Category Archives: Ghost rider

2015; Bollywood Gardener and beyond

As a year of two halves, 2015 has been somewhat interesting but different. The first half of the year involved having the best of intentions. Seeds were sown, I had half a plan as to what I wanted to achieve. No different to what I might have done in previous years, I was going to use all my knowledge and experience to make  things better, bigger and more efficient. Then came July, 2015 became incredibly busy and in the tail end; I am only just recovering from a very hectic six months.

Let’s take the first six months, where by the growing season is starting. Plans are afoot, the world is full of promise. We are hoping to have a good year.

Tomatoes, chillies and aubergine were the focus of the first three months. Makings sure that the seeds were sown, that these germinated and the plants pampered. Pampered, as so many valuable lessons had been learned as to how they might be successful. It was touch and go for a while in the early stages. Half baked chillies and tomatoes can be a very scaring and intimidating experience, when you let them be in a hot room or poly tunnel. There were even aphids and bugs that needed to be dealt with.

In July, I hosted a workshop during the annual conference of the Association of teachers of Psychology. I spoke about horticulture and mental health, the benefits that teachers might gain for both themselves and their students. I had asked my Psychology colleagues to sow sunflowers in the Spring and also encouraged conference delegates to do the same in giving them seeds that were kindly donated by the information point. It was also at this point, that I finished the Level 3 Certificate in Counselling studies.

Then came the summer, with lots and lots of growing!

No one year will be the same as the preceding or following. Yet this year felt different. There was just something palpably different that made growing more of a challenge ad something beyond me being busy with work and studies. Last year, I remember being ankle deep in tomatoes, green ones; but there were lots of them. This year,I had a foliage, and not a lot of fruits. Positioned in the poly tunnel, the crop was meant to do well. Even the chillies appeared to have struggled this year. Whilst the poly tunnel seemed to have been filled with triffids, there was a muted level of success. Aubergines did themselves no favours once again. I must say every year that I will not sow them. I finally have proof that I might be better off without them. Lovely plants, the occasional flower; but diddly squat fruit even if the poly tunnel was a bit damp and sweaty.

And note the gadget! The apple one. Having acquired all of those apples from a plot neighbour (they were not scrumped, I had consent!) that was an investment and a half. Saved me hours. The home brew kit is still waiting in the wings. untested this year, maybe it will be used in the growing seasons to come. There were a number of pickles and preserves. The preserving pan was rather busy this year, even though the produce was a bit hit and miss.

With the plot ticking along, and the blog growing. Something else also happened. I had been lucky enough to write guest blog posts for WRG, via the fabulous Michael Perry. This was and still is one of the most valuable writing experiences that I have ever had. This actually triggered something more complex and more challenging than I first realised. Over the summer, the winner of the Big Allotment Challenge Rob Smith had written a short book.  One of my fellow counselling students, L.A.Cotton, had also burst onto the young adult contemporary genre (She’s epic, tell her I sent you) with phenomenal success.

These three things combined spurred me to be courageous and write something myself. June and July were turning points, and I remembered sending a message to both my sisters; saying that I wanted to write an ebook, and I would try and get it out by Christmas. That was it, I was going to do it.

Having written as mentioned previously, the guest blogs for WRG , one of them was about the Indian Inspiration on the plot. I think Michael Perry used the words ‘Bollywood Gardener’ or something similar, and I adopted the hashtag! This inadvertently became the start of the book. I wrote in a way I can only describe as feverish. I have the same frame of mind when writing the blogs, to be honest; and it’s part of the blog life. The book however was different in that this was thousands of words and trying to bring the assorted elements of the blog together. There was a lot of things that I wanted to include in my budget of 25, 000 words. I had a notebook-my blog book actually, the one that I take to the plot-and a pen. Scribbling ensued, and it’s hard to read my writing anyway. So when it’s all in very hurried, that doesn’t help with typing.

What I ended up with was ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’. Plus it was well before Christmas!

 

With a bright yellow front cover, you cannot miss it!

I am going to be naturally very biased, and say that I like my book. However, that is genuine. I like to share it, because I do honestly believe in my book. You might, for example, have writers out there, who will promote their books; but not necessarily believe in their own work. You know if you don’t blow your own trumpet, it’s difficult to get others to do the same.

