Monday, 21 December 2009

The obligatory blog snow photo!

Snow makes everything look so beautiful and pure and clean. However it also makes little birds very cold and hungry and makes little cats (well one of them) poo on Nigel's office floor because she is too cold to go outside!
I had 15 green finches on my bird feeders at one time this morning, and I have to keep going out to de-ice the bird bath so that they have water.
Gladys, the offending little cat, ran around the house miaowing this morning. It was not until she could hold it in no longer that we realised what she had been trying to tell us!
All four cats are off to a cattery for the first time on Wednesday when Nigel and I go off to our favourite place in the world - Shingle Street - for Xmas. It's our first Xmas without Stoofer and Callie is also staying in Brighton, so we'll be on our own in a bleak, desolate and spookily magical place. It's also where we sprinkled Stoofer's ashes so he'll be with us in spirit.
I'm loading up with books, knitting projects and sketch books and am going to use the time away to truly relax and stop thinking about work!
If I don't post again until after the festive season, many blessings to anyone who reads this and have a good Xmas.

Saturday, 5 December 2009


The recent heavy rainfall has almost filled the pond. We tidied up the liner and have edged it with some bricks and spare tiles.
Tomorrow I'll take some oxygenating weed down and put it in. I'll see if I can find any water snails in our pond at home too and take a couple down.
We've netted the pond for the time being as there are still some leaves to come off the trees from the neighbouring hazel patch and some of the large trees behind our plot.
We've left space for the frogs and newts to get under the tiles though if they want to.
I think this is going to look great once we get some plants going around the margins.
The next job is now to get the third bed edged with wood planking. It'll be the last big job of the winter, to get it ready for planting in the spring.
What a great cycle! It's not until you start growing things seriously that you become aware of how you are always planning ahead to the next job to do in preparation for the next and the next...
I am also coveting my neighbour's half plot. They don't seem to have been to it since August, so have flagged up with the allotment secretary that if they give in their notice at the end of the year that I would be interested in taking it on. If I had the additional space, it would give me sufficient room to put in a permanent fruit patch as well as extra space for veggies.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

More rain

It's raining raining raining and I am feeling guilty that I haven't texted my husband to offer him a lift home from work.
I have just driven home from Woodbridge through crocodile puddles and just can't face going out there again.
I bet the pond is filling nicely though!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Saturday, 28 November 2009

I like this photo

Taken by Nigel from the pond hole

How sandy?

This morning was spent pond digging. About 20cm into the top soil we (well Nigel) hit pure sand. I always knew that our soil was really sandy, but didn't realise to what extent. The road that the alloments run off is, I think, the course of an old river, and we do have underground springs apparently on the allotment site.
After digging out the hole and putting the liner in place we excitedly went to fill the pond only to find that the water supply had been switched off for the winter! Oh well, we'll have to watch it fill up bit bit with rainwater.
It actually feels much more like November today, so I have got a soup of sweet potato, leek, butternut squash, carrot, parsnip, ginger, garlic and chilli on the go - a real winter warmer!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

I got up early this morning and went down to the allotment with my leaf rake and onion hoe. I raked up most of the fallen leaves and put them into a great jute 'leaf moulder' sack. It was really huge which surprised me and probably had as much room in it as the conventional chicken wire one that I have in the garden.
Not so nice was the quantity of cat pooh that I found underneath the leaves! I also found my thick gardening gloves, partially decomposed, as well. Unfortunate, as I needed them as I was pulling up nettles from round the edges of the beds. I'm now typing this with tingly hands.
came home with my harvest of curly kale and broccoli to listen to the Archers and make a big brunch.
The rain hasn't hit here yet, so we'll hopefully get out for a walk this afternoon.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

We did go

Heritage seeds

I went to the allotment in the wind and rain this morning to take up the pumpkin plants and dig over that bed.
I harvested some lovely kale and the first of the purple sprouting broccoli.
The only other allotmenteer there today has given me some seeds from the heritage seed library to grow and then to pass on.
He also gave me some perennial strawberries which are very late fruiting and tolerate shade, so I put these in at the top of the bed that I had just dug.
It's now one of those lovely autumn days with squally wind and rain - just right for a walk by the sea this afternoon - I wonder if Nigel can be persuaded?
However I have also just lit the woodburner so it could also be just right for sitting knitting and reading!

Pumpkin night

Callie reminded me last night that a few years ago we didn't have any pumpkins so I carved a turnip instead.

