Category Archives: success

The pages are turning

Apologies for not being around. There has been a lot going on, not bad, I assure you! This has made gardening and writing a bit more challenging. The next few months are shaping up to be both interesting and busy, but I am still around, not disappearing or dropping off the proverbial radar.

Not sure quite what gardening or when it will occur. In the mean time, the ink pens are in action and writing projects are happening.

Just wanted to remind you, of the books and there are quite a few now! If you wanted a bit of advice and guidance beyond the blog, there is the ‘yellow one’ and the ‘little green book’ that will help make things a little less confusing.

And if you fancied something completely different and not in the least bit gardening related, there is Fragments and also Retreating to Peace. Links to your right.

All of the books are available in both paperback and ebook.

Retreating to Peace is a Peace series novella and has a selection of rather lovely stable mates. Be sure to check ’em out!

peacecovers

Forays into Fiction

In 2017, I made my first foray into fiction. Having written two non-fiction books about my allotment, this was something of a challenge in being very different. In all honesty, I really enjoyed writing both of the allotment books; there was a huge learning curve that really did open my eyes. I have learned lessons with each book, and hopefully continue to do so as things progress. No one book is perfect, and there is always someone who will offer you feedback to that effect. The broad plethora of writing out there, would suggest that you are never going to please everyone. Start with pleasing yourself, see what happens.

allthreebooks

That said, seeing and hearing people enjoy the allotment books is a wonderful experience. It is validation, yes. That something I have produced is out there, that it is being engaged with, and there is value to it.

There is a wonderfully romantic notion, that writing is easy; that writers of any description, do nothing but lounge around navel-gazing, smoking cigarettes, drinking tea and occasionally put pen to paper. I can tell you now; that is not the case, that could not be further from the the truth. I don’t smoke, navel-gazing does my head in, but I do like back to back cups of tea.

Then there is the idea of why write?

Well, why not?

There is just something about a pen, a notebook, a day dream and marrying it all together. All that day dreaming is of no use in the depths of my cerebellum; if released from there, it might actually have some use, some one might benefit from it in some shape or form.

I’ve been writing since I was fourteen, and on anything I could get my hands on with rather curly handwriting. Nineteen years later I still have the loose leaves somewhere, and I look back them with lovely, rose tinted glasses. Some of the stuff is in my opinion, altogether strange; however, I wouldn’t change it, I wrote it and for reasons only known to the universe. I still write Star Trek fan fiction; it was and is an wonderful immersion experience. Anyone who tells you that fan fiction doesn’t count as literature, could do with a broader scope on their bookshelf.

 

fragments

In previous posts, I have explored why I wrote ‘Fragments’. I wrote it because of family bereavements, because loss(in  many different forms, not just death) had become a big part of my world and I was trying to make sense of it. Compared to the allotment books, it is bigger, beefier and quite literally not so rosey. Don’t get me wrong, there are happy endings in there; I couldn’t bring myself to write abject, bleak, misery. What I wrote about was being human, or in the very least, trying to understand being a human and the relationships that we form. I’ll be honest with you. There are some parts of ‘Fragments’  that actually make me cry, and I wrote those bits! I can’t read them-I did, when crafting it, I had to force myself to do so-there are others, which make me smile, and I’m glad to have written as not many others might have.

With 2018, I am making my second foray into fiction. I have also broken my own self-imposed rule of not having human beings on the cover; so far, we’ve had insects and pastel art. This next foray, is continued diversification and into contemporary romance. It is actually rosy, unlike ‘Fragments’ so it does have some sunshine like the allotment books. Again, there has been learning; there has been further, very instrumental development and growth.

Over the last three months, I have posted bits and pieces about ‘Retreating to Peace’. I wanted to share the excitement that has been a big part of this project and how much that means to me.  Hopefully, you will have seen the teasers and things.

Yes, this is different. To gardening, to grief. Proper diversification, and then some.

Yes, you read it correctly; contemporary romance.

Romance as a whole, is huge! It is a big slice of the literature pie, the indie publishing pie as well.

Here I am, a minnow-a gardening one-in a big pond, with lots of established fishes.

I couldn’t tell you why I took this plunge. Only, that I wanted to keep writing after having finished ‘Fragments’. I must have taken one week, perhaps two, before stumbling across the Peace Novella Series.  This felt the right thing to do, the universe was sending me signals of some kind.

Plus, as with the other three books, what could I possibly have to lose?

