sewing, photos, spiders

So many things to talk about! Such little time. Where to begin?

I’m learning to sew with the aid of Dave’s mum and a very old sewing machine. There’s a definite knack I’m having to learn. It’s going ok though, at least I can guide the material through the machine straightly. Next stop, getting my head round patterns. I made a mini tote bag with some scraps of fabric that happens to be perfect for holding bags of money around…

machine     straight lines!

… the bags of money were pound coins saved up by Dave in a little goldfish money box (named Archie in tribute to our first pet fish) which were carried by me in my new mini tote to the bank so I could go to Amazon and buy this beauty.  A proper camera! To take proper photos! Hooray! Look at what I’ve done:

These was taken on Sunday on a very nice day trip with my sister Becky and her friend Tess (who went off to see Prince later on that day, the lucky buggers)

    

Canary Warf and the upstairs neighbour’s little kitten Fred, who is the cutist, most curious little cat ever. He’s absolutely gorgeous and every time he wonders into our flat there’s always a little voice in my head suggesting we keep him.

My trip to Oz is now complety booked with my last week spent in a hostel run by a bunch of hippies. Awesome. I have now spent the past half an hour looking at pictures of Australian spiders and literally putting myself off my lunch. Humph.

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Sisterly love

Have you ever looked at something you love, studied it’s features carefully, looked deep into it’s eyes and held it’s hand and said ‘I can’t do this on my own’?

I was like that with the allotment on Saturday. The place has always been weedy and I’ve never been able to keep on top of it. Usually looking down on the plot it doesn’t really matter as I’m happy to be there and there’s always something to celebrate or be pleased with. But I couldn’t do that over the weekend. All I saw were weeds and the sheer size of the project. It made me want to cry. What made matters worse was old Joe in the next door plot had just finished clearing both his plots and they now looked perfect.

Oh, don’t worry, I’m not feeling entirely sorry for myself. I’m annoyed too. This is mainly my own doing – procrastination is a terrible thing – but even if I did spend all my spare time down the plot, to do this on my own would always be an uphill struggle (again I realise that gardening is never easy work, but it could be easier). I have to admit to the fellow bloggers who have their own allotment partners, I’m rather jealous of you. The few times I’ve had help on the lottie have been brilliant, with double the work being done, good conversation and a good dose of moral support. (this is, of course, not a bad word about Dave with all of this, nor is it a non too subtle hint for him to come out more. He made it quite clear from the start that as someone who doesn’t like vegetables, growing or eating them, he wouldn’t help out, which is fair enough really.)

So on Saturday night I was thinking and wishing that I had one of these allotment partners. Someone who would gladly pop down to the allotment and water the plants, dig and prepare beds without (a huge amount of) complaint and, most importantly, share the love of the food being produced. It was then I realised I was being completely stupid and ignorant and really quite ungrateful. I already had an allotment partner.

But i’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve yet to tell you what i did down the plot.

Ironically (I think, I never could get the hang of irony), the time I’ve been most pessimistic about the plot is the the time when it’s been most successful. I think I may have known this at the time as rather than despairing and quickly running away (something I’ve done a couple of times) I concentrated on the good bits. I hoed and weeded in-between the red onions and garlic and noticed how healthy they were looking and I tidied the new fruit and herb patch and considered putting some straw around the strwberries that are showing some lovely new growth but decided against it with all the crazily strong wind around. I also started to dig  some of the weeds too. The weeds  weren’t actually dug up, they were just loosened and the ground is now less compacted to make weeding in the future a less arduous task.

I also saw with gladness that about half the purple sprouting is now ready to harvest and there are still Brussels that can be eaten, so by the time I left the allotment, I was in rather a good mood. What made it even better was while walking back home along the canal, I heard a woodpecker and saw a kingfisher. A flipping kingfisher! In London! I would have never thought in a million years I would ever see one in town. A couple of summers ago, I visited a hide in the middle of the countryside (Wakehurst Place to be exact) situated in the perfect habitat and perfect conditions to spot these fine birds and we sat there for over an hour and saw absolutely nothing.

So anyway, back to my allotment partner. It’s Carrot fly of course! I was crazy for not realising this before. She may be unable to come down to the plot as much as she (and I) would like but she has enthusiasm and enjoys being down there. She even enjoys digging and has said she’ll visit has much as she can. Sunday, it being mother’s day, I was out with Dave and family and CF poppped down to the allotment in need of exercise. She came back after having planted two gooseberry bushes I’d been meaning to get in the ground for weeks and a rhubarb crown and she dug over and removed the weeds form the patch I started the previous day. Cheers Ju! You’re a good girl you are, a good girl!

Also. Pictures of that crazy 50s, alien hunting type game are here. I’m the one in red, Dave’s the one with the red beret.

Also, also. I have just discovered that the man who runs the snooker behind the flat is the brother of one of Chas n Dave.Which is pretty cool.

writer’s block

I was going to write a brilliant post tonight about all the ace things I’d been up to over the weekend, but I’ve been sitting at this darned computer for over two hours now and I still can’t put the right words together. It was going to be about how and extra hand in the allotment can make a day there so much more productive but instead I’ve gotten distracted by work and the Oscar nominations. Hey ho.

