Sunday, 29 March 2015

Fair food...

Oh I love a food fair, sorry a food and produce Indian meal served from an ice cream van?...yes, of course that would be great thank you. A crepe, very French...with an Italian pesto and sun-dried tomato topping with cheese, not quite my thing but it got lovely girl's empty plate seal of approval.

And inside you are met with the cruel smell of chocolate...brownies everywhere you look. Salted caramel and peanut butter seem to be the ingredients you can't avoid at the moment...not that I wanted too:) I am a girl with a tooth practically made of sugar but even I had to run away slightly afraid of the brownie with the Cadbury's creme egg sunk into the top. I didn't notice the cupcakes usurpation...but the brownies were the only cake in town at this food event.

I bought Chris a jar of beetroot, ginger and chilli jam from 'Omemade. It's nearly all gone already, he will say because it was only a small jar...I say because it is/was delicious:) I really hope when I've got the allotment properly up and productive that I can make jams, preserves even half as tasty as what was in that little pot.

It was the venue that I really loved though (the honeycomb brownie was close) The Abbeydale Picture House, is quite simply a uniquely, magical place. It has had years of being unloved, suffered a dodgy roof and it is rough round its edges but somehow it is what gives it its worn charm. I've worked in theatres impressive in their glitz, velvet and gold gilt, done up to within an inch of their candelabras but that have lost something because of it. The Picture House still has that something... something you can't quite put your finger on but if you get a chance I'd recommend a visit to see if you get the same feeling for it...especially if there's a food fair on:) I don't know what the owner has planned for it ultimately, I know there were plans for a climbing venue,  but whatever its reinvention will be I really hope it never involves gold gilded cherubs...

I really wish I'd taken more and better photos but I had small boy in tow freshly (and very beautifully) painted as spiderman, high on chocolate cake. I really couldn't stand still long enough in one place to do the venue or the food justice with my rubbish phone camera..Ha what an excuse!

Ha...Just found their website...much better photos and information of their upcoming events:)

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Shed dreaming...

Ah I've actually finally managed to get to see what my lovely Chris has been working so hard on all week at the allotment. My beautiful shed base...I know I really should get out more...but to me it really is a thing of beauty. I am pathetically grateful to him for doing it, I hadn't even had a chance to make a small indent for it, I nearly bit his hand off when he offered to make it for me. It means I will finally be able to order the shed in time for the holiday I've got coming up from work.

 My (very un wicked)  stepmother is very kindly buying it for me as a present. It must be up there with one of the best presents ever, though I was at college with a girl whose parents bought her a chainsaw for her birthday followed by a donkey for Christmas. I understood the chainsaw, she was a sculpture student...the donkey...well I just hope it never came anywhere near the chainsaw.

 My (very un wicked) step mum wouldn't take no for an answer, she knew I could never buy one for myself and the perfect shed (even the un perfect one) had just kept alluding me on Ebay. She has no idea (unless she ever reads this) how happy that shed will make me, I have big plans for it, I have bunting and a whole interior planned... I have a very confused Chris who is a very practical sort of man. It will fulfill all its practical shed duties of course, it will mean that the trips to the allotment will not have to be planned like military maneuvers any more and my constant confusion as to why my hoe seems to defy any attempt to make it fit into the car. But I want it to have lace curtains too and to be painted lavender, should I apologise for wanting a feminine shed?

It will mean I can walk to the allotment and everything will already be there, it will mean I can finally have a potting bench that isn't my kitchen table (you didn't just read that, Chris!) It will mean I will have somewhere to hide from the rain. It will mean that I have my very own shed...oh thank you my (very un wicked) stepmother.

This weekend we went to see a play that my...well she would be my stepdaughter if we ever get round to the practicalities...was in, playing a wicked stepmother (what else?). She was of course the most beautiful, best wicked stepmother ever but it made me think. Why do stepmothers in fiction get such a bad time, why are they such an easy target to make wicked? I have a stepmother, my eldest boys have a stepmother, I am (without the paperwork) a stepmother, we are all human, not perfect but as far as I'm concerned we all do a damn good job without being in the slightest bit 'wicked'. So the Brothers Grimm and their ilk can just 'step off' the wicked stepmothers bandwagon and get themselves a better evil figure to pick on...personally I would never have trusted the Fairy Godmother.
So in my shed I shall plot...and eat gingerbread whilst cackling to myself...well what else would I do?:)...The End.

Image result for pretty sheds
It should be something like this one!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Everywhere you look...

The house is awash with seed trays. Chris was away at the weekend and I got very busy with my seed packets, I am a secret seed planter, actually I'm just quite messy so it's best he doesn't see. I don't know where all these seeds have come from really:)
 This weekend I've planted peas, beans, sweetcorn, kale, broccoli including Romanesco which I'm worryingly excited about (ever since they had those lampshades in Habitat years ago I've had a bit of a thing for you remember them? they were beautiful) cabbages, red and savoy types. I've planted asparagus peas and Babington's leeks which I've been really curious about so I'm really hoping that they come up ok.

