Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2016 has been a difficult year on plot 45 and 47. We have been hit by multiple injuries and illnesses which limited our ability to achieve what we set out to do this year.

The year started well (despite Mr P also being a one armed bandit,) pickling beetroot in January and sowing seeds ready for spring. I managed to dig the beds on 45 single handed and had started on 47 before I was struck down and am only now just about recovered.

The poor plots have looked unloved but there have been 3 successes, our strawberries; we were picking at least a kilo a day, which was turned into wine and jam, as well as puddings and school lunches. The garlic crop was our best so far and our shallots were pickled, cooked, kept for growing sets in spring and there's still a kilo leftover.

We had a reasonable crop of French beans and I have collected dried pods for next year's crop.

What have we got planned for next year? Getting some nutrients into the soil and looking at how we use the space we have are top of the agenda, anything else? Well we are still planning for next year so watch this space.

Best wishes from 6 P's on a plot and all the best for 2017.

Thanks for reading and keep digging :)

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Mint chocolate cupcakes anyone?

We're starting to rough dig and prepare the ground for winter and enlisted the help of the little P's but I want to blow my own trumpet and write about a vegan tea party I organised for my friend the other day.

We were originally booked into a tea room but 1 week before the day I received an email from the owner stating that her 'lease does not allow me to serve vegan food at this time!' To be fair I think we had a lucky escape. The owner had a distinct lack of understanding what it means to be vegan, ie, 'you can have fresh butter right?' and 'I can do egg sandwiches!' (she was told about the egg allergy)

So not wanting my friend to be disappointed I suggested that I prepare a tea party for us. Feeling deflated the 6 became 2 but I was determined to not let my friend down and set to planning.

Inspired by the Great British Bake Off, I started by choosing which cupcakes to serve.

I found the recipe in the most fantastic vegan recipe book. The book was bought as a birthday present for my friend but naturally I had to ensure that I was giving her something that I knew would turn out well. We regularly swap recipes so it was the perfect gift IF the cakes were good.

The book is by Mellissa Morgan and called 

Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town.

The recipes are very easy to follow, even the little P's were able to follow them and Bob has adapted one to make her birthday cake this weekend.

The cakes turned out perfectly first time and no sign of a soggy bottom!

The issue I had was making the icing. The instructions said to use an electric handwhisk to mix the ingredients. Whilst my right arm is starting to return to life, I am still not able to grip the side of the bowl and as soon as I added the icing sugar to the creamed dairy free butter mixture, I found a snow storm hit the entire kitchen coating the cupboards, cooker, chairs and dining table. I even found a thin layer on the door handle at the opposite side of the kitchen with 2 hours to clean up. Oops!

You would think with years of experience of making cakes (I started helping my mum and Grannie at the age of 2) that I would have realised the second I added the sugar a sticky explosion would happen? Nope not today I was stood in the middle of a big mess trying to work out what had just happened. I was clearly having a 'Mummy Moment', you know the one when you are desperately trying to do too much in too little time and for a split second your brain switches off!

Any way I gave up on the electric whisk and started folding the icing sugar in and then once more used the whisk to cream it. It occurred to me I always iced cakes by folding first then whisking the cream icing. Numpty! 

So how were the cakes in the end? Absolutely moreish! I can not recommend this book enough! The mint was refreshing and the cakes turned out moist and spongy, not the usual heavy, soggy bottomed concoction that normally passes as a vegan cake. So definitely worth the purchase and I was reluctantly happy to give the book to my friend for her birthday. I think I will have to buy my own copy.

After the half hour I spent trying to clean up the remnants of the snow storm. It was time to get on with the savoury part of our tea party.

I made vegan batches. (roll, cob, barncake depending on your region)  I was able to prove the point that I could very cheaply make the humous and salad option I had suggested to the caterer! I also opted for that well known brand of sausages we like to call McFartney in our house (no explanation needed here!)

Finish off with a bowl of nachos, the remaining humous , vegetable pakoras and popcorn to finish off. Very filling but really tasted amazing.

If anyone ever comes back to me again and says they can't cater for vegans I can show them this picture and explain how easy it is if you know the ingredients of the products you are working with.

