Browsing Posts tagged cookery

A swarm… 02/06/12

…Of people.

And of bees!

Wednesday of last week saw us open our Plots to the world.  It was our contribution to the Sheffield Environment Weeks, and apart from a slight hiccup with the weather, it all went off swimmingly.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of the event for I was working like mad at the new pizza oven, and in a little over two hours, I managed to whack out over 25 pizzas!  Each one was individually topped by the customer, and apart from one slight miscalculation with the timing of a single pizza, everybody enjoyed them.  Of course, there were loads of people who said, “I want one in my garden!”

Hmm.  If you’re prepared for the back-breaking and foot-bashing work, then go ahead.

When we explained this to folks, it must be said the majority then said, “Oh! So you can’t just knock one up in a weekend then?”

Not as such.  Not unless you’ve got Alan Titchmarsh and Charlie Dimmock coming round with their gang.

Then last week we had a swarm!

This was the middle hive that I’ve kind of adopted.  Gary was the first to spot the exiting bees (…Again!..) who went high into a neighbouring tree in the woodland at the side of LEAF.  Regretfully, they were way too high to safely catch, and pretty soon, they headed off down in the direction of The Northern General Hospital just down the road.

When Charles came this Wednesday, with some of our volunteers (…I was unfortunately very busy, so couldn’t attend…) and he checked the hives over and did a ‘Reversal’ on the first one.  Next time I’m down there, I’ll get some proper shots and explain what this is all about.

Anyway, I’m afraid its way past my bedtime right now, so Dear Reader, I’ll have to leave it there.

More photos and funny tales for next time?

You bet.

The recent warm spell is continuing, and down at LEAF, we’re loving it.

Of course, not a Big Lot gets done, but given all the hard work we do at most other times of the year, we don’t feel guilty in the slightest.Wall-to-wall sunshine.

The sun was shining all day, and despite liberal, repeated slatherings of Factor 20, my shoulders, back, neck, face, and arms are glowing this morning.

This is a view of the sky yesterday morning from my allotment.  I went down there briefly to check the greenhouses (Sweltering!) and to catch a few rays on my own.  Because there were children and small animals up at The LEAF Plots, it was here I managed to get my top off and get burned, quietly sat on my own, thinking, while listening to Classic FM on the little transistor radio we have down there.  Only half an hour or so, but well needed.

So yesterday was another chance for us to get to grips with our new, improved pizza oven.  New and improved because the two extra layers of clay/straw and clay had made it a totally different animal to cook with.

As I’ve previously said, last year it was all about getting it up to temperature and keeping it there -meaning loads and loads of wood, almost constantly feeding it.

Now it’s all about getting it up to temperature and completely resisting the urge to throw more wood on!All fired up!

This is it before all the ‘fun’ started as it’s getting up to the correct heat.  Later, as the wood died down, and the oven appeared almost empty, I had to physically stop myself throwing in more fresh stuff.  Whenever the urge came upon me, I’d take my gloves off, and try to put my hands near it.  This proved that even though it didn’t look like much was happening, the heat was certainly there to cook with.

Both Sara and Matt had made dough for the pizzas, and it goes without saying that both mixes were excellent.

Because we had so much dough, we were able to make ‘proper’, thicker bases for the pizzas, and that, coupled with the lower cooking temperature meant that nearly all of them came out with everything cooked, without the ‘doughy’ centres we had last weekend.

During the madness/fun that was the actual cooking, Jon came up with an excellent idea.Cooking!

He had made a pizza, and had me cook it for him, but just before I would have considered it ready, he had me take it out and fold it over like a calzoné.  This enabled half of the pizza bottom to lightly brown.  A couple of minutes later, we turned it fully over to allow the other side to brown.  The resulting pizza was superb.  I think you’ll be hearing much more about this style of pizza in the coming weeks!

After all the pizzas (..there were about 15 in total, I think…), Pam had brought down a freshly baked rhubarb crumble with custard.

I’ve kind of run out of superlatives here, but you get the idea:  Gorgeous!

Not to be outdone, Jon the made some fresh rhubarb and ginger drop scones.Jon's rhubarb and ginger scones before cooking.

As you can clearly see, these little beauties looked excellent before they went in, but I’m afraid we’re still getting used to the fierce heat of this oven.

