Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Some of my knitting completed.

Well I eventually managed to get some of my completed jobs photographed and I post them here at last. These are all projects that I have made for Kirsty's 18th Birthday tomorrow. I know that the colours are BRIGHT but Kirsty just adores unusual socks and bright colours - so I had to make her ones that beat everything she could buy at a shop.

Andyne and Byron's hat and miser mittens have already been given and am still trying to get photos of them.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Stripes everywhere

I have not been blogging for a while but thought that I would let you see the first quilting I have done in 4 years. I attended a workshop on Saturday, 8th November in Poole called "Stripes like Bridget" not knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by the result. I have decided to make some new cushion covers for my lounge. Here is a picture of my version of stripes. It is the blue, grey and floral block.

If I ever get a a chance to see Bridget's paintings I will definitely do so. She started her stripe painting in 1962 and only finished many years later - so I don't feel so bad about some of my UFO's hiding in the cupboard.

I am also going to a quilting workshop in Weymouth at the end of November called "Around the World" at Pauline's Patchwork which I am really looking forward to. I think that it is going to be really challening and tiring - I have never made a quilt top in a week-end. Mmmh - what have I signed myself up for?? Mom and I have decided to make a week-end of it and stay in Weymouth so it will be a nice break for her to get to meet all her old cronies.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Another productive week-end!

The photos above show a couple of the flowers I had on the lottie this year including the lovely sweet pea wigwam above. The date on the photos is wrong as the camera keep going back to the original setting and I'm too challenged to change the date every time I take a photo. I had months of lovely bunches of flowers in the lounge - not to mentioned the delicious smell which wafted through the whole house. The nastirtiums in the photos are mainly self sown and are making a bid to take over the lottie - I will have to get them in hand next spring and be brutal in weeding the seedlings. The dahlia and cosmos flower bed which I started this year has been very productive and I think that this year instead of lifting all the dahlia tubers I am going to give them a good mulch and protect them with cardboard and fleece and leave them in the ground over winter. Hopefully they won't rot off.

Well - I managed to get down to the lottie on Sunday at about 11:00 and DH got out the lawn mover and did a lovely job of cutting all the grass. It is amazing how much better the lottie looks when the grass has been mown. I'm sure that DH hopes this is the last cut of the season ! (Fingers crossed - last year we ended up cutting the lawn almost all winter).

The SA corn has been very slow in maturing this year so after harvesting only four immature cobs I have decided to leave the rest on the plants and see if this last burst of lovely weather will finally ripen them. I find that sometimes nature seems to catch up in a last spurt of energy. If not, I think that it will be the last time I use these and will start using UK seed. I have also left a hubbard squash on the vine hoping that it can get a bit bigger as all the other squash has already been eaten - so I do not have a lovely stock like I did last year. I notice there are quite a few baby squash on the vine as well so will leave those and hopefully they will get to a decent size before the first frosts strike!

I cleared out the last of the beetroot in the raised bed, I was quite amazed as the bed looked quite empty but right now I have a decent pot of beetroot cooking away for me to bottle. Yummy - something to eat with all those lovely stews over the long, cold winter. I then manured it with chicken manure pellets and popped the garlic and some overwintering shallots in it. The broad beans I planted a couple of weeks ago are a couple of inches tall now so I have placed some fleece covering over the raised bed to protect the baby plants from the frost. I will have to keep checking and staking them as my lottie gets a lot of wind rushing through. I have tried planting raspberries across the bed last year but I think it will be a year or two more until they can create a decent wind barrier.

I also took the protective mesh off the early sprouting broccoli (white and purple), and the cauliflowers, then weeded the bed and staked the plants. I also then re-netted the whole bed with mesh to protect my brassicas from the flying rats!(pigeons) they are an absolute pest down at the lottie.

Also managed to clear out the last of the tomatoes out the greenhouse - leaving me with about 2 kgs of green tomatoes. Guess which recipe I will be digging out of my collection?? - Yes, green tomatoes chutney!!

DH erected the table to go in the greenhouse for all my precious little babies to overwinter safely and I have already got my autumn sown sweet peas, cleome and a couple of other seeds planted after reading SR's book saying that she got a better performance out of them if they were winter sown. I will keep you posted on the outcome! If anyone wants some home saved sweet peas give me a shout and I'll pop some into the post for you. Can't remember what kind they are but mainly peach, pink, lilac, magenta/purple but he smell was absolutely divine this year.

Monday, 6 October 2008

What a Rainy Week-end!

Well at least the wet week-end got me to stay housebound and get a couple of baking jobs done. Jacquie came over and we managed to get a batch of soetkoekies, romany creams and rusk (biscotti) done to last a good couple of months.

Last week-end I managed to get all the japanese onions planted - both bulbs and some seedling that I purchased. I am going to do a comparison and see which one is the better performer. I tried to plant Japanese onions from seed last year with dismal failings. Watch this space.

Also got the gemsquash bed cleared out with about 2 dozen squashes retrieved for storage. Did a quick clear out, remanured it with chicken pellets and then sowed the broad beans. I find that my autumn planted ones are harvested before the dreadful black fly attached - twice now I have had my spring sewn broad bean crops dessimated with black fly.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Summer 2008 Overview - The Good, the bad and the ugly

This year, despite the weather office saying that this August has been the wettest and most miserable since 1942! – it has been very good for me on the allotment – despite the little time I have managed to spend there between all the visitors but we had a decent crop of garlic, shallots, potatoes, French green beans and tons of tomatoes!! I have processed about 10kgs of tomatoes for the deepfreeze. I have liquidised them, oven roasted them and whizzed them into pasta sauces and even made tomato soup and still they keep coming!! If anyone wants some seeds of the “Peacevine” tomato which has been the best producer this year let me know and I will pop some over ot you. It is an old heirloom variety which I got from a seed swap and comes from the Victorian era - I have been really impressed with it. We also got a good crop of gem squash and about 4 lovely big Hubbard squash. My mielies have still not fruited yet – they are quite late, but I am sure that we will get some good mielies as they are looking very healthy.

