Wednesday, 23 March 2011


It occurred to me today, (as I trimmed and shaped my turf wall) that maybe I've got it wrong. The wall idea is kind of fun and quirky - it has a pleasing structure and tactile tuftyness, but perhaps I've not considered fully its more significant function. As the perennial (couch) grass has knitted together throughout the turves's, and a mixture of wild and cultivated seed have blown in and colonised little areas, gradually, from an unpromising barren mound of earth, life has emerged and a whole habitat has been created. And this I ponder as I merrily clip my little wall into a tidy and uniform shape, perhaps better suited to some designer space outside a British backdoor? Before it's too late, my reflection causes me to pause and really observe what's happening on my wall, and sure enough it is teeming with insects - mostly ladybirds, who are easily visible amongst the red dead nettle and chickweed engaged in what can only be described as a bug orgy!

Well good for them and good for me too. What better way to spend a sunny afternoon than bumping uglies. With any luck the result will be my own little army of predators to keep the pests under control and maintain that much needed natural balance. In permacultural terms it is what's known as 'The Edge' - the place where two ecologies meet. Such an environment supports biological activity from either side of this 'boundary' zone (for example - my wall) as well as species particular to it's own conditions, thus making it a highly productive region (certainly for the ladybirds).

I now feel somewhat reluctant to get the strimmer out and lick our shaggier areas into shape - but if not, then surely the entire plot would meet the same fate as our first attempted strawberry patch?

For further info on 'The Edge' or Permaculture in general, check out

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

March/April 2010

A few changes from the previous year.............

The comfrey was relocated and the shed is half painted.

Larger beds to accommodate maincrops. More work to be done.

Cut flower border or what will eventually be.........

Saturday, 13 March 2010


What a great winter we had!! A real, proper chilly - dare I say 'brass monkeys' affair!

See Andrew enjoying the blizzard! :)

Shed - still standing! Hooray!

The ever hardy leeks - survived a troublesome munching by Leek moth caterpillars and then all
the heavy snow and frost and ice. All eaten now - and very good they were too! Sooooo glad I didn't pull them all up in despair!

A view across the allotment site at almost dusk.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Andrew’s Spicy Chicken Penne recipe

Now it’s sometimes said that I’m lazy, whereas I prefer to think of myself as ergonomic with exertion. I like fast recipes that require a minimum of preparation and take just a few minutes, but I also want these fast creations to be tongue tingly tasty. It’s a side affect of living with a wife who can cook the most marvellous gastronomic marvels with what appears to be just the shake of her wrist and a few wistful sighs as she sprinkles things into a pan. My standards have been raised more times than Tower Bridge.

Occasionally I manage to accidently create a dish that requires neither effort nor a great time investment. I say accidently because I often misread even the most basic of culinary instructions. In my defence it’s a well known fact that a chap can’t create, concentrate or pleasure cook on an empty stomach; and seeing as how eating a full meal just before creating another would be plain greedy then these hasty mistakes will always be a distinguishing feature of my time in the kitchen. And so here’s a little something I cobbled together last night in order to satisfy my lust for Italian cooking and my fascination with having a full belly.

This recipe should feed up to six people, or three fat knackers. When we cook in this house we always cook at least one or two portions for the freezer. So come a nuclear winter while the rest of the world is sitting down to a tin of corned beef and baked beans with a deep sadness in their heart, we’ll be eating gourmet food out of plastic tubs and trying to find the bright side of a world populated by nuclear mutants. It’s amazing how a gut full of greatness can improve one’s outlook on life. So without further ado, and before I somehow manage to bring dancing zombies into this confusing nuclear scenario here’s my recipe for Spicy Chicken Penne.

(You can probably buy cheaper versions of any of these ingredients, but I like indulging in the fine stuff, it’s a relatively cheap way of eating like a king, a king with his own Italian chef).
  • 2 x skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 x tins of Italian chopped tomatoes (400g tins we call them in the UK, gawd bless the metric system)
  • 2 medium red onions or one whopper behemoth of a red onion
  • 1 small fresh chilli or a sprinkling of chilli flakes or something, anything hot that isn’t chilli powder
  • 9 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • A handful of pitted black olives (at least 20, I have no idea how big your hands are, nor what ‘that means’ in relation to any other part of your body)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 or 2 pinches of sea salt
  • Penne pasta (it doesn't really matter what sort of pasta I guess, in fact that pasta that comes in the shape of farm animals might be fun, go nuts, live a little)

  1. Grill the chicken breasts and then tear them to shreds like a wild beast using a couple of forks. When they look like they’ve been involved in some sort of small explosion put them to one side, and try and resist the urge to nibble on them while carrying out the rest of these instructions.
  2. Sling all the oil into a massive saucepan – I don’t think there’s any scientific reason to use a massive saucepan it’s just more fun – and heat it very gently. While the oil is heating (gently, don’t be hasty little hobbit) finely chop the red onions, it’s okay to have a little cry at this point, just don’t rub your eyes with fingers rich in onion juice.
  3. Pop in a couple of pinches of sea salt, be sparing rather than generous.
  4. Sling the chopped onions into the oil and move them around a bit whilst whistling a merry tune until they soften, we don’t want to let them go brown. When I say ‘we’ I mean ‘you’, I won’t be there to help you cook this meal, although all invitations to eat it will be considered.
  5. Chop the chilli as small as you possibly can and mix it into the oil and onion slop; leave it on the heat for another few minutes then bung in your chopped red pepper.
  6. Stir in the two tins of chopped tomatoes, and (if you like) use then to make a trotting horsey sound effect while you do a few loops of your kitchen.
  7. Drop in the olives and shredded chicken and leave on a low heat for as long as you fancy.
  8. When your ravenous troops are assembled drop some cooked pasta into the pan and mix it thoroughly with the gorgeous sauce you have created.
  9. Serve with a gracious smile and enjoy the compliments of all present.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Tuna and Mozzarella stuffed over ripe tomatoes

We have a huge glut of tomatoes this year and while we’ve tried to use them all it was inevitable that some were going to get left to go just that little bit too soft. We hate to see waste so I knocked up a little recipe.

You’ll need;
  • 8 or 9 very ripe medium size tomatoes
  • 1 tin/ pack of tuna
  • 1 lump of mozzarella

It might be nice if you have;
  • Fresh black basil leaves
  • Some cous cous

Carefully cut the tops off the tomatoes and using a teaspoon scoop out the goo inside, you can chuck this away or do what I did and add it to the compost pot. Put about a teaspoon of tuna in each hollowed out tomato – our tuna was lightly flavoured with lime and pepper, but it’s not essential by any means. You don’t need to mix the tuna with mayonnaise or oil as there’s more than enough juice in this concoction already.

Carelessly rip apart the mozzarella ball and pop roughly hewn chunks in the top of each tomato. With the grill on full bung all your lovely creations on a baking tray and blast them until the mozzarella starts to brown.

Serve with a slight sprinkling of fresh pepper and eat while still warm. I had some left over cous cous so I added that to the plate. I also nicked some fresh black leaf basil from the greenhouse and stuffed a leaf inside each tomato.

Best eaten whole, nom!