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

Grapple me grapenuts, it’s compost corner

Things were starting to come together on the plot now, the beds in the main part of the plot were now dug out. I had erected arches at the end of each of the paths with idea to grow climbing plants up them such as peas and beans, I also wanted to give munchkin pumpkins a try so I will let them clamber up one of the arches too.

Ruby checking the arches are straight

Mr Inker had put in the scaffolding planks for me, and as we had just had a delivery of woodchip I was able to finish my paths. The difference it made was unbelievable, It was starting to look like a proper allotment, it was also starting to look like I knew what I was doing!

I felt now that I could start looking at working on other parts of the plot. In the front corner was a large dilapidated compost heap that took up just too much room and I had an idea for that space, as a result I decided to relocate the compost to the back of the plot out of the way. I had acquired some pallets from the chap who had the plot over the lane from mine and also from work, so used these to create a compost bin with 2 bays so that I could turn compost from one bay to the other.

The beginnings of the new compost bays

Now it was onto the daunting task of tackling the old scrappy compost bay. It was completely overgrown with a selection of the most perennial of weeds, so yet again it was dig, dig dig.

Now bear with me here, because in my head this was going to be a flower garden. In the spirit of allotmenting, I had utilised an old zinc trough that had previously been full of rubbish, filled it with soil and had planted tulips, daffodils, crocus and ranunculus. In the middle of this space, I envisioned a patch of grass and a flower bed that undulated around it, filled with a variety of beautiful colourful flowers.

I made a friend whilst removing the old compost bay

After a good few weeks, numerous nettle stings, broken nails, countless scratches and sore muscles i finally had the bare bones of the cottage garden I wanted to create, and was able to plant some bulbs.

The cottage garden has the Ruby seal of approval

Now we are into the full throws of Spring, this little patch has really come to life, there is still tonnes to do but I am so pleased with the progress so far.

Dig for Victory

The next stage of the transformation of the plot was a whole lot of digging. Mr Inker had already made a start for me at the side of the shed, so our next job was to dig out the paths I had marked out. Baring in mind that the Summer of 2018 was on par with the Summer of 1976, this was no mean feat.

Ruby inspecting our workmanship

my plan was that these beds would be edged with scaffolding boards and the paths would be covered with woodchip as we have that delivered to the site, but I knew it would be a while before that happened.

We started to dig the beds over, the plot was covered in a lot of couch grass so we had to make sure we got the roots out as we were digging.

Ruby working hard again……she just never stops!

Everything was starting to come together now and i could see my vision on what the plot should look like come to life.

I also had a sign made for the gate of my plot, it had now arrived in the post so I popped it up on the gate.

I now felt that my plot was officially named!

Next stop was doing something with the shed. I knew I wanted somewhere nice and cosy to sit to shelter from the sun during the long hot summers of years to come………..who was I kidding, it was to shelter from the rain we would undoubtedly have.

The shed was a typical allotment shed, made from bits and pieces that had been gathered, unfortunately most of it was made from chipboard, hence why it was covered in roof felting, not very attractive but serviceable for now.

I started with the inside by painting it in a light colour to brighten it up; it already had a table in there, which I was able to put my camping stove and kettle on for those all important cups of tea that I would inevitably quaff on a regular basis. I brought a little cabinet to store the cups and other bits and bobs out of the way and started to put up little metal signs and other decorative items to really girlify it.

I now had somewhere nice and dry to sit when the winter started to set in, totally unnecessary, but it would be a place I would enjoy being in.

Welcome to the jungle

The idea for an allotment came from my work wife Sue, we had previously been having a discussion about growing veggies in our gardens and how limited we were with the space. Sue told me that she had put her name down for an allotment, so naturally I decided to copy her!

Thinking it would take years to get to the top of the list, I was surprised when I was approached about a year later by the Secretary of the site I had applied for, letting me know that I was top of the list. There were a couple of plots that I could choose from and decided to go with the one that had a shed on it so that I had somewhere to sit when it inevitably rained.

So in August 2018, I got the keys to plot 38b and my allotment journey began. And this is what I faced

and my first thought was……where the blimming heck do I begin?

Jan, the site secretary had kindly strimmed all of the waist high weeds down for me so I could see better what I was dealing with.

I was joined by my Fiance, Mr Inker and Ruby our Red Setter. Mr Inker set to work on the space at the side of the shed, digging this over and getting rid of the multitude of perennial weeds, whilst I started to mark out the paths that would divide the 3 large beds in front of the shed. Ruby worked extremely hard by sniffing things and snoozing in the shed (well done Ruby, couldn’t have done without you!)

And this is how it looked after the first week. Already it was looking a million times better and I couldn’t wait to continue my journey with my plot.