My green peppers and aubergines have been a disaster as have the melons – I do not think that I will try them again next year – a waste of time and effort. I must get Ron to bring me some more seed back with him in December – I have no more mielie nor hubbard squash seeds left. I also harvested my first load of Swiss Chard last Saturday and managed to get half the potatoes lifted and all my leeks in – a bit late but we have had really good rain since Sunday I am sure that they will catch up.

What a crazy Summer

We just got Jacquie and Mom and the kids settled int otheir new home and just managed to get everything cleaned up and back in its place and my sister Debbie came over for a month to visit us from New Zealand.

It has been really lovely having this time to catch up and get to know each other again. We have been very busy as Debbie and I went to London for four days and did all the touristy things and then the ladies popped over to France for the week-end to see a friend of mine. In the end poor Jacquie could not go as her passport was in with the children’s Visa applications. We had hoped to have it back by the time the trip came around.

Debbie really enjoyed her visit and I think she managed to charge her batteries up. She had been looking after Krystal’s son (4 years old), Seth full time almost for the last 9 months and was really worn out. I know why the Lord gives us children when we are younger! I think if I had to have a baby now I would either eat it, or put it down and forget where I left it!!

I was thinking after Debbie went home how really sad it is that we loose touch with each other not living close. Only now I appreciate how much fun it was growing up with all our cousins – going fishing and camping together etc. Now I am sure that I would walk past my cousins children in the street and not know who they were – for that matter I think I could walk past some of my cousins and not know them either! Although at the time when we were growing up with all the squabbles and fights you wished you were an only child.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Brownsea Island and the Merchant of Venice

Week 31 – Friday, 25th July 2008

Well the weather turned out lovely for Wednesday evening for our trip to Brownsea Island and the play of “Merchant of Venice”. The trip over on the ferry was lovely as they did a bit of a tour of Poole harbour and its surrounds. Once there, everyone sprawled out on the grass with their picnic baskets whilst the geese, peacock and chickens prowled the parameters for any titbits.

I only got a slight glimpse of one red squirrel’s tail as it scurried up a tree, but the main impression that I got was that they were definitely much smaller than the grey ones. There was also a lovely video showing at the hide about them. I can now understand why so many people call the common garden grey ones “tree rats” – what a pity that the poor little red ones are almost now existent around the UK.

The show itself was lovely and the costumes were exquisite. At times the sound was not as good as it could have been when the actors were faced away from us. All in all it turned out to be a lovely night out albeit that I only got home past 12pm! The moon on the way back to Poole harbour was wonderful, looking like a big, yellow slice of leftover cheese. I took pictures but will download them this week-end and see if any of them actually captured it properly.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Baby its hot out there

Week 31 – Wednesday, 23rd July 2008

The hot weather is holding well and it looks like it will last until the week-end at least. I am planning on having a lottie party on Saturday and Sunday and have invited everyone along to get the weeds under control. Ron has said that he will barbeque some sausages and hamburger patties for anyone who turns up. The lottie has really had to take a back step with everything going on lately. But I am sure that by the end of the week-end it will be beaten back into submission. I also need to clear out the old pea bushes and their frames and get the rest of the leeks in for those lovely winter soups.

Although the hubbard squash has been attempting to take over the lottie for some time now – the little fruits seem to start growing and then become yellow and drop off. I have even hand pollinated two of them so that I could keep seed this year and they are also not looking that great. This time last year I already had a couple of decent size ones. I so wanted to enter one into the Lottie Show on 9th August, but it does not seem that I will be able to.

My Peacevine tomatoes are however doing very well and although very green at the moment, are lovely sizes. Maybe they will ripen in time for me to enter some into the show. I have been very impressed with these heirloom tomatoes and got them from my HSL swop this year. I will definitely be drying some seeds and distributing them far and wide to keep this heirloom alive. Only hope that they taste as good as they look.

This evening I am going to Brownsea Island to see the “Merchant of Venice” with a couple of girls from work. I am really looking forward to it as I have never been to Brownsea Island nor seen the play. I am also really looking forward to seeing live red squirrels and I do love the little grey ones that visit my back garden even though most people call them “grey rats”.

I even managed to remember my binoculars (as we are seated right up at the far back left) so not sure how much I will actually be able to see and hear. At least if I cannot see or hear anything I can wander (with my eyes and binoculars) around the scenery. I also packed my camera and will definitely be taking some lovely photos – so hopefully I can put some lovely photos up. So armed with my raincoat and anti-mosquito I am ready for anything.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Laminating and Painting?

Week 31 - Tuesday, 22nd July 2008

Now that all the family are settled in their own place, Ron and I went to look at some paint and laminate flooring. Everyone tells us how easy laying laminate is, but I am not so sure. I think possibly murder would be a good option once we got started! Why is it that men NEVER read the instructions before they start?? Anyway, we decided that we would do the front entrance and the bathroom which is only about 4 square metres in all and if we get that done easily enough, we will then do the lounge and passage. We also got a lovely Beech floorboarding - so fingers crossed we manage to lay it easily and that it looks half decent.

I have also decided on the paint colours I want to redo the house in, but I think there is little chance that Ron will buy and repaint the whole downstairs before Debbie arrives on 3rd August. So unless Debs gets a huge spurt of power and wants to tackle it I do not see much happening until the end of August – mid September 2008.

Managed to pop down to the lottie and water the greenhouse - just as well as the tomatoes there were wilting it has been so hot. Also picked about another pound of french beans and gave them a good drink of water. I will prepare them and blanch them for the deep freeze. The swiss chard that I transplanted a couple of weeks ago it looking strong and healthy - only hope that they don't start bolting with this heat ad I want them to go thorugh the winter. Also need to transplant another tray of them once I have managed to lift all the potatoes on the week-end.