City life

I am not a city girl, but I recognise that at times the city can be a thing of great beauty.
Watching darkness fall from the outside of the members area of Tate Modern whilst enjoying a glass of good wine was one of those magical moments.

An allotment of colour, image and type

On Friday I went with Nigel and some of his students to the Design Museum to see the Mariscal exhibition. It was truly inspirational.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Granny to be

My beautiful daughter is due to be having her own beautiful daughter in March next year.
Does it make me feel old? - Yes; does this make me feel scared? - Yes, does this make me feel proud that she can take life in her stride and make adult decisions when faced with circumstances that she has not planned? - Emphatically Yes
I love my daughter unconditionally and she, along with Nigel, is the magic sparkle in my life.
She will be a great and wise mother, I hope that I can do them both justice in my role as Granny.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Worms for tea

Well not really (udon noodles)...It does remind me though of digging the allotment. The soil is really healthy. Every fork load brings up at least three or four worms.
We took Callie and Mum and Dad T down to the allotment yesterday. We noticed that some of the purple sprouting is ready to start harvesting yum!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

new bed and boys ready for bed

Neighbourhood dispute

Nigel's band, Pindown, have a gig coming up in December (details are on his blog). This has stimulated some discussion between us as the venue that the promoter has arranged is not accessible to some people with physical disabilities.
Our discussions have got me thinking more generally about the lack of music venues in Ipswich and the fact that some of those that do exist are not fully accessible.
Last night we went to an excellent Peppery Productions gig at the Manor Ballroom. A friend of mine was there who usually uses a wheelchair but who was last night getting about with crutches.
She, and many other people that I know personally and professionally are excluded from participating in the enjoyment of live music because of the inadequacies of some venues.
This is often out of the control of the owners, who, although having requirements to make reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act,are sometimes unable to because of cost implications or the nature of their building.
Bands are therefore forced to compromise in order to play gigs.
I don't know of any bands (except any in the Screwdriver mode) that would play a venue that excluded people on the basis of their religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation - so why are bands still playing venues that are, by default, excluding people on the basis of their disability?

Nigel's carpentry skills

I can't upload the photos yet as my phone is in the dock - playing my favourite Lou Rhodes album and I can't bear to switch it off - but Nigel built the new raised bed today. It looks really good.
I got on with planting more onions, harvesting butternut squash and clearing where they had been growing. The bonus was that I had time to weed half of the brassica bed as well, which was much needed and unexpected.
We got home and as the temperature has dropped today I lit our first fire of the season. The back room is now really cosy - a good book, good few cats, good music and glass of good wine are adding to the ambience.
Only downside to the day is that I have got to start the sleeve of my coat (knitting project) again due to my failure to interpret the pattern correctly...grrrrr.
I will post photo soon.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Garlic and sciatica

Dug bed one over at the weekend and then dug it over again and was still pulling out bindweed roots! However got garlic and autumn onion sets in on Sunday. I love growing garlic and it is a bit of an experiment planting it this early, but have read that it can encourage bigger bulb growth.
I have had bloomin' sciatica since last Tuesday and it is now beginning to get on my nerves (no pun intended!). It probably was not helped though by the weekend digging and bending over planting - but on balance I'd rather have a life than sit around not doing things just because they might hurt.

Monday, 21 September 2009


Ready for burning on our lovely new Clearview wood burner.


Lovely old french terracotta tiles - sadly not very frost proof.

Weekend work

Saturday was a hard day physically. We got up to our annual log delivery. They are left on the road outside the house so Nigel had to transport about 20 wheelbarrow loads round to the back garden whilst I loaded them all into the log store - back breaking work.
In the afternoon we went to the allotment - Nigel removed all the old tiles from bed four. This is going to become the allium bed, and we are going to put a pond in at the back of this part of the plot.
I retired the courgette plants to the compost heap and dug over bed one - pulling out the bindweed roots by the handful! I've got some field beans to overwinter in this bed, to be dug in as green manure in the spring.

Butternut squash!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Courgette loaves

Just got them out of the oven! I'll give them a few minutes to cool down then take the taste test!

Glutney phase two

I can't believe how different the plot looks now to how it was when we first took it on. I've looked back over the old images and am quite amazed by the progress.
Yesterday I made another 8lbs of courgette and tomato chutney, and I have just put two loaf tins of courgette cake in the oven. It smells glorious already. I found a recipe which also includes banana, and as I had a bunch of mushy bananas in the fruit bowl, it has put them to good use.
The recipe was also quite heavy on sugar and oil so I have reduced these quite significantly, and included some soya milk as extra moisture. I think it'll be ok, but the proof, as they say, will be in the eating!

