Muck Glorious Muck

You know you are an allotmenteer, when you get incredibly excited by a delivery of manure.
I got a call from Jan, my allotment secretary saying there had been a delivery of manure and did I want some?……..er, yes please!
With some trepidation, I took Ruby to the plot with me. I had visions of her rolling around in the pile and coming home smelling of Eau de poo, but she was incredibly well behaved, after a couple of cursory sniffs, she left it alone.

I was able to give two of the beds a lovely thick mulch of this glorious stuff.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find no damage at all to the plot, as the UK has recently been battered by two storms, Storm Ciara followed a week later by Storm Dennis, I was thoroughly expecting to find my arches had been blown away, but no, there they were still standing proud!

I was also thrilled to see signs of life bursting through, the broad beans, garlic, elephant garlic and shallots I had planted earlier in the winter were doing splendidly.

The various bulbs I have planted around the plot were also bursting into life and it won’t be long before I have another dazzling display of tulips and daffodils and I can’t wait.

Everything is also springing to life in the teeny tiny garden at Sleepy Cottage.

until next time, Toodle pip

Winter wonderland

Winter is now here, nipping at my fingers as I tend to my allotment. I have a huge amount of tidying up to do, there are a few things still growing, my perennial bed is doing extremely well and I have been harvesting my leeks, some of which went in my turkey soup over Christmas (it tasted awesome by the way!)

A couple of weeks ago, I went up to my plot after a heavy frost and it looked so pretty.

The birds were happy as I filled the feeders for them,I have a variety of birds that come to visit, from the shy blue tits and coal tits to the super friendly robins that watch me keenly.

An inquisitive squirrel also came to visit and was pleased to discover the seeds on the feeder, so sat quite contentedly and ate his fill, Ruby was intrigued with his strange looking bird!

Christmas was a lovely time over a Sleepy Cottage, I was thoroughly spoilt by Mr Inked who gave me some incredible gifts, including some lovely gardening items. I love Christmas, the tree, the lights, the cosiness of curling up in front of the fire with a cup of tea listening to the wind and rain outside.

My tree this year has a vintage/frosty winter berry theme, with vintage onion baubles from the fifties, handmade baubles that I crocheted myself, little robins, icicles, berries, twigs and candle fairy lights, I even crocheted a little scarf for the stag ornament on the mantelpiece!

Ruby is exhausted with all the Christmas excitement

I hope your Yuletide was merry and bright and you had a wonderful time.

Toodle pip

Spiced Autumn soup

Now the weather has turned chilly, it is the perfect time to use up some of my autumn harvests with a delicious and hearty bowl of soup to warm the cockles.
This is an incredibly simple recipe that anyone can make, the part that takes the most effort is cutting the veg up.

Firstly I chopped up the vegetables, leeks, garlic, munchkin pumpkin, butternut squash (these were all home grown) carrots and parsnips (these were shop bought, as I sowed about a bazillion seeds and the number that germinated were a big, fat zero!) and added them to the pan with a little oil and sweated them off for a few minutes.

Next up, the spices. I added a teaspoon each of Cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and paprika and stirred this into the vegetables.

I then put water into the pan, about a couple of inches above the vegetables and crumbled a couple of vegetable stock cubes in and let it simmer, giving it a stir every now and then.

After about half an hour, I added a third of a packet of red lentils and let it simmer for another half hour, again stirring every now and then.
When the lentils had softened and cooked through, I used a stick blender to blitz everything together, and served it up with some hot, buttered crusty bread.

This is the perfect soup for those cold, winters evenings, hearty with a slight nuttiness from the lentils, and gentle warmth from the spices and utterly delicious.

Toodle pip for now.

Remember when

It was my 46th Birthday recently, and Mr Inker treated me to lunch out. I had heard good things about a local vintage tea rooms called Remember when, so we decided to give it a whirl.

The day was incredibly dreary and raining heavily but I decided to wear my favourite vintage dress and a vintage flower corsage and pretend it was a gloriously sunny day.

Remember when is situated in New Brighton, just a short stroll up from the promenade and has a couple of tables outside to enjoy a cuppa when the weather isn’t quite so dreadful.

Inside, this delightful tearoom is packed to the rafters with quaint and quirky decorations, including seating from an old hairdressers with the dryers attached.

We started off with a pot of loose leaf tea, served in china cups with a strainer, which Mr Inker nearly missed and almost ended up with the tea leaves in his cup (oh dear!)

Deciding what to eat, proved more challenging as everything on the menu sounded so delicious, finally we both plumped for the Welsh Rarebit (great minds and all that), served with a side salad and Worcestershire sauce for sprinkling over. It was rich, oozy and totally scrumptious.

The days cakey offerings are displayed in a vintage display cabinet with the pride that Nana displayed her finest china and although the Welsh Rarebit was incredibly filling, we didn’t want to pass up the chance to sample the delights Nana’s cabinet had to offer, luckily they will pack up a cake for you to take home so we took advantage of this and my goodness it was difficult to choose from the delicious looking selection. Mr Inker had had his eye on a slab of cherry cake from the second we sat down and I decided on a rather spectacular looking scone, which came with little wrapped bags of jam and clotted cream to pop on when I got home.

