Tag Archives: allotment

Happy Birthday, Plant Pot Tales

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I like today. I like the date. 17th August.

Five years, ago, about tea-time, I pressed publish. My book was out there. The first book, that I would write. I didn’t know what was about to happen.

No, it wasn’t perfect. No, I didn’t know, at that point, what I should have done, or how.

But man, was I about to learn.

I have continued to do so, too. Over the course of five years, I’ve learned a great deal, and will hopefully continue to learn. Learning, is never over; as teacher, as counsellor, I know that is true. The journey has been pretty interesting so far.

This blog, was the basis for the first book. Without this blog, without the support of the gardening world, both here in Britain and beyond, the book, probably would still be a pipe dream, Worse still, it would probably be a page of inky jottings that were going nowhere fast.

This book, has moved. It has flown to the US. As a paperback, it was stocked in an Indie bookstore; it was on a bookstand! In fact, a few of the books were. At least 3, of what is growing-oh, there’s an unintended pun-catalogue.

 

A few of the books. The yellow book, paved the way for the rest. There was green book, what with the chutney making. A blue book-not the content, but the cover-that was based upon a grief model. I made a foray into writing contemporary romance.

All because of this blog, because I carried out an experiment with chilli plants.

Today, I am proud. I am happy, to acknowledge that the yellow book, paved a way. Oh, there’s another reference. I  get butterflies-not intentional-when the book is downloaded; when someone orders a paperback copy. When someone, decides to take risk, and engage with something that I have written. It’s magic, but altogether nerve wracking

That yellow book is special, it placed me on an interesting, ever developing journey.  It is also a little bit of my soul.

To the yellow book!

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Behind the Scenes: A book and beyond

 

Well, hello, everyone. It’s been a while. In fact, it’s been a very long while.

Over the last few days, the blog has been on my mind a great deal.

The last time that I checked in, I had been spending a great deal of time of the allotment. The weather was good; Britain was not only in the grip of a pandemic, but also a heatwave. I was able to go to the plot, and do a fair bit. I had dug over the beds, and even sown seeds.

Then life became busy, with my counselling practice and teaching. It has been a very fast, very busy ten weeks and my feet have bare touched the ground.

So, this week, I am playing catch up.  I am also trying to have a rest, by shifting down a gear. I am trying to get some semblance of balance. I did have a fair dose of allotment guilt; a lot of sadness, actually. I popped down to the plot, to see how the plot had changed and to cut some roses. This, in itself, was a very grounding process. I even found some tomatoes. This was much needed. A bit of pottering, smelling the roses, to become grounded.

Social distancing still exists, and quite rightly so. And when not able to go the plot-there has been that much rain, when the sun isn’t shining. I’ve been otherwise occupied, beyond working and counselling.

Socks.

Yes, at the beginning of lockdown, I learned how to knit socks. I started with flat needles, and have since graduated to circular needles. These, I do believe, make the process, easier. It is also a lovely opportunity to relax, experience mindfulness. To ground myself, and do something that isn’t energetically demanding; is wonderfully calming and therapeutic. As such, I now have four pairs of needles with as many cast on socks. As you can see, this are not boring socks. Colourful and comfy, I’m really very proud of my creations. I have enough wool now, to be really quite busy. It is really quite easy, to be seduced by pretty yarn. And the socks are all mine; there is no one to inflict them upon.

Talking of creations. There is a new writing project on the desk. All being well, that will be released next year. This has already spent a year in the pipeline, and is very different to what I’ve already written. A series of short stories, all inspired by the City of Birmingham. You’ll have to watch this space, for further details.

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.

To get growing

At this moment in time, there is a lot of seed sowing. The current situation, has inspired, challenged, encouraged people to start gardening. This might be growing your own food, sorting out the dahlias, or just rejuvenating your green space.

Gardening, has certainly struck a cord with people.

As such, I’ve been thinking about this blog. About how I started just over a decade ago, with containers in Dad’s garden. I started gardening, growing food through a combination of sheer fluke and curiosity.  Everything was an experiment.

It was also to help mental health at the time. I’d just come to the end of my initial teacher training, and was unlikely to be employed by the end of Summer. There was sadness, anxiety and uncertainty that experimenting with seed sowing could be alleviating.

Ten and bit years later, the change in the universe is global.

