Category Archives: Preparation

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…..

seeds to sow…Fenugreek

….on the window sill, perhaps?

At the moment, on the window sill, there are small punnets filled with compost and seeds. One, contains fenugreek. The other, is starting to fill up with little gem lettuce.

In the warm conservatory, Mum has sown runner beans from seeds saved last year.

The Fenugreek.

A leafy, bitter herb, that adds both heat and spice to your dish. Can also be used as green manure on the allotment; a good cropper, it is ground cover whilst you prepare other areas. Fenugreek can be grown in a container, or broadcast sown. It’s a quick growing herb, especially outdoors and when it has rained. A good dose of rain, will ensure that it grows lush and bountiful.

It is an acquired taste; it can be very bitter and is best used sparing when cooking.

How do you cook it exactly?

Well, you can use it dry, like any other herb. Use it to give a background, texture flavour to food. It can be quite intense in large dose; best served metered.

You can also cut, wash and chop the leaves to stuff chappatis. When making your dough with flour and water, add the leaves alongside herbs and spices.

As part of a dish, you can saute alongside spinach and potato, and also add it to aloo gobi.

When you have sauteed onions, garlic and ginger add the leaves. Don’t chop too finely, but keep them coarse. Otherwise it will just disintegrate.

Sow fenugreek in batches, sow it often. It does work as a cut and come again crop. Successive growing will allow for a continual crop. It can be grow up to October-ish. At that point, it works better as ground cover.

If you are going to use it as ground cover over the autumn and winter months, it can be dug during spring time to help prepare the soil for growing.

 

Bookish: Road to #Birmingham2022

petal

From Telford to Birmingham:

A book-related adventure.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a some time now; particularly how to put into words. This is altogether nerve-wracking.

Well, here goes.

In July 2022, the Commonwealth Games will be just about to kick off in Birmingham. As such, this has inspired a multi-genre gathering of authors from across the world. One of them, just happens to be yours truly. A gathering that is scheduled for the heart of Birmingham, yards from the Floozy in the Jacuzzi, in the Birmingham Council House.

The journey, this bookish road to Birmingham, starts in Telford in April 2020.

That’s less than six months away.

How did this all start?

With a short story. And nerves. Lots of nerves.

I was ecstatic to be invited to Birmingham 2022, by fellow local author Martin Tracey.

I met Martin, in a pub. The Gunmakers Arms in Birmingham, actually; I was reading there, so was he. That was my first ever public reading-Postcards from Peace, Devan’s Halloween Story, I’ve never been so scared in my life-thanks to A.A.Abbott, her Tippling Tales evenings are brilliant, and well worth attending.

(I’m back there tomorrow! Get tickets here.)

Immediately, as you can imagine, excitement and anxiety collided. This would be one a massive, historic, multi-genre event. A first for me. It was, and is, a huge step as an author, and Indie Author at that. I set about thinking; how could I make steps towards this big event, to raise my profile and actually reach people?

I have no idea if people read my books, unless I pester them! The dreams of having a fan-club, are exactly that. Being somewhat eclectic, the book back catalogue is somewhat diverse.  There is most definitely something for everyone.

I thought about it, and took a chance. Was there an event, that I could do in the mean time? Turns out there was. In Telford; sooner too. A good opportunity to build a profile, and reach readers.  This was Shenanigans 2020.  The link for tickets is below.

Shenanigans 2020 tickets

There are a couple of locations, currently being investigated, for pit stops in the middle. Birmingham 2022, will hopefully be something of a homecoming, in that respect.

The key thing, the most central to all of this, are the books.

six

As I type, I’m preparing book seven. The teasers were done yesterday! This is my third instalment for the Peace Novella Series. All being well, this will be out there for everyone, by April 2020.

As an Indie Author, reaching readers, is a key. This means that reading and reviewing is incredibly important. That moment, when you randomly recommend a book to someone, helps that happen. Even if’s a one line review, even if you only add a couple of stars.

 

Rebuilding the dream #gdnbloggers

cayennes

The sun’s been out today; everything feels very much hopeful, and full of potential. I’ve seen potential, having fished out half a dozen baby chilli’s from the heated propagator. I was wondering when these would come through, it had been some time since the seeds had been sown. I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful as the pellets had repeatedly dried out and there was some sense of frustration. I had sown chocolate habaneros on one side of the prop with cayennes on the other. It would appear that only half of the prop is working. The hababeros have not germinated, the pellets have dried out. Some part of me suspects that the blessed box may be on it’s last legs. I hope that it hangs on a little while, I have tomatoes to sow in a month or so. I will be keeping an eye on the habaneros, perhaps sow another batch.

