Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year!

Well we needed sprouts so we had to venture out, but soon wished we hadn't walked! The rain was tremendous - we were drowned rats before we reached the site and hid in the container for a while. However, the rain continued to fall steadily and heavily so we ventured out, picked our sprouts, fed the robin and soggily walked home! A fitting end to the wettest recorded year! Even the canal had overflowed over the towpath and to the river the other side!

Here's to 2013! Happy New Year Everyone!!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Sage for soup

We braved the persistent wind and rain to visit the plot today.

We only needed to pick a handful of sage leaves and drop off some kitchen waste for the compost bin. I used my new pot (thanks Carolyn!), ingeniously made from a plastic drinks bottle, to hold the sage leaves.

The sage is to be joined by the remainder of the chestnuts for soup a la Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Veg Everyday book - another Christmas pressie (thanks James!).

The sprout cage had done its usual trick and was at a jaunty angle, so we re-secured it but its on it's last legs. It's been useful but it's just not strong and sturdy enough; the home-made cages made from the blue water pipe are more resilient.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

We visited the plot on Christmas Eve before visiting our relatives. We were the only people on the soggy site but our little robin was flitting about - Jamie took some cheese up for him and he seemed very happy with it!
We picked sprouts and lovely leeks for Christmas Day. The leeks were from under the enviromesh which really paid off; the leeks were perfect.
The Christmas meal, cooked mostly by me (for the first time in 24 years) was delicious (even though I say so myself!).
The Cordon Vert recipe for the filo parcels was lovely. Shame there were no parsnips but the leeks, sprouts and rosemary from the plot made for a delicious meal.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

Will be at the plot picking sprouts and leeks tomorrow but don't expect to be blogging, so Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Weather and Birdlife

Not sure if that's a pigeon or kestrel
At the beginning of last week the weather was really cold (-4°) with beautiful frosted trees, but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to get to the site to take any photos. Since Friday it's been rainy and temperatures have been a balmy 8°. Not good - we want the weeds and bad pests to die off, which they won't do if it stays moderately warm :-(

There had just been a torrential downpour when we got to the plot this afternoon after posting Christmas cards - look at all that rainfall since last Sunday!! Shame it hasn't been cold enough for snow - I could have had a snow day from work :-)

The ground was really soggy and everything looked saturated, including our garlic bed...
There were lots of birds about; robins, blue tits, blackbirds, pigeons and pheasants (eating the tops off people's unprotected brassicas). We've noticed that there are no berries left on the hedge, apart from a few rosehips. I was hoping to see some redwings as I saw a whole flock of them eating berries along the A4 the other day - beautiful looking birds. I'd never seen them before but they're apparently a common Winter visitor.
Herbs (and weeds) are the only things growing on this part of the plot

Sunday, 9 December 2012

To the allotment via the Christmassy High Street

We popped up the allotment to add some kitchen waste to the compost bin. No-one else around as it was already beginning to get dark. We left the walk up till later in the afternoon so that we could enjoy Hungerford's Christmas lights - they are so fabulous, with christmas trees on every lampost and shop!

High Street in all its Christmas glory!

Whilst on the plot we checked how the few growing things are doing - it didn't take long!:
No sign of the garlic yet - maybe rotted as it's so wet :(
Leeks are looking pretty good. The ones under enviromesh (Oarsman F1) are certainly happier than the ones out in the open (though we're not sure what variety these are). I hope they continue to grow over the next two weeks because they're having a starring role in our Christmas meal - leek and chestnut filo parcels. Mmm, they sound soooo good!!
Happy protected leeks
Fairly happy unprotected leeks
The broad beans are still there - still very small but the mouse hasn't nibbled them yet. Suprisingly, given that we found this hoard under our storage area!! That's all our marigold seeds!
All nice and dry under a plastic cover!
Back home via more Christmas lights over the canal. Lovely! And all ready for Hungerford Victorian Extravaganza on Friday 14th December 2012.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Sprouts for dinner