I started with cherry tomatoes, chilli plants. I found runner beans and even a Butternut squash plant that I called Gladys. We have Kevin the aubergine too.

That was an interesting summer, in 2009. We had a heatwave, and this led to a bumper crop of cayenne chillies.

I remember going to Wilkos, to Poundland, to get my supplies.

At this moment in time, that is impossible. There are DIY stores, but I’m not for one moment, encouraging non-essential travel. There are also online outlets, who are doing their best to support customers. Again, I advise caution, as businesses do the best that they can.

For my part, I have an allotment, that I can access sparingly to tidy up. I’ve yet to sow anything.

That doesn’t mean that I can’t offer support; especially with all the content on the blog. I wrote it, for that very job! To help others, perhaps share my mistakes so others would avoid them.

(There are also two books on the side bar, but that is not an advert.)

Gardening has the potential to bring great joy, stability, focus and so many other things. I know that it means a great deal to me. All being well, you may find something on the blog that also helps.

Apple and Socks…

I forget which week we’re on, but the lock-down measures remain in place. All for good reason; safety is paramount.

This week, has been about reflecting, about getting my hands dirty and also learning new skills.

The allotment has been on my mind a great deal. There is a lot to do, the plot has been left unloved for sometime. This, does feel rather overwhelming, as I have mentioned before. As such, I want to do little bits at a time, as much as I can.

I have an apple tree on the plot. In fact I have two. One is a Falstaff, the other is Braeburn. Both are currently in beautiful bloom with lovely pink and red blossom. The Falstaff is safe, secure, growing well. The Braeburn on the other hand, would be eight foot tall. However, due to storm damage,and not being staked properly, it is now growing bent over backwards, much like a fictional Japanese willow over a stream. I spent some time this week, propping it up. There was no way, no how, it was going to snap up straight. It is actually wonderfully well established, and happy too. I’ve never seen so much apple blossom on one tree. So rather than work against the tree, I want to work with it.

That was fun. Apart from falling over a raised bed and getting bruises.

Bruises, which didn’t help shoulder strain.

And where did I get shoulder strain from?

Well. Knitting.

I’ve been knitting for ages. Never purposefully though, and never actually finishing anything. So when a colleague told me about her sock knitting, with a member of the ‘Grape Gardening Family’ signposting me towards a book for knitting with flat needles, I had a ‘oh, yes?’ moment.

Two weeks, were spent, in between teaching and counselling, knitting like there was no tomorrow. I kid you not. I had the same brain fury that happens when I have a writing project that is all consuming. I pull the same thinking face too.

Flat needles. I’ve always knitted with these. I do have some circular needles, but they are still a bit abstract; I’ve yet to wrap my head around those. I don’t use DPNs-double pointed needles. That would also be a stretch of the visuo-spatial sketchpad.

Immersed and enthusiastic. I sprained my arm. There was three days sulking, and I have resumed knitting. I will also venture back to the plot too, at some point.

The socks, a pair, were completed. Yes, they are wonky, with one bigger than the other. But I have a pair of socks! Two weeks ago, I couldn’t read patterns, never mind knit socks.

(Yeah, Mama F has been helping too. I sat elbow to elbow with her, explaining the pattern. She’s a much more proficient knitter and crocheter than me, she can knit with her eyes closed. Doesn’t ever use patterns. But socks were new. She has since knitted a beautiful pair, that really are a piece of art.)

I’m really very proud of my wonky socks, and I have three more experimental ones in my needles. I’m using a mixture of bamboo and metal needles. The bamboo are less heavier, more warmer. Smaller metal needles do help with precision and better fitter socks.

 

 

 

 

 

Roses; First Flush

 

It’s definitely summer; the rain has been coming down in sheets and for days. On the allotment, the tomatoes that I planted out are having something of a sulk. However, the gladioli that were sunk, are starting to shoot through. I still have fifty or so to sink, so that’s an action point.

And the other plot blooms are starting to kick off as well. For me, summer on the allotment is framed by the bloom and blossom of roses. There are well over a dozen bushes on the plot, and these have been developing over the course of years. Roses do not grow on quickly, they take time to establish. As such, I’ve had mine for some time, and summer always feel incomplete when they aren’t abundant. Abundant they will be if there is enough rain, heat and light to keep them going. Over the last week, there’s certainly been a lot of rain, which was prefaced by really quite glorious warmth and sunshine.