This is another way of saying that it was too hot!

Whoops!  Drop scones a little overdone!You can see them here to the right, and as you can see, the heat was way too much for them.

In hindsight, we should have let the oven cool down for another half hour or so before we put these in.

Still, like a science experiment, we don’t class it as a failure.  I was a learning experience!

Next time (…for there most definitely will be a next time!..), we’ll wait that bit longer.  Also, just as we did with Matt’s pie last week, we’ll put them on Ian’s groovy stand, and we’ll put them in the doorway to cook, turning them at regular intervals, just like we did last week.

As I keep banging on about, this Wednesday is our big Open Evening, so we have to get everything spot-on for that.

The fact that we have to keep cooking and eating food just to make sure we’ve got it absolutely correct, is a happy coincidence.


Not A Big Lot of work done down our Plots today, and what little was done was in preparation for today’s ‘main event’ which was for the first using and cooking with the pizza oven in its 99.999% finished state.  I say 99.999% because Matt wants to add a taller chimney, and of course when its all cooled down, we need to patch yet more cracks in the outer layer of clay.Aaaargh!  Cracks in the clay!

As I arrived today, Ian (no relation) was busy by the oven, at work building a metal stand for use inside it to sit dishes on.  This would be to lift them off the extremely hot bricks and ash, allowing a ‘cooler’ airflow to cook dishes more slowly.

In theory.

To make this stand, he used a very old plastic and metal chair, some heavy-duty wire meshing we had, a hacksaw and a lump hammer.

Unfortunately I have no pictures of this yet, but I’ll get some next time I’m down.  We were too busy using it today, and I kind of had my hands full with the oven which at it’s ‘peak temperature’ we reckon hit more than 400°C.  You’ll agree, just a little hotter than your average one at home!

As you can see up to the right here, when I arrived, it was ‘Crack City’ across the top and sides, but we weren’t worried in the slightest!

I can vividly remember the first time we ever fired this oven up ‘In Rage’ last year for the open evening in Autumn and we’d just finished that first layer.  If you check back on the photos, you’ll see we just had the single layer and by the time I first lit it, it wasn’t even dry!

Now we have not one, but two layers of clay and clay and straw beneath this top layer, there’s no chance whatsoever it will collapse -as I feared that first evening last year.

As I started to fill up these cracks with some clay we had left over, I was joined by Jordan, Shaun and Matt.  Pretty soon we were all happily patching away as Ian worked nearby,  his stand now finished, working on a tool to easily get to trays and dishes while the oven is hot.

When we’d done most of the serious cracks, I lit it (…more to keep warm than anything else.  It was freezing today!..), and we carried on patching the smaller ones.Quickly up to temperature.

To the left here is less than an hour after we’d lit it.  If you click on the image you’ll see those two great chunks of wood I’d thrown in less than a minute before I took this shot.

Because it was just so stinking hot in the oven, when I put these two pieces in together, I timed it before they caught fire.

On a ‘normal’ fire, when you put pieces on like this, only the parts actually exposed to the flames burn straight away, with the ‘outer’ parts taking much longer to catch.  With these, less than a minute after they’d gone in, they totally ‘lit’ with flame licking all over them.

Yes.  That hot!

While these two great lumps of wood were burning down to hot cinders, Ian was busy making the afternoon’s first ‘dish’.  This would be a ‘starter’ of potatoes cut into largish chunks, parsnips, shallots and cloves of garlic, all roasted in heavy-duty tin foil with oil and herb seasoning.

Using Ian’s newly made baking tray to stand the packets on, these seemed to cook in no time at all.

Of course, they were delicious!

By this time, Sara had prepared the pizzas.  Using dough she’d made up earlier and left to ‘prove’ at home (…Awesome!..) and vegetables that Matt had been to the market for and some tomatillos he still got left from last year (!!!), Sara then invited LEAF volunteers to make their own pizzas for me to cook in the oven -much as we’d done so successfully last year and we plan to do a week on Wednesday for the Environment Weeks Open Evening.The year's first pizza.  Quickly, before it all disappears!

This seemed to work really well.  By allowing people to put their own toppings on, they were guaranteed to like everything that had gone on the pizza!

