Category Archives: #gdnbloggers

Best foot forward #gdnbloggers

redwellingtons

 

And so it begins.

Where did Mama F put my wellies? Where is my hand fork and transplanting trowel? Is it going to rain?

I had to go find my wellies, having not worn them in a while. Not to mention the gardening trousers and grey Petal hoodie. No idea where my purple gauntlets were either.

My plan had been to spend time doing coureswork today. Having been to supervision though, I didn’t fancy my chances with doing anything academic or cerebral. Nope, today, I wanted to restore my soul.

Today, I took a walk, to survey my kingdom. Today, I took the first steps to go reclaim it. I didn’t go by myself either. I had company, namely Mama who followed me with my edging spade and ladies fork-tools, that she has now claimed as her own and doesn’t really part with. I had two trowels and a pair of secateurs, not to mention a thermo mug of tea. Mama F does have her own plot, and that usually means we meet in the middle when it is time to go home. She came to mine to give me a hand, to make sure that the plot is neat and tidy. I have no idea what this means, but I do no that my plot has never been neat and tidy. Organised, but never primped, preened and perfectly manicured. Mama F can also dig for England, and that is what she wanted to do; that is all she ever wants to on my plot. I wasn’t going to stand in her way.

Luckily, I had a good twenty minutes before she arrived. Twenty minutes where I could stand there in my own space, in silence whilst thinking. And it felt good to stand there. Okay, it was cold, murky and seemed like a different universe, but I was there. Walking down to plot 2a, it did feel like the walk of the prodigal. I was going back to somewhere important, somewhere that I had left my soul.

Thank goodness for my Petal hoodie, it served it’s purpose.

My plot didn’t feel or look as bad as it seemed. It’s untidy, overgrown, but it still has it’s bones. Beneath the masses, is the body of my allotment; the skeleton and infrastructure that I had created hasn’t been eroded away.

plot2018

Walking around, I got the lay of the land to formulate the plan. The plot is a game of two halves. The top half, with it’s open ground, fruit trees and rose buses is Project Othello. At some point, this was sectioned off into seven beds. I have never had much success with open ground; this is why I have raised beds on the lower half. In the last few years, barely anything except the roses and a dozen cherries has grown up there. This new start presents me with a opportunity to re-create that canvas. Covering this area, and holding it won’t make this whole process so overwhelming. I can still look after the trees and roses, there is even the odd raspberry cane. This will mean that I can focus on getting the lower half ship-shape, with raised beds being added to the top half later on.

As for the lower half, the raised beds can be cleared and covered too. I do need to think about what to do with the bare earth, and how weeds can be discouraged. I did prune down the roses too. There are plenty of roses on the plot, with about two dozen on the last count. Some are posh, some less so. Raspberry canes, the autumnal ones, were also cut down. There was a lot of fighting with, and clambering around with wild brambles that have been dotted around. I could have done with an Excalibur, some where as thick as my fingers and didn’t like the secateurs.

Today actually felt nice, it felt the right thing to do. I might not have shovelled tonnes of earth, but it did feel connecting and grounding. I don’t plan to rush this, this is a slow return. I can only do so much, and that’s the key here. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed and at a loss. Allotmenteering shouldn’t be like that, it shouldn’t be about perfection and living up to unrealistic standards.

So, we have a beginning. Let’s see what happens.

Let’s start again #gdnbloggers

shakespeare
shakespeare 2000

 

I think my allotment and I are broken, and I’d quite like to fix both.

I couldn’t tell you the last time that I took a walk down and did something. So much so, that my soul feels a bit less colourful and very much frayed at the edges. As I countdown to the end of February, I am feeling this quite a bit.  Over the last eight weeks, thoughts of the allotment have been shadows at the back of my mind. The allotment has been a spectre, hanging in my awareness as something that I need to make a return to; something that has been a big part of me, who I am and what I do over the last five years.

It is a sorry confession, but the relationship between my allotment and I has lapsed some what. We have become estranged, as life makes demands on the time we spend with each other.

