Reflecting on my week #41

We’ve had some shed fun this week, although I’m not sure MOH would really call it fun.  The half-assembled new shed was collected from the allotment, and of course it wouldn’t fit in the car assembled. So while I fetched and carried the remaining items from plot to car, MOH set about dismantling the shed with the screwdriver I’d thoughtfully popped into my bag. 

I’d forgotten that it needed a right-angle screwdriver though, and so we didn’t have all the tools needed. The allotment isn’t that far from home, so once the heavy base was removed MOH walked home carrying, almost wearing the shed - it must have been quite the sight for people driving past. 

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I did go back and help him once I’d got the car home, and I do have some photos of him which I’ll not share here as I don’t think he’d be too impressed, in fact he didn’t look too impressed in the photos either...

The shed is now temporarily stored behind the pizza oven, in pieces once again and that’s a job for another day. No doubt our neighbour will spot it through the fence, get agitated and complain before he even knows where it’s going, so that’s something to look forward to.

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The rhubarb is home too, but not before harvesting all its stems. I worked on the theory that if I can't pick many next year after replanting it, I'd make the most of it this year.  When I checked it on Saturday it was already throwing up a couple more stems so at the moment it doesn't seem too traumatised.  

I've left some more crowns on the plot, the smaller ones and I didn't bring my beans home as I've planted another set in a large pot.  When I'm back from Yorkshire I'll plant some more beans in the hope they'll catch up.  I've now also got most of my tomatoes planted in the greenhouse, the cabbages and other brassicas have been potted on and I've still to make a decision about their long term growing home, I'm hoping they'll be a little patient.

My FIL came home from hospital this week accompanied by a hospital bed and other paraphernalia including, as MOH put it, more drugs than the Libertines and a complicated schedule for taking them all, as well as home care.  It has been another peculiar week and one where I wasn't convinced we would get away in the end. 

But we did and after a relatively good run - apart from traffic a mile or so from home - we're spending a few days based near Ripon in a lovely barn.  Other than booking somewhere to stay our preparations have been fairly minimal, so we were pleased and surprised to discover some local ale in the welcome basket, it seems the brewery is less than ten minutes away and could make it onto our to visit list. 

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I'll share more about where we're staying another day, but after arriving with fish and chips (quickly demolished) and opening a bottle of wine, we got that feeling of being watched.  Turning, we saw we'd been spotted by one of the farm's sheep who was giving us the eye, from the safety of the tractor.

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Yesterday we explored relatively close by and ended up stumbling across a fantastic homewares shop, leaving with a cushion and two coasters in quite an impromptu purchase.  Cushions, as you know, are on my house shopping list so I was quite surprised when MOH was quite taken with one, so as it was "approved" that's the one we left with.

They had the most gorgeous enamel letters and that knack of putting things together in an effortlessly chic way, which I adore.  It's a bit of a worry that we discovered this on our first day, well, it's a worry for MOH at least...

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Our second visit of the day was to the National Trust's Fountains Abbey and Royal Studley Water Garden, and both were stunning.  We had quite a stroll around the grounds, stopped for refreshments with a view, took plenty of photos and enjoyed the glorious weather like everyone else.

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There were a number of follys around the grounds, but the most colourful was Polly, sadly though Polly wasn't well on our visit so we couldn't look inside, but we did leave giggling to ourselves about Polly being as sick as a parrot.  

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I suspect we'll be back here during the week and maybe we'll get to see all of the follys, but we now also have a list of places to visit as long as our arm.  MOH's already tested out the hills on his bike, mine is at home as I'd predicted most of it would be uphill, but at least he's already ditched the idea of a 60 mile cycle in this heat, which I think is a good thing. 

On my list is Castle Howard and RHS Harlow Carr, but also Newby Hall and some of the RHS partner gardens, we'll see how many we get to...

A long overdue update on our plot

I should warn you, this is another of those not very pretty posts, but it is part of our journey to tame our allotment and as I'm not about just sharing the pretty stuff, here it is, warts and all.  In my defence, it was a long winter wasn't it and most of that long winter I hibernated.

It seems though it was a good winter for grass, as the beds we've previously tamed and used to grow plentiful crops had reverted to grass.  Luckily though they were relatively easy to weed, although the bed that's had potatoes in was the easiest.  I must get more potatoes!

