Monday, 6 July 2015

Taking time to smell the flowers!

Sometimes life is stressful...
Sometimes it all seems too much.
Sometimes I don't know how to fit it all in. Recently I've been juggling with a new full-time job, teenagers fretting about GCSEs and A Levels and Life, teenagers acting up, a house to keep on top of, neglected relatives and friends, a tired, stressed husband, broken toilets, too much month at the end of the money...
Sometimes the list of things keeping me awake seems endless.

Making lists, planning, vowing to be more organised, trying to chivvy the rest of the family into doing their bit will only get me so far.

Sometimes I just need to 'be'.
To be mindful. To be aware and enjoy the scents and the sounds and the sights of Outside.
To find time to sit in the sun. To literally smell the flowers. To breeeeeeaaaaaaathe!

Saturday, 18 April 2015


Spring haul from the plot.
It's been a busy old time for me, since I last posted.

A new full-time job makes it hard to find time, let alone head-space, to sit and write.
 Any spare time has been devoted to keeping on top of the plot - both allotment and in life generally!

But the sun has returned and with it, some of my energy and enthusiasm.
Broad beans, garlic, onions, spinach, parsnips and peas are poking shoots through the earth. I have an eager clutch of tomato plants and sweetcorn seedlings waiting to planted out.

 Rhubarb's red spears are crying out to be harvested.  We're using up the last of the leeks and curly kale and my purple-sprouting broccoli is just coming into season.

I've also been enjoying some hedgerow cookery; my perennial early spring favourite -  nettle soup - has been made and consumed, and as I type this, a curry of nettle, goosegrass and wild garlic-mustard, chickpea and sweet potato is simmering, filling the house full of spice and making me feel ridiculously hungry.

I'm also looking at recipes using these delicious weeds as spinach-substitute in spinakopita.
There is surely little more satisfying than turning 'pesty' plants into produce!

And tomorrow, I'm looking forward to the luxury of spending a good few hours, pootling and pottering in the sunshine on my beloved plot.
The pond area comes into its own in Sring

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Bramble ramble...

Of all the seasonal traditions, blackberry picking has to be one of my personal favourites.
Anyone can do it. It's free, it's productive, it's healthy, it doesn't celebrate anyone's death, or terrorise elderly neighbours. It's just you, a bramble bush, a bag and a delicious, versatile fruity treat.
Ah blackberries - that most egalitarian of crops. Accessible to almost everyone, regardless of where you live, with no specialist tools needed to gather or process. 
Almost everyone knows a good blackberry bush. As long as it's not next to a very busy road, they will be fine to eat. (It's maybe a good idea to avoid branches at dog level too ;) )
 I love filling my face as I pick, revelling in that sharp, earthy sun-ripened sweetness! It appeals to my womanly-multi-tasking ethos to go and enjoy the early Autumn weather, to go for a little ramble, and return home with the means to produce all manner of delicious things - jams, cakes, pies, crumbles, wine, liqueurs, sorbets and sponges. And they're full of fibre and vitamins too.
Even a humble bun mixture can be enhanced by the addition of one plump blackberry in the middle of each filled bun case, ready to explode in the mouth with a tangy jam when the bun is eaten! 
I have a lovely, thriving spineless blackberry bush on my allotment. But though the fruits are huge, dark and glossy, the taste just can't compete with its wilder cousins. So every dog walk means I take a tub out, for more free goodies from the field and hedgerow.
Today I'm freezing some for winter desserts. Just as soon as I can stop my boys from eating the tubful I picked this morning...

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Who knows where the time goes?

I'm a bad blogger - Summer months have sped away and the year is on the turn.
I've managed to completely miss blogging for June, July and most of August.
I've not been idle though; I've grown and eaten - broad beans, rocket, beetroot, French beans, runner beans, tomatoes, chillies, blackcurrants, potatoes, celery, raspberries, spinach, peas, potatoes, courgettes, squash, strawberries, blackberries, cabbage, and Victoria plums.
I've picked endless sweet peas, goldenrod, marigolds, lavender and verbena for instant colour at home. And used ample handfuls of chives, marjoram, thyme, sage, mint, parsley and oregano in my cooking.
I even wasted a happy couple of hours in the rainy days to paint some markers (pictured below!)
I'm so grateful to have my plot - it provides me with free food, fresh air, exercise, head-space, friendly faces and inspiration.

