The latest freeze didn’t allow me to go to the allotment – not only was it too cold to do anything sensible there but also there was a distinct possibility that I might fall. Interesting how we say about youngsters that they fall over but us oldies ‘have a fall’. So I didn’t go. But I can’t just sit at home and do nothing. Instead of that I have searched the Internet and found a few nice biscuit recipes.
Also a recipe for a favourite from the past years – babovka. It is a Czech recipe that I was used to make very frequently when the boys lived at home. I’ll start again, I’m sure it will make a nice present.
I have also found a recipe for panettone, again never made it before but why not? I had to wait for my shopping delivery for a few vital ingredients and as soon as I got everything together I was ready to start.
Two days later I have a result. I’m sure a master baker would have a few words to say about the result but it smells divine and I have it from an expert on cake tasting – Frank – that it is delicious.
Beside all this I continue making blankets. To start with I made a number of baby shawls but everybody who had a new baby had one of these so I switched to large ones. It comes very handy nowadays, what with the weather on one hand and the cost of energy on the other.
I started making these at the start of the pandemic. There is a website of a wool company, they have a sale from time to time and when I see that I order a fair amount of random coloured balls of wool, that keeps me going during the winter months when it gets dark quite early. Right now I have just finished the latest one and will start another. But it is only eight days until we have the shortest day, from then on all will improve for me.
I am amazed at the size of the mistletoe that grows in my little apple tree. Another thing we are self-sufficient in. I noticed it about three years ago as a small bud – my first thought was it is a new little branch. I’m not at all surprised that I have it there, in the nearby cemetery and fields the trees have huge bunches of it.
This year is the first time I have cut a few branches of it. The tree isn’t anything special, it was a poorly specimen that I moved from my other plot so I don’t mind it is playing a host to this parasite.
Yesterday’s extreme gardening tired me enough not to go and continue today. I thought I’d give my body a little rest but I was busy anyway. It was in the kitchen instead. I decided to make some biscuits, this time some oaty ones. They are very easy to make and the recipe makes a nice amount.
Hopefully the weather will keep fine tomorrow so I might go and do another bit of weeding. Or I’ll just go there and cut some mistletoe, it has grown very well on one little apple tree.
At last I was able to start weeding the fruit cage today. This was one of the places I looked at regularly and kept weeding. All the same the weeds just grew and grew.
I started by pulling out first the tall weeds, dandelions and thistles and then continued just turning the ground with my hoe and clearing everything else. This is going to keep me busy for a while, no quick fix here I’m afraid. Not only did I have to cope with the weeds inside the cage but also there was the narrow path between the cage and the net tunnel to clear.
After the whole morning I have got this path altogether sorted out and a part of the cage. To be continued another time.
I agree with the opinion that working in the garden or just being outside amongst the greenery is beneficial for us. I think that it must be many times better than medication for depression – only for a reasonably fit person though. No point slaving in the garden and damaging the body, that is not going to improve one’s mental state. However in my case this is a win-win situation. I don’t want to say that I suffer from depression but just being on the allotment like today is a tonic – and it gets a lot done.
Another lovely day dawned so I went down the farm. First did a bit of bramble cutting down – trying to help Dave to clear a neglected plot that hasn’t been visited in months even though the rent is paid up. We’ll get there I’m sure.
Then it was to start some serious digging. The area wasn’t overgrown but just needed going over and tidying up.
Again the ground was nice and soft, quite easy to work. All the same I had a few buckets of weeds and quite a few rogue potatoes. I’m always very careful when I’m harvesting them but a few always escape.
After about 2 hours I have transformed the square of land and it can now wait for the spring to start growing again. It will be sweetcorn I think, it did very well and we love it. You can’t beat a freshly harvested cob, steamed with just a drizzle of butter….
When I first started on the allotment all those years ago this little area was a compost heap. I think even calling it a compost heap was kind, it was an area quite overgrown with nettles and brambles. I thought it was a waste so I started clearing it and to my surprise it was quite easy and the soil was very rich. Over the years I grew different vegetables there, from beans over squashes to potatoes and this is going to be the last, it has my new apple tree there – Lord Lambourne.
I had a couple of courgette plants there as well, they did very well but the weeds got going again during the last few weeks. It helps to have the soils quite wet, it wasn’t at all difficult to clear.
I mended the sides and spread some rich compost around the young tree. With a bit of luck I could get some fruit next year.
The rest of the morning was finishing clearing the orchard, I had a couple of patches to do but they proved quite challenging. All is done now so I can start on another part of the plot. If it doesn’t rain too much in the next few days I’ll tackle the fruit cage.
I planted my first Christmas present today. I was thinking a few days ago that I should do what some gardening correspondent suggested – plant some fruit trees. If we have enough space it is much better to grow something that is either too difficult to buy or too expensive. Vegetables like potatoes or onions are quite cheap to buy but soft fruit or fruit in general is more expensive.
