Thursday, 30 December 2010

oooo we've gone international !

here is a short video that Sheffield Council did of the recent You Choose event ...

You get a quick glimpse of our display and that's our Jo at the end suggesting that cakes & tea would be a good improvement to the process ! Jo is our magical fundraiser - she's secured us around £7,000 so far I think - amazing ! Izzy has a starring role too - sorry Izzy, I've forgotten your blogger name ...

Monday, 20 December 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I'm sure you are all enjoying this seasonal weather as much as I am ! Minus 4 today at midday here in Sheffield ... super. Well at least the garlic will be enjoying it. Goodness knows whether I have any broadbeans left - they were just germinating when the snow arrived - the mice had only found one, but I'm sure they've rectified that !

So no lottie news to report - as much as I'm missing it, I'm also enjoying the central heating ! We'll see what the new year brings - hopefully some sunshine.

In the meantime, here are three extremely grumpy Santas for you to enjoy.




They are obsessed with the Christmas presents, ribbons, bag etc and are also doing their best to de-nude the tree of it's decorations and needles - in fact, this pretty much represents my house at the moment - enjoy !

Happy Christmas to you and your families - hope you have all been good for Santa
Happy Holidays to those of you who don't celebrate Christmas xx

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Unrealistic expectations ?

There are lots of new people wandering around as the allotment office are trying to address the issue of unworked plots across the city and recently issued around 15o part and non-cultivation letters for our site.

Most of the potential newbies are horrified at the plots they are being offered, which got me thinking about expectations.

The first plot I was offered had gone native ... you couldn't tell where the wood began and it was situated at the remotest part of the site so I turned it down (indeed, 4 years on I'm pretty certain it's still not tenanted). The next one was only head height in weeds - so much more manageable haha and it's been bloody hard work to bring it round.

The council recently spent around £50,000 on clearing plots across the city (around 3,500 plots in total in Sheffield). I think there were around 7 plots cleared on our site, maybe a handful more. Unfortunately the plots that were chosen for clearance really were the worst of the worst - not such a bad thing you say ? Well the soil is thin or non-existent on the worst which have been used as landfill and the others are waterlogged as the sun doesn't manage to reach the soil because they are dwarfed by enormous mature trees. The new allotment officer even expressed disappointment at the plots that were chosen (by the previous officer we presume).

The family I met today had been on the list for 2 years - the plot they'd been offered sounded reasonable (it has some security issues, but the allotment office might be able to help with that) - but part of me wonders what will happen if they take it on. She was a new mum and so time is going to be pretty tight right and as the only person working the plot I wonder whether they are not biting off more than they can manage ? hmmm.

Then again when you've been waiting so long for a plot maybe you have higher expectations - afterall it wouldn't be remiss to think that a 2 year wait meant that the site had full occupancy & beautifully cultivated plots would it ... Maybe I'm the one with unrealistic expectations - but I'm only too aware of how much back breaking work allotments are ... and how quickly they go native if even left for a couple of weeks !

Some of our plots are monsters - but it's a self perpetuating issue. Newbies take on the plot, it's too much for them and they give up after a month or two ... but they've paid their rent, so keep the plot for another 10 months ... by which time the plot is in an even worse state - and so the cycle repeats.

So maybe the council should clear the plots for new tenants ? Sure, sounds great ... but when old Ken gave up his plot a couple of seasons ago, it was weed free, hedges trimmed to around 2foot, lots of beds ready to plant in - perfect for the new tenants who took it on as soon as he left. Sadly it is now completely overgrown again following a season of sunbathing, reading and a little light gardening - another casualty of the fashion for allotments ?

I don't know what the answer is really, but at least the new officers seem to mean business so all we can do is be as supportive as possible.

Speaking of which, the Allotment office have organised a team building day for their department in December. It's going to take the form of a 'ranger' day which basically means that the whole department turn up on our allotment site for the day with the aim of doing some plot clearance work and tackling some other jobs. We're going to try and rally the troops to swell their numbers and make some good progress - not a small task on a site as large as ours (400 plots).

Of course cake will be required for the volunteers - tonight I've made Delia's Spiced Apple Muffin Cake with Pecan struesel topping with a bag of donated apples - if you've got lots of apples left, give it a go - it is lovely with whipped double cream, warm from the oven ... oh yes. Yum !

