Browsing Posts published in July, 2011

The best time of year. 30/07/11

Summer on an allotment really is the best time of year.Runner Beans in flower.

Its a time for gentle watering and gentle picking, and today was no exception.

But first, Ian and myself had a bed to dig over and partially empty so we could plant some young cabbages that were getting very pot-bound in one of the plastic hardening off greenhouses.

Here is the bed before we started, and as you can see, it was a real mess of weeds!Cabbage bed.

Actually, you can’t see much at all through the green pigeon netting, so here’s a shot as we took the netting off to reveal all the nasties beneath.Are there cabbages benath all that lot?

Quite a sorry sight, but no problem!

We have loads of young cabbages more than ready to plant out, so we quickly took out all the weeds.

Because we’ve had so little rain recently, the ground was just large clumps of dust, so weeding was very easy and satisfying.

Another problem with this bed was that the netting didn’t quite reach over the large hoops, so any hungry pigeons found it very easy just to nip under the edges and have a feast.  Well, today, we put a stop to that!

I suggested that we cut the hoops down to make them shorter therefore less high, but Diane suggested that we use a metal bar and a lump hammer to punch deeper holes where we wanted the hoops to go.

Had the ground been wetter, this wouldn’t have presented us with a problem, but because it was so dry, as soon as we pulled out the metal rod, the dry earth collapsed back into the hole.  New cabbages with proper netting fitted.Undeterred, when we’d driven the stake far enough in, we watered the soil around it to make it sticky.  This way, when we pulled the stake out, the hole didn’t collapse.

Anyway, the finished result you can see over here to the left, and we were pretty pleased with it.

After this minor triumph we walked around seeing just what was ready for picking, and what a feast we picked!Freshly picked produce.

Here you can see just some of our produce -not including masses of potatoes that by rights we shouldn’t have.  When we’d dug up potatoes from a bed down on the bottom plot towards the end of last year, we’d left a few in -completely by mistake.  This year, when they’d started to grow, we thought as an experiment we’d leave them and see what grew.  Well, we must have more from this one bed from little stragglers that we’d left in than we had in total from the bed last year when we’d planted proper seed potatoes.  Great big, fat white ones that will be excellent for baking.Celery.

Also on the bottom plot is our Great Celery Experiment, and as you can see, both the lines are coming on really well.

Near the celery is the latest pea/mange tout bed, and before we cleared out the cabbage bed, Ian went along it with his magic pea stick routine.Mange tout and peas.

The line to the left is the slightly higher-growing mange tout with the peas to the right.

If you look very closely, you’ll also see the two anti pigeon frames that he’s left on.  The mane tout and peas had already started to climb onto these frames, so he thought it better to leave them be.  We did this last year with peas up on the Therapy Plot, and they were none the worse for it.

If you’d like to see more of my photos (…really bad though they are!..), if you click HERE, you’ll see some more from Flickr.

More soon.

Gallery experiment #2

This is trying it from Flickr.  They offer 300MB a month free.

See you on the other side…

The first Photo Blogging Page!

Welcome to a Great LEAF Experiment!

All these shots were taken by Ian Wragg, one of our volunteers on 22/06/11 and 09/07/11.  Note that as ‘Editor’, all I’ve done is re-size them.  I have in no way re-touched the colours or cut and cropped them.

This is a first experiment in ‘Photo Blogging’, and we hope its going to prove popular with our volunteers of a more ‘artistic’ nature.

If you have a photo or two (…or more!..) of our Plots you’d like to share with the rest of the planet, then simply see Nick for details of how to get them published.  All you need supply is a memory card (…any format, which will be returned, of course!..) with them on, or you can email them to him at ‘nick(at)leafsheffield(dot)org(dot)uk’.



Today was one of those gentle, easy days you sometimes have down The Plots.  The kind of day that even though its not bright sunshine, you really can’t be bothered to do much at all.Freshly dug up potatoes.

Again, loads of volunteers had made it today, and we were set our various tasks.  Ricky and Graham started off another compost bin, Ian (no relation) dug up a load of potatoes which David weighed, while I wandered around taking photos at first.

Up to the right here you can see Ian’s efforts, and this was from just four plants!  Gorgeous little beauties, with very few slug holes.  These will be perfect for this Sunday’s bash when we host the Crosspool Harvest Group who are coming to see how we work then share some food with us.Celery in plastic drainpipe.

As I wandered round with the camera, I couldn’t help noticing our great celery experiment down on the bottom Demonstration Plot.

Here you can see some of Ian’s planting, already sat snugly in its plastic downpipe.  This is because this particular variety isn’t ‘self-blanching’, so the tube protects the stalks from the light and stops them turning green with chlorophyll.Both lines of 'experimental' celery.

