Monday, 31 August 2015

The Start of a Bank Holiday Weekend

Another grey day (weather-wise) but on this long holiday weekend there's plenty of catching up to do on the plots. Chinese radish, swede, lettuce, asparagus pea and some beetroot need to be cleared and composted as they've either gone to seed or simply given up. None of the swede has bulbed up for some reason. I pulled all the silverskin onions from the raised bed and put them on mesh to dry - thank goodness for the greenhouse! We'd struggle to get them dry outside at the moment and don't want to fill the flat up with them!
We need to get pickling! We have quite a few onions....
And of course, we have another load of BIG onions too, so we need to get things sorted!
However, on Saturday I left Jamie working on the allotment while I spent a few hours at my sister's farm for her birthday. Joanne and I had a lovely time, chatting, wandering round the garden, eating cake then feeding the chickens and geese. 
The chickens came into the back door when they thought it was tea-time
They have a Caravan Club site on the farm and a couple of caravanners turned up while I was visiting. What a lovely peaceful spot to spend a few days!
Barney & Big Boy - the alpaca
Jonathan and George were busy harvesting so we took a cuppa and cake down to them at the dryer. Jonathan explained the system, from the wheat being dropped in one end, along the conveyor belt system, through the heated section and fired out at the other end as clean, dry wheat.
That's a photo from Joanne's blogpost during last year's harvest:
http://lornehillquilts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/harvest-chicksand-quilt.html
Lovely to delve your hands into the huge pile of grain.
Taken from Joanne's blog from Saturday:
http://lornehillquilts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/a-bit-of-colour.html
When I got back to the allotment Jamie was just about ready to leave. He'd trimmed all the grass edges and mowed the remainder of our paths as well as doing some weeding so the plots were looking tidier again, but still loads more to do...
The Tenerife potatoes are getting big in the ground (they're only meant to be tiny) and are beginning to re-grow so we need to pull them really, but there's only so many spuds two people can eat in one week!
Those are our Lizzano tomatoes in the photo above. They are grafted plants and it's clear how much more prolific they are than the grown-from-seed Sungold variety that we have in the greenhouse. The Lizzano are really sweet and tasty until you taste a Sungold - WOW! They are amazing. We're looking at getting some grafted Sungold plants for next year (if we get to keep the allotment - we should find out next month).
Sungold
The Cornells Bush Delicata squash are looking good - trailing off just like you'd expect of a bush variety - not!
I made dinner - it gets a mention as I don't do it very often and it was delicious. A layered oven bake of par-boiled Tenerife potatoes, courgette sliced longways, tomatoes, silverskin onions (which I needn't have bothered caramelising), garlic and cheese topped with filo pastry. Mmmmm, so tasty and pretty, wish I'd got a photo!
The Russian Giant Sunflowers are about 3 metres tall!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Show's Over

Aah, what a couple of busy, fun weekends! Yesterday was the Horticultural & Handicraft Show. Previously run by the Hungerford Royal British Legion, this year HAHA joined forces so there's been a bit of organising going on in the background as well as trying to encourage our vegetables to grow well enough to join in the fun of exhibiting!
Enough tomatoes went red for us to enter 2 categories and got a 2nd and 3rd placing
In the morning Jamie and I rushed about picking whatever we thought was reasonable and then went back home to clean things up - carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and fennel. I'd had some of my photos printed by PhotoBox but they didn't actually look that good; not as well coloured as they look on the PC screen; I entered a photo into each category (only got a 2nd place for one photo though), but there were a lot of entries.
I tied up the tops of the onions but hadn't dried out well enough so didn't win a placing.
We took all our vegetables up to the Royal British Legion Club (RBL) and spent about an hour chatting to other exhibitors - quite a few plotholders and some other people from Hungerford. It was all very friendly and I would have been happy to spend a bit more time there but had to go and pick up the Vegetables & Floral judge from Newbury.
Having picked up Jean we returned to the RBL and Jean did some meticulous judging for a couple of hours. I watched her in action from a distance for a bit but didn't want to hear the results so sat outside on the hottest day of August - it really was sweltering. Jean lent me her RHS Exhibiting & Judging handbook. That was an interesting read - a bit too serious for our event I think but definitely some handy hints!
A roomful of Lovely exhibits!
So, after I had taken Jean home (Thankyou so much for helping us Jean!!) Jamie and I made our way up to the RBL to see who had won what and for the really fun bit of the day.
We did win a 1st for our largest onion and quite a few 2nd, 3rd and 'Highly commended' placings so overall we won the Runners Up prize in the vegetable section :-)
'Any 3 Veg': Fennel, Crystal Lemon Cucumber & Garlic
'Any 5 veg: We got the 2nd place - that was the only 5 we could gather together!
Courgette(!), silverskin onion, chilli, tomato & Tenerife spud
The prizes were awarded and we were happy to see plenty of plotholders winning, then there was an auction of all the produce. The auctioneer got fed up with so many onion lots (it's been a good year!) so everything came with an onion - even a swiss roll :-)
Ooh, 1st prize-winning savoury scones - I had to have them!
We took home some lovely chutneys, picallili and scones (fruit and savoury) so it was a brilliant end to the day. Lots of money was raised and donated to the Poppy Appeal and more people in Hungerford are aware of the allotments.
And today we've picked our first harvest of runner beans and found some cucumbers we'd missed...