Before we left, I had to powder my nose, the bathroom is decorated in the same quirky manner that the rest of the tearoom is. Amazing!

I thoroughly loved my visit to Remember when, and I plan on returning with Mummy boots to try an afternoon tea as I know she will enjoy this and my Mum deserves to be treated to a visit to this delightful place.

Dirty rotten scoundrels

Some bad news to start the blog with……..my plot was broken into, they ripped the front of my shed off and chopped a hole to get in. Unluckily for them, there was a big board in the way so although they were able to get in, they couldn’t get anything out, so they didn’t manage to steal any of my tools, just created a massive headache for me as I and to tidy up the mess they left and Mr Inker fixed the shed for me.

they also trampled on my sweetcorn, so I had to rescue as many cobs as I could and then clear the rest of the destroyed plants from the bed. On a side note, the sweetcorn was delicious.

Now, back to the pretty stuff.
One of my allotment neighbours gave me some dinner plate dahlias that he had picked. They were spectacular and as big as my head!
This is what I love about my site, everyone is so friendly, always there with a helping hand, the offer of a cuppa and always sharing spare seeds, plants or veg.

I also managed to harvest some goodies. I picked some apples and blackberries, more on them later, some borlotti beans, leeks, french beans and the first of my munchkin pumpkins, I am so looking forward to trying this.

With the apples and blackberries, I decided to make some simple tarts.
I started by chopping the apples into small chunks and tossing them in cornflour, I popped them in a pan with the blackberries and some sugar and bubbled it all up until the blackberries oozed their delicious juice, the apples became soft and the juice became thick and syrupy.

Now, don’t tell anyone but I cheated on this next bit and used ready made puff pastry. I cut it into rectangles, scored lightly around the edges to create frames, and pricked the middles with a fork.

I then piled the apple blackberry mixture into the middles, trying desperately to avoid the edges, I was mostly successful……well, vaguely successful. Brushed the edges with beaten egg and popped them in the oven, gas mark 6 for about 15 minutes until the edges had risen and were golden brown.

I served them with extra thick cream, they may not be the prettiest looking things and I am certainly no Delia, but by golly they were yummy and went down well with everyone.

So, there we go. We may have started off on a sombre note, but cake really does make everything better, add a nice cup of tea to that and the world really is tickety boo!

Toodle pip for now.

Garden bargains galore

The growing season is well underway and I have had some successes and some spectacular failures, including my sweetpeas which in fact turned out to be just peas, and the courgettes that just failed to grow.

I also paid a visit to Poundland and got some great garden bargains, some practical but mostly decorative items, but as I have mentioned before, I want my plot to be an attractive space as well as a productive one.

I was super pleased with my haul, especially when everything is just a pound each, apart from the milk churn, but even that was a bargain!

The flowers and wildlife are rife on the plot at the moment, and I love seeing the beautiful colours dotted here and there.

One of my little projects was to utilise a large roof slate that I had been gifted, so I used my acrylic paint pens and made an apt sign for the plot

And finally before I bid you toodle pip, I will leave you with the results of wearing my sandals to the plot. Please try to tear your eyes away from my funny little toes (I was born with them like that) and behold the glory of my bad tan! spectacular isn’t it?

Until next time, toodle pip for now.

The growing season begins

I have planted out most of the things I have planned to grow this year, a few bits are still being nurtured in the greenhouse at home such as some of the munchkin pumpkins that were planted later.

Some things are thriving and some seem to be struggling a bit, but as this is my first growing season as a beginner allotmenteer, I’m not going to worry if things fail, it will be a learning curve for me.

When I see pictures of my plot of when I first got the keys compared to how it looks now, I can really see just how far I have actually come with it. On those days when I think it looks messy because a whole host of new marestail or bindweed has sprung up, or another of my plants has been munched; I look at the comparison photos and I don’t feel quite so bad.

One of the things I love about my plot is that is such a peaceful place to be. My plot is at the top of the lane, away from the road and backing on to the woods, so all you can hear is birdsong. I have a little regular visitor in a robin, who comes to see me every time I am at the plot, he watches carefully to see whether I put some seed on the feeders or whether I will be doing any digging to expose some nice juicy fat worms for his dinner, he really is adorable. There is also a Buzzard who lives on Bidston Hill and I watch it flying over the plot, it really is a magnificent sight to see. I also encountered a frog when trying to sort the weeds at the back of the plot, he was a cute little fellow.

Sometimes, I just like to bask in the sun and do a spot of crochet and not worry about the weeds.

Before I say toodle pip once more I will leave you with some more pictures of the flowers and wildlife that inhabit 38B.

Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm

My Mum had not seen my allotment before but had heard me waffling on about it numerous times, so we decided to have a nice and peaceful day at the allotment. Mr Inker dropped us off and we walked up the lane to my plot. Before I could tell her which plot was mine she pointed to it and said “that has to be yours!”. I think it was the crocheted bunting festooned everywhere that gave it away. I set the chairs out for us and we had cups of tea and a cake I had purchased from the local bakery, all very civilised. The peace was interspersed with the twittering of birds and the odd cock-a-doodle doo from the cockerel on the farm next door. Mum mentioned that Tam O’Shanter is somewhere she had never visited. She had been to Bidston Hill when she was a girl but had never seen the cottage, this is something that we had to address, so we packed up and took a stroll next door to the delight that is Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm.

Tam O’Shanter farm started life around 300 years ago, it is believed that it was built on Bidston Hill by a heath squatter. Back then, if someone could build a dwelling and have a fire lit in the hearth within 3 days then they could live there for free. In 1837 the occupier was a chap called Richard Lee, he embellished the gable end with a stone carving of a scene from Robert Burns poem “Tam O’Shanter” thus giving the cottage its name. The scene shows Tam being chased by a witch who manages to grab his mare Maggie’s tail which she loses as they flee over the bridge.

Poor Maggie losing her tail

In 1986 building work started on returning it to a farm again (incidently, Mr Inker was one of the workforce who built the barns and fencing). It is now open every day for visitors to come and see the collection of animals that inhabit this wonderful place. It is run by volunteers and they do the most amazing work.

On the way home we walked through Flaybrick memorial gardens, which is being lovingly restored by the Friends of Flaybrick, and what a wonderful job they are doing.

Mum and I thorough recommend a trip to Tam O’Shanter farm, people of all ages will enjoy it, there are play areas for children, a cafe for a cuppa and something to eat, dogs are welcome as long as they are kept on a lead and of course all the animals, including the friendliest pig in the world.

The fruit cage arises

Just in front of the compost bin I made, there was a large space. It was just filled with couch grass and surrounded by small trees that had been planted before I arrived. Mostly Hazel I think, but I discovered a cherry tree and an apple too (wahoo!).

I decided this would be an ideal space for fruit, so I duly cleared it bit by bit and planted raspberries (Yellow and red Autumn fruiting), blackcurrants and yellow and red gooseberries.

Now all these delicious fruits will be just too tempting for the birds and I want to be able to eat what I grow. A friend of Mr Inker said he would build me a fruit cage to protect the precious berries. so one weekend he came along and set to work.

Doesn’t it look amazing? All I need to do now it cover it with net and we’re good to go!

I have been busy myself with lots of planting, and of course weeding. The site is unfortunately riddled with marestail, so it is a constant battle with it as this stuff has been around since prehistoric times.

In my perennial bed, I have planted Babington leeks, Perennial leeks and perennial nine star broccoli. Now it is called broccoli but it is a sort of cross between a cauliflower and a sprouting broccoli in the fact that it produces a small head of cauliflower and numerous smaller florets. Let’s see how I get on with this.

I also planted out lots of other goodies that had been nurtured in my small half greenhouse at home.

Alongside the middle arch I planted some climbing French beans and some borlotti beans. The maypole, I planted with sugar snap peas, which will hopefully scramble up and create a green wigwam.

It was also a momentous occasion for me as I made my first harvest. I was able to pick some of the broad beans that had overwintered and a couple of leeks, the leeks were only small but delicious nonetheless.

Before I say toodle pip, I will leave you with a bee bum.

Motorshed……Place of spades

Over the winter, I discovered a distressing fact. My little allotment shed had a leak in the roof. Ruby and I were sheltering from a particularly heavy downpour, when I noticed a constant drip, drip, drip coming from the corner of the ceiling……disaster.

Luckily a friend of Mr Inker’s was able to fix this for me, but it gave us the push we needed to fix the outside. It was covered in roof felt, but this was starting to become patchy in places and it was only a matter of time before I had leaks coming from the sides too.

Again, I had been gifted some fencing panels from one of the chaps on the site. It was one of those ‘ooh yes. I’ll take them, they will come in useful at some point’ moments, and this was the useful point. Mr Inker spent a weekend up at the plot with me and used the panels to clad the shed for me, and my goodness, what a difference it made!

Before………….
…………and after

Ok, so it is patchy in places and we had to leave a gap for the bar to go across the door, but I love the rustic look of it and it is a bazillion times better than it was previously, it makes me think of ‘Little house on the Prairie’. I had crocheted lots of bunting that I had hung around the plot and I popped some up on the overhang of the shed to finish it off.

I have put many decorative touches around my allotment as I want it to be an attractive space as well as a productive one.

Bird house and crochet bunting
Sweetpea towers, with a Rose at the end of the path
The cottage garden starting to look prettier
Crocheted blanket over the chair
The sprout house

Already I have come so far on my plot, from the weed filled space it once was to what it is now. There is still tonnes to do, but I have many years to keep pottering along with it.

Here are some pictures of some of the spaces where the biggest changes have taken place.

Brassica bed and arches

And in honour of my new look shed, I treated myself to an allotment T-shirt