When I got home Tez and Kirsty had not only mown the lawn, but also run the hoover over the downstairs and cooked Spagbol! I could get use to this kind of treatment.
I made a potato salad for dinner tonight and Tez will spice and pop the chicken into the oven this afternoon for me. It is just too hot for slaving over the stove. Then I have some strawberries and cream for puds! No, not home grown – they have all been eaten and did not even make it to the kitchen. I must admit I bought them from Sainsbury’s on Sunday.

The great move is over....

Week 31 – Sunday, 20th July 2008

The move this week-end went much better than I had expected. We managed to get the keys early on Friday evening and ended up getting quite a bit of cleaning done. The house, despite the owner’s best efforts, was still a bit of a tip. That’s the problem with having tenants in your property. I however managed to get the whole conservatory, walls, floors and all cleaned but the skin on my hands is starting to peel off – I just cannot wear gloves as they aggravate me no end! So it’s my own fault. We cleaned until 23:00 and then called it a day.

We then started at around 09:30 on Saturday morning and did not stop until about 16:00 when I called it a day and went home - I was almost dropping with fatigue. Maureen also came over to help us out and she went through the house like a devil.

We went past on Sunday afternoon for some tea and cookies and they are almost all settled. They still need to find homes for things but the worst is over. But the house is really looking good now. Ella donated a whole lot of her lovely garden pots to them and there is a particularly lovely peach / orange loose leaf, open face dahlia which I am itching to get my hands on some of its bulb for my collection. Absolutely lovely!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Nightjars and Glow-worms

Week 30 – Friday, 18th July 2008

Mom and I went on the Guided Nightjar Walk at Sopley Common – our first ever. Our little intrepid band of 13 turned up with Nigel Brooks leading the motley crew. One thing Mom and I realised at the outset is that we were sorely unprepared. Mom did not bring a rain mac and we brought no insect repellent whatsoever. However the Gods were kind to us and despite a couple of spattering’s of rain, the heavy clouds that had been threatening all day did not open up and teach us a lesson.

It's amazing how many times we have ridden past this spot and never known that the heath lands exist, but I will definitely be coming back. Some of the group pointed out Hawkley tower in the distance and told us that use to a refinery and there is also power station there. The refinery apparently had now been mothballed..

Nigel gave us a bit of a talk advising us that they were starting to fight back the old forestry pines and silver birch that had begun to invade the heath lands and in a couple of years the landscape would be much different. There are a number of heathers growing on the heath lands – we saw apricot and pink varities.

We heard a Woodcock in the distance but did not manage to see it. We saw and heard a couple of Nightjar’s in the distance, but then when we moved higher up on the ridge, one Nightjar actually circled the group of us and then hovered above our heads. Boy it was lovely - a big thanks to Nigel and the Dorset Wildlife Trust.

If you want to see more information on this bird here: On the way down we managed to see 2 glow-worms. I looked the information up and this is a wonderful UK site : Needless to say I slept like a baby.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Guess what's at the top of my Santa List this year?

I am probably deliciously naive in my thinking at this stage It’s the taking responsibility for it that’s firing me. I have just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver which has been a real challenge for me to review my life style choices. Although I do have an allotment and buy my free range eggs from "Ron the Chicken Man" down the allotment road from me - I have always hankered to have chickens of my own. My Dad had them when I was a child - for eggs and table - mostly bantams and some silkies.

I have done some homework and have found a supplier close by who supplies live chicks and poulets @ £8 each (two weeks old). I would therefore not have to have the poor things posted to me. I shudder to think of the state they would arrive in even knowing that they can survive for three days without food.

I would like to have some heirloom breeds (to keep the breeds alive) - and this is where I would like some input from you all. I have chosen the breeds that I think I will be interested in are but any input of experiences would be appreciated:

Chickens for Eggs :

Large :
Sussex / New Hampshire Red / Cochin / Orpington / Scots Grey and Boven Marans (x breed which I believe lay well in the winter months - from the same supplier).

Bantams :
Orpington, Scots Grey, Plymouth Rock
I also like the Faverolles (which originate from France) and are also a good dual bird e.g. table and eggs. I am looking at dual as when the chickens start slowing down on the laying I would possibly look at harvesting them for the table. Sorry if I offend anyone in this thinking but I am trying to be practical. However, the jury is out on that one and I do not know if I would have the guts to actually kill them.

Turkey for Christmas :

The only kind he provides is Norfolk Bronze Turkey - anyone got any other breeds that are heirloom that they have tried and found better? I have already checked with my council and they say I could easily have chickens at home. The one problem I might have is a rooster. I want to get three females and a rooster so that I can start making my own little chickens. I am not sure if I will get large or bantam - can any one advise me on the size of the eggs which is the better option - as I do want the eggs mainly.

My allotment does allows us to keep chickens - but I only have 5 rods with three fruit trees so not much space there. Oh, decisions, decisions!! I am so tempted to jump in with both feet but just know that it is a big responsibility. Ideally I would like to attend a course but the only one I can find around these parts is Hugh Fernley W and he's expensive and a bit far away! Anyone know of something closer to Dorset/Hampshire that run decent courses?

I have seen a wonderful chicken house - see the picture above - (,43759.0.html) or see post at Allotments 4 All posted by IsleworthTW7 - returning to poultry) that I think is the kind that I would be prepared to put my chickens in. I wonder if I would be able to put chickens and a turkey in the same coop?

One guess what's on the top of my Christmas list to Santa this year!! Poor Santa - he almost definitely will not fit down the chimney this year.

