Thursday, 23 March 2017

Surely there shallot of puns out there???!!!

I am enjoying my time at the allotment at the moment and am waiting for the bad weather to do one so I can get on with backfilling the new beds. When I'm at work the sun is shining, when I am free to visit the Lottie it is persisting it down. Oh well take advantage whenever I get the chance.

I have started planting in the 2 beds now they are settled. 2 beds of shallots from last years harvest. Definitely a satisfying feeling knowing that we are using what we have already grown. I made sure I hid them from Mr P and KP otherwise they would have ended up in a tart served for boxing day dinner. The plan is to companion plant carrots. Fingers crossed!

Next job finish back filling the rest of the beds from the compost heap. Here's hoping for a dry day tomorrow so I can get an hour or so in before the Little P's come rampaging out of school.

Short but sweet today. Thanks for reading. Happy digging :)

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Managed to grab a couple of hours at the allotment on Sunday afternoon. The sun was was bursting through the grey clouds giving a generous dose vitamin D to all those who wanted to blow away the cobwebs. I managed to get one last look at the crocuses before they went over and can't wait for my daffodils and tulips to open!

It's looking quite sparse in the flowerbed and the grass is sneaking back, but an hour of pulling grasd roots, some new spring plants and the flowerbed will be full of colour again.

It was great to get some time up there alone and really think about what I'm planting where and the next steps.

On a previous visit we backfilled the new raised beds with leaf mould. As this has now settled I felt it was time to take the top off the compost heap and start adding some of the good stuff.

We haven't used any of the compost off the compost heap since we started the allotment so it was interesting to see what it was like.

The compost looked fantastic and excuse the pun but the earthy smell was great.

Not being able to push the wheelbarrow, I had to come up with my own way of transporting the compost. 12 potato buckets  full later and I can genuinely question why did we build the compost bins at the back of the plot? There is definitely a lot to be said for keeping your compost bins in the middle of your plot or even better, have a few dotted around the site which are more accessible.

I only managed to back fill 2 beds but I am very pleased with this achievement! Next time I might be able to get one of the Little P's to do the wheel barrow and save my bruised leg from the knock of the bucket. Certainly earnt those bruises, however the 2 beds are looking great and are ready for planting!

Charlie Bear enjoyed a bit of freedom and was very good off his lead. He went visiting friends on neighbouring plots once, but when your friends offer you biscuits, it's rude not to go and say hello! :)

Although it seemed too early to leave, I decided the light was failing and it was time to call it a day. For the first time in years I am less bothered about losing an hours sleep, and more excited about the prospect of getting to stay out later. Reminds me of my teenage years, pre social media, where you went out to catch up with your friends and would stay out as long as you could. You made sure you were home before it got dark otherwise you were grounded! Quite calming to experience those memories. Makes me want to call my group of friends up and go meet them on the swings again.

The Little P's are getting to this stage and it gives such a warm, fuzzy feeling to see them enjoying a bit of freedom and racing around on bikes or 'chilling' with their friends.

That's enough reminiscing and getting mushy about childhood. As the sun sets, leaving a final burst of light through the clouds, casting rays of gold and red hue across the landscape, I call it a day. Moments like this leave you with a feeling calm.  Looking forward to my next day off so that I can get some more quality time up there.

Thanks for reading and keep digging :)

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Busy week

Being on half term we took advantage of the time out of work to catch up on paperwork and get some quality time at the lottie.

Dad W helped me to carry wood and make 8 new raised beds. He carried on even though it was getting dark until they were built.

Kp helped me to back fill them with leaf mould. Next job is to clear a space to get to the compost heap, which has been overrun by brambles over the autumn, and use the good stuff at the bottom of the pile.

Not the straightest but more than fit for purpose. Just need to stake them in the middle of the long sides to ensure completely secure and don't bow.

We had 1 casualty from storm Doris. (seriously why Doris? I had a great, great Aunt Doris who would always give us cups of tea and penguins (the biscuit variety, not the cuddly kind) when we went to visit. How can I think of her as a storm?) Any who, the wind took out 2 panes of glass and although I have what seems to be half a shed full of glass panels, none will actually fit and I need to get a 45 degree angle piece cut. Hopefully before the wind takes any more of the panels out.

That's us done for now. Next stop get some seeds in.

Thanks for reading and happy digging. :)

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Start as we mean to go on

So after my mamouth grass pulling session, Mr P decided he needed to get down to the plots and do something constructive.

At the end of last year we dug the main bed up to the last few scallop squash and rebarked it ready for the winter.

Unsurprisingly we didn't go back to finish the job and left the section until now. KP and I set to digging while Mr P tinkered with the big rotavator.

While Mr P and KP dealt with the main bed, I set to digging up the roots of the dock leaf that had started to grow again in the flowerbed. Several 2ft craters later, we had a sizable mound of ridiculously long roots and some as thick as my wrist!

The training I'm doing for this year's Swimathon is clearly paying off for this one armed bandit ;)

I now also have an excellent excuse to replant the flowerbed. (Yes I was careful not to disturb the newly emerging daffodils, crocus and tulips.)

The result of an afternoon's work:

Next steps? Dad W is coming to help repair the 2 damaged raised beds towards the back of the plot and start building new beds on the main bed. Hopefully it will make 45 more manageable for me and free up time for Mr P to focus on 47.

Then I need to chit the seed potatoes and get the dozens of seeds started in the propagator.

I've been reluctant to get the propagator up and running, as our latest family member has an affinity for compost and anything with leaves, especially chilli plants!