Monday, 31 August 2009

Pumpkins and knitting

Nigel and I took a break at Towersey folk festival this weekend. We had never been before and it was thoroughly enjoyable - if slightly windy for the first couple of days. We came home yesterday so that we got a day back at home to relax before going back to work on Tuesday.
My day started by cooking a 'Claire mega veggie breakfast'. I then started on my autumn knitting project - a coat in a merino/cashmere mix yarn which arrived whilst I was away. I only got as far as 11 rows though, all done on 9mm needles, as I discovered that my 10mm needles were not really long enough, so I'll need to get some more - what hardship!
Then off to the allotment...weeded around my poor old leeks who were in danger of being choked and redug the area where I'd taken the sweetcorn up ready for some green manure when the courgettes have finished. I'd planned to pull them up today, but they're still productive so will leave them for another week. This afternoon it's time for another round of glutney making if I can find some where to get some extra jars.
The best thing about the allotment at the moment are the pumpkins and butternut squash which are coming on a treat. I'm very excited as I've never had the room to grow pumpkins before. Will mark their progress in pictures on my next entry!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


The courgette overload is well and truly underway. Nigel went and picked some more this evening (I am feeling sorry for myself with flu-like symptoms).
The great news is that I have the best courgette chutney recipe ever thanks to Hugh Fearnley Whitingstall writing in the Guardian magazine a couple of years ago. My vegetarian sensibilities used to be offended by him but I have developed an increased respect for him - especially over the last few years.
So thanks Hugh, the preserving pan awaits!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

New border

In the mid-day heat, as most other people were relaxing enjoying the annual Ip-Art 'music in the park' festival, we spent three hours at the allotment.
Nigel, who is such a star, removed the old frost damaged tiles from bed one and built a new wooden frame.
I spent my time digging out root upon root of bindweed and pulling up mares tail.
We've been so knackered since that we've been virtually incapable of speech and movement.
A sign of how bad we are is that we have just been sitting watching 'The long kiss goodnight' on Five- its a pretty awful film, only made bearable by spotting actors who now appear is the various CSI franchises.
However, I digress. I also planted curly kale in the brassica bed - after removing a cabbage white who had found its way in.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

List of things to take tomorrow

Drill and bits
Lump hammer
Spirit level
Curly kale plants (for planting)
Water (for drinking)

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Dragging out old news

I found this article linked from the front page of the BBC news website. It is written by someone who had an allotment in the 1970s and who gave it up within the first year.
Whilst I know that a proportion of people are unable to maintain the commitment to their allotments for a a variety of reasons, and that they will normally last less than a year, I found it amusing that they couldn't find someone with a more recent experience to write about it!
Having taken over a very neglected plot I know that feeling in your stomach when you haven't been for a couple of days and you have to spend half an hour or so digging up bindweed and mares tail before you can even think about doing anything with the planting.
However, the best tip I can give is to divide the plot into manageable chunks and not expect to be able to do everything all at once. I still have two beds covered with black plastic and that is how they will stay now until next year.
I have planted strong, ground covering plants which will hopefully block out some weed growth. The courgette leaves are now covering most of bed one, and the nasturtiums I planted are also sprawling well.
If you have an allotment, don't lose heart. Hang on to the reasons why you took it on in the first place, and balance the small time commitment against the ability to produce fresh, organic and very, very local food for you and your family.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Penny's leeks

Thanks Penny! The leek and potato soup will be on us this winter.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Ready for first harvest!


I planted some more purple sprouting this morning and have left some space for the curly kale that I have got coming on in the greenhouse. I then built a net cage over the brassica space.
In bed three I planted butternut squash and pumpkins.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

CSI Ipswich

I feel like the Sarah Sidell of the allotment (I am not glamorous enough to be the Catherine Willows). I am reopening cold cases, redigging areas that have already been dug, and removing the evidence of pernicious weeds.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


I hate airplanes. I dislike their pollution. I dislike their noise. I particularly dislike military aircraft with their role in war and destruction. Airplanes scare me. I have never flown and never want to.
How then did I end up on the allotment this morning gazing up at the sky in awe as the flypast for the Queen's birthday (why does she have two?) went overhead. I almost felt excitement as the Red Arrows went past. Perhaps I am turning into a boy?!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

The Diggers song

Never forget the roots (no pun intended) of allotmenting. I often sing the Diggers' Song to remind me of the great tradition I'm following. These are the lyrics used by the great Chumbawamba from the album English rebel Songs.