We made about 9 pizzas in total today, each one decorated and topped by a volunteer or Plot Kid, and everyone agreed, they were much better than the ones you buy from the supermarket.  Obviously.

By now, the oven had ‘simmered down’ a little, and Matt had brought a pie he’d prepared last night.  It was made with the year’s first rhubarb from his plot, a little sugar and he’d made a crumble topping.

The crumble just before it went in the oven.To the left is a shot of the raw crumble just before it went in the oven.

Now, when Matt makes one of these at home, it takes about forty minutes at a medium heat to cook.

I didn’t properly time it, but it certainly took less time than that in our oven.

At first, we put it in without a tin foil covering, and the top started to burn slightly, but I took it out and wrapped it, and kept turning it through 180° every few minutes to make sure both sides were cooking.

In not time at all it seemed, when I turned it round, the side that had been exposed to the full heat of the oven was already happily bubbling away.

It was soon cooked, but before I’d even had chance to get my camera out, it was being dived into by volunteers eager to taste it.

All I ended up with was this:-Whoops!  All gone!

Those two bowls were for Diane and Jon.

Needless to say, just like Sara’s pizza, Matt’s pie was ace!

Unfortunately, there’ll be no ‘Plotting’ tomorrow.  Diane and I have a Big Lot of paperwork to catch up with, and before that I have an important date with the electric bike and the PIC programmer back here at Wardian Towers.

But, the weather is set to improve greatly this next week.  Hooray for that!  We (…and our bees!..) love the sunshine and warmth.

It kind of makes you feel happier inside when the sun’s shining, I think.

Oh, and talking of ‘Happy’, I presented Matt with his new camera today after I’d fitted the new screen to it.

And yes.  He was happy!



Re-making a bed… 17/03/12

…and re-making the fire.

Today, Ian and I spent much of the day up at LEAF.  While having my own plot is good and great and all, I realise that I wouldn’t have it were it not for LEAF and Diane’s oh-so-patient guidance and tutelage.

So this morning, Ian and I re-made the ‘main’ LEAF fireplace down on the Children’s Plot.  Ian had re-made it last year by putting a low brick wall around the actual fire area so we could put a heavy duty wire ‘cage’ over the hot coals.  It made balancing the many tins of potatoes much easier.

Now, we were taking it to the ‘LEAF Fire: The Next Generation’ kind of thing.The LEAF Fire: The Next Generation.

You can see it nearly finished here to the right.  This is before Ian put the final piece of wire meshing over the larger, higher area.

To the right -under the meshing- is the area we will use for boiling a kettle or two.

And to the left here, you can see it in action!Boiling kettles of water.

This is just after both the kettles have boiled, so we put them to keep warm slightly away from the flames.

Ian timed a kettle full of cold water, and it took about 15 minutes to whistle from first putting it on.  This compares pretty favourably with the gas rings up in the top metal shed.  They only take about 10 minutes, but then again, they use expensive bottled gas.  These kettles boiled ‘for free’ using scrap firewood.

And somehow, the tea we first made using this hot water tasted even better than ‘normal’ Plot Tea.  Difficult to imagine, but true.

I then went up to the local fish and chip shop to get four fishcake butties for myself, Shaun, Diane and Ian, so we very quickly ate these, had another cup of tea (…well, you have to, after such a lunch!..), then Ian and I worked up on one of the long beds up on the top plot.

This bed had been one of the strawberry beds, but we’d cleared it out as the plants in there were pretty old and ‘woody’.  Unfortunately, the sides of this bed had rotted, so Ian and I used two of the new second-hand scaffolding boards we’d bought a couple of weeks ago that had been freshly and expertly painted by Derek in ‘our’ green.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of this, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.  I’ll get a few tomorrow!

When we’d done this, we both went down to my Plot to carry on digging and planting.Tomato seedling.

To the right here is my ‘first’ tomato seedling coming through in the greenhouse.

Ian planted a load of leek seeds in a large tray that we’ll start off in the greenhouse, then plant out when they’re large enough.  He also planted some runner beans, two to a large pot that we can plant out when they’re ready.  Five pots in total.

We then carried on with the digging on the right hand bed we put all the spuds in a couple of days ago.  This bed is tremendously full of dock plants -and of course bindweed, but we took it steady and managed to get a fair amount done before we had to leave it for the afternoon.  This was about 3.45pm, and that meant time to wander up the lane, back to LEAF and start a ‘proper’ fire to roast potatoes on.Roasting spuds!

