Welcome to our plot!

I'm Hazel, and in Nov 2006 my friend Jane and I took on a half plot at Hill Allotments, Sutton Coldfield - we want the satisfaction of growing and eating our own fruit and veg, and to improve our diet (and fitness!).

This is the story of what happened next...........

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Onwards & ... upwards?

Another lovely sunny day at the Hill yesterday (which reminds me, I didn't take a bottle of suncream to put in the shed) - with plenty of allotment holders getting stuck in to their plots.

With the ash from Iceland's volcano Eyjafjallajoekull currently putting a halt to all air traffic, we also enjoyed plenty of birdsong & peace & quiet. This is putting a positive spin on the Act of God which in all likelihood will put paid to me going on my much anticipated holiday later this week.

It was lovely to see neighbour Jody (big sister Helen tells me that after three years, Jody can no longer be referred to as 'novice neighbour Jody') with his smashing little lad in tow talking to Reg-next-plot, and I could hear teacher Barry talking to Potager Chrissie further up the Hill.

First job was to put up the bean frame - quite enough of a job to be getting on with, for which I needed bamboo canes & after three years at the Hill I thought that I'd treat myself to new ones.

So up to the store shed for a stack of canes, with John D was manning the counter (or more accurately, sunning himself outside on a fold-up chair with a newspaper) & I bought just enough for the frame, but that did wipe out the shed's entire stock & also meant that I ended up temporarily financially embarrassed with potager Chrissie coming to my aid with a three quid sub to make up the shortfall.

I dug up the last few overwintered LEEKS from the bean bed then set about putting the two 'T' shaped end pieces of the frame up, which was quite hard digging in the heat - but it wasn't long before these were in and fixed & I had a length of robust wire run between them on each side.

Then it was simply a matter of slotting in the canes from a centre line alternately left and right to the wire & tying them in.

I've decided that all the climbing beans will be direct sown this year (& all the dwarf beans in pots - see if it makes much difference) so I put 2 or 3 to each cane of FRENCH BEANS (coco, zebra (from HSL), bridgewater, jody's barlotti, spagna bianca (from veg heaven), hunter (from indomitable fran) & cherokee trail of tears) & also RUNNER BEANS (self saved).

Time was getting on, & so once I watered the beans in, I nipped off to buy a sandwich from Sainsbury's (& made use of the cashpoint) then came back & had a very enjoyable lunch in the clubhouse with Potager Chrissie.

Afterwards, I finished the bean frame off, topping each cane with a coloured ball, & then planted out a two trays of PEAS (red flowered mangetout & reg's climbing) & a tray of BROAD BEANS (crimson flowered) in the adjacent bed.

Back home I had a mammoth seed sowing session:

COURGETTE (yellow golden & black beauty)
MARROW (long green bush 2)
CUCUMBER (burpless tasty green)
FRENCH BEANS (early warwick, triomphe de farcy, talisman, emperor of russia, black turtle, contender & speedy)
SOYA BEAN (ustie)
SWEETCORN (incredible f1 & extra tender & sweet f1)
SQUASH (brampton butternut & bag end pumpkin)

...along with some runner beans & sunflowers for mum, some sunflowers for me, and a batch of aqueligia & nigella for the front of the plot.

All this activity just in case the skies clear & I do get away to warmer climes...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wine Processing

With the wine rack in situ in the garage ready to be filled & a number of demijohns vying for space in the attic room, I had a bottling session today.

First up was this year's Parsnip wine from January, followed by the Elderberry & Apple - which is the most delicious colour. A taste of each is promising - but also reveals that they will benefit from maturing for a few months.

This has freed up space upstairs for a demijohn of the second batch of Parsnip wine made from teacher Barry's parsnips, then still in a warm room downstairs (& now transferred from buckets to a demijohn) is a batch of Jerusalem Artichoke wine made with 4lb of Jerusalem artichokes dug up a couple of weeks ago.

The alternative to making wine would have been a tasty soup, albeit several gallons of it, & there's only so much room in the freezer.

Of course Jerusalem artichoke wine is a bit experimental, & whether it is a hit like the Parsnip, or utterly dreadful like the Celery remains to be seen!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Plot Inspection!