Here you can see both lines, with ‘mine’ as yet uncovered.  In a few weeks as they grow, I plan to wrap mine in sheets of newspaper and tie them up -the ‘old fashioned’ way.  It’ll be very interesting to see just which comes out the best.

Today was also a ‘bean day’, with lots of the many different beans now just coming ‘into fruit’.  Indeed, I took some home with me tonight, and can report that they’re delicious!Red climbing french beans.

Here you can see some climbing French beans on the Therapy Plot, and by next week, we’ll not know what to do with them all.  I’m seriously considering looking on ‘FreeCycle’ again for another upright freezer to store them all in.  Ian (no relation) is thinking the same, and he’s got more room than me.  Maybe I can persuade him to get two!

Anyway, I’d better get off pretty soon, but I’ll just leave you with this.A Southey Rainbow.

The other day, I’d come out of my flat to be greeted by the perfect rainbow, so I quickly ran back in to get the camera, and I’m glad I did.

Its funny, because quite a few LEAF volunteers also saw it and got shots of it too.  If I can just figure out where the ends are, I can dig for the pots of gold that are sure to be there.

Heavens knows, we could do with them about now.

More tomorrow, hopefully when I’m more awake!

The New LEAF Constitution.

The new constitution as adopted by a majority vote of LEAF members by an EGM on Friday 15th July 2011 is now posted here.

When The Charity Commission changed its rules a few weeks ago, we had to re-revise it, and those revisions are picked out in bold type.

LEAF and charity registration.

Last night, at another EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting), LEAF members voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing our Constitution to one acceptable to The Charity Commission then voted overwhelmingly in favour of us going forward and applying for Charity Registration.

What does this mean for LEAF?

In a nutshell, as our advisor from V.A.S. (Voluntary Action Sheffield), Keith said at the meeting, it will give us a much higher possibility of obtaining funding in these difficult times we now face.  Quite a number of funders will only entertain applications from organisations who are actually charities themselves, so this gives us a much greater chance of getting funding.

It also gives us ‘Street Credibility’.  It is so much easier when possible funders ask you who you are and what you do to reply that, well, we’re a charity set up to help the good people of North Sheffield and beyond improve their diet and health.

Now, don’t expect this ‘overnight’ as there’s a fair amount of form-filling to do, but now we have the consent of our members, we’ll get straight onto it -all with Keith’s expert help.

So, a big ‘Thank you!’ to all our members who made it up to the library last night, and rest assured, we”re pushing ahead with this, so watch this space for details!

Dodging the showers. 16/07/11

This morning, Diane and a load of volunteers went over to the Parkwood summer event over at the school.  And it rained.

Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy this week that I had a load of work to finish off before I could ‘come out to play’, so I couldn’t join them.  In the rain.

Instead, I met Ian (no relation) on The Plots for about four, just before everybody got back from Parkwood.  It had just brightened up!

Now, a week or so ago,  I logged onto Sheffield ‘FreeCycle’.  This is a local website for people to advertise stuff they no longer need or have room for.  People on the look out for things can log in and see whats on offer.  The only stipulation is that everything on there is totally free.  Hence the name!  I’d seen a beautiful camera up for grabs -a red Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7, to be precise.  The reason it was up for offer was that it had a fault -a broken screen- but was going free to a good home.

I sent an email for it as soon as I saw it, but thought no more about it.Curry Plant  There must have been thousands of replies.

Then a couple of days later, a lady called Penny called and said the camera was still available, did I want it?  Obviously that was a big ‘PLEASE!’.

So, I went to pick it up earlier this week, and sure enough, it had a broken screen.

On getting it back here, I looked one up on eBay, and sent off for it.

Well, it arrived this morning, and part of my ‘work’ today was fitting the new screen.  Luckily, the supplier had sent a super-small screwdriver with the screen, and that was definitely needed.  Pratty?  Sheesh, it took me right back to the ‘Bad Old Days’!Feverfew

Anyway, to cut a long story short, it now works (…See!  Haven’t lost my touch!..), and this afternoon as people were arriving, I wasted no time in getting snapping, and I’m really pleased with the results!

Needless to say, all the photos from here on in will be with this beast, and even though today was just an exercise in ‘Point & Pray’, knowing nothing about how the camera works, I can really tell the difference.  Certainly, this camera doesn’t throw a fit when you try to shoot anything red, and looking at the sky in various shots as I’ve processed the images, there’s no blurring and blue-shift the other one was very prone to.  In a word; New Camera: Awesome.  And yes, I know I’ve used ‘that word’ again, but this thing really is.Borage

So, if you’re reading this, Penny:  Thankyou very, very much!

