Browsing Posts published in August, 2011

I briefly popped over to The Plots today to pick some more beans.  I’d seen my Dad the other day and taken him a bag full of ‘normal’ runner beans and and another of the ‘red/purple’ French beans that I’m so fond of.Blackberries!

Luckily, getting hold of freshly picked beans at this time of year is not a problem.  Getting rid of them can be, there are so many to pick!

I noticed while there that there are still loads of blackberries that we’ll have to persuade the Plot Kids to pick this Saturday.

Runner Beans. Here you can see some of our beans down on the bottom Demonstration Plot by the driveway.  In just a few minutes, I’d picked more than three pounds of two different varieties, and tonight for dinner it will be ‘Scarlet Emperor’, and you can’t really get much fresher than that!

So tomorrow morning, I’m meeting Diane, David and hopefully Matt to plan out what we’re taking for our ‘Pizza Extravaganza’ over at ‘Sage Greenfingers’ for about 10.00.  When we’ve got all the stuff together, we ‘boys’ are going to cycle over while Diane takes her car and all the ingredients and some more fuel for the oven.

Now, I’ve never ‘fired up’ a pizza oven before, and to be honest Dear Reader, I’m more than a little nervous/excited.  Yes, I guess its something genetic about boys and fire, but more than that, its a whole step up from simply making a cooking fire for me.  I guess it’ll be a good introduction, because Diane is determined that we build one down at LEAF.

I’m maybe a little concerned that apparently they take upwards of three hours to get up to temperature (!!!), so even though we’ll arrive for about 11.00am, it may well be tea time when we can finally eat!

Anyway, not to worry.  There’s no rain forecast, so it’ll be a great day out and a marvelous chance to see old friends and see how their plots are getting on.

I’ll be sure to charge my camera and get some photos to Blog, hopefully tomorrow night.

Speak to you then!

 

A new fruit harvesting season has started and already in Abundance NE we’ve harvested a lot of apples and pears. We’ve got another trip out this time to some trees in Ecclesfield we’ve been offered, and we’ve also got a number of apple trees in Burngreave to get round to. If anyone needs any fruit or can think of local charities etc that might make use, please let Diane or Nick know.

Also there’s a new blog that may interest some of you its the new PXI-Plot107 blog all about the new allotments in Parson Cross Park and the work PXI is doing as part of that, here’s the link.

The LEAF Swan. 27/08/11

Remember I told you about the swan?  It seems to just glide across the surface of a pond with seemingly no effort at all, yet underneath, everything’s happening.Sunflowers!

Well, this has been LEAF this last couple of weeks.  Yes, we’ve had our regular sessions, fairly well attended -despite it being holiday season; yes we’ve been watering like crazy -the rain has been minimal to say the least; yes, we’ve been doing what we normally do, but this last couple of weeks, we’ve been seemingly doing treble shifts.

Anyway, this has all now blown over, so normal service has been resumed.

I arrived slightly before Diane this morning -she was a little late having snapped a bootlace.  This is second only to a flat tire in seriousness!

With all the rain yesterday -it was virtually continuous all day- everything was looking fresh and new -probably because all the dust had been washed off everything.  I wasted no time in opening up the metal shed (…tea makings!), and just had chance before she arrived to have a little wander round, as I’m wont to do, happily taking far too many photos with the new camera. (…which is getting better and better as I learn to use it more.  The little Panasonic DMC-TZ7 Rocks.)Radishes gone to seed.  Having to process each individual photo no less than three times, certainly makes photo-blogging a time-consuming affair.

I was wandering around the top Plot, and came across these in a bed, and for a moment, I didn’t know what they were.  Then I remembered:  These beautiful plants with their brightly coloured little flowers and their unusual seed pods are actually radishes.  The seed pods themselves are quite edible, and on taking a bite out of one, you’re struck with a gentle hint of the radish flavour.  Much more subtle than the full-on ‘Take-The-Back-Of-Your-Head-Off-With-A-Spade’ radishes we’ve grown this year.  We’ve left them to go this way to show visitors what they’re like when ‘fully grown’, but also, we’ll leave some of the pods to ripen fully and dry off.  Elderberries.