2018, wasn’t a good year for the plot and I. It was a very busy year, as I managed working, training and writing. Writing was a big focus, and I spent less time outside. I spent a lot of time inside, writing and displacing the allotment. There were a lot of plates spinning with lots of different demands. Working part time and being a trainee counsellor has proven to be a challenging combination. I enjoy doing both, but have forgotten to look after myself in the process. In January last year, my poly tunnel was damaged by winter storms and it was basically downhill from there. My life became a tempest of tornadoes, and the plot didn’t get the attention it deserved and needed.

January this year offered a new start and the potential to get things going. I still have a busy life; my week is jam packed with my weekends being the windows for R&R. The windows are not big, so I do need to make the most of them, use them effectively. What I need to do, is to remember how the plot is and was a big part of that R&R. Getting my hands dirty, the exercise and the impact of it all on mental health, feels like a distant memory. A memory that as mentioned before, is a shadow.

Only the shadow is morphing. It is morphing into a fuzzy-faced gremlin. A gremlin that is poking me to take a walk down to the plot.

I need to make the time, the space, to go back to the plot.  I am tired of chaos, tired of things going up, down and pear-shaped. Tired of not being able to pause and colour my soul.  I need to reconnect with my plot, remember why I enjoy it and how it is has helped me the woman that I am. It’s funny,  but the growth and nurturing aspects of having an allotment have actually been a big part of personal therapy.

So I have come to some conclusions.

There are no plans to publish any writing. I am still writing, but I am not pushing to be in print this year. I need to step away from the kitchen table, and use it only for writing coursework. Coursework still needs to be done, with training not due to finish before the Autumn. Writing is officially on a slow-burning back hob.

Don’t worry about produce and preserves. Tidy up, create a blank slate. The plot has evolved over the years and at 200sqm, it is massive. Start again. Get the infrastructure, raised beds and things cleared. Cover the fallow area. Go back to basics.

Don’t rush. Take your time. I have come too far, the plot has come too far to be abandoned. It would break my heart to walk away from that patch of land, and I have thought about it. I have thought about it a lot over the last few weeks. (Okay, there’s a running joke that if I ever got married, it would end. Even that fills me with dread.) It might not look like it, but I have nurtured that plot and the plot has in turn nurtured me. This is not a relationship that I wish to end. It is not done yet.

Not all seeds need to be sown, you’ll get there. I had sown chilli seeds. There were three seedlings, and now I only have one. I did plan to sow some tomatoes at some point. Something is telling me to hold off.

Something is telling me to go back to the beginning.

Let people talk. Let them look at me and the plot, tut and shake their heads as the plot looks a bit forlorn. Yeah, it peeves me off and makes me feel about three inches high. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that was a Empire that had welly despite the harbingers. I remember the flowers, the fruit and the sheer joy that the plot has given me. I’ll get there again, and in spite of the pity, the huffs and the puffs.

I started GYO and allotmenteering as life was going wonky. The here and now is a similar wonky. So a return to the early days, is somewhat logical.

This is not going to be easy. I have an idea as to how physically demanding it will be. There will have to be time made-with the laws of physics-at the weekends. I am isolating weekends, with not all of Sunday being School-work Sunday. I do feel that it is possible and realise that there might be challenges.

The deal is this.

Let’s start again.

 

Summer of 2017: Pause in Play #gdnbloggers

As I sit here, I have Adele singing ‘set fire to the rain’ on loop in my ear phones. This is the summer  of 2017, and I am having a rest.  I’m not very good at having a rest; school and counselling training form a big chunk of my life, then there is the allotment, writing and occasionally I go on adventures. So when school ended about two weeks ago, I took the conscious decision to not fill my diary.  This is time for a full stop.

