Tag Archives: horticulture

Bottling that Blackberry wine

It does feel a very long time sine I posted anything that was plot and allotment related. Well, I am today.  Kind of, at least, as the blackberry wine that was made last year was finally put into bottles. For just over a year, two demi-johns have sat on the side in something of a silent slumber; a very cold, silent slumber.

blackberrybottled

This was the largest batch of wine that I had cooked up, so having two demi-johns I had to make sure that I had enough bottles to put it all into. I even had parental supervision doing it; it does help that I am well over the age of being able to drink the stuff-well over! And it didn’t taste so bad, even if I do say so myself.

It is potent; that, for some daft reason, is the reputation that Blackberry wine has. A wine that is heady, potent, flavoursome; it has welly, oomph and all whole range of orchestral movement within it. There as also a second batch; this batch was from this summer and alongside Plum wine, was ready to be racked off into the next phase of demi-johns.

This second batch of blackberry wine, is in it’s current phase, rather sweet and fruity. The plum wine-a new one on me-is not bad either, and does rather carry the sweet and tart, fleshy flavour that the fruits had on harvest. I know that the blackberry wine can be stowed for a while, that it develops over tome. The plum wine might be returned to the stage a lot sooner, it doesn’t come across as a wine that has to be matured for aeons. It does rather taste like the raspberry sauce you might find in a sundae.

strawberryapple

I have actually ran out of small bottles, and there are two further experiments yet to be bottled. There is the summer wine made from strawberries and rhubarb as well as the very experimental Apple wine that are currently loitering with intent. It will most likely be Spring before I consider doing anything with these and wiping the slate clean for any future experiments.

As for plot adventures.

We are now in festive season, Advent has reached its halfway point. The plan is, that at some point during The Twelve Days of Christmas I will sow chilli seeds. I have pellets, will rummage and root in the shed for the heated propogator before trying to decide what seeds to sow. I still haven’t fixed the poly tunnel, so the will need to probably house any plants in Mum’s poly during the summer. It does all feel a rather long, long, way down the line, but we shall.

For the moment, enjoy the rest of your weekend and Slainte!

A time for reflection and renewal

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have realised that there has not been much by way of gardening go on. A bit ironic, I guess, when that is a primary function of the blog, the brand and all things Petal.

The last year has been different, compared to previous years. I have mentioned in previous posts that I have found it challenging to shoe horn lots and lots of things in to real life. There have been peaks and there have been troughs; sometimes, that is what you need. There have been many times where there has simply not been enough of me to go around,

I miss the allotment.

At this moment in time, I dread to think what state it is in, A major overhaul is needed, and this is something that I feel very keenly and it is very much part of my process. I have paid the rent of the coming year, and a potato order has been placed. What I need to do, is to go there and see what I can make a re-start on.

This does feel overwhelming; the plot is 200 square metres and over run with weeds and all sorts. There is disrepair, the poly tunnel is still in pieces.  I am loathe to see the tuts and shakes of the heads that might happen from other plot holders. I’ve never aimed for gold standard, I’ve always aimed for what makes me happy, and that is what I need to remember. Also, Rome wasn’t built in a day; the allotment wasn’t developed in a day. It’s going to take more than a day to strip things back, and have a relatively blank canvas to work upon.

Over the last few weeks, I have had chillies on  my mind. More specifically, having compost to germinate seeds in during the Christmas holidays. Christmas isn’t that far away, and sowing chillies in the depths of winter is not as odd as it sounds.

There are no plans to give up the allotment. No plans to walk away. There are plans to reclaim it; to take walk down there with a cup of tea and just take a look. Assess, where I can go from here and how I can return to the passed glories if you like, of the allotment.

2018 promises to be an interesting year on all fronts. This means that I will need the allotment as my space even more. I have certainly missed it over the last year and have felt the impact of not being there.

There has been a physical and mental impact and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. There truly is something about having fresh dirt beneath your fingernails. An important aspect of being a trainee counsellor and indeed part of the BACP ethical framework is self care. For years, my self care was the allotment. This has somewhat lapsed, so I am doubly minded to get things going again.

