Sunday, 21 December 2008
And Emma has been in full production mode again, these mince pies are made from homemade mincemeat, and the mincemeat muffins smell remarkable!
We live in an Victorian house that is nearly 130 years old and has a very grand fireplace for such a small terrace house. Unfortunately the hearth has been boarded up for many years and the grate behind it is smashed beyond use, maybe for next Christmas we'll renovate the fireplace and have a roaring log fire to keep us warm and romantised!
Saturday, 13 December 2008
It's amazing how well these gifts go down with everyone we know, although there is one caveat to recieving a jar of this special chutney; if you have any left by Easter we get to claim it back as our own personal stash is well and truely gone by then! The cashew nuts and coffee are for my own gorging enjoyment. We buy bulk from organic wholesale folks Suma, each time a new delivery arrives it's like Christmas, if Christmas was a traditional time to try and find somewhere to store a month's supply of bog roll!
Despite the fact Em has been making Christmas chutney for few years now I still manage to forget that if you take a deep breath while it's all in the preserve pan your nose will disolve and your brain will shivel a little like a pickled walnut, wow it's strong stuff! I'll also be smelling of chutney for the next few days, which I think is kinda homely, but all the local dogs may disagree!
Friday, 5 December 2008
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
There was much apple nom which helped us decide on the following - Egremont Russet, Bardsey, Red Devil and Ellisons Orange. I am also considering the creation of a raspberry hedge and have begun by ordering 10 canes of Autumn Bliss. Yum - can hardly wait til they join the strawberries and lonely redcurrant bush!
Thanks to all those who bought me gift vouchers for my birthday - you will be rewarded (hopefully) by our abundant crops and many a jar of chutney to accompany your cheeseboard!
Winter is the perfect time of year for planting trees and as such is celebrated by National tree week (26th Nov - 7th Dec) so take a peek at the Tree councils website for more info - http://www.treecouncil.org.uk/?q=node/41
In other news - over wintering onions and garlic are in the ground. Yippeeee! Just hope they don't rot in all the nasty rain we keep getting!
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Woe to the pumpkin who succumbed to evil!.....
Only lasted a week before oozing off that pot..........a grim fate.
I think it was a bad un' before I carved out it's flesh - Mwahahahahaha!
Anyway, I now have a lovely teasel tree in it's place and am currently attempting to convince my hubster it will be fun to add little hand made decorations as a sort of advent creation.
He not yet convinced................
At the weekend we took our new tiny little van up to Peterborough to pick up the greenhouse that Emma's parents no longer want. This is not a task I was looking forward to, as you may be able to tell in the above photo!
As traditional on these occasions I helped Emma and her dad the best way I could, by staying well out of their way!
It was my task while Emma and her dad were playing reverse Mechano to fit a stereo in the van, a task at which I roundly failed! In the photo above Emma has noticed that the rear panel in the tailgate of the van is held on by gaffa tape!
Monday, 3 November 2008
I once thought it was only the wind that could blow me into a bad mood but I now realise the oppressive shroud of persistent mizzle* is enough to stir the darkest and blackest malevolence.
My achievements today can be measured mostly in wetness and mud.
Today, I do not like my 'jolly' vegetable growing lark. I seek the comfort of trifle!
*indistinctly a mist or a drizzle.
Sunday, 2 November 2008
Both very excited but had to concentrate very hard as we realised we had never done this before (clearly deprived in our youth)! Also didn't want to lose fingers when handling slippery pumpkins and using sharp knives!
Aww - don't she look happy carving a face in 'Frank' (the pumpkin).
Sisssstar carved 2 pumpkins in the time I did one. The big pumpkin is mine and the smaller one next to it is called 'Grouch' - after one of the locals! :)
Can you spot our efforts in the line-up??? Spooky!
We had so much fun we have agreed to attend every year and I have promised sisssssstar that we will grow many pumpkins and gourds on the plot next year - maybe enough to fill our houses! Yipppeeeeee!
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
I digress – back the to the perfect Autumn day…..which was cold, clear and bright with the sheerest of breezes - a real pleasure to be out and making the most of the sunshine. Today’s task was to rescue the dozen hyssop plants from certain death which have been festering away in pots for…….well a lot longer than they should have (bad grower!) I only hope they perk up a bit now the roots have room to breathe. I’ve treated them to a thick layer of mulch, and to keep those weeds at bay for a little longer I picked up a nifty trick from GW*.
