Friday, 18 December 2015

A bit of printing and crafting...

A long time ago when my hair was thick and didn't fall out, when I wasn't scared of a hangover, when I could function passed 10 o'clock at night and when I could be bothered to watch films that make no sense (with sub titles)...I also played at being an art student. I wasn't very good at it but I have an always had an urge to create things...I can hear my dad's snort of laughter here, 'yes, a mess'...well yes my creative urges have never been 'tidy.' Happier with clay and papier mache than neat palettes of water colours..I like getting my hands dirty. Probably one reason why I love gardening and my allotment, it's both creative an unavoidably filthy at the same time:)

Well I've recently discovered a new love in my seeming quest to never have perfect nails (Chris has bought me a nail brush, I find painting my nails a dark colour helps:) I've found linocut printing through a short workshop run by James was great fun and even though I don't believe my efforts are worthy of a decent frame (a clip-frame maybe) I was quite proud of my 'finished' print. My sister suggested that I need more practice...she's right (we believe in keeping it real in our family) I do need to learn more, so it's given me the perfect excuse to sign myself up for some classes in January at this great place called The Art House in Sheffield. It's nice to have something to look forward to whilst the evenings are still so dark...I can't get to the allotment after work so this seems like a good time to learn a new indoor skill.
It's the one form of printing I've never tried probably because I'm not so good with sharp objects but with practise I'm hoping to avoid any trips to A & E and to rediscover that long lost art student within...I won't be watching the Seventh Seal anytime soon though;)!


Another little Christmas craft project.

Turned into simple presents...the Rosemary smelt lovely too!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Garlic loves...snow...really?

When my garlic arrived very early in the morning in the post it felt like a sign (thank you lovely The Garlic farm!) then I looked outside. Snow...really?...did it have to be snow?! My free time ...I mean children, dog, work free time is barely in existence at the precious few hours to get to the allotment and it snows...of course it does...fine...I'll just get my gloves and hat, scarf...thermals.

 Anyway I went, yes it had snowed and yes it was stupidly, nose numbingly cold but the ground wasn't frozen yet and the sun actually came out, I can't say I was exactly basking in its warmth but it helped. I wittered about the broad bean plants I'd brought to plant out and the garlic I had...should I risk it? I decided that the weather will only get worst, my free time, the closer we creep to christmas even rarer, so I raked the snowy covering off the perfectly fine soil beneath and dug. It felt great to be planting things again...I love the anticipation of what will happen...moles, slugs, snails...frost, snow...or will it actually grow? We shall see...oh please let the elephant garlic grow...the cloves were massive...I'm guessing the plant ( fingers crossed) will be too.  There is a recipe (a nice simple one)...on the website that I bought the garlic from using elephant garlic to make crisps,  interesting idea:) It should keep a few blood suckers away...wonder if you eat them in the summer if it would keep the midges away? I feel an experiment coming on, I hate midges!...that is if it grows at all for me...

I really understand the idea of now being the beginning of the season rather than the end...even though things have definitely slowed down...the bindweed has gone to ground thankfully, though I know it's still there just waiting. The garlic and the beans are the first things I've planted for awhile and I was really happy with my fennel! I also bought some lovely garlic labels so have been able to mark the 4 different varieties properly in my quest to make sure that I label everything this year:) 

The whole time I was there I was under the close watch of a robin, he/she seemed very grateful for the bare ground I turned over and also for some strange reason my shed door being open. It kept flying inside I have no idea why perhaps to find somewhere slightly warmer...I had to double check when I locked up that it wasn't still in there.

So I had snow and a robin can't get much more seasonal than that!

Monday, 2 November 2015

My 'to do' list promises. ..

Ok possibly a dangerous thing to do but I'm taking a leaf from my dad's book and embracing the 'to do' list...actually my dad could make anything into a list or an IOU...wasn't so much about what he needed to remember more an affliction he suffered from...I still have the IOU he gave me when I was about 9 as a birthday present, a written IOU promise to open me a bank account...oh I so wish he'd done that...

Anyway I'm getting distracted, this is my list of things I want/need to do differently in my allotment this coming year in no particular order or relevance...

1. Sow seeds of things I actually want to grow...not just because they came free with a magazine (I have a terrible problem with waste...I just have to use them...or find a seed swapping thing...or even start one myself perhaps..)