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Halloween !

I've found a use for one of my Queensland Blue's ! It smelt amazing when I was carving it - looking forward to tasting it. This week we've had pumpkin (squash actually), pine nut & feta cannelloni, butternut squash risotto, squash lasagne and I think tomorrow I'm going to make pumpkin cake out of my carrot cake recipe :-p


I barely see Nick next door and yet he has somehow managed to get his winter beds ready. He planted his garlic and onions last week.


Here's my lottie looking grey and dismal. I've started digging over my beds in preparation for manuring them next month (hahah). I cleared my greenhouse this afternoon and pulled up my tomato plants - the final handful are now ripening on the windowsill. The greenhouse has loads of bindweed roots :(


I sowed my broadbeans this afternoon. When I've sown them previously I've sown them direct in the bed, but I've lost packets and packets to the meeces, so I decided to sow them into pots and put them in the greenhouse. This may turn out to be a bad idea as the greenhouse's winter resident moved in a few weeks ago and helped himself to the buckwheat that I've lovingly grown through the summer and been patiently drying the seeds for storage. Ho hum, will have to wait and see what happens.


Made a bit more progress on my demolition - crikey it's taking me ages ... can't see me getting the new greenhouse up before Christmas :(


Here are my red onions - looking good ! I have high hopes :)


Street Force supplied lots of community groups across Sheffield with free spring bulbs to brighten the city up. Our Allotment Association were given 1,000 daffodils and 2,000 crocuses .... seemed like a good idea at the time. Half of them are now loitering in my greenouse - planted about 100 of each today outside the plots on my row and barely dented the bags LOL.


Must get them in soon as they are already waking up.


My flag iris have really outgrown their pot, so I'll be splitting them over the winter:


Found this delicate little thing next to my leeks - no idea what it is, but it's very pretty.


Did you meet our newest arrival yet ? Here's Feargal ... we are currently fostering her. She's not had the best start to life and is pretty terrified of humans (her mum & two siblings drowned after they were all thrown into the canal) so we agreed to foster her for a while and try and socialise her.

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She is making huge progress and adores Loki x

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Sunday, 10 October 2010

surely I'm too young for senile dementia ?

spent bloody ages looking for my secateurs today - got loads of stuff to chop down ... anyone seen them ?

What a beautiful day it has been today - didn't start off so promising, but the afternoon was glorious - the Jerusalem Artichokes are in full flower:

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Hmm my strawberries seem confused !

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The little Alpine ones are adding some much needed colour:

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Finally got hold of some garlic - forgotten what the variety is already LOL ! Ambled up and down the lottie trying to decide which bed to put them into when I realised that last years garlic bed has geared itself up already. I took a closer look and was a little suprised to see that there are 14 very healthy looking plants - I'm sure I dug them all up in late Spring / early Summer ! Decided to take a chance and use the same bed - ended up using all three cloves.

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Am feeling very pleased with myself - that's my garlic in and my onions have been planted for a couple of weeks - they are already 1-2 inches high :) Just need to get some broad beans, sweet potatoes and sweet peas and then I think I'm set for the winter - well apart from my manure and new greenhouse !

Finally ! this is my Romaesco cauliflower. Blimey it's taken a long time to appear ... hope it's good - my cauliflowers were growing really well this year - until the two-week rain deluge that we had in the summer.

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Looks like I might be getting some broccoli soon - not quite sure what I did to it, but it looks like I only have one plant - still that's not such as bad thing as OH doesn't like it:

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Now, this is a leek head that went to flower ... and then little leak-lets appeared ... so I've potted some of them up - will they grow ?? I can't think why they won't. Free leeks :) :)

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Last of the Borlotties ... I'm going to grow stacks more of these next year - why not, we really like them. Got some podded ones in the freezer and made some more into spicy bean burgers - yum yum yum !

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Remembering my potato disaster last year (ie, when I didn't dig them up until Spring this year!) I've been slowly digging my way across the beds - but as the stems disappeared long ago on mine, I'm puzzled as to how Nick's (next door) are so green & vibrant and still in flower ??