Plants for Free

Week 30 – Thursday, 17th July 2008

As it was a leaf day on Tuesday I managed to get the last sowings of coriander, parsley, basil and various lettuces done. Also split the peace lily that I rescued from Karen’s dustbin and managed to cut it into four new baby plants. Have potted them up and placed them on the greenhouse staging to recover. I will give one or two of the plants to Jacquie and Mom for their new house. I think their downstairs toilet with the sky light will make a good place for one of them.
Also see that the begonia pieces that I rescued off Geraldine’s plant before sending it to plant heaven has started shooting roots and will need to be potted up in the next day or so. The plant stand that I have offered to give Jacquie will need to be sanded down and repainted to make it half decent for them to use in the entrance. Whilst I am doing this I might as well do the hat/scarf stand at the same time!

Our summer baskets have started filling up really nicely now and are looking grand. I was a bit worried when we made them up as we use mostly home sown plants and looked a bit ragged. I only bought in three trays of plants for the fillers. I must say that I was really chuffed with myself when I managed to walk out the nursery with only the three. It was hard – but I did it!!

Hopefully the weather will stay decent so that we can attend that Guided NightJar Tour at Sopley Common this evening at 9pm. I found out about this tour from someone who visited my website. Whilst I was nosing around on Snowgoosey and Tattyanne’s site I picked up the information and did a google and voila – I found a guided tour just around the corner from me. I am really looking forward to it as I do not know a lot about UK birds and wildlife and need to increase my knowledge. I have even got Mother to agree to come along. The guide says that we might even see glow worms. Fingers crossed – and I will really try and take along my camera and get some shots if I can. Mmmhh!! now where did I put my binoculars??

Weeds 1 - Me Nil!

Week 30 – Tuesday, 15th July 2008

Popped down to the lottie with Mom to water the greenhouse – the Peacevine and Brandywine tomatoes are doing very well and have very well formed, big fruits – still green but I can almost taste them! Got a couple more Sungold tomatoes off the bush – yummy! One of the Red Brandywine has started ripening so should be ready by the end of the week when I visit again. The chilli plants are not doing well this year and I have suffered loads of slug damage. None of the aubergines (inside or out) have any formed fruit yet but there is a flower or two – so fingers crossed I might even get some fruit this year. The melons have also all been munched by the slugs so I will be taking my last, precious plant down to the lottie on Friday to plant out and spread lots of organic slug pellets about to give it a fighting chance.

I also managed to get all the shallots harvested. It seems a bit early this year but all the plants had died down already and the slugs were starting to move in for the kill. So I pulled a decent harvest and have arranged them on racks in the lottie shed to dry out. I have two types of shallots this year – a small, golden type, which Dave from work gave me (not sure of the variety) - which I will use to make up some pickled onions and another one that I bought from the Potato Day in Whitchurch – also the name escapes me. On looking back on my earlier notes I did not seem to make a note of the name. Tsk! Tsk! I really need to get my labelling skills up to scratch.

The Sturon onions that I planted are not that great and only about 8 decent size. The rest seem small and undeveloped so I have decided to leave the smaller ones in for the time being and harvest later just in case they put on a final growth spurt. Their leaves are still green so fingers crossed!

The sweet pea wigwam is still flowering its socks off and for the last 6 weeks we have been picking large bunches of flowers at least twice a week. I will start slowing down by the end of August to allow the plant to set seed for next year. The colours and smell have really been heavenly and I really must try and remember to take my camera down so that I can post some pictures here.

When I went to feed the French beans, to my amazement I found that there were actually about a pound of beans once picked. I had not really seen any major flower action there and the plants do not seem as strong as last year but the beans lower down seem to have made it. I gave all the beans a good feed of seaweed and made a note the bean frame and its environs need a major weeding. I also harvested some lovely beetroot and once home managed to pickle 3 pounds of beetroot and blanched the French beans for the freezer. Just enough to either add to a stew or serve as a vegetable side dish. I am however sure that I will be adding to them shortly.

The Yellow Mange Tout that I planted also had a very slow start but is now really going wild. I think that I will stop harvesting now and allow the plant to set seed so that I have enough for next year.

As I have not been down to the lottie that often or for long periods I am afraid that the weeds are winning 1 – 0 at the moment. We will be moving Mom and Jacquie this week-end so do not think that I will manage a visit to the lottie as well. Will rally the troops together and set a definite date for the weekend of 26th/27th July to wage war on the weeds and whip the lottie back into shape. All the potatoes will also need lifting and the sweet potatoes need to be put in as well.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Review your Life - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Week 30 – Sunday, 13th July 2008

Did not get too much done today and seemed really flat – all I managed was to get to church, have lunch and then went and laid on the bed to finish reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver which I have really enjoyed. I ended up having an afternoon siesta.

The book is really thought provoking and challenged me to review how I can change things about my choices, to think about the way I live and shop which can make a small difference to the world. A lot of the statistics in the book are really scary. I would really love to get my hands on a similar book but with UK stats and historical data. Must have a good look at the library next time I am in there.

There are also some lovely recipes in the book which I have copied off her website and will definitely be giving them a try - especially the bottled tomato sauce and antipasto. Her bits on her turkey adventures is really very funny and I must admit, I have started itching to try and get a turkey - or two - to raise for our Christmas dinner - especially since last year when our local butcher wanted to charge me £35 for a 4kg turkey. A bit pricey I think. So needless to say we had no turkey! I have started doing my homework and have even found a local poultry farm which sells rare breed chickens and turkeys (2 weeks old) for £8 each. So I have decided that when I get my second allotment, I will definitely think of getting some chickens for eggs and turkeys of my own. I have thought about the slaughtering part of the turkey but "I'll think about that tomorrow".

Holly Flops and Beheaded Sunflowers

Week 29 - Saturday, 12th July 2008

Got stuck into the garden after finishing off the oven. Its kind of funny how you get this lovely sanctimonious feeling in the pit of your stomach when you have managed to do something that you have been putting off for months done!

I also gave the kitchen a good once over and hopefully got rid of that irritating little spider who insists on spinning webs in the corners of the kitchen window. I know that I love nature but the little blighter gives away the fact that I have not dusted so he really is not playing the game.