Things were busy on Sunday though. Carrot Fly came and helped and we did an awful lot. A few plants that I keep buying in garden centres got planted including a lovely pryacantha (only five pounds in the sale!) that’s been put up the arch. Incidentally, the arch suffered a bit from the high winds, we discovered it leaning at a 45 degree angle. There didn’t seem to be too much damage on the site from the winds at all. My next door neaighbour’s entire huge black plastic sheet found it’s way onto my plot and on the other side some panes of glass from Joe’s greenhouse got shattered, but I was expecting a more devastated site over the weekend. Oh, and half my compost bin blew away too, although I managed to find it sitting five plots away.

It’s amazing how much can be done with an extra hand. Work gets done faster and sharing a cup of flask coffee and a jam sandwich is one of life’s pleasures. It also made me realise how much work I have to do on my own and it’s incredibly daunting, but for as long as my sister is living with us, she’s going to be on the plot lots, so spring time is going to be a breeze this year. I may actually get rid of most of my weeds rather than having about 50% of the plot permanently covered in couch grass. With Carrot Fly on board we tackled the bottom left hand corner of the plot. My herbs and strawberries were there but were starting to get swamped my weeds. We dug the whole area out, weeded and moved everything so that I at least have a corner of the lottie organised. Click on the photo below for notes:

I’m sure other things were done on that day, but I can’t for the life of me remember what we did. (Ju, if you’re reading this and you can think of anything else worth mentioning leave a comment, *thank you*. ) Be prepared for other hastily written posts over the course of the week…

TV free post

By the last couple of posts it looks like that all I’ve been doing recently is watch TV.  As true as that is (I’m watching The Avengers as I write this. God bless Steed), I have been up to quite a bit of other stuff too. Quick round up as I’m sure there will be more to write about at the end of the weekend.

  • I have a decent chunk of the allotment now nicely dug and vaguely weed free. Garlic and onion sets have been planted, which is nice – it’s good to have new stuff growing.
  • My sister, Carrot Fly has moved in. She’s got her first proper job in London (she’s a consultant ecologist) and seems to be settling in well. It’s fun to have her here although she seems to have a habit of disappearing on the weekends so she’s yet to help on the plot. But that’s about to change as she’s here these next two days. If the forecasted gales and torrential rain don’t stop us first.
  • I’ve been a victim of crime again. Some pooey-bum stole the crappy little lean-to greenhouse I had outside the flat. I’ve bought a bigger, better one to replace it and this time it will be bolted to the wall.
  • We have been to the cinema a lot. I can highly recommend The Prestige and The Host. I have also completely fallen in love with Daniel Craig. *sigh*
  • I’ve started to cook food in preparation for Christmas. I’m halfway through making mincemeat for pies – sherry and brandy will be added to the mixture tomorrow and i’ve just finished off a batch of marrow chutney. They both seem to be quite decent, so I’ll post the recipes on here soon.

Oooh, that’s a big weapon you have there Mr. Craig.

Happy Birthday Allotment!

yay! 

The allotment and this blog reaches it’s first birthday this week. Strange to think that I’ve had it for this long actually, normally I’m rubbish with new projects. I’ve started so many blogs in the past only for them to fizzle out after a few months and creative projects usually have the same amount of stamina.

But it’s been different with this. Admittedly, I could’ve been much more productive on the allotment, but it’s not all gone to seed. It seems that this blog and my allotment go hand in hand. One of the reasons, if I’m really honest, of gardening is so I can write about it, I enjoywriting about it and the more I write the more I encourage myself to garden. It’s the circle of life or something. And having you, dear reader, by my side only encourages me more, so thank you.

Popped down to the lottie this evening to say hello and check up things since the hols. Ye gods it’s overgrown! But the veg there seems to be doing well. The purple sprouting broccoli is going very well, as are the sprouts. I still have some tomatoes to harvest but the beans seem to be on their way out.

There was a proper chill in the air tonight. It wasn’t just a bit cold, it actually felt really autumnal which is no bad thing I suppose, just a slight shock after spending the whole day in the sun thinking it was still summer.

Quick bit of family news: Carrot Fly has just got a brand new job. Yay! It’s her first big job since finishing her post grad this summer and it’s here in the Big Smoke too. Well done Ju, you’re awesome. You do realise that once you move to London you will be helping me on the allotment don’t you?

Post holiday blues, sort of

You know, it’s only after two weeks of breathing lovely fresh clean air you realise just how much London air sucks. It really is dirty, even out here in the suburbs, and it smells. Oh, I wish I was back in Wales! It really is fabulous up there. Dave and I have known about this amazing cottage in the middle of nowhere for a while now and we took my family up there last week. They loved it. They’re also the type of people who like doing lots of things on hols so we managed to discover lots places that would have otherwise would have been un-visited. If you find yourself in Snowdonia I insist on you visiting Portmeirion and the Ffestiniog Railway, they’re both quite awesome.
cottage

This is where I stayed. Nice, isn’t it?