I had a look at my plots on the allotment and decided I had enough space for two more fruit trees. As a coincidence one of the seed companies I use advertised bare root trees and they had a special offer too. Exactly what I wanted. I have been looking to buy a greengage and here it was. And one more that I didn’t ever hope to get, a mirabelle.
The roots had to be soaked before planting. I had to cut the supports so the trees had enough time in the water.
Fortunately I cleared this strip of land only a few days ago so it was all ready. I remembered to dig a square hole – in a round hole the roots tend to follow the shape and don’t spread out where as in a square hole they tend to reach out into the corners.
The two trees were delivered today, my very first Christmas present from Frank. Never mind the weather, they had to be planted. It was very overcast when I went to the allotment and the rain started as I was half-way through but I finished – it is only water after all. Now they can settle in and start growing.
By now it was raining quite hard so I sat in the greenhouse with a cup of tea and noticed that the little chilli plant still had some fruit on. This one is called Biquinho, it is not really hot, very nice to eat fresh from the plant.
Things usually work out for me. I was really tired yesterday after my Sunday work on the allotment so I didn’t go there. The weather also helped – it was raining. It was kitchen work instead. On Sunday my friend Dave gave me quite a few shallots, he always grows a lot of them and mine didn’t do very well this year. I never pickled them before so I thought I’d have a go. I had to start the whole process on Sunday evening, it continued overnight and the whole job was finished yesterday after lunch. Luckily I had all the ingredients so now I just have to wait about three to four weeks and then we can sample them.
Also thanks to Dave I will grow broad beans. I had a good harvest but right in the end the plants got completely smothered with black flies so I wasn’t going to bother. Dave gave me quite a lot of them so on Sunday I put some in the first net cage I cleared.
Perhaps this might stop the attack.
Today was the next little net structure’s turn to be cleared. This is a little greenhouse that Simon on the allotment didn’t have glass for. Waste not want not so I moved it to this spot and covered with the green netting. A perfect little net cage.
The peas that I grew there this year did very well but now the weeds took over. Fortunately the ground is soft so it didn’t take too long to clear it.
I also found a number of strawberry plants there, these were the ones my friend Eva gave me years ago. I grew them there but moved them later. These ones survived so they deserved to carry on. I also put the rest of the broad beans in.
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now – just the fruit cage to clear out and I’m finished. As it is so mild I’m sure the weeds will start growing again but it would just be a bit of maintenance.
I have had my wish – the day started nice and sunny again so straight after breakfast I went down to my allotment. I had a plan but that by itself doesn’t always mean that I will follow it. I usually start one job and from the corner of my eye I see something so I see to that and don’t finish the first task. Not today though.
The large Asian pear didn’t have much fruit this year but it gave me loads of golden leaves.
I have made a chicken wire enclosure for making leaf mould so I have swept all the leaves and put them there. It is quite full now but come the spring it will shrink down .
Next on my list of things to do today was to weed the little net cage I made a number of years ago. My friends were getting rid of their trampoline and offered me the stand. Excellent to make a frame for a net cage. Use the two halves, put some sturdy canes or tubes in the make it higher, attach some horizontal wood, cover with a green scaffolding netting and a cage is done. Make do and mend – the best way to add structures.
Some time later it all looks much better. I have just got blackcurrants there, the birds can’t get at them.
This was on the list of things to do but I had some time left so I managed to clear the narrow strip of land beside this cage, it will be ready for the sunflowers next year. They can have extra support sitting just beside the cage.
As I was walking to the allotment in the morning I thought – I hope this weather continues for a while yet. If I didn’t look at the fallen yellow leaves on the ground I might have thought that it was springtime. It felt quite warm, the breeze was light and it was just perfect for gardening. Today I cleared the last greenhouse out, pulled out all the peppers and chillies but left one plant there – another physalis. I’ve got no idea how this one managed to grow among all the peppers but on closer inspection I have found out that this is really a Cape gooseberry. I tasted one of the fruits, it was lovely and sweet. I’m sure I have got a packet of seeds of this plant so I’ll try it next year.
All this took quite a while so after this I just managed to dismantle the bean supports and go home. But the day was so nice I decided to continue in the afternoon.
Frank came with me and between the two of us we hammered in some sturdy pieces of wood to support the uprights in one of my old net cages. I have constructed this one myself and it is lasting quite well. But after the heavy rains the ground has softened and it became a bit loose. All is well now and I’m sure it will last a few more years.
The rest of my afternoon I was weeding yet again – inside the rescued net cage and on another part of one of my plots. This has a line of blackberries and loganberries and a couple of pear trees, also a damson, a gooseberry and a number of herbs. I have flowers in between, they attract the bees and it cheers the place up.
I’m not quite sure what the forecast is for tomorrow but I hope it will at least keep dry. I have got one large fruit cage and a smaller net cage to clear out. I don’t need sunshine, just a dry day.