Today has been the warmest day of the year so far, with beautiful Spring sunshine - it certainly brought the plotholders out at the Hill.

As I arrived I saw Reg-next-plot, & went straight over to say thank you for planting the raspberry canes. I also asked him about supports for the canes & he gave me some advice about the height of the uprights at each end, & about how many & how high the cross wires should be, & I busied myself with sorting that out.

The ladies from the stable arrived with a trailer-ful of bags of manure, so I broke off to give them a hand with unloading, & once they had gone, Reg & I emptied about half of the bags into the skip.

I kept a few bags back and topped off the front compost bin, squished it all down a bit then covered it with a black plastic sack (rather inadequately) & that can now magic itself into compost over the next three months or so.

I went up to the store shed to pay my money for the '3 spuds in a sack' competition & collect compost, bag, potatoes & instructions - John Badger (from the bottom) was in charge of the shed this morning doing brisk business with so many plotholders on site.

Back to the plot to plant out a tray of PEAS (latvian) - the broad beans planted out a couple of weeks ago look really good, the sweetpeas slightly less so, but I think that they will come on. In contrast, another of the lettuce has shrivelled up, & the other two don't look great - I'll definitely let them grow bigger before planting out the next lot.

Big sister Helen is up for the weekend, and arrived with mum to see what's going on - she said (rather kindly) that the plot looks better 'in the flesh' than in my photos on here, and was suitably impressed on being given The Grand Tour.

We had a look round all the plots - said hello to Rhubarb Brian (mum got him to promise us more tayberries this year) & saw returning-allotmenteer-Christine's new Salad Bar - her wonderful looking young lettuce contrasting greatly with mine, I must say.

Tour over, it was all off to the garden centre for a cup of tea & a toasted teacake. A good day!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Lovely Surprise!

On the way home after being out & about in the last of the day's sunshine, I couldn't resist the short detour to the Hill - I wasn't dressed for it, & didn't have anything to actually do, but I did enjoy a mooch round just to see what was what.

I spotted straight away that Reg-next-plot had been busy - some while ago he offered me some of his autumn raspberry canes which he said he would be thinning out in due course, so we discussed where I'm going to put them & I have prepared a trench ready, along side the summer raspberry canes.

He said that if I wasn't there when he dug them up, he would 'heel' them in at one end of the trench ready for when I could split & plant them properly, but - damn me - he's very kindly spaced them along the trench & planted them up - brilliant!

After admiring these for some while, I had a look round the rest of the plot.
Next time I must wait until the lettuce are bigger before them planting out - I've lost a couple from the 6 planted out at the weekend, & I think that they would stand a better chance if they were more robust to start with.

No sign of the potatoes/carrots/parsnips/latest batch of radish sprouting, & the kale is looking like it'll bolt soon, so I picked a big handful of 'tops' to try to delay the inevitable for a while & came home in the dusk for supper.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

New Toy!

For my last birthday, mum kindly gave me a big wine rack so that I can store my wine more safely & in a more orderly fashion in the garage.

The bottles have previously been stood on any spare bits of shelving in the dim recesses & this along with a tendency for the labels to fade with time means that choosing a bottle to enjoy a glass or two of on a Friday evening has always had a slightly random factor.

But as of today, the wine rack is safely affixed onto its own dedicated shelf, & I have spent a very enjoyable hour shuffling bottles about deciding on the most logical 'filing system', & I only stopped when it got too dark to play with it anymore.

As a bonus to the evening, I've discovered two bottles of last year's parsnip wine & a couple of the second batch of rhubarb wine - all of which I am looking forward to tremendously!

Monday, April 05, 2010

New Wines, Blending & Bottling

With the 5lb of parsnips that teacher Barry gave me on Saturday, yesterday I set to & started to turn them into something to drink.

Familiar with the method, I soon had them scrubbed, chopped, boiled & strained; then I added sugar & citric acid & boiled again; then once cooled, in went the amylase, yeast nutrient & finally the yeast - stirred it all up, & off it goes.