Time really is flying - December now and it feels like it! Brrrr, lowest temp over the last week has been -5°. All the water on the site is frozen and the ground is solid though squelchy on top because of the torrential rain we had before the last few days of frost.
We weren't the only ones on the site; the cat was stalking something and was a bit indignant at being disturbed! Not too sure where he lives but he thinks he owns the site as he's been around since day1 - there's another tabby who's been around recently though so he's got competion!
Our poor broad beans probably shouldn't have chosen last week to pop their little heads up :-(
Far too cold for them to start growing at this point, we think. They look a bit yellow at the moment...
We picked sprouts to have with dinner - Jamie picked the poorest quality ones but they tasted delish!


Friday, 23 November 2012

After the wind and rain

Jamie visited the plot to check if it was still there after the amazing wind and rain yesterday. He was the only person there - not too surprisingly!
There wasn't much devastation; a lot of leaning structures, compost lids scattered around the site, fleece and netting stuck to the rabbit fencing and our pots had blown across the plot.

Of course, our sprout cage didn't hold up too well - it is always the first casualty! It's a bit broken and the netting tried to escape but couldn't get away from the last bricks holding it down :-)
The sprouts had to be secured upright again but none of them snapped so that's a good thing!
With more wind and rain predicted for the weekend I think we'll need to be armed with cable ties - if the sprouts are out in the open for too long the pesky pigeons will pinch our Christmas lunch!!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Clearing & Burning

It's been grey, misty but mild today. There were a few of us on the site - all with the same plan; to clear the ground and make it ready for Winter.
We spent a few hours clearing  and Jamie did some digging. We managed to get a fire going in the incinerator. We burned the remains of the sweet peas and peas and anything else we could find! The ashes were later dug into an empty space where the potatoes will grow next year - they generally like a bit of potash (not too much though or it can cause scab).

Burn, burn, burn!
We've cleared a lot of the calendula - still loads more to clear but at least we can see and use our wobbly path again now to get to the compost bins! We took two bagfuls of green waste home - seedheads and weeds which we don't want to sow next year.
Cleared all round the seat and compost bins
All the non-seed parts of the calendula went into the compost bins - we chopped the stems into smaller sections so that they'll compost down a bit quicker. Jamie mixed the fresh stuff in with the already-rotting compost. Both bins are pretty much full now but hopefully it will rot down a bit before we clear the next area of calendula!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Preparing the sprout plot

Jamie started to prepare this year's legume quarter for the brassicas (particularly sprouts) next year. He cleared the area of the marigolds; pulled the remains of bean plants; dug it really well and then added some chicken pellet manure. We'll pile bags of manure on it to make the ground nice and hard for when the sprouts go in.

Talking of sprouts, he also staked our leaning plants. The sprouts look pretty good, but Jamie said there were a lot of slugs and snails in the cage.
I got to the plot just in time for lunch  :-) and took him a lovely meat-free pasty from the fabulous Cornish Pasty shop in Newbury.

This is the rhubarb under it's Winter protection (should stop it getting too wet) - this will also help us remember where it is, as all the leaves have died off and there's no trace of it above ground!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Oh dear, no parsnips for Christmas!

We had a visit to the plot this morning. We needed to add some kitchen waste to the compost bins and I ripped up an Amazon delivery box to add too. There was no-one else on site, it wasn't too chilly and no rain, but the ground is still pretty claggy.

Jamie decided it was time to check whether we're going to have parsnips for Christmas dinner.
So, we pulled one up today - looked a good size....
...but it was rotten. Squashy at both ends and where we snapped the end off you can see that the central core is white surrounded with rotted nip :-(
It's not too surprising given the state of the parsnip bed - the hand is pointing at an apparently growing top:
A sad soggy parsnip bed
The leafy tops started to die back in September when I pulled a nice parsnip. Since then, the tops have disappeared completely; a couple have started to show some re-growth, which isn't a good sign. It would seem that we should have pulled them before the tops died back completely - the wet probably seeped down through the top where the leaves were no longer there to protect the root.
So, it's a second year with no home-grown parsnips for our Christmas lunch - doh!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Today, planning not working!