And here to the left they are!  As you can see, we fired up the bigger, left hand side of the new fire and wasted no time in getting some BIG lumps of wood on it to build up the heat.

(…As a side note:  I had a little ‘play’ with the new ‘Big Boys Axe’, chopping some fairly large logs down into ‘matchwood’.  What Fun!  We have loads of logs that need splitting, so this will provide me with hours of happy entertainment!  And there’s no need to worry.  There’s an excellent A&E just down the road should I chop something off that I may very quickly regret…)

Even though the potatoes were of massively different sizes, I somehow managed to get them all cooked for about the same time.  Nobody remarked that the potatoes were particularly good this week, but then again, they were all eaten -even the Plot Kids had at least one each, and nobody said they were particularly bad.  I’m going to take that as a ‘Home Win’.  Matt had also made some truly superb vegetable soup.  This went down much faster than the potatoes!

All too soon it was home time, and as I’d left my cat Alfie out, so I was keen to get back and start feeding him his three suppers.Mitzi-Moos being coy for the camera.

Well, he is a growing lad!

Oh, and to the right here is little Mitzi-Moos, being cute and coy for the camera this morning.  Bless her.

Tomorrow morning, after doing some pretty boring work here at Wardian Towers, I’ll be back down on my Plot with Ian before lunch.  Ian is treating Diane and myself (…and whoever else turns up!..) to some of his awesome home-cooking.

And our work tomorrow?  Why, more digging of course!

…Oh, and I’ll also get some proper photos of all the other work carried out today by ‘proper’ LEAF volunteers.

Weaving, digging, painting, cooking, clearing, planting, path-laying…

And, of course, the most important job: Cat Fussing.

Well, you have to, don’t you?

A piece of pizza? 26/11/11

Okay, the weather’s not as good as we’d like, but at least its not raining.  Yet.

But never fear!

Today I plan to show Sara how to light -and keep lit- the pizza oven.  She’s dead keen on learning to cook with it, so I’m obviously only too happy to show her how.

AND, as a ‘Party-Bonus’, she’s bringing a load of pizza dough.

Diane will have been to get mozzarella cheese and stuff for other delicious toppings, so late this afternoon -just as its going dark- we’re going to fire up the oven and EAT!

BUT, before all the fun, I can really feel some hard digging coming on.  There’s loads to be dug over, and it’ll be a great way to keep warm and work up an appetite.  It’ll also be an excellent antidote to all the work I’ve been putting in on the bike circuits this week.  Clear my head somewhat.

So, on with the boots and off we go.

A great day’s ‘Plotting’ ahead, I feel!

No pizzas today… 19/11/11

…But we did cook in the new oven.

This last week, Diane has puddled a load more clay and sand, so today I really had to show willing and carry on with the oven.

Matt, Jon, Gary, David and Derek were off on another plot -clearing it for the council ready for a new tenant, so I was left up by the clay oven with Diane who was valiantly cleaning in the metal shed.  At this time of year, it tends to ‘perspire’ so everything needed a good scrub.

Today, I would make the clay ‘tunnel’ to connect the main oven to Matt’s stone archway.Before work begins.

Here you can see it after I’d cleared out the remains of the last firing before I started work, and though you can’t see from this photo, the archway at the front is free-standing.

Not for long!

Now, it had been suggested that I could just mold the clay between the dome and the arch, but being chicken, I decided to fill the entryway with sand -in a similar way to the how the dome itself was constructed.Filled with sand.

A side shot shows the kind of gap I had to bridge with the sand already packed in place.  I also put the door on the from (…you can just see it to the left of this shot…) to prevent sand spilling out of the front.

When the sand was in place and well packed down, I covered it with a layer of wet newspaper to stop the sand sticking to the clay.

Papered up.This shot here to the right shows what I mean.

You’ll also notice that I made sure there was no paper over the original dome -I needed the new clay to stick to that as best possible!

An hour or so later, nursing very cold fingers, the hatchway looked like this:-

Clay on.The eagle-eyed will notice that there’s a piece of green plastic pipe sticking out of the top of the new clay.

This didn’t stay in long!