You noble diggers all stand up now, stand up now 
You noble diggers all stand up now 
The wasteland to maintain sin (?) cavaliers by name 
Your digging does maintain and persons all defame 
Stand up now, stand up now 
Your houses they pull down stand up now, stand up now 
Your houses they pull down, stand up now 
Your houses they pull down to fright your men in town 
But the gentry must come down and the poor shall wear the crown 
Stand up now diggers all 
With spades and hoes and plows stand up now, stand up now 
With spades and hoes and plows, stand up now 
Your freedom to uphold sin (?) cavaliers are bold 
To kill you if they could and rights from you to hold 
Stand up now diggers all 
The gentry are all round stand up now, stand up now 
The gentry are all round stand up now 
The gentry are all round on each side the are found 
Their wisdom so profound to cheat us of our ground 
Stand up now stand up now 
The lawyers they conjoin stand up now stand up now 
The lawyers they conjoin stand up now 
To rescue they advise, such fury they devise, the devil in them lies 
And hath blinded both their eyes 
Stand up now, stand up now 
The clergy they come in stand up now, stand up now 
The clergy they come in stand up now 
The clergy they come in and say it is a sin 
That we should now begin our freedom for to win 
Stand up now diggers all 
'Gainst lawyers and 'gainst priests stand up now stand up now 
'Gainst lawyers and 'gainst priests stand up now 
For tyrants they are both, even flat against their oath 
To grant us they are loathe free meat and drink and cloth 
Stand up now diggers all 
The club is all their law, stand up now stand up now 
The club is all their law, stand up now 
The club is all their law, to keep all men in awe 
That they no vision saw to maintain such a law 
Stand up now diggers all 

Last (wo)man standing

I got to the allotment this morning just as it was starting to rain and Ali, my neighbour was trying to decide whether or not to use the hose on her plot as the ground was so dry. The rain didn't seem to be having much effect at that stage. After about half an hour Andy from 'across the way' turned up with his two kids and very white dog.
I got on with clearing bindweed, watered my sweetcorn and, having released some bricks from bed three, finally got down to covering bed five with black plastic. As all this was going on the rain was getting harder and harder. Ali left, quickly followed by Andy and his brood and all the other allotmenteers, leaving me with the rain running into my pants, digging away.
After I realised that every inch of me was soaked to the skin, I also gave up and went home. I stood on the doorstep dripping and called to Nigel to help me get out of my clothes. His retort was "On a Sunday? What would the vicar say"! 
A hot shower and hot breakfast (pictured on Nigel's blog) later I felt back to normal.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Anniversaries, good byes and badgers

On Friday night Nigel and I went on a badger watch. It was a great experience. My previous sightings of live badgers (rather than those lying dead at the side of the road) have been few and at a great distance.
Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and we sprinkled Stoofer's ashes at Shingle Street. He was our "best dog" at our wedding so we thought that this was an appropriate time to perform the ritual farewell to him. It was a beautiful day and we carried him across the stones for one last time and scattered him on the beach where he loved to bumble around. It felt right.
In the evening we danced to "our song" as the sun went down - we're such a corny couple - The Ship Song by Nick Cave and the Badseeds.
I love my husband very much and he makes me feel complete - he' s also about the only person that ever reads my blog!


I can not under estimate the therapeutic value of sticking your hands into the earth, planting things and watching them grow. However stiff and sore I end up after a digging session, the actual act of digging stretches out long underused muscles and provides an all round good workout for body and mind.
If I am at the allotment on my own I can get in to an almost meditative state or use the time to mull over those things that have been niggling at me - I can take out any aggression that arises on those stubborn lumps of couch grass.
The last few weeks I have been really troubled by some significant pain in my left foot and my lumbar spine, but I have made myself continue with the work on the allotment. I am really glad that I have done so. It would be all too easy to stay at home wilting on the sofa with a "woe is me, I can't do that" attitude, but getting out there and getting lost in the myriad of tasks facing me makes me forget the pain and it is not until I start hobbling back home that I notice it again.
I honestly believe that getting the allotment is the best thing I have done in ages. It touches me on practical, political and spiritual levels.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


The soil is so light and sandy, the planting holes had just about back filled themselves after I had watered the leeks in.

