(Sm)all good things…

The first tomatoes of this summer.



Sungold from the greenhouse. So sweet.


Real rain….




( I want to put a big smiley face here because that is what I would do on my phone but  apparently computers don’t do that.)

( Or if they do, nobody has shown me how yet!!)

21 mm ! Perfect.




Summer vegetables..



…and cooking up a summer medley…

kale and beans, onions and courgette, basil and lemon verbena.


I like this warm, with a fried egg on top!


Or cold – I add a probiotic dressing made with pouring yoghurt or kefir, sauerkraut and its juice, some good vinegar – cider or balsamic. Salt and pepper, oregano, sometimes mint…

Mmm. Good with chopped anchovy and warm, crispy bacon. Or crunchy almonds and seeds with some soy sauce… maybe smoked mackerel?



Thank goodness for so many loverly things….






Anyone for Cabbage?

This year I have ‘cheated’. I feel like a fraud.

I am not sure how frowned upon it is to buy in the plants for your plot – but that is what I have chosen to do.

In the Battle of the Brassica the pigeons won hands down. ( or should that be beaks down?) See below:


Pigeons 5. Cabbages Nil

To be honest my cabbage growing got off to a rough start. I love the brassica family –         ( broccoli and kale, all the cabbages, cauliflower and calabrese…) – even sprouts! And especially Purple Sprouting broccoli.

In the madness of spring sowing, the seed got sown a little late. Then they got potted on a little bit late. Then the weather was just so hot – I suspect that the little plants dried out and baked in their pots. Several times over.

In desperation, I planted them out in any corners I could find.. instead of the prepared area I had fondly imagined. And I thought I would get around to covering them up in a day or so….

Well, what a catalogue of rookie errors! And so much of it I sort of knew but ignored anyway ( mainly due to a lack of time.) I watch my brother-in-law battle pigeons  in his fields every year, and I have them at home too.

I know that brassica  like a good firm soil and not to be ‘checked’ by drought at any point. ( And yes…. the plants that didn’t get eaten by the pigeons started to try and flower at 3″ high. The poor things. )

I got out my seed box and considered re-sowing in situ. But the ground is still so terribly dry…

To the rescue, an excellent company which I have used before; organicplants.co.uk

I chose a few plants which I particularly like  – 20 plugs – and put my order into the cyber basket. Then I notice their mixed pack offers – too good to be true – at £16.00.

So I am now the proud owner of 70 (!) baby brassica plants!



They arrive like this , so


an early morning potting up session with tea and toast, before work…

Now watered, shaded, and super protected from the butterflies, white flies and pigeons –


..with old muslin curtains for now!


A planting area is prepared;

…erm… except that I need at least three times this amount of space … I haven’t addressed that issue yet..

I would like to make proper frames to protect the plants, which I can re-use for a few years. I really admired this version on my neighbours allotment..



But I have decided to make smaller units so that I can move them around and be more flexible.

Luckily the kind heart of a friend ( who is also a carpenter!) helped me out, and the frames are in the making – 1m x 1m x 80cm high. We are using the wood from the dismantled  tepee. ( Yes, that is another story…)


So, fingers crossed.

Now we need rain!

Well, we already needed rain but I would like to plant out my babies into perfectly moist conditions of course…

I envisage many future plates of deliciousness. Gently steamed Purple Sprouting broccoli and dishes of stir-fried curly Kale. Pointy spring cabbages squeaking in my hands, cooked with softly fried caramel brown onions. Cauliflower cheese- mmm -or tiny sprouts with chestnuts and crispy bacon. My mouth waters just thinking of these things.

A few years ago, when I was working to heal my badly dysfunctional tummy, cabbage was the King.

Cabbage juice to increase my stomach acid – I know that sounds awful, but it worked!

Brassica for fibre to feed my sadly depleted microbiome. Sauerkraut and fermented vegetable medley’s to try and  replace some of those missing microbes….. all things which helped me to get better.

…And also took my ‘gas’ production to new and phenomenal levels. I was rocket propelled! Even my grandson was impressed….

So, for now, I will do a little ‘farty’ rain dance in honour of the cabbage, and go and buy some more pigeon netting.








The Wonderful Greenhouse

Part one…

My first greenhouse was a little lean-to on the back of the kitchen.


We inherited it, already attached to the cottage, when we moved in. At first it was just full of boxes – we left a good size town house to try out a relatively small farm cottage… in February.

No central heating, but storage heaters. Three small boys. Snow.

Everything we couldn’t fit into the rooms went into the greenhouse at first. As it covered the kitchen window, it did make the room rather dark! But they were short winter days anyway and the shock of no streetlights made everywhere seem dark.


Blimey. Were we really that messy!!

As the months passed, the  boxes slowly got emptied and eventually at least we could see over them.  The boys explored the snow, ice, mud and ditches until they turned blue. We had  good fireplaces to warm us all up.

