Sunday, 28 June 2020

Wow

I took Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday off work, specifically because of the forecast heatwave and it was right. Phew, what a sweltering few days; over 30° in Hungerford and sunny. Lovely!
We spent some time at the allotment - it was so hot that there was only Jamie and me there much of the time. Us and the birds - just listen to that! What a joy to be back on the plot.
Neal said that we could have some of his lettuce seedlings. I chose the two red varieties - the green ones (Lobjoits Green cos) have all been nibbled - looks like by pigeons - whereas the red appear to be untouched (it's not that obvious in the photo, but trust me!)
I also planted the squash plants that Liz gave us (a patty pan and a spaghetti squash, I think) plus a courgette plant from Ivan - to replace one of ours that the slugs decimated. Jamie cleared some weeds from Plot3 and trimmed the long grass round the edges of Plot7, in the hope that it’ll keep the slugs away from our few plants - we don’t have enough to share this year! Unlike Ivan who always needs a wheelbarrow for his huge harvests - that’s the last of his strawberries.
He gave us a punnet of strawberries and a punnet of redcurrants. They were a colourful addition to my breakfast.
And I cooked the remaining redcurrants with sugar - they weren't as tart as I'd expected and only needed a couple of teaspoons of sugar.
I sieved the sauce - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall reckons you don't have to, but I wouldn't fancy eating all those seeds and skins.
It was delicious on ice cream and with scotch pancakes.
There were lots of butterflies on site, but they weren't in the mood for posing for photos unfortunately. I definitely saw some ringlets, tortoiseshells and peacocks among the usual whites. This Scarlet Tiger moth was easier to photograph as it came into our sitting room - dragging me away from my work :-)
As I write this we're in the middle of a hailstorm - the weather has changed: it's dazzling sunshine one moment then dark clouds covering the sky the next as the wind builds up - our poor plants, I wonder how they're doing. I hope to visit again during a lunchtime next week.
Jamie’s excited about my new project (NOT!). I saw this amazing embroidery of an allotment site (twitter.com/sewnbycollette) and was inspired, so immediately bought a selection of threads from Amazon.
Now, I haven’t embroidered for about 40 years, so mine is more, err, primitive, we’ll see how it goes... My sister kindly gave me some fabric and has lent me her old book. It’s our plot, as I’m sure you can see ­čśĆ Well, I only started in yesterday {I wonder if it will ever be seen again on this blog :-D}
The ‘Wow’ of the title refers to various things from this week. I’m so glad that plot neighbour, Kate, told me about the stunning fields of white poppies which we could walk to from the allotment.
I didn’t expect to see so many fields of them - how beautiful! Having not walked far for weeks it was quite exhausting walking the slight incline, especially in the heat, but so worth it.
Shops and some restaurants are beginning to open up in England. Some people definitely seem to think that the time is right to get back to normal life, but I'm happy with just the occasional trip out and am not missing (non-internet) shopping one bit! Even the Government isn't suggesting a return to work for the likes of me yet - thank goodness! Great song from Kate Bush, obviously - sing along, or maybe just do the moves ;-)