I first saw Babington's leeks on Mark Diacono's lovely website  but I couldn't really justify the cost of getting the bulbs from him sadly, so when I found them as bulbils (is that the name for baby bulbs?) at Chiltern seeds I was really happy, I might end up regretting the risk of being cheap but we'll see. I really want to get some chervil root and parsley root seeds from Otter farm instead though:)

 I love the Otter farm website and Mark Diacono's blog, I got his book, A Year at Otter Farm for Christmas and it's so beautifully written (quite like the look of his new one too). His philosophy for growing more unusual things is one that I hope to be able to follow eventually, I don't really see the point in filling my small space with things that are cheap, easily available and taste much the same as the produce in the shops. But I'm on a learning curve and perhaps growing a few 'usual' things is like learning with stabilisers before going free cycle.

 I went to art college about a thousand years ago and I still remember a particular project we were set which I deeply resented at the time in my arrogant 'I know it all' teenage way. We  were given a number of 'Masters' to copy, we had to make as much of a faithful reproduction of them as possible...what on earth for? it seemed like such a waste of our time! Most of us failed miserably of course, some because we just weren't Rembrandt and never would be, some because our arrogance (strangely enough I wasn't the only arrogant art student!) deemed that we had to make the paintings 'ours' in some way, completely missing the point. One of us managed to do it beautifully, it was like a photocopy of the original, we were jealous of his talent secretly but muttered under our breath about how he had no individuality. What he actually had was an understanding of what we were actually being look at the paintings properly to understand how they were created, to go back to basics and learn from masters how to paint because before you can create great paintings of your own, you have to learn draw. So I will grow potatoes and onions, the things that don't tick the 'more unusual' boxes until I have learnt properly how things grow, the basics. I will take that art lesson from all those years ago and finally get the point!

Rembrandt self portrait...the face he would have had, had he ever seen our drawings!

I also got myself some root trainers for the beans, peas and sweetcorn so they have room for their long roots. I wanted to find out if they make a huge difference to the plants, I've never used them before. Unfortunately root trainers  are quite big and I couldn't find anywhere else to put them but on our bedroom windowsill...Chris spotted them immediately when he came home not surprisingly. He was (sort of) smiling as he made some comment about being taken over...but I'm a bit worried about how he'll take all the flower seeds I've still got to plant not to mention the squash, cucumber, courgettes...ah and the cucamelon...Where on earth am I going to put them all?!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Bus travel thoughts...

I was sitting on the bus on the way home from work trying to get the radio to work on my phone when I started to think about how much time I actually spend on this bus. Well I worked it out...maths has never been my strong point which I know is a terrible thing to say as a woman at the moment (just ask Helen Mirren) but I don't believe my lack of maths skills has anything to do with my gender! I managed to figure this out...1 hour a day there, 1 hour back...2 hours a far so good...5 days a week, that's 10 hours a week! I spend 10 hours a week sitting on a bus staring into space, that's ridiculous! That is so much time and time is so precious there must be something better that I can do than try to get Radio 4 to tune in properly.

It is the only time of the day when I am entirely on my own without anyone making demands on me or surrounded by anything that needs to be done...thankfully the washing up cannot follow me onto the bus! I used to drive but now have the luxury of handing the responsibility for watching the road onto someone else whilst I just sit and watch the world go by. I still miss my car when it's raining and the bus is late but generally I'm grateful to the bus driver for taking that pressure off me.

I still think that 10 hours a week is an unbelievable amount of time though just to be getting from A to B...there are so many of us that do it and plenty that do many hours more. My poor brother once flew all the way to India for a meeting, he never even got out of the airport, they had a lovely conference room right there that is some commute! 

I want to find someway of using the time more constructively...I can't read or write though because it just makes me feel sick. I used to be able to when I was young, I would never have been able to put up with the numerous trips up north to family if I hadn't been able to lose myself in Enid Blyton on the way. The ability to do that must have been lost in the same place that I seem to have found the fear of heights and closed in spaces. I used to be fine at the top of a big wheel at the fair, but a few years ago (whilst my lovely friends killed themselves laughing) I had to literally crawl back down from the tower in Gaudi's Sagrada Familia quaking with took a few glasses of wine to get over that one. Perhaps I can train myself back to a point where I can bare to read or write whilst moving, I hope I can or I'll have to get better at knitting...







Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A few winter survivors...

It amazes me that after all the snow and freezing weather we've had that anything survived the onslaught, I would have just curled into a little ball and given up. But some things did survive..I've just harvested the last of the curly kale, I will definitely be planting that again this year it's been great, even if you don't eat it (which would be a waste) it's the prettiest plant and it's complicated leaves seem to fox anything that might want to try an eat it before you do:)

  The purple sprouting broccoli deserves a medal for endurance, not only surviving the weather but a severe attack by pigeons when the netting got blown off. They must have been sitting in the trees waiting for the wind to do it's thing rubbing their little wings together:) It's the first time I've ever tried to grow it and I'm stupidly proud of it's little florets...might not be enough to feed a party of people but I think there's enough for a treat meal for me and Chris.

