Friday, 27 December 2013

Post-Christmas Visit

What a lovely, lazy Christmas holiday we've had so far. We had some torrential rain but nothing like what other areas of the country have seen.

We had a soggy walk in the sunshine along the canal to see what's been happening on the allotments in our absence.
View back to town

I was pleased to see that the garlic on our plot has sprouted! It's the Garlic Vayo that I planted at the beginning of December. Apart from all the rain the weather has been very mild; just a couple of days over the last couple of weeks that there's been any frosted windscreens so obviously the garlic's been happy with that.
I forgot to check whether the Elephant garlic has sprouted on the HAHA plot. We didn't hang round too long. Far to wet to do anything, though, as usual there's plenty that needs to be done - mostly tidying up the mess we didn't clear in October!

There was a robin by our plot, so he's welcome to take over where our original little Robbie left off last year. Time to start bringing edible treats to the plot again.
We walked back home through town and spotted this grey squirrel dashing back to his little hidey-hole in a tree high above the pavement.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas Everyone!

This year our Christmas meal will mainly contain leeks, carrots and sprouts.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Chain Mail Article 3

This year I've been contributing to the Hungerford quarterly newsletter, Chain Mail. 
The latest one is here, in the Christmas edition, under the title 'Digging HAHA?'

The aim of the articles are to highlight the positives one can take from having an allotment - as an individual and as a community. 

Being on private land means that our site will always be at risk, particularly with the current housing plans being discussed. Of course, as plot holders we understand that more houses mean a larger requirement for allotments but unfortunately not all planners see it this way.

Although Hungerford is a rural town surrounded by green fields we are always being told that there is nowhere to have a permanent allotment site. So I, and fellow plotholders, need to keep raising the awareness of Marsh Lane Allotments which are often boasted as an asset but do not currently have a long-term future.

Looking at Hungerford on Google maps would make anyone think there must be some land available - unfortunately housing developers seem to have claims on every spot though..
No space for allotments?!
The highlighted field is the Marsh Lane site
Plotholders, in the guise of HAHA (Hungerford Allotment Holders Association), manage the site for the Council, so there's very little input required. We just need to find some available land.

KEEP FLYING THE FLAG for a permanent allotment site for Hungerford!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Clearing, Tidying and Planting

It was quite mild but cloudy throughout the day - certainly didn't feel like the 1st of December. We had a couple hours at the allotment this afternoon.
I planted the garlic on the HAHA plot:
 6 x Elephant Garlic (not actually garlic, but apparently a type of leek)
 11 x Garlic Vayo (a hardneck, pink-veined variety)
Hmm, which ones the Elephant clove?
Jamie prepared an area and I planted the other Vayo cloves on our plot near the leeks, which were in such a weedy state... That was my next job...
That's better!
We did a lot of clearing up. Our potatoes have been pretty bad this year; so full of slugs, and something has been digging them up and eating even more holes in them. We threw a lot away - straight to the Council green bin, not to our compost.
Nice to leave the plot looking a bit tidier, but now our two Dalek compost bins are full so we left with a trug of veggies and aching bones. Ah, it's good to be back :-)

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Literally SSDD!

Here's the remains of our sweetcorn - looking very picturesque against the late Autumn sky  (should that be Winter?).
Such a pretty picture I put it at the top of this post, but the stems really need clearing and composting along with most of what's left on our plots!
Another 10 wheelbarrows of manure shifted today. Half to the HAHA plot and half to ours lucky one huge pile was dumped right beside our plot - very handy!
"Same sh*t; different day".
I'm pleased with the squash trellis we had this year. I'm surprised that the heavy fruits are still suspended even though the foliage has died back completely. That squash isn't actually tied to the trellis or rope at all. It was a real space-saver rather than growing this trailing monster across the plot.
The sun is so low at this time of year that it was getting dark and chilly by 4:00pm so we cleaned the tools off and walked home on the last day of November.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

HAHA Plot - it's no joke!

