Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Plot and the Ending (la trama y el desenlace)

It's probably our last chance to do anything on the plot before we return to our other favourite place - Tenerife (yay!). So, today I had to clear a space a plant the garlic.
I bought that bulb at the Food Festival last week - French garlic, from Brittany. I usually buy bulbs from the garden centre, but at least 3 people told me that this is what they do, so we'll give it a whirl. There were only 13 cloves so that's not as much as we usually grow, but if they're all that big it should be plenty to use throughout next year.
I cleared the end of the raised salad bed and that's where the garlic are now - I added a little 6x to the compost before mixing in, planting and then gave it a water. Garlic needs a frost to divide the bulb into cloves so I hope this warm weather doesn't stay too long - though it was a lovely afternoon in the sunshine.
The sunshine is helping the weeds grow - those violas are welcome, but the grass and thistles - ugh!!
We didn't get time to clear everywhere but most of the large thistles have been dug up and while Jamie did that I cleared the tomatoes in the greenhouse...
From that... to this...
It's nice to be able to get in the door again, but I still need to clear the remaining redcurrant tomato at the end. They're dropping all over the floor.
A nice little harvest for beet/carrot/sweetcorn salads during the week and a meal with squash and a tomato sauce tonight.
That's the first time for a few years that we've picked sensible-sized beets at this time of year! These are from the seeds we sowed in July.
And the tomato sauce has a lovely smokey flavour because of the Rapeseed oil I bought at the Food Festival last week. The squash was relatively easy to cut and I was going to stuff it whole..
But, because of the way the flesh had grown, I decided to chop it like this, drizzle with oil and roast - I'll just pour the sauce on once it's cooked and I'll add a vegetarian pepperoni for a bit of protein.
And I'm currently obsessed with this song that has provided the title - it's so beautiful, please listen to the rather lovely Jorge Drexler.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Thats Entertainment

Getting up very early on a Sunday is usually frowned upon, but yesterday it was Hungerford Food Festival, so needs must. First we went to the allotments to pick some vegetables for the display and were very pleased to see all these donations waiting for us in the communal toolshed.
Such generous plotholders! There were pumpkins, butternut squash, celeriac, jerusalem artichoke and beets. I could go on, there was much more, as you can see from our Ka, and this was the first of two trips.
So, we got to the Corn Exchange where the other stallholders were beginning to set up some delicious food and drinks stalls.
HAHA had our usual spot on the first floor, with Kerry offering tasty cheese and chive scones and elderflower cordial at the top of the stairs encouraging people up :-) 
We set up a colourful display of all the lovely veg as well as putting out photobooks, leaflets, business cards and a photo slideshow - 30 minutes of photos from 2009 to date. 

Also a selection of photos showing the Nursery School plot at the Fairfields site. 

And posters encouraging people to collect their Tesco's tokens for HAHA when we're one of the 'Bags of Help' candidates in November and December - very exciting!  
We're going to stock up our promotional items with the grant money when it comes through.
The Jeune et vert squashes and marina di chioggia pumpkin were big talking points. 
And, we're very pleased that we have three new plotholders, once we show them round and they choose a plot.
Jamie and I went for something to eat and join the crowds outside with some delicious veggie streetfood from Mrs B's Kitchen.
I love Hungerford when it's bustling and it was a bright warm day so perfect for sitting and listening to the music.
An hour before the end of the festival people started giving small donations for some of the veg. I was pleased to nab one of the huge celeriacs which I'll add to carrots to make soup, I also took a few other veggies as I couldn't resist. 
And I gained this beautiful bunch of chrysanthemums.
Such a busy, tiring day but I have to agree with The Jam.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Forever Autumn

There's no denying it now that it's October, but it's still warmish. A quick visit to the plot yesterday afternoon as it was too wet to achieve anything. So, I watered the tomatoes and picked a nice Autumnal trug of veggies.
Half the carrots and an onion have become soup for work lunches, with a bit of fresh sage and some other dried herbs. I took a couple of the onions home which had been outside in the rain, but they quickly got binned as they're rotten - phewey, what a pong! Luckily I took some properly stored onions home too.
The other carrots, beets and onion were roasted along with some shop-bought potatoes (I know. I know. But I didn't fancy scrabbling about in the mud on the plot). All served up with lovely halloumi, (God, I love halloumi) and sweetcorn. And look!
We removed the kernels from the raw cob using our new corn stripper from Lakeland. Nice to be able to include the sweetcorn in a meal rather than just straight off the cob.
Whilst on the allotment site I took this snap of the grass paths we sowed two weeks ago - the mini-plots are looking like plots now! All they need is some tenants, otherwise we'll need to cover them before the weeds take over. And that may be the last shot of the rented Portaloo - we've got a grant for a composting toilet! How cool is that?!
Aah, Justin Hayward, what a lovely song.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Time is on My Side