Time flies

I spent a couple of hours at the allotment this morning and just didn't notice the time passing despite the rain. I planted globe artichokes and leeks. I also put some asparagus peas in a trench in bed one and dotted about some nasturtiums.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Birthday worm

My work colleagues bought me this worm for my birthday, so it is now in place heading towards my climbing beans. I'm just hoping that the slugs and snails don't use it as a bridge to reach my plants!
New plantings include purple sprouting broccoli in bed two and a couple of butternut squash at the top of bed three. I cleared a small space, added plenty of manure and planted into some cardboard.
The rain is just stopping as I write this, so will head off back to the allotment later.

Saturday, 16 May 2009


The pigeons and crows were looking at this rather hungrily when we left....I might have to put some fleece over it to protect it from being pecked.

Planting and paths!

Nigel and I did a couple of runs with the wood chippings this morning and got the other two main paths finished off. This just leaves the one at the back which I might do with all the stones that I am pulling out of the beds and the garden here.
After lunch I went down with Liz and got the sweetcorn and courgettes in! I feel like a real allotment holder now. We also got bed two totally dug over. It's going to need quite a few more digs before anything goes in it as it was much heavier going than bed one - mainly because of all the nettles. However the soil is really sandy and so it makes it really easy going. I don't think I would be able to have got to grips with such an overgrown site if we were working in a heavy clay soil.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Question: When is digging not digging?

Answer: when it is shovelling.
Nigel has reprimanded me for moaning about having hurt my back after I had been to the osteopath, and is holding me to my statement in the previous posting about digging before my appointment not afterwards. However, my defence is that I did the damage shoveling compost and bark chippings in to bags, and that this does not constitute digging.
I may have to consult Anthony - the legal eagle about the validity of my case!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Drunk students

Dropped in to the allotment for 45 minutes on my way home from work after a drunk student had staggered out of the SU bar and into the side of my car (how poetic!). She managed to take my side mirror off in the process. I stopped to check that she was ok, and then went on to the allotment (which I had knocked off work early to do anyway).
Dug over bed one again - still bringing up thick couch grass root and at least half a dozen more potatoes! I then raked it over.
I also cut down the grass growing round the edges of the beds and along the front - heavy work with just a pair of shears. I also started to clear leaves out of the water butt which was a very smelly job, and did a second dig over part of bed two. I would have done so more clearing of that bed but didn't have any gloves with me and there are a lot of stingers in there.
I'm off work tomorrow and have an osteopath appointment at 11.30, so it might be appropriate for me to go and do a bit more digging before I go there, rather than afterwards!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

On the bench

I finally got to the the Diss auction rooms today to pick up the bench that I bought a couple of weeks ago. Nigel and I took it up the allotment this evening in the pouring rain, it's going to be a great place to sit to watch the sun go down.
I also bought a couple of fantastic potato/beet forks. They've been kept in really beautiful condition - the handles are wooden and have obviously benefited from regular oiling.
Whilst at the allotments I noticed that a few people have started to plant out their courgettes, mine are in the cold frame at the moment, so hopefully they'll be no late frosts, and if I can get bed one manured in the next couple of days, I may take them down at the weekend.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Bed one dug!

Liz and I spent a couple of hours digging and gossiping hard this morning (it makes the time go quicker and the work seem easier!).
Bed one is now totally dug out and bed two has been cleared back about another half a metre.
The plan now is do another forensic dig over of bed one to remove any remaining weed roots snd then to get the sweetcorn that I've got hardening off in the garden into a block at the end of bed one - probably planted through cardboard to keep the weed growth down.
I've got beans that can go in as well and some courgettes, which will give some good ground cover.
Some one suggested clearing a small area at the end of one of the covered beds and putting some squash in there and let them sprawl over the plastic which is a great idea.
It feels like a real achievement to get this first bed cleared. Splitting the tasks down into manageable bite size chunks has been really successful.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


My soul mate.
Walking with him can be slow progress though because of all his 'camera stops'.
I've just noticed the sky in this photo (taken last weekend at Hemley) - lovely.

