Category Archives: success

Plot Pumpkin meets his fate

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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!

World Book Day 2016: Thursday 3rd March

I hear it’s World Book Day tomorrow; the global celebration of literary fiction, of characters that inveigle themselves into our imagine to loom larger than life, and of the passion and pride that authors feel when their words are read and enjoyed.

Admittedly, these were my second. third and fourth thoughts after thinking of my own book and how I could plug it all day tomorrow. Not the most appropriate thought I suppose when there are books for every taste and interest that should be celebrated. I wrote mine as it corresponds to mine, the fortunate thing being that there are people out there for whom I hope it is useful. I enjoy having a vegetable patch, and I wanted to share the lessons learned from it.

It is less than seven months since I published #Plantpottales, and I am trying to think of what to do next. There is a current work in progress, with slow and steady progress being made. I do have a self imposed deadline that I am working towards; and two months in it is feeling rather tight already. I don’t write full time, I don’t even play on the plot full time; so it is shoe horned into the real life. This makes having a monthly quota a challenge, and I have a long list of things I want to write and put into the work. It’s a move away from non-fiction; I am trying to use my imagination and a thesaurus to create a work of fiction.

But I would also like to write another non-fiction gardening book. The thought has entered my mind of late. It will have recipes in it, certainly. I have a list! Of the assorted jams, jellies and chutneys that have been plot experiments. (I’m going to be cautious here and tell you that I am not a professional preserver but a hobbyist, so don’t be expecting full scale rules and regulations for health and safety et cetra. Keep yourself and your kitchen safe, all right?).  Whilst I have the list of recipes, I will need to reflect on what I put in the book proper. This means devising a list of chapter headings in the same way I did when developing #plantpottales. Some serious reflection is required as to what I want to put into it; knowing what I had put into #plantpottales.

This is the first-I think-World Book Day that I can experience as an author. I might be self published, but an author nonetheless, and I like to think that #plantpottales is one of the many books out there that will be appreciated not just tomorrow, but also beyond. The growing season has but just started!

With two possible, projects for the coming year, I can only hypothesis what world book day 2017 might be like.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#NABLOPOMO: Colour burst

It’s miserable outside, and there is a distinct absence of colour. Over the summer and indeed the last few years, the plot roses have come into their own. The bushes are becoming more established, and this has meant that we’ve had an abundance of blooms to sit upon the kitchen window sill.

I have a combination of posh roses, roses that I know the name of; as well as lost label roses that are nameless. In the middle of the plot, I have William Shakespeare 2000. A beautiful bloom that I got for birthday eighteen months ago. At some stage I will add Anne Boleyn to the plot. There is just something about having roses on the plot. The colour and the scent add a great deal of character to the plot that is otherwise used mainly to grow fruit and vegetables.

Plot Plunder, winding down

“Oh, Punam, I went to the Plot, your grapes were flat again. Tomorrow we need to fix them.”

“Right, okay.”

“Oh, Punam, we didn’t see these. All of these marrows. We must have missed them.”

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And so started the conversation, and I suggested we take a walk and see what the deal was with the plot. This week has seen a return to work, and teaching has started. I was in something of a daze yesterday at six in the evening, having finished teaching; so a walk this afternoon was scheduled as being necessary after a day of training. I am hoping to do some volunteer work in the coming year, so a large proportion of my day had already been spoken for.

“Mum, there’s seven of them?”

That means chutney at some point this week.

We took a walk, and removed the last of the patty pan, sunburst courgettes. There are a few other yellow courgettes remaining; and soon they will slow down. Once all of the squashes have started to die a death; the aim is to take up the plants and compost them back into the ground. I know that I shouldn’t plant more plants than necessary, it is however difficult to not comply when your mum wants more than one plant. Yet we both get fed up of seeing frequently appearing squashes by this time of the year.

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The climbing and runner beans are also starting to slow down. The last of them-she says-are now waiting to be chopped up and frozen.I had forgotten just how much you end up with, if you sow quite a few plants. We have had a combination of blue lake and cobra climbing french beans, as well as borlotto beans, scarlet emperor and painted lady runner beans. These had been sown in two batches, as I had been convinced that the one tray simply wouldn’t be enough. I think mum is quietly fed up now of chopping and freezing them. She is still to get used to the colour of the borlotto beans, I think they add character to the wig wams.