When the  weak spring sun shone more often, our dog Tess settled to sleep in the greenhouse. I loved to look across the garden at twilight and see the warmth of our glowing home shining out.


At last we managed to have central heating put in. The large, second hand boiler went into the greenhouse and the cat moved in too. (There was no space to put it in the house! The boiler that is,  not the cat.)

To be honest, it didn’t always grow much in there. Sometimes only a few weeds! An enormous, single asparagus shoot just outside the door. A place to have a quiet smoke in the rain….


It collected cricket bats and flat footballs, broken garden toys and dead flies…

With a large new garden to tackle, young children and a growing gardening job of my own, that little greenhouse  was sadly neglected.

Then we added an extension to the kitchen, so down it came!


For a while, the boiler had a little ‘shed’ all of it’s own.


As the foundations progressed for our extra space ( very slowly, with spades..), my Granddad died.

Bless him. Too many fond memories to mention here… elderberry wine and peanut trees, boiled sweets obliterated with a rolling pin and the racing on the tele –  the cry of ‘PHIL!’ going up at regular intervals – licking the carving knife clean (!)  He deserves a post of his own. ( Or probably a blog of his own!)

He left each of his grandchildren £500.00 and I used mine to build a greenhouse.

This is what the end of the garden looked liked originally – in 1999 I think –


The builders – who were also my workmates –  helped me to build it and we scavenged     ( reclaimed?!) as many of the materials as possible.


First we laid the bricks around the edge on a small foundation – using the ones which were too damaged or scruffy for the house.  Then re-claimed concrete paving slabs went down for the floor.

I scoured local skips, managing to find some old windows and a glass door.

We covered in one end with featheredge wood, and also the low sides.  Then built a frame for the rest which would fit standard sized greenhouse glass ( which is relatively cheap!)

We managed to recycle most of the glass from the little old lean-to  greenhouse, including the two roof lights.


There was enough money left to put wooden staging around two  sides for the plants. The roof was braced with old scaffolding poles – partly because at that time I made a lot of hanging baskets each year for customers. The supports needed to be strong!

The wood was painted barn black ( of course!)

And it was beautiful. And it still is.


I find it difficult to  always believe it is ‘mine’. If it belonged to someone else I would be extremely  envious! When I go down there, especially at this time of year, I breathe deeply the scent of tomatoes and marigolds, cucumbers and damp, green foliage. I can feel my shoulders relax and drop down. I would like to live in there really…   But that is another story.






So now I am writing a post about not writing a post. I expect it has been done before.

Why is it called a post anyway?


Apart from this fascinating photograph, this will mainly be a pictureless post…. for reasons which will become apparent. As my blog practising goes on, it is interesting to see how my mind is trying to turn all sorts of thoughts into an article…..

It rather interferes with daily life. Even a missed photo opportunity is frustrating. While I am weeding, I think about ideas and options  that I might write about in the future….

….. and along those lines I  decided that I would try and introduce , more thoroughly, some of the areas which I enjoy chatting about.

The beginnings of the allotment….

cooking up my vegetables..

the making of a garden..

discovering my microbes..

building a greenhouse…

So the greenhouse blog has been underway for a while. I have spent many a fine hour scanning my computer files for photographs. ( Hours which would perhaps have been better spent working on my garden. Or even watering the greenhouse!)

I drew a complete blank.

Eventually it dawned on my dozy brain that the greenhouse was built a few years ago.

2002 to be precise.

At which point I had a camera with a film which you put in the post  – waiting with anticipation for a fat envelope of glossy pictures to return.

So my next search involved the printed photograph cupboard. ( I did very briefly consider photographing the inside of the cupboard but I was too ashamed. There are some things that have to remain private and cupboard mess is one of them.)

I searched, too, the box under the spare bed. And the old brown envelopes full of pictures. And the random, mis-labelled photograph albums.

Looking at old photographs takes up hours of time…..

I did find some. A sparse few grainy images. I think that by the time I have photographed the photographs and loaded them onto my laptop they may well be beyond identification.

But –  in my mind I still hadn’t found the photo’s that I wanted to use and which I KNEW existed. I could picture them!

So another hunt. One last time. And eventually of course…

I had believed that I had a large, brown envelope specifically for garden-related pictures. And I did. I had found it, and gone through it’s entire contents.

What I didn’t believe was that I would have two. Yes Two. Scruffy, torn, large brown envelopes. Both containing old garden photographs.


Maybe I am a split personality after all?!

So to whet your appetite for (possible) future writings full of old photo’s…

…can anyone guess what this is??






A little Sunday morning peace…

Early on a Sunday morning. Allotment peace.

Sparrows chirp

I can hear a skylark

The purple flowered beans have tiny, curled up baby beans on them. Smaller than my little fingernail.


There is a stiff breeze-( What a weird expression! Where does it come from?)  – it rustles the trees and hedges and helps it to feel like seaside weather.

A fox barks in the back field.