As expected, not much happening on the plot. We really need to do some tidying - hopefully we'll get a chance to do that next week.
I did put the remains of the courgette and Bush Delicata squash plants into the compost bin(!). I've got squash for my dinner tonight - stuffing made with chestnuts, parsley, sage and cheese. Yum

Jamie's checking the leeks
There's still no sign of garlic shoots or broad beans popping up. The temperature reached -3° last night and today was again warm and sunny.
Our sprouts need some support! Two of the plants have serious leaning issues so we'll have to get into the cage and straighten them up if poss. Also need to take those yellow leaves off to stop disease and mould getting to them.
This end of Plot7 doesn't look too bad, quite nicely cleared but the other quarters need work and a good dig over before it gets really cold. Not to mention Plot 8...!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A walk past the plot (and the last 3 years)

We went for a walk over Freemans Marsh in the sun this afternoon. There were a few moorhen on the river and a beautiful swan but we didn't see anything else of interest. The ground was very soggy (well, it is the marsh :-)) but not as bad as we've seen it before - I managed to keep my socks dry and wasn't wearing wellies!

We were going to walk past the allotments but saw Malcolm so went in and chatted to him for a good while. The ground is rather wet for digging and the weeds continue to grow in our absence!
There were quite a few fellow plotholders around and I couldn't face talking to them all so we decided against walking down to our plot (shame, I wish we had now) - I guess that's the drawback of having such a friendly site  :-)

As I was lazy, here are pics from around this date over the history of our plot (unfortunately not from the same vantage point!!)

This week in 2011

This week in 2010
This week in 2009

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Holiday? What holiday?!

Well, as you can see...I'm not blogging about growing tomatoes in sunny Tenerife!
We didn't make it out of the country! We're so disappointed.

The Arteriovenous (AV) fistula in my arm, which was used for needling during haemodialysis, stopped working the day before I wrote the last post. Because I have my transplant I don't actually need the fistula any more but it's kept if there's a need for it in the future.
I checked with my renal unit at the Churchill Hospital and they told me it could be painful and to take painkillers. Well, there's painful and there's PAINFUL!
Clotting fistula
After another trip to the hospital and some antibiotics the decision was made - I couldn't possibly travel and wouldn't want to have been abroad with an arm that hurt when a sleeve touched it.
So we've got a couple of weeks in Hungerford instead!

Today was the first day we've ventured to the plot. The sky was blue and sunny but no life in any of our recent plantings yet (garlic or broad beans) and nothing interesting to photograph. The minimum temp has been 2° and maximum of 13° (not 28° like Tenerife - no! Stop that!!)

Anyway, back home pretty quickly to nurse my not-so-swollen-now arm.
Tut, such bad timing  :-(

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Blue Skies and Cold Temperatures

We made our final trip to the plot before our holidays. It was a beautiful sunny morning and such lovely blue sky. We just did a bit of composting (I added the dried out sweetcorn sticks and vegetable waste from home to the bin.
The ash tree has lost all of its leaves now - hope this one doesn't get infected by the ash tree dieback which is spread by a fungus. The fungal disease has spread to the UK from Northern Europe and is currently a big concern for all our ash trees :-(
The temperature has reached a minimum of -1° in the last week - with frost on the car a couple of days. Our rhubarb is gradually dying back but appears to have established well since it was planted at the end of July.
So that's that for two weeks - I doubt it'll look much difference when we return. There's not much to change the look of the plot at this time of year.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Happy Halloween

We had our squashes stuffed with Quorn mince bolognaise on Halloween night. Still have 3 squashes left over which will still be edible when we get back from our hols hopefully.
Jamie's head hurt

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Over-wintering broad beans

Last night we baked one of the Cornells Bush Delicata squash - well worth growing. Jamie thought it similar to sweet potato and I've today found a reference to it as 'sweet potato squash'. It really was delicious, with butter and pepper on it - ooh, I'm drooling at the memory...

