Sunday, 22 November 2020

Lost Weekend

In the last two weeks I’ve literally only been outside twice - it’s just too easy to stay indoors when it’s November! But thank goodness for the allotment which is motivation to move, at least at the weekend. And the sun came out so the canal was looking lovely with lots of moored boats and the flowers on the bridge.

Hungerford Bridge - Hungerford!

Walking through town was pretty quiet, with most of the shops shut, but quite a few plotholders were busying themselves at the allotment when we got there. The ground is too wet to do any serious work so we just enjoyed the fresh air for an hour or so. We weren’t sure the sun was going to make it out at this point.

Winter Sun

The birds were very active. We saw redwings, blue tits, wrens, robins and dunnocks in the hedge. And crows and gulls were calling from the Marsh. We think this was a kestrel, though it looked very large sitting on the overhead wires - as you can see, it flew off!

When the sun emerged it was lovely and warm. We could hear the booming from military exercises on Salisbury Plain, which is about 30miles away, but mostly we could just hear birds - aah, lovely. Better than last weekend when we had to sit in the polytunnel because it was so rainy. I don’t know why my phone decided to make this video of Jamie in the rain last weekend. I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually do that nifty footwork 😃

So back home I finished off the last of my home-made spicy parsnip soup, with some Higgidy veggie cheese & pickle rolls. Yum.

Spicy parsnip soup with Higgidy rolls
Well, that’s another week gone. If they keep speeding by like this then we’ll soon have all been vaccinated and can move on with our lives again...Yay!

Old pumpkin

The song is for last weekend, which was too wet and dull to care about. It’s by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Reasons to be Cheerful Pt3

England is in lockdown for a month and the weather is gloomy but ... on Tuesday, a little bit of Christmas cheer visited the site. Forbes hasn’t gone completely mad, there is a reason behind this photo, but I’m not revealing today! 😀

I used the last of the focaccia mix. It was supposed to represent the classic Day of the Dead skull, but it didn’t quite turn out as intended 😂 
Oh well, it still tasted ok, dipped in celeriac and squash (thanks Jim & Martine) soup. The squash was really delicious roasted. (I’m missing all our usual home-grown squashes). Jamie bought the celeriac and some braised fennel so I also made a soup with them - my favourite soup. It will be nice to grow our own ingredients again next year.
Anyway, no whinging, this is a cheerful post! Our garlic seedlings are growing well in this mostly-mild Autumn.
Though we did get a frost (-2.5°) which has seen off the runner bean plants and begonias.
Luckily Jamie picked the remaining Gigantes beans on Tuesday, so they’re drying in the polytunnel.
And the broad beans have avoided becoming mouse food in their little cloches.
Yesterday afternoon we visited the plot to just sit awhile in the last of the sunshine and Min gave us a couple of her interesting harvest of Yakon. I hadn’t heard of it before. It grows like Jerusalem artichoke but the flavour sounds quite different. We’re drying them out as that should apparently sweeten them up. It’s always good to get to try something new, don’t you agree?
And the main reason for using Ian Dury’s great song title is the US election Result. How relieved must the non-Trump supporters feel?! Just need to move the big orange baby on now...

Sunday, 1 November 2020

This is Halloween

We always enjoy celebrating Halloween with a meal followed by a horror film. This is the first year in ages that we had to buy a pumpkin rather than growing our own. Of course, the pumpkin seeds weren’t wasted. I roasted these (about 20mins on 180°) with oak-smoked oil, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. So more-ish, but afterwards, as Jamie said, it is rather like having eaten a balsa wood model airplane 😂

We managed to avoid the rain when we popped to the allotment to leave our 2020-style Jack-o-Lantern on the bench to ward off evil spirits from our plot ;-)

The creepy couple from Plot7

We had a starter of green spicy parsnip soup and for the main had our favourite Stahly’s veggie haggis with roughly mashed roast Festival squash (thanks Kate!) and roast spuds.

And for dessert we had bloody lemoncello.
So that marks the end of October 2020. What a year and we’ve just learned that England is going back into lockdown for a month from next week. It won’t make much difference to my life, particularly as allotments are still able to remain open. The song music is provided from the Nightmare Before Christmas (great) film soundtrack.