Of course somewhat after the event, I flicked through my copy of CJJ Berry & found out that I could have made something called 'Parsnip Sherry (light)' - I'll definitely give that a whirl with some of next year's parsnips.

This year's parsnip wine that I started at the end of January is already clear as a bell, so I siphoned it into a spare demijohn & I can bottle it at my leisure - as ever with the parsnip wines, it's as strong as an ox at 16% & tastes like it needs to sit somewhere quietly for 6 months or so.

The redcurrant & apple started in December is ready to bottle too - a taste reveals it to be a bit sharp (& a bit bland, if I'm honest), so decided to use this wine to have a crack at Wine Blending.

As all the apple wines have been sweet, I siphoned off some of the apple mkIII & made up 8 bottles in total, with each bottle being approx 2/3 redcurrant & apple and 1/3 apple mkIII, which I think should make something better tasting than either of them individually.

The mixture seems to taste OK, but I'll know if it's been a success when they have sat quietly for a few months too...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Generous Gardeners!

The weather was much better than forecast yesterday (with occasional showers threatening), so I took a gamble, left a line of washing out at home & managed to get a good couple of hours in at the Hill, ending up with quite an impressive list of 'things done'.

Things started well when I found a couple of demijohns left for me by the shed, along with a plastic bag of wine making bits & pieces, for which I presume that I have John Badger (from the bottom) to thank.

On later investigation of the bag of bits, there are tags included detailing the wine maker's racking & bottling dates from 1978 - which might also explain the prices on the equipment packets - 8 ½ p for an airlock!

Soon after, teacher Barry came down from his plot three up towards the clubhouse. "Now, do you make wine?" he asked, "in particular, parsnip wine?"

"I certainly do, Barry!" I nodded.

"Good - then are these any good to you?" & he showed me a big bag of washed parsnips in his car. "When we had some the other day, we found that they'd gone quite woody, so if you can use them, then please do."

I didn't need asking twice. "Thank you very much and I'll bring you a bottle when it's made." Brilliant!

When he'd gone, I turned to the potato beds, dug up the last couple of PARSNIP (hsl guernsey) and SWEDE (virtue) & dibbed holes to plant the main crop POTATOES (robinta & setanta).

I spotted this wonderful peacock butterfly on the shed - I would have thought that it was far too early (and cold!) in the year, but there you go.

Soon after, novice neighbour Jody arrived - with family news, & we worked side-by-side chatting for an hour or so.

He was digging in some manure into his potato patch, whilst I whipped the netting off the brassica bed, hoofed out the done-for Brussels sprouts & calabrese, weeded & gave everything a good feed with some of Jody's blood, fish & bone.

I planted out four small pots of SPRING ONIONS (apache) sown in February, & half a dozen LETTUCE (mini green & arctic king) & sowed a row of PARSNIPS (saved white gem) in the roots bed.

The compost bins are better after last week's bonfire - & after manhandling two of the three gooseberry bushes from the heap to put in the back of the car to take to the tip, the front bin is now just full (rather than two-times its own height), & the back bin is virtually empty.

That just left the rest of the harvesting, in the shape of a few LEEKS (mrs d), & half a dozen foot-long stalks from the earliest rhubarb crown - which were utterly delicious later on when lightly cooked with a little sugar & ginger - yum!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Rain & Raisen Peas

It is Good Friday today, & to coincide with the break, the weather has turned vile again. Cold yesterday with some rain, light rain all day today, & the forecast for tomorrow is not good either.

Consequently, it has not been a day for going to the Hill, but it's a new month & there are seeds to be sown indoors. I've invested in a second frame of rootrainers, & so spend a merry hour playing with compost & sowing the final round of PEAS (ezetha's blawschock, newick, ne plus ultra & 'raisen cap').

This fourth variety somewhat of a mystery. I had them from the seed swap at the potato day at Ryton, scooping a handful of these interesting looking large brown peas from a bowl into an envelope & hastily scribbling the variety on the front, but even by my rather low standards, the handwriting clarity is terrible.

I've tried looking online to find out more about the variety 'Raisen Capucigaers' but the search produced nothing besides an area in India called Raisen where their main arable crop is peas.

I'm rather looking forward to seeing how they turn out.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...