Ta-Da!  No need to purchase radish seeds next season.

Up by the kitchen area, majestically overhanging the hedge are these:  Fully ripe elderberries that are just dying to be harvested and made into either jelly or wine.  As we’re a ‘dry’ project, jelly it must be, so I think a little ‘sweet-talking’ to Matt, the expert maker of the superb jams and preserves is in order.

By this time, Diane had arrived and wasted no time in finishing off the tea.  As nobody had yet arrived, we sat for a few moments discussing the plan for the day, and decided that for the main, it would be another day of (late) planting.

We still had seemingly millions of brassicas (…Yes, we planted way too many in our excitement this year…), so we decided that we’d give a final ‘prep’ to a couple of beds and whack them in on the Therapy Plot.Beds prepped up before planting brassicas.

Here you can see them before planting, and you’ll notice a couple of ‘survivors’ from an earlier planting down the right hand side.  These were the lucky ones that didn’t get ‘hit’ by the feral pigeons and the slugs.  We thought we’d leave them in just to provide some company for the new ones.

By now Gary had arrived, and he wasted no time in digging up some potatoes that had been left in by mistake from last season.Potatoes.

Here you can see them, and notice how massive those three are!

Also to note was that these three were very light, but given the dryness of this bed and the fact that we haven’t watered it in ages, there was no wonder there was so little water in them.

Before we planted the new cabbages, I did the trick Ian and myself had mastered for making sure the hoops to support the netting were well into the ground.Hoop hole preparation.

Here you can see the metal spike before it was fully hammered in, and the ‘gentle persuader’, our trusty lump hammer.  Always useful for hitting things hard, and the ‘oh-so-satisfying’ clang! as you use it is a great antidote to the stresses and strains of indoor living.

Ignore the brick.  Quite what its doing there, I have no idea.

So, with the hoops in place and a suitable piece of netting that was a perfect fit found, the whole bed looked something like this:-Well protected from the pigeons.

So, we’ve finally finished off the beds on the Therapy Plot, and the keen and knowledgeable gardeners will quite rightly say that its about time and that these cabbages should have been in weeks ago, but as I said at the top of this post, we’ve just been so busy at this time, this has really been the first opportunity.

Anyway, we need our Plots to look good to the general public because in a few weeks time its ‘Allotment Soup’ -a yearly celebration of allotments and art, and this year its being held down on our Plots.

Its an opportunity to engage local people with the art of ‘allotmenteering’ (…I know, that’s not a ‘proper’ word, but you get my meaning…), and we’ll have local artists on hand to hopefully create unique works of art that will be displayed on plots all over our site.

There’ll be much more news about this exciting event in the coming days and weeks, and I’ll be sure to post them here.

Other news is that we are moving closer to building our own wood-fired clay oven (…for yummy pizzas…), and to this end Diane has organised a trip out ‘for the boys’ to another clay oven in Sheffield this Thursday morning.

I’ll make sure my camera’s fully charged and take loads of photos as we fire it up and hopefully make ourselves some delicious lunch with it.

Should be good for a laugh!

Dry as a bone. 13/08/11

I remember last weekend and the TV weather presenters forecasting doom and gloom.  ‘Rain, rain, rain…’  They said.

Well, not this week!Sweetcorn, heading for the sky.

Yes, we’ve had ‘Spits & Spots’ (…to quote a famous weather presenter…), but nothing that amounted to very much, and certainly wouldn’t put us ‘back on track’ rain-wise.

Here you can see our topmost bed of sweetcorn, and if you look at the ground its growing in, as the title suggests: Dry as a bone.  Luckily, sweetcorn has a massive root system, well able to penetrate deep down to where the ground is a least slightly damp.  Oh, and you can’t miss the red gate to the top right of this photo.  Yes, its actually red and the camera didn’t burp as it took the shot.  Amazing.

I arrived a little late today, but almost as soon as I arrived, it was decided that today would be a day of planting.  We love days like these!

Brassicas in and watered.Here you can see the bed myself, David and Andrew planted up with cauliflowers, and as Andrew whacks a metal stake deep into the ground to later pop the white plastic tube into -much as Ian and myself did with the cabbage bed next to it, you’ll see the pools of water around many of the young plants.

