Archive for the 'allotment life' Category


Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Eek! April! Easter! Spring! And no seeds sown yet!

To be fair it is only just spring isn’t it; I don’t think either I or the seeds have been much in the mood before now (you proper gardener types: have you been out there in your fleeces since February?).

After last year’s allotment debacle I find myself with just two raised beds (and pots, there is always pots*). I made Cameron fill the beds last week, and today with sun shining and girls whinging irritatingly playing happily in the background, I have made a start. The use of raised beds rather than acres and acres of lovely land has in practice ruled out potatoes and probably beans, although I have not completely rejected the idea of a bamboo wigwam occupying half of one of the beds and/or climbing beans over the playhouse. Today I have sown direct beetroot**, peas, salad, chrysanth greens and carrots, and tiny modules with aubergines, cucumber, tomatoes, kale, PSB and shiso. I have started some parsnips on damp kitchen roll and also plan to grow squashes of some sort, courgettes, herbs, leeks and, um, I can’t remember what else. Have I missed anything essential?

Of course, if we move I will lose them all. But no bugger seems to want to come and look around at the moment, and I can hardly leave the beds all empty to grow weeds (plus I enjoy sowing and growing for its own sake not just the end result). (Which is fortunate, really.)

*Is always pots? Are always pots?
**No, nobody does, much. But it is compulsory I understand.


Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I am so sad – we have been evicted from our allotment. For weeds, which to be fair are out of control, and because (pointed look at my midriff) you are not going to be able to do anything for 3 years are you. Which also might be fair enough but is not for them to say, and from past experience it is the period from 18 months – 2 1/2 that is the problem: newborn babies are quite happy on an allotment. I suspect the reality is that nearly all the other plots are dug by a gang of old boys, and one of their friends wants on.

On a purely selfish personal level, I am utterly gutted as this is my escape; somewhere I can pop to for a few hours in the evenings, weekends, or when the children are at school/nursery. Without it my day to day life will consist almost entirely of house stuff and mumming – I spend too much time here as it is. Conversely I am sad for the children who love coming down with me: Maggie has been in tears (why don’t they want us? and I just want our allotment back) and Tamsin gets ridiculously excited about digging potatoes from the ground, and is made happier by a fresh raw from-the-pod pea than almost anything else. I am also cross that my parsnips, squash and artichokes will be lost.

I am really annoyed that there was no warning whatsoever, beyond one of the plot-holders yesterday suggesting that there had been “whispers” about me (and she was only telling me because I am so nice. Huh.) Surely “sort your weeds or you are off” would have been only polite? And I don’t want to see any of them, so will have to go after dark to dig up all those potatoes, retrieve raised beds and sandpit, and remove all the other plants that I can hopefully find a home for here.

Allotment diary – first of 2009, hooray!

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Am sorely out of shape, and will hurt tomorrow. The sun was shining though, so while everybody else went to the zoo (elephants, bats, monkeys, warthogs, LUNCH), I hit the allotment.
Sowed an optimistic little row of “rainbow” carrot seeds in the raised bed; dug Jerusalem artichokes that we must eat this week. Dug and dug horrible weeds from the area I want for early potatoes; nettle, ground-sodding-elder and some weird spiky things that I think might be raspberries gone bad. And thistles. Oh, the thistles. Cleared armfuls of dried-up weeds into the compost so I can spray soon – organic sensibilities be damned, I just want a fair run at it this year. Covered the designated bean area with some weed membrane as it is actually fairly clear just now and I would prefer it to stay that way. Planted a gooseberry bush that Dave from the next plot had kindly donated, and pruned it and its friend.
When I was too tired to dig any more, I sat in the mud and weeded half of what I still optimistically refer to as the cutting patch (only tulips just now). Hasn’t done much for my manicure.

Harvest, the sequel

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

harvest 160708Another allotment supper: we are having potato salad made with Charlotte potatoes, which are fantastic. I still have half a row of Epicure (“proper” new potatoes), which are absolutely delicious but require about 3 or 4 plants to be dug to get enough for a meal. One plant of Charlotte provided 1.4 kg today! I don’t know whether they are just a more prolific spud or if it is down to the layer of Pete’s special composty manure spread in the bottom of the planting hole. And you can see how lovely they look. Um, sorry, where was I…a potato salad made with Charlotte potatoes, dill and tarragon, and a shallot, all of which were grown with my own fair hands. You can also see some beetroot in there, and some assorted lettuce, which we will eat tomorrow.

Tamsin has learnt no!

Crops and children

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

We had a fine home-grown supper last night: cold roast beef (not from the allotment, clearly), new potatoes, baby carrots, basil and baby courgettes (some with flowers still attached). I felt very proud. Briefly, until I remembered The Weeds. Today, I picked (and ate before anybody else spotted it) the first ripe tomato. I only have two plants this year, after last year’s blight disaster, and am wishing for more. They look nice, tumbling over the sides of the chimneypots I acquired from freecycle.