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It has been a while since we have successful cropping of a butternut squash on the plot. The very first one was called Gladys, and this one would be gladys mark three. After all, even the ghost rider pumpkins are always called Bruno. I cannot remember now whether this is waltham or hunter. It is butternut squash nonetheless. There have been yellow butternut squash type thing harvested during the summer, more spherical in shape. Not too sure as to what will be done this with yet, but I am sure that it will be put to some good use.

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Newly arrived today is the box of over wintering garlic that will be waiting to be sunk. I think the latest that I have ever planted is the end of November, so I am aiming to do sow sooner than that. This will mean clearing raised beds of the assorted plants before plugging in. I don’t plan to sink into open ground as the heavy clay tends eat the cloves and I also find it harder to monitor weeds.

Autumn: A review

The plot has been busy.  Very busy. With autumn, we have the opportunity to take stock of what has happened. It’s not necessarily an end of year review, that is reserved for New’s Eve. No, this is a case of reflecting on the journey that has taken place over the last ten months,

A journey, that started two days after Boxing day-i think-with the sowing of chilli seeds. That for me,  was the start.

As I come to pay my rent for the next year, I really must do that soon, I have a wealth of learning experiences going into what is my fourth year on the plot. It is with this milestone that I can see just how far I have come. Particularly with the grapevines. These take on average between three to five years to become established, and here we have our first ever harvest this year. The thin wiry twigs that were planted years ago, have become strong and fruitful. They do need extra support now, what was a temporary frame back then, now requires significant bolstering.

Another more concrete example, was the spuds. I have stopped counting now as to how many pounds or kilos, for that matter,  that have been harvested. I feel as though I have broken something of duck. Learned a technique if you like, how to best plant,  picked out appropriate varieties to gain a healthy and abundant crop. I am sure that I will be seeing Pink Fir Apple in my sleep.  They have most likely been put into every dish imaginable by Mum. Yesterday, I found one in Punjabi Khadi.

For the inside the poly tunnel, I am a little perplexed. There were tomato plants galore in there, with chillies and aubergines. The chillies, did okay; lessons were implemented. All were planted into pots, we had a none too bad crop of chillies. Aubergines, have reiterated their point as being a pointless exercise for me. I need to consider whether growing a seed, is equitable with rescuing plants from the garden center.

Eighteen tomato plants were sunk into the ground of the poly. They grew, they grew into six foot tall triffids that were defoliated from time to time. All they grew, was leaves. Maybe the occasional tomato. At a point where I might ordinarily be drowning in green tomatoes; there were none to be had. I was in a different time zone, when Mum found a single, solitary red one. She sent me a picture, to contain her surprise.  The questions that arise here, are two fold. Was it the selected varieties, or was the weather just generally a bit unaccommodating? I am going to say it was a reflection of both. Some of the varieties were the slower maturing ones, and I do think that the poorer weather-in comparison to last year-simply never gave them a fighting chance. Even the roses, suffered; but the gladioli kept going.

 

Soft fruit was a bit hit and miss. Strawberries, took flight, and we had enough to watch Wimbledon by. The runners are now running amok. Raspberries, well, the pink ones did precious little. With the autumn raspberries a bit confused and cropping quite well. Blueberries were a revelation, and for their first year did well.  Didn’t scrump as many plums this year-I do actually scrump with consent-so there was a lot less plum jam and jelly made. But lots of courgettes and marrows  lead to a relatively less busy preserving pan. For the first time ever, we had ice cream made using plot produce.  Something that I highly recommend, even I don’t really like strawberries.

With October starting, I have my seed garlic ordered; and will be trying to shoe horn time in between now and late November to get it sunk. I don’t tend to sow over wintering broad beans anymore. Beyond that, the major autumn winter task is to remove the dead plants and start clearing away. All the dead plants will most likely be composted where they are are, and covered with leaves and other organic material. Creates compost, helps improve the soil, and I am filling the raised beds til they are needed again in Spring.

Whilst everything on the plot is an achievement. There was something else. I wrote this.

‘Playing with plant pots: Tales from the allotment’

http://amzn.to/1OB7PqH : E-book
http://amzn.to/1VsJckt : Paperback

To find out more about it, you’re just gonna have to get it.

This can feel like a very depressing, dark and dank time of year. Especially when you have see the bright, blooming and bountiful delights of colour, crop and your own creativity. It then become difficult to see the light, more positive side of things.  Autumn and winter can be time of reflection, taking stock and making decisions as to how you would like to proceed. That is certainly the route that I will be taking. Tackling the plot bit by bit, setting lists to work through. It has taken six years to get to this point, so there is little point in hurrying.