This is because when you plant brassicas, you have to really pack down the earth around them.  They can grow so tall that unless you really firm them in, there’s a danger they’ll topple over as they start to put on height.  Well, because this water is so pooled, it means we did our job well!  Its so compacted, the water finds it difficult to drain into the soil.  In total, we planted 10 ‘Violet Queen’ and 6 ‘Igloo’.

Brassicas safely netted up.To the right here, you can see Diane and Matt with the netting just about secure from those greedy pigeons.  Matt is just putting a longish piece of wood at the end, rolled into the netting.  You can also see the three bricks down the right hand side and there are three corresponding bricks down the other side.  If the pigeons want to get through here, they’ll need to have been on steroids to lift those bricks!

Also on the bottom plot, David and Andrew planted more of the leeks, and here they are in all their glory after planting and watering in.Leeks in.

You’ll notice that they seem to have been planted very deep -in holes in fact.  This wasn’t by mistake!  Leeks have to be planted deep in these holes to encourage the stems to grow white, and the soil is kept away to stop them rotting.  In a few months, you’ll see as we’ll hopefully have quite a few beds of these scattered around The Plots, and you’ll see what I mean.

Elsewhere, and the miniature sunflowers are just starting to flower.Miniature sunflowers.

They really are quite tiny, and I’ve certainly never seen any so small.  Sunflowers for dolls!

Around them you can just see the purple lettuce Ian, Simon and I planted.  Its funny, but when we planted these, we made sure that we planted two different types in a red-green-red pattern, but seemingly overnight, they all turned red.  Bizarre!

Meanwhile, some of our Plot Kids were having a whale of a time with three bottomless blue barrels that Les had very kindly donated to our project.

Its funny, but Diane spent hours planning and preparing fun activities for The Kids this week, but all they wanted to do was play in these!Plot Kids having fun.

From left to right here we have Little Lisa, Chloe and Kyle.  Maybe I’m showing my age here, but I seem to remember ‘Bill & Ben The Flowerpot Men’ having something similar, but instead of these neat-oh barrels, weren’t they flowerpots?

Later on, just before I left, they were playing by one of the many mounds of woodchip we have scattered about The Plots -laying them on their side and rolling down in them, and I just couldn’t help but give them the odd push.  “More! More!” They cried, but unfortunately, I had to go.

Little Mitzi was around, but obviously had ‘Cat Business’ to attend to, because she didn’t come for food even when I called her.  Obviously, very busy with other things!

As I left this evening, even though we didn’t light a ‘Big Fire’, Andrew had made a mini-fire ‘Rocket Stove’ using different sized tin cans, and had successfully made pasta!  I’ll be sure to get a photo or two of it next time I’m down.

To see all my photos from today, simply click HERE to view them on Flickr.

Fleabane.

Fleabane.We’re pretty sure this is ‘fleabane’.

Its sat at the top of the rose bed on the Top Plot above the roses, next to the horseradish.

So, you may ask just why fleabane is called fleabane.

Apparently, it was used in medieval times to control… You guessed it: Fleas!

It was spread on the flooring of cattle sheds and kitchens in homes (…often the same room…) amongst the straw to control the pesky little mites.

Nowadays, we have ‘flea spray’ for cats.  In expensive aerosol cans, this stuff is absolutely guaranteed to have your cat running up the curtains to get away from you as you come at it wearing elbow-length leather gauntlets with a determined look in your eye wielding the dreaded orange and white can.

Well, Dear Reader, I have the answer!

A few months ago my cat, Alfie started scratching and fussing, and sure enough, he’d caught a good dose of fleas -probably from ‘Big Orange’, a particularly large and evil, smelly tabby who lives a few doors down.  Obviously, he’s Alfie’s best mate.

Remembering an old trick a friend told me many years go, I took a bottle of ‘lazy garlic’ (…pre-chopped…) from the ‘fridge and while Alfie was sat on my knee, I simply took a half-teaspoon or so of the stuff and carefully smeared it on his back by the base of his tail, making sure I got it well down in his fur towards his skin.