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Here's my compost heap ... always feeds well this time of year :)

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The last of the summer flowers are just clinging on:

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and surprisingly the Phacelia is still going strong - not many bees around tho:

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I harvested a few beetroots and some strange looking thing - noticed a few of them growing in and amongst the beetroots - guess it's a turnip or something. Tastes like a sugar beet tho. Oh well, it's gotta be edible right.

Anyway next to the beetroots I spy my three parsnips - yep, three whole parsnips from a whole packet of seed. I decide to pull the biggest one - it's flipping enormous. It kinda made up for not having many - could have fed the whole street with it :)

The photo with Loki doesn't really do it justice - the widest part of the the parsnip was as wide as my head !! It was flipping heavy

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So what to do with a giant parsnip ... hmmm, cake !


Here is my parsnip & maple syrup cake - it is delicious and unbelieveably moist - I can thoroughly recommend it. Best of all girls it almost counts as your 5 a day - parsnip, apple & orange !!


The rest of the monster parsnip became parsnip soup - I'll discover what that tastes like tomorrow - anyone seen those secateurs ??

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Woo hoo ! We won, we won !!

gosh off we went this morning to our local You Choose community funding event. We rallied the troops:

You choose

Expectations were low as these events have come in for a lot of criticism in the past. The council were offering £10,000 in total for our area - sounds a lot right ? They had £30,000 worth of applications. Knowing all the hoops that have to be jumped and thinking we wouldn't win, we decided that it would be good for us to attend the event anyway to raise our profile within the community.

There were 18 entrants - we decided that the bowling club were our competition, they appeared to have mobilised most of their members - and didn't do a bad job at trying to sign us up as new members !

Our table definitely had the most impact - we were so proud !





Oooo you can never miss an opportunity to gather more email addresses for our monthly newsletter mailing list ... managed to add another 14 names :)


The results were finally announced and we were absolutely astonished and shocked to hear that we came second ! We got the whole amount that we'd requested - fantastic. We are so grateful to everyone who supported us and voted for us. The groups who won were: Bishops' House, Heeley & District Allotments (us !!), Heeley Voice or Advice, Heeley City Farm, the bowling club (they get their bad weather shelter) and the wildlife group

The Council wanted an interview with the winning groups, so after a bit of arm twisting we managed to persuade Jo to represent us.


and here's the evidence ! Cheque in the post LOL


Sunday, 3 October 2010

The End is Nigh ...

Was listening to the radio on Friday and the guest speaker was a professional pumpkin grower. He was asked when pumpkins should be harvested and he said they were in the process of completing their harvest, so yesterday I decided to harvest my Queensland Blues. I knew I had 4, but discovered a fifth when I was pulling up the vine. They are very heavy - looking forward to trying them :)

Noticed the Crown Princes in Waitrose today are not as big as mine, or as beautiful looking :) :)

Pulled up my butternut squash vine. It had about 20 babies on it - oh why oh why did it leave it so late to get going :( My baby squash that I've been nuturing managed to get to hand size - it's a similar size to the supermarket.

The courgettes are still producing, so I've left them in the ground for now - their leaves are looking past their best so I guess it won't be long before they also go the compost heap - which is exploding it's so big.

It must be hard work being a bean ... standing around all day doing nothing. Obviously my borlotties had had enough and had decided to have a little recline on the ground. It was impossible to get them upright again, so annoyingly I've had to harvest them all. Quite a lot are still green / immature. Sigh. I shall be trawling the net now for recipes - I think spicy beanburgers will be featuring on our menu next week ... yum !

I finally got around to using some more of the tomatoes - I've made a batch of tomato sauce and some soup. Still got 3-4 kilos to process ... am thinking tomato, mozarella & basil tart for tea :)

One of my other jobs that I was hoping to do was to start digging over some of the beds, but we've had a torrential downpour for most of the day, so there goes that plan LOL. I don't feel as dedicated as I once was - maybe I'm suffering allotment lethargy ! My lovely yellow wellies are getting plenty of use though.

