Category Archives: Taking stock

Have Hope not Hate

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I’ve been turning this post over in my head for the last few days; trying to get the words together and say what I want to say.

Like many, I awoke on Tuesday morning and turned on the news. What I read on the ticker tape, what I heard made me rather sad. It also made me angry, scared and as though I wanted to cry and into my breakfast.

The sadness that I felt; it was as though someone had sat a great big block of ice on my stomach. The last time that I had felt that way, Britain had gone to the polls and made a once in a generation decision. This, had nothing to do with a ballot box. This was about beautiful people, enjoying beautiful music and doing what gave their life colour.

I am not about to go into politics here; that is not what the blog is about.

I had my breakfast, I had my mint chutney on toast. Grabbed my coat, my handbag. I got in to my car.

Ordinarily, I will turn the key and I will have Maroon5 or Adele blaring out from George’s speakers. The bass will only just kick in, and I will sing all the way to school and the city of peace and reconciliation.

I didn’t do that on Tuesday.

Trying to remember the frequency for Radio 5, I pressed scan. I could not bring myself to listen to music; it seemed the most uncomfortable thing to do. Instead, I listened to the shocked sounding Nicki Campbell, and tried to get a better picture and some clarity.

I wanted to cry, and how I didn’t as I drove, I do not know.

Having got to work, and parked up, I sent messages to friends and family with young children. If they could hug their kids for me, from their Aunty, their Massi and Bhua; they bring colour to my world, and I couldn’t imagine my rainbows without them.

I could not imagine what the mums, dads, family and friends of those in Manchester would be going through.

Even going to school, talking to colleagues, it was heavy. There was a horrible, grey, leaden fugue and life seemed to be suspended.  The world of rainbows had become grey.

I saw my students in a new light; they are all the same age as some of those who would have been out that evening. I could not imagine walking into my lesson and not seeing them there.  They make my job what it is, and they are why I teach.

As well as being sad, I was angry. Children, young people, music;  they make the world a brighter, more colourful and loving place. For them not to exist, infuriates me.

It is only days since the event-I’m not even sure what to call it, the words are abrasive-and everything is still very raw, immediate, the world is still trying to process things.

Over the last day or so, I have seen things about yellow and bees. Above, you will see a sunflower that once grew on the plot, there is a bumble bee rather enjoying it. Yellow, is the colour of hope. Bees feature heavily in the life of Manchester, so the image seems apt.

Hope, was also the last thing to be found in Pandora’s box. A tiny voice, making itself known; asking not to be forgotten.

When all else is lost, it seems daft to do away with Hope.

Hope is powerful. It is courage, being steadfast, and having resilience.

Above all, it is motivation to heal, to love and see the brightness in a world where it seems only darkness, chaos and carnage reign.

To have hope is to believe.

To believe is to have strength.

 

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.

Super Sunny Sunday with seeds! #Gdnbloggers

Hold on, this could be a bumper blog. I have lots to share!

Today started off with a seed check in. I was thinking about what seedlings I have, how i might keep rolling with growing season and what I might sow next. It turns out that there were quite a few and at varying stages of development. I would have expected that the chillies would be a further on. However, they have been growing with less light and heat that they might want. The plants have only just been moved to warmer and more light part of the house, so I am hoping that this will go someway to nurturing them a little more. Tomatoes are actually quite fluffy and feathery, and could probably do with being potted on. They are few in number, in comparison to previous years. Last year, there were thirty something plants and we have lots of green tomatoes. Hopefully, these will be enough; but me being me, there will be probably be further plants bought and in a episode of hysteria. Today really was going to be about taking stock, reflecting and remembering to enjoy the allotment.

 

(You can see the youtube version here)

Remembering the allotment, started with a Rhubarb rummage. Okay, so it happened on Mum’s plot, but it was a rather positive experience. Mum inherited quite a bit of rhubarb, and today some of it was harvested.

This looked like fairly heavy duty, industrial strength rhubarb; I am convinced that my hands were zinging with its acidity after I had finished chopping it all up. I am not yet sure as to what I might do with it, and there is a something like eighteen pounds now in the freezer. That could result in a fair bit of crumble, preserves and perhaps a batch of homebrew. That said, there is already some rhubarb wine stashed safely away.

You can also find the youtube video here.

The whole concept of taking stock, also involves reclaiming the plot. This is happening slowly, and I am realising just how much I have missed playing on the plot. This really isn’t going to happen over night. It has, after all, taken me a fair few years to get this far. Again, there are plans. The sort that can be changed, are on a short list and can be done in a manageable way. Having a long list of things to do, just makes it harder to get back into the swing of things. It did help that the sun was shining today! Otherwise, the rather grey and melancholic pathetic fallacy with the weather can rather make it difficult to take a walk down to the plot.