I managed to get some lovely strong 6 inch bamboo canes and got all the Holly Flops standing straight-ish and tied to within an inch of their lives. A couple of them have started looking a bit scraggly but I do not have the heart to cut them down yet. Planted out the Echinacea into the flower border where the Dicentra is starting to die down. I will also need to cut her back but am holding off until the last minute. Hopefully by then the Echincea will be giving a show that will ensure that I do not miss her. I cannot believe that from that small little pot I bought at Kingston Lacey at the first garden show I went to she has now become this huge shrub that dominates the bed from early Spring until mid Summer. She was my first plant I ever bought in the UK!

Wollygog – the black Sunflower that Byron has been nursing since tiny, which he planted himself has unfortunately lost his head in the last wind storm we had. The flower is already formed so I might still be able to save some seed from him so that Byron can try again next year. Sunnyboy, the yellow sunflower - is still standing strong and tall and hopefully will live to flower. They have both topped 6 foot and counting.

I finally managed to get the lavender plants which I grew from seed this spring out into the front garden beds. I really want to try and get these two long beds to be almost all perennial and low maintenance. I already have geraniums, grandmother’s bonnet and Flemish poppies who all self seed themselves and come up every year. Also planted out the last of the poppy seeds that I received from the CGS seed swap and despite them germinating late hope they might give us a show for late Summer and self seed for next year.

Dirty Ovens and Moods

Week 29 – Friday, 11th July 2008

I had been in a strange mood all day and when I got home got stuck into the oven. Now I am a strange person – when I am agitated or upset about something I start cleaning! Which in itself is not a bad thing mind you? The stove was long overdue a good cleaning and one of my most hated jobs – that and cleaning out the deep freeze and fridges.

I used this new oven cleaner that Ella recommended called “Ovenpride” which is really good. The one thing that I will not repeat again is leaving the stuff smeared on the oven overnight. Although it did clean well I think that next time I will wipe everything off the stove after four hours. The oven racks and stuff though I will definitely leave in the bag overnight. The one problem I had was that the bag leaked and the next morning the cleaner had leaked all over the paving outside. The cleaning seemed to have done the trick and I was in a much better mood afterwards. Even managed to get to watch Gardeners World in between.

Slow Season

Week 29 – Thursday, 10th July 2008

Popped down to the lottie and dropped all the composting material. The lottie is looking really windswept and I feel really bad that I have not been able to come down as often as I would like but life seems to be so hectic at the moment. There never seems to be a spare minute to myself to slip away and get stuff done.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse on the lottie are looking really good with lovely tomatoes lower down the bush. I cannot wait until I can sink my teeth into a lovely ripe tomato. I must admit that the Peacevine tomato that I got in my HDRA seed swap this year is really impressing me. The tomatoes are a bit heart shaped and the most prolific plants this year really – only hope that it tastes as good as it looks. The Yellow Brandywine (in the house greenhouse), is not doing too well, but might still pick up later in the season. The Red Brandywine is doing OK and the others are slow but doing well. The only home grown tomato I have had to date is the Sungold’s. They are lovely but not flowering as much as last year – not sure if this is because I have been nipping out all the side shoots – maybe I should have left them all to their own devices – I did last year and got some lovely fruits.

The cucumbers in both greenhouses are really not doing well this year and despite me putting down slug pellets, they seem to be getting struggling. They really seems to be struggling this year and the plant at home has only tiny little fruits on but the vine does not seem to want to take off – normally this time of the year it is twirling its way around the greenhouse in a bid for freedom.

This however seems to be a national problem as I was listening to Terry Walton on BBC 2 last Friday and he says their stuff all seems to be a couple of week behind that of last year – so maybe it will pick up.

Welsh Poppies and Granny

Week 29 – Sunday 6th July 2008

Managed to get into the garden for a while and try and beat the bush back into submission. The Holly hocks have now been nicknamed the “Holly Flops” as the wind has really battered them down this year. Surprisingly enough the Delphiniums have stood up to it and for the first time this year I have some half decent Delphiniums. Will try and save some seed this year for next spring. The Delphinium Requiem that I got from Di really do live up to them being slug resistant.

The Golden Hops on the arbour is now starting to look really tatty and not its best, but is still trying to take over the garden. The Welsh poppies (meconopsis) which self seeded from last year have really put on a good show this year and they came up just in time to hide the ugly daffodil leaves which were not yet dead. They also gave some lovely shade to the hellebore babies that I have planted out into that bed with the snowdrops. Hopefully next year I will have a lovely show all year round. I put in about 8 pots of snow drops that I got from Kingston Lacey so hopefully they will be happy and start bulking up and giving off a good show.

Isn’t if funny how plants seem to do so much better than the ones you molly coddle! I will definitely try and send some seed to the CGS seed swap this year as they are a really lovely poppy. I always think of Granny Kay when I look at them.

Broken Ribs and no butterflies?

Week 28 – Saturday, 5th July 2008

Got down to the lottie for two hours and managed to get a couple of odd jobs done. Also ended up picking a huge bunch of sweet peas for Mom. The perfume of them is really quite breathtaking. I am a bit disappointed with the Cupani that I have in a container on the back veranda though as I have had very little flowers off them and the scent is minimal. I was led to believe that they were the best smelling of them all and the original brought over from Italy by the monks! Oh well, will just keep feeding them and hoping for the best.

The dahlia’s and cosmos bed is looking really beautiful and we should have loads of vases of flowers right until the Autumn. The gladiolas have come up next to the shed – but no flowers yet! First time I am growing these so not sure when and how they flower. They are all flopping around a bit so will have to make a plan when I am next on the lottie and have time.