Unusual – it seems too early to me for fox noise. My mind associates fox noise with leaving early to go on holiday in late August – harvest time. Bundling sleepy children into the back of the car, still wearing their pyjamas and clutching warm pillows. The smell of ripe corn on the wind.


Inside my shed, the sun is already warm on my arm as it streams in through the open door.


The view across the plots is green and lovely.

Later the church bells will ring.

For now I may just treat myself to an extra Sunday morning cup of tea…






..even the word is fitting. Tender, with a little ‘trill’ on the end – perfect.

The ability of plants to climb / twine / cling/ twist and grasp their way up in the world is astonishing.

Even the thinnest of stems hangs on with a fearsome grip, once it has attached itself.


I have been ‘helping’ the long, soft twiners on my cucumber plants.


Many are waving around aimlessly, looking for a home – but if you ‘show’ them where a string or cane can be found – lo and behold, the next time you look they are wrapped around it! I am sure that they have some sort of sensory memory.

The little springs are particularly beautiful, and a very efficient design of nature – enabling them, of course, to move in the breeze without getting overstretched or breaking. Very clever.


The Akebia  frantically twines around itself, in convoluted knots.



The Vine is elegantly lovely, but seems to hang on the most tightly of all.

Last years (now brown and dry) tendrils are rock solid, and if you try and pull a vine stem from a tree, more often than not it is the tree branch which breaks, rarely the vine!

I have this beautiful ‘dish’ woven from old vine stems which I  admire –  the skill  used to weave it and the intricacy involved. I wonder if it was made while the stems were still green and then left to dry?

This weekend I had the joy of  a visit from my young grandchildren. My sweet pea of a  granddaughter headed off down the garden path in her delightful and determined way. Briefly, she was distracted enough to curl her warm, soft baby fingers around mine, as we pottered along. Bliss.

I was fondly reminded of this poem by Adrian Mitchell;


At the top of the stairs

I ask for her hand. O.k.

She gives it to me

How her fist fits in my palm.

A bunch of consolation.

We take our time

Down the steep carpetway

As I wish silently

That the stairs were endless.

Ah. As with the vine…

It is the letting go which is so very hard to do….








Water Nymphs…

First runner bean flower of the year – hooray! And a band is playing in celebration… ( I think there is an event on the nearby common but a fanfare feels appropriate !)



Runner bean in red on the left / french bean in fetching pink and purple on the right.

( I didn’t want the french bean to feel left out…)

Watering watering still no rain. The curcubits seem to be loving it –  I looked up ‘curcubits’ to make sure I was using the right word –  the dictionary says ‘any plant of the mainly tropical Curcubitaceae family which includes squash. pumpkin, cucumber , gourd, melon….’ – they are growing like triffids, reaching out long searching tendrils in an almost threatening way –

20170624_10350620170624_10353520170624_132409and usefully shading the greenhouse from the hot sun…


Taters!20170624_101755These are very experimental.

I wasn’t going to grow any potatoes this year. Last year I threw away about half the crop –  mostly Charlotte and Nicola –  after Christmas. I didn’t use enough as I try not to eat many carbs plus they all got blight when they were growing and looked really sad.

Then I had a last minute panic and recognised that I couldn’t live through a winter without jacket potatoes. Or leek and potato soup. Or bangers and mash. So I ordered three bags of maincrop – of course there were too many. And of course I just bought the varieties I love (King Edward, Maris Piper….) which are probably not very blight resistant.

THEN I had nowhere left to put them. Plot 2 is absolutely full of volunteer / self set potatoes which I keep trying to dig up and get rid of. I have been told by other allotmenteers that the previous owner grew potatoes almost exclusively. So I want to leave them out of that ground for a couple of years.. meanwhile plot 1 was full of daffodils and tulips.

So I resorted to a hotch potch of solutions, planting some on top of my ‘full’ compost bins and using some old wooden boxes. I didn’t have any spare soil for these so I filled them up mostly with grass cuttings, then a few inches of compost, then my sad and oversprouted spuds ( I was hoping the grass might give added warmth to make up for how late they were planted!)

I have covered them and earthed them with ‘Strulch’, my new favourite thing. It is a mineralised straw mulch, it is light and easy to handle and it smells absolutely delicious. I want to eat it. I need to top it up a bit as I noticed today the edge of a small green potato poking through.

(Note, the Strulch is also very useful and pleasant in my composting toilet…)

So, back to the subject of watering ( I know, it is getting monotonous),

these notices appeared overnight on our water tanks –


In case my photography is too fuzzy, it says ‘Dipping tanks strictly to be used for watering of allotments only – please replace lids after use’

?   The water fairies?

Most odd – because   – well – what ELSE would anyone use them for?

Are the local townsfolk queuing up to bath their babies?

Has the site become the latest water park for the children? Or perhaps there is a secret cold water car washing business!   (Bucket and sponge extra…)

I am intrigued. Answers on a postcard please…


Ah… that’s where I left my tea…

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