All caterers have a legal obligation to provide information regarding allergens. A good caterer knows everything that is going into their food and can tell you straight away what you can and can't eat.

Next time I promise to write about allotments and the fabulous scalloped squash soup I made entirely with the ingredients grown at the allotment I helped set up at work.

Thanks for reading and keep digging :)

Thursday, 8 September 2016

I started writing this before calamity Nik happened again and I caused myself yet another injury. Enjoy the read.

I am in the final week of my summer holiday, the Little P's go back a week later. I always say I'm going to get up to the allotment and have grand plans, but I never quite manage to get the time up there I want to. If I do, I spend more time disarming arguing P's and rescuing  harvests from a marauding CP, than doing anything constructive. For example last Sunday, CP set to weeding her raised bed, however once I walked away, she dashed off to pick and eat all the ripe tomatoes off the bush next to her, as well as munch her way through all the French beans she could reach. She then started eyeing up the not quite ripe apples, before moving on to the raspberry canes. That is the one great thing about the allotment, all the Little P's will have a snack on what we grow. It does unfortunately mean crops don't always make it home.  Do I worry about them getting their 5 a day? No chance. Coincidentally she did manage to finish weeding her little bed.

I promised more of an update on my last blog so here's what we've achieved in the past couple of weeks.

Do you remember this barrel?

It took 4 of us to shift it!  We needed to dig a 2ft hole around the barrel. Mr P used a crow bar to lift it, while JJ, KP and I rocked it. It has been relocated to somewhere it won't sink and will become our wood burner in the winter. (bonfires permitted October-March) We do have an old broken shed to burn after all.

I have to confess we have given up on organic growing and sprayed the crouch grass around the beds on 45 and sprayed some sections on 47. It was becoming too much for us and if we didn't do something quickly we were risking eviction.

The front of 45 has been tidied up and I have started stripping the flower bed of dead material and weeds ready for some Autumn planting. Moved quickly through the dead material, the ever present dock leaf is another matter altogether.

The weeds have taken over the squash and courgettes so they are the next battle. Cleared this section in an hour with interference from the Little P's. Think I will head up without them, the next time they are with Grandma and get it sorted. 2 hours without interfering P's should get the job finished.

We are looking at what to plant next and where. The conclusion we've come to, is that it's time to order some muck and ensure it is well spread.

So that was 2 weeks ago. I have since torn my hamstring and am trying to hobble around on one crutch, (can't use 2, right arm can't hold the handle or take the weight.) Needless to say I am again unable to work the plot.

Really not been a great year but here's to getting back on it.

Thanks for reading. Happy digging. :)

Thursday, 18 August 2016

That's Shallot

Saying this year has not been our best is an understatement, however we have had some successes.

Our garlic and shallots have done very well. I brought back 2 overflowing bags of shallots and an equally full bag of garlic. Made the firm favourite shallot and goats cheese tart. Plan is to pickle the remaining. A week baking in the sun and they have dried out nicely. I wonder how many jars I can fill with this lot?

First crop of carcasonne, ready to be used. Some nice bulbs to replant.

Second crop not as successful but did go in a good couple months after the first crop. Was advised to plant in January/february. Won't be doing that this time, all in at the same time this October.

Red Duke garlic. Really pleased with these and they have a nice kick to them.

Left the Red Duke in longer than planned (everyone needs a holiday in the sun) found these miniature bulbs growing on the stem of the garlic. Just as tasty as the bulbs formed underground.

That's it for now. Weeds still winning but we keep digging.

Hopefully have more of an update next time. Thanks for reading. Happy digging. :)

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Hello Summer holidays

What a busy month we have had. There's been Father's Day, birthdays and a friend's wedding. The weather has been typically British summer weather, as in Summer? What is Summer? Then... Oh my God it's too hot! Where's the rain?

So what have we been up to on plots 45 and 47? Not as much as we should have been I'm afraid to report for the end of June. We faced eviction and did consider calling it a day. However after some negotiating with the committee we have been given another chance, we just need to keep on top of the grass. The we being the royal 'we' here, it's not very safe strimming and lawnmowing one handed! Since then however we have got our finger out and have been busy.