THERE'S RHUBARB IN THERE, HONEST

THERE'S RHUBARB IN THERE, HONEST

Even the compost bins have grown grass this year, which isn't so good, but on the plus side if the grass and weeds can grow, so can my veg.

IT'S BEEN A GOOD WINTER FOR GRASS

IT'S BEEN A GOOD WINTER FOR GRASS

Our Stihl trimmer has come into its own, it's light to carry over to the allotment (there's no way I'm leaving that there), is easy to use and has good battery life.  But the real reason I know it's good is because it's got the seal of approval from MOH, not only does he use it over our older one, but the older one has been given away.  

STRIMMING IN PROGRESS

STRIMMING IN PROGRESS

And if he wants to use it, then I'm not going to stop him - seems the right approach don't you think?

We'd gone armed with a tarpaulin too, and once the potato bed was weeded, it was quickly covered and pinned down so that we can delay the weeds return.  This year, I have to plant something else in this bed and the beans in the greenhouse are currently vying to be planted out this weekend.

WEEDED, TAMED (FOR NOW) AND COVERED UP

WEEDED, TAMED (FOR NOW) AND COVERED UP

It wasn't all bad though, as we weeded the potato bed above we discovered a further two brown bags of potatoes so that was an added bonus, and they've been very tasty too - small, but tasty.  The artichoke under the crab apple tree is growing as well as ever, in fact I think it's doing better than normal, maybe there'll be some decent sized artichokes on it this year.

THE ARTICHOKE'S HAPPY

THE ARTICHOKE'S HAPPY

We've tackled the trial raised bed too, which had also sprouted grass, again it was easy to make quick progress. We realised though that we'd made a rookie error by not putting cardboard under the new soil to act as a barrier, so that's probably something we'll rectify this year.   

MORE WEEDING DONE, AND NIBBLED RHUBARB LEAVES

MORE WEEDING DONE, AND NIBBLED RHUBARB LEAVES

We pulled about a kilo of rhubarb stems, and the good news is there's still plenty left and more to come.  I think that's kind of crumble-tastic news, and it's the time of year where I tend to keep a tub of crumble in the fridge so I can make a pudding without too much fuss.

Our strawberry plants are also looking promising.  I've read somewhere that it's supposed to be a good year for strawberries, I hope that's right, and I hope my strawberry plants are also in the know.  I've more from the garden to move over to the plot, so I should be able to edge the path that leads onto the plot.

STRAWBERRY FLOWERS

STRAWBERRY FLOWERS

As we were weeding we came up with a master plan to avoid this scenario next year, and that's when we 'close down' the allotment next autumn to make good use of those tarpaulins over the winter.  It sounds a cunning plan doesn't it, let's just hope I remember it in time.

OOPS, THE BENCH DIDN'T SURVIVE THE WINTER

OOPS, THE BENCH DIDN'T SURVIVE THE WINTER

Our storage bench was a casualty of winter too, it's collapsed.  We've had a couple of attempts to piece it back together, but it's way past that and this weekend a new smart wooden small shed is arriving and I'm hoping will be easy to assemble so our plot looks slightly less ramshackle, and we might even get some veg in it soon too.

Wish me luck!

Home Etc

A mixed year on the plot

If you've been following my "year in review" posts you'll know that they've been full of things I've enjoyed, and this one is no different, but it's also been a year of challenges. We knew when we took on our overgrown plot that it wouldn't be easy, but I don't think either of us realised quite how hard it would be either.

That said, it's still been rewarding, just a little bit more back breaking and soul destroying than we'd hoped for. And eating produce you've grown yourself makes your back ache just a little bit less, although in my case that wasn't helped by my "allotment tan" that gap between my shorts and my t-shirt, ouch!  (It's still brown now!)

But 2018 is a new year, and once again I'm already itching to thumb those seed catalogues and start planning where we'll plant things this year. And I'm determined that this year I'll make that cutting patch...

My allotment year in 2017 was a shorter year, in fact not a year at all as my posts only cover April to November, so there's another lesson for me and that's to get out there digging earlier this year.

If anything I think these two first two photos from my post in April checking in with the plot were to be indicative of our growing year - the celeriac above ground looked to be doing well, but below was just a mass of roots without the lovely celeriac bulb. We'll try again - hopefully with more success - I'm sure.