 

There is the allotment, knitting, colouring, preserving and pottering; all of the things that I once used and have lapsed with I would like to resume. There is also writing too. At the moment, I am looking at Petal’s cookbook. Looking at Petal’s cookbook is really important, as it’s all plot orientated and will help get things going again. Nurturing the book and nurturing the plot do feel as though they go hand in hand.  Talking of hands, I get to see which nail varnish is allotment proof.

I do need to re-vamp my seed collection; a major cull and over haul is needed. Some of my seeds have been knocking around since I first started and are no longer viable. Raised beds need looking at, and I want to look at putting raised beds across the whole plot. I know for a fact, that cultivating things there in open ground really doesn’t.

At this stage, this does all seem overwhelming. The arrival of autumn, the dark depths of winter will do that you, will do that to anyone. I will be taking a walk soon, and reclaiming the plot.

 

 

Next writing project

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At the start of this year, I had a list. A list of books to write. This list got re-arranged and the Peace Novella Series bloomed and blossomed to take shape.  That project is very near a final completion; my novella is now on pre-order and will come to fruition mid-January.

This means that I can now resume ruminating on my to-do list. I have spent the last two weeks looking at notebooks and folders, trying to conjure up things. It is painful, when you sit there for forty minutes looking at your handwriting and you can’t see a single solitary thing in your minds eye.

What is the use, if you just can’t? What if in that particular set of pages, that universe isn’t materialising?

There is no point in defying the laws of physics and trying to make something out of nothing. Especially, when I already have something that is started.

Eleven months ago, I stashed away the idea of writing another gardening/cookbook. It didn’t feel right, there was nothing in the tank.  I couldn’t settle on what to do and how; I wasn’t sure as to what I could offer and whether it was of any use.

Then I drove to work this morning.

I had Maroon5’s Red Pill Blues on shuffle.

I remembered this folder, this idea.

Coming home, I had to go find it, and flick through. I felt zinging, I was trying to smile. There was half a plan all those months ago.

Time to let it roll.

Bank holiday blooms #gdnbloggers

I went to the allotment, thinking that I might be able to pull up the dead grass that has been lying around. That after yesterday, I might be able to continue, even if I did feel as though I had allotment ouchies all over the shop. Don’t get me wrong, it hurts and all over. It is however the sort of ouch you get from having exercised, and isn’t the flaming hot, cayenne pepper hot pain that comes from stress and anxiety. Off I went, and then I got distracted by the roses. Standing there and all pretty like.

 

I am very surprised by how strongly the roses have started off this year. In the space of ten days-perhaps less-I have collected three differently sized bouquets. I love my roses; they are low maintenance in my view, and yield a wonderful harvest without my having to fuss over them. I do feed them from time to time-when I remember-but otherwise, I then to coo over them, and enjoy them as cut flowers.

There have been many instances where I have described the beautiful zingy fresh lemon smell that wafts around the top part of the plot. That is probably the closest, human, verbose way of describing it, other than heavenly and ineffable. On the plot, there are thirty something rose bushes, making the one half resemble a rose garden. When the glads get going, there are is a riot of colour across the plot that breaks up the green. I feel that they are pretty, and whilst not edible, they have a wonderful aesthetic value as cut flowers. Each and every time that I take a bouquet home, I do wonder just how much they would have cost had I bought them. These are not diddy bouquets, and the roses are not the perfect Disn*y beauty and the beast sort. Some are dainty,  others are fuzzy, fluffy and sprawl all over.

Alas, the bank holiday ends; I got soaked through and need a cuppa. Several, I think. I was glad really, to  have had a good day on the plot yesterday. There is still stuff to do, grass to be cleared and seeds to be sown directly; will get to that all eventually. For now, I am going to get a cuppa, and try to choose which colouring book that I want to play with.

Roses First flush 2017 #gdnbloggers

All is not lost; the roses are coming!