It does look a bit green and leafy yes; there are lots of weeds, patches of grass and patches of bare earth that do rather need to be put to good use. The plot is not exactly a show garden. I wouldn’t want it to be. It is a working document garden; things change and all the time. There are also those amongst us, who might disagree with that I have been doing; if we all had the same opinion, there would be one very stagnant status quo, and no room for innovation.  There is potential for movement and forwards. It might not be immediate or quick, but it will  happen.

I can genuinely say, that I have felt that bit happier and less frazzled in taking stock today and also getting my hands dirty. I have a timely reminder of self care, and how it is important to look after yourself and every part of you. Lately, I have spent alot of time cooped up indoors typing, concentrating on two different school work fronts and not really made-yes, made-the time to play on the plot. Simply going to harvest rhubarb, to take this video has been something of a very bright, very apt reminder that it was time. Even seed sowing took on a therapeutic role today. I felt altogether rejuvenated really, and I haven’t felt like that for a long time. See, Sunday has been school work Sunday and for three quarters of a decade. That had to pause today. I had my work set out, ready and everything; there was even a post it list. Only the plot was what the psyche needed today, it was what the actualizing tendency and organismic self needed.

Person centred theory makes a lot of sense when it comes to the my allotment plot. Go read about Carl Rogers and his potatoes.

His were in a basement, mine happen to be under dirt.

The youtube version  of the video can be found here.

As well as taking stock and reflecting,  lots of seed sowing has been happening today:

The first session involved sowing sweetcorn and some further scarlet emperor. I have previously sown a handful of runner beans as well as some climbing french beans. However, a few of these have rotted away in the modules in being too wet and cold. I always find it a little tricky to get the balance right when it comes to how to much water to use. There are a few survivors though, and for these I am thankful.

(Video on you tube is here)

The second session of seed sowing involved sunflowers and marketmore cucumbers. It has been a while since I have last sown and experimented with cucumbers. So why not have another bash! For now, the polytunnel is out of action, but I would rather have the cucumbers outside anyway. Sunflowers are rather dear to me; again, I haven’t sown them in a while and the last time that I did they all rather keeled over in the cold. The ones sown this year are a single giant variety. In the past, these have been over six foot tall and have a mass of triffid like flower heads. It does feel a little late to be sowing them, but it does all feel like a good chance to do so.

(Video on youtube is here)

Having harvested  fair bit of rhubarb, I then thought about double checking the home brew from last year. Last year, there was a lot of homebrew experimentation and lots of learning experiences had. Most of the experiments have been put into bottles, but there are three demijohns waiting in the wings.  There is the rhubarb, strawberry and currant wine, as well as blackberry wine which is rather recent actually; as well as apple wine, this is taking it’s time clarifying. On the shelf though, we have strawberry wine. This was the first experiment that was ever done; and it does rather taste of cheesecake. Second, there is Blackberry, plum and currant, which is just as claret coloured as the blackberry wine. Thirdly, there is is Rhubarb, currant and gooseberry.  Not quite sure what will happen to them all, and how! I  might have to take stock and see if there are good homes for it all.

 

In other news. Good news; I made a list!

Not the sort that I would be checking twice, but that made by someone else. The lovely people at Waltons have very kindly placed me on their list of adventurous blogs!

You can find the list at https://www.waltons.co.uk/blog/9-more-adventurous-allotment-blogs. It would appear that I am in very good company with a few fellow #gdnbloggers.

It did make me smile, that the blog is more adventurous!   I guess that echoes one of many reasons that the blog exists and also how far it might reach and into the world.

I guess I should continue and with the whole adventurous allotmenteering! If that isn’t a bit of encouragement, I don’t know what is.

 

Taking stock of April #gdnbloggers

As we near the mid point of April during Holy Week, we also get to Vaisakhi.  This is a harvest festival within Hinduism and within Sikhism, the start of  new year. For me, I guess this triggers  a process of reflection as to what I might experience with the coming growing season as everything starts to bloom and blossom with a new cycle. Vaisakhi and Holy week therefore both carry a sense of renewal, potential and also progress. Perhaps universe is shifting and changing as seeds are sown and nurtured and this is slightly tapping into unconscious ESP of some kind.

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The plot might look a bit stagnant, but there are plans. I have succumbed a little, and I am waiting for the green glass to wither away so that it might be taken up and away. There was just too much on the far side behind the grapevines to be dug out and by hand. We have had some sunshine and hopefully that will mean that grass killing stuff works. Once I have a canvas, I will be able to sow further seeds and plug them in eventually. I may even broadcast sow carrots and turnips, just to see what happens.