Standing in the kitchen, leafing through my own book was rather surreal. My name was on a book, that I had crafted. Then there was the few hours that it was at number one. A fellow independent writer informed me of that happening, and that made my day, I tell you! I am determined to get back to the slot.

Then there was the swag. The merchandise. Again, this sounds likes trumpeting! Petal, the horticultural Obbit, has always been the online avatar of the blog. A registered trademark, she’s face (other than mine!) of the blog and social media presence.

 

As you will have read, this year may have been different to others; but it has not been quiet. So much has gone one, it’s no wonder that the tail end of the year is slower and more reflective. If it had all been plain sailing, there would have been very little learned, very little documented in the blog, and very little left to reflect upon.

For now, my only plan is try and sow chillies at some point, and plant my fruit trees when they arrive. I haven’t really thought about anyhing beyond that.

I thank you, for having accompanied me on the 2015 journey; and look forward to the one starting in the new year.

Happy new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruno 2014: It’s all over

Here we have it, Bruno has finally met his maker. Yesterday morning, I got up and and with Ma’s help sacrificed Bruno. Bruno the Ghostrider has been sat in the kitchen since mid summer. From green to turning orange, has just been biding his time. Time then arrived for me to actually do something with him.

This is by far the biggest pumpkin that I have grown. Topped the scale at over 6lb’s. I had planned to soup the whole thing. However, there was no way I was going to be able to roast all of that, unless I split the amounts and hogged the oven. The plan fell as thus. Some of it would be curried, the remainder would be souped.

The curried pumpkin:

Sautee some onion, ginger, cumin and carom seeds in oil til the onions are transparent. I added some fresh tomatoes as well. Add squash, add garam masala, turmeric, salt, powdered coriander, chopped chillies and cumin if you wish. Coat all the squash. The pumpkin is quite fibrous, so add some water. Cover, and cook through so that the pumpkin softens. Then, remove lid and cook away some of the water. Can leave some if you want to have a sauce.

Bruno was also souped. I used a handful of homegrown mussleberg leeks for the base, as well as a small onion, ginger and garlic. Bruno in chunks, was roasted in a tin, a gas mark 7 for 40 minutes. In the oil, i had put cumin, chilli flakes, carom seeds,dried homegrown rosemary and a couple of sweet peppers. Once roasted, this was all added into the pan with the base. I then added garam masala, turmeric, a little paprika, lots of salt. I used a lot of salt, as I have previously found that this soup doesn’t otherwise taste of anything. As well as three small red chillies. Only as I didn’t put lots of chilli flakes in the roasting tin. The whole thing was then simmered til the squash was softened and squishy. Once softened and squishy, this was blitzed with a blender. I did have to return to hob to season though. Additional garam masala was added, and salt. You will of course have to taste to test. The seeds incidently, will be saved, dried, and saved for growers next year.

Belated Bruno Sacrifice imminent

All hallow’s eve has come and go. Yet Bruno the Ghost rider pumplkin is still loitering in the kitchen. Whilst squashes such as these do last for sometime, there will soon come a time where the pumpkin might have to meet it’s maker.

In the coming week, I shall try and soup the thing. Not that I am particularly looking forward to chopping it up. Takes a while, since the pumpkin is about 6lbs, with tough leathery skin. The seeds will be saved and hopefully donated to loving homes for the next generation of Bruno Babies.

In the past, we have have a few bruno babies:

 

 

 

Bruno babies 2014

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This years Bruno is awaiting sacrifice. However the seeds of Bruno previous have been donated to ‘New shoots’ in Leeds, Gardening Leave in Ayrshire and Aston University allotments.

Gardening leave supports Veterans through Horticultural therapy. Aston university is my Alma Mater, and have this year started an on campus allotment.

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Baby of Bruno on the Mersey: Never walks alone

King Kenny, Sir BoB, Bill Shankly
King Kenny, Sir BoB, Bill Shankly

My thanks to @Redlegend68 for the above image.

As you may be aware, a few years ago I grew a ghostrider pumpkin that we called Bruno. When Bruno was harvested in 2011, I saved the seeds and sent them the length and breadth of Britain. Some of the progeny went to Liverpool, and have turned into some beautiful whopping specimens. Two of the above were donate to a harvest festival.

My own bruno is waiting on the window sill, and the seeds of bruno 2014 will then be saved. Once more, they will hopefully go to good homes.