Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Squash Harvest from 14b

The plot of shame (aka 14b) has had some good wee harvests over the year so far, it can not be denied. We got a good load of rhubarb, gooseberries and many bunches of flowers. Had we been more proactive there were also red currants and artichokes but still...

The latest crop came in the form of some very lovely winter squashes - Crown Prince, the blue/grey skinned ones, two Sweet Dumplings and a juvenile Butternut Squash

I'll share what we do with them when the time comes but for now they are simply resting and hardening off in the shed.

Apart from that I cut myself a bunch of rudbeckias and did a lot of weeding. Andrew took down the string bean wigwam and composted the remains - he loves composting; the compost heap is already heating up!!

We stayed until the sun was going down, the plots so still and quiet, eerily so if it hadn't have been for that sky...

We were there last night for a walk and saw teenagers camping there at the bottom of field B. Not so sure that is allowed! We also spoke to Jim and he was telling us there has been some upsetting trouble around - kids lifting prize pumpkins and smashing them on the roads. It makes me feel sick to think that that simple joy of growing the biggest orange-ist pumpkin for your kids could be destroyed in seconds - people can be so cruel.

Anywho, not much of a post but really, it's all been weeding and that isn't terribly exciting to write about.

Love and big hugs
Carrie x

Friday, 12 September 2014

How to make Sloe Gin

A tasty winter tipple to liven the soul and set the throat on fire; sipping a wee sloe gin is becoming a little yearly ritual in our lives. We have a secret place where sloes are found but I shall say nothing more; one must guard one's source with one's life! It's every exciting collecting them and this year (after a woeful crop last autumn) they were big, juicy and hard to reach with many a big thorn on the gnarled branches = battle scars, giggles and feeling like eejits :)

Now before I go any further I must say that sloe gin is to drunk in small quantities, lingered over whilst preparing a roast for the oven, watching a christmas-y film. It is strong and I even bought the correct tiny antique glasses for the very occasion 2 years ago. Drink this responsibly, please! 

It's become fashionable again I fear as some of the big names in gin manufacturing have ready made bottles for sale now. But, this is how you are meant to do it - seasonally, with fun and patience - don't go for that premade muck, please. There's another point to be made; it has a very medicinal, earthy taste quite like a cough mixture so be forewarned, you may go through all this and end up hating it :)

So this is the perfect time for sloes - you usually get them September and October and they look like this...

Amounts needed:

  • 450g sloes
  • 750ml gin
  • 275g sugar

1 - You need to pick as many as you can, really get stuck in there and possibly have a friend to help.
2 - Take them home and put them in the freezer overnight - this makes the skins burst a bit = more favour.
3 - Simply put the sloes into a sterilised litre sized glass air tight container
sloe gin - '' ~ an allotment blog
4 - Add sugar
sloe gin - '' ~ an allotment blog

5 - Pour lashings of gin in (see amounts) and close lid!
sloe gin - '' ~ an allotment blog
I should play with exposures between photos *blush*
6 - Mix it all up by gently tiping and swirling the bottle.
sloe gin - '' ~ an allotment blog

You really ought to leave it to mix for as long as possible and every day, for the weeks at least, you need to jiggle that bottle to release all the flavour. It will be drinkable in time for Christmas and could even be a lovely gift.

N.B. The longer you can leave it, the more syrupy it tastes. Plus, even when the gin is gone the alcoholic sloes ought out to go to waste. With their strong earthy syrupy taste they are fabulous cooked with lamb etc

Hugs and Love

Enjoy your weekend xx

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Back to plot after 4 weeks!

Oh lordy bless us all but that was a bloomin' terrible bout of the flu and depression and bad weather which all added up to a month (a month!) away from the hard graft of the plots. Andrew had visited often to harvest (plenty of beans and courgettes and even sweetcorn cobs) but really it was never more than that.

So this is what I was confronted with on Saturday morning, but to be honest I thought it would be worse; the sun was shining and there wasn't another person in our field so it wasn't that awful :)

Andrew needed to get a few supplies and so as he quickly ran away again (haha), I cut the grass and started into the leek bed which was coming down with thistle, dandelion and nettle seedlings. I got all those blighters out and more besides using my wooden board, my trusty trowel and a dutch hoe.
It's a real shame these grass cutting photos don't show off the work better, it's the shadow from the netting that ruins it. Oh and say goodbye to the marigolds, there wasn't a leaf between all those flowers and the stems were burnt to a crisp.

So when Andrew came back I was lost amongst the leeks and had my headphones on = jumpy moment :) He had gotten his gardening bits and bobs but also a new lead for Maggie. With this one we were finally giving her more freedom with a stake in the ground and two leads linked together so she could have a wee run. Her training has been a little too good though, haha, she just sits there beside the shed as always and doesn't move. I hope to change that though.

