Sunday, 28 August 2016

I Spy Through the Rain

This is looking through the slats of the stable down to our plot at the bottom of the site - it was a rainy/misty/warm day so we spent quite a bit of time in the greenhouse or in the site stable. All I did was a bit of weeding, picking and taking photos anyway, so it didn't matter that it was rainy - at least it wasn't cold.
I put the camera on a long stick - it looks better from ground level!
The rainbow chard stems are the brightest thing on our plot at the moment - almost glowing in the misty light!
The pumpkins on Plot 3 are amazing... Two plants and at least 7 large pumpkins. The foliage is beginning to die back as you can see.
This was that plant 8 weeks ago - isn't nature amazing?!

A little way to go yet...

We've had some really hot days with sultry nights and yesterday we got the storm. I didn't see any lightning but heard thunder rumbling around. The sun and rain are encouraging everything to grow but our sunflowers are shorter than previous years.
Sunflower peeping through
We've been to the plot to harvest and water each evening. This is our one loofah that's formed - it's about 30cm long. The plant is now producing quite a few flowers, but there won't be time to make any more loofahs at this stage.
The peppers are colouring up now; 2 peppers per plant is rather weak. I hope they taste good, we'll wait till they get their full colour before they get eaten - maybe stuffed peppers, mmm.
We've been alternating between courgette-based meals and runner bean & potato meals over the last couple of weeks. The runner beans are beginning to get a bit stringy on the edges now. The potato has been grey-purple because we've been using the Salad Blues- still tasty, but not very pretty! We should have emptied them out of the potato bag earlier then we could have had them as boiled salad potatoes.
All that (apart from the cucumber and raspberries!) went into a lovely roasted vegetable and halloumi meal.
That was the first of the patty pan summer squashes. We think it has a bit more flavour than the courgettes. They were really slow to get going, but look like they're going to swamp us soon! The courgettes I take to work keep disappearing from the kitchen, so they won't go to waste.
The tomatoes we're mostly eating are Aviditas, I think they're more tasty than the Orange Paruche, which split as soon as they're picked. The Indigo Rose are still on their way to ripening... I've tied them up in an attempt to get the green ones and green parts to see more light..
Our sweetcorn has finally formed some cobs. They aren't very big, but hopefully they're still going to fill out. Looking at previous years (aren't blogs handy?) we normally start harvesting it in September, sometimes late September, so we seem to be pretty much on track.
The Jack-Be-Little plants are producing loads of pumpkins and clambering all over the sweetcorn, the trellis, the courgettes.... And the Speedy dwarf beans which are just forming, so we'll have them to replace the runners in our diet.
A mackerel sky

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Star-struck Cucumber

That's my starry salad lunch - we were so pleased that our cucumber mould was successful this year, for the first time! We may be lucky and find a heart-shaped cucumber waiting for us on the plot one evening this week!
The growth spreads suprisingly well into the corners of the mould and then there's a bit of a fight to get the mould off, but I think it's worth it. (Not convinced it would work too well on tomatoes, but maybe next year)
The weather is sweltering, but still the plants are beginning to look rather autumnal - that's our largest pumpkin preparing itself for October!
And the hedgerow is well-stocked with berries already. Summer seems to have been rather short-lived although we have had some lovely hot days and long evenings to enjoy this year. And recently we've had some hot Septembers and Octobers, so I hope this year follows suit.
My salad was all home-grown: delicious coleslaw, with cabbage and carrot, two tpes of tomato, purple basil, rainbow chard and Rocky cucumbers. And the salad we had for dinner last night included courgette and potato/onion cakes.
We're still waiting for the purple/black tomatoes to ripen, but they can't be too far off now...

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Showtime 2016!

It was the second year for HAHA to join forces with the Royal British Legion for the Horticultural and Handicraft Show. With 32 exhibitors and 406 exhibits it was even more successful than last year - See how useful allotments are to local communities!
Setting up the Show
We were picking, selecting, washing and trimming our vegetables on Friday afternoon and early Saturday morning. We managed to gather together reasonable items for the following categories:

  • Tomatoes on a vine

  • 5 Bush tomatoes

  • Matching pair of cucumbers

  • 4 carrots with tops

  • Any 5 veg

  • Any 3 veg

  • 3 onions (over 8oz)

  • 3 onions (under 8oz)

  • Largest circumference onion

  • Plus a photo for each category

  • And now we have a flat full of slightly wonky carrots, dodgy spuds and damaged cucumbers. Also the cabbage that we were hoping to include but that is too holey - I think we're going to have lots of coleslaw over the next week! This is our trug of spuds. The Salad Blue are a great colour, but horribly scabby - they were grown in a bag. The white ones are Orla, grown in a bag, and are really good quality. The Kestrels were grown in the ground when we were searching for coloured potatoes to show.
    Can't believe we couldn't find 5 runner beans that were suitable! And again our longest runner bean wasn't long enough - doh! We got 1st place for a couple of the categories but mostly 2nd, 3rd or highly commended. But all placings earn points so we got equal third prize so not bad considering the year! And we're always happy to share with Ted :-)
    After a busy morning and afternoon it was good fun going along to the prize-giving in the evening. Along with the auction of exhibits and raffle and a bar to enjoy a shandy (ahem) or two or three :-)
    It's such a fun event and great to mix with our fellow growers along with bakers, picklers and handicrafters!We're only sitting by the cakes - we didn't buy or make all of them!! 

