MORE JAM

I have decided on a different strategy when it comes to jam making. The usual time was in the middle of summer when the weather is (hopefully) quite hot and it is all rather tiring. Not any more.

I always freeze the extra harvest of strawberries , raspberries and blackberries. The strawberries are crushed and weighed in 500g pots and frozen, the other berries are just frozen loose in bags.

Yesterday was a jam making day and it couldn’t be any easier. I selected 4 such packets, added the required amount of sugar, lemon juice and Certo and hey presto

20180215_085719

we have 12 more jars of strawberry jam.

I shall make some jam as I harvest the fruit but just enough to keep going and the rest of the fruit will be frozen, ready for future use.

PLANTING TIME…

…is here again.

I tend to do my planting back to front but it always works out. This occasion is no different.

Last Sunday afternoon I listened to one of my favourite programmes – Gardeners’ question time on Radio 4 and among other topics they were talking about apple trees. Well, you can’t have too many so I decided to pay attention. It was worth it. I’ve never heard of an apple called Keswick codlin; that didn’t stop me, found it and liked the sound of it. Even found a nursery, decided on the size and shape of the tree and ordered.

The nursery was a new one to me – Ashridge nurseries – and I am delighted with the service. They had my apple in stock, the size I wanted and no sooner did I order it then it came perfectly wrapped.

Then came the thought – where shall I plant it? I decided that I had enough trees on the allotment already so I started thinking of the best place in my back garden. And I found it. I had an almost empty raised bed beside the greenhouse, in a sunny spot and well sheltered by the fence. The soil there is good but I still added some organic matter and Fish, blood and bone meal, just to give it the very best start and all was ready.

All’s well that ends well, my latest tree is already in its position, hazel pole in situ,  carefully tied using soft ties (old cut up socks – you can’t beat them for softness and stretchiness).

20180125_144429

 

DREAMS

I have been thinking on these lines for quite a while.

Wouldn’t it be great if all the knowledge all over the world was used only for good? No harm in thinking that, I’m sure I am not the only one to think like that. I suppose because I’m coming close to a reasonably significant birthday, my thoughts are turning to this.

There’s a huge amount of knowledge and the whole world would benefit if we didn’t waste it on thinking how to harm the people who don’t agree with us/who belong to a different religious group/of different colour – here we can substitute whatever might be relevant.

It might be viewed as simplistic – there is nothing wrong with that – the same would apply to our food and how we provide it. Again I have this vision that whoever would want to, or be able to, could grow at least some of their vegetables. Nothing much is needed – it can be done in a few pots in the back garden or on a balcony. Amazing how much you could produce and it would surprise the non-gardeners how delicious it is.

That is  my other dream – all possible empty land would be cultivated and people would grow their own. It was actually proven that children eat vegetables that they grew themselves even if before they ‘didn’t like them’.

I know allotmenting is mainly for the retired – who would have the time or the inclination to spend every free moment digging and planting. But, as I said before, it can be done on a very small scale and whatever you’ll harvest, it’ll taste good. And you’ll know that it hasn’t been sprayed with some chemicals or some such.

Last but not least – after a day of digging and hard graft in the garden or on the allotment nobody would have much strength left to cause much trouble. One more benefit – from personal experience, whenever I had any worries or anxieties, it all sorted itself out after a tiring digging session. I don’t have to think about the digging so my mind is usually free to roam and sort itself out.

Years ago I received a card which says it all :

20180122_152426

COMMUNAL TREES

A few years ago we were lucky to get a small amount of money for our site and we decided to buy some fruit trees. They are all doing very well, we planted them at the end of one of the plots. It is actually at the end of my third of a plot, together with a fair lot of horseradish and a few crowns of rhubarb.

The only problem with it is that it tends to get overrun by weeds. This time of year is ideal for some drastic action. It was another nice day today so I did a bit of pruning of the trees – nothing too drastic, just shortening some very spindly branches and cutting out branches that were crossing over. Once that was done, the weeds were next to clear. At the same time I moved Simon’s invention for washing harvested vegetables closer to the tap. He had the clever idea to use an old wheelbarrow, remove the wheel and drill a few large holes in for drainage, cut off the handles and hey presto – a perfect solution to a dirty problem.

JANUARY

I like all seasons but there is something special about January. When the weather is good, like it was today, it is a pleasure and a delight to go down to the allotment and dig.

That means that most of my land is ready. The seeds have been ready for ages – as usual I will try to grow something different. But one thing is certain – I shall have to grow more carrots. I have finally managed to grow some decent carrots, alas not enough!