Sunday, 21 June 2020

The Chamber

This post is about my work, as the allotment barely had a look-in last week. I’ve mentioned before that I work for RALSpace, it’s a great place to work and over the last few years I've been supporting a very exciting new project, for the provision of a 'one-stop testing facility' for the space industry.
Thanks to Isabel for the great photo
Literally heavy traffic on the A34
During the lockdown our site has been closed but some work had to continue, including the delivery of our huge Large Scale Test Chamber which was manufactured in Italy and shipped just as Covid-19 was beginning to affect our lives.
The A34
'Street furniture' had to be cleared in advance for the route from Southampton to Oxfordshire. As it happened lockdown was an unexpected benefit as it meant the huge convoy could do the journey in one phase, because it wasn't competing with much other road traffic at the beginning of April!
From lockdown, I was disappointed that I couldn't be taking photos from one of the bridges en-route but my colleague Isabel did such an amazing job with these shots. It must have been very exciting to see, with all the police vehicles escorting.
Once at RAL the 6 sections of chamber were stored on our empty car park for a while before the builders and engineers were ready for it to be put into its final spot in our enormous new building. It was interesting to watch over the webcam while I was working from home a few weeks ago.
There's the first section being manoeuvred into position and to start putting the 16m x 18m vacuum chamber back together...
..piece...
So shiny and beautiful
by...piece..
And voila!
Paul, Isabel and Vishal
There it is - the finished article, after so many months of preparation.
From the inside
And now the building can finish being built around it! There's a lot more work to do yet...before testing can start in 2022. I'm so pleased for the technical team that it all went so well. And special thanks to Vishal Francis and Isabel Martinez for the photos.
I only visited the allotment once last week - a quick lunchtime visit. I mostly sat in the sun and said hello to people, while Jamie planted out the courgette plants. We also put a bit of protection around the Gigantes  beans which have now germinated (hooray!). The peppers and tomato plants are also in the ground - good timing as we had some torrential rain after they were planted out. And on another visit Jamie saw our frog is still around; Can you spot him? He is in there :-)
This song is provided by The Last Shadow Puppets, I hadn't heard them before, it's the chap from the Arctic Monkeys.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Out of Control

I painted a rainbow tile for the allotment gate and we've got one for the front door :-) The rainbow has become the symbol of hope for the future (of the NHS and more) - I certainly live in hope.

I’m obviously sticking to the coronavirus advice for the clinically vulnerable, which remains in place at least until at least 30th June. I have no intention of going shopping anywhere but online for the foreseeable future.
I'm not expecting to return to the lab until next year, although some of my colleagues have already returned. The site is going to be very strange; I've seen the notices about stairways and corridors with one-way access - I'm so grateful that I can work from home, even though I miss the chit-chat with people in the corridors. It has meant that last week I was able to have a couple of visits to the allotment at lunchtimes - that's such a bonus!
Believe it or not, that is inside the polytunnel; the polytunnel with no cover - at least we didn't need to worry about damage from the windy weather last week! The courgettes, peppers and tomato are acclimatizing before they get planted out next week. What a mess :-( But not as bad as Plot3 - eek!
We were pleased to see a male bullfinch enjoying some of those seedheads though - apparently there are a couple of pairs on site this year. And our compost bins have also provided a home for wildlife ... ants - it must have got a little dry. Look at all those eggs, pupae and winged ants (they'd flown by my next visit). They've turned the compost into a lovely fine soil and won't cause any great problems, they should move on when we finally get back to doing proper composting again.
We had a little visit to the plot at lunchtime today, to feed the tomatoes and peppers. We saw a few more people (at a distance). It was so lovely to talk to some people I haven't seen in months! What a haven it is.
Our leeks from last year are going to flower as are our onions, they may not serve us this year but the bees and other insects will enjoy them and they look rather pretty too.
I was hoping to recover some more of my garlic but sadly I wasn't able to save any of the other bulbs, they had all re-sprouted and weren't worth saving. The dry weather at the crucial time when they wanted to bulb up put paid to them. But we're so pleased with the over-wintered broad beans - there are plenty more beans to harvest and they are so delicious. It's probably the best crop we've ever had.
We'll be having a broad bean curry this week and I'm trying to make Jamie believe that a broad bean casserole will be delicious - I may have to eat that all to myself - he's not convinced yet :-)
And my globe artichoke has actually grown this year, but I've missed the boat on harvesting this one. I'll probably chop it off and then there may be some more heads produced which I can eat, but it seems a shame not to leave it to flower as they are so beautiful.
This is a tiny rose that's in a pot. It's so pretty but it was the cinnabar moth that caught my eye on this visit.