2. Don't buy any gardening magazines...they are full of good advice and pretty pictures but also seeds I don't want or need but have a compulsion to sow anyway. I really didn't want 30+ turnips...the slugs were happy with them though...

3. Attempt to grow quinoa...I have no idea if it will work but I'm on a healthy eating thing..quinoa is expensive to buy so if I can grow it surely it's a good idea...hmm...I'm buying the seed online from the Real Seed Catalogue, they seem very positive that its not only possible to grow in this country but get a decent crop as's my 2016 experiment...besides it must be easier than trying to grow avocados!

4. Not get too upset by neighbours perfect plot...they seem to have much more time and there's usually 2 of them doing the work...2 grown ups, not my usual set, a small boy and a daft dog and half an hour before small boy or daft dog or both do something to make me scream.....give myself a break!

5. Move my poor clematis from my tiny garden at home to the allotment fence to give it the freedom it needs...also hoping that it's a monster worthy opponent of the bindweed...I suspect it might be...I've been trying to contain it for years because it's just too big and the fence that was there for it to scramble up has gone...It just will not give in, within a day of me pruning it, it's back flexing its leafy muscles and just laughing at my attempts to tame it. Bindweed watch your back!

6. Deal with the slugs and snails that seem to love my little plot of land...I'm going to experiment with 'Slug Gone''s made from sheeps wool...I have no idea why sheep wool should be so abhorrent to a slug but it's worth a try...I'd really love a beetroot next year that hasn't been sculptured into some mollusc work of art.

7. Make an insect habitat, though my plot seems to be heaving in things that crawl, slither an fly that must already be living somewhere but it seems the right thing to do and they can look great. Saw this one in the garden of Eyam hall, I'd be happy with a slightly smaller one, this is a grand hall version..mine will be more of an end terrace kind of thing...

8. Get the hang of lighting my Ghille kettle an use the thing!

9. Try to grow sweetcorn (again)...the slugs got my seedlings this year (and last) year see note 6!

10. Label all seeds sown properly...I have some plants that I've grown from seed this year but because the label wore off I have no idea what they are....They are pretty none descrip green leafy plants at the moment, they could be edible or some sort of perennial flower....I am playing a waiting game with them until they give me a clue...or the slugs get them...

I have lots of other things that I should/could add but I don't want to end up with an IOU to myself to fulfil my 'to do' list!...My dad would be proud:)

Friday, 25 September 2015

Being able to get where you are going...and allotment thoughts...

We had to get rid of my trusty little Clio a while ago now, we just couldn't afford or justify being a 2 car family. So my rusty bucket of a car that I got when I became a single mother and had beautifully trundled me and my 2 older boys about for a good 11 years had to go. New man, new life, bye was hard to see it go it symbolized a bit of an era for me (in fact Chris had to watch it go I hid at work, pathetic girl!) Anyway I'm over it now, it's fine not having a car most of the time. I quite like the bus even though I spend a silly amount of time on it going to and from work, I wrote this little post about it a while ago. When I miss my Clio the most though is when Chris is away (with car) and I have no way of getting to the allotment when I have small boy in tow, it's just slightly too far for his little legs.

But when I do have the car (or the freedom time to walk) the allotment is the first place I go, it's where I want to be most of the time if I'm honest. It has suffered a bit this year and I haven't had great crops of anything from it really, I've been a bit envious of all the Instagram and Twitter posts of other peoples beautiful veggie bounties. There have been times when I have wondered if I can actually cope with it at all, slugs have had a field day (what does that actually mean, 'field day'?) the bindweed has had a laugh and my turnips, beetroots and radishes have all come up looking like patterns in lace design. I have discovered there are actually things called flea beetles, really? I  think sometimes nature is just having a bit of a laugh at our expense!  Then I have sat and listened to the bees in the borage and picked my beautiful borlottis that haven't failed me (second time round!) and been slightly in awe of the artichokes and thought, 'well it could be worst and there is always next year'.


 The seed catalogues are coming fast and furiously through the door tempting me with all kinds of things though I'm really not brave enough to try celery, for some reason it scares me;) I want to try sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, salsify...and I will get squashes to work for me somehow! I'm going to save up for a greenhouse or would a poly tunnel be better? 

