Monday, 3 August 2020

Close to Me

I’m so glad I left the globe artichoke flower on the plant when I was too slow to pick it. What a beauty, especially up close - go on, zoom in on it. The petals remind me of sea anemone tentacles. And this bee was enjoying them too - look at all that pollen!
I was getting up close and personal a lot today (no, I’m not mad, I’m still social distancing and not intending to return to pre-COVID-19 life for a few months yet). But I remembered to have the macro camera with me.
As usual, the camera focuses on anything but the intended subject for four out of five shots! And never when this harlequin ladybird was in the best position! But the Gigantes bean flower buds are quite photogenic too.
I gave up trying to get the miniature rose buds in macro focus, which is a shame as they’re so pretty. We bought this tiny plant (it's only about 30cm tall) a couple of year’s ago for £1 and it looks after itself pretty much in its small pot. The other one we bought has rooted through the pot into the ground so has grown substantially larger - we'll deal with that when we deal with the greenhouse.
This gladioli has also been left to fend for itself and is clearly satisfied with the weather we’ve had - such beautiful colours, but I’m sure I planted more than one bulb!!
We had a lovely couple of hours on the plot yesterday. Jamie put our new bench together - our old one slowly collapsed under us one lunchtime last week; must be that lockdown weight gain 😀 And we left the site with a tiny harvest of runner beans and a courgette, from our plot, plus the excellent looking Tromboncino kindly donated by Liz.
And those runner beans joined tomatoes and cucumber from my sister for a lovely fresh lunch.
The Cure provide the great song title and now it’s back to work for a full week. I think the weather’s going to be decent, so I’ll hopefully get a visit to the plot most lunchtimes - really, it’s so necessary to escape the screen when working from home full-time.

Monday, 27 July 2020

Ant Music

I’ve been on leave and the weather was glorious at the beginning of last week but is now rather dull and rainy. On the better days we visited the plot and, although it’s not obvious, we have done some clearing and I sowed a row of cut & come again salad leaf and Jamie sowed some Speedy dwarf french beans.
We’ve harvested our first courgettes and we're pleased that some of our over-wintered onions didn’t flower, so we have some lovely whites and browns, but no reds. 
We were given some delicious runner beans and french beans by Jenny; Ivan gave us some Rooster potatoes and perpetual spinach and my sister gave us some multi-coloured tomatoes (as well as the multi-headed sunflower in the top photo).
The beans went into a separate meal, but Saturday night’s meal was all delicious fresh veg.
I'd pre-wilted the spinach for the bottom layer, then tomatoes, then potatoes & onions and finally pre-fried courgettes and a cheese topping.
This is something else we've been eating since Jamie pops into Waitrose every week or so at the moment. Ever since we gave up eating meat, about 30 years ago, I've fancied kippers (strange really, as a meat eater I hardly ever ate them!) but this 'not bacon' has satiated my craving - I definitely think it's more kipper-like than bacon but, whatever, it's delish!
On the sunny plot days I mostly just sat under my sun umbrella watching the wildlife. The robin has his young one with him and the magpie family keeps a close eye for us to move. I saw a cat pounce on a slow worm! I made chase but the cat kept a few steps ahead of me even though the slow worm was clearly wriggling too much and got away. Good to know there are (I presume there are more!) slow worms on site, we certainly have plenty of slugs and snails for them. I had meant to do the Big Butterfly count, but have until 9th August so hope the sun re-appears. There are so many peacocks this year and blues - but they're so hard to photograph as they flutter by. 
Our allotment friend, Alison, pointed out that much of the rhubarb on site has developed some sort of fungal infection. Our giant plant on Plot 7 has it, but the plant on Plot 3 seems to have escaped it so far. As long as people dispose of the infected leaves/stems carefully it should hopefully not cause too many problems and by next year the plants should be fine. It's a shame, we normally just leave the plant to die back naturally rather than cutting back the leaves/stalks before the first frost and they won't be able to go in the compost bin.
I've done a bit more embroidery this weekend. I bought a new coat for our Tenerife holiday in February and when I got home I found a hole in it, so I've mended it and added a bit of colour to the coat.
So the song, obviously, is by Adam and the Ants and refers to one of our compost bins which has been occupied by ants - rather impressive isn't it? Look what they've done to all that garden and kitchen waste, amazing!
So here's the song for you to bang your drum along to.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