Our strawberries have been our favourite crop again this year. The little P's had fresh strawberries every day for a month and I have some very nice strawberry jam as well as a bucket of strawberry wine fermenting.

The garlic and shallots are coming along nicely. I weeded them again last week and topped the bark up around them but the elephant garlic won't be long before they're ready.

The carcasonne variety planted last Autumn have been harvested and I have chosen a bulb to plant this Autumn.

Our French beans are coming on strong and have now been supported, however the slugs have had a good munch and the green beans resemble stalks. Good job the purple French beans are coming on strong.

All of our squashes are out. We have butternut, scallop, turks turban and a pumpkin in however the turks turban and pumpkin probably won't make it this year.

We bought grape vines at the end of last year and our pesky pet rabbits took a liking to them, nibbling any greenery back to trunk! I took it to the greenhouse in the hope they would recover and am pleased to say they are slowly making their comeback.

The greenhouse has been reorganised and the tomatoes and cucumber now have space to grow. I transplanted a couple of the tomatoes into buckets outside. We have had an abundance this year between what we have grown and the ones donated by Dad P and Mum W. Yes that is a tray of celery and corn waiting to go in. Need a bed clearing on 47 so they can go in.

On 47 Mr P has been taming the grass and giving everything a good strim. He found the lone asparagus at the front of 47, there was originally 2. We had decided to have the front of the bed as our asparagus bed but realised it was more manageable to move it to a raised bed where it is less likely to be disturbed.

We have also been busy clearing behind the shed. We cleared at least 5ft of brambles, holly and Ivy and unearthed this unsightly lot. Skip required me thinks!

We (and not the royal 'we') had a bit of a mad one, clearing the brambles and rubbish, dismantling the crumbling shed, then erecting a new one we were lucky to be gifted on freecycle. With all hands on deck, the job was completed in a day. We left the lottie feeling exhausted but satisfied with our team effort.

A lick of paint and she will be as good as new! ;)

This year has been a battle but our spirits have not been completely crushed. A few times we have wanted call it a day but have persevered. Plans are a foot to get back on top of it, watch this space.

I realised the other day that photos on here are normally of Mr P, the little P's and I in our scruffs. I wanted to end with a photo of us looking a bit more respectable for a change.

Thanks for reading. Keep digging :)

Friday, 17 June 2016

Finding the roses

So last week I stopped to smell the roses, this week I braved the rain at the start of the week and stopped to find them. 47 is overrun with 2 1/2 ft grass so I made it my mission to try tackle it. This was originally the flowerbed.

I found all these beauties hiding under the grass.

So after several hours out in th showers I finally found most of the flowers.

Only one small section to go but I ran out of time.

... the apple tree is full of apples.

.... From the greenhouse we have eaten our first cucumber and there are plenty more on the way. Our first tomatoes are forming.

.... JJ was most excited to find the first ripe strawberry, but became somewhat disgruntled when she realised she wasn't the first to find it. Have to be quicker than than JJ.

The weather has gone from showers to full on flash flooding thunderstorms, so progress has been slower than I would like this week. The top of 45 is under water again but at this time of year it soon dries out.

Thanks for reading. Keep digging :)

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

'What is this life'

So yesterday I had a busy day; check up, coffee, blogging and then spending the rest of the day at the allotment.

I focused on the main bed on 45. The bark means I can weed it using a hand fork instead of a full-sized garden fork.

I took my time stopping regularly for a sit down and a drink. After several hours, I ended up near the grass verge and at the point where the grass was too thick for a hand trowel. Deciding to stop I admired my handiwork.

Having a greenhouse over flowing with plants I decided to start putting them out, starting with our courgettes. We have 2 green and 1 yellow. (I have donated the second yellow courgette to the school allotment.)

I need to rebark the area but thought I would plant everything and get Mr P to help remove the last of the grass first. I also need Mr P's help with Cecil and Cecelia before planting the last of the plants out, need to protect from the rabbits and pigeons!

I found this little beauty hiding in the weeds. It's managed to grow 5m away from the flowerbed. I should move it but I hadn't the heart to disturb it. Feeling down yesterday, this little flower reminded me that there is always a chance of something wonderful and unexpected happening.