In my wanderings today, I couldn’t help but notice the squashes we’d planted up towards the end of last month (…the 26th to be precise…), and my how they’ve shot up and out!  We’d planted lettuce around them as companion plants, and I can clearly remember thinking that they were so small and fragile when we’d planted and watered them in.  Well, today, they look a little like this:-Lettuce

Beautiful, and not a slug mark or nibble to be seen!

The actual squashes themselves are doing really well, too.Squash.

To the right here is just one of them, and if you click on the image to magnify it, you’ll see all the little yellow baby squashes just forming.  Ian counted more than 8 on this one plant alone.  Now, the thing with squashes is that the more you pick them, the more fruit they produce.  Then when you bear in mind that we must have over 40 squash plants already planted, and another fifteen or so to go in, you will see that this year, like the beans, we’re going to be completely overrun with them.  This is good!  Ian and myself have plenty of big pickling jars and loads of pickling vinegar, so watch this space for the fun in a couple of weeks time!

Elsewhere down on the bottom ‘Demonstration Plot’, I couldn’t help but notice the two lines of peas and mange tout we planted just a short while ago.Pease and mange tout.

As you can see, they’re safely protected behind some stiff wire fencing that we’d bent over.  If the pigeons want to get through this, they’ll need bolt cutters or a cutting torch!

So, its nearly time for me to head up the wooden hill, but before I go, I just couldn’t leave without a picture of my cat Alfie, doing what he does best.Alfie Beau at rest.

This was the first shot I took with the newly-fixed camera, just after I’d stopped running about in joy doing the ‘I’m Too Sexy For My Cat’ dance.

As you can see, he’s pretty impressed…

Mingling and planting. 09/07/11

This morning: Mingling.

This afternoon: Planting.

About sums it up really, so I’ll leave you there…

Hang on?  You want to actually know who we were mingling with and just what was planted?


This morning, we were mingling at the ‘Dig for Victory’ celebrations that I put the poster for on here about a few weeks ago.  It was a great chance for local youngsters to actually see what went on during the war -there was a very good display of genuine WWII artifacts brought by a WWII specialist collector, and some of it was frightening!  The gas masks, the ration books, the government leaflets on how to grow your own food during the war…  Then there was an air-raid siren that a few of the youngsters took outside and wound up.The air-raid siren.

Here you can see them in action, and even though they wound it with all their might, they couldn’t wind it fast enough to emulate the real sirens you hear on war films.  Still, it wasn’t the middle of the night, and these boys’, and others lives didn’t depend upon everybody hearing it and getting to shelter.

…And it was so loud!  It must have given a few of the older local residents a start and woken them from their post-lunchtime naps, and taken them back seventy years.


By about 2.00pm, it was time to call it a day, pack up our two gazebos, herbs and leaflets and head back to LEAF Central.

We’d called off this morning’s session, instead asking that volunteers arrive for about three, and as Gary, David and myself were dropped off in Pam’s car (…Thanks for that, Pam.  It would have been a long walk otherwise!), people were already starting turn up.

So, back at The Plots, and it was a Day Of Planting.

We looove days like these.  Nearly as much as harvesting!Squashes and lettuces.

While David, David (…New & Old…) got on with sawing up some firewood, myself and New Ian got on with finishing up the long bed of squashes that had been started earlier in the week.  All the squashes were in, but as we had loads of lettuce left over from our bulging greenhouses, we thought we’d intersperse the squashes with them.  Here you can see it on completion part-way through a good watering-in of all the new lettuces.

Just to the right of the shot above was a newly-emptied bed that had onions and garlic in until last week.Lettuce and sunflowers.  And radishes!  Here you can see it with lettuces round the edges with mini sunflowers for a bit of height and colour towards the centre.  New Ian and myself also planted a couple of lines of mixed red and white radishes between the sunflowers and lettuce to add a bit of variety.  Simon came to give us a hand before he went to his favourite task of filling the many water bins scattered throughout the site.  He had his work cut out today, for even though we’ve had (comparatively) quite lot of rain this week, the bins were all mostly empty.

I had my now customary ‘little wander round’ with my camera, and came across these beauties.Young beans.  These are some of the many, many beans we’ve planted this year, and if I remember, I’ll get their names off Diane very soon.

All too soon, it was time for me to bid ‘Farewell!’ to The Plots -I had this to do, and a load of other stuff, but not before I noticed Diane and New Simon busy working on The mound -that huge pile of topsoil in our entrance way.  They were getting any final weeds out, and were preparing for putting some well-rotted horse manure Diane had been over to the farm to collect last night, before planting the rest of our many squashes out up there.

