Monday, 23 April 2018

One Week

A lot can happen in a week in the Spring. We've had sweltering sunshine, tremendous thunder and lightning (sadly, I managed to sleep through it), torrential rain and now back to a little chill in the wind.
We've started harvesting our rhubarb and this is our 2nd harvest of purple sprouting broccoli. It is delicious but we definitely need to look after the plants more this year - the straighter stalks are more productive than the ones which fell over, so staking is going to be required. Especially as Marsh Lane is such a windy site.
I chopped all those chives to add onion-y flavour to the celery soup I decided to make (I had to buy the celery, but for 49p I think it was worth it). And the soup is so delicious and will provide me with at least two days of lunch - though I must admit I had to add a pinch of MSG and some mustard powder to enhance the flavour.
The seedlings, sown one week ago, have loved the heat in the greenhouse - at the front you can see our next batch of broad beans which have sprouted so are nearly ready to go out. Then there are our trays of marigolds (Durango Bee and Honeycomb). Some of these will be planted on our plots but the rest will be sold at the HAHA plant sale in June - we're holding it on the Town Hall steps in the centre of town, so we hope to get even more passersby than we saw last year.
The cauliflower (Amazing) have germinated - they look like cress at the moment. I hope they survive - we've never grown cauliflower before. The mangetout (Shiraz and Golden Sweet, in the drainpipe have just popped through the compost. They're now at their most vulnerable to mice who love the tasty new shoots. I have lots of twigs to protect them from (mostly) pheasants once they're planted out.
That was yesterday (Sunday). Today is St George's Day but we forgot to put our flag up - see here's a gif from our plot last year. It seems that it was better weather than we have today - we've returned to grey clouds and a fresh wind :-(
And the song title is provided by Barenaked Ladies - enjoy and have it in your head for the rest of the day!

Sunday, 22 April 2018


It's been an extremely hot few days and we've visited the plot each evening to water the seeds and feed the tadpoles. Even I'm struggling a bit with the lovely heat as it arrived too quickly for my body to go from chilly to sweltering - but, really, I shouldn't complain!! Especially as it's really helped the plants to come to life...
I left work a little early on Friday - it had to be a barbecue evening and we got to use our new enamel mugs for the first time too. They were on sale through Photobox and only cost £6 each with our own photos.
It was so lovely to sit on the plot as the sun disappeared and the slice of moon became more visible. We were so pleased to be joined by the first bats that we've seen this year - flitting about under the ash tree beside our plot.

Then wandering home, slightly tipsy from the wine, along warm roads - just like Summer. This blossom photo, and the daffodil, were taken at night with the flash - it's a good effect.

Yesterday (Saturday) we spent a few hours on the plot transplanting marigold seedlings and Jamie sowed some Russian Giant sunflowers. And I stared at the tadpoles quite a lot, they're so fascinating - I don't think I paid attention enough when I was little. They're not just black anymore, which again confirms that they're frogs, not toads.

I (and a few other plotholders) went to Hungerford Primary School for an hour to help with their Make a Difference Day. I planted up some grape hyacinths and took along a pot of wildflower seeds, collected last year, plus some herb plants (sage and chives). The site looked more cheerful and loved when I left and a lot of volunteers were still working - hope it stays that way for a while at least!
And here's Coldplay with the title track...

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Fade to Grey

I forgot to mention yesterday that we saw our first swallows on the site - darting in and out of the toolshed. And I saw my first brimstone butterfly of the year and more tortoiseshells. It would appear that they were sensibly hiding away from the rain today.
I was also hiding most of the time - in the greenhouse sowing while Jamie was digging and clearing weeds (and one giant potato). I sowed Amazing cauliflower, Floral Tribute Mixed sweetpeas, Shiraz and Golden Sweet mangetout, Rainbow chard and asparagus pea. And I planted out Medania spinach in a raised bed, as this worked so well for a fellow plotholder last year. And the Sutton broad beans are planted out and protected with cloches on Plot3.
These we've grown in the root trainer pots - they're a bit fiddly, but produce some nice roots for planting out. We only have 14 plants so far, but it looks like a few more will be ready in a couple of weeks.
I'm pleased to say that the tadpoles in the pond have survived the night and look quite happy going round and round in their bucket (sorry, I mean pond). 
Here's the reason for the title song by Visage. What a grey scene. However, it's meant to be warm again during the week...