It was simply a ‘former’ for the chimney.  I’ll confess I forgot it at first, but on remembering (…after giving myself a slap on the back of the head…), I very easily ‘screwed’ it into the wet clay and sand beneath, then left it there as I applied more clay.

When Matt and myself were putting the clay on for the dome, we used a technique of grabbing a handful of clay, then squashing it into a ‘sausage’, then laying it on top on the one beneath.

For making this archway, I simply started from the base upwards (…obviously!..), molding ‘blobs’ onto the wet newspaper, and it seemed to work pretty well.

Now, unlike a few weeks ago when we made the dome, the clay wasn’t going to set on its own -its too cold and damp.  I needed to get the sand out -very carefully- then light a fire in there as soon as possible -to prevent it collapsing.

Getting the sand out.Here on the right, you can see as I very gingerly pulled the sand out.

It all came out pretty easily, and with no major collapses, I then prepared and lit a gentle (…at first!..) fire to start to dry the clay.Fire in the hole!

Here you can see it just after it was lit, and the ‘smoke’ you can see coming off it is actually mainly steam!

Over recent weeks, we’ve had a little rain, so not only did I have to start to dry the new clay, but the old dome needed warming up as well.

Now, I wasn’t actually intending to cook anything today, but Kyle suggested that I do some potatoes because he wasn’t having any of Sara’s delicious soup.

No problem, but I warned him that I’d never done potatoes in a clay oven, so I didn’t know how they’d turn out.Spuds in tins.

In the end, I needn’t have worried.

We all agree that these potatoes, if anything, tasted better than the ones I normally do on the fire on the children’s plot.  Quite how this should be, I really don’t know, but I suspect it may be something to do with the heat being evenly applied to the tins rather than the majority being through the bottom as it is on our usual fire.  Further experimentation is definitely needed!

Also to note is that as I has the fire in there, I could only fit in one tin of potatoes at a time.  Maybe we need bigger tins to fit more potatoes?

Thats not smoke.  Its steam!

The baked potatoes were washed down with some superb parsnip soup made by Sara, and she’d brought a freshly-baked cake!  A marvellous end to a hard day’s work by all of us, I think.  I certainly won’t need any supper tonight!

Anyway, here a final ‘panoramic’ shot looking up to the oven after I’d lit it, and you can see all the steam rising from the dome.

Before I left tonight, it was agreed that Sara would make a load of pizza dough for next Saturday, then I’m going to show here how to fire this up and keep it going, and she’s going to be ‘FireStarter’ for the day.

So, make a date in your diaries.  26th November, early afternoon.

One word: AWESOME

May I just say the BIGGEST, most HEARTFELT ‘Thank You!!!’ to everyone who helped make today sooooo special.

You were ALL completely, utterly BRILLIANT!

Now, I’m sure there are loads of photos of today -I’m sure, thanks to Sara, on our Twitter pages- but I only have a few from where I was, which was mostly doing the cooking.

And what fun I had!The new oven before firing up today.

Now, yesterday I mentioned that I thought all the cracks that had appeared in the top of the pizza oven dome would have contracted and disappeared, but I was wrong.

Yes, they’d shrunk somewhat, but there were still some pretty big ones still visible.

Sarah and I wasted no time this morning in patching them with left-over clay from yesterday, then I cleaned it all out and here you can see it before everything all kicked off.

I carefully checked the all important floor of the oven and found no cracked bricks, so the small fire we’d lit seemed to have done no damage.The fire is lit.

This shot to the left here is just after I’d lit it with kindling and rolled-up dry newspaper -in just the same way as I light a ‘normal’ fire on a Saturday.  You can also clearly see the still wet clay down towards the bottom on either side.  This didn’t last long.

The smoke cleared pretty quickly as it got hot and burned it all away, and after about an hour, it was ready to begin cooking on.

Unfortunately, due to a mix-up, there was a slight delay, but soon the pizzas were coming round the corner from the ‘prepping’ area at quite a lick.A pizza being cooked.

To the right here is one of the many (…we reckon about 35 were made today!..) pizzas just after I’d put it in.  You can also see that the wetness on either side had now disappeared.