From August 2016 until now, there has been a lot going on. Work has been busy, there have been lots of students; I have spent my working days, prepping, marking, teaching; doing my day job to the best of my ability. Alongside that, I have also been at night school and undertaking a two-year level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic counselling.  That’s two fairly big plates and spinning all the time.  I had forgotten just how demanding a degree-level course was, and it has been ten years since I got my Psychology degree from Aston University. Training to be a counsellor and a being a  Psychology teacher are at two different ends of a spectrum

Anyway. The first year of the diploma ended in July, but school continued for a bit. When it did, I wasn’t going to go around spinning plates this summer.  I was and am, going to try and have some down time.

Whilst the plot hasn’t had the best year, it has had some therapeutic value over the summer.

For example, the growing stash of homebrew. I didn’t think that I would do much homebrewing or any other preserving for that matter. Only for blackberries to catch me by surprise and appear abundantly on the allotment. I have made blackberry wine before, I made some last year and added plums and currants. This year’s experiment is purely blackberries with some cinnamon and star anise thrown in.  I had been given some plums by a plot neighbour, and only today the must made from them has been transferred into a demi-john.

I have seen lots of fellow allotmenteers start to worry about blight warnings. This can be awfully demoralising, and when you have been working hard to maintain a crop, it’s awful to see it decimated. There are less than half a dozen plants on my plot, but I have harvested lots of green of tomatoes. I think that we currently have all of one red marmande tomato! I wasn’t too convinced by the crop of Roma tomatoes. I do believe however, that there was just something not right about this year’s growing season, least f all because of my own reduced productivity.  The tomatoes that have  been harvested have been used alongside apples and fenugreek to make a green tomato chutney.  There has been less playing with the preserving pan, and to return to that was actually really nice. I have yet to make jam, though Mama F and her sister did borrow my kit to make some blackberry jam. Making Jams, jellies and chutneys is actually really nice; it is a form of mindfulness, I guess, but more on that later! The batch of chutney now needs some time to mature and mellow; hopefully, it will find loving homes.

A bit delayed, but better than never; we  have glads! Appearing a lot like Roman candles, they have burst into bloom all over the plot in a riot of colour.  I don’t dig them out, and let them be. May be, once I have cleared the plot, I might consider sinking some more next year. It never ceases to amaze me, how colourful or abundant they are. They also attract  a lot of fuzzy bottomed bumbles, so having them on the plot for them is doubly useful.

All that any would be suitor needs to worry about, is investing in Diamonds; I can grow my own beautiful flowers, and petrol station flowers are never crossing my palms.  So may be just by my bulbs and things, that would work yes? You’ll have do your own weeding, mind.

 

I started off, saying that I was having a rest; that there were no adventures planned. In some part, that is true. I am very fortunate to be within a stone’s throw of Sarehole Mill. Something of a landmark and a beauty spot, the mill is said to have inspired J.R.R.Tolkien. Whilst I am not a real hobbit-the last that I checked-taking a walk down to the mill was something of an adventure. I’m glad that I did, that I wandered around by the Mill Pool-the mill still works-and even sat in the tearoom with a cuppa and tea cake. There was something magnetic about the place, and no wonder that Tolkien was inspired by it.

I had taken my notebook with me, thinking that I might sit there and write. I ended up taking pictures so that I could write about it later; I could imagine a protagonist stood musing his existence whilst looking at the mill pool. I made a note on the ‘to write’ list, and have plans to write when my brain feels like it. You can’t see it very well in the photo sadly, but there is actually a veggie patch outside mill. I remember seeing raspberry canes and rhubarb; there is all an apple espalier that overhangs a door. I’m not the only would be ‘obbit, that likes gardening.

Having a rest, will hopefully give both my brain and my soul a rest. There are no concrete plans per se as to what I shall do over the summer.

I have re-discovered my colouring books, I had forgotten just how much I enjoy this. I must have sat there for hours, with my pencils, fineliners and fibre tips just not thinking, but just colouring. I cannot describe the sensation, but it does feel as though you are floating away as you feel your attention span loosen out and become aware of your breathing, your heart rate;  all occurs whilst your mind empties.

As a well as colouring, there are books to write and to read.