The job now is to nurture the seedlings, see if they start to become more robust. The mild weather is meant to stick around for the next week or so. If there is a cold snap, these are still quite  vulnerable to a chill.

And with all that potential at hand.

I went to the plot today.

There was much to be gained, after a fortnight of turbulence in the real life. I planned to get some grounding, lose the tinge of drama and stress that I’ve accumulated and experienced and also lose myself within the pleasure of being on the plot. With a playlist and headphones at hand, I popped on my wellies, grabbed my hoody. I was walked down by my Mum, who wanted to tackle her own plot.

(Note to self; find wireless headphones. You’ll end up chopping the wire with your secateurs).

My plan, at first, was to pull up grass. At first,  I did; much of what I put my hand to, did come up and away. Then it was a case of covering things up.

The first half of the plot has a dozen raised beds. I have built each one by hand-I remember the blisters-and most of them are in some form of shape. They are however low on dirt; they sink every year and will need to be filled back up again. For now, I am covering them, to contain and protect. The top of the plot, is nearly seventy per cent covered, the poly tunnel is there too in a sorry state of disrepair. This will either be recovered and form a brassisca cage, or recovered to once again be a hot house. If you ask my mum, it will probably be a cabbage cage. I quite fancy a chilli factory, to be honest.

Five raised beds were tidied and covered, there are still many more to look at. There is grass everywhere, most of it dead, so easy to get out of the way. It felt good to be back on the plot, to have impetus and to also be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If the raised beds are tidied, I can then think about the spaces in between. These can be turned into paths or even patches of flowers if I think about sinking bulbs, corns and gladioli. It would be nice to  have flowers back on the plot, the roses could do some TLC but are starting to form leaf buds.Still a bit early, to even contemplate sunflowers, so all in good time.

A rather unexpected but not surprising side effect of going to the plot, is the spark to write. I have an idea, for Devan III, it needs some beefing up though. I plan to go to the plot tomorrow, there is more work to be done; maybe the other plot will come together too.

And yes, I creak all over. In a good way…..

Smalls steps and chillies #gdnbloggers

I woke up today, feeling a listless. I didn’t have any plans for today, but didn’t feel like sitting around and watching box sets. (So far, I’ve watched most of ‘Friends’ backwards; it’s on right now, as a I write.) The plot was however, on  my mind. I’d found some more plastic, so this now had to be put down. Off I trundled, with Mama F in tow. She’s decided that I ‘need some support’ in getting things back on the road again. This is fine, Mama F is useful. However, ‘Here, let me do it, I’ll show you the idea’ as well as ‘you have to do this like that, so it is neat.’ She does have her own plot, yes; but her help is invaluable, even if it does mean I stand there and let things wash over me. Mama F means well.  At this point in the proceedings, I’m loathe to refuse help, or in this case, support,

plotalmost2019

Here we have it. Two thirds of the top half-the bit christened Project Othello-is now covered. Rome wasn’t built in a day, the plot won’t be conquered in that space of time, either.  This is important. My mojo is still waking up, and feeling overwhelmed is likely to kibosh it. Doing what I want, when I can and how I want to, is going to help things get off the ground. I still have a portion of the half-plot to cover in the next few weeks. Then I need to tackle the rest of the plot. This is where I have all the raised beds. At the moment, this are filled with dead grass and this will need pulling up and away. I’m not sure how ready I will be, or the plot for that matter, by April when I should be growing things.

chillistrt2019

I have  been thinking about sowing chilli seeds for weeks. I’ve found my propagator, some fresh chilli seeds and also some growing pellets. I haven’t sown seeds in a year, so this is a big deal for me. It feels right to sow seeds, to nurture them and have plants to look after. This was, I guess, the feeling of being in the zone; albeit treating it like a science experiment. A feeling, that started all of this gardening journey. I have sown cayenne and chocolate habaneros today. I started growing with cayennes; chocolate habaneros were also one of my early experiments.

I remember the researching that went into making sure that the seeds would germinate. Now, I am trying to use what I’ve learned to help these seeds germinate.

Cayennes are what most people think of when it comes to growing chillies. Long, elongated fruit that go from green to red. The smaller they are, the bigger the kick. They are part of a spectrum, the whole Capiscum family. There are hot one, sweet ones; some that are superhot, and should be handled with caution. In my experience, the hotter and more complex the chilli, the more heat is required to crack open the seedcase. The longer, it will take to germinate. I’m not the most patient when it comes to germinating seeds. I’ve seen cayennes come through relatively quick over 21 days. Others, such as habaneros and super-hot varieties have taken much longer.