The cooking technique for this oven is to get the coals and burning wood as hot as possible, and leave them over the central cooking area for as long as possible until the first pizza is ready to be cooked.  Then you must push all the hot embers out around the outer of the oven leaving the centre cooking area as flat and clear as possible.

If there is much of an appreciable time before the next pizza is ready to go in, I found that raking the embers back over the central area again helped preserve the heat on the all-important central area.

At this stage, because the oven was so hot -many times hotter than a normal, ‘boring’ oven, they were cooking in literally seconds.  As I put them in singly, you could see the cheese starting to bubble and the crust rising.  In fact, just putting this one in and getting my camera out, taking the shot then putting it away again, and this pizza was done!

We also noticed that like at SAGE Greenfingers, the oven was that hot, the actual dishes bent out of shape quite considerably.  If this making pizza lark is going to be a regular occurrence (…and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be…), then we really must invest in some proper cast-iron pizza pans like they use in Pizza Hut and all the big pizza chains.  Yes, they may well cost us a small fortune, and yes, pizzas will take slightly longer to cook -because of all the iron in the dish that has to heat up, but I’m sure they’ll be well worth the investment.

We also need a long-handled pizza peel -that’s the long, flat thing you put them in and take them out of the oven with.  The hairs on my left arm are quite singed with all the heat from having to get so close to the thing armed only with a small gardening spade!

Towards the end of the pizzas, the oven had cooled down a little too much, so before we cooked the last few, I stoked up the fire and was amazed at just how quickly it got hot again.Roaring flames and bent pizza dish!

Here you can see one of the last batch cooking, and you can clearly see the flames round the outside and just look at how the dish has bent out of shape.  I’ll bet you can’t do that in your oven at home!

So, about two hours and many pizzas later, we’d run out of dough, but that was no problem.  We just moved down to the fire area instead!

I quickly lit it, got it hot enough, and we started roasting potatoes in our customary Saturday manner.  After using the pizza oven and learning some of its foibles, merely lighting a ‘normal’ fire felt easy!

And the potatoes were excellent.

Now, I couldn’t finish today without thanking a few people.

I’m sure I’ll miss loads of you out, so please excuse me if I do, but here are just some of the people who made today probably the best ever LEAF Day I have been to or taken part in.

Big thanks to: Pam and Sara for the pizza dough.  ALL the artists for your beautiful work shown all over the site.  ALL our fellow plot holders who so kindly opened up their plots to the artists so they could show their work and to the general public so they could see a little of what goes on beyond our railings.  To the band who turned up and played so excellently to much applause inside our Geo Dome towards the end of the evening.  To all the folks at Grow Sheffield for the bike-powered smoothie maker.  To Madame Zucchini for her excellent vegetable cabaret.  To PXI Nick for the loan of the fruit press.  To the architecture students of Sheffield University for the design and building of our new compost toilets.  To Cape UK for the help with the Geo Dome.  To Ruthie Ford for her brilliant organizational skills.

And lastly, and probably most importantly to Diane for the immense amount of work she has put in over the last few weeks.

You really have been utterly amazing.

Thank You.

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.

Its all gone blurry. 19/05/11

No, not my vision; my recollections of yesterday!

It all started off pretty ‘normal’ for a Plot Day.  Well, as ‘normal’ as any Plot Day can be, but then it all seemed to go haywire and confused.

I know we had loads of visitors and committee members and volunteers and all, but I really can’t for the life of me remember much about the whole proceedings.Testing for the main event.

Luckily, I had my ‘Point and Pray’ camera (…A bit like ‘Point & Shoot’, but for the even less skilled photographer.  Perfect…) and that records times and dates of photos, so I can tell exactly what I was doing at any given time.

Tuesday had been ‘Dress Rehearsal Day’, and I’d taken the bikes over, and Diane had very kindly taken the two electronics boxes and lights over in her car.

Difficult to believe, but everything had worked first time!

Lights: Go.

Charging: Go.

Willing cyclists: Plenty!

After we’d got set up and tested, there was loads of planting to do, both to be ready for the ‘Big Day’, but also because our ‘Hardening Off’ mini-greenhouses were full to bursting with seedlings just begging to be planted in ‘proper’ earth.

We happily obliged, and planted out as much as time allowed.

Yesterday was much of the same, but this time, there was no dress rehearsal.  This was it!