What to do with all the free newspapers that drop through he door? Well - there is always the blue recycling bin that the council collect once a fortnight but if you can make use of them in the garden then even better. So under the thick layer of SMC** there is a layer of 4 or 5 sheets of newspaper neatly tucked round the struggling hyssop plants.
Mulching achieves many great things – it suppresses weeds, retains moisture, insulates the ground keeping the heat in, looks decorative and most importantly can save work on maintenance. An organic mulch can also help to enrich the soil as it breaks down, and if applied on an annual basis will improve soil structure no end. Lush! It may seem a little time consuming but if it saves labour during the busy growing season then I say it’s worthwhile!
Next to be mulched are the strawbs which I lovingly weeded on my hands and knees today. Maybe I can enlist the help of my hubster………….?
*Gardener’s World **spent mushroom compost
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Despite an unpromising start amid wind and rain we began our shed raising trial. Like an Amish barn raising it was not. Tempers were fraught, frowning was deep and swear words were ...well some - so not quite like the scenes in 'Witness'. However, wife and husband did not maim each other til one of us was deaded despite a rather heated debate on supporting the base (turns out we hugely misunderstood each other!)
The instructions said it MUST be built by two people - Pish! I think four would have been conservative as the elements were against us! But triumph we did.
It may not be entirely square or level and the door is a little on the 'huh' and the roof felt looks savaged by a dog.....in places, but it's up! And even though it has not been lovingly hand crafted from wombled materials it begins to acquire character and looks a rather handsome sentry of our grassy field with a strawberry patch!
Oh look - there's a rather handsome fella. A man at one with shed!
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Think I have thought of a way to deter them........
.........husband thinks there may be a flaw in my plan!
We finally have a lawnmower, no more horrid strimming! Now I can feel all manly as I strut up and down making it look like I'm actually doing some work, but thank god it's self propelled, our allotment is bumpier than a bag of spanners! Oh, and that cartoon sticker, that's me that is! A sticker seemed a more hygenic way of marking my territory than the traditional method!
With the increasing pressure to keep control of our grassy plot (whilst gently bringing it into cultivation) we decided to invest in a rotary petrol mower. The under gardener was very excited about the prospect of creating a lawn fit for bowling - I fear he may be disappointed!
What is important is maintaining the grass to prevent it becoming wild and ultimately harder work for ourselves. This was so with a strimmer - good for trimming round the edges but far more tedious than strolling up and down with a lawnmower! So while he did that I began our no-dig mulching experiment.
I started by strimming the grass as short as possible, then took a large cardboard box, flattened out (tape and staples removed) and covered it. Next a layer of grass cuttings, followed by a layer of mushroom compost both several inches deep. Finally a bit of treading to consolidate the surface and hey presto looks like a well dug and prepared bit of land. Whether it works, we have yet to see. Hope its not all taken off in the wind!
Andrew, after injury, retired to the car to listen to the radio while I dug out the new site for the shed. Why he asked? It's a design thing I said. He groaned. I shrugged and got on with it.
Illogical or not I decided I didn't want it crammed in the corner like everyone else and besides it's not time wasted as the old site will be the comfrey patch instead.... as long as I hurry up and weed it.Coming soon in the next few weeks - shed building, hyssop, strawberry, comfrey and redcurrant planting, echinacea, foxglove and forget-me-not potting and most inevitably - weeding. Also looking forward to apple tasting days at Ken Muir to decide what we want to grow!
Saturday, 4 October 2008
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Monday, 8 September 2008
A great feeling of satisfaction we had this evening (at mos-i happy hour it would appear) as we worked together to put our first little plants in the ground. Some work needs to be done to extend the bed enough to accomodate the last four plants - but essentially we have ourselves a strawberry patch! Very exciting!
It is but a small triumph of an otherwise mammouth task but it is something we can manage - as long as we find a lawnmower soon!
To cut a long story short, I found what I thought looked a suitable 'berry-mine' but the opportunity has not yet arisen to gather in earnest. Boo hiss!
It would be easy to flay oneself on the failure to manage this simple task, but you know- there is always next year. We may very well miss the elderberries this time around but we found a great source of blackberries!
(I'm currently watching the hedgerows again, for there will be sloes and rosehips and I should not forget that plums are peaking at present. Maybe then, I should also be voyeur for the little stalls and tables you find at the roadside in rural England - encouraging the honest exchange of a reasonable fee for the abundant windfalls!)