Ugh! That's what happens when you neglect your allotment for most of October. Not a happy looking plot, so I left Jamie to it(!) and worked on the HAHA plot for a couple of hours.
Jamie dug some manure into the planned brassica quarter and has stored some paving slabs on the area where the sprouts will go next year.
Talking of sprouts, ours aren't looking too bad now Jamie's removed all the dead leaves - though they're all leaning in opposite directions, we should get plenty to eat from the four plants. The leaning shows that the earth was looser than it should have been. We may resort to staking the plants a bit earlier next year.
The HAHA plot also looked abandoned, but at least now it has a small corner where I can plant the  Elephant garlic and Vayo garlic which I ordered from Suttons this morning. I dug the area, pulled weeds and stones and then spread some chicken manure pellets.
It wasn't a bad day actually, though the glimpses of blue sky didn't stay for long. There were quite a few birds around including the kestrel and, unusually for Marsh Lane, some pied wagtails. No sign of our little robin though :-(
We found a couple of pupae which I need to identify before posting to the Wildlife blog.

We've still got Network Rail working on the Marsh Lane railway bridge. I was a bit disappointed to have missed them doing the work; it sounded quite interesting. They've now put the four new strengthening pins in - they go all the way from one side to the other of a two-track railway bridge! No wonder they needed to re-inforce some parts of the arch while they were drilling!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

That's Better...well, it should be soon!

Just another excuse as to why our allotment must be feeling neglected! Yep, I'm playing the kidney card.
Photographed on Tuesday
Some of you will know that we missed our holiday last year because my AV fistula failed.
If I hadn't received my transplant and still needed dialysis the hospital would have worked on the fistula to get it working again - some kidney patients have enormous problems with their fistulas but I was lucky with mine all the while I needed it.

Last November it swelled up and hurt a lot but within a few months the swelling, lumps and bumps just dissolved back into my arm - amazing really, I thought I'd have a lumpy arm for the rest of my days!
Actually, one lump didn't go... This aneurysm clearly wasn't going to disappear of its own accord.
Photographed on Sunday
It's not been that painful; just the occasional twinge but sore if it got knocked so it always felt vulnerable. So the Churchill Hospital said it should be removed and that was done on Monday.

In a couple of weeks I think I'll have no excuse for getting up the plot and dealing with that manure!!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Pumpkins are not just for Halloween...

The Jack-be-Little pumpkins produced lots of fruits for carving and we've got plenty left to eat. I just have to get round to making it!

Colds and cold weather have kept me away from the blog for a bit, but it'll be back in action soon...

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Manure and Squashes

First visit to the plot today following our lovely two weeks away in beautiful Tenerife - now, I love the allotment, but I'd rather be in Tenerife again right now!
I only went to see how things were doing and to pull a potato but ended up spending a couple of hours on the site.
There hasn't been a frost while we were away and the weather has apparently stayed quite warm, though there had been a lot of rain at some point - the gauge was full.
Looks like I'm going to be eating squashes for a few months - Jamie's refusing at this point :-)

Cornells Bush Delicata
Uchiki Kuri
It was such a warm day and there were quite a few of us there because the manure was being delivered - we can buy a barrow-load from HAHA for £1 (HAHA buy it from a local farmer). We were pleased to see how well-rotted it is and I moved 8 barrow-loads to our plot - Jamie may get some more next week.
I went home with a very heavy bag of potatoes, one squash and a sweetcorn - most of the sweetcorn have gone over now but the one I took home was still sweet and tasty, though the kernels were a little harder than you'd really want.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

HAHA at the Hungerford Food Festival

Another busy Sunday as we will be helping to man the HAHA stall at the Food Festival tomorrow.
We've picked some produce from the HAHA plot - a lovely colourful haul!
That is: Golden Hubbard squash, ridge cucumbers, kohl rabi, mooli, jack-o-lantern pumpkins, courgettes (floridor yellow & normal), uchiki kuri squash and purple haze carrots.

We like  to highlight the benefits of growing your own. Of course, we'll also take advantage of the platform to highlight the plight of the allotment sites in Hungerford and how we really need a permanent site for the town.
Here's a lesson on why you should pick your courgettes regularly :-) Hmm, wonder if anyone will want to take that home with them...

Monday, 23 September 2013

Open Afternoon - Success!

We had fabulous weather for the Open Afternoon - we were so lucky! It was warm (probably about 23°) and the sun even showed itself at times.
We were pleased it was so well attended - there were about 80 visitors that I'm aware of.
We even had a group of people from Swindon join us, they just happened to be visiting Hungerford and followed the carrot arrows that we'd posted along the route from the High Street!
I was really pleased to see Bill Acworth again - he was on the council when the allotment site was first set up. Without him we'd never have our lovely site. He was impressed with the changes over the last couple of years and understands what an asset the site is to Hungerford. 
The burgers went down so well that we had to send out for more stock half way through the afternoon. Even all the veggie burgers were all sold!