Andrew's big job for the afternoon was clearing out the broad beans and then getting excited and rearranging the compost bins. I swear this man is in love with compost! From three bays and a black bin we now have two and the black bin. He seems very happy and who am I to take that from him? It looks delightful, unnecessary maybe to it that day, but hey....

Here is the kale for winter looking super at the moment; the birds aren't getting to it and there aren't any caterpillars in there either - hurrah!! for now. Our broccoli has suffered though as we used this very netting system over them and though the birds couldn't get in, there were caterpillars galore in there already and they have destroyed most of the leaves (though I have hope the plants will recover). Bum, you try to stop one predator from stealing your food and another gets a free ride!!

But the happiest thing of all is the harvest right? Here is just some of what we took home. I had wimped out by this stage and was sleeping on my feet - it was the first physical work I'd done since the flu ended. So I got these few items photographed then took myself and Maggie to the car. Andrew also brought a big bag of courgettes, blue dwarf french beans and what I think could be the penultimate harvest of french beans.

Love and Hugs for another day.
Tomorrow is a fun post about an adult beverage you could get out there and make for yourself too if you hurry ;)

Carrie xx

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Reacquaintance with Field A

Boy it's been a really long time since I took a walk around the plots on our field, though as you know, it's also been a really long time since I have been on the field at all.

Well I went on Saturday and Sunday there and it was, for the most part, okay. I still felt extremely weak and tired from the flu but it was a joy to get back to our plot and see the changes. I will talk of 24a tomorrow and show pictures of our harvests etc but today I thought I'd ease us all back in with some photos of random scenes around Field A (A for awesome, hahaha)

Starting with the plot of shame, our shame, 14b....
'' ~ an allotment blog
Cosmos still going well, apples on the tiny 'family tree', a pumpkin 'Crown Prince', artichoke flower
 Walking over to the opposite side of the plots...
'' ~ an allotment blog
Seriously, if I rolled up in a ball I would be the same size as this pumpkin!; nasturtiums in the compost; amazing display of sweet peas; a pretty darn run down shed :(
 Way over at the opposite side, wow, it had been so long...
'' ~ an allotment blog
cameleon (not native); grapes on the vine; rather abandoned plot but still has beauty; hops :)

The return walk to 24b....
'' ~ an allotment blog

So I hope we all feel more acquainted with the place again and tomorrow I'll focus on our 24a, just don't talk to me about 14b for a while (a few months would be good).

Love and hugs

Friday, 5 September 2014

Sarah Raven's 'Cutting garden journal'

Over the past week or more I just haven't given a damn. I push myself to make things and to try and do bits of housework but in actual fact all I want to do is sleep. The flu, depression, constant anxiety and self hatred take it out of a girl. I'm exhausted.

One thing that has helped is the lovely book I was sent to review on cut flower gardening. Not too much reading, gorgeous photography, plans, projects and inspiration for next year's 14b flower patch.

I may have fallen in lust with this fabulous Sarah Raven's 'Cutting Garden Journal'. Sarah is a goddess of all things cut flower and I just love that she has written a easy, go to book helping people like me to be more confident in her area of expertise.

First off, it is an absolute joy to the senses; the touch of the paper, the layout, the photography. It is sort of a cross between a coffee table book and a how to manual, so stylish but full of great know how and precise instructions.

For us it is going to be a guide to getting our beds right and full of exactly the right plants. Raven even tells you the best variety of the best plants to grow; how to grow them, where they'll grow best and how long the stems should be cut for the best look!

This is the saviour of 14b (yes we were talking about it again, keep it or get rid....). Now we can have the room we want for vegetables and such but know exactly how much room my flowers need too.

A great book to look over again and again, especially now the dull darker days are creeping in.
It was released yesterday, so now you can rush out and get your copy ;)

Hugs and Love

Friday, 29 August 2014

it's crystal clear

Waking up from a nap I most certainly needed I was shocked to find my brain telling me 'this is where you need to be'. Usually my brain and I are at odds, it yelling that I can do everything and more and my body yelling out in exhaustion. This acceptance of my limits felt great.

Why are we so hard on ourselves? I feel so terribly guilty that
1 my house is a mess
2 I haven't been to the Lottie in weeks
3 there are projects laying unfinished
4 Maggie is bored
5 items need to be reviewed and some read

I have a temperature, can barely stand up but still until my sleep I had to fix all of the above...and all at once, all now!

The only reason I'm telling you this is because in this moment of clarity I want it noted - we need to look after ourselves. The desire to always appear busy, popular or some sort of superperson able to do it all, has to stop. We're only human.