Now, tomorrow early afternoon, I’ll be heading back for a meeting with Diane, and I’ll be sure to take my camera and get some shots of this.

Anyway, I’d better get off now.  Big Day tomorrow, and of course, I’ll keep you fully abreast of developments, Dear Reader.

Its all gone quiet? 02/07/11

Actually, it hasn’t!  Remember that swan I keep going on about?

Good.  You get the idea.

…So, what of today?

Well, we’d expected it to be a fairly quite afternoon, what with the women’s tennis and all, but in the end when Ian and I left after 7.00pm, there were upwards of twenty people still chatting, eating cake (…more of that in a bit…), and of course, drinking Plot Tea.Before we got stuck into it.

Unlike last week, there was no planting on offer, but that didn’t dishearten Ian or I, and we got stuck into some serious weeding and digging.  We were ‘prepping up’  some beds on the Therapy Plot, then harvesting some onions and garlic and making the beds ready for planting in the next few days.

Done!This shot up to the right here is of Ian working on the biggest bed, and you can see how dry and compacted this bed has become of late, what with kids and cats walking over it.  It took a fair while but when it was finished, it looked something like this here on the left.

Nice, ‘airy’ soil with more stones out of it (…only two buckets-worth today…), and all the big clods of hard earth well and truly broken up.

Now, what do we do to the soil before we plant in it?  After giving it some thought, we’ve decided that as our compost this year is actually a fine ‘weed seed mixture’ (…that’ll teach us to put weeds in the compost that have gone past flowering!..), and we’re running a little low on well-rotted horse manure, we’d change our tactics somewhat.  We’re going to plant squashes -courgettes, pumpkins and the like interspersed with lettuces and other fast-growing salad stuff, but rather than spread compost and manure over the whole bed, we’re going to dig holes for each plant, then put only a little manure underneath, planting the young plant actually sat in the manure.  This may not condition the whole bed as we’d like, but it will mean that each plant gets its own ‘turbo boost’ right where it needs it at the roots.Freshly-lifted garlic.

After we’d done that bed, we moved onto another, smaller bed with onions and garlic in, and here you can see just some of the garlic we lifted.  Maybe not as big as we’d have liked, but this year this is no real heart-ache. -We’ve got loads in other beds dotted around the site.

All too soon it was lunchtime, and Ian had brought a home-made curry and a couple of nan breads, Barry and Sairah had brought a load of food and Diane had some already ‘in stock’, so the ten or so volunteers who’d turned up by that time had a real treat.  Marvellous!

This afternoon, and The Plots were a hive of activity with seemingly Plot Kids everywhere, volunteers going backwards and forwards with buckets and tools with determined looks on their faces, great clouds of oh-so-fragrant steam coming from the metal shed where Sara and Sairah were preparing soup for our communal evening meal, then more volunteers preparing the potatoes for baking, and…  you get my drift.  Organised chaos, but very enjoyable!

We ate just before 6.00pm, and what a feast had been prepared!  The large green table was overflowing with goodies, and everyone ate their fill.

So, what of this cake I mentioned towards the top of this piece?

Kyle's birthday cake.This coming Monday is one of our ‘Junior Plotter’s’ Birthday -Kyle.  This year, we all signed a huge card for him, and his dad, Matt brought on a home-made cake for us all to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him over, and then cut it into very tiny slices (…There were just too many of us to get a decent sized piece!..) and we all shared and enjoyed it with him.

Then, as if we needed more, was the ‘strawberry course’.  The Plot Kids had been busy in the afternoon picking two huge bowls of them, so someone nipped up the road to the supermarket and brought back a carton of ice cream.

Mitzi gets stuck in!Of course, no work down on The Plots would be complete without a visit from our vice-chair, Mitzi.

As I took this shot, she would have smiled for the camera, but she was rather distracted by the nearly-empty ice cream tub someone had ‘sneaked’ down to her on the floor.  When she’d finished it, she discretely burped (…well, she is a Lady, after all…), and sat somewhere nice and quiet to let it ‘settle’.

I’m not saying she thoroughly enjoyed it, but as I removed the empty carton, I inspected the insides.  Clean as a whistle.

Like all good ‘Allotmenteers’, Mitzi doesn’t waste much!

Anyway, I’d better get off now, but I’m already looking forward to tomorrow.  Even though I’m busier than my cat at two food bowls, I’m going over for an hour because in the morning and into the afternoon, LEAF hosts ‘Grow Sheffield’ with a ‘Grow it – Cook it’ session as part of the ‘Sheffield Food Festival’ where we hope to show many local people how to plant stuff now that will be ready for their Christmas dinner.

Why not come down?  Should be fun and entertaining, and its not like there’s any tennis to watch…

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