended pun-catalogue.

 

A few of the books. The yellow book, paved the way for the rest. There was green book, what with the chutney making. A blue book-not the content, but the cover-that was based upon a grief model. I made a foray into writing contemporary romance.

All because of this blog, because I carried out an experiment with chilli plants.

Today, I am proud. I am happy, to acknowledge that the yellow book, paved a way. Oh, there’s another reference. I  get butterflies-not intentional-when the book is downloaded; when someone orders a paperback copy. When someone, decides to take risk, and engage with something that I have written. It’s magic, but altogether nerve wracking

That yellow book is special, it placed me on an interesting, ever developing journey.  It is also a little bit of my soul.

To the yellow book!

behindthescenescover

Behind the Scenes: A book and beyond

 

Well, hello, everyone. It’s been a while. In fact, it’s been a very long while.

Over the last few days, the blog has been on my mind a great deal.

The last time that I checked in, I had been spending a great deal of time of the allotment. The weather was good; Britain was not only in the grip of a pandemic, but also a heatwave. I was able to go to the plot, and do a fair bit. I had dug over the beds, and even sown seeds.

Then life became busy, with my counselling practice and teaching. It has been a very fast, very busy ten weeks and my feet have bare touched the ground.

So, this week, I am playing catch up.  I am also trying to have a rest, by shifting down a gear. I am trying to get some semblance of balance. I did have a fair dose of allotment guilt; a lot of sadness, actually. I popped down to the plot, to see how the plot had changed and to cut some roses. This, in itself, was a very grounding process. I even found some tomatoes. This was much needed. A bit of pottering, smelling the roses, to become grounded.

Social distancing still exists, and quite rightly so. And when not able to go the plot-there has been that much rain, when the sun isn’t shining. I’ve been otherwise occupied, beyond working and counselling.

Socks.

Yes, at the beginning of lockdown, I learned how to knit socks. I started with flat needles, and have since graduated to circular needles. These, I do believe, make the process, easier. It is also a lovely opportunity to relax, experience mindfulness. To ground myself, and do something that isn’t energetically demanding; is wonderfully calming and therapeutic. As such, I now have four pairs of needles with as many cast on socks. As you can see, this are not boring socks. Colourful and comfy, I’m really very proud of my creations. I have enough wool now, to be really quite busy. It is really quite easy, to be seduced by pretty yarn. And the socks are all mine; there is no one to inflict them upon.

Talking of creations. There is a new writing project on the desk. All being well, that will be released next year. This has already spent a year in the pipeline, and is very different to what I’ve already written. A series of short stories, all inspired by the City of Birmingham. You’ll have to watch this space, for further details.

Movement

 

I have beans! For now!

I’ve seen allotment neighbors lose theirs to frosts. Luckily, I’d only just sown mine. In fact, I’ve also sown Blue Lake Climbing french beans too. Just waiting for those to come through.

The last I’d wrote, I had dug over raised beds. I’ve since broadcast sown lots of spinach, chard, carrots and even some lettuce. Trying to keep on top of regular watering, so that these might germinate. The weather is wonderfully warm at the moment. This does does mean that such seeds may not come off; they like cooler seasons. But keeping the soil cool might just work.

There is more weed clearing required on the soft fruit quadrant where the raspberries and currants run rampant. This is where I will be focusing, to get rid of what is years and years of weeds, before digging over. The plan is to then sow bee friendly blooms.

Overcoming Allotment shame

Bear with me, I have allotment ouchies.

I’m sat here, thinking about each and every muscle twang. When I walk, I am slow; even my baby toes throb in protest.

Yesterday and today, I have spent time on the allotment. All within the Social Distancing guidelines, I assure you.

Time that has been long over due. The Lockdown, has brought with it a new lens through which the world can be seen. Life has definitely changed.

Over the last seven weeks.  I have spent most of my days at my desk. I have taught from my desk. I counsel from desk too.  I have found it challenging to go out, beyond to the supermarket, to get fresh air, to get exercise. To ground myself, I guess. Brief windows in teaching and counselling have meant popping out into the garden, sniffing the camellias whilst nursing a cuppa before going back to work.

Something changed this week. I had enough, and made a change. I made the decision to step away from my desk, to be there only for teaching and counselling and go to the allotment.

(I’ve also had a laptop crisis; there had to be a very panicked repair. I hadn’t back it up, so this bit is genuinely Mea Culpa. Years of allotment images have been wiped as it went for repair. I’m okay with it; saddened and angry, but I look forward to taking new photos, making new allotment memories.)

(I’m not sat at my desk, writing this.)

 

me

For the last two months, I have been turning things over in my head. Why haven’t I gone, other than being busy?

This is where the counselling training starts to illuminate things.

I love my allotment, it’s been epic. It has been productive, there has been plot produce, and untold joy at so much. So when life got busy. and my time on the plot become less, there was a disconnect. I’ve been saying for a long time, that I would go back.

Alas, it was all very overwhelming. There have been many attempts weed, cover, potter. Nothing felt right. Nothing, felt connected or grounding. It was all very overwhelming; it still is, sat here writing.

And yet today, I have allotment ouchies.

I have spent today, yesterday, digging over raised beds. Raised beds,  I have a few.  Nine. Nine raised beds have had weed coverage pulled away, put into another bed to form a lasagne bed. There are two beds, that need faffing around with. There has been an abundance of apple blossom on the plot. The Braeburn apple tree, has been propped up as it bends over backwards. There is a promise of a bumper harvest.