In terms of writing, there are three, no wait, four separate notebooks/folders waiting to be looked at. But no mojo. Whilst colouring completely empties the mind, writing requires that it is full and with all sorts; for me, the day dreams have to be in full techi-colour and able to flow through my inky pens. It is only when my pens have a mind of their own, that I am able to write, commit things to paper. I don’t type and write. I write it all out in notebooks, it feels a more soulful in analogue rather than doing it via digital.

Having nothing to write, makes trying to rest a little difficult. You, I know that I, feel as though I should be doing something. Trouble is, the impetus, the drive is not there. Waiting for it to come back, the ideas to come back, is a trifle disarming. It is also unpredictable, and I have no idea when it will come back. I don’t want to call this a ‘writer’s block’, not in the least. There is no congestion-as it were-no back up, that needs a wiggle, or a flick to let it pour. Just no material to set a spark to, that oxygen might then fuel.

I can’t write anything at the moment, that doesn’t mean that I won’t in the future. In the last two years, I have written three books, and have another scheduled for release in Spring 2018. Whatever happens next, is the next phase, the next chapter; what will be, will be. I don’t want to force it; I am great believer in things-creative things-happening organically, spontaneously, to make your soul zing and may even a smile appearing on your face. I am going to sit on those four books, and let them appear when they are ready. Trust, me, when they turn up, make themselves known, I will tell you.

I’m not writing anything, so I will read. I am currently two thirds of the way through the Malbry Cycle by Joanne Harris.  Alongside that, I have the Hannibal Quadrology, written by another Harris.  I have only made a small dent in ‘Red Dragon’. Now both of the Harrises have written anthems for my doomed youth. I read ‘Blackberry Wine’ and three out of the four Hannibal novels during my A-levels. At 33, I am having a literary renaissance by making my way through Ms.Harris’s back catalogue and taking on Hannibal once again. Then I have lots of other random stuff-George Eliot, Virgina Woolf, Gustave Flaubert and lots and lots of historical fiction-on the ereader to also look at. There is no shortage of works to read.

I need to read, I want to read; as with colouring, with gardening, it’s time to submerge my soul into what makes it zing.

waltonscarecrow

Last but not least, my thanks to waltons! They very kindly sent my Spike and Drusilla the scarecrows.  There was never any doubt in my mind as to what they would be named.

Right, colouring, reading, watching Bones, Angel, Buffy or Star trek….all options on doing nothing…..

 

Mint Marauding and Mooli Pods #gdnbloggers

There used to be a herb bed on the plot, only it is now full of mint. Mint truly is a thug, the cliché is true. Unchecked, it runs riot and takes over. With the unbalanced combination of rain and sun, the plot mint has grown quite a bit. This has meant mint marauding, chopping it back to harvest leaves. As you can see, the bouquets were nearly as big as me, and three large bundles of the stuff were harvested. I guess that you can never have too much mint! Having harvested it all and carried it home, Mama F and I spent a few hours at the dining table stripping the leaves so that it could all be frozen. There are several different varieties, with some smelling like spearmint and chocolate mint in there somewhere too. It would take a proper connoisseur to smell out the different mint varieties.

At the moment, I have vague plans to make mint jelly. Usually, the plot mint ends up in chutney; Mum can rest assured, there is tonnes still left for her to use.

The second half of the day focussed on Mum’s mooli pods. She had found that the radishes that she sown had bolted; as such, there were lots of seed pods.

pods1

These are actually edible, and different varieties of radish will produce seed pods of different potencies. For example, seed pods from Japanese radish have a peppery fiery-ness. In the image above, these are pods from an unknown red variety, and these were quite sweet to the taste.  As you can imagine, I was going a little dotty anyway, having plucked away all that mint. However, as Mum had helped me, I was going to help her. All We had harvested less than half of her entire bolted radish crop, yet we managed to fill three troughs of seed pods. How I did not see seedpods in my sleep, I do not know.

Mum plans to cook up the seed pods; the recipe is in sow grow eat!