There are a few seedlings at home, the seed sowing mojo is still a bit sparse. Tomatoes, aubergine and chillies are being coddled on the window sill. On my list, there are squashes, runner beans and climbing french beans to be located and sown. I am mindful, that the beans and squashes-if they are quick off the mark-will grow like triffids, and will need to be looked after until the frost window closes in Birmingham at the end of May. Mum has already plugged in potatoes, and the weekly saag sowing will soon be underway. I should probably also look into sweetcorn!

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It is only in the last few weeks that I have had a chance to stop, take a few moments and fully take stock of the tornadoes that have become the busy state of being that is life. Much of this has been self inflicted and working on writing projects whilst juggling work and training. Whilst the deadlines for writing have largely been self inflicted, there have been a few other things that were so far beyond my control there wasn’t an awful lot I could do but wait for the tornadoes to to settle. Now that there is a sense of calm and settling, I wanted to share the three affirmations that are above. I have no idea who wrote them, when or for what their motivations were; they are however three very powerful slips of paper.

The first-‘you are strong…’ I picked out of a box as I was getting to the end of prepping fragments for publication and the end of term was happening. Sheer grit and resolve were taking a battering, and this slip of paper put a spring into my step. The second-‘well done, beautiful’ I found just as  Fragments hit the air and term was changing and I was finding my feet, my plot and universe again. Number three, well that is from today. That heralds a great deal of movement in so many different spheres.

As I mentioned before, I have no idea who wrote them. But these have been powerful vibrations from the universe and whatever Powers That Be.

I am hoping that the third is relevant to every aspect of being, the plot included. The plot is after all, a huge part of me and brings more colour to my life than I could possibly say. I am looking forward to the roses blooming, the glads coming up. There will probably be a sunflower sowing at some point, I have rather missed those.  Then there is the preserving; it has been such a long time since I have made any preserves, I might have to revise the methods. With the plot very firmly back as part of my world after a lot of swirliness, I am looking forwards with lots of lessons learned.  I am also looking for a rest over the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and adventures.

I shall report back forthwith.

Back to the plot: The green one…#gdnbloggers

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Oh, allotment, I have missed you. It has been a while, too long a while.

With the rain holding off, the sunshine out and time to take stock, I was always going to come back to you. A bit like me, you are a little fuzzy around the edges, worn out and need a bit of R&R.

I have found my trowel, my gauntlet gloves; I even have a vague plan as to how how we are going to get back together and make a success of things a again. 2016 was rubbish, yes. That was demoralising, but we all have a duff year. It just happened to be 2016.

There are seedlings; chillies, tomatoes and aubergines. The heated prop has done it’s job, and there is the window sill shuffle. Beyond the seedlings, there is a to-do list. There’s no garlic this year; we’ve missed the boat there.

I really need to review both seed boxes; some seeds are no longer viable and are therefore taking up space. I definitely need new seeds. But first, the raised beds need tidying up and I’ve spent a few hours pulling grass up and out. There is a plan, to put more raised beds on the half of the plot over the next year. Open ground and I are just not working; there is grass everywhere and the strawberries are staging some kind of revolution. The strawberries, I can dig up and plug back in.

Then there are the raspberries; the autumn fall gold are okay, starting to revive themselves. The other are having a moment and wondering what they are supposed to do.

Did I mention the storm damage? Poor poly, looking a little beleaguered and in need of new cover.

There is certainly a lot to take in, to do and get my head around. All of which will be done around the ‘real-life’ aspects of work and training. I will be making as much time as possible; the plot is a part of my life and I am re-claiming it.

One raised bed at a time, slowly but surely.

Come bring it, 2017. We’ve got growing to do.

Torn by Tempests and tomatoes #gdnbloggers

Flaming storms Doris and Euan, they have a lot of answer for.

I received a note from an allotment neighbour late on Tuesday night, saying that  should pop down the plot. I couldn’t do anything at the time, it was wet, windy and my wellingtons didn’t particularly want to venture out. In the morning, Mama F took a walk whilst I had lie in. She then called me and I fell out of bed, feeling as though I was about to take penalties for England.