Sky TV

Tonight a film crew were at the allotments filming an article for Sky news to be shown at the weekend. I was filmed shaking dirt from the roots of a clump of couch grass and was told by the camera man that it was the 'money shot' - perhaps this means that I was exposing more than just my weeds!
I've got my first allotment blisters as well, and I'm sure my ability to walk will be impeded tomorrow! Bed one is now about 60% cleared, so I should be able to get it finished and some beans in at the weekend (if I can walk again by then!). Picking up the bench tomorrow and hopefully Berni and Penny coming to pay the allotment a visit at the weekend.
How great to look forward to the weekend so much, for more reasons than it is 'not a work day'. Allotmenteering is cathartic as well, it helps to balance the pain of the loss of Stoofer a bit at the moment.

The labour of my fruits

Last weekend was productive. I spent just over an hour digging out bed one on Sunday. Mares tail, couch grass, bindweed and bloody potatoes! Hundreds of the buggers to dig out and they have thrown my plot rotation plans out!
Soil is just fab though.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The new enemy...

We used to have a rabbit who had the free run of our garden who took great delight in eating what ever I was growing. Anything she didn't like to eat she pulled out of the ground anyway and her best trick was pulling up plastic row markers and tossing them in the air over her shoulder. To help me combat her effect, Nigel bought me a great book called 'Gardening with the enemy'.
My other existing enemies are slugs and snails - I've always thought that nature got it wrong when cats evolved to catch birds, it would be much better if they would catch slugs and snails. However the combination of a healthy pond with newts, toads and frogs, and a resident hedgehog have really helped keep the s&s population in the garden manageable.
Today's visit to the allotment though has brought a new enemy - one more ancient and menacing - mare's tail. I have had never had to deal with this before. Couch grass, bindweed, ground elder are all familiar and therefore defeatable, but mare's tail, that survivor from pre history....
Being totally organic, glyphosate is out of the question, so I'll just keep digging it out and digging it out and digging it out..(and on and on).
There's loads of good news though, Nigel got the compost bins sorted and into some kind of order; I got a second bed covered over with black plastic and got the final path dug out and contained. I just need to wait on another delivery of wood chippings to get it finished totally. The best news of all though is that I was the successful bidder for a bench at the monthly auction of rural and domestic bygones so we'll have somewhere to sit!
We also bumped into a couple of old comrades from our anti fascist activity days and also our old next door neighbours who have taken on the plot that we turned down in favour of the one we've got, so it feels like a really comfortable community there.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Butley creek

My legs will pay the price tomorrow but after lunch Flo, Nigel and I walked down to Butley Creek and up to the top of Burrow Hill.
Just how beautiful is this?



Progress and paths!

We have made real progress over the weekend. A 20 minute visit yesterday gave me time to take back most of the growth with my newly sharpened shears, and our friend Brian - never to be left alone with a weedy plot and a fork - frantically cleared the area around the rhubarb and beyond, rescuing some alliums (welsh onions?) in the process. I've now got stuff to remember to water!
Today I went down at 8am as I had spotted that there had been a bark chippings delivery and I wasn't sure how long the pile would last. I got the first path lined and bark filled quickly and then went home to cook breakfast for Nigel and his Mum, Flo.
Liz and I then spent another couple of hours at the allotment, she carried on path clearing and I did numerous trips to and from the chippings pile, and by lunchtime we had two finished paths plus one of the beds entirely covered out in black plastic.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Stoof the dog ? - 20.4.2009

Yesterday we had to say "Good bye" to our beloved little dog. He had been our friend and companion for almost nine years. Occasionally bullied by the cats and loved by every one who met him he was a dog of exceptional character.
He had taken us on great journeys during his life with us, and there is now a small yorkshire terrier shaped hole in our lives.
He was a small dog with a big heart (literally as it turned out). He had an amazing sense of humour and gave us unconditional and sometimes undeserved love and devotion.
Nigel and I are in the mercurial spasms of grief - going from laughter to tears in seconds. Trying to remember the walks, the holidays and the people that we shared with him. Sometime soon we'll share those memories but at the moment they feel so precious that we are holding on to them for ourselves.
The house misses him, I think that the cats even miss him and I can truly say that he has changed our lives forever - in his coming, his being with us and his going. We will never forget him.

Snake in the grass

We found a slow worm hiding under a piece of old corrugated metal in one of the beds. I know it's not really a snake, but a leg less lizard - must be the wine! It's been moved to the compost heap now.