Now, some more paracetamol and back to napping... :)

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Plant Nutrient Deficiency Chart

This is not mine, Andrew saw it on Twitter coming from a Ben Dawkins (@Bennyd111) and we just thought it was fabulous. How useful to quickly see what deficiency your plant is suffering from; I think this is something to be shared, printed out and stuck up on the shed door. Praise be to the Internet, to Twitter and to Ben Dawkins whoever he may be....

For those of you who are a little rusty on the old chemistry you learnt at school, (haha) I have written out what each of the elements translates to....

Hope it helps you too
Love and hugs

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Wee trip to Rowallane

I'm writing from under a pile of tissues and paracetamol; coughing, sneezing and generally feeling very sorry myself. This cold is taking over my life and though it pains me to say it I have succumbed to the odd teary moment, I feel so pathetic. Barely the end of the summer and I have my first encounter with the cold and flu medication - why oh why!

So let's go on a quick wee journey to Rowallane on a sunny afternoon this time last week, eh? These photos were simply taken with my camera phone but they are colourful and cheery, I love how they mix purples, blues and oranges together, it seems to be a theme of theirs....

There were many volunteers there that day and it was evident that they had been working hard. Old plants were gone, the ground mulched and the paths tended too. Their compost heap must be fabulous :)

Rowallane visit - '' ~ an allotment blog
liking this colour combination
Rowallane visit - '' ~ an allotment blog
look at the size of  this rosehip!
Rowallane visit - '' ~ an allotment blog
just love how this climber is allowed to poke through a tall yew pillar
Rowallane visit - '' ~ an allotment blog
more purple and orange with a little yellow in the background
Rowallane visit - '' ~ an allotment blog
a small dog :) and a rhododendron
Rowallane visit - '' ~ an allotment blog
simple, effective edging protecting the new growth and naked ladies in this bed
Rowallane visit - '' ~ an allotment blog
stunning arch from one garden into another
Rowallane visit - '' ~ an allotment blog
chives are popular for wasps and butterflies
Rowallane visit - '' ~ an allotment blog
the stables and clock tower quadrangle 
Rowallane visit - '' ~ an allotment blog
hehe, found in the second hand book shop on site
Well I am off to snuggle under a blanket, keep on top of my fluids and try to cheer up a bit. All this sneezing and nose blowing is making reading my two 'for review' books very hard as my eyes keep tearing up...maybe a wee nap would help ;)

Love and hugs

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Helter Skelter

I've been having a hard time and haven't even been near to the allotments or even a garden center since I last wrote about that Saturday we worked so hard. Life truly has felt like a helter skelter; each move forward I try to take is like climbing a massive steep set of stairs, only to have the smallest window of joy as I inevitably slide back down to land on my bum again. Plus I am exhausted, mentally and physically.

I did have a lovely birthday day in Belfast (Sunday 17th) with shopping, lots of good eating, and a few drinks with even a friend coming up for a couple of hours. Andrew and I even stayed over in hotel and then had breakfast out on the Monday and saw some art exhibitions in the Belfast MAC. On the Tuesday we visited one of our favourite National Trust sites, Rowallane. Pictures tomorrow x

However, throughout it all the depression and the feeling of it all being seen as though it was a film, never left me. I slept the rest of the week.

There were extremely thoughtful gifts in the post that made me tear up and feel so loved but after a few moments I hated myself and felt unworthy. I've been so mixed up.

Never the less I have still been looking out for those happy moments in the days and trying to photograph them. I've mentally been dreaming about happy things to come and craft projects I wish to do.  Which leads me to my Happy Days 21- 40.

 21 Newest finished piece of sewing 22 The Maud's ice cream bears waving "hello!" 23 Stunning yellow and purple flowers together :) 24 Coffee at the new cafe in The Bank House! 25 New glasses today!! I can see :)

26 Our WW1 remembrance candle  27New pincushions being these buttons ;) 28  -Quickly made a black out eye mask, take that migraine!! 29I loves me a pretty candle or two 30 A damp old day

31Courgette and chilli omelette for late lunch ;)  32 - Maggie joins in with the #fatsit cool #schnauzer group :) on Instagram 33 Dried apricots, fresh blueberries and natural yogurt - lunch of champions!! 34 - (Maggie says..) 'She trimmed my eyebrows and brushed my beard....I gave her stink eye and went to bed. Gggrr woof! to grooming!' 35 Two big parcels posted off this morning :)

36 - Wall art in Carrickfergus Museum 37 - Gorgeous bracelet from Andrew for my birthday 38 Naughty breakfast in the MAC Belfast - yummy! 39 Spider in the keyhole..... 40 Maggie resting after her conquest over the evil purple dragon :)

I have so much to catch up on, the blog will be full stream ahead over the next few days, thank you for waiting for me xxx

Friday, 15 August 2014

Saturday on plot 24a

Exhaustion as truly hit home this week; every couple of hours of each day I have had to take a nap, just in order to keep going. These periods come every now and then and though I do get frustrated and maybe a little scared, I know it won't last much longer. Giving in and feeling lazy are not my style but it's what my body needs.