Not having had breakfast, I dressed in my plot clothes and sluggged a cuppa. I took a wlak down to the plot. The wendy house-the walk in green house-lay in a forlorn, crumpled heap. It was goner, and truly. There have been many dramas over the years with the wendy; it was anchored down, dug in; Physics had gone into it. Now, it was gone. Then there was the poly tunnel, with it’s ceiling sheared off. A conifer had tried to shake hands, and well, smacked it one. There were three trees down, and I got the rough end of the stick, as it were. Mama F and I tidied up the wrought up wendy, there are no plans to replace that at this sage. The Poly is the big thing, I will have to replace the cover. I didn’t expect it to go flying off to kansas-three of the sides of the cover, are beneath lots of dirt and weight down. Dirt which will now have to be dug away to free the cover. I am lucky, that the frame is steel; the plot neighbour who had sent me the note was not so lucky.

I will not lie, I am rather peeved off-high tension and raised anxiety, peeved off. Muscle tension may have gone through the roof a little. I would have hit something, had I the aim and energy. The storms have put a slight kick in the plans.

But we have seeds to sow!

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You can find the video here

 

You know, I opened that fresh packet of aubergine seeds, and there was nothing in there. I’ve re-sown some black beauty but will get some more of those seeds that didn’t exist.

I am now  off to type up a book, the last week has been rather hectic and I need to meet a self imposed deadline..

And if you haven’t already, check out the Inspector Montalbano novels. I am feeling a big book obsession-fuelled by the young montalbano tv series-he’s cute, clever, broken; binge watching most of season two was epic. I want the first series too! Honestly, sat there reading and giggling as you read, that feeling has rather cheered me up this week.

More Bollywood than gardener!

It’s been such a long time since I last donned anything remotely bollywood. I was feeling a bit wistful, and remembering some of the outfits that I have worn. These are three saris that I loved wearing and are rather special to me. Purple, as my favourite colour. Pink and polka dots was something of a vintage look, and a green one that I could just about breathe in.

 

No, I don’t wander down the plot wearing these. Wouldn’t go with the red wellingtons, now would they!

 

Don’t buy me roses….#gdnbloggers

Fellow blogger Sara Venn talks about what flowers mean to us in her recent blog on the The Physic Blogger and brings the fore the British Flower Industry.

A week tomorrow, it is the Feast Of Saint Valentine. For some it is  brilliant, a day of unbridled slush where there are hearts, roses and bottles of prosecco all over the shop. For others, it will no doubt be just another Tuesday (Guess which camp I fall into….)

There will be lots of roses. In all sorts of different colours, scents and pretty packaging. It is hard to imagine Valentine’s Day without roses. Though if we are savvy enough; if we try to create social change and move from minority towards majority views, we might be able to change the traditional flower for something else.

How about a dandelion?

The things get everywhere; are fairly robust, hard to get rid of and turn up when you least expect.

Don’t suppose that reminds you of love and romance?

Well, it could, if we changed our thinking patterns.

I joke, and say don’t buy me roses.

Buy me diamonds instead. (Ethical ones, please, thank you.)

And why?

Lemme show you.

 

Those weren’t flown in from the African Continent. Those were plugged into the clay of my allotment over the course of years and have become an established part of my allotment. One half the allotment, has an avenue of roses that are interspersed with fruit trees. In high summer-it does sometimes turn up, yes-that half smells amazing! Then, it comes to dead heading and having cut flowers at home. I have tried-and failed-to tot up how much each bouquet-and it’s usually one every nine days-might cost. It is difficult to put a price on those bouquets, least of all because of the intrinsic value. I love my roses, they make me smile, and remind me that whilst some days can be really quite shoddy, something thorny, can produce something wonderful.

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pretty blooms

 

As you can see, I do like my roses. They do mean a lot to me, especially as they are home grow with love and care.

Don’t buy me roses, diamonds are in short supply.

Give me seeds and you might just bowl a maiden over.

To talk tomatoes #gdnbloggers

It’s okay, I am not thinking about sowing them; it is still too early, and I am inclined to wait at least another four weeks before I start sorting out runners and riders. Even then, I will be thinking about tomatoes and their sixth cousin, the aubergine. For now, I am thinking and reflecting on what might be whilst taking stock of what has already been experienced on the plot.

In 20 16, thirty two plants made it passed the initial seed and germination stage. Think these were sown in late february-most likely started off in the heated prop-as by March, the seedlings had already sent out their baby seed leaves and were about to send out their frilly first true leaves. These were then pampered and kept safe at home on a window sill so that the might establish and be sufficiently robust enough to be planted out. As you can see, we had a fair bit of fruit. Trouble is, very few turned red on the vine. In addition, there were fairly early blight warnings that led to plants being stripped of fruit and cast aside before it struck. Blight struck tomatoes are not particularly pleasant to look at; a putrid shade of puce and stomach turning. This has meant that much of the crop is ripened at home, somewhere warm and light. Ripening does happen eventually, it just takes some time to get going.