    Sunday, 14 August 2016

    Count your Lucky Stars

    We had a stroll up to the allotment in the early hours of this morning to look for shooting stars during this year's Perseids meteor shower. It was a beautiful night and the moon had just dipped out of view from the bench so we had a great dark sky to view. 
    That's not a photo :-) We only saw a couple of meteors each, but it was worth venturing out. An owl was very active and noisy in the trees around the site and on our way through the Croft a hedgehog trundled across our path! We'd only mentioned yesterday that we hadn't seen one for a couple of years.
    We had a lovely sunny afternoon on the plot yesterday; watering, feeding and deadheading various plants.
    And look! The sunflowers are here! The tall ones are still growing but not flowering yet, but the short ones are very sweet and the bees love them.
    We picked a few bits for dinner - our yellow courgettes are getting greener each day! Cucumbers are featuring in every harvest now.
    A bit annoying that this was amongst the carrots. That could have been our entry for the 'funny shaped veg' in the show next week. I expect there will be more to choose from though!

    Sunday, 7 August 2016

    Pulled Out of the Bag

    I've been trying to think of a way to mention the Olympics in this post and today we pulled our Athlete potatoes - see what I did there?! A topical potato if ever there was one! That's a good haul from two tubers planted in a potato bag.

    The 31st modern games started in Rio de Janeiro on Friday night with an excellent opening ceremony (I have to admit that is my favourite part of the games!). Rio does look amazing from the images they're showing on TV - I love the enormous Christ the Saviour statue, but this new art installation is pretty impressive too!
    We picked lots of other veg today, mostly because I'm back at work tomorrow (eurgh, my lovely break is almost over!) so need some salad bits for lunch. I'm intending to grate or thinly slice some fennel, which has gone over but should still taste nice) into the salad but it'll mostly be lettuce, chard and beetroot. I've also got some of the radish rats tails pods to give it a bit of a peppery flavour.
    Dinner is just cooking - obviously it contains our staples of the moment: potato, courgette, garlic, beetroot and halloumi - mmm, we love fried halloumi! The potatoes look interesting now they've been tainted by the beetroot. It looks a bit like a peachy dessert!

    Now That's August!

    Aah, two lovely hot days. That photo was taken on Saturday when it really was blue sky and dazzling sunshine all day - how lovely it is! 
    Sunflowers growing tall, but no flowers yet
    Friday was hot, but not quite so blue. Jamie and I had a long lazy afternoon picnic on the plot with wine, olives, sandwiches and fruit. Such a perfect way to while away a few hours. Jamie couldn't help himself and mowed the grass, but I mostly sat, photographed (see Wildlife blog) and did a bit of watering.
    I decided to do a butterfly count on Saturday, but the numbers are very poor. I guess that's what the Butterfly Conservation are interested in seeing though...
    • 4 Small Whites
    • 1 Brimstone
    • 2 Meadow Browns
    I may try again today, but it's rather grey, though warm, at the moment
    Meadow Brown
    This is evidence that the birds do eat the giant slugs. But he spent more than 10 minutes rubbing and scraping it in the dirt - presumably to remove the slime. Most unappetising!! (Of course, I'm vegetarian, maybe to you meat-eaters... :-D)

    Thursday, 4 August 2016

    Still Time Left

    I've been hoping to do my Butterfly Count for the last week but the weather just hasn't been right. It's been really windy over the last couple of days. It's stayed pretty warm and there's been no rain since the 20mm overnight earlier in the week, but I want to do the count on a bright (mostly) sunny day and we haven't really had one of those.
    There are a lot of butterflies about - masses of whites and a few more interesting ones, but hopefully the weekend will prove to be the perfect day for counting...
    That little tiddler is a loofah! There are 3 so far on the plant in the greenhouse... I wonder if they'll have enough time to grow big.
    The black tomatoes Indigo Rose are getting blacker - very pretty and bigger fruits than I expected. We've only grown cherry-sized ones before.
    And the red Aviditas tomatoes are going orange...well, one has so far and plenty of time for them to go red.
    I put strings around the Speedy dwarf beans - it may support them once the beans start forming - although the pumpkin plants may swamp them and the sweetcorn before that happens.
    The Radish Rats Tails (are they just normal radishes that have gone to seed?!) are very pretty and their pods are forming, so they'll be lovely in salad lunches when I'm back at work (ugh, don't mention it!) next week.
    Our normal radishes were nice at the beginning of the season but, as they do every year, they went to seed ages ago. If they form pods I'll see if they taste exactly the same as the rats tails.
    By the way, it's August now! And if you're reading this and are in Hungerford (or nearby) don't forget our Horticultural Show is on the 20th. We hope to see lots of exhibits and/or fellow growers in the evening for the prize-giving and the produce auction - always good fun!