It’s been very mundane here (hence no blogging). I had my hair cut for the first time in 6 months; we tried again with flapjack; Cameron went on a course; I did some work for the first time in a month. Are there any domestic goddesses out there? It tastes nice but never fails to collapse into crumbs. There must be a trick.

Tamsin is 20 months now, and trying to drop her nap. I remember driving miles with M at this age: with two, I just can’t do it. Nor can I sit upstairs with her for over an hour. If she doesn’t go off nicely, or we are not in the car at an appropriate time, she doesn’t get one. Which doesn’t affect her nights at all (she doesn’t sleep any better if she has it or does not: we wake every couple of hours regardless), probably a sign that she doesn’t really need it. If she has one, she doesn’t go off until 8 or 8.30 in the evening; if she doesn’t, she is grumpy from around 5* but asleep by 7.30. We are being very laid-back about it (apart from my near-unbreakable no sleep after 4 rule); she either has it or she doesn’t. We are managing about 3 a week.

*Currently raging because I put away the paddling pool.

Hit and run

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Conscious that we have about 10 days to go before we go to sunny Scotland for a fortnight, I’ve been engaging in some rapid-fire allotmenteering, dashing down for the hour or so between children-in-bed and too-dark-to-dig. I got my maincrop potatoes in on Saturday – that’s fine, the pack said to plant between March and May so 8.30 pm on the 31st May is well within that window. Percy Thrower would have something to say about my planting method (dig trench in the middle of the weeds, pulling out the worst of the roots. Scatter spud fertilizer; use bulb planter to put potatoes in. Earth up with weed roots) and they are definitely closer together than they should be, as I didn’t have the strength to dig a second trench, but at least they are in and no longer regarding me reproachfully from the windowsill. Last night I flung in some borlotti beans: dug a big hole, filled it with lawn cuttings, back-filled with soil and weeds, put up a wigwam and put the bean plants in. You could almost hear them breathe a sigh of relief as they moved from 1-inch-diameter pots into the ground. They are thigh-high already, poor things. Next year I will sow them later.

Interestingly (to me, anyway) the purple french beans are happy wee things, growing up their poles and the new seeds I sowed have all germinated into nice little plants. The yellow ones, which are supposed to be going up alternate poles to make a lovely stripy wigwam, are pathetic. One has disappeared altogether (I’d blame slugs but my chief suspect is Mike-next-door’s overenthusiastic weedkilling on the path between us). The seeds have either not germinated at all or have come up to be eaten.

My raised bed, however, is a joy and a triumph. I must photograph it before I eat too much of its contents. (The photograph up there, by the way, is not a bouquet but some purple flowering bok choi, which was lovely in last night’s thai-curry-cum-stirfry. Unlike the aspragus which was just wrong.)

Catching up

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I was quite worried yesterday – M went to preschool for the whole day (9-5) and it was just looming over me. I no longer know what to do with just one toddler! What did I used to do when M was 18 months? She had been asking and asking to go, though, curious to know what happens in the afternoons (it turns out that they have sandwiches and play musical statues and it is just great), and I will have to get used to it in September, or 9-3 anyway, so off she went.

T and I actually had a very nice day. We took the bus to town in the morning for a quick coffee/babyccino (I know I was slightly disparaging about Starbucks’ babyccinos last time, but they are free which has to be a good thing) then to the library for “storytime”. Which, oddly, involved musical instruments and songs but only one story. The librarian recognised me and asked if Maggie was in school now, which is always gratifying and makes you feel like you belong (fancy remembering her name!), and we picked up a new book for M – see below. Came home on the bus, quick bite of lunch, then T went off for a nap in the car at the allotment.

I got loads done: dug a nice round pit, filled it with a layer of grass clippings, having watched Joe Swift do exactly that on GW on Friday and persuaded C to cut the grass on Sunday. Put the soil back on top, constructed a fairly shoddy wigwam (having left my string at home) and got the french beans in – alternate yellow and purple all the way round should look really good! Put seeds of both in between the poles, too, to hopefully keep them coming a bit longer. The PSB has flowered, apart from one plant, so I picked the last little shoots from that one and dug two plants up to compost. They are great big tree-like plants which entirely filled my compost bin so the other two will have to wait in the ground until it has rotted down a bit. Picked our first salad for tea – all the seedlings that were in the wrong place – side-effect of having a 4-year-old sow your seeds – plus a couple of pigeon-pecked little gems. Along with the last bits of broccoli made a very nice salad (there’s nothing like fresh leaves).

Came home to make some chicken-liver sauce for pasta then it was time to collect M and not a scrap of housework done!