You’d think a red tomato was a red tomato. On the contrary, there are  many different varieties, each with their own unique qualities that determine productivity, attractiveness to the taste buds and what you might eventually do with the end product. Not all tomatoes are red, and I have sown and grown some rather nice yellow ones as well. Also, you get the odd ugly one that is really quite amusing. Doesn’t look particularly attractive, but that does nothing to hamper the taste. Food becomes that more interesting when it’s not perfect, but beautifully ugly. You can still eat it after all, there is no supermarket or political mandate as to how your fruit and veg might look. Wonky, uglu fruit and veg is something to shout about and not to be dismissed. (Trust me, I once wondered why I had curly beans; turns out they were never straight to begin with.)

The very first variety that ever tried was a cherry tomato called ‘Minibel’ and that was a fairly simple, straight forward introduction to growing tomatoes. Since then, I have decided to experiment and sown quite a few different varieties. Such as:

  • Latah
  • Money maker
  • Gardeners delight
  • Cream sausage
  • Tigerella
  • Marmade
  • Aisla Craig
  • black cherry
  • Yellow Stuffer
  • Brandywine
  • Shirley.

And those are the ones that I can remember, there is probably a list somewhere. These have been used in salads, Indian dishes; I even made a sage and tomato soup that was rather nice. I am still a little curious about beefsteak varieties though; I rather like marmande with it’s tendency to be sizeable with rather intriguing green shoulders. Brandywine tomatoes are something that I might look into a little further; these take time and with mega-bloom like flowers the development of fruit is somewhat delayed; that or I like something of a quick response when it comes to tomatoes. I have definitely noted the lower yield with these as well; it is much lower than other varieties and I suspect this is why I haven’t made many sowings in recent years.

It would be entirely odd to not have tomatoes on the allotment. I tend to transplant them into raised beds, occasionally they might get plugged into the open ground. I do find however, that productivity is somewhat hampered with the clay, so raised beds are a safer, more equitable bet. I did try transplanting into the poly tunnel; alas, that was a learning curve. We had triffids, yes, but not many tomato fruit. So back we went outside with all subsequent tomato growing.

As mentioned above, there are no plans to sow any tomatoes yet. The heated prop is currently full, and I am going to wait a short while. This allows me to have a look at the tomato seeds and see which ones are going to be sown. Marmade may well feature, but I also fancy trying Roma VF alongside.  I have not sown and grown this variety before, and a request was made by a sibling that we could try a plum variety.

We can talk tomatoes, but we’re not sowing them just yet.

Go away 2016: Profit and loss on the plot #gdnbloggers

dec2016

You know, it has been a while since I went to the plot. Over a month at least, and December has been horrible in underlining 2016 as being  year of defeat and loss. The year as a whole, has involved a grey cloud hanging over the plot. Despite starting on a such a positive note at the tail end of 2015 and sowing chillies and planning crops, 2016 wasn’t exactly a shining example of things might happen on the the plot.

So I had to steel myself to take a walk down there, look my plot in the eye and say that next year is going to be better. Next year, I fully intend to get my plot mojo back and do what makes me happy.

(you can also view the video here.)

It is grey, the weather doesn’t help. At this time of year, reflecting on what has been achieved does help to shape goal posts for next year. That is the plan for the festive season as today kicks off the start of my Christmas holidays from work and training-this is a momentary pit stop from diploma coursework!) I also plan to rest. The last twelve weeks have been an interesting challenge with work and training, plus the recent-very recent-bereavement of a fantastic lady-who supported Petal and I so much-have made things very different to what they might usually be.

At the moment, the plot is what Mum would call a mess. I agree with her. It does need to be tidied up, and re-organised. I know where I what I want to do, perhaps even how. Just not right now, but eventually with Spring. I don’t think the wiggly woo’s will thank me for disturbing them right now.

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How are you still blooming, dear rose?

 

Any way, let’s think about what has been positive through the course of 2016 and what we have learned from it.

We have had a lot of tomatoes-Ma reckons we should sow fewer next year-all of which eventually turned red. Garlic was steadfast as ever; roses, whilst not as productive as last year, still produced a bouquet a week as the glads kicked in. There were also adventures with comic cons and a second book. Number three and four are slated for sometime during 2017. There was home brew-and a fair bit of it!-that now needs to be racked and bottled; the soft fruit did a good job, and could well be a continuing experiment.

In pictures it is far easier to see than words; there is still a feeling of loss and of disappointment, but there is evidence of growth and development. Not all years are going to be the same;there will be ebbs and flows, with peaks and troughs.

Above all, this takes time.

Roll on 2017!

 

Wishing you all love and light for the new year and a joyous festive season.