Now any remarks on my birthday coming up and that this is all down to age and ...I shall look for you, I shall find you, and I shall slap your face with a wet lettuce leaf!

This is maybe part of the reason why I am so very tired this week - the hard work we pushed into a few hours at the allotment on Saturday last.

My work -
* Cut grass with push mower

* Weed leek bed, general bad spots on plot and the back bed (scary)

* tie back flowers and try to deadhead whilst being sniffed by bees

Andrew's work -
* rip out the second batch of broad beans now they are finished and get all last remaining beans off those plants, including seeds for next year :)

* plant out more broccoli under netting moved across from older settled in broccoli plants :)

* deal with bolted lettuces and spinach (which was a non-bolting variety!) It's my personal opinion that lettuces need to be in the back garden = easier access and used all the time.

Please do enjoy the other beauties in that bed (and further up plot). Everything has done well in 24a so far.. Only bad thing about it is us! We arent harvesting as we should and eating/sharing/storing! Ooops
Sweetcorn tassels; Kohl rabi; courgettes and flower; Autumn raspberry; Rudbeckia.

Love and Hugs

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

WW1 How we dug for Victory - infographic

The lovely Kate Southgate (from Crafted), designer of this incredible infographic poster wrote to me a couple of days ago and offered to let me use it on my blog. I was honoured.

Kate is a very talented graphic designer indeed and the poster is a great quick historical and sociological look at the Dig for Victory campaign. I love having such arty friends :) I'm sure you shall all enjoy it.

  Victory Garden Infographic

I am in no way promoting Notcutts here, I have no idea who they are, though they sound nice in their write up.

Love and hugs
Carrie xx

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Carpe Diem (nothing to do with gardening)

I've been having some really bad bouts of depression for a few days in a row now. I haven't had the energy to change out of my PJ's or even think about washing my hair. The postman coming to the door terrifies me. Its just one of those periods; I'd rather live on the sofa under my blanket....

I did not know the actor Robin Williams, though I grew up with him on TV and  in movies. A few of my favourite films have him as a supporting character; funny, its his serious work I like ( The Dead Poets' Society, Insomnia and Good Will Hunting) I'm not fussed on his comedies. I always think funny people seem to have such depth and such resources of pain to tap into - making others feel happy gives you a sense of purpose.

Williams won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting, where in he plays a therapist better than any I've had. People laud the 'Boston Park Bench Scene' as the most powerful piece of his in the movie and yes, deservedly so. However, for me there is another scene which no matter how many times I've seen it, always makes me cry. I'm not a crier, but this, this has me ugly crying - heaving shoulders, runny nose, eyes so puffy....

Its simple but so effective -"its not your fault". It's something we all need to hear sometimes, and our lives are not notes contained in files either!.

So thank you 'oh Captain, my Captain'  for the phrase 'Carpe Diem' - I try to; for the ability to cry and to remember everything isn't my fault; and for the acknowledgement that beauty is important; the novels, the music, the poetry, love - that's what we live for, though sometimes we forget I guess....

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Happy 6th Anniversary

Wow, so it's come to this....6 years of our lives we have been allotmenteers; I feel as though we deserve a badge or something, a medal. I know I'll have to make my own.....
Today is horrendous with heavy rain and general misery so it's a little sad that I can't take photos and I don't feel all giddy and summery on this occasion.
We were there yesterday though and met new plot owners and saw some old ones leave for good. That was funny - they hadn't been there in forever and one of the ex-owners loudly exclaimed that it was 'an absolute mess!'. What? like it was meant to look after itself?! I look forward to someone taking it on - it's the 'a' half of our 14b.

So here are some fun photos from a scrap book I tried to keep early on in the adventure. I am a terrible scrapbooker and in the end I simply took loads of photos and saved them on a hard drive. Well, that was until I discovered the magical world of the blog :)
the advert in the town magazine - our confirmation letter - the plan for the first year :)

looking so much younger and me lounging on the turf sofa , just getting stuck in de-turfing, the field as it was

Look here for my wee post on the how the story got started. It was written 6 years ago and I think I sound scared :) Back them I didn't know other people read your blog - wow, I knew nothing about blogging.

Oh and here is my first blog header, I think the title was below this  picture. We found this horse shoe whilst digging our plot = good luck :)

So that's or for now. As I said, all is depression and misery outside and in my noggin', sorry.

Much love and thank you for making my little journal come alive by your reading and commenting. I feel so much less alone with my lovely gardening online friends - you make life easier and fun and I can't thank you enough xxx

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