There are some things, that as I was writing ‘Retreating to Peace’ were a big part of my awareness. Things, that have most likely shaped the production of it, and I haven’t really put them out there before.

First, I chose to write a male main character. He’s not that much older than me, he is taller though. Most people are to be honest. Plus, I didn’t want to write a swaggering Alpha Male who saves the universe whilst having a fragile ego broken by a heaving bosom.

Second, he’s of mixed heritage. I would not, do not wish to, label Devan Coultrie as a Person of Colour. That label sets my teeth on edge for a whole armada of reasons that I won’t go into here. I managed to shoe-horn Anglo, Indian and Scottish into development.

Third, not all romance is about rainbows and butterflies. I know, that seems an oxymoron, Thank goodness for Happy For Now.

Fourth, I spent my whole childhood watching Bollywood Movies. There are lots and lots of Bollywood/Indian cultural things mentioned in RTP. This is why, I took great pleasure in writing Devan’s Diwal story. Oh, and I have yet to find a would be Indian inspired romance. Trust me, I know who Meera Syal is as well as Anita Desai and Arundhati Roy. I may never scale their great heights, but a girl can dream, eh?

 

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.

 

 

Cooking Allotment Squash #gdnbloggers

It will be soon that time of year again, where we cannot move for Pumpkins. There are two of our-well, Mama F’s-that are waiting in the wings to meet their merry end. In the mean time though,  you may have a few allotment squashes hanging around that need to meet their end.

There were a few round courgettes that were floating around looking rather sorry for themselves. Mama F has decided to make a curry type dish with them, and I just happen to be in the vicinity to catch it on film.

You can also view the clip here.

The recipe is simple enough. Onions, garlic and ginger were sauteed in a pan with some cumin. Ma then added spices to these, and cooked them through to infuse the flavour. She also added Punjabi Wadi-these are made of urid dahl and are effectively dried spiced dumplings-a bit like a bollywood oxo cube, just a bit grittier. These are spiced, and give a little more depth to the dish.

 

punjabiwadi

Once that base of the mixture is cooked through, chopped squashes were added. They were already in water, so there was no need to add extra. Allow this to all cook through, under cover so as to allow steam to cook the squashes through. The dish is done when the squash is tender, but not too squishy or mushy.

Depending on how coarse and stringy the squash is, this will influence how long you cook it for. Don’t forget to stir, otherwise it will burn. Keep it all on a moderate heat, just to make sure; this also allows the water to be soaked up.

You can also view the second clip here.

Plot produce ideas from Petal #gdnbloggers

Sometimes, typing up things only gets you so far! Thought I might try and make some videos of plot produce and provide a different dimension. You’ll have to forgive the rambling and wobbly camera work.

Squashes and beans can be really very prolific on the plot, and you soon run out of ideas as to what you can do with them. You could stuff the marrows and patty pans, or cook them them as a curry. Yep, sauteed with some onions, garlic and ginger, you can make a really simple Indian inspired dish. It is up to you how spicy you make it-and if you have some home grown chillies, you can add these!-maybe even add some home grown potatoes.

Squash and beans you tube link.

We had a spot of drama with the tomatoes this year. From not thinking that they would be productive, to quite a few green tomatoes. These were all removed from the vines as dreaded blight appeared and left to ripen. There was soup made at one point, in efforts to use them all up. Tomatoes can be use as the basis of many Indian dishes. Once you have made a tarka base, you can add fresh tomatoes to form a gravy base that gives the dish body and helps to infuse the flavours that you are cooking with.

Tomatoes and squashes you tube link.

Compared to previous years, the plot has produced quite a few chillies and across different varieties. Some have been quite mild and used in Mama F’s, others are bit a more potent. These more potent varieties make really nice chilli jam! Unlike traditional jam, this type doesn’t have to set or wobble; it only has to gloop. This is really simple to make and depending on how hot or sweet you want it, you can moderate this by using different chillies.

Chilli Jam you tube link

Tomato time! #gdnbloggers

“Get them home before the blight comes.”

So said the Allotment Secretary as I trundled home with trug number of two of tomatoes. It started with trug number one and a couple of carrier bags.

We have had quite a few varieties on the plot. These are-if I remember correctly-tigerella, latah, moneymaker, yellow stuffer, cream sausage alisa craig and marmande. I may have missed out a few.