Now, unlike Big Orange, Alfie is particularly fastidious when it comes to his personal grooming, so he meticulously cleaned his back, consuming quite a bit of the garlic in the process.

Result?

Well, he probably wasn’t that popular with the ladies for a night or two, but the garlic got into his bloodstream, and fleas hate garlic!

Result?  A week or so later, his fur was back to its original black and silky gloss!  There was no sign of him scratching, and his skin was back its usual smoothness.

Now, every month or so, I repeat this treatment, and it seems to work brilliantly.

Okay, its not the ‘instant’ cure of the dreaded flea spray, but it doesn’t send your cat into paroxysms of fear and loathing, it saves your precious furniture and curtains, and more importantly: Its cheap and organic!

This also proves that despite other overwhelming evidence to the contrary, my cat isn’t an Evil Vampire Cat.

That’s just a story he puts out to impress his mates.

 

 

All wrapped up. 07/08/11

Yesterday was a day of wrapping. (…As opposed to ‘rapping’, but we haven’t got the huge sound system or the ‘Bling’ for any of that…)

We ‘wrapped up’ our precious cabbages in a long bed at the top of our Plots.Wrapping up the cabbge bed.

Here you can see Gary helping me sort out the long netting we had for the job.  If you look closely, you’ll see he’s putting old fence paling in ‘X’ patterns to support the sides.

After we’d done this, we put cut-down paling in the centre every few yards, then put old white plastic cups over the ends to stop them poking through the netting.

Then we had the so-enjoyable job of actually planting the different varieties of cabbages, making sure each cabbage was well down in the soil and that the soil was well compacted around them.All the cabbages safely planted and watered in.

As you can see, we’ve planted them and then given them loads of water.

Now, because this area is largely in the shadow from the trees by the road, we figure they won’t need too much watering, but we’ll have to keep an eye on them.  Yes, they’re not in direct sunlight, but they’re also in the rain shadow of these same trees, so won’t get a lot of direct rain water.

We’ve grown the cabbages from seed.  First, we planted them in seed trays, then they went through two further transplants before they got to this stage, so we have a great deal of time and effort invested in them, so they’d better get on with it! (…As I took a final look over them before leaving last night, I stood over them and told them so.  Well, you talk to your plants, right?  Does them good to know who’s boss…)Weeded leeks.

So yesterday started off pretty slowly, but through the afternoon, more volunteers turned up, and in the end we got loads done.

To the right here, if you click on the image to enlarge, you can just make out the leeks we planted some time ago.  New Sarah and Gary weeded these, and we think its looking much better.Di's sunflower.

During the lunch break, I wandered round with the new camera, and came across this.

This little beauty is on the end of a bed of squashes and was sown and transplanted by Diane a few weeks ago.

Okay, sunflowers may not strictly be ‘Plot Plants’ -apart from the seeds which are delicious for the birds, but we think they add colour and just shout ‘Its Summer!’ to anyone passing.  We also think they add a little ‘sculpture’ because they’re so tall, but at a little over four feet high, not too overpowering.Elephant garlic in flower.

I also managed to get a shot of this:-

Sat forlornly on its own in a bed that had shallots and onions in until recently, this is an elephant garlic that we’ve let go to seed.  This had been mistakenly left in the bed from last season, and as it looked so odd towering above everything else in there, we left it in.

Also on offer were some flowers from the dreaded bindweed, and as you can see here, they really are quite beautiful.Flowering bindweed.

This particular flower was poking out from the top rose bed that this autumn is going to get a severe haircut.  Yes, the roses (…and bindweed…), may be beautiful, but when you can’t walk all round it on the paths because of the encroaching roses (…and bindweed…), you just know you can hear the sheers and big loppers calling you come autumn.Roses.

Here you can see some roses from that same bed, and even though they haven’t been pruned in many a long year, they’re still quite beautiful.

I guess that’s the thing about savage pruning.  When you’ve finished, you look at just what you’ve done and think you’ve finally killed any chance of any fruit or flowers the following season.  Hells, you think you may even have killed it, but as Diane’s completely brutal pruning of the blackberry fence last year showed, things do grow back, and they grow back all the stronger from that pruning.