Found this branch pulled off and the 2 chillies mauled. Cheers Mr Mo Stash!

Thanks for reading.
Happy digging :)

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Spring is in the air

It might be the middle of February, however it certainly feels Spring like today. The sun was shining and casting warmth and chasing away those winter cobwebs. I love going to the allotment at this time, as I get to see the first daffodils and crocus' popping their tops out and enjoying the early sun.

For the first time in weeks I feel I have done enough work to warrant writing a post. Previous visits quickly turned cold and wanting to keep warm I had no intension of taking my gloves for risk of frostbite! Ok a tad exadurated, but I was not removing them until somewhere warm!

So, what have I managed to achieve today? Well I cleared CP's bed and rediscovered she had a Dianthus and Narcissus bulbs hiding amongst the grass.

I also decided to be proactive instead of reactive and removed the majority of the couch grass roots, which had woven their way through the membrane. Not a particularly easy task but I'm confident removed enough to slow it's regrowth for a while.

We now have no obstructions for replacing the broken beds, the debate is now on do we use deck boards to replace them and do we paint them?

Hope you have all had a positive start to 2017.

Thanks for reading and keep digging :)

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2016 has been a difficult year on plot 45 and 47. We have been hit by multiple injuries and illnesses which limited our ability to achieve what we set out to do this year.

The year started well (despite Mr P also being a one armed bandit,) pickling beetroot in January and sowing seeds ready for spring. I managed to dig the beds on 45 single handed and had started on 47 before I was struck down and am only now just about recovered.

The poor plots have looked unloved but there have been 3 successes, our strawberries; we were picking at least a kilo a day, which was turned into wine and jam, as well as puddings and school lunches. The garlic crop was our best so far and our shallots were pickled, cooked, kept for growing sets in spring and there's still a kilo leftover.

We had a reasonable crop of French beans and I have collected dried pods for next year's crop.

What have we got planned for next year? Getting some nutrients into the soil and looking at how we use the space we have are top of the agenda, anything else? Well we are still planning for next year so watch this space.

Best wishes from 6 P's on a plot and all the best for 2017.

Thanks for reading and keep digging :)

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Mint chocolate cupcakes anyone?

We're starting to rough dig and prepare the ground for winter and enlisted the help of the little P's but I want to blow my own trumpet and write about a vegan tea party I organised for my friend the other day.

We were originally booked into a tea room but 1 week before the day I received an email from the owner stating that her 'lease does not allow me to serve vegan food at this time!' To be fair I think we had a lucky escape. The owner had a distinct lack of understanding what it means to be vegan, ie, 'you can have fresh butter right?' and 'I can do egg sandwiches!' (she was told about the egg allergy)

So not wanting my friend to be disappointed I suggested that I prepare a tea party for us. Feeling deflated the 6 became 2 but I was determined to not let my friend down and set to planning.

Inspired by the Great British Bake Off, I started by choosing which cupcakes to serve.

I found the recipe in the most fantastic vegan recipe book. The book was bought as a birthday present for my friend but naturally I had to ensure that I was giving her something that I knew would turn out well. We regularly swap recipes so it was the perfect gift IF the cakes were good.

The book is by Mellissa Morgan and called 

Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town.

The recipes are very easy to follow, even the little P's were able to follow them and Bob has adapted one to make her birthday cake this weekend.

The cakes turned out perfectly first time and no sign of a soggy bottom!

The issue I had was making the icing. The instructions said to use an electric handwhisk to mix the ingredients. Whilst my right arm is starting to return to life, I am still not able to grip the side of the bowl and as soon as I added the icing sugar to the creamed dairy free butter mixture, I found a snow storm hit the entire kitchen coating the cupboards, cooker, chairs and dining table. I even found a thin layer on the door handle at the opposite side of the kitchen with 2 hours to clean up. Oops!

You would think with years of experience of making cakes (I started helping my mum and Grannie at the age of 2) that I would have realised the second I added the sugar a sticky explosion would happen? Nope not today I was stood in the middle of a big mess trying to work out what had just happened. I was clearly having a 'Mummy Moment', you know the one when you are desperately trying to do too much in too little time and for a split second your brain switches off!

Any way I gave up on the electric whisk and started folding the icing sugar in and then once more used the whisk to cream it. It occurred to me I always iced cakes by folding first then whisking the cream icing. Numpty! 

So how were the cakes in the end? Absolutely moreish! I can not recommend this book enough! The mint was refreshing and the cakes turned out moist and spongy, not the usual heavy, soggy bottomed concoction that normally passes as a vegan cake. So definitely worth the purchase and I was reluctantly happy to give the book to my friend for her birthday. I think I will have to buy my own copy.

After the half hour I spent trying to clean up the remnants of the snow storm. It was time to get on with the savoury part of our tea party.

I made vegan batches. (roll, cob, barncake depending on your region)  I was able to prove the point that I could very cheaply make the humous and salad option I had suggested to the caterer! I also opted for that well known brand of sausages we like to call McFartney in our house (no explanation needed here!)

Finish off with a bowl of nachos, the remaining humous , vegetable pakoras and popcorn to finish off. Very filling but really tasted amazing.

If anyone ever comes back to me again and says they can't cater for vegans I can show them this picture and explain how easy it is if you know the ingredients of the products you are working with.

All caterers have a legal obligation to provide information regarding allergens. A good caterer knows everything that is going into their food and can tell you straight away what you can and can't eat.

Next time I promise to write about allotments and the fabulous scalloped squash soup I made entirely with the ingredients grown at the allotment I helped set up at work.

Thanks for reading and keep digging :)