 

I don’t meant the red and white ones on the standards of England, but the ones down the plot. These happen to be pink and red.

The month of May has finally decided to shape up and get warmer, and the blooms on the plot at starting to kick off. Roses and Gladioli are the plot favourites, and this is the first flush of the year. The gladioli are only just starting to peek through, and true to their name they appear blade like protruding through clay and raised beds. By now, I have usually sunk loads, and I might still do so. For now, I am over bowled and with the scent of lemons with a small clutch of roses sat on the kitchen window sill-I do most of my school work sat at the kitchen table so I do get to to enjoy it.

I was perhaps a bit over zealous, and have taken the first roses to come through. I will probably wait and let the next batch bloom and blow on the plot. When it is high summer-yes, I know it doesn’t happen often-there is a lovely, heady scent of zingy lemons that drifts around the plot. The blooms also produce bursts of colour that break up the green.

All really is not lost, and in the coming week I have lots of plot related stuff to do. With the bank holiday, the frost window in Birmingham closes so I will be endeavouring to sink tomatoes and squashes. There is also a shopping list, I really want to find some beans and spinach.

For now, happy Wednesday!

meandroses

 

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

plotoctober

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.

Spicing up #Bluemonday #Gdnbloggers

Apparently it’s blue Monday; the one day of the year that is really quite miserable and not so nice to experience. I guess there will be many for whom, today is awful and there may not be much sunshine to light gloomy clouds. I am currently sat here, working on diploma work as School Work Sunday slides into Monday; but I did find something to take away the tinge of Monday blues.

fourchillies

“Punam, I saw some leaves in your box.”

Those were Mama F’s exact words this morning as I tumbled out of bed. (School work Sunday was really  quite intense, and topped off by the Sherlock Finale, I felt as though I had watched a penalty shoot out this morning. Yes, we do like Sherlock…cute, clever-one hell of  brain-and completely unobtainable. He makes a good book boyfriend!)

Having been told that there were leaves in my box, naturally I had to go find out what the deal was. I have fished them out and set them onto the window in food bags.  I am keeping a close eye on them, so that they don’t keel over. The danger lies in them becoming leggy with a lack of light. I think I have officially ruled out any yellow scotch bonnets appearing, as well as Nigel’s outdoor chilli.

Oh, there was a video! Hold on….

That was uploaded yesterday, onto the youtube channel, hopefully it will develop in the coming year.

Anyway. This blue monday business. If you are feeling blue, then I am sending you sunshine. I am also hoping, that someone might send you a text, make you a cuppa, or send you a smile and hug. You are not alone; even when the darkness feels heavy and as though it will not lift, there is always something. That something is you.

You are never alone.

 

Here.

Hope is a chilli seedling #gdnbloggers

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It is the very early days of January, and as I type snow is falling but landing as slush. In spite of this, seedcases are cracking and the unfurling of seed leaves is being observed as we have germination.

Possibly as I moved the heated prop from one side of the house to the other.

There had been some hand wringing as a week on from initial sowing, not a lot was happening. I double checked the prop, made wet those pellets that were drying out and moved the whole thing.

Expectantly, I have be checking the prop regularly to see results. It was only this morning that I saw the seedling above. I was aware that seedcases had cracked and in most cases; the heated prop is rather full. This is probably not helping things heat up quickly.

But there is a tiny, delicate looking cayenne seedling that has made it’s way into the world. What we do next, is to give it another day or so and then it will be fished out and kept somewhere warm and light. Else it will shrivel up and it really will be Goodnight, Vienna. In the absence of grow lights, I will be having a good think as to where this might be and hoping that I am able to protect this and any other seedling that might appear from cold temperatures. This occur even indoors, when seedlings are kept near a window. They get light and warmth during the day, but the windows still radiate cold when the night falls.

As delicate and dainty as this seedling might look, this seedling represents a new start. A new start on plot, with the hope that things will be productive this year with last year being something of a grey spell. I will keep an eye on the heated prop, hopefully there will be a few more to keep this one company.

 

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.