I'm planting a wildlife friendly flower patch with the bargains you can get from garden centres and B&Q at this time of year. I've just got a large Verbena plant for £3 which looked a bit sorry for itself but it will come back and be beautiful next year (I hope). I've got Foxglove seedlings that will be big enough to go in next year and I'm wanting to plant a Honeysuckle on the allotment fence next to my plot that will hopefully be rampant enough to do battle with the bindweed!

I'm not going to give up, I love my allotment and I will do my best to get it too love me too:) Next year will be I have to study my seed catalogues, there really are very few things that make me happier...I know I've said it before, I need to get out more...yes, to my allotment!! 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Holiday moments...

Now that I am well an truly back at work and everyone has started to talk about the end of summer, which makes me a little sad, I thought it was a good time to sort through all the photos from our camping holiday in Norfolk and share a few of them as a bit of a lovely (sunny) memory. The rain has been pretty much consistent recently (I got rained off the allotment the other day...even with a shed to hide in!) and we had the heating on for the first time the other night. Chris is still resistant to getting any logs for our wood burner but I'm sure it won't be long before we have that lit and will be having to get daft dog to move from right in front of it! (for such a lithe dog he does manage to hog the heat some how)

Small boy is also back at school and already on only the second day he is very cross that he has to go again! I ran off this morning before he was told he was also at after school club, coward that I am...sorry Chris for leaving you with that one!

Things I really miss about our lovely canvas break...the huge skies, brilliant sunsets, the sea, the sand, the sound of the steam train, being outside, friendly camping folk, children playing, no screens (tv, computer) ice cream...

Things I really don't, this list is harder...washing up, always seems to be far more when you're camping! Wasps, searching for the toothpaste...

Friday, 28 August 2015

A holiday visit to Natural Surroundings...

Whilst on holiday the other week in Norfolk we needed to find an alternative route to avoid the very beautiful village of Cley Next the Sea..I know that sounds stupid why avoid somewhere beautiful?...well because it becomes less beautiful in a boiling hot car stuck behind a bus that can't get passed the lorry coming in the opposite direction, with 3 hot an bothered children in the back not to mention poor Chris who was, 'just trying to b***** drive!'...The very beautiful village of Cley was not designed for so much traffic (sorry to be one of the summer tourists making it worst) so we needed to find another way to the coast avoiding the very beautiful village of Cley to save our sanity. We found the perfect route and even more perfectly for a girl who loves her flowers we discovered Natural Surroundings...a wildflower centre. If you are ever in the area and need to avoid the busy coast road I would really recommend this lovely little place, it aims to promote wildlife friendly gardening with an emphasis on British wildlife and flowers and it does it beautifully within its 8 acres of gardens. Very importantly it also has a great cafe...we had to wrestle the plate from small boy when he'd finished his chocolate cake to stop him licking it clean (brought up in a barn!) There is a well stocked garden centre too which I had reluctantly to resist...we were camping so unless I could have got the dog to balance any plants on his head we just didn't have the room to take anything home. The dog isn't that talented sadly, oh and there were so many plants I would have quite happily buried daft dog under!

 The centre has the most thoughtful wildlife gardens and grounds to wander through, with things for the kids to spot on the way and a herb garden with the plants indentified for you (useful, if like me you can confuse your balms with your mints!)

One of my favorite things was a little hut with tanks of field mice inside...I'm a city girl what can I say?...field mice are always going to be a winner for me;) There were also bookcases full of natural history books to read. I would have quite happily curled up in there with the books an the mice, but the outdoors called and so did Chris who for some reason didn't share my love of the mice...

We wandered down through the gardens to the river where there was a brand new bird watching hut, someone had written on the board inside that they had spotted a Kingfisher only a few days before. I have never seen a Kingfisher, I really want to see one so I sat on the bench and stared intently at what looked to me like the most perfect Kingfisher perch...sadly the Kingfisher was obviously sitting on a more perfect perch somewhere else and 3 children, a dog an the call of cake does not allow for the time you must have in order for that Kingfisher to pass by! They even leave bird books around so you could look up any unfamilar ones you might see. I didn't have the heart to tell the younger 2 that there was no way they would see a Bee-eater or a Fish eagle in rural Norfolk...we did look though;)

 There was a little vegetable garden up by the cafe where I got veg my allotment this year hasn't been at its best I get jealous very easily...their apple trees were heaving with fruit...grrr...

We spent a lovely afternoon there, it was for me one of the highlights of our holiday...if only that Fish eagle (with his friend the Kingfisher of course) could have sat on that perch just for a second;)