Sunday, 25 October 2020


Getting out of bed for the last couple of weeks has been a struggle. The mornings have been so dark. I'm glad the clocks have changed back to GMT today, at least there may be a few weeks of getting up in daylight rather than seeming like the middle of the night! I've mentioned before that working from home is a bit too intense - staring at the screen all day, even during meetings and catch-ups with work friends and colleagues. But at least I don’t have to get up so early and drive to work. Let alone those mornings when you need to scrape the ice from the windscreen, get petrol or sit in a traffic jam.

We ventured out to the allotment yesterday afternoon and got a drenching, but it was nice to be outside. And I was suprised to see the Anemone de Caen in bud (photo above). I'm sure it's meant to be a Springtime flower. The weather has been quite mild but the lowest temperature on the polytunnel thermometer was just below 2°.

You can see we’ve not had a frost because the begonias are still alive and flowering. I expected our broad beans to have germinated and broken through to the surface, but no sign of them yet. As soon as they pop up we'll protect them with plastic bottle cloches, otherwise mice will enjoy them.

This is the ash tree by our plot at the end of the site's central aisle. Sadly it has Ash dieback - a disease which is apparently infecting 80% of the ashes in the country. We have a couple of other ash trees which need to be removed - it’s more obvious in them as they’re completely dead. 'Our' big one is between the site and the canal towpath so there's a debate going on about who's responsible for it. Luckily we have a plotholder who is a tree surgeon so he can advise.

On Friday night Jamie and I had our own Oktoberfest evening, you see, we’re very good at social distancing :-) The Heck veggie sausages were very tasty and a nice selection of German beers (we didn’t drink them all - honest!) and bier nuts.

You may remember the huge Tromboncino squash that somebody gave us last week. I actually did make it into a cake - the last time I made a cake was 2011! I only needed to use the long stem (the bulbed end I fried in chilli and had with other veggies for cold lunches in the week). I grated the squash and squeezed out most of the water before weighing and mixing with the other ingredients.

I used this Hairy Bikers recipe. The only changes I made were using mixed nuts, instead of walnuts, and olive oil instead of vegetable. 

It‘s very tasty and I’ve enjoyed having it for breakfast (and snacks). I wonder if the next cake I make will be in 2029?!
The B52s provide the song title.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

You Cross My Path

During our not-so-frequent visits to the plot these days we find the occasional offering from fellow plotholders. They are most welcome and look at the WHOPPER we found today! A giant tromboncino courgette - Thankyou to whoever left it in our polytunnel. I’m thinking of making a courgette cake with some of it.Today it was grey, but not cold or wet so we tackled the strawberry bed. It’ll need a bit more work in the Spring, hopefully the runners I planted up recently will survive the Winter in their little pots.

Left to their own devices the plants rather took over, as you can see. And we didn’t get to eat any of the strawberries, but I’m sure the birds enjoyed them.
There, that’s a bit better. That’s the path that the title refers to, we knew it was there somewhere! We need to re-cover it with weed suppressing fabric.
There’s another path which was blocked by the enormous bramble that we’ve been fighting with. Its prickles are so sharp they pierce my gloves and tear at my skin through my trousers. 
We got rid of much of it but there’s still plenty more to clear. I’d like to cut back the ever-spreading sage, but it’s a haven for over-wintering wildlife. We uncovered lots of interesting creatures today, including this 22-spot ladybird and super-shiny blue shield bug. And the frog in the pond is tiny, only about 6cm, so not our usual frog. We think we have three different-sized visitors which is great.
So after a couple of hours work we returned home feeling that we’d achieved something. Oh, and also, our garlic has sprouted which is always good to see. I had the day off work on Friday. I needed it after last week which was far too busy, I was even dreaming about spreadsheets - not good! We had a long walk in Savernake Forest. Loads of interesting fungi, here are a few pics, and we could hear the male fallow deer calling (sounds like a long belch actually!) and saw a couple of deer flit across a path ahead of us. Aah, long weekends are such a welcome break.
The song title is provided by The Charlatans.