The pumpkins and gem squash plants are also looking very healthy but only have lots of leaves and no fruit that seems to be maturing. Not sure if it is just because there is not much bee action! The flower opens starts forming, then turns yellow and rots off!! I tried fertilizing two Hubbard Squash fruits and have marked the potential fruit so that I can start saving my own seed as this variety was from seed that I brought back from South Africa and will also need to save some of my corn this year. Hopefully it will take – fingers crossed! I harvested one zucchini about 15cms long and 10cm wide – the first of my ingredients for chutney. I think I feel a chutney making session coming on.

In the afternoon we went and helped Steve and Helen get their garden whipped into shape – it was in an appauling state and since Mom and Jacquie are taking over the house – we did have a vested interest. The garden was full of dead and overgrown trees and shrubs but after a couple of hours – several bags of rubbish later and a HUGE pile in the centre of the garden that needed to be carted off to the tip it was looking much better. That was the agreement – we came and helped but Steve had to dispose of all the rubbish. This backfired slightly as later in the evening he phoned asking Ron to come and assist and pull the trailer he had managed to loan to the tip – so Ron ended up dumping the stuff after all. Jacquie was a real trooper and was in there next to me despite her having broken ribs.

Well, it’s a long story – the broken ribs! At Rosemary’s beach party the kids were all piling on to one another so what does Jacquie do – jumps on the top of them (4 high now) – then Ron gets it into his bonnet to jump on top of the whole pile. Needless to say the pile came crashing down and he and Jacquie fell to ground quite hard. Jacquie could not move for about ten minutes and seemed to have lost her breath but she says that she definitely heard something pop! I have been watching her closely in case she has done some serious damage to anything so that I can shoot her off to A&E.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Garlic, garlic, every where...

Week 27, Saturday, 28th June 2008

Managed to get down to the lottie for the morning and dropped off all the composting stuff. Managed to catch up with “Ron the chicken man” and pay him for the last two months! I was getting worried that he was sick and tried to have a look at his chicken coops to see if all was in order. Turns out we were just missing each other all the time and he thought I was ill.

Anyway I managed to harvest all the garlic – the bulbs were a bit on the small side but a good harvest with almost 100% success. I have taken them home to dry in the shed and will try my hand at garlic plaiting soon. I cannot see any difference at the moment between the bought white garlic from the French pink garlic (bought at last years French market), which I saved and planted, maybe when they are dry and cleaned up a bit the difference will become clear.

My elephant garlic was wonderful – will try and remember to take a picture for the blog. From 1 bulb we bought for a quid at the last potato festival I harvested a huge bulb plus about a dozen little bulbils around it. So I have pulled off the babies and will store them for next years harvest.

Turned the now empty ground over, added pelleted chicken manure and then put in a row of beetroot seed and two rows of Swiss Chard seedlings that have been waiting in the wings for open ground. Hopefully this position (which is shaded by the Cardoon) will keep the plants cool and help with bolting.

Picked a huge bunch of sweet peas again – a lot more pink and peach colours coming out now but the stems seem to be getting shorter the higher up they get? Not sure why.

The afternoon was booked for Rosemary’s 13th Birthday Party on the beach at Hengistbury Head. Jacquie did hamburgers which were lovely and the kids all enjoyed building their own. I was a bit dubious about taking the barbecue down as there were huge signs “£500 spot fines” but the guys were adamant and sneaked it on. The weather was OK but the wind was really mean and had us skulking behind some rocks which acted as a buffer.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Wonderful Sungold tomatoes - first fruits

Week 27, Monday, 23rd June 2008

A lovely day today with lots of sunshine! Mom and I tasted the first Sungold tomatoes – boy were they good. There are lots of tomatoes on the plants both at home and on the greenhouse and even the cucumber plants seem to have stopped their sulking and have begun to romp away. Can’t wait for things to really get going. Seems strange that we have already had the Summer Solstice and we are now on our way to Autumn again. Yikes! Think that I will rather think about lots of lovely ripe tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, melons, etc.

Got the Job!

Week 26, Saturday, 21st June 2008

Well I got lovely news last night. I was offered a position that I was interested in and am so happy. I really need a change and a new challenge. My family and I have been really blessed over the last couple of weeks I am very thankful and count my blessings.

Despite me having an embroidery class at 14:00, Mom and I still managed to nip down to the lottie and drop all the composting dregs.

The lottie is really looking well with everything just going mad. The British corn that Rosie planted is starting to come up and the mange tout tepee is going bonkers! I picked another batch of mange tout which we can add to some vegetables at dinner. Also picked enough beetroot to make a meal and give the remaining ones place to start bulking up. The dahlias are starting to put on some good growth as are the cosmos – I must remember to head them next time I am down so that they can bush out some. Have been eating strawberries from the planter at home but not enough at one time to make a meal though. Will have to look at bulking my strawberry patch up on the lottie next year.

The greenhouse got a good watering and I refilled all the two litre bottles. All the bottles, bar one had emptied - so this time around I have not tightened the lids that much – I will see how that goes. All the bottles are vacuuming too much and it does not seem that enough air is getting in. Mom picked a huge bunch of sweetpeas and there are still tons on the tepee. Will try and get back next week-end to do some real work

Experimental Watering Bottle Tops

Week 26, Sunday, 15th June 2008

Managed to get down to the lottie for an hour and fitted the bottle tops for the watering bottles in the lottie greenhouse. This should save me time having to go out quite so regularly to water. Fingers crossed, that’s the general idea any way.

Everything is looking good on the lottie with the French beans starting to make their dash for freedom up the bean frame. No flowers yet, but patience. The gem squash and pumpkins are looking very good and we already have a couple of flowers on the Hubbard squash – can’t wait for harvesting. I might even enter one of my squash for the lottie summer competition on 9th August. The Ambo FE potatoes that were left in the ground by accident are flowering and I will have to dig them up soon. The label for the New International Kidney has got lost and I am not sure which row they are – it would seem that some of the labels have gone MIA all together. I have tried seeing the flowers but there is not one row that is obviously flowering profusely besides what I think are the new Sarpo’s I am trying this year. Maybe the flowering ones are the NIK’s with the wrong label on. Mmmm! Will go and investigate when next down there and have a bit of a dig around. We managed to forage a lovely huge bunch of sweet peas and some mange tout.