I sow seeds in grow pellets that are housed in an electric propagator. This helps things be at a constant, stable, homeostatic temperature. In the past, I have used a plastic pot and a food bag. These acts like a mini-propagator, but the temperature regulation is very much hit and miss. Plus, the germination time is much longer.

As February starts, the temperature and light levels are still low. I don’t grow using grow-lights, but there any many chilli growers who swear by them. This does mean that any seedlings that I might end up with might become leggy and keel over. Once anything germinates, the seedlings will be fished out, kept somewhere warm that traps light but not enough to call the seedlings to shrivel up or fall over. It is a long time between now and july; that’s when chillies might crop. There are jalapenos that crop earlier. I shall be eagerly anticipating germination; it’s important to make sure that the pellets don’t dry out.

Back to the plot #gdnbloggers

Let’s get back to it, let’s get back to the plot. I finally put time aside and I took a walk to the allotment. I had black plastic, I had my secateurs. This didn’t mean I was about to lay waste to everything. No, I was and am taking baby steps back to the allotment plot.

plastic

This may not seem a lot and there may be those who say it’s barely anything. It is a lot to me and it is something. I had did my best to chop down bits and pieces that were sticking up and out. Unfurling plastic, I set it down onto the grass that had been left to weather away before Christmas. Weighing down, I’m slowly surely covering the top half of the allotment. I can then concentrate on clearing the lower half where there are raised beds to be tidied up. This is not going to happen overnight; I want to be able to organise my canvas and go from there. There will be no cultivation til I have some sense of order and some sense of things being organised. I actually ached from doing this; I’d forgotten what that pain felt like and why it feels different to other pain.

pellets

That said, I do want to sow some chillies. I have seeds and pellets now. In the next week or so, I will keep an eye on the weather and see to sowing cayenne and habaneros. I do have a heated prop, so that’s where things will be. Light levels are still low, and heat levels fluctuate daily.  If seedlings do germinate, I daresay they will be the most pampered plants in the house. It’s not easy to sow and grown chillies. I have observed that the hotter the chilli, the harder it is to get the seedcase to crack. Many growers have grow lights, and swear by them. I tend to grow things cold; there’s still something about using grow lights that feels really very intimidating, and not very me.

Beyond that, I will think about tomatoes. It is still too early. I have know tomato plants to keel over if we have a cold snap at Easter.

 

 

 

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.

Out thee horrid weeds #gdnbloggers

digging

Lately, I have spent a lot of time sat at the kitchen table writing. I spent all day Saturday there with my ink pen and notebook, so Sunday was going to be different. Today started with school work-School Work Sunday, as usual-and once that was done, I headed down to the plot.

It has been the mission for the last six weeks to actually remove the dead grass in the raised beds. With one thing and another, but mainly being busy with school work, I may have got a little way laid and lost some of my mojo. Well, the mojo has been low for a while, and I really want to revive it some what. With the grass getting yellower, it was a probably good idea to get rid of it.

 

The plan was to sort out one bed, but with Mum’s help four of the raised beds were cleared. I did the clearing, and Mum did the digging over. I am not really built to dig, but Mum sees no problem with it and followed me with the fork and spade to turn the soil over.  Thankfully, the grass came away fairly easily and now I have a canvas to plug tomatoes and squashes into.  There are three patches of open ground that were also treated, and these will dealt with next. These will be somewhat more challenging-there is digging required-but grass removal in the first instance. Open ground patches do pose their challenges and difficulties as the soil is heavy clay. I did have a thought about sowing spinach in some parts to raise the productivity level. This may involve a combination of seeds and plugged in plants. Whilst Mum tends to have enough spinach and greens to fuel a small planet, there’s never been much on mine. This, therefore, is on the list. Given how the seedlings at home are doing their best not to germinate and grow, there may be wholesale cheating going on with plants being drafted in.

As you can imagine, my hands got a little dirty; a little bloody too, as there was petulant and angry bramble that needed a bit of taming. And talking of a bramble, there were ladybirds having a spot of fun and it didn’t seem right to hack away and interrupt. I went off, to have a look at a couple of roses that had appeared. Roses on the plot, is something that I am looking forward to. They offer a fabulous colour burst and smell rather lovely. Having had a disappointing growing season last year, seeing the roses kick off does rather signal a change.