I can remember volunteers coming and going (…and in most cases returning again…), I can remember setting up three of the gazebos, then Ian wandering round with a long tape measure and a determined look in his eye; “We’ll get another one in here right outside the metal shed,” he exclaimed, and it was so!

I can remember visitors arriving, then a photographer from ‘The Sheffield Star’ arrived and took some great photos of Ian, mugging for the camera.Emma on the 'light bike'.

I can then remember a reporter from ‘The Star’ arriving, and Ian giving him ‘The Tour’ (…This is a guided walk round our Plots, pointing out this and that.  It often takes an hour or more, there’s so much to see at the moment…), then the reporter coming back to talk with me, then more visitors, then excellent soup, then a cup of tea (…it had gone cold while I talked, but no matter…), then loads of people trying out both the bikes.  One was the one I’d temporarily blinded people with at the AGM last year, the other was the ‘new’ one that actually charges the battery and lights the ‘main’ light in the gazebos -much more difficult to pedal!

Then I can remember taking shots of the children’s artwork down on the Child Friendly Plot.The kids' Big Artwork.

This one in particular stood out -not least because it is more than life-sized.Cardboard fork and spade.

Then I took a picture of this cardboard fork and spade.  These colourful creations had been carefully painted in by our ‘Plot Kids’ last year and then stored over the winter in the top wooden shed.

It hadn’t yet gone dark, but soon would, so I wasted no time in having another look round and took some shots of the many beans we’d planted during the day.New Beans!

These beans had been planted by Ian in the space where Diane had said we could ‘have a strawberry bed’.  I think she relented after we all refused point blank to actually plant strawberries!  Strawberries on the LEAF Plots are for pulling out and giving away! We have far too many, so are always encouraging people to grab a hand fork and bucket and take as many as they need.

Actually, it was Diane’s idea to plant these beans in such an unusual ‘in and out’ pattern, and Ian duly planted two different varieties alternately, so in a few weeks, we’ll see what happens!More runner beans.

Here you can see the same pattern, but these are all runner beans rather than the climbing french beans we’re so fond of.

Today, Ian and I arrived for ten, and Diane was on an essential First Aid course, so after such a mad few days/weeks, we decided to ‘take it easy’ with some gentle wandering, watering and weeding.

This was just to see if any dreaded slugs had been partying in our crops overnight (…None found!..), pick up any litter left by visitors (…None found!..) and see what needed watering.

What needed watering?  Just about everything!

So, a gentle ‘coda’ after the Big Night, and tomorrow will be much the same, with maybe some sweetcorn being planted.

Anyway, my coach had just turned into a pumpkin (…more on those in the coming weeks!..), so I’d better call it a night.

Until tomorrow!

Bonus Edition. 15/05/11

I wouldn’t normally do this, what with there being yet another Plot Day in the offing, but there are just a couple of things I need to mention before the day ‘fully kicks off’.

One kind of leads in to the other, so here we go…

Yesterday, I totally forgot to mention that Sara made us soup for the ‘evening meal’ (…well, it was kind of dinner time…).  I’m very sorry for this, it was totally remiss.  My only ‘excuse’ is that I was very tired at the time of writing and so much had gone on yesterday.

So Sara made leek and potato soup -Leeks from Diane’s allotment and potatoes, some of which were from our plot that Gary had ‘found’ in his recent digging.

How was it?  Awe….

Hang on.  Lets have a look for a few alternatives.

A quick ‘Google’, and ‘Yahoo! Answers’ comes to the rescue.

Alternatives to the word ‘Awesome':-

Well, there’s…
and there’s always superspecialawesome!

Thanks to the good girls and boys at ‘Yahoo!’ for these.

So today, Ian and I plan to properly ‘furtle’ the ground outside the wooden shed for use with the bikes on Wednesday.  This will involve leveling, some ‘hardcore’ to give a decent surface for them then a dose of ‘Uncle Mattock’ -our Great Friend who is always at hand in times of need.  Holding it by the end of the handle and ‘persuading’ any loose rooks that they really, really do want to be beaten into the ground with the other end is great therapy and fun.

When this is done to our (…and more importantly Diane’s…) liking, we’re going to have a ‘play’ with the new gazebos and see what fits where.  Very rewarding.

More tonight.  With photos!


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