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...........

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bean Picking, Path Revamp and Wine

Despite the forecast of increasingly windy weather, it wasn't a bad afternoon to be at the Hill. I had it all to myself so had no excuse not to get on with my short List picking the last of the drying beans and taking down the frame.

I also wanted to ruminate on the winter job of looking at the paths with a view to replacing the old wood chippings which have been in situ for nearly three years.

I had a spade handy and had an experimental go at taking the layer of chippings off the top of the membrane and depositing on the nearest bed.

Not as easy as you might think - the chippings either resemble mighty fine compost but I don't want to damage the membrane with the spade, or the weeds have caused the chippings to become one giant mat.

My back soon told me that it was a job for little and often until the New Year, when the chippings will be available to collect from the local park - the Council has an area for people to dump their Christmas trees and then they put the whole lot through a chipper, the pile of chippings a mile high is available for anyone to bag up and take away.

I finished taking down the runner beans, jody's barlotti beans, hunter french beans and I was left with a miscellaneous group of various bean pods - some which climbed when they shouldn't or strayed up a different pole, or I left behind last time, or I can't readily recognise, and these have all gone in a big bucket marked 'beans for eating' so I don't end up next year sowing seeds with look and might be variety X but turn out to be something completely different.

The purple sprouting gave me another good picking, and I dug a couple of parsnips for roasting with pumpkin, onions, garlic and potatoes tomorrow.

So with the poles down, the dried vines cleared away, the coloured ball cane toppers sorted for broken ones with the others stored back in the shed, and a start on the path revamp I was happy to call it a day.

Oh - and I've just opened a bottle of grape wine that I made last year from John Badger's (at the bottom) grapes, and some of mine too. It's horrible. You can't win 'em all, I suppose!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blackcurrant Wine - The Outcome

Remember the blackcurrant wine that I started back in November 2010 and did a step-by-step guide? Well it has been in the bottles since February, and I've started the first bottle.


It really is rather good.

A very passable, fruity, full bodied red.

In the cold light of morning I am going to go and squirrel one or two bottles away for further maturing and very special occasions.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hill Allotment AGM 2011

Before putting a post together about the Hill Allotments AGM, I've needed to do a little technical jiggery pokery with the blog.

My blog background - of which I am rather fond - has stopped displaying, and investigations reveal that this is because the nice lady at delightfuldots where I had it from has decided that she now has better things to do than provide all and sundry with lovely blog backgrounds for free.

Then I spent an interminable amount of time going round and round in bloody circles trying to work out why my side bar had disappeared from the right hand side, appearing at the bottom of the blog page instead. Eventually I figured out the correct combination of words to use in the Blogger help site search box to reveal the way to fix this.

I will tackle the decision on what to use as a background another time, otherwise we'll have been here all evening with nothing to show for it.

So on to the AGM - it is always an excellent evening held in the clubhouse, and only the second occasion in the calender when the plotholders get together (the other being the Annual Show).

The business end romps along with reports on the Accounts, Health and Safety, Show Report and Secretary's report - and then we get to the nitty gritty issues like Site Access and Water Usage.

No one wants to see the increase in incidences of vandalism continue, or for the Council to take action against us on overuse of water, so breaches in the rules on gate-locking and water-profligacy have now become hanging offences, and don't say you weren't warned. Quite right too.

A final point before the fun bit of the cup presentations, photo competition and bun fight afterwards, was raised by Dr Bob, as 'green' a gardener as you will find on any site.

We've all had trouble with allium leaf miner (a bug which affects onions, leeks & shallots, causing the leaves to twist. The plants do sort of recover, but it ain't great - photo below courtesy of Lichfield Allotments).

There's no remedy, but Dr Bob suggests that all seventy-odd plotholders abstain from growing alliums for a period of - say - three years to see if we can eradicate the pest.

Reg-next-plot, a more traditional plotholder, can be heard spluttering into his beer at this point, and counters with the suggestion of using Armillatox to sterilise the soil, 'kills the lot, that does', at which point Dr Bob splutters into his beer, the Secretary points out that Armillatox is not licenced as a pesticide any more (cue Reg scowling) and - unsurprisingly - we don't come to any consensus on this issue.

The big picture of a secure site and sensible water use to keep our plots safe and our crops thriving is where we all agree - it's just some of the methodology of how to get there that we might differ on...

Takes all sorts though, eh?

Monday, November 07, 2011

*Ahem* - Where Were We?

Obviously, apologies to any purple-faced readers who have held their breath for exciting news of the Hill Show.

My silence is due neither to being swept away on a wave of euphoria through sweeping the board and winning all 72 categories available, nor being cast into the pit of dispair due to dismal failure, but the intervention of real life, primarily WORK. Times is tough, belts have be tightened, hours have to be extended, output has to go up.

Oh, and I went away on holiday for ages too.

Of course the longer the gap between blog posts, the more there is to say, and the more daunting the task, so let us skim over the last few weeks thus:
  • I had 14 entries for the Show - first place for the dwarf beans, fruit cake & chutney; second place for carrots, lemon drizzle cake & the collection; and third place for rhubarb - hurrah!

  • I have discovered (and MUST REMEMBER) that four courgette plants are TOO MANY - I picked the first of the courgette in mid July, the last ones yesterday. Over three months, I would guess that I picked nearly a hundred courgette.

  • Beans continue to be terrific value - I'm picking them for drying now, and there are bags and bags in the freezer.

  • Mum's friend Chris is more than generous with her spare plums - 'a few pounds for making a batch of wine' translated at her end to 'please innundate me with enough plums for making three batches of wine, eat until I'm almost ill, and to make jars and jars of plum chutney'.

  • Mum's friend Chris is also generous with her quince - although I only got twice as many as I said I could sensibly use for a batch of wine. I've given half to Julie - I'm hoping that she makes some quince jelly and we can do a swap.

  • Half a dozen red kuri squash are all cured and in the mini green house, along with a foot-diameter pumpkin - NOT a prizewinner this year. Although the idea of planting the pumpkin plant where the compost heap had been was a good idea in terms of richness of the soil, the fact that it was behind the shed & therefore somewhat shaded meant the plant did not thrive.

  • The second early and maincrop potatoes are all dug up & stored (the earlies all eaten); garlic and onions dried and strung; three or four dozen sweetcorn cobs all picked, distributed to people I like and eaten.

  • The pea wigwams have all been replaced with brussels sprouts and purple sprouting seedlings bought in the Focus closing down sale. The enormous apoplexy-inducing fight that I had with laying out the netting to cover these brassicas has paid off - I was surprised to discover shoots on the purple sprouting just last weekend. Mentally, I'd had them down as being ready after Christmas, but then again I don't know the variety, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised

  • I've started the Autumn tidy up, forking over spare beds ready for either manuring, liming or sowing with green manure. The raspberry canes have be cut down either to the ground (autumn variety) or tidied up with last years growth cut out (summer variety)

And what's to do next?
  • cut down the asparagus when it starts to go yellowy

  • turn all the more-or-less rotted down chippings from the paths into the beds and organise fresh chippings.

  • finish getting the beans in & taking down the frame

  • Paint the toolshed - a job made all the more pressing by the erection of a smart brand new shed straight across the path by neighbour Jody
And that's where we are.

Hopefully fine weather at the weekend - and the AGM next week...
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