Sunday 26 November 2023

The Walk

It’s been a wet month, I’ve not been inclined to move very far and work has been keeping me very busy but yesterday we had a long walk in the chilly countryside. It had been a very frosty morning and the temperature remained close to zero, but we were dressed up warm and it felt ok in the sunshine.

We walked a 6-mile circuit to Chilton Foliat, which is a neighbouring village.

It was very beautiful and near the River Kennet much of the time. This was looking West from the Fairy Bridge. The river is swollen and very fast-flowing at the moment after all the rain.
Rather strange to see a lone cygnet but he was enjoying eating the watercress.
We saw some excellent clouds during the walk - I think these are cirrostratus.Edit: Turns out they're cirrocumulus clouds.
And this photo is showing a Sundog (like two small rainbows either side of the Sun) they occur in cold weather and under the right circumstances. This parhelion effect is produced by the Sun’s rays being diffracted through ice crystals and ‘diamond dust’, described by the Met Office here
Part of the walk is up this hidden footpath which runs alongside that huge field. One of our previous plotholders has a dedicated bench along there, over-looking the fields surrounding Hungerford.
We’ve seen hares in that field before but yesterday the most interesting wildlife we saw was at the start of our walk - this little muntjac deer.
It was a very cold day, but so pleased that the Sun was shining to show off the Autumn colours in all their glory.
The allotment is looking far less picturesque, this was 2 weeks ago and today has been very dank.
We have had short plot visits each week and the broad beans have germinated. I pulled a parsnip, which had no canker, that’s a rare feat for us! I brought the squashes and parsley home to avoid the frost, but the parsnips should only improve with a bit of frosting.
I had two meals of this mushroom and chestnut casserole - so delicious! Mmm, and look at that roast parsnip - yum yum! And the other meal included a couple of the tiny pumpkins cut into slices and roasted.
I expect my next post will be in December and the Christmas lights are being switched on tonight in Hungerford. It has certainly felt Wintry this week, but definitely still looked like Autumn for our lovely walk.
Enjoy this great song by The Cure.

Monday 6 November 2023

The Only One I Know

Looks like an aerial photo of a desert landscape doesn’t it? Oh, just me?
It’s been quite the opposite, so much rainfall over the last week. Our 50mm raingauge had over-flowed, but I appreciate that we’ve been lucky compared to some parts of the country which are still flooded as the ground is so saturated.

We had some lovely blue sky yesterday (Sunday). Some tiny showers threatened more rain, but the wind blew the clouds away and we had a pleasant couple of hours clearing the sweetcorn patch. If the weather stays mild the weeds will love that patch of bare soil! You can see how much the grass is growing and the Calendula are still providing spots of colour.
Most of the other flowers are just seedheads now, although the verbena bonariensis still have a purple tinge and the Nicotiana has a few flowers protected under the glass table.
This seems rather unexpected in November - we’re still eating our tomatoes! They eventually turned red after being at home for a few weeks and are so tasty providing bruschetta lunches. There's home-grown basil on there but the Spring Onions are shop-bought - we simply can't grow them without slugs demolishing them. I sowed 2 long rows this year, but not one was fit to eat 😞 Any ideas?
Anyway, as you can tell, there’s not really much going on. Which is why I was staring at a plank for much of the time. 
But what a plank! The moss is certainly enjoying the decaying wood. There are at least 4 different species that I can see on there.

So, here are a few moss facts: moss is a type of bryophyte (along with liverworts and hornworts) and there are over 1000 species in Britain and Ireland! The British Bryological Society (formerly known as The Moss Exchange Club) is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year. 

Mosses can be found almost anywhere in the World, from deserts to the arctic but Britain's warm-ish, wet (getting wetter) climate is perfect for lots of species. This is the only one that I think I can recognise and name at the moment - Grymmia Pulvinata. The little things that look like flower buds, setae, turning back into the pincushion are the defining feature. Cute.
So that provided the song title - sung by The Charlatans. Sing along - marvellous.

