Category Archives: chillies

Taking stock of April #gdnbloggers

As we near the mid point of April during Holy Week, we also get to Vaisakhi.  This is a harvest festival within Hinduism and within Sikhism, the start of  new year. For me, I guess this triggers  a process of reflection as to what I might experience with the coming growing season as everything starts to bloom and blossom with a new cycle. Vaisakhi and Holy week therefore both carry a sense of renewal, potential and also progress. Perhaps universe is shifting and changing as seeds are sown and nurtured and this is slightly tapping into unconscious ESP of some kind.

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The plot might look a bit stagnant, but there are plans. I have succumbed a little, and I am waiting for the green glass to wither away so that it might be taken up and away. There was just too much on the far side behind the grapevines to be dug out and by hand. We have had some sunshine and hopefully that will mean that grass killing stuff works. Once I have a canvas, I will be able to sow further seeds and plug them in eventually. I may even broadcast sow carrots and turnips, just to see what happens.

There are a few seedlings at home, the seed sowing mojo is still a bit sparse. Tomatoes, aubergine and chillies are being coddled on the window sill. On my list, there are squashes, runner beans and climbing french beans to be located and sown. I am mindful, that the beans and squashes-if they are quick off the mark-will grow like triffids, and will need to be looked after until the frost window closes in Birmingham at the end of May. Mum has already plugged in potatoes, and the weekly saag sowing will soon be underway. I should probably also look into sweetcorn!

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It is only in the last few weeks that I have had a chance to stop, take a few moments and fully take stock of the tornadoes that have become the busy state of being that is life. Much of this has been self inflicted and working on writing projects whilst juggling work and training. Whilst the deadlines for writing have largely been self inflicted, there have been a few other things that were so far beyond my control there wasn’t an awful lot I could do but wait for the tornadoes to to settle. Now that there is a sense of calm and settling, I wanted to share the three affirmations that are above. I have no idea who wrote them, when or for what their motivations were; they are however three very powerful slips of paper.

The first-‘you are strong…’ I picked out of a box as I was getting to the end of prepping fragments for publication and the end of term was happening. Sheer grit and resolve were taking a battering, and this slip of paper put a spring into my step. The second-‘well done, beautiful’ I found just as  Fragments hit the air and term was changing and I was finding my feet, my plot and universe again. Number three, well that is from today. That heralds a great deal of movement in so many different spheres.

As I mentioned before, I have no idea who wrote them. But these have been powerful vibrations from the universe and whatever Powers That Be.

I am hoping that the third is relevant to every aspect of being, the plot included. The plot is after all, a huge part of me and brings more colour to my life than I could possibly say. I am looking forward to the roses blooming, the glads coming up. There will probably be a sunflower sowing at some point, I have rather missed those.  Then there is the preserving; it has been such a long time since I have made any preserves, I might have to revise the methods. With the plot very firmly back as part of my world after a lot of swirliness, I am looking forwards with lots of lessons learned.  I am also looking for a rest over the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and adventures.

I shall report back forthwith.

It’s all kicking off #gdnbloggers

Hold the front page! We have blossom on the Apricot! (Yes, my nail varnish is also chipped)

moorparkapricot

For the first time since it was plugged in, the Moor Park Apricot is in blossom. I did check, and there were all of three delicate looking white blooms. Three!

Alas, I am not holding my breath. Last year, the peach tree also blossomed-it’s getting leafier as I type-only for the frost to nip at it. Therefore, I am not holding out too much hope that the Apricot will set fruit; I probably should drape it in fleece. Only I end up having a full scale heated debate with Mama F as to the why’s and wherefores. That, and it looks as though Casper and friends are floating through the plot. I will keep an eye on the Apricot and see whether additional blooms burst and then make a decision about draping the tree in fleece.

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The pear tree is also looking a bit frilly with blossom, the stella and morello cherry trees aren’t too far behind. In contrast, the apple-falstaff and braeburn-appear to be behind and are only just starting to get leafier. As with Apricot, there has been limited success with the pear. Last year, we had all of two pears; they met their end in a chutney. I am therefore, a little surprised by the arrival of blossom.  I might find myself fleecing things sooner rather than later.

In other news, Mama F has sunk this years spuds on her allotment plot; leaving me to fiddle with the raised beds and plot this year’s course of development. At the moment, I have seedlings on the window sills.

At the moment I have clara and money maker aubergines. (My thanks to Gifts You Grow for the money maker). As well as Roma and Marmande tomatoes and an assortment of Cayenne. These are precariously leggy in some cases; sown when light levels were at bit rubbish, this was always going to happen. I am hoping that moving them from one side of the house will help the plants fill out and become robust.

So what is going to happen next?

There a plans; the sort that change and with reflection.

In the long term, I would like to fix my poly tunnel and get some more raised beds. Having one half of the plot, that is open ground and not very productive doesn’t feel right. So before the end of the year, the second half the plot-the one where we have the roses and trees should have some raised beds on it. This will mean negotiating with the raspberries and strawberries that are are currently ‘up there’ someplace.