I really need to go check the inside of my seedboxes.

 

 

 

The drama of the grapevines

The grapevines had keeled over. With the heavy clay being so dry with the lack of rain, the makeshift frame supporting them had fallen. Much panic ensued-I had only gone to harvest raspberries-to right the frame and wedge it back into the dirt.

However, it was necessary to call Dad in, and see if he could engineer something more robust. In fact one side, is still a bit lop sided and another review is required. The frame as it is, was built when the vines were planted, very new and wiry. However, they have seen grown, trailed and true to their name; vined.

There is an abundance of leaves, and a few bunches of grapes that the boskoop glory and madeline sylvaner have produced as you can see from the picture above. Not enough this year, for a homebrew experiment. The crop is rather sweet, and the varieties are in fact dessert grapes.

Brunos: Ghost rider pumpkins 2015

It is not unusual for me to take my pumpkins from the vine and put them on the window sill to ripen. Especially as the weather turns, the levels of sunlight drop and the temperature lowers.

Having gone away for a week, I had removed the fruit from the vine hours before taking a plane. A week has passed, and there is a distinct change. The green striped skins have given way to the bright orange that we associate with Autumn and All Hallow’s Eve.

Crucial question, how much do they weight?

Well, the precedent is six pounds, that was the weight at which the original Bruno weighed in at. That is the record that we then aim to meet and exceed. Their collective weight does exceed that. However, individually. the largest is 5.5 lbs, the middle one is 3 and the smallest just over 1.5lbs.

Whilst the individual weights may not match the first ever Bruno Fruit, I am going to take great solace in the fact that I have managed to get three fruits from two plants. That is something that I really prize, three is the magic number this year.

Not sure as to what will  happen to them, we don’t tend to make lanterns out of them.In the past, they have either been souped or turned into an Indian dinner.

Summer to September: Changes

Whilst many of my teaching colleagues will be returning to school, I have a few weeks before I do. This means that my attention is taken up with the plot, and recuperating before the new academic school year starts.

Some of the plot has been wonderfully abundant. Other parts less so. Whilst the tomatoes are five foot leafy triffids, there hasn’t been a great deal of fruit. What fruit I do have, is being placed upon a light and warm window sill to ripen. The raspberries were very hit and miss, and I think the same is to be said of Blackberries. I have harvested a few blackberries, but there doesn’t seem to be as much as previously seen.  This time last year, I had harvested a great deal of plums. Despite what the a picture above might suggest, that is a fraction of what last years bounty was. The above plums have been stoned and frozen for use in the autumn.

The squashes are quite abundant, and today I have been chopping courgettes and squashes that are most likely going to be turned into chutney.  You can see a baby butternut, a bit developmentally delayed; I think this primarily because of the erratic conditions this year.

Chillies have been very good in that lessons have been learned. I am very proud to have had a handful of orange habaneros. I have been desired such a crop for years! Whilst the plants are small, I cannot say that they haven’t been plentiful. These are after all, a very potent chilli. I had to wear gloves whilst chopping, as a preventative health and safey measure. The hungarian hot wax-the label is wrong- are fantastically productive, and the orange pumpkin chillies are a really nice surprise. They have ripened incredibly quickly. As eve the cayenne chillies are doing well as well.

As well as the plums, I have apples to play with. These were donated by a plot neighbour. Again, like the plums, these have been chopped and frozen to be used over the autumn.

Plot Productivity Part two- Early August

The poly tunnel is burgeoning with triffid like tomatoes, chillies and aubergines. The tomatoes have had to be defoliated and regularly; they have been become very very leafy. They are being fed, but not every day, with watering more regular. What I have noticed is that since I have been defoliating, there have been more yellow fruit. In defoliating, two fruits ended up coming away in my hands. These are marmande and cream sausage tomatoes.

I have harvested half a crop of blueberries. These are a mixture of darrow and blue jay berries. The blue jay are smaller, with the darrow being large and quite fat. Both bushes are cropping for the first time, and are grown in large pots. I look forwards to the additional crop to be had from the darrow bush.

And we have our first aubergine flower! I nearly missed it amongst the foliage, but did make sure it was tickled today. I had though the plant would be a little bigger, they were last year in the open ground. So we shall see if the plant actually crops.