As you can see, I have harvested the first bouquet of the year. Compared to this time last year, this is really quite something. There was a distinct lack of roses last year, so I am somewhat buoyed to have bouquet of this size and quality. I don’t actually know what any of these are called; these are all lost label roses. There are those who have a small, neat bush-rose quality, as well as those that are sprawling, scrambler type roses. I know one of them is called Golden Showers, as these features in the middle of the plot by William Shakespeare 2000.

I’m not a stickler for perfection. All of these roses are unique, and I tend to cut them once they’ve been on the bush for a few days. Some rose bushes do tend to be more abundant than others, and I guess regular cutting is a bit like dead-heading.  Beyond that, I don’t fuss over my roses. It really has been a case of plug in play. Don’t be fooled though. As pretty as these things are, they have the most vicious thorns known to man, with some main stems as thick as your thumb. There were a couple of bushes that had been storm-damaged with main-stems snapped off. These were tidied up and staked with canes.

From time to time, I do think how much these rose bouquets might be worth in terms of pounds and pence. In terms of universal force and beauty, they are of course priceless; there is no value to how much they colour soul or demonstrate the power of the universe. These are home-grown, in the middle of the England; they’ve not been flown in or coddled to an inch of their lives. These don’t have air miles, so are unlikely cost half a kidney, I guess.

One of the biggest day-dreams that I have, is that if I ever get married, I’d like to take my allotment roses as bouquet. That does depend on A) getting married, and B) the event being in summer, well up to October. I guess a girl can dream!

I might have got a bit wet whilst going to harvest the roses…

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I’ve dried off now; I really did get a bit soggy. There’s a book waiting to be read, and the tail-end of Poldark Season 4 to watch. Writing still feels a little distant right now, but the pens are tingling. So you never know!

Planting out and potting up

There has been a change in the universal energies! I’ve been getting my hands dirty on the plot as the month of May gives way to June. It’s all change on a few fronts, so I’ve made some attempt to return to my happy place. It really is a happy place, I feel different, so I’m trying to go with it. There are now nineteen tomato plants in situ on the allotment. Most of these are home sown and grown. Fourteen of them, are mine with a fair few shop bought. I’ve bought another six today, to fill things out a little more. If there is one thing that gets grown this year, its most likely going to be tomatoes.

From what I remember, I’ve sown red, yellow and black tomatoes. I didn’t label them, so it’s  all very tomato roulette when plugging them in. There are two shop varieties which are yellow, with no idea what the ones I’ve bought today are. All of the plants have been sunk into raised beds, each with its varying soil level. It has, after all, been nearly two years since I did any ‘meaningful’ growing on the allotment.  Over the course of two days, tomatoes have been transplanted, watered and fed. This week, the temperatures have increased and growing has accelerated. The crucial thing to maintain now is to make sure that these are watered regularly.

Tomatoes will grow quickly, given the right conditions. When nourished, they will crop abundantly. I’d quite like a few tomatoes, if I’m honest. Such a number, might actually yield some! Watering should keep me going to the allotment; should keep me focused and attentive in making the plot productive. The fact that I want to go there, do things and enjoy doing so, is incredibly important.

The allotment is gaining momentum, but there are still plants at home.  At home, there is a small but select group of chillies. All of these are now in their final pots, with the last few potted up. There are ten pots altogether, with Cayennes and habaneros to be looked after. I’m trying to decide, if like with the tomatoes, I want to find some more partially mature chilli plants. The are a little spindly and wiry looking; however, once they’ve been fed and watered properly. they will hopefully start to fill out a little and gain some height as well.

Cayenne chillies will hit a stride as they get comfortable. I’ve experienced Habaneros as being slower growing; nothing unusual given the heat difference between these and cayennes. There have been chocolate habaneros before, but not many. There may only be a three or four plants, so we shall  what these amount to.

Summer: the season to read

 

Love, life, laughter

and all that is in between.

 

The days have become longer, the sun is shining-mostly!- and there is a chance for some downtime. Downtime makes for a cracking opportunity to catch up on reading. From the graphics above, you can see that there is something of a diverse range on offer. There are the two gardening books, one romance novella, a two novels and series of short stories.