We had a warm, sunny day and we have a little pond and we have tadpoles - yeeess!

A mass of tadpoles have appeared on site. I don't think anyone had spotted frogspawn on the coverings over the empty plots, but it must have been there for a while. Apparently it's common for frogs (more than toads) to lay their spawn in shallow puddles. But the puddles will likely dry out before the tadpoles become froglets or, even more likely, they'll be eaten.
So my mission yesterday was to make a little pond so there's some chance of survival for some of the little wrigglers and hopefully we'll get some more frogs on site.
Surprisingly, tadpoles enjoy eating lettuce and carrot as well as algae and the occasional bit of meat (I think we'll start giving them a taste for slugs).

I propagated some houseleeks for the plant sale so put a couple of them on the stones by the pond. Also I retrieved some iris/orchid from an empty plot before it gets covered, so hopefully that will make it look a bit prettier and offer some shade for the pond dwellers. And it's in the little wildflower corner, so there should be plenty of other growth for protection when the froglets leave the water too.

So that was mostly what I was doing during our 6 hours in the sunshine. And here are Coldplay to hum along to.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Sunday Rain

This weekend we spent about 8 hours on the allotment. As we drove up the High Street yesterday we were following a trailer full of manure - we had a feeling we knew where that was going :-)
Look at that lot! It has apparently been standing for 2 years so it's very well rotted. HAHA buys it and plotholders can take what they want for £1 per barrowload - what a bargain.
And look what we found when we opened the greenhouse - 14 little broad bean seedlings have popped up over the week - so we may get twice as many as we thought. I dug the area on Plot3 yesterday where those broad bean plants will go in a couple of weeks. And while I dug that, Jamie dug where the potatoes will be planted.

Yesterday felt decidedly Spring-like with warmth and even a little spot of sunshine. But today it was drizzly and then rainy for the whole afternoon. Initially it was quite good weather for pulling weeds - and I had a lot to pull...
That's where the carrots and french beans are meant to be going. Most of the weeds aren't too bad to pull out but the grass (couch) is the worst. I didn't finish all of it as it got too wet but at least there are signs of bare earth ready and waiting now.
Rhubarb should be the first thing that we'll be harvesting - it's on its way... slowly but surely. Meanwhile I'm still on carrot and leek soup, but, really, that's nearly the last of them....!
 Here are the Foo Fighters for the title track. No video again, but it's a good (apt) song...

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Always Something There to Remind Me

10 years ago this week I had my kidney transplant - I try not to go on about it too much, but I figure 10 years of a much-improved life is worth a highlight. My pills keep my kidney and the rest of my body working and working together.
There are a lot of pills, but they're just part of the daily routine so no problem - and if it keeps me away from dialysis for a few more years I'll be very happy to keep on taking them. To mark my 10th anniversary I'm saving up all my 10 pence pieces to give to the Six Counties Kidney Patients Association in a years time. And, since mentioning it on Facebook, I've had so many generous offers from friends and family that I think I'll need a bigger collection pot!
As a kidney patient under the Oxford Churchill Hospital I am extremely well looked after. I have a blood test every 3 months (more if I feel that I need something checked out) and can look up my own results within a couple of days using PatientView - it's brilliant. Then the following week I see my consultant to discuss my results, how I'm feeling, any issues and whether my pills need altering. It's a very smooth system, for me.
Thank goodness for our NHS! Where would we (I) be without it? Well I can guess, and it's not a happy place and I wouldn't have a lovely allotment to play about on!
Please support the NHS and sign up for organ donation if you can - thanks for reading.