The celeriac looks like nothing has touched it, unfortunately it's suffered from my lack of gardening knowledge and although it has lovely healthy leaves the bit you actually want, the swollen root just hasn't happened. I think I sowed them too late in the season, I was a bit too eager when I got my allotment last year to start planting seeds...should have known better. I think I've also planted them all a bit too close together, I've just not given them enough room to grow. I will do my homework this year and make sure I get it right cos I love celeriac, I love the fact that something so ugly and unpromising to look at can actually taste so great.
I also planted some broad beans to over winter which I really thought had had it. I'd tucked them up under a lovely brand new pop up fleece cloche which at the first gust of wind just...popped off...I just couldn't get the thing to stay put even with heavy duty tent pegs. So the poor plants ended up fending for themselves and a few of them seem to have made it...a few unfortunately took the 'I'm just going outside...I might be sometime...' route but I can't say I'm that surprised. I'll plant a few more seeds near the potatoes just to bulk up the numbers a bit and because apparently beans and potatoes help each other out. I love broad beans I even quite like the mindless peeling of them, there's something quite satisfying about the fiddly process that appeals to me.

Monday, 9 March 2015

A school trip...for hens...

Today I took my hens to school. My small boys class is doing a topic on the environment and they have an incubator in the classroom and have been waiting patiently for the eggs to hatch. Eggs waiting to hatch are not very exciting (they will be though!) so when his teacher heard I had hens she asked if we would mind taking ours in to meet the children. I had visions of chasing terrified hens around the classroom pursued by a lot of over excited children like some terrible comedy sketch..cue music!

Of course in reality the children were lovely, sat beautifully and listened perfectly to me talk to them all about Barbara, Betty and Boo. My little hens who had never been out of the garden before let alone in a classroom surrounded by children behaved themselves too, apart from squawking loudly through registration...they were definitely present miss! was almost as if I'd trained them;)

 They even allowed all the children to have a little stroke at the end and didn't peck or poo on anyone!

I'm a bit concerned that I will now be known as hen lady (guess I've been called worst) but it was lovely to share them with the children and hopefully teach them a few things they might not have known before...who knew that hens go bananas for ...bananas?

Friday, 6 March 2015

A favorite plot memory...

It has been a difficult to get to my allotment recently when the sky hasn't taken against me the minute I get there (must get that shed!) so I thought I would go back a few months to when the sun shone...September to be precise and remember one of my most favourite allotment days of last year...
 I'm not as enamoured of my birthdays as I once was, I've had far too many of them, we should all stay 21 forever as far as I'm concerned! But last year I went up to the allotment after work as a birthday treat to myself to give my squash plant a talking really wasn't very well (it didn't get any better either sadly). My big boy turned up on his bike with a very large and heavy rucksack on his back. He pulled out of his bag...magician like.. everything he needed to make me my favourite cocktail...a ginger mojito...he knows his mother;) He'd even brought the cocktail shaker, a bag of ice, the lemon squeezer..he'd nearly killed himself, my allotment is up quite a large hill!

   He makes a mean cocktail my big boy! We spent a very lovely evening drinking cocktails on the allotment, helped me to ignore the weeds for a time...they look pretty healthy in this photo I've just realized:).

 I'm hoping this year I will have at least managed to grow the mint to use so he doesn't have to bring that again (that will reduce the weight of his bag!) because of course all I want for my non birthday this year is a mojito on the allotment again...I'm really not hinting...well perhaps a little:)...cheers! x

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Spring seeds...

Woo hoo...been big an brave today and started seed planting, the first of March feels like Spring so seed planting definitely feels like the thing to do! Last year I started too late with the tomatoes so by the time the poor things even thought about getting fruit the bad weather cut them down. I didn't really have anywhere to put them either because we had replaced the decking and Chris  got very tetchy about me putting my vast 'plants in pots' collection anywhere near its shiny newness. So me and the tomatoes sulked in the wrong part of the garden which didn't do any of us any good. This year I'm hoping to plant them at the allotment near what will, fingers crossed, be my asparagus bed. I've read ( I do read a lot..I work in a library for goodness sake) that they make good companion plants, tomatoes scare off some nasties that asparagus suffers from apparently..not sure what asparagus can do for the tomatoes but they like the same sunny sheltered spot so with any luck they will be just good friends:)

Anyway back to my seed planting, I've planted 6 different types of tomato, think it must be a family thing, the love of tomatoes so I'm on a bit of a mission to find the best and I kept getting packets with my gardening magazines. I've also planted 2 different types of wild/alpine strawberries which I've never grown before, some cauliflower and aubergines. I don't have a greenhouse so I'm not too hopeful about the aubergines but they were another packet of seeds I got free with a magazine and I was taught never to waste things and I think  they are quite nice looking plants anyway even if they don't fruit. I might have to sneak them onto the decking when Chris isn't looking...its not quite so new an shiny now after the winter we just had.

 I want to plant the strawberries around the apple trees, another companion planting thing. It's all a bit of an experiment but it can't hurt to try. I just need to make a bit more room on the windowsills for all the other seeds I want to plant now...