Jacquie's got wheels!

Week 25, Saturday, 14th June 2008

Went out to Sturminster Newton to fetch Jacquie’s car from Trevor and Tracey. Still think they are nuts going back to Zimbabwe with all the political unrest going on at the moment but hey – they are adults and should know what they are doing. Tracey did not even bother to put enough petrol in the tank and I am sure we just made the garage on fumes. It was quite a laugh when we got to the petrol station to fill up – we did not know what kind of petrol to put in. I must admit I felt quite foolish but in the end we decided to put in unleaded.

Got the House!

Week 25, Thursday, 12th June 2008

Mom and Jacquie got the house! Another one off the list now. They have accomplished so much over the six weeks they have been here it is amaxing when you sit down and actually take stock of the full picture.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Baby it hot, hot, hot

Week 25, Tuesday, 10th June 2008

26 Celsius and boy it’s hot!! Yesterday was also very hot and Ron popped up to the lottie and watered down the greenhouse and gave the whole lottie a good soaking. Hope this saves all my babies from frying. The kids all ended up spending the day at the beach and all came back with sunburns.

Once the sun went down last night (21:00), I suddenly got a burst of energy and ended up pruning the Rambling Rector who was again making a bid to take over the garden. Once I had tidying it up you can now suddenly see the Etoile Violette and the Niobe Clematis flowers much better. Unfortunately The President Clematis on the arbour is now past its best with only one flower hanging on. I think I will need to give it a good feed this week-end followed by a good soaking.

The Dicentra is now also almost past its best so also got a bit of a haircut. Once I had neatened it up I can now suddently see and use the walkway. The geraniums were starting to look a bit tatty so they also got a good scalping and already there are baby leaves just waiting to take their place. The hollyhocks have got a bit of rust but I have cleared up all the infected leaves and will need to check them regularly but in all they are now excellent, big plants and should make a lovely show later in the summer. The grapevine is also looking very healthy with lots of little bunches of grapes on - I will need to read up on maybe thinning out the vine so that we at least get some fruit this year.

Now that I have cleared the beds a bit I will be able to plant out the dahlias, Rudbeckia and the Nocatina plants waiting in the wings into their final places for the Summer show.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Hanging baskets, hanging baskets everywhere

Week 25, Sunday, 8th June 2008

After church and lunch we finally got round to getting out all the paraphernalia to plant up our hanging baskets. Jacquline and I managed to get seven baskets planted up and hopefully they will give us months of lovely colour. They are now hanging in a cool place to allow them to recover for a few days before we put them into their final positions for summer. Must admit that they are looking very sorry for themselves and sulking somewhat!

Went and had a look at the prospective house for Mom, Jacquline and the kids and it is wonderful. It will fit them all in without a problem and there is so many cupboards and hidey holes they will not know what to do with themselves. There is also a lovely little front patio/garden area and although the back garden is overgrown with weeds and in desperate need of a little TLC we will whip it into submission quickly. It will be a lovely, private garden that they can sit in or even have a barbecue. Fingers crossed the owner decides to let up rent it! It has already been 6 weeks of indecision on his part and it quite frustrating.

Sweet peas, baby pumpkins and black fly

Week 24, Saturday, 7th June 2008

The weather was wonderful today and Mom, Rosemary and I managed to get down to the lottie at 11:30 after feeding the birds, watering the greenhouse and tomatoes at home.

First I tackled planting out the celery whilst rosemary planted out three rows of sweet corn. Then I planted out two rows of leeks so that we have some lovely soup this winter. Whilst we were doing this Mom tied all the French beans and sweet peas onto their respective frames. I then put straw down in the strawberry bed and netted the whole thing. Hope this will be enough deterrent for the birds to leave our strawberries alone. I then planted out about 6 more Violette cauliflowers. Not sure what the kids are going to make with purple cauliflowers.

I then tackled the plum tree and reduced the new growth to 2 – 3 pairs of leaves. I did not know that I could do this at this time of the year but my lottie neighbour said I must do it or else next year all the fruit will be too high for me to reach it! I then also cut off all the tips of the cherry tree that I could reach as the black fly this year is horrendous this year. I Must remember to bring down some washing up liquid next time to spray the spring sown broad beans as they are being desiccated by the black fly – despite having nasturtiums all around them.

There is no fruit on any of my trees this year except a couple of sickly looking cherries but after speaking to my lottie neighbours he says that he also does not have any fruit this year. I can’t believe that last year this time we were thinning the poor apple tree out as it was groaning under all the fruit.

I must keep a close check on the greenhouse that I do not get anything going in there – I dare not leave the door closed in this heat or else everything will frizzle. The first early potatoes have still not flowers and actually are not looking too well – unless Maureen weeded all the haulms away last week-end. The Ambo orphans that we missed last year have come up in the corn bed this year and are flowering their socks off – I will have a root around next week-end and see what treasures lie hidden.

The pumpkin that we planted onto the hot bed has romped away and there is already two little baby pumpkins formed. I have now removed the lace netting that was protecting them as they look strong enough to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at them.

We then picked all the peas and yellow mange tout and Mom even managed to get a whole bunch of wonderfully scented sweet peas for all her efforts.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Sweet Etoille Violette...

Week 24, Thursday, 5th June 2008

Saw the first Etoille Violette Clematis flowers amongst the Rambling Rector this morning – it looks beautiful. I really must get the camera out before all the flowers fade. The Niobe is also doing well and should burst into flower soon! The little rose that Geraldine gave me has not yet started flowering – cannot wait to see whether it is pink or white!