Anyway, I’ve been complaining acutely over the course of the growing season as to how little produce I have managed to sow and grow. I may have over looked the productivity of the thirty two-ish plants that were grown across the two family plots.

I remember having that many plants, and dividing them between my plot and mum’s. I had a feeling, that there would be quite a few if all things went well. Now, having seen a few of plants on neighbouring plots start to with and go all very baroque gothic with would be blight, I have harvested a fair amount.

For fair amount, read poundage and one big massive puddle. I have maybe one trug full left, which I might harvest next week if the airborne blight is still away in distance.

Some of the fruit are actually turning; there are splodges of red, yellow and orange floating around. I have to say, that it is the latah one’s that are by far the reddest of them all. Even moneymaker is somewhat orange hued and not red.

As you can see, there is an assortment of different shapes and sizes. Once you have sown and grown your own tomatoes, you cannot look at the generic shop bought ones in the same light. There is also the question of flavour-the distinct tomato-y-ness. The fibre of the fruit, is is squishy, solid or just a flesh that is held up up by sugars.  This lunchtime, as I sliced up a yellow stuffer for a side salad, I realised why it was a stuffer and not a salad tomato. It had been looking at me for days, pleading to be used. Although moneymaker is uniformly round, there are other varieties that are less pretty. And thank goodness that they are! There are quite a few knobbly marmande fruit, with their rather weird and wonderful shape. It is a shame, that in most instances, not many people will eat what is lovingly termed ‘ugly fruit’. It tastes the same, is of the same edible quality, and proves that nature loves wonkiness. There are far more wonky things, compared to the bland, uniform, tick all the boxes, don’t make a fuss variety.

That puddles is huge, and would probably make a lovely green tomato chutney. I’m not particularly feeling the chutney at the moment. I have some hope, that within the confines of a warm environment, these fruit will turn. In which case, they can be used in Mama F’s kitchen and I might even consider investigating pasta sauce  of some kind. There is also the option of ready made tarka mix as well, that could be interesting.

So the growing season hasn’t been an entire bust; the tomatoes are okay. I’m sure I have spuds to lift as well……

 

For now, it’s all okay, and smelling of tomatoes. (Trust me, that is not attractive….)

From #Gdnbloggers to #Indieauthor

August 17th 2016 was a rather important milestone. It was one year exactly since I pressed publish and published ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’. This is the first of two books, and was the start of an interesting adventure.

#Plantpottales was the product of fevered writing, and a deep rooted desire to share what I have experienced whilst having an allotment. Based upon this blog, the book extends to some extend some of the learning that is documented in these cyber-pages. I didn’t write it to replace, but as an accompaniment. It is an additional source of information, that can be accessed and used.

I wanted to write a book, it seemed a challenge and a good thing to do! It call came from guest blogging, and with encouragement that is the legend https://mrplantgeek.com/ He is also the chap who indirectly helped create the #bollywoodgardener. Without his encouragement, I don’t think the book light bulb would have switched on. It was not easy to write the book, I had a list of ideas and wanted pictures. Throwing together is probably a better description, as I remember having all sorts running through my head.

There was distinct movement from being an allotment garden blogger to an indie author. I had never in the first instance, termed myself an garden blogger-yet this was another lovely group that I have found!-but it did make sense to me; I am blogging about a garden, it just happens to be an allotment garden. This is a dynamic linear development, I am still a garden blogger and I happen to now be an indie author. I self published,  don’t have an agent, a publisher; I am also still learning about the process.

Didn’t stop me from writing a second book.

There is a fantastic indie community, and if you are on FB, you can find their page here. Indie Authors and Book Bloggers They also have a website, http://indieauthorsandbookblogs.weebly.com/ where you can find information about this fantastic community. They have an affiliate magazine, that I just happen to be in this month http://pub.lucidpress.com/b9f1a33c-1afa-4708-b466-3811378f474a/?src=fb

There is also a cracking good garden bloggers community, that started via the twitterverse https://twitter.com/gdnbloggers and they have also been immensely supportive. There is also the gdbbloggers website where you can find further details.

To me, having self published two books is an achievement. It is something that I am very proud of, and want to share with anyone who will listen! I appreciate that not everyone is green fingered, not everyone wants to know about garlic and chilies; yet you never know. There was just something about holding a book with my name on, and knowing that I wrote it.

I remember walking passed a bookshelf in a well known book store, it was headed ‘Gardening’. To me that felt like a set of goal posts, and the thought in my head was that one day, I might get there.