I am looking into a new cover; though I might have to borrow Mama F’s poly for this growing season. She likes aubergines, I do not; so she can play with them…and my chillies…I will  of course babysit them accordingly. I do get rather precious about my chillies.

On the seed sowing  front, I would like to sow some more tomatoes. There was an rather conservative sowing at first, so more Roma and Marmade are on the cards. I would also like to sow runner beans and climbing French beans; it is too early yet, I made that mistake last year. I might even try peas, though that is debatable.

Before long, it will be May and I will nervously eyeing the closing of the frost window.  I will be deciding on this years squashes; we have yet to sacrifice a pumpkin from last year, so there will be seed selection.

I have had a good look at the current raised beds. One third of them are cleared, with the others full of stubborn grass that will need an aggressive intervention for removal. It is simply not the sort to be pulled out by hand.  Over all, there does feel a more systematic and organised approach to doing things this year. It would be easy to be defeated, and I think for me personally I need to take a step back and take time to do things slowly but surely. It will all get done, just not at break neck speed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me; I have counselling key terms to generate-spiral notebook, ink pen-and maybe some Buffy season seven to put on in the background.

I might even re-paint my nails.

And yes, if anyone knows of allotment proof nail varnish, send it my way….seriously!

Chillies on the Sill #gdnbloggers

Bit of an update for you. I have just potted up four additional baby chillies.

You can also find the video here.

As you can see there are quite a few pots and not an awful lot of window sill space. These will no doubt find themselves shuffling around the house before settling into the poly tunnel sometime during June/July. There are three varieties of chilli that have been sown; jalepeno, cayenne and purple haze.

I will keeping an eye on these on the coming weeks as it is still rather cold and light levels are yet to increase. For now, the seedlings are growing slowly, and I don’t mind that. Taking their time, the seedlings can establish in their pots and gradually become stronger. Chillies need a long growing season and the early stages of development are important for the growing season to eventually be productive.

With the chillies now on the window sill, the next job is it sow aubergines and tomatoes. I am likely to sow the aubergines first and then tomatoes a few weeks later. They are part of the same family, and neither should be sown too early. I really don’t fancy gangly, leggy seedlings that keel over and another set have to be sown. Mama F did actually ask this morning if I had baby aubergine varieties, and pootled off to check the seed catalogues. I’ve not had much success with home sown and grown aubergines. I have got the odd flower, but not fruit. Every year, I debate as to whether or not I will sow them, this year was no different. I suspect Mama F and I will end up competing, trying to grow them in two different plots. With Mama F then competing with her sister-last year, my aunt managed to grow an aubergine, and there was excitement-so you can imagine the drama.

There is half a plan now as to how the growing season might start this year. Before long,  I will be thinking about beans, squashes and things. There are so many things that I need to double check before things kick off and properly.

In the meantime, I will be keeping an eye on the seedlings, and hoping that they don’t keel over!

Magic Squares and Chillies #gdnbloggers

The chillies have had something of a spurt; with the low light levels and lack of direct heat, they have become leggy. When leggy, seedlings stretch towards a source of heat and light, stretching upwards and being at risk of keeling over. This can be quite disheartening when you really want seedlings to grow.

Of the forty something seeds grown-scotch bonnet yellow, purple haze, cayenne, jalapeno and purple haze-we have approximately 15 seedlings that are some wiry, tall and gangly. I would rather they didn’t keel over. so I have decided to pot them up today. Using multi-purpose compost and some 7cm pots, chillies are being made a little more comfortable.

 

You can also find the video here

For me, this is the first transplanting. There may be another pot change, before they end up in their final pots in a at least three months time-ish. After that, any surviving plants will live-hopefully-in the poly tunnel. As you can imagine, this is something of a lengthy process, and we are only at the very start of the growing season.

Currently. the weather-in Britain, at least-is fairly hit and miss; it is cold outside. I, like many other Britons, scraped frost off the car windscreen this morning. This directly impacts upon all the tiny, dainty seedlings that might have already taken up space upon the window sill. I am keeping my chilli seedling away from the window pane. They will still get light, they-hopefully-will have some protection against the drop in night time temperatures.

With the heated prop empty, I have sown an emergency batch of about a dozen cayennes; it all felt a little thin on the ground. I shall monitor these over the next week to see what happens with them

So, seeds have been sown, they have germinated and grown. I like that feeling of new beginnings, as we look forward to the new growing season. I have written before, that allotmenteering and GYO both impact upon mental health; for me, that is really important. Least of all, because I teach about it, I am a trained listener and currently enrolled on a Diploma for Humanistic Counselling; the plot has a profound effect on me, my wholeness and the way I view the world. It all helps me to obtain mindfulness and improves my mental health.

You may have seen that I rather like colouring. I also knit.

Couldn’t be more different from gardening, could it?

For the last year, a knitting project has been on pause.

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With the chillies adjusting to their new pots, I quite fancy a couple of hours revisiting knit one, purl one.