Found this lovely poem on a blog site (21st Century Housewife) - and think that I will make it my theme poem called “Dust if you must” - Dust if you must, But wouldn't it be better; To paint a picture or write a letter, Bake a cake or plant a seed, Ponder the difference between want and need?Dust if you must, But there's not much time, With rivers to swim and mountains to climb, Music to hear and books to read, Friends to cherish and life to lead.Dust if you must, But the world's out there, With the sun in your eyes, The wind in your hair, A flutter of snow, a shower of rain, This day will not come around again.Dust if you must, But bear in mind, Old age will come, And it's not kind. And when you go - and go you must, You, yourself, will make more dust!

Broad Beans and Blackbirds

Week 23 – Saturday, 31st May 2008

Saw 5 baby blackbirds which could not have fledged more than a couple of days ago on the bird feeder this morning.

Rosemary and I went to the Lottie whilst Jac’s tackled the washing. She starts her new job on Monday and is a bit apprehensive as it has been a couple of years since she was in the insurance industry. But she is tough and she’ll crack it with her eyes closed. I think that insurance is a bit like riding a bike – once you’ve done it you will never forget it.

Finally got the table out of the greenhouse- after nearly having to dismantle the whole thing with a penknife. We finally managed to get it manoeuvred out without too much damage to the tomatoes, the greenhouse or ourselves – thank goodness!

I then gave the tomatoes a firm beating down cutting out all the laterals that seem to appear overnight and staking them. Had to move three aubergines as the tomatoes had begun to crowd them out altogether. Also planted out the last three scotch bonnets and melons (after cutting the ends of 2 litre bottles off them) and placing them around the plants. Hopefully this and a liberal sprinkling of slug pellets and fingers crossed they will romp away. I re-sowed two cucumber plants as the ones I grew earlier were looking worse for wear. I have put it in though, planting it quite deeply and hoping that the damaged stem will shoot roots and romp away. I will hopefully move one back to the greenhouse at home once it has established itself.

Rosemary weeded all the grass and weeds on the side of the greenhouse which was starting to block the light into it and we laid some old weed suppressing membrane which hopefully will keep the weeds down a bit. She then planted out all the cosmos seedlings into the dahlia bed so we should have lots of lovely colour this year and lots for the vases.

I finally got the winter brassica and spinach bed weeded and turned over! Must admit the task looked quite daunting but I soldiered on and in no time and after a bit of a slog I had cleared it. Despite having kept the mint in containers last year, some of the roots had escaped and were making a bid for supremacy in the future corn bed.

We got the autumn sown broad beans picked and finally managed to pull all the winter manure that we had let flower in a clump. Was rather surprised at the good yield especially when remembering that the beans were quite pot bound when I planted them out way back when and never expected anything from them. Not a huge meal by any means, but served with mixed vegetables for tomorrows dinner will be great. Everyone will at least be able to taste what broad beans taste like. The bumble bees were still visiting the green manure flowers on the compost heap when we left. The spring sown broad beans are flowering and starting to set nicely.

The Hubbard squash we planted in the hotbox is looking pretty happy despite all the rain and all the squash plants seem to have made the transplanting. Yummy lots of lovely squash this autumn!! The peas Maureen and I resowed are coming up very well and the first batch is ready for picking. Byron’s jobs next time he is down at the lottie! If we just keep picking, shelling and freezing then eventually we will have enough to cook and serve at dinner for 9!

Managed to get 2 big bags of topsoil and 3 grow bags from the lottie shop so we can now finally plant up our hanging baskets for the summer.

All the gooseberries’ have disappeared – there were definitely a few a couple of weeks ago and I still thought that I must check whether they needed thinning. It was either the pigeons or rabbits. No sure which. That will teach me to net them when I net the currants! The Tayberry is recovering and has put on some new growth so fingers crossed it will grow big and strong and give us Tayberries.

My neighbour came over and gave me 6 sweet potato plants. I was really pleased with them because I only managed to grow one plant this year. I need to get some big containers and pop them in quite soon. Will place a wigwam structure over the pot so that they can scramble up as they are members of the morning glory family. That reminds me, I have a couple of morning glory plants that I need to put into their final planting positions for the summer.

The plum and apple tree despite having blossom earlier this year has produced no fruit whatsoever. My neighbour says that they had the same thing happen on their lottie. So it would seem that this year there is going to be very little fruit. The Bramley seedling and the apricot tree have some good growth this year but I do not think that I will be getting much fruit from it this year. My neighbour came and showed me that I need to shorten my plum tree’s laterals to 2 – 3 leaf buds. The cherry tree seems to have a lot of black fly so will need to give it a good trim when next on the plot. Also need to pinch out the tops of the spring sown dwarf broad beans.

Week 22, Saturday, 24th May 2008

Lots of salad leaves for picking at home, and the spring sown broad beans are starting to set. The autumn ones are fattening up nicely and should be ready soon. Looks like a very good crop of blackcurrants on the way, and first flowers on new potatoes, squashes and pumpkins romping away, tomato flowers all over the place with lots of little tomatoes forming.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Week 24, Wednesday, 4th June 2008

Spent a while in the greenhouse at home and did some housekeeping with the tomatoes. I swear that you turn your back and they make a dash for freedom. But lots of tomatoes’ flowers in sight.

Got the last of the tomatoes (Black Japanese Trifle and Italian Beefsteak) in the green house, re-potted into their final big pots and put onto the back patio until they are a bit established. After that I will move them out to the front where they can get baked by the sun and give us lots of lovely tomatoes. Also got the tumbling tomatoes planted out into a hanging basket with the surviving French marigolds. Must plant out the dahlias in the back bed and stake them before they get root bound and too big.

Week 24, Wednesday, 4th June 2008

Despite the last fortnight being pretty wet and soggy, June is finally here! - not long until the longest day now (21st); garden is going great guns, with poor Ron having to mow the lawn almost every week – not only at home but on the lottie as well. There is lots of wildlife about doing their thing, huge amount of flowers in the garden, everything being as it should.