With June and July, the growing season becomes apace. If you have more courgettes than you know what to do with, or really want to know about Aloo gobi-that’s spuds and cauliflower, then those are for you.

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Retreating to Peace and Postcards from Peace are my contributions to the Peace Novella Series. A stable of different authors awaits if you fancy having a look at the rest of the series. With RTP, Devan Coultrie arrives in Montana with something of a broken heart. There is follow up in Postcards as we get another look into his life.

Fragments is a great big of six inter-related stories as it considers what happens when we lose the people- and animals-that shape our worlds. Kangana sees Gorbind-he appears in Fragments-have a no straight forward romance. There are also snatches of Birmingham, with Lucifer from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery making an appearance.

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All of the books are available on Kindle and in paperback.

You can clink on the sidebar,

or go to the Books page to get your copies!

 

And don’t just take my word for it.

Nurturing the return

For the last few weeks, I have been avoiding the allotment. I know why. It all feels rather overwhelming. There is still work to do, and the growing season should be off like a rocket. Today, I decided to take a walk; least of all because I needed to fish some pots and growing trays out of Mama F’s shed.

Going back to the allotment actually scares me. It’s a big space, all 200 square metres of it. Half of it is actually covered, and to all intents and purposes is on pause. That half really doesn’t worry me so much. The other half, has raised beds, fruit trees and is what I am trying to get back to what it was. Most of the raised beds are covered, there are three that need clearing before I can actually grow anything. There are three grapevines that need shoring up. They’ve started to lean because of the wind, and need to be propped up.

As it stands, a quarter has become a mass of raspberries. That’s not a problem. I like raspberries. These are however the autumn variety, with runners spreading around. I do have a pink variety; Polka, I think. I was going to look into getting some more pink ones, but I fear I am a little late to plant some. I hear that the Glen varieties are fairly good.

I’m glad that I went for the walk. I’m able to see that things are manageable. At the moment, I have a dozen or so tomato plants growing along at home. I would like to take these to the plot and plug them in. I would like to grow something this year, even if it is simply tomatoes. There are chillies; the cayennes and a couple of habaneros. These are likely to be cultivated at home. I might even rescue a few more chilli plants, I certainly plan to find additional tomatoes.

This might take time, and this year might not be overwhelming abundant. If the tomatoes come off, I would rather like to make some hot yellow sun chutney. Growing yellow tomatoes is rather interesting! There has been cherry blossom on the plot, these are starting to fruit. I also spotted some pears. Then there are the currants. These have strings and strings! Thing is, I always end up harvesting these during the height of the hay fever season. These are likely to be jammed or jellied, I think.

Strength of a Seedling

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Over the last few days, I’ve been checking the heated prop for seedlings. There’s a mixture of cayenne, cucumbers and tomatoes in there, so quite a variation in potential germination. This does mean that I end up fishing things out every now and again as I see green leaves. I don’t have many tomatoes just yet. I think I have a handful of wiry, somewhat leggy seedlings. The one above, looks reasonably happy and healthy for the time being. It has been named Tom by the baby sister.

Sowing seeds in pellets is useful; I don’t make a mess with compost and run the risk of Mama F’s wrath over muddy floors. However, they do have a tendency to dry out in the heated prop. I’m not sure if that’s down to the pellets themselves or the ageing heated prop. It’s certainly been cranky this year.

I am also feeling  very protective of seedlings, with there being a regular window-sill shuffle. As the weather changes, tomatoes and chillies do have a tendency to curl up and keel over.

In other news, it’s happy belated birthday to Sow, Grow and Eat: From Plot to Kitchen. I’d quite forgotten, but this book-the green one-is now three years old. This was the second of the gardening books. Well, it is part GYO and part cook-book. A third, is a work in progress. It sits on my desk, waiting for my to have the mind-space to finish it. It has been on  my mind lately, and I daresay there will be an attempt at some point to get it together. Sat here typing, I am eyeballing the cook book folder, wondering what energy and focus I need to commit my thoughts to paper. The pens, sit near by, poised to pounce. I wait for the tipping point, the mojo to dive straight once more.

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As mentioned above, the book is part GYO, part cook-book. There are recipes inside for jams, jellies and preserves made using plot produce as well as the home-brew that has been made. It does rather go well alongside the yellow one.