Friday, 2 May 2014

May the Earth Force be with you

This spiral is by my pond
We may as get something straight before I continue.
I am a hippy!
 I am middle aged, married, 2 children, mortgage, job, sensible shoes, no tattoos or piercings and a nice handbag full of useful things like safety pins, painkillers and hand-cream. I'm not veggie. I favour Yorkshire Teabags over Chai.
 But I am a hippy. Always have been, always will be.
It's a bit of a double life. Mostly hidden. Years ago I wisely decided against calling my children Oak and River and opted for under the radar names. (to be fair, hormones probably played a big part in those name choices!)
The tie-dye hasn't ventured out of the attic for many years.  I don't own anything with fringing any more. Our campervan is plain black and has no flower stickers or peace signs anywhere. I haven't attempted to weave anything with lentils recently. Yoga is a fitness choice, rather than a spiritual path.
But none the less I am a hippy. A tree-hugger. A daisy-chain maker. Why, only last May Day I was dancing round a maypole at a Beltane festival, with flowers in my hair.....
I like to be outside as much as possible, I am solar powered. I walk barefoot when practical. (There are at least 3 people who call me as Moonie-Poo-Foot after a reckless barefoot incident in  a festival field which had previously been enthusiastically used by cows.)
 Most of all, I commune with nature.
 I don't wear gardening gloves, I like to FEEL the earth in my hands, to gauge the warmth and soak up the energy of the earth!
 I like to sit with my arse on the warm bark at the allotment and Smell. Listen. Watch. And just Be. (man!)

We all know gardening is supposed to be great for stress relief. It is, I know!
But I recently learned from a friend that there are various health claims for walking barefoot, and apparently even scientific research to back this up.
It's not just plain old walking barefoot. It's called Earthing and relates specifically to walking barefoot outside on soil, grass, sand - any natural surface.
The health benefits come from the relationship between our bodies and the electrons in the earth. The planet has its own natural charge and we humans seem to do better when we're in direct contact with it. studies have found Earthing changes the electrical activity in the brain, and can benefit moderated heart rate, improve glucose regulation, reduce stress and improve immunity. 
Well I can't walk barefoot on my allotment - too many sharp, ouchy things! But I guess there must be similar benefits from plunging my hands into the earth; feeling the connection, hand weeding round those tiny seedlings, crumbling the rich soil between my hands.
And of course, hand picking my own veg on a sunny day!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Blighted by failure

Here's the thing.
I have had allotments for more than a decade. I love growing stuff. Mostly I manage to make stuff grow! But I am hopeless at growing potatoes....
I always have an excuse - it's too hot. It's too cold. It's too humid. my soil is too clay. Too acidic. Not acidic enough. They were cheap seed potatoes. But actually, between ourselves, I just don't seem to have the knack.
Every year I try a different method. Trenches, wrapping them in newspaper, manuring, not manuring,  throwing in a few slug pellets.....
Doesn't make any difference.
 My potatoes get blight or refuse stubbornly to flower. Or some horrible beastie puts precise holes all the way through the middle of each potato. Or slugs just gorge themselves on the whole crop.
Bwwwahahaha lads, she's going to try growing us again!
Now, don't talk to me about your fancy-pants potato-sack growing system, they DO work and i have managed to grow a couple of pounds worth of salad spuds in them but they are more of a ''grow something on your patio'' sort of thing. And don't flaunt your lovely raised beds at me - I don't have the money to buy them or the expertise to make them.
I have an old-school allotment, with masses of soily space, crying out to be filled with row upon row of perfect potatoes.
But come harvesting time, I am always doomed to disappointment.
On the other plots all over the allotment, people gleefully wheel their barrowfuls of perfect pink-blushed potatoes, super-sized spuds and beautifully brown bakers, ready to store over winter and help fulfill that fantasy of urban self-sufficiency.... Not me. Ah no. I manage a panful of pathetically tiny, stunted ones which will be the size of marbles by the time I have pared the damaged bits off.
Then - no matter what variety I go for - the potato will remain rock hard when cooking before suddenly in a split second, reducing to mush.
The other month I bought a massive sack of potatoes in a well-known discount supermarket for £3.99. We are still wading through them and they have proved fabulously versatile in cooking.
Perfect potatoes - The Dream.....
I compare that to the £5.99 I have spent on 20 seed potatoes - guaranteed to be blight-free, eel worm free, easy to be grown by idiots. They even helpfully enclose a How To guide.
I have read it carefully and in a triumph of optimism over experience, planted them out yesterday on Good Friday, in keeping with gardener tradition.
I'll let you know......!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Seeds the day...

'April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. ' - TS Eliot

Frogs porn on my pond!
I do so love Spring, it is so full of promise.
Will it be a warm May? A spectacular summer? Will it be a fruitful season with a cornucopia of crops and floral-abundance? Or will we spend the next few months shivering in the greenhouse as we watch relentless rain filling up the lovingly dug plot, planted with such high hopes?
 It doesn't matter; Spring is a beautifully-wrapped gift waiting to be revealed and that sense of excited expectation is part of the fun.

The birds are full of purposeful activity in the mornings, my body is getting used to that loss of an hour's sleep and beginning to love the later lightness of evenings. Tender baby leaves are unfurling on my fruit trees and bushes. The filthy little frogs have filled my pond with spawn after a noisy and frantic orgy! And the spring flowers are making the neglected corners of the plot look alive and loved.

Never mind that the last five days have been misty and moisty with Saharan smog, and flat grey skies. Never mind that I have a streaming cold...
I have seeds! And seeds mean a flurry of activity,with the promise of so many good things to come.

Ready, steady...grow!

Might have overdone it a tiny bit on seeds....