Tag Archives: gardening

#NABLOPOMO 2020: #wegardenbecause

There was an article, about the rise of female allotment holders. There was an exploration, across gender lines, as to why more women are taking up allotment plots in the time of COVID, as well as how there are fewer men on allotments.

I’ve read it a few times, in order to process my own thoughts and feelings.

Needless to say, there are thoughts and feelings.

I remember when I first got an allotment. I was told to give it up.

I didn’t. I refused to.

I’ve had mostly a positive experience. I was adopted, supported and encouraged my all of the allotment neighbours. Advice as given, solicited, absorbed; at no point were there any denigrating comments about women on the allotments. The allotment sight, is a welcoming place. There is genuine camaraderie; with no distinction made in relation to gender. I have more often than not, talked to the older stalwarts to gain insight.

Stalwarts, who have been men and women. There was no gender-based monopoly.

So seeing that article, ticked me off.

I’ve yet to have off-spring, so there’s no empty nest-ism. I don’t garden, due to a lack of progeny. If and when the off-spring arrive, they’ll no doubt know where a tomato comes from.

There were a whole host of assumptions, stereotypes, socio-economic, gender-politic bits that I was questioning my own identity! I channelled into reflecting why I have an allotment, why do I garden?

Gardening, and indeed allotmenteering, has occurred in parallel to training to be a person-centred counsellor. The Carl Rogers story about potatoes, for instance, is very important to me. I started off, carrying out pseudo-scientific experiments; to see what happened when a seed was sown. This continued, with physical exercise, an impact upon mental health and to alleviate stress and anxiety. There a many more reasons.

Without my allotment, I wouldn’t have written two gardening books. I am most certainly not an insta-star! We live in world that now has social media within it’s fabric. I mean, I’m writing a blog post….

…I did start with a book though, I’m a book worm. I used it, in tandem with connecting with the gardening community. A community not only here in the Sceptred Isle of The United Kingdom, but also far beyond.

Allotments have become relevant, over the last few years. Least of all because of COVID. There has been movement, in wanting to reduce carbon foot prints, in wanting to know to where food comes from; in wanting to grown your own, to eat well. There’s a whole amalgam as to why there is an change in allotment holders. Least of all, that the older, more season-ed gentleman has dug up his last parsnip due to natural causes. A younger generation, will no doubt enter the fray. I daresay, that there are men on allotments, and the lens through which we see them, is different compared to what is the traditional view of an allotment holder. We start to question, who is on the allotment, for purpose, and a whole other judgemental debate that really isn’t necessary.

I can garden, because I can. Because I enjoy it. Not because of socio-economic, gender-politic factors. I garden as I feel potential, creativity and enjoyment; it has a lovely impact upon my mental health.

As I said. That article. It ticked me off.

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.

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.

Last 48 hours #FREEBOOKS #KINDLE

It is the last two days of the various books being free on kindle.

In keeping indoors, we are going to need something to read, to keep us occupied and perhaps even talk about to others.

It’s been really heartening actually, to see the downloads. Especially seeing nearly 130 downloads of the yellow gardening book, and in the United States of America!

Don’t forget that most of the fiction books are also available during this brief window.

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Fragments comes before the romance novel that is Kagana. That’s where you can initially find Gorbind. In Kangana, you get to read the start of his story.

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We can’t forget the Peace Novella Series, and my contributions which contain Devan Coultrie. The Devan Story starts with Retreating to Peace and continues with Postcards from Peace.

You can find the links on the side bar or head to the links page.

 

Plant Pot tales: the seeds of an idea

From blogging to beyond.

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Four years ago, around about tea time, I pressed publish. What I was publishing, self-publishing that is, what Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the Allotment.

I was bringing to a close, work that I had been doing over the summer. At the start of that summer, I had decided to write a book. I had no idea, what to do or how. The plan, all very vague, was to build on what I had written for the blog.  What I wanted to do, was to share via another platform, everything that I put on the blog.

I felt, more keenly than anything, that was I was about to do, was useful. That what I had learned, experienced and recorded would be valuable to others. I also like books. I am and always will be, a bookworm. Books are magical, they serve an infinite number of purposes and have an infinite number of effects.

What I was also doing, was taking my first tentative steps toward being an author, being a writer. That’s something that I’m still trying to get my ahead around. I’ve yet to put that on my CV; I feel like an impostor. It has taken me ten years to feel like a fully fledged teacher, I have no qualms about saying that’s what I do. Declaring myself a writer, an author, is just as hard as saying I’m a newly qualified and registered Counsellor.

Plant Pot tales was published via Kindle. The whole world of Indie publishing is still very new to me,  it’s an ongoing process to learn and process things. Plant Pot tales was a my gateway in, a baptism of fire. Without this book, I wouldn’t have written and published another five. After Plant Pot tales, there was Sow, Grow and eat. I had learned a fair few significant lessons before taking the plunge with that one.  Plant pot tales stands for so much, I’ve never fully appreciated it til now.

One of the best moments, was being sat there whilst Mama F told me her recipes. Most of what has been grown on the allotment has passed through her kitchen. I had to convert her conversation into a set of standardised instructions that could be replicated. Instructions that were both reliable and valid across time, location and population. In a word, these were recipes that could accessible, uncomplicated and bring some form of enjoyment to those using them. This was not supposed to be an onerous, over-complicated book to bamboozle people. There is nothing so off-putting as being over-complicated.

What I will never forget, is standing in the kitchen whilst flicking through the pages. It was the pictures that got me. I’d taken them all, used them on here for a blogging. I was developing an archive of images to support what I was writing. I don’t for one minute think that it’s a run of the mill gardening book. It’s part reference, part cook-book and that’s deliberate. I didn’t want to write a book that was the same as all the others; the same as all the ‘proper’ ones.

Not writing anything ‘proper’ or within expected norms, is a theme that carries on with all the other books. A theme, that does make it difficult to spread the word, promote and share the books. That is however, another story.

Plant pot tales has also travelled. It travelled to the US, where it was sold in a book store. Yes, a proper book store with shelves, people and everything. My book, was on a shelf. In a book store.

You couldn’t make that up, not really.

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Chilli abundance

 

Us humans might not have enjoyed the recent heatwave, but the chillies certainly have.

This year has been a big year for me, when it comes to my chilli plants. For one, I actually have some! After such a long time away from meaningful growing. I did sow and grow some plants. There are less than a dozen, but these are tall, bushy and as you can see abundant!

It would appear that this is the most successful season for chillies; far exceeding the six that I managed to grow in the hot, heady days of 2009. That was the year I started experimenting with seeds and started my GYO journey. I’ve not had much success since then when it comes to good cropping chillies.

With the warm weather, I’ve been picking chillies twice a week. The most that I’ve picked has been about a dozen. If you think about it, that many would cost you about a quid in the supermarket. These are the most complex variety; this are rather straight forward cayennnes. It’s a big deal for me, to have an abundant crop and to be able to enjoy the fruits. My sister’s been given some, her mother-in-law too; Mama F’s using them as they come for bits and pieces in the kitchen.

Above all, this experience has been rather revitalising. I’ve really enjoyed fussing over my chilli plants and making sure that they are looked after. Especially as there are only tomatoes and soft fruit on the plot. I need to develop a better routine for the plot, to get more of the soft fruit harvested.

There is a joy in having vibrant, happy chilli plants. I do hope they keep going for a while. I’ve never over-wintered them, and the latest I get a crop is September. I will continue to nurture them; they’ve certainly nurtured me.

 

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.