We've had a couple of visits to the allotment after work but the light fades so quickly that we only have time to water the tomatoes in the greenhouse, pick some sweetcorn and get home as quickly as possible to eat it.
We had our HAHA 'Seed Evening' at the British Legion last Tuesday. It's really just a plotholder get-together where we are given the Kings Seeds catalogues and told how to get our 40% discount through our Seed Secretary. There weren't many of us there, but those of us who went enjoyed a bit of chat about what's grown well or what we won't try again next year - not always agreeing of course!
We visited the plot when it was already dark. You can just see my pumpkin (bottom left) for the Food Festival competition - it's not a winner, but it's going to do better than Ted's which unexpectedly grew into a sunflower :-D
Two tomato plants in the greenhouse and the redcurrant tomato at the end haven't succumbed to blight yet. They're still providing additions to most lunches. The onions and garlic are drying out in there but quite a few of the onions have a brown layer inside so won't store for long, though they taste fine.
I made this lunch look fancy so took a photo before I added the tomatoes. Raw grated beetroot and carrot with lettuce and lovely smoked cheddar cheese. That's one of the last cucumbers for this year, but we were pleased with MiniMunch.
And, that fancy-looking lunch is why I chose this title song. Well, I'm on flexi-time so sometimes I get into work a bit later :-D
(Oh! Didn't mean to put two Rolling Stones songs together)

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Paint it Black

Yesterday Arts for Hungerford arranged for the painting of a community mural, depicting aspects of the town. Luckily we were led by illustrator, Simon Jardine.
Zoe (friend and fellow plotholder) and I spent longer than you would think adding the Marsh Lane allotment site to the mural.
Zoe's are the neat, well-defined parts whereas my approach was more splodgy :-)  OK, so it's not exactly a work of art, but it kind of looks like allotments!

Here's a small video that was taken during the process. I'm hoping I will be able to find a photo of the completed painting quite soon. It looks lovely and colourful. I may have to wait until it's hung in the library.

In the afternoon Jamie and I spent a few hours in the warm sunshine on the allotment. The weeds have gone crazy! Here's a photo of our salad bed, which has some Chinese lettuce as well as 'normal' lettuce and one lone Pak Choi. In the 'before' photo it was less obvious that there was any salad there!

Jamie planted up our strawberries on top of the weed suppressant-covered compost bed. He's secured their watering pots as this year they kept popping out of the ground.

I spent a long time straightening and securing the Glass Gem corn.
There was a lot of snapping involved but if the weather stays warm then there may be a chance to get a couple of cobs for the food festival in 3 weeks time..

I also did a lot of weeding on Plot46. I don't think our swede are going to work,

but we have some lovely small beets which we intend to pickle.
We left with a bagful of giant Desiree potatoes - Jamie didn't continue excavating the plant as this lot will keep us fed for a while!
Thanks to The Rolling Stones (obviously) but I didn't use any black actually - poetic licence :-)

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Times They Are A-Changing

Misty mornings are here, the heating is on at work and squashes are appearing around the site as the leaves are dying back. It's definitely Autumn now. We've picked all our Jaune et Vert. I'm still not sure whether they're Summer or Winter squash, but they look great.
I had one as part of a roasted veg meal, but I hope most of them will keep for our HAHA stall at the Hungerford Food Festival on 8 October.
At the weekend we sowed three grass paths between four new mini-plots on our site and also showed a new plotholder around. I'm glad the sun shone a bit which always makes the site look lovely. There were a lot of butterflies about, including Red Admirals and this fine specimen of a comma.
We've harvested our first sweetcorn. I can't describe how deliciously sweet the cobs are. Even though they aren't all perfectly pollinated Lark are definitely worth growing in our opinion.
And the plot is still providing me with lunch if I haven't made soup - today's included lettuce, beetroot, cucumber, tomato and cheese.
Bob Dylan, of course, sings the title track.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


I just happened to mention at work that I thought Heinz tomato soup was tastier than any home-made tomato soup I'd had. I was accused of being a heathen :-D so today I made my own...
I pretty much used this recipe because it seemed quick and easy. It used lots of the Aviditas tomatoes that I cleared off one of the plants yesterday, along with some of the redcurrant ones.
The sweated onions, garlic, flour and stock was already tasty.
Then the tomatoes were added.
I added the tomato puree and smoked paprika and simmered for a while before seiving the soup. I usually use a blender, so it seemed very wasteful, I'm pretty sure I could have used this for some other tasty dish but we needed to get to the allotment this afternoon so didn't have time.
And, you know what, I think Nigel was right. Home-made tomato soup can be better than Heinz :-)
Thanks to Twenty-One Pilots for the music!