My Allotment Association are applying for some funding via the You Choose programme - so if anyone from my site reads this blog, please please please support us by turning up to vote next Saturday (details on the poster on the gates). We're planning a display with pumpkins, newsletters, photos, scarecrows and lots of other 'allotmenty' bits.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Frost Fright already

Blimey we've not even left September behind and there are frost warnings out. I didn't have time to do anything about it during the week, so just had to keep my fingers crossed. The lottie looks fine, so I think it was just a warning rather than an actuality. Nevertheless I decided not to risk my lovely squashes and have been busy harvesting this afternoon.

I brought home two butternuts and left another one that is almost mature on the vine and two Crown Prince - they are not as big as I thought they were going to be, but they are really heavy I'm looking forward to trying them. The Winter Festival gave me 8 lovely creamy yellow-green fruits and I took the remaining two tiny turks turbans which will be saved for Halloween pumpkin 'fodder'. I brought home 14 squashes in total.

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One of the butternuts is the size of a small dog - it'll take us weeks to eat it LOL. The plant is busy producing lots of babies, but it's way too late, I wonder why it takes them so long to get going. I'm going to start them even earlier next year and see if it makes a difference .... I may put them under plastic cloches during the season to see if heat helps.

I decided to leave my Queensland Blue's on the vine ... hope I don't regret it ! It'll be a couple of weeks before I can get back up there - will have to send OH if the weather takes a turn for the worse. They are also not as big as I expected - hope they taste good.

I'm extremely proud of myself today - I've managed to plant next seasons onions !! ta-dar !!!! how organised is that ... flipping amazing. Sadly no garlic yet - I'm still in disbelief that our allotment shop sold out in a week. Bizarrely though I've noticed 10 garlic plants growing in this season's garlic bed ... which is very puzzling. I'm going to leave them and see what happens.

I finally harvested the blueberries ... I thought I was picking them late, but I've been reading on the internet that they are harvested at the end of September - no wonder I've always thought they were a little on the tart side ! They've been made into blueberry pie with lemon pastry ... it's so good I'm on my second piece :) ... excuse the website - it's for the Daily Fail - just try not to read any 'stories' and you'll be OK:


With the left over pastry I made some jammy-tarts with some of this season's strawberry jam ... yum !!!


Now that the season is slowing I'm finally getting reasonable sized courgettes thank goodness. I've left two plants in in situ and put two onto the compost heap - I love this time of year when everything gets cleared away !! LOL, I know I'm strange :)

The tomatoes are almost finished - interestingly they've nearly all ripened. Usually at this time of year I'm struggling with loads of green ones. I've got around 8 kilos sat on the kitchen worktop ! eek. They are quickly overtaking the courgettes haha.

Yup, it's been a pretty good season I think. Did I say second or third piece of pie ...

Monday, 13 September 2010

Last of those summer days ...

We held our first mini-scarecrow festival on Sunday at the allotments for our plot holders.

Here's my scarecrow and scare-cat at the gates to welcome the 'hoards of visitors' ... I wish ! Sadly it was a very quiet day - can't even blame it on the weather as we were very lucky to get some sunshine. There was another event on locally, but we're told that was quiet too. Never mind, we enjoyed it :)

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Here's the best bit - the cakes ! I think we managed to pursuade most of our visitors to buy a slice :)

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Yum. See that enormous chocolate cake in the foreground ... gone ! not a crumb left :(

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I did manage to get a piece before it all disappeared and yes, it was as good as it looked.

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Megan's Fairy Cakes - the pink glitter was a hit:

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Guess the weight of the marrow ! the kids could barely lift it :) I hasten to add it's not one of my monsters ... they are all on the compost heap haha.

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We had 11 scarecrows in total. This is Jenny and her daughter arriving with 'Susan' and 'Doomsday'

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We are borrowing Susan for our next grant application:

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The pyjama gang:

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Here is the second place scarecrow - it was a sweet little thing. Our theme was 'recycling':

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Here is the winning entry - I wish my blog had 'smell-o-vision' so you could appreciate how lovely the smell of the rosemary and lavender was.

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I'm not sure whether I'll keep my scarecrow at the lottie or not. He was too frightening in the house - everytime I opened the door and saw the 'legs' my eyes went down to the boots and then the hairs on the back of my neck started to rise and I could feel the shriek developing in my throat before remembering it's a scarecrow not a burglar !!

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