I wondered if my stomach acid could render innocuous any bugs these horrid things carry? Based on the fact I’ve spent many years (away from Em’s gaze) consuming some very questionable kebabs whilst gigging with my band I decided a mosquito should pose no great threat to my belly. SUCK! Ah, ignorance and problem solving rolled into one, this allotment must be doing me some good!
Sunday, 7 September 2008
Apparently our allotment is the largest in Ipswich, and the only allotment with many spare plots. Potentially the reason for all these spare plots is that they are all utterly covered with brambles. These aren’t just any brambles; these brambles would put Fangorn forest to shame. On the plus side they are a fantastic source of blackberries, and something ‘The Good Life’ taught me many years ago is that you can turn fruit into free booze. With this in mind I spent this afternoon forcing my way through bramble branches the thickness of my own neck and gathered blackberries I deemed worthy of homebrew. I felt a little like Indiana Jones, and not just because I was wearing a cheap leather hat, these brambles rolled like a prickly tide over many former plots. Occasionally I would stumble across archaeological artefacts like old plant pots and compost bags.
There’s a possibility I may have taken the selection (and archaeological) process a little too seriously as after two or three hours I had only amassed enough fruit for a small tart and had to call in my wife for reinforcements. As it turns out she isn’t quite as picky as me, and after four or five hours we had enough to make five bottles of blackberry wine.
One of the many lessons I learned today is that I really must waterproof my old army surplus jacket. As we don’t yet have the luxury of a shed for shelter today’s persistent rainfall left me more than a little soggy. I remember seeing in the play ‘Neville’s Island’ the best way to stay warm is to engage in frantic activity so when we got home I set about turning the free crop of blackberries into delicious wine. However, as I’m fast learning in this self sufficiently lark, nothing is instant. I ‘m really looking forward to drinking this wine, in six months time!
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Monday, 1 September 2008
Last night I was also trying to figure out why my legs were do damned itchy. Then I remembered the huge bushes of of stinging nettles I gleefully charged through with the strimmer. What I didn't realise at the time was that the strimmer was not only slaying the nettles but also flinging the bits at high velocity at my bare legs!
I live, I learn, I itch, I love the bite clicker...
So yesterday I had my first go on the strimmer, which is probably the most unpleasant thing I’ve ever done whilst crushingly hung-over. My hands were throbbing, my ears were throbbing, and I found out pretty fast that I didn’t hold Em’s child-size strimmer correctly it could pretty quickly bring discomfort to parts of my body it would be inappropriate for me to name on a polite blog such as this. As I vibrated my way across the plot I initially aimed for the thickest and tallest patches of grass, this sums up my current ‘quick hit, quick satisfaction’ approach to gardening. Just as I was trying to perfect the ballet/ polka type hip swinging motion that Em told me was the way to strim, and just as I was burrrrrrrrrrrring through a particularly thick bit of bramble I noticed she who must be obeyed waving her arms at me and gesticulating wildly. Admittedly the sunglasses, mesh visor and earplugs were dulling my senses somewhat, but I’m pretty sure she was doing some sort of dance to demonstrate her enormous satisfaction with my work. After what seemed like a brief (but horrid) time my work was done, I was especially proud that I had the forethought to close the boot of the car before strimming that area of the plot, unfortunately I had neglected to move the bag of treats that Em used as the proverbial carrot on a stock. However, I was impressed at just how much grass and other assorted crud that I had managed to fill the bag with, Em was not.
So after a couple of hours this Sunday afternoon we had laid a shed base (well Em had really), we had cut out a plot for the Strawberries (we that was Em too actually). Well at least I had strimmed a lot, although it was pretty clear which side of the plot I had attacked, it was clearly the side that looked like it had been grazed by a toothless dinosaur, compared to Em’s side, which looked like it had been daintily and accurately nibbled by the sort of sheep that would live on a holy mountain.
Well at least I had got out and done something even, although spending the previous day at a punk festival had left me feeling less than effervescent! By late evening I had even got the feeling back in my hands!
Sunday, 31 August 2008
To solve this little frustration I've made a checklist in my notebook of things always needed (water, gloves, snacks, camera, phone etc) and also a list of likely tools to consider. Seems to be doing the trick so far.
Once we - (yes we! Despite a tricky hangover the dearly beloved was a brave and determined little soldier not to let me down on the arrangement) had moved all the bricks (which took minutes) we scratched our heads a bit and decided to make a start on the strawberry patch. Andrew cut the turf into rough squares and i began forking them out.
With some gentle persuasion he then tooled up with the strimmer, safety visor and ear plugs and started slashing about in the long grass.