The runner bean plants that Ivan gave us are looking happy, but no sign of the Gigantes beans having germinated yet. Someone has left us a selection of squash plants in the greenhouse, so I'll see about getting them planted up. We have some space on Plot7 and it would be good to have ground cover at least, so that all Neal's hard work doesn't revert to weed.
The poppies are looking beautiful, but they've seeded everywhere - this was my pot of buddleia cuttings! I'm hoping to be able to salvage at least a couple of them.
I haven't cooked anything new or interesting this week, but I thought this bruschetta lunch we had looked rather pretty - on nice seeded bread from Co-Op.
So that was my week - wholly enhanced by the plot visits. I'm looking forward to more next week, especially as I think the weather may improve. If I get too used to visiting the allotment at lunchtimes though I'll never want to go back to work!!
The great song is provided by the Chemical Brothers - make of the title what you will - the country or the plot, it's all a bit of a mess!

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Eighties

Look at that! We had some proper rain yesterday!
Jamie was particularly happy as it meant he didn't need to go to the allotment to water. He sowed some of my favourite Gigantes beans and Ivan gave him several runner bean plants too. He also managed to dig some holes ready and waiting for our courgettes and tomato plant. The tomato has little fruits already, so it's begging to go out.
I actually went out again last week - in the daytime, it was on the last sunny day. We walked to a field that overlooks the town.
We walked down through to the town. There were a few more people than I've seen in weeks, but we didn't have to do much swerving to avoid other pedestrians - though, I must admit, I found it rather novel seeing the avoidance manoeuvres people make!
Apart from that walk, I've just been working. I bought a new gamer’s mousepad - makes my 'workstation' look cool :-)
Jamie pulled one of our garlic - they’re all small like this because they didn’t get enough water when the bulbs were forming, nice flavour though.
Neal brought over some more broad beans. We had them with two meals including this halloumi and grilled asparagus (You can tell when I've cooked because I like to make it look fancy)
And there were some left so I made hummus - I had to add some frozen peas, (there weren’t quite enough beans once they were podded and shelled) which add to the GREEN! It was very tasty, we had it with the roasted peppers, along with other tapas, on Friday evening.
The rhubarb is still providing and we’re still loving the mix with strawberries, so delicious and so easy:
Equal measures of rhubarb and strawberries;
1/4 measure of water;
1/2-3/4 measure of sugar;
2 tbsp of lemon juice.
Shaheen’s recipe for rhubarb and rose petal butter gave me the idea of soaking rhubarb in some rose liqueur and cooked that up a couple of days later with some sugar and a bit more rhubarb. I do love flowery flavours.
I harvested the first of the ‘micro greens’. They are nice and peppery, but basically just cress!
Today’s song is provided by Killing Joke, I saw them at the Elephant Fayre (in 1985 apparently) - I don’t remember them like they appear in this video. The country rather feels like it’s returning to those times - apart from coronavirus which is taking a bit of a backseat in the media, but it continues to kill over 1500 a week in Britain so please continue to stay safe x

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

It Doesnt Make it Alright

We had another delivery from our allotment - thanks again Neal!
As well as our first broad beans and strawberries there was another huge supply of rhubarb - our mammoth plant just keeps on giving! (Photo from last year).
The top photo in this post is the marvellous combination of strawberries and rhubarb to make a most delicious sauce, using this recipe (even I probably didn't really need a recipe for this!)
The sauce has provided us with a tasty filling for breakfast pancakes, a topping for ice cream and even as a jam for scones. What a great combination of fruits which happen to harvest at the same time.
There's been a lot of growing activity in the flat this week. The micro-greens have shot up.
The 2 courgettes both germinated quickly.
And the peppers and tomato plants have flowers. Hopefully we'll get some of the rain that is threatened tomorrow, then Jamie may be able to get a spade into the ground!
Lockdown has been reduced somewhat, even for the 'clinically extremely vulnerable'. I'm not going to change my behaviour much, but may not feel guilty by getting a bit of sunshine outside now. The NHS website suggests adding vitamin D to the drugs regime - We already started doing that a couple of weeks ago.
The Specials provide the song. I love the Two-Tone message of the eighties. Sadly racism is as rife as ever with the shocking news from America where racist police were literally dismissed for murder, rather than being arrested - now corrected, but no wonder people are raging. And in our country, this Government delaying the results of the review into why BAME (black and minority ethnics) appear to be more critically affected by Covid-19.
Sorry about this rant, but I read something recently that was really upsetting and want to show my support against racism. Black lives matter; all life matters.