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Scary Monsters

It’s that time of year again Halloweeeeen, ooh spooky 👻 
Our mini pumpkin was included in the meal, decorated our dinner table and Jamie even managed to carve one, but it was a bit fiddly.
The scary monster is a yellow dung fly - we’ve had another manure delivery to site. Hooray! We had a 10 tonne delivery and nearly half had been carted off to plots by the end of the weekend - we had a few barrow loads.
Behind the manure are our broad beans Aquadulce Claudia which we sowed at the weekend. As usual, they’re protected by plastic bottle cloches and netting. The netting doesn’t protect from everything though 🙄
Our little visitor is back to his friendly self and he joined us in the polytunnel during a sharp shower.
The showers were torrential at the weekend but it was reasonably warm and very pleasant when the Sun came out. We noticed that that the wasps were making the most of Ivan’s grapes, which have sadly gone to waste this year.
They were definitely drunk on them. All binging together - we’ve all been there 😀
It seems that we’re well into Autumn now - November today, unbelievable! The leaves finally changed colour. This is a Creeping cinquefoil leaf, so pretty throughout the year, but it does take over.
Even my little hazel tree looked autumnal.
The pot has some excellent moss forming the ‘forest floor’ for the little tree.
But Storm Ciaran is clearing the remaining leaves off the trees today. I have a day off work, so we’ll go up the plot and batten down the hatches later. First I’m having a toasted cheese and beetroot sandwich for lunch. I’ve always liked cheese and beetroot together, but toasted is even better - totally delicious! Talking of delicious, I made this pumpkin and bean curry the other night - mmm, coconut tastiness but unfortunately I didn’t cook the beans for long enough; even though they’d been soaked overnight they would have needed cooking for 30mins I think, not the 15mins I gave them - they were rather hard still.
I had a bit of good news recently - I wrote a poem (I know! Me!?) and WON a £50 voucher from Nomads Clothing. I love their clothes so I was very pleased 😊 Here’s the poem and the coat it’s written about.
The song is provided by David Bowie.

Monday 23 October 2023


We’ve had lots of rain (though thank goodness, nothing like the catastrophic deluge that Storm Babet brought down on some parts of the UK) and a couple of frosts which have turned the plot into the usual Autumn coloured scene. I had two visits to the plot yesterday. The first just to collect some of the mini pumpkins for the nursery school and to get some for my sister. I gave her some beetroot and parsley too.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the parsley plants had survived the frost but I don't think they'll last much longer. I had 5 plants all taken from one Tescos parsley plant - definitely worth splitting and planting out and easier than sowing seeds. Even the one that the slugs ate down to one stem back in May recovered to produce a bushy plant.

The Love lies bleeding has been properly frost-scorched, as has the courgette (small cheer).

The beans from the tunnel really need clearing, but there are a few flowers left unscathed lower down on the Spanish Flag.
Yesterday we were concentrating on clearing the tomatoes and aubergine from the actual polytunnel. The robin flew in there in the morning because I dared to visit the plot with no mealworms for him - he was quite miffed!
I didn't visit that early but the Sun was so low it was casting a beautiful light over the site. 
The temperature in the polytunnel had fallen to 3.4° overnight but it felt reasonably warm in the sunshine and with my thick jumper on. The scabious stellata seedheads are still looking interesting.
The second trug of the day after Jamie and I spent the afternoon chatting and clearing is for me. I’m making a leek, carrot and parsley soup for lunches. And the pumpkins are going to be in a version of this bean and pumpkin curry; I'm going to use some of my dried borlotti beans.
The carrots are crazy; mostly multi-legged and some monstrous ones! And there are snails absolutely everywhere - loads of tiny baby ones looking for somewhere to over-Winter and then come out in Spring to eat all our seedlings 😖

Song title provided by the Smashing Pumpkins.

Monday 16 October 2023


We have a LOT of mini pumpkins (Jack-Be-Little). They're actually a bit too small and may be a bit of a pain to cook, but they'll look nice in a Halloween display. My sister and a local nursery school will benefit from a few of them and I'll keep the slightly bigger ones for roasting.

We put them all in the polytunnel and zipped it closed ahead of the forecast frost at the weekend - and it did arrive. Brrr, we weren't used to it at all! 0.3° on Saturday night.

We weren't cold during the day on Saturday because it was a HAHA Workday. Lots of hedge-cutting - only to stop the fence getting overgrown; the birds are enjoying the berries far too much to cut back the laden branches. The bonfire was mostly old rotten wood from pallets and the like. The Sun shone for much of the day and it was a nice gathering of plotholders. We were watching the activity on the ivy in the hedge - so full of life!

Literally buzzing with flies, bees, hoverflies, ladybirds and wasps - all enjoying the nectar and pollen.

The frost has taken out some dahlias on site but our plot is a bit more protected because of its proximity to the hedge and our flowers are still blooming - the hummingbird hawkmoth was enjoying the verbena again at the end of the day yesterday.

I pulled the first parsnips yesterday - look at that monster. Of course I stuck the fork through that, so it went into the compost bin but I was pleased with the one on the right. Though they need a bit more frost to get the true parsnip flavour out of them, I'll try roasting some to see if that draws the flavour out.

The leeks were some which weren't transplanted but have grown quite thick in their original sowing location. That Wintery trug formed the basis of our gratin dinner - I added some chopped nuts and cheese to the top but I think the all-home-grown dish looked better before the cream and topping was added.

On Saturday, just when we were feeling ready to go home, there was a very timely (it damped down the embers) and very heavy shower! It was quite unexpected and we had to run for cover.

And then we had a lovely rainbow to enjoy!

And when the big black cloud moved on, we were bathed in sunshine with blue sky again - crazy weather!

So that's why today's song is provided by Marmalade - love the hippy lady, she reminds me of my sister back in the day 😀