The cream teas were also a great success; people had made cakes and scones for HAHA to sell and, of course, there was lovely home-made jam too.
Children were entertained with paper flower making and a questionnaire which meant they walked round the plots spotting certain veg and water butts, etc.
Some visitors spent a lot of time wandering through the site looking at the various methods we use for protecting our veggies and our growing techniques - that's why we always like to see what's going on on other plots too.

I was looking after the tombola and really enjoyed it. We had over 40 prizes, mostly donated, and with a 1-in-5 chance of winning all the tickets were gone by 3pm! (Next time we'll need more prizes). It was such good fun and when I did have a couple of breaks my sister stepped in to deal with customers - thanks Joanne!

The produce stall was well stocked and visitors went off with bagfuls of fresh veg and home-made pickles, jams and chutneys. A bit of a shame that Joanne bought the cabbage that we'd put on the stall - I would have given her a freebie :-)
Jamie was on standby to provide me with food and drinks and enjoyed chatting with other plotholders and visitors.

Now we are looking forward to holding more events like this in the future!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Bye-Bye Toms and Hello Sweetcorn!

This last week has really felt autumnal; we had a lovely Summer but it feels like it's over far too soon. I went up the allotment before work during the week. There was heavy dew on the paths and look at our sad tomatoes :-(
Lots of fruits to be had but blight had struck so this weekend we cleared the area and to be honest, it's a bit of relief to have some space on that part of the plot! There were calendula there too but they had long since been buried by the pumpkin leaves and haven't been seen since July so they got composted too - not to our compost bin, but to the Council green bins.
The Jack-o-lantern pumpkins have taken over but probably won't have much more growing time - just hope they start going orange soon...
We cut back the runners on the strawberries - we've potted on a couple which will replace non-fruiting strawberry plants from this year.
Today we picked our first Spring(?!) cabbage. It's there in the trug with our first sweetcorn (fabulously sweet and didn't even need butter to make it delicious) and some of our Kestrel potatoes. They're extremely scabby and only about 5 tubers per plant...but one weighed 850g! Don't know what went on there - we're blaming the weather...! 

Marsh Lane Allotments Open Afternoon 2013

Have I mentioned the Open Afternoon on here? I don't think I have, though I have been talking about it a lot in real life! It's a little later in the year than intended, because of the lease extension and then time constraints of HAHA committee members but we're really hoping the weather will be reasonable - or, even better, SUNNY!
I'm going to be looking after the tombola/produce stall and am looking forward to it. Especially now that we have some gazebos to use, thanks to helpful plotholders and my sister :-)

So, next Saturday we're going to have a busy day tidying the site and making the communal areas look their best and then Sunday we'll hopefully have lots of visitors to see how great the allotment site is. There are going to be activities for children too including a 'Nature lotto' (allotment hunt) and paper flower making so they can be entertained along with the adults.

Hope to see you there and maybe a few more Hungerford locals will be inspired to get on the waiting list for a plot! Follow the carrots from the High Street to find the site :-)

Friday, 6 September 2013

Chain Mail Article 2

Just a quick link to my second article for the Hungerford Quarterly magazine, Chain Mail.

I pretty much summarise what I've written on the blog over the previous months and try to raise the profile of the allotments within the local community. We need all the help we can get with the short lease still hanging over us.

Anyway, here's a link to the article.
And here's a photo of a hover fly that I took on our wildflower patch on Wednesday - every blog post should have a pic :-)

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Lunch at the Allotment

I was working from home today and it was such a hot day that we decided to go to the plot for our lunch. It was lovely; certainly could have stayed there for the afternoon!
Jamie picked some long-awaited runner beans for his dad and we picked some bits for our dinner tonight - fried marinaded tofu with veggies (tomatoes, courgettes, peppers, basil).
Our peppers are rather gnarly but they taste fabulous.

I also took some photos of the many 'beasties' and will put entries on the wildlife blog. I'm not a fan of spiders but the one I took a photo of today is quite amazing looking! It's your standard orb weaver garden spider - the type that makes a web across your porch so you walk through it in the morning <shiver>

I meant to post this photo the other day of our pickled silverskin onions, runner bean chutney and tomato & courgette chutney.
We've decided that the pickled onions will provide us with enough for next year too so we won't plant any shallots next year - will give us a bit of space on the plot for something else...