Liz (pictured) and I went to the allotment on Sunday and starting work finding and clearing the paths between the beds. We have got three paths clear and have put a temporary covering down of black plastic to be replaced by some better weed suppressant textile at the weekend. We also cleared the area in front of the compost heaps which now gives us much better access. We also hauled out old bits of brick and rubble from the bed, which we've put to good use holding down the path coverings at the moment.
Just to make me feel like there is actually something growing, I rescued some shallots from one of the beds and cleared a small space to put them in!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Thursday, 16 April 2009


I went to the allotment today to drop off some tools and a large quantity of cardboard that was left over from our non-house move (long story!) last year. I put some hooks up in the shed, hung up some trugs and a pair of scissors, and squeezed the padlock onto the shed door, which is just about off its hinges anyway.

I found a couple of rhubarb plants hiding in the couch grass, so unchoked them a bit and will do a better job at the weekend.

There was no one else about at all this afternoon. When I got there a jay was being chased away from a nest by a couple of blackbirds. It was amazingly quiet despite being only about 50m away from a really busy road.

I've started a pile of 'useful stuff' by the shed - bricks and odd bits of rubble to hold down the plastic sheeting, and some wire frames I found stuffed by the compost heaps.

On close examination past custodians of the plot have created five beds about 3m x 1m, edged with old roofing tiles. The neighbouring plot which looks great is laid out in the exactly the same way, so they were obviously a single plot at one time. This gives me a great head start as I can work on one bed at a time whilst leaving the others to rot down. My plan is to dig out as much of the couch grass as possible in bed one, then cover with cardboard, straw and then weed suppressing textile, and plant some maincrop potatoes through the textile. The main job for this year will be to clear the paths and get them up to scratch.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The beginning

My love of growing vegetables started at a young age. My grandparents had a plot of about half an acre, most of it was dedicated to the pigs, chickens and occasional sheep that they kept, but there was a small orchard and large vegetable garden, as well as my Granny's pride and joy - her neatly tended summer bedding beds. The vegetable garden was hidden away behind the large laurel hedge that gave their house its name.
I spent school holidays and long weekends with them and after feeding the chickens and the pigs my favourite pastime was to help Grandad in the garden. I spent hours going to and from the massive zinc water butt with a galvanised steel watering can and was often put to work planting potatoes in deep trenches (always following the line) or earthing up the celery that he loved growing and that always did really well in his sandy Suffolk soil.
Summer tea times always included home grown tomatoes, celery and cucumbers with the thick skin cut off and I always remember the musty smell in the large disused garage that was the apple store. There were wooden benches all the way round on which the apples were laid out. Another of my tasks was to remove any that had started showing signs of rot.
My other Grandfather was also a keen gardener, he had a small but productive vegetable garden at the back of his council house and again I was always a willing helper in the many hours that I spent there.
My Dad still tends his vegetable garden in the same way that his father did, but Mum enjoys her ornamental plants and will pull out the occasional weed but does not realy have a passion for it. I suppose for her being brought up in the countryside with a large plot was something that she wanted to escape from. She enjoys town life much more.
My early 'grower' role models were all male with one notable exception, my Godmother. She still lives in her little cottage just down the road from where my Grandparents lived, she sold off some of the land to a neighbour a few years ago, but still manages a medium size garden and also provides gardening services in the village despite having failing eyesight due to a degenerative condition. She has, I think, the greenest fingers of anyone that I have ever met.
Over the past few years I have helped to move the back garden of my house from being a flat lawn to a thriving growing area attractive to wildlife. We have a great small pond created by my partner who has a love of making ponds. Almost as soon as it was filled newts moved in as though some public announcement was made of its presence. I have five raised beds where I grow a range of veg, a green roofed shed and the heart of my industry, my 8 x 4 greenhouse.
I've now run out of space and had been on the waiting list for the allotments about five minutes walk away for the last 3-4 years until last weekend when I was offered my prized 3.5 rod plot!
It has at least a year's worth of weed growth, the ground is uneven, there seems to be a mass of detritus under the weeds, I have had four discs removed from my spine, have osteo arthritis in my neck, a neurological condition and keloid scarring between my shoulder blades that pulls like fury every time I stretch - but what the hell, I am really excited! Nervous yes, but excited. I am trying to keep calm and realistic, and instead of picturing a thriving green plot, I am trying to keep the vision of a mass of black plastic in my mind. Better people than me have given up by trying to do to much too soon and become frustrated by their lack of progress and losing battle against the weeds.
Onwards though, the campaign starts at the weekend.