I finished off by planting Primulas around the cherry tree on 47. They were in a planter at home but were not liking the suntrap that is our decking.

Feeling thoroughly achy I went for a lie down in the mini meadow at the back of 45. I like to keep a small section for wildlife and the cool grass was a relief from the heat of the day. My view:

It was nice to stop and stare up. I saw several different birds including swallows, as well as bees and butterflies. Laid there in the still listening to the world I reconnected with nature until my neighbour came rushing up to make sure I was alright and hadn't had a fall. He must have thought I was nuts however those 15 minutes were the most relaxing of my day.

I mentioned my moment in the grass and a friend reminded me of William H Davies' poem 'We have no time'

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Off to spend an hour at the school allotment now.

Thanks for reading. Keep digging :)

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Mr P's return to the plot

On the whole it's been a glorious week weatherwise. Had a couple of wet and cold days but the weather held for the bank holiday.

So what have we been up to on plots 45 and 47? 

For the bank holiday we took a few days out and visited Lands End in Cornwall and had a fantastic few days on the beach enjoying the sunshine.

Lands End
 The Little P's proved they could build the biggest castle on the beach with this beauty, taking time decorate it using sea glass, pebbles, shells and anything they could find on the beach. Beach scavenger hunts definitely produce the best treasures.

Sennen Cove construction

Sennen cove construction from the front

Day 2 and getting bored of sandcastles they made a turtle and decided to dig to China. After digging 2 foot down they decided it would be more fun to bury each other. We are still finding sand hidden away in places we didn't expect and probably will be for the next few weeks. Safe to say we all had an enjoyable time at the beach.


Back home and the work never stops. I've been busy maintaining areas on 45. Reheaping potatoes with help and working my way through the weeds.

Mr P has been busy getting on top of 47. He's started strimmimg and clearing around the fruit trees and started digging around the bases of the trees.

I planted marigolds and giant marigolds again this year so they have been planted around the base of the tree.

The bed I started digging before I was ill is being cleared, just the section around the barrel to go. The squash and pumpkins have been potted on again so they can keep growing until we can get them in.

So that's where we're up to. Mr P's handy work is certainly having a much needed impact on 47. I'm off now to do a bit more work on 45.

Thanks for reading and keep digging. :)

Monday, 23 May 2016


Things are moving along here on 45 still and I have plants nearly ready for 47. The little and often approach is working and I am now managing to drive myself to the allotment. 

CP and I last went up yesterday to pot on the courgettes and check on the greenhouse. I had not been feeling very well at the end of last week so I asked a friend to check on things for me.

The greenhouse is being overtaken by tomatoes and cucumbers. We have 3 cucumber plants and well over a dozen different tomato plants. I think the plan is to rearrange the greenhouse this week and move the smaller table out to make room for them.

The peas are ready for planting out, as are the sweetpeas. The sweetpeas will be going up the trellis towards the back of 45. The old parts of a greenhouse that had been leaning against it were taken by the scrapman last week. We leave the top as a nature section however a quick strim around the edge and they will be planted.

I managed a small amount of weeding in the large raised bed where the root veg will be going, CP and I managed to top up the bark using the small child's spade and a bucket which we both lifted. It took 7 trips but was worth it. Next visit we will plant the seeds, although CP has already planted some beetroot in her bed. We found the root veg grew really well in the bark last year so will plant carrots, beets and parsnip, parsnip going in the middle so less disturbed. I have some onions that I've started from seed but I think will only get as far as developing into sets for next year, so I will plant some near the carrot rows to deter the nasties.

The rhubarb on both plots is spectacular and I will be playing with recipes in the coming week. The strawberries are the one that I am really looking forward to. I'm setting the Little P's a challenge to find more interesting recipes. They are forming nicely and I find my mouth watering in anticipation.

One last quick check around and the greenhouse watered. Time to come home and rest feeling satisfied at having achieved more than planned. (I hadn't planned on topping up the bark in the raised bed.) I had also spoken to a fellow committee member regarding what would be acceptable to do on 47 given my current abilities, which left me feeling a lot happier. However the most satisfying part was knowing that I managed to get myself there to start doing the work.

Thanks for reading and happy digging. :)