20180116_151451

I discovered the delicious forced rhubarb last year so this is another must this year. I have marked the crowns that were not forced last year and all is ready now for some tasty pink rhubarb.

There was just one more job to do in the back garden – cutting out some bamboo canes. I try to do this about once every two years – it gives me new been supports for the allotment. The thin tops and leaves I decided to burn in my new/rescued/appropriated chimenea. It worked and I can use the ash on the allotment. Nothing wasted!

IMG-20180113-WA0000

 

THE FIRST OF MANY

I started the new year as I mean to continue – on the allotment. We managed to take one more load of slab pieces to the allotment and that was enough to make a path in the middle of my large cabbage net cage.

The afternoon was devoted to sowing some seeds in trays. Leeks, onions Ails Craig and white onions, the seeds I bought when I was in Malta. I saw them there in the shops and was very happy when I found the seeds.

I use seed trays that I bought a number of years ago from Harrod Horticultural company. It was money well spent, I’m still using them and with care they’ll last many more years.

20180101_153156

They have one big advantage – even if I would miss out a few days, the seedling will be fine as the whole thing sits on top of matting and takes up water via the felt matting suspended in the bottom tray with water. I just have to make sure the tray is regularly topped up.

LAST DAY OF THE YEAR….

…was devoted to repairs.

After the heavy snowfall just before Christmas I found that a number of my net cages looked in sorry state. I didn’t have the heart to take pictures as I was quite sad about it all. I didn’t think I would be able to repair them.

Amazing what a difference a few days can make. On closer inspections I found that the basic structure was sound, the net collapsed because the horizontal struts ware weak. Thanks to Simon who gave me some long pieces of hard wood I was able to replace the faulty ones, stretch the nets and fix them  – thank goodness for zip ties – and all seems fine.

In fact they look even better now!

Final touch is a path of broken slabs down the middle of the wide ones, just to make it easier to walk there on a wet day. For that I must thank Frank who took the first wheelbarrow load there today and will do one trip each day untill we take them all there – his words. I daren’t think how many there are !!

WINTER ACTIVITY

After the few days of deep snow in Coventry I managed to finish yet another of my blankets. I love reading but some books have to be devoured in a peaceful atmosphere so for the less quiet days I had my blanket making.

My friend not only gave me bags of wool but also some backing material so thanks to her I have two super elegant and warm blankets.

Even though there was more than a foot of snow on top of all my structures the damage is minimal – as soon as I can I will do some repairs. Nothing major, just a question of patching up.

KEEPING AN ALLOTMENT

I have been working on my plot about nine years – how does the time fly!!. I’m sure that I have mentioned my granddad many times here and I will do so again. As I was growing up I always went to his garden – we didn’t call it anything else because that’s exactly what it was. It was a large area on the outskirts of our town and he certainly was a dedicated gardener because he was working full-time and to get there he had to catch two buses.

When I started gardening on my plot I was still working and I clearly remember the struggle at times when I came home and had to get out again to do some gardening. For people who have a job I totally sympathise when they let the whole thing slip…..

Now I’m a lady of leisure I can spend all my free time on my ‘farm’ – and I do! It is not an easy task, the weeds grow ever so well and as soon as I think I’ve finished the weeding I can start all over again.

There are many theories regarding digging – no-dig gardening seems gaining popularity. I’m not sure about that – the piece of land I was working on today is so overgrown that it has to be done the hard way.

20171204_154425

It is very satisfactory to see a nice patch of freshly dug ground.

This is also the time to patch things and maintain existing ones. We have decided to dismantle our office and change it back into a spare bedroom. I enjoyed reducing the desk and filing cabinet into pieces of wood. I knew it’ll be used on the allotment…

The smaller pieces were used to build a holding wall on the side of a path, that enabled me to repair that path and make it easier to walk.

The large pieces are holding in a fast growing compost heap – result of the digging of the neglected plot.

TOPSOIL

I knew all the lovely topsoil I managed to get from my two ‘forgotten’ composter bins would come handy. It was a bit too wet today to continue with digging so I had to concentrate on maintenance.

First was one path, rather the grass on it, that had to be cut. As it was so high it had to be done with the shears. Ideal job for a chilly morning. There was so much grass it almost filled one composter bin.

Talking of bins – some weeks ago I emptied a couple of them and bagged the contents – beautiful topsoil to be used to top up the raised beds in my lovely greenhouse.

I was late in the season getting the greenhouse but it is all going to be ready for an early start next spring. I know it is wishing my life away but I can’t wait. All my tomato, cucumber and pepper seeds are sorted out and I’m ready……………