And here’s me and Dave with our nicest faces:

cheese!

Pretty aren’t we?

Normally after a holiday I find that things are pretty depressing. I’m a country bumpkin at heart and coming back to the Smoke can be quite hard sometimes, and I’m definitely not looking forward going back to work in my crappy grey office with no windows. But, things are slightly different this time round. I don’t start work until next week and Dave and I went back to Oxford today to see off our friend Jen who starts her post grad at Christ Church college this week (we’re very proud). This is also the first proper holiday I’ve had since owning the allotment. I’ve come back refreshed and raring to go. Reading that Monty Don book has certainly helped, it’s such an inspiration. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, give this book a jolly good read.

On the journey back home, we popped into a garden centre. Not by choice though, it just so happened there’s a Dobbies at the services near Shrewsbury and needing a wee and a coffee we popped in. Quite frankly a terrible garden centre catered towards OAP coach parties full of dodgy looking gifts and more cafe than plant space. It meant we missed probably the much better Percy Thrower’s Garden Centre (although looking at the website, it sounds the same as all the other gardening centres in the world) but I did manage to buy a mini greenhouse which is now a rather essential piece of gardening equipment now I’m in a flat that has very little light and very little space to place promising wee seedlings. I put it up today and it looks awesome.

So now I’ve come back all refreshed and have six more days of holiday, here’s a small list for my benefit of things to do allotment wise this week:

  • Order seed catalogues now. Nothing quite excites like flipping through these small booklets and imagining the thousands of gardening possibilities they hold, nor does nothing quite depress quite so much when you realise you can’t afford them all. But it’s nice to look. Besides, I like receiving lots of post.
  • Get some winter growing veg sown and put in my awesome new greenhouse. I have lots of cabbage seeds to plant and quite a few other seeds bought this time last year that never got used.
  • Get down to the allotment and say hello to the lovely thing. This won’t be done till Tuesday though as Carrot Fly has an interview tomorrow in the capital and I’m taking her to lunch after she’s finished.
  • Do some digging and weeding. We’ve had plenty of rain these past couple of days so the ground’s perfect for trying to get rid of those awful bindweed roots and other such nasty things.
  • Possibly plan some proper beds and sow grass pathways. I know they are high maintenance, but they look nice and it gives me an excuse to buy a push mower which for some reason I’ve always wanted to own one.
  • Fork through the compost heap. God, that thing’s a pile of crap, there’s bindweed growing through it and everything. The bin itself doesn’t stand properly and the top half constantly falls over in high winds. One of these days I’ll get a proper sturdy bin and use the old one for various other things like the lid for a bird bath and the two main bits for large containers, in the meantime it will have to try and remain in one piece and store all my old rotting kitchen waste.
  • Buy some gaffer tape and try and fix the compost bin.
  • Pray my pumpkins havn’t perished. I have a horrible feeling….

And last but definitely not least,

  • Have a bonfire. Fire! Fire! We’re allowed to have them once it’s October and any weed pickings I have are not to be trusted on the compost heap so onto flames they go. Mulled cider will be consumed and it will all be treated as a late Equinox celebration. Hooray!

By the way, what do you think of the new look? I’m not sure. I quite like it, it’s modern and fresh but it’s also a bit… brown. Let me know what you think.

Catch up

It’s nice getting up on a Saturday morning. Usually I’m a late riser on the weekends but what with living in my awesome new flat and everything, I’d thought I’d actually make the most of the day and do something. Naturally, I’m knackered now and it’s only five in the afternoon.  But what a lovely morning! Actually went down to the allotment and did some work. A bit of weeding around the leeks, re-stabilising the runner bean pole and I painfully discovered nettles growing around the herbs by weeding with bare hands. I also managed to harvest some veg too. Some runner beans (the first of the season) and four courgettes, three of them huge. The biggest was over sixteen inches long! Now, being the only vegetable eater in this household, there is no way that this is all going to be eaten fresh, so I’m considering making some into jam or relish. But my question is this: are these marrow jam recipes I keep reading actually any good? Are they tasty? Or am I going to make ten jars of the stuff and just keep it in the back of the food cupboard for a couple of years until I throw it out? Parents, if I made any, would you have some?

I will be making other things too, don’t you worry about that. Courgette quiche will be made as will lots of ratatouille, which freezes ever so well.

A few weeks ago I was back down south with the folks to celebrate Aphid and Carrot Fly’s birthday. Photos, if you’re so inclined to see me dressed up as Robin Hood, are on my Flickr account. The picture of our Mum and Dad are on a couple of posts below. While down there Sloe season was well on it’s way and having a liking for a nice cool sloe gin and tonic after work, Carrot Fly and I walked down to the footpath that leads to the sea and picked lots and lots of those little purple berries.

Now all I have to do is buy some gin and I’m away.