An impressive vision of manliness - I'm sure you agree!
We are now agreed that a mower is the way to make lighter work of this situation - so far 'freecycle' has not yet come up with a neglected machine that could use a new home, but we also have our network of friends and family keeping an ear to the ground for such an opportunity. If we are no nearer to acquiring said item before mid September, we may have to consider purchasing one - nothing fancy just a pretty basic machine that does the job. Mr Culture has volunteered himself (with some enthusiasm) as chief mower - a happy arrangement for me and good exercise for him. We just need to watch out for all the forgotten debris of plot owners past.....such as this!
Monday, 25 August 2008
Whilst there, it gave me the opportunity to survey the area that will blossom into our allotment garden. Since the initial scalping, and subsequent rain it is now very clear what 'undesirables' have had a fresh flush of growth. I see we have a number of bramble patches, nettles, docks, brier not to mention the bindweed and a clump of horseradish, oh and did I mention the dreaded couch grass. All these will have to be removed by hand on a regular basis, as we clear and cultivate along with the various rubbish that has been buried under this neglected plot for many years.
We aim to make life as easy as possible for ourselves by keeping the grass cut and only clearing areas we intend to use immediately - ie the planting of fruit, herbs and over wintering onion sets and garlic.
As a bit of an aside - look at this huge potato I grew at work. It's a monster!
It was enough to feed two people!!
Monday, 18 August 2008
For now (with ideas in embryo form), I'm indulging a desire to see some colour in the garden after randomly choosing five alpines (my birthday plants) at Katie's garden (independent local nursery near Ipswich). With any luck these will fill the gap at the base of the fence we had boshed up last year and soften the edges of our boundary.
Plant List - Dianthus deltoides Artic Fire (delicate and yet striking), Geranium incanum (again with the geraniums - these are my fav genus), Potentilla x tonguei (pretty flowers - bright apricot yellow), Aubretia ( I like purple), Sedum Voodoo (looked kinda sexy).
Lawn gone! Lawn gone! (Most likely location for glasshouse).
Yay - wheelbarrow! And I rebuilt the poly-shelf thingy.
All this I did on Saturday morning before 'the man' was out of bed!!! Yay for me. Boo hiss to him.
Sunday, 10 August 2008
For the coming week we have a bit of a plan -
- purchase/borrow mower or get to work with a strimmer
- clear area for shed base
- purchase or acquire paving slabs
- begin clearing an area to plant Comfrey and maybe transplant some leeks from my workplace
- support open day on the 16th
With a job application to submit this week also, looks like we are set for a busy time.
In other news - contributions to our cause are as follows:
- £15 towards fruit at Ken Muir (a gift from lovely sister in law)
- a redcurrant bush 'Jonkheer Van Tets' (a gift from lovely friends)
- 40 strawberry plants - origin possibly 'Rosie' or 'Cambridge Favourite' or a mixture
- as many Comfrey cuttings as I can get get my hands on
- a wheelbarrow
- a mini cloche/greenhouse/shelf thing
I am now 32 having had a birthday (08-08-08) on one of the luckiest days ever according to the Chinese people. Am I wiser.......who knows - but there is still so much to learn!!
Monday, 4 August 2008
At first we considered it might be intentional as, for the most part, the scorching appeared to be tidily restricted to the recently mown areas. On further investigation, however, we discovered we'd missed quite a drama involving 3 fire engines to extinguish a bonfire that had leapt a little out of control. Fortunately for us we have not yet built (or even ordered) the said shed - the location of which would have been engulfed in flames! Gasp!
I guess many a lesson can be learnt by other folks 'oopsies' -
adjacent to mown grass that has not seen rain in weeks fueled with an unpredictable wind = lots of firemen with hoses, some embarrassment and grumbling plot holders.
Think I could bear the embarrassment and grumbling plot holders to admire the fire service at work.....sigh.
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
Here begins the challenge to apply a little self-sufficiency in our Suffolk lives, to simplify the complexities of our busy existence and aim towards a more creative life in our consumer society.
So far - the grass has been cut and I didn't do it so minimal effort on my part - yipeeeee!
Soon to follow - a no-dig gardening philosophy (experimental) and a pink shed for useful things (and improved visibility from the train-yay!)
For now - lovely photos taken by lovely husband who has signed up as the under-gardener and wants to be given 'little jobs'. How little, I am unsure but his company and interest make me warm inside and if he promises to take flattering photos of yours truly, then quite honestly he can sit around drinking beer and I won't even mind him leering at me!