We pickled two jars of beetroot last night - again in red wine vinegar, with thinner slices. The lightest of the beets was yellow once it was cooked! It tasted incredibly sweet. I think they were all boltardy beets but there may have been a couple of moneta in there too, though they were all meant to be red ones!

A rather bleak-looking plot!
We went to the plot this afternoon - it was rainy and rather chilly. It was just a quick visit to sow the Aqua Dulce broad beans for over-wintering. We've covered them with the onion netting - hopefully that will protect them from mice and the worst of the weather (we're holding Kerry to this!). We've only sown 17 seeds - leftovers from last year.
It got to 0° last night... The chives have gone down and the marjoram went black a couple of weeks ago(!) but the hardier herbs (rosemary, thyme and fennel) are ok and even the parsley is hanging on to life for the time-being.

Plot 8 still looks quite colourful in this photo, but the calendula are just about dying back.
And this side of Plot 7 only has sprouts to show off!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

A sunny, cold Autumn day

We had a couple of hours in sunshine. It was chilly though and the wind was blowing all the leaves about. In fact, it looks like Autumn has really hit over the last week - trees and hedgerow have changed colour and the berries really shone out in the sun because so many leaves have fallen (all over our plot).
Look at that beautiful blue sky!
The thermometer showed that the minimum over the last couple of days was 1.5° and there was ice on our tub. Washing the dirt off the beets which we're going to pickle this afternoon was hand-numbing!
We collected some wood which someone had donated to the allotment site - we're going to use it for a new cage next year. We need to work out a design for what we actually want; the plastic tubing is great but makes access a bit tricky so want to work on something to make that easier... We also collected some manure which had been in a tub by the gates for a few months - well rotted horse manure - should be good for mixing into the brassica quarter.
The chard was glowing in the sunshine, but has gone to seed so unlikely to get eaten now and this is what's left of the butternut - the wildlife is welcome to it!

Picking Bush Delicata squashes before the frost

Jamie visited the plot a couple of times during the week. It's been a grotty week weather-wise - basically living in a cloud, so everywhere is soaking.
Jamie said that the mouse or slugs have left empty hulls of the little butternuts, which came to nothing because they got going too late. They were Butterbush variety but did spread over the ground; possibly because they weren't confined to pots. I think the year's weather can be blamed for their poor show rather than the variety as each plant did produce several fruits. The squashes grew to about 10cm but were still green when the frost took them out :-(
More positively, Jamie picked all the good squashes from the Cornell's Bush Delicata - pretty good from one plant! He brought them home as we were expecting the weather to go very cold on Friday and it did - about 5° at work, though no frost on the car.

We're going up the plot later, after my flu jab, but still won't be able to burn the hedging day cuttings - they're probably wetter today than they were last week! As I look out the window now there's beautiful blue sky and sunshine but it sure looks cold - brrr. Where's our flask gone? I've a feeling we're going to need coffee!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Celeriac and Fennel Soup

Mmmm, yum, yes the soup worked though I needed to add more pepper to it - I always do anyway. Lovely for my lunch for a few days this week!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Fennel, Celeriac and Garlic

As I'm typing this there's a lovely smell - my fennel and celeriac soup is cooking. Aah, the smell of the celeriac on my hands is lovely!
I pulled three celeriac roots which, after hacking off all the unusable bits, weighed 500g. I've added a pint of veg stock to that, plus an onion, plus as many fennel fronds as I could cut from the big stem I brought home. I should have used the bulbous fennel stem but there wasn't one(!) so this soup is going to be more celeriac that fennel-flavoured. After I've blended it with my favourite kitchen accessory, my hand blender, I quite often have to add more water, but as celeriac is such a watery-type of veg it may be fine this time..
Soup in-waiting
During our quick visit to the plot I planted the Taylor's Solent Wight garlic - the one bulb had more than 15 cloves so I planted 5 rows of 3 - they're about 15cm apart. Some of the cloves are quite small and slim so not sure how well they will grow but if only half of them grow that will be plenty of garlic. It seems that planted now they should be ready for harvesting, when the foliage is dying back, next June.