 

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Spicing up #Bluemonday #Gdnbloggers

Apparently it’s blue Monday; the one day of the year that is really quite miserable and not so nice to experience. I guess there will be many for whom, today is awful and there may not be much sunshine to light gloomy clouds. I am currently sat here, working on diploma work as School Work Sunday slides into Monday; but I did find something to take away the tinge of Monday blues.

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“Punam, I saw some leaves in your box.”

Those were Mama F’s exact words this morning as I tumbled out of bed. (School work Sunday was really  quite intense, and topped off by the Sherlock Finale, I felt as though I had watched a penalty shoot out this morning. Yes, we do like Sherlock…cute, clever-one hell of  brain-and completely unobtainable. He makes a good book boyfriend!)

Having been told that there were leaves in my box, naturally I had to go find out what the deal was. I have fished them out and set them onto the window in food bags.  I am keeping a close eye on them, so that they don’t keel over. The danger lies in them becoming leggy with a lack of light. I think I have officially ruled out any yellow scotch bonnets appearing, as well as Nigel’s outdoor chilli.

Oh, there was a video! Hold on….

That was uploaded yesterday, onto the youtube channel, hopefully it will develop in the coming year.

Anyway. This blue monday business. If you are feeling blue, then I am sending you sunshine. I am also hoping, that someone might send you a text, make you a cuppa, or send you a smile and hug. You are not alone; even when the darkness feels heavy and as though it will not lift, there is always something. That something is you.

You are never alone.

 

Here.

Hello 2017! #Gdnbloggers

Hello, 2017, it is nice to meet you. I’ve been waiting for you to arrive with the hope that I might reclaim my allotmenteering mojo and once more feel the fresh dirt beneath my finger nails. With keen anticipation and lots of hope, I decided to sow chillies today. It is still far too early to sow other things, yet the sowing of chillies heralds a new start and a new growing season. Truth be told, I have very few plans beyond this session of sowing. My seedbox needs an overhaul, I don’t think I have bought seeds ‘properly’ and for a while. I will be looking through the seed box, to see what I can dispatch by way of being too old to be viable and what it is that I might bolster my seed box with. Naturally, this means searching through pages of seed catalogues. I do have a stash, Mum rather like to coo over the pictures and window shop. This years tomato and aubergines are the next to be considered, with Roma VF tomatoes like to fill out the line up in another thinned out parade.

But anyway, New Year!

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I had a rifle through the seed box, to see what chillies I might like to grow. I have grown lots of different varieties over the years; some have been really successful, others less so. This year, I have rather scaled back the varieties. There  are still five varieties being sown, but I am choosing not to go over board and complicate things when I want to keep things straightforward and productive.

You can also view the video here.

(Is that video any good? I did try to make myself look a little more presentable…)

The varieties sown are:

  • Jalapeno
  • Scotch bonnet yellow
  • Purple Haze
  • Cayenne Chilli
  • Nigel’s Outdoor chilli.

As you can see, the list is shorter-much-shorter than it has has been in previous years. However, I have sown at least nine of each variety, and there is always a bit of a steep incline as to which ones actually germinate. It is still very early, and I don’t use grow lights to accelerate plant growth. This lends itself to a fair bit of risk, and the possibility that the seeds will rot, germinate get leggy and then keel over. The seeds were sown into moist jiffy pellets, which in turn are now in the heated propagator. When the seedcase has cracked, the seedling germinated, I will then fish out and pamper the little darling with the aim that it doesn’t keel over and cease to exist. You’d be surprised how well looked after these things become.

Sowing chillies was only part of the plan today; the other thing on the to-do list involves racking and bottling home brew. Last year, much of the plot’s soft fruit found itself being fermented and shoved into demi-johns. Today, blackberry wine is to be racked, as well as another batch of blackberry being bottled (and likely stowed away to see if it does get better) and I think Rhubarb and gooseberry is to be bottled as well; in the case of the latter, we will see just how tart it is.

 

Incidentally, remember all those strawberries that we harvested last year? Don’t suppose you can spot them in this photo?

strawberry-wine

And the book got finished too….It is all handwritten, so that is the first phase.

Chutney: Petal, the preserving pan and me #gdnblogger

Okay, the preserving pan has been sat idle for a while; the last batch of preserve was made in August. This close to Christmas, I might have made a few more bits and pieces. Alas, the mojo has been a bit adrift.

Until today.

The last batch that we made was ‘Oberon’s relish’ which involve apples, mint and green tomato. This has all now gone to loving homes, so  I thought about doing some experimenting. There were some plot grown scotch bonnets that need to be used, and I also harvested a fair bit of mint from the allotment. Home grown garlic was also used to form the base of the chutney.

 

You can see the youtube video here.

It does take time to prepare all of the ingredients; lots was chopped up before it could all get combined. Patience is required when cooking, to ensure that all of the flavours infuse and nothing burns. You really don’t want to be scrubbing the bottom of the preserving pan when burned stuff has welded itself there.

At the moment, the chutney is going to be very intense and quite fiery. Hopefully, it will mellow for a while before it can be tasted.

Hello, Allotment and #Destinationstartrek #gdnbloggers

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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…)

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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!

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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.