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Shows and Showing

I've been so busy over the last couple of weeks I haven't had a chance to take photos, let alone blog! Suffice to say we've been living on courgettes, potatoes and cucumbers!
I'm very pleased to say that the Open Day went really well yesterday and, given the dull, wet weather we've had over the last couple of weeks we were extremely lucky that the sun shone for much of the afternoon.
Plotholders are so generous with their time: cooking delicious cakes, savouries and pickles; digging crops to provide produce and of course helping out with the stalls. Others brought family and friends along to show off our site in all its glory during National Allotment Week. We even gained a couple of new plotholders on the day! No-one visiting the site could imagine that we won't be here this time next year - we should find out the future of the site next month...

It was so tiring yesterday I was happy to have a relaxing day today, picking veg, watering and chatting to plotholders in the warm weather.

I'm selecting a few things for showing at the Horticultural Show next Saturday. It's the first year that HAHA are helping the Royal British Legion so we're hoping lots of plotholders will join in. It's a small affair with the emphasis on fun and friendly competition. Jamie and I won't have very much to show - our runner beans are only just getting big enough to eat, so I'm out of the running for the longest runner this year - damn! That's one of my favourite exhibits. (Looks like there will be runners on the menu this week though!)

 I've hung all the garlic in the greenhouse - cleaned up and dead leaves removed. And there are some onions drying in there too - phewee, it's pretty strong in there!
There are a few of our silverskins drying in there too, but most are still in the raised bed to grow a bit further.
We may have some tomatoes for the show but I'm not sure we'll ever get a whole truss of red ones! These are our Lizzano. Still our favourite variety to grow outside. The Sungold in the greenhouse don't seem so prolific and are more fussy with needing their side-shoots snipping all the time.
Here's another bit of colour - on our raspberries. Not enough for a bowl-ful or jam (at the moment) but perhaps we'll get more, though they aren't under protection.
We emptied one of our potato bags with the Tenerife potatoes. Probably about the same amount as we got from the one growing in the ground.


 Jamie also pulled a Kestrel potato, which had masses of tubers.
In that photo you may notice our first celery, which is rather bitter but seems to have worked, and also our first Crystal Lemon cucumber and one of plot-neighbour Neal's lettuces - I've got a tasty salad planned for lunch tomorrow!
Also one of our purple carrots, though it's not as purple as other purple ones we've grown. What an exciting harvest!


Sunday, 2 August 2015

Counting Butterflies in the Sunshine

Today was the last day of my holiday and it was a beautiful sunny day.
After we fed all the plants that needed it e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatillo, peppers and watered everything else I went to the top of the allotment site (Jamie would call it the bottom of the site..) and counted butterflies for my Big Butterfly Count 2015.
The top of the site is quite overgrown!
This is my favourite photo that I managed to get today - such a beautiful little butterfly - the Common Blue. I don't think I've seen one on the allotment site before.
After I'd done that we picked our veggies, including quite a lot of carrot thinnings and went home to prepare for work tomorrow - booo!
The beetroot has been nibbled by something early in its life, but it's so huge that hole won't be a problem - it's just a flesh wound :-)

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

(Almost) All the Colours of the Rainbow

Love that little hoverfly in the background!
Because it's that time of year even if the weather has forgotten!
The Tenerife potatoes are still in full flower, although the foliage on the potato bags aren't looking so healthy.
One of the cornichon plants seems to be forming a flower on top. That can't be right, but we have the two other plants and lots of little gherkins are forming so we'll wait and see what it does...
The row of pot marigolds along the greenhouse were all self-seeded and are looking beautiful with all their different oranges and yellows.
The tomatillo fruits are forming their little lanterns - one fruit at each branch joint.
The wild flowers are coming on nicely but would probably appreciate a bit more sun (and so would I).
The chillies are producing well, I really hope they're not too hot to eat.
Shame we didn't see the Beechgrove Garden episode which included information on growing peppers as cordons till this week; perhaps we could have helped the plant produce more than 3 fruits.
Even the compost is colourful today.
Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet - well, I got close but my rainbow includes pink rather than indigo I think!