Song title courtesy of various people but I couldn't find a good video, so here's a Sandie Shaw version...

Monday, 2 April 2018


Today we visited the plot where Jamie sowed some more broad beans (3rd time lucky?) and all I did was made some coffee :-D The ground was too wet to do anything after the 15mm  of rainfall we had overnight.
But yesterday was the 1st of April - it wasn't raining and look! That's the Sun up there...
What? Can't you see it? There it is...

Yesterday, we managed to do some digging during our 3 hour stint on the allotment. Aah, it's good to be back at it.
We were mostly digging out tiny Valerian seedlings which are EVERYWHERE after we decided it was a good idea to grow some last year - it was pretty, but be warned... do not grow it on an allotment!
This is the type of new growth we want to see... our shallots have nearly all emerged.
At least on a rainy Easter weekend I managed to get lots of HAHA administration done - I even updated the website which I've been meaning to do for months (or perhaps a bit longer...).
 And I made myself some soup... that's the last parsnip of the year and nearly the last of the leeks, still a few more carrots to go.
I'm including this photo because I like the colour progression.
And today's blog title is Yesterday by The Beatles... Because yesterday we managed some proper allotmenting for a happy change.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

My Favourite Game

Well, it's Spring now and it was quite a pleasant day but the ground is so wet we didn't do any digging. I tidied up the purple sprouting broccoli plants and picked our first ever harvest of them. I'm hoping there's still time to get a few more sproutings from them - it seems they're late to sprout for many gardeners this year.
I picked a few more leeks for dinner tomorrow night, they were spare plants that I planted in a cluster rather than composting them and they've grown pretty well. A few good-sized ones and some tiddlers. The french garlic is looking happy considering it's been crushed under snow twice this month! It shouldn't get too used to this milder weather as we may have further snow by next weekend...

We had great fun last night at the HAHA Skittles Evening. With 36 people attending it was a perfect amount and there were a few non-plotholders.I was in charge of the scoring but as you can see from the photo below I had a little help from our Chairman :-)

The marigold seeds we brought home during the coldest weather are liking it a bit too much inside - they've nearly all germinated and we don't dare return them to the plot just yet...
And the potatoes are chitting away but we're not going to risk planting them out for a few weeks yet - even if it is traditional to plant them on Good Friday - just a week away.
We threw a couple of seed potatoes away as they had strange white growths on them - though it didn't really look like mould. We hope it hasn't spread to these other ones...
So, the blog title is based on the skittles evening - maybe not my favourite game but for an off-site plot holder gathering it's a great one! And so is this song from The Cardigans...

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Black and White Town

The freezing weather returned! And we have even more snow than we had at the beginning of March.
Modified photo of icicles from the roof of our composting toilet
On Friday evening we retrieved our recently-sown marigold seeds and wrapped fleece round the shelving where our broad beans are trying to germinate. The fleece and four litre bottles of water are keeping the temperature at about 1° higher than the non-protected thermometer, but will it be enough? Perhaps we'll have to sow a third lot of beans this year...
Look at our pots...
And our chives...
And the site!
There were lots of tracks in the snow - nothing very interesting but we rather liked this meandering trail - bird or mouse?
We saved a panicking thrush from a brassica cage and then checked ours. We cleared the snow to stop it ripping the netting and, hooray, our purple sprouting broccoli is doing something at last, but it was too cold to stay and harvest anything today.
You may have noticed that my camera decided to use macro for the photo above and focused on the netting - now, if I was trying to do that you know it wouldn't work! I tried photographing some of the freshly fallen snowflakes on Friday and nearly caught them, but I need a bit more practise.

It was a very chilly walk back home. The thermometer in the greenhouse showed 3.3° but when the wind blew and whooshed snow about - BRRR! And we may be due more snow tonight - we're not used to this in Berkshire!!
The Doves provide the title track. The pure white snow and black roads made me choose this song.

Also, if you're in the area on Saturday....