I wandered through my rose bushes, tying in, typing up as I anticipate bouquets. Bouquets that right now, sound and feel like a Hallelujah Chorus in the distance.

 

My spade was picked up; I hate digging. But damn, my spade is good. It cuts through heavy clay like a hot knife through butter. Nine beds were turned over, clods broken up. I was something of a woman possessed really. Today, I’ve certainly been in second gear, rather than fifth. I took my time today.

I now have bare earth to play with. I’ve yet to sow any seeds, or find plants. That is going to be on my mind, my agenda in the next week or so. Last year, I grew a small gang of chillies. I’ve yet to sow a single seed. I’d quite like to sow some tomatoes, but it might be a little late.

So how does the title of this post fit?

There’s been incongruence, fear and a shame at having let the plot slide.

And I didn’t want to feel that way any longer. The plot is in my hands, I have the power to change it.

All those conditions of worth; the feeling that my plot wasn’t good enough. The introjects, of what a good plot should be. The slightly askew locus of evaluation, that the plot wasn’t in my hands. There has been overwhelming fear to not share the plot, to take anyone there or to even speak about it to anyone.

Here’s to change and having autonomy to do what I can.

I’m lucky, that for the most part, I have supportive allotment neighbours. There is the odd comment, which can be barbed. At times, that has hurt, cheesed me off and compounded not being able to do anything. There has been sadness, wounding pain at pitiful looks and comments that could only be politely ignored for some time.

There was joyfulness in what I’ve been doing. All right, sweaty, dirty and dehydrating, but I felt good doing it. I had, have, a plan. I need to, want to plan things into those beds. I’ve rummaged in my loldean timber seedbox, to find some bits and pieces. A few dwarf beans have been direct sown, some spinach and chard broadcast sown. This is all very tentative, I have no idea if that will work. It’s been a very long time since I’ve done that.

It was possible, for me to reconnect with the allotment plot.  I had my headphones on, my water bottle. To be honest, I put my head down, and did what I had to do. I don’t compare my plot to those of others; I never have. I like that it’s different, that it’s mine and I do what I can with it.

I also know what has been. How it took shape, all the hard work that has gone into it. All the goodness that has come from it.

I shall take the small victories, of having dug over raised beds.

Even if I am going to creak for days…..

Runners and Riders…beans

Let’s talk beans.

Runner beans and Climbing French Beans.

Runner beans often get a bad press; for being stringy, for being confusing, and not knowing what to do with them. Climbing French Beans, get ignored.

I like both, I think they are both equitable for growing and need not be confusing in the least.

You can sow these now, in yoghurt pots or cut down pop bottles. Make sure the compost is moist not soaking damp; ensure the containers do have some form of drainage. Otherwise your seeds will too cold, damp and simply rot away.

(That last one, is probably a good science lesson to do with kids. They can see the development of the root system amongst other things.)

They do and will grow quickly, and will need to be hardened off before you plant them outside. This means to acclimatize the plants to the cooler conditions outside. Ideally, they should be planted outside once the frost window has closed. Here in England, that doesn’t happen til the end of May-the late May Bank Holiday, to be precise.

I’ve grown runner beans in pots, so this is possible. As well as planting in open ground. This will involve making tripods or Rugby-post structures to support the plants as they grow.  More often than not, the variety sown tends to be Scarlet Emperor. Think the Climbing French Beans were called Cobra…well, they do snake….

Runner beans and climbing beans are rapid growers. Once settled in position, they will keep going to the early autumn if conditions allow. They will need to be watered well when the temperature rises and the summer is full flow.

(That, could actually happen.)

The more you pick the ready beans, the more you will get. Start from the bottom and work upwards to get a steady crop that isn’t over ripe.

And what exactly do you do with them?

Runners, can be chutneyed, or cooked with potatoes, spices and potatoes. That’s how we have them at home. Chop them up, saute with onions, garlic, ginger and some chopped tomatoes. Add the contents of your masala tin to experiment as required.

Climbing Beans can be used in the same way, but are probably best steamed or cooked with butter, and dash of seasoning.

Yellow croppers!

 

 

I had a thought, about yellow croppers.

And the one thing, that snow-balled from that, was chutney. Hot yellow sun chutney actually.

To think that I first made this years ago, but let’s think about the core constituents. Most of which were sown and grown on the allotment.

And since lots of people are looking at growing food in their gardens and green spaces, I thought that this might be an interesting reflection.

First things first. The yellow tomatoes. You’ll be hard-pressed to find these in a supermarket, or even a local fruit and veg market. There are many different varieties of yellow tomatoes out there; many of which are heritage varieties. Varieties that have historically been grown at home, on allotments, but not necessarily commercially. I’ve grown sun gold and cream sausage and these have been really abundant croppers.

There are options beyond red tomatoes!

Yellow peppers, are fun to grow. I’ve always grown them so that they are green, but yellow ones are possible.

Courgettes. Yellow ones. They do exist before green ones. And generally one or two plants are enough. Don’t sow too many! Else you won’t be able to give them away for love nor money. These do make a change; everyone grows courgettes and particularly green ones. There are standard shaped courgettes, but you can also try the space-ship, patty pan one varieties that can also be used to get some variety.

Yellow ones are quirky, and will make your ratatouille more interesting. If you salt these, as you would with any courgette for chutney, these will add a bit of variety.

You can chutney all of this, or you can make a spiced Indian dish.