Now, books. We’ve read the Faraway Tree series to M and she’s really enjoyed it; enjoyed the chapter-by-chapter installments (rather than a book you read all in one go) and the level is just right. I am struggling to find anything similar so any suggestions would be gratefully received. The librarian was most helpful and provided pamphlets and ideas; I came home with an “animal ark” book, which is really too grown up* and an Olga da Polga, which I think might be OK.

*I’ve read the first two chapters and we’ve encountered a son upset because his dad is remarrying: she is only just 4 and really more suited to pop biscuits and fairy spells.

Breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner*

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

I am completely thrilled. I don’t think I have ever won anything in my entire life, ever, yet a great big pile of gardening tools is now standing in my hall, free. I filled in a coupon for a prize draw (not even a proper competition!) in Gardens Monthly magazine and they have very kindly sent me – and 2 other lucky winners – a spade, fork, border spade, border fork, rake, sprung rake, half-moon edgy thing and hoe. Spear and Jackson E series, very shiny, very posh of handle. Quite heavy, maybe, though I will report back properly when I’ve had a go with them (at the moment they are all still wrapped), but sure to be better than the tools I have had for the past 10 years, which were a job lot from Argos. (And have suited very well: I’m not knocking Argos. Apart from the trowel, which is bent and a bit knackered, but I don’t have a replacement for that.)

*(I’m the one who is the winner.)

Plot update

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Some days, allotmenteering with children in tow is a real joy: you feel all earth-mothery and fab. Some days it is hell on earth and you spend the entire time screeching like a harridan as they fight over the tools/throw the lovely compost out of your raised bed/climb on other people’s cold frames (a fantastic combination of breakable glass, poisonous slug pellets and other people’s property)/roll about on other people’s lovely even potato furrows/screech/whinge/climb into the car and turn the radio up really loud then cry in fright. The whinge some more for good measure.

I have come home feeling rather more harrassed than I did before* but secure in the knowledge I have at long last got in my first row of first early potatoes (“epicure”) thanks in no small part to Peter, one of the old boys, who brought up spade and rake and worked for me for over an hour – how kind. I’ve brought home the last 5 white tulips and a bag of purple-sprouting broccoli for tea as well: hooray!

*Which was already quite harrassed, thank you: C is somewhere fabulous near Milan with mountain-and-lake views from his suite; I have a largish deadline tonight; my cleaner has apparently quit, or at least not shown her face since before Easter.


Monday, April 7th, 2008

We had a brilliant week at Centerparc and have come back quite recharged (Cameron especially, with his 2 weeks in the states beforehand, has been out of the office for an unusually long time). If exhausted. Swimming for several hours 5 days running (both Maggie and Mia are really starting to swim); the girls went on a pony trek – Maggie rode Valentino and Mia, Red – and I felt quietly virtuous as I cycled through the forest before 9 am one morning en route to a yoga class. Which was fantastic and left me all stretched and calm (which of course didn’t last 2 minutes but that is not the point) while a bit sad that I can’t find time to do it more regularly: 4 classes since M was born is not a very good rate. I keep toying with the idea of a DVD but realistically I know myself and I will never do it. Oh, and Suzanne and I sloped off to spend an afternoon at the spa. How yummy are we. The children slept like the dead: Maggie and Mia, despite sharing a room, went off without even demanding a story one night!

We got back Friday and spent the weekend mostly pottering. Saturday, I turned the compost in the home bin, which is not yet ready to use. I am still highly suspicious it is feeding some animals, presumably rats. Pulled ground elder out of the rose bed while Cameron tackled the shed and made a large pile of stuff for the tip.
On Sunday I spent a couple of child-free hours at the allotment. It felt surprisingly cosy despite the earlier snow – we only had a scattering – even though at one point I was hailed on.
My first tulips have flowered! Gorgeous creamy-white ones (“purissima”, I think, although they don’t much resemble the description beyond being quite white). All the tulips at the allotment have been carefully selected to go nicely with my decor so I cut the first 5 and brought them home and they do look absolutely fabulous on the mantelpiece. Am very pleased with them (they opened right out through the course of the afternoon then shut back up again at night, too.)

One of my PSBs is finally starting to produce some purple sprouts, which is most exciting. Unlike the other three which remain resolutely green and leafy.

Finished double-digging and manuring the site for my first raised bed, and got it constructed. I am so smug. I need to buy some bags of compost to fill it, as my home-made stuff isn’t there yet, but I can’t tell you how proud I was. Shame I forgot to pack my camera.

Last night we went Out, to see I’m sorry I haven’t a clue. Not a recording; they are touring a kind of greatest hits. Very funny indeed and Sara and Ian, the crack babysitting team, had Tamsin asleep in her own cot by 7.15 where she made not a sound until about midnight (then was up every hour or so all night long: how do they know?)

And today was back to normal(ish) as C had to get to work – in my car – and M had to get to preschool.