It is however important in my head to keep a few things straight. In the first instance, I have written about a very niche interest. Gardening and cooking isn’t necessarily everyone’s cuppa tea. So that means that interest in the books might not equal or plumb the depths that heavyweight Gods and Goddesses of Horticulture. Second, Rome wasn’t built in a day-I have been there, I know-and writing is a process. Neither of the books is perfect, but I have given them my all, I will continue to do so.

There are further books to be written, I know there are. I am half way-ish writing book three; there have been struggles with that, I can tell you! At the moment, Book four has a cover image but no content, and that is likely to be a gardening book. Book three, is definitely not gardening and is something of an experimental work in progress.

I have enjoyed this journey so far, and I do hope that it will continue. And the key word is hope. Hope, as you never know.

 

Windowsill Wednesday #gdnbloggers

March comes in like a lion, and leaves like a lamb. That is meant to the seasonal adage. There is most certainly roaring, as the weather displays it’s mood with rain, slush and sleet. You would not think that this was the start of Spring. With the inclement weather making it difficult to go play on the plot, all reflections are contained within four walls of home. In particular, reflecting on the window sills.

Despite being a little behind, the window sills are starting to fill up. Chillies and tomatoes now occupy the available space, and will need to be carefully observed as they start to grow. They all look very delicate and spindly. largely due the fact that it is still very cold and I don’t use grow lights. I never have, though the hardened chilli might do; grow lights have never been on my agenda. Maybe when I have my own castle and have won the lottery, I might invest in some.

There is still a lot to think about, so early on in the season. I have a long list of things to consider. I need to find some ‘orse poop so that I can sink all the seed potatoes that are currently waiting in the wings. With Easter being early, the planting of the seeds will scheduled in line with a break from school. Previously, I have spent the odd Good Friday and Easter Monday digging trenches for potatoes or building bean frames. No trenches on the plot, by way of learning and experiencing different things; and the beans go into wig-wam structures. All of the spuds are likely to go into raised beds that will be filled with ‘orse poop. ‘Orse poop that has decayed well, and isn’t steaming fresh as this can kill things dead and that’s not quite what we want.

This years Psychology Sunflower challenge will be kicked off as well. (You can find last years blog posts about that in the archive). As April swings in, one will need to consider squashes, runner beans and climbing French beans; and sow these into pellets. This will mean window sill shuffles and making sure that the four tier blowaway in the garden is in a fit state. It’s actually looking a bit battered and weather beaten, and the cover might have disintegrated in patches in addition to the zip on the one side having lost it’s teeth. Happens to all of the covers!  Sowing of the beans may take a while, even though in the past they have been sown around St.Patrick’s Day. We had a nice crop last year, though mum did pull faces at the Borlotti beans. I quite like them, and will probably sown a few seeds sneakily on the side. She won’t know til they vine!

Happy Wednesday folks!

 

Plot Pumpkin gets curried

Mum has just used the second half of the pumpkin, so now all of it has been used. Needless to say, we are probably going to be eating pumpkin for a few days. You can watch it via youtube here.

With one pumpkin we have created straight forward dishes. Both have contained fenugreek which despite being a green manure, is really very useful in Indian dishes. The recipe used here for the curried pumpkin can also be used with squashes and it’s entirely upto you as to how much of everything you might want to use. I have found that pumpkin can be either be quite sweet or bland entirely. With both of these you can add different spices and condiments to make it how you want to.

The curry and the soup were always going to be the plan for the pumpkin, I have yet to make pies!

 

 

Plot Pumpkin meets his fate

IMG_5647

 

With two of the three plot pumpkins already having met their fate: it was time that my last one met it’s fate. Having survived Halloween, it has been hanging around for a while.

 

The process involved chopping, roasting and adding the combination of pumpkin, tomato and a bit of home grown chilli to an onion base. With this recipe, I have only used half of the 6lb fruit.

The youtube clip is here.

After roasting, we did this.

The recipe is fairly straight forward. Having peeled and chopped the pumpkin it was then roasted with an assortment of spices. Once cooked through, this was added to a base of onions, ginger, onions and cumin that had been sweated off. Adding water and simmering till tender, the pumpkin became tender and was then blitzed with a hand blender. The one difference in this soup compared to ones made previously, was the addition of home grown fenugreek for additional flavour. There were also some frozen home grown chillies in there too.

If you hold a second, I will be posting the other half, where we curry Bruno!