Other than mint marauding, I was loitering with therapeutic intent as well. I’ve not een to the plot in a while, so have missed the blooms blossom. Shakespeare is well and truly kicking off, and the glads have finally kicked.  I have the standard, as expected six pears on the tree-it’s always six, no idea why-with tomatoes making slow but certain progress. I’m not holding my breath with the tomatoes; there will be a significantly smaller crop than expected, and no puddles of tomatoes like last year. There are fewer plants, and I don’t think the Roma variety will keep their place on the plot. Marmande appears to be the winner as per usual.  All three of the grapevines are burgeoning; lusciously leafy, there are clusters of grapes starting to swell. With raspberries creaking to an end, I was able to harvest a handful of plump ‘darrow’ blueberries. The other two varieties haven’t so much as sneezed this year, the one plant is turning copper and going to sleep.

 

P.S. yes, I know,  need allotment proof nail varnish.

 

 

Blackcurrant, blooms, bogey and bindweed #gdnbloggers

Have you seen the sunshine, have you smelt the pollen?!

It’s a bit bright outside, and I don’t recall seeing anything on the weather about it. Anyway, doesn’t matter, I shall do my best to enjoy it.

From the safety of the kitchen, as  I cough, splutter and sneeze my way through conference prep.

 

It is that time of the year again, where I pootle off to the annual conference of The Association of the teaching of Psychology.  Having prepared one workshop on mental health and the classroom, I had a second one to prep, but before that, I took a walk to the plot.

I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy; I had already woken up sneezing, dopey, and full of bogey. As such, I had breakfast and dosed myself up with ant-histamine to take my second cuppa tea to the plot with me. The plan was to pick any fruit that had ripened over the last few days. I came away with most of my black and white currants-these are wellington and versaille varieties-with red ones yet to turn, as well as polka raspberries. What I forgot to do was check if any more fall gold raspberries had come through, I realised that after I had come home and had to stick the kettle on again.

The process of picking the fruit was hampered by sneezing and on loop. I was however hell bent on getting it picked, even if I was struggling to breath, coughing up my lungs and couldn’t string a coherent thought together. Up until this year, I have never ever, felt so flipping hamstrung in trying to survive hayfever. It woefully frustrating and does nothing but make me further frustrated by the lack of productivity on the plot.

Real life commitments have made it more difficult to work on the plot, I have spent increased time at work and also had training commitments. As such, bindwind has appeared as though the creature from the black lagoon. It’s a horrible, invasive thing that is probably from outer space.

However, there are some positives. Whilst they are quite diminutive, the roma and marmande tomatoes are starting to flower. I don’t think that there will be much of a bounty this year, but at least I might have some tomatoes to go with the gorgeous roses.

Roses First flush 2017 #gdnbloggers

All is not lost; the roses are coming!

 

I don’t meant the red and white ones on the standards of England, but the ones down the plot. These happen to be pink and red.

The month of May has finally decided to shape up and get warmer, and the blooms on the plot at starting to kick off. Roses and Gladioli are the plot favourites, and this is the first flush of the year. The gladioli are only just starting to peek through, and true to their name they appear blade like protruding through clay and raised beds. By now, I have usually sunk loads, and I might still do so. For now, I am over bowled and with the scent of lemons with a small clutch of roses sat on the kitchen window sill-I do most of my school work sat at the kitchen table so I do get to to enjoy it.

I was perhaps a bit over zealous, and have taken the first roses to come through. I will probably wait and let the next batch bloom and blow on the plot. When it is high summer-yes, I know it doesn’t happen often-there is a lovely, heady scent of zingy lemons that drifts around the plot. The blooms also produce bursts of colour that break up the green.

All really is not lost, and in the coming week I have lots of plot related stuff to do. With the bank holiday, the frost window in Birmingham closes so I will be endeavouring to sink tomatoes and squashes. There is also a shopping list, I really want to find some beans and spinach.

For now, happy Wednesday!

meandroses

 

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.

concordpear

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!