Oh, and talking of blackberries; I haven’t forgotten!

Yesterday quite a few of us made a ‘group effort’ and picked many, many blackberries, and I have four large punnets sat in my ‘fridge laughing at me, daring me to go ahead and make their day and turn them into blackberry jelly in the coming days.  Luckily, the chaps who refitted my kitchen left me a load of emulsion, so I’ve really got no excuses.  Blackberry juice on the ceiling and walls? (…There will be loads.  I’m an ‘enthusiastic’ chef!..)  No problem!  No need to scrub: simply re-paint!

Of course, it will be utter mayhem and carnage in my kitchen when it all happens.  There will be much cursing, there will be huge mess, but hey:  It’ll be great fun!Mitzi-Moos, surveying 'her' kingdom.

And so, I couldn’t leave you without yet another picture of the main lady from The Plots.

Mitzi was on top form yesterday, directing work in her own special no-nonsense way.

Of course, this was after I’d fed her and we’d all given her maximum fuss and attention.

Well, you have to.  After all:  She’s a cat.

To see all my photos from Saturday on Flickr, simply click HERE.

Beans, Bees & Berries. 04/08/11

Last Saturday was definitely a days of ‘B’s!Runner beans in flower.

Here you can see just a fraction of the runner beans we now have coming into flower -and fruit in a lot of cases.  These beauties are by the entrance to the Therapy Plot, and were planted a week or so after the others further back into the plot.

By the next weekend after this -if not before- we’ll be stocking up our freezers and desperately looking for bean recipes on ‘Google’!

Purple French climbing beans in fruit.Here you can see just one of the poles of other beans -this time some purple climbing French beans that are particularly delicious lightly steamed (…to try to preserve the excellent colour…), or even quickly stir-fried in a hot wok.

Of course, this being LEAF and all, we don’t mind at all when we send a volunteer out with a bowl only to have them come back quite some time later with it empty and with a guilty look on their faces!  Its quite funny, really, but there a quite a few volunteers who when they first started with us regarded the word ‘vegetable’ in much the same way as you’d regard the words ‘shop-lifter’ or ‘mugger’, they were so ‘against’ them.  Just a few months later having first planted, then tended and now finally picking (..and eating!..) them, they’ve completely changed their minds.

And on to our bees!Wot, no bees?!

Here you can see our hives as of last Saturday, and as you can see, most of them have gone!

Jez, our ‘Chief’ bee-keeper had been the other day to move some ‘supers’ (…those are the multi-story’ boxes on the bottom brood boxes…) over to these two ‘nucs’ (…Pronounced ‘Nukes’…), and he’s taken the rest of the nucs away with him.

“Where have they gone??!!” You excitedly shout (…well, we did…).

They’ve gone on holiday!

I kid you not!

Because its the heather-flowering season, Jez and quite a few of the other Sheffield bee-keepers have taken some of their hives onto the moors surrounding Sheffield to let the bees collect the pollen from the heather.  ‘Heather Honey’ as its known is highly sought after and much more expensive than ‘normal’ honey.

So, while the rest of the colonies are away, the ones left are busy pollinating all our many flowers.  Wonder if they’ll get postcards? “Heather is nice.  Wish you were here!”

Possibly…

And so finally onto the ‘Berries’.  Blackberries, to be more specific.Blackberries, anyone?

Millions and millions and millions of them.

Hopefully this Saturday we can persuade some of the Plot Kids that it would be a really, really good game if they each took a massive punnet out to them and we can have a competition to see just who gets the most.

Then, I’ll have to get some muslin to strain the pips out, then this year, I shall make Blackberry Jam!  I threaten to last year, but this year, what with having a new kitchen and cooker and plenty of jars for it, I really must give this a go.

But I must use a muslin strainer.  I remember eating blackberry jam last year with scones and whipped/clotted cream, but had to spend hours later with a tooth-pick getting all the ‘pips’ out of my teeth.  It really took the pleasure out of this excellent fruit.

Well, not this year!

…Anyway, my coach has truly turned into a pumpkin, so I’d better leave it for there, Dear Reader.

 


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