A Stitch in Time

I finished sewing Plot 7 (pun intended).
I found it very satisfying. I haven’t done any embroidery for decades so I needed to look up how to do new stitches every step of the way. Thank goodness for My sister’s book of stitches and Pinterest!
I like the little bees in the pic above and the blue hoops definitely make it look like an allotment :-) I had to un-pick and re-sow a few parts - the sunflowers looked rather like deep-sea divers for a while, so I re-did them.
I would have liked a frog in the pond, but that was beyond my beginner skills so I just beaded it for a water feature. And the bench is definitely a major feature of our plot which is missing!
So, that’s my Covid embroidery project complete. It doesn’t look anything like the embroidery that inspired me, but it does look a bit like Plot 7, with a bit of creative licence.
Here’s the quick creation from start to finish.
The song title is by Smashing Pumpkins.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

All Kinds of Everything

Aah, we’ve had two visits to the allotment this weekend. It was so sunny and beautiful. Well, not our plots, but the site in general is looking stunning because people have been furloughed and have had more time on their hands. The insect life is abundant, particularly on all the flowers.
Lots of different visitors on the leek flowers.
I think the two photos below are of the same type of bee - I think it's a Mining Bee but will add a comment if my id is corrected.
And I know these are two different hoverflies. I think the top one is a Epistrophe eligans.
And this little one in the next photo is a Marmalade Fly - one of our most common.
And this I'm sure is a Honey Bee - I hope our leek flowers don’t ruin the flavour of someone’s honey!
The site is full of butterflies, I saw lots of peacocks, tortoiseshells and skippers. This comma butterfly looks a bit the worse for wear, happily sharing the flower with a wasp.
It was such a rare pleasure to just be sitting out surrounded by nature and lovely to catch up with a few of our plotholder friends again. We actually managed to clear some rubbish from around the polytunnel, but you wouldn’t notice. This is what Plot 8 looks like at the moment :-(
I potted on the buddleia cuttings which I took from my sister’s beautiful butterfly bush last Summer. 
They've developed some great roots over the last 11 months and I now have 7 plants to find positions for around the site.
And I found this hazelnut sapling so potted it on.
There’s a plan for a Covid-19 memorial ‘Lockdown wood’ nearby - it's being organised by Newbury Friends of the Earth. Any tree seedlings we find should be saved for planting, I think it’s a lovely idea and there are hopefully going to be two sites so I hope one is close to Hungerford.
This is our main growing space this year - not many plants are there?! The Lizzano tomato looks ok, but the peppers look a bit sad, not surprisingly after the start they had and being planted out in the big wide World rather than a cosy greenhouse.
Ah well, we had a most enjoyable weekend. And I have another full week of working from home before I have a 10-day holiday - I’m hoping for lots of sunshine and some plot time, obviously!
The soppy song (originally by Dana, but not quite so gushy here by Sinead O'Connor and Terry Hall) is referring to all the different stripey insects we saw on site this weekend.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Something to Talk About

We had a visit to the plot at lunchtime today - to see if the windy weekend had done any damage. There isn't much to be damaged and it appeared to be ok. I spotted this excellent Mullein moth caterpillar - one of my favourites, they're just so photogenic!
I didn't do a blogpost at the weekend, last week was very dull. Even I couldn't think of something that was worth writing down, with just one meal that looked quite pretty - a lovely broad bean and roasted pepper salad.
Well, I have been concentrating on my embroidery. I won't do updates every week, but I thought I'd drop this photo in as I'm rather proud of my sweetcorn - they took me about 20minutes to sow each cob <it's so tricky> I don't think I'll embroider too many of them!
I'm finding myself noticing textures more and when I saw the flowers on our leeks (which have well and truly, and rather beautifully, gone to seed) I found that I was thinking 'I could sew those, with french knots and a bit of back-stitch' - Oh I've changed!
I was very pleased to see flowers on our runner beans and they're climbing now.
Not climbing quite so well are the Gigantes that Jamie sowed for me, but I think they'll latch on quite soon - if the windy weather stops blowing them away from the canes. I think only 3 of the plants will survive, but hopefully that'll produce enough beans for a few tasty meals.
A couple of the squash plants look happy, but the other two are being eaten by slugs so we'll see whether they survive... Ivan gave us a punnet of whitecurrants today - not as pretty as the red ones but they seem to taste a little sweeter - they're rather insect egg-like aren't they (and I'm pretty sure I could embroider that punnet) 😏.
Here's a picture of the frog - I'm sure there are two in our pond, this is the bigger one. That duckweed is a pain to get rid of but he doesn't mind, as it offers protection from the heat.
So, I've managed a blogpost and the title song is provided by Badly Drawn Boy.