APRIL: IT LOOKS LIKE CELERIAC

APRIL: IT LOOKS LIKE CELERIAC

...NOT QUITE SO MUCH NOW THOUGH!

...NOT QUITE SO MUCH NOW THOUGH!

But I'm grateful for one thing for our first visit last year, and that's one of my favourite photos of the year - yes the one with the lichen, and yes I still liken my lichen a lot!

APRIL: I STILL LIKEN MY LICHEN

APRIL: I STILL LIKEN MY LICHEN

Later that month I had potatoes chitting everywhere. Almost every surface was covered with them and it felt like the potatoes had taken over the asylum, and that's still true today.  We're still eating potatoes we harvested in autumn last year - I told you there was a lot!  And that gives me a dilemma, as it's apparent we're not big potato eaters so I should grow less, but then they've done wonders for our soil, so we'll be growing them again.

...perhaps I should look for a different solution, it would most definitely be easier to start eating more potatoes!

APRIL: POTATOES CHITTING EVERYWHERE

APRIL: POTATOES CHITTING EVERYWHERE

By May my broad beans were planted out and our plot was looking semi-respectable again, and the battle of the onions lay ahead of us.  We took a new approach to the weeds too and rather than dig them up, decided to try blocking them out with soil in a raised bed.

MAY: BROAD BEANS AND A WEED FREE PATH  (IGNORE THE REST OF THE WEEDS!)

MAY: BROAD BEANS AND A WEED FREE PATH  (IGNORE THE REST OF THE WEEDS!)

The next month or so saw me wage that battle with the foxes over the onions. I'd like to call it a truce, but I think in reality they won and my onions never really recovered. It's the second year I've had no luck with onions so I'm going to give them a miss for a bit and hope that when we try again the foxes have forgotten, or moved on.

JULY: PROTECTING MY ONIONS TO NO AVAIL

JULY: PROTECTING MY ONIONS TO NO AVAIL

We did have a bumper crop of strawberries, and later raspberries and later still apples and it's these small wins that made having the plot so worthwhile.  Especially so with the strawberries as they were off plants I'd moved over from our garden - most of them free plants too from the runners, and you know how much I like free plants. And strawberries!

JULY: PLENTIFUL STRAWBERRIES

JULY: PLENTIFUL STRAWBERRIES

The plot next to ours continues to inspire me, but there's also an element of envy too. I know how much effort our small progress has taken, and at times I think ours will never be quite as together as this, but I also know that having it right next door gives us something to aim for. I suspect our neighbouring plot owner looks at ours hoping we'd hurry up and get it sorted, but I'm sure they also know just how much effort that will take.

JULY: NOT MY PLOT (OBVS)

JULY: NOT MY PLOT (OBVS)

In August we were back on the plot and making good progress, although there were notable losses - pumpkins, tomatoes and cucumbers, I'm looking at you, but once again we did have some beautiful sunflowers.

AUGUST: PLENTY OF BEAUTIFUL SUNFLOWERS STILL TO COME

AUGUST: PLENTY OF BEAUTIFUL SUNFLOWERS STILL TO COME

In September we were overrun with red and green bounty and feasted on borlotti beans and rhubarb - not together and all was good with the world. Our biggest harvest was later this year than the previous year, but it was much needed and our energy and enthusiasm was renewed. Phew.

SEPTEMBER'S RED AND GREEN BOUNTY

SEPTEMBER'S RED AND GREEN BOUNTY

But that wasn't the last of our harvests, we still had the potatoes to come.  In the end that took us two attempts, and I think we've still got some in the ground (mental note: need to check on these soon) and as I said earlier in the post, we're still working our way through the almost 10kg of potatoes. 

ALMOST 10KG OF POTATOES, WHICH IS A LOT OF POTATOES...

ALMOST 10KG OF POTATOES, WHICH IS A LOT OF POTATOES...

TINY SUNFLOWERS ON A VERY THICK STEM

TINY SUNFLOWERS ON A VERY THICK STEM

So thankfully there were highs in our allotment year, but there were also lows too, and lows that were lower than I'd expected to feel and I seriously questioned if we should keep our plot. There is still so much to do, but we have a plan to bring a new section of it into fruition this year, and I'm hopeful that won't be quite as bad as we hope. The section in question has been covered with tarpaulin since we took over the plot so at least there isn't the grass (above ground) to dig through.

Wish us luck - we're going to need it - and I'll keep you updated with how we get on.