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Just a Little Bit Longer

It may be meteorological spring but brrrr it’s been a cold weekend with temperatures of about 5° and no sunshine both days. Needs must though so we got a few hours of plotting done both days.

Primula

There are signs of Spring, with these pretty primula and grape hyacinths giving a little colour in the dullness. The hedgerow is full of song from the robins, tits and finches and this weekend the first signs of new growth on the hawthorn (or possibly blackthorn). I had to use the macro, they’re very tiny buds.

My tiny hazel tree is also in bud. I know the bud isn’t in focus, but the stem is rather interesting especially compared to the smooth hawthorn.

Hazel bud

The perennial flowers are beginning to emerge. Poor little things; it’s due to go much colder with possible snow this week. This is a lovely silvery delphinium that Aimee let us take from her plot last year.

Delphinium

I cleared our iris bed and the stems will need a bit more trimming after the cold snap is passed. They’ll also appreciate a bit of potato fertiliser.

We’ve been pulling lots of grass from the beds and have buried it deep in the bottom of holes that we’ve dug and manured. One is for a Jack-be-Little pumpkin and the other for a green bush courgette on Plot7. We have our planting plan worked out now and just a few more seeds to buy…

Not quite as fancy as some of my plans from previous years, but it serves its purpose 🙂 Of course, I fully expect to diverge from this as other plotholder’s spare become available – it’s so hard to resist!

There’s a lot of clearing and prepping happening all over site and we’re at that point where we just want to get sowing, but we’ll wait… just a little bit longer.. Thanks to Maxi Priest for the song title. (I know what you’re thinking, but I’ve used the Jackson Browne song before).

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Painkiller

It’s been a busy working month so weekends at the allotment have been most welcome. We even had some unexpectedly warm, sunny days. I’m looking forward to early morning pre-work plot visits, but not quite at that stage yet!

Friendly Robin

Last Saturday was very windy with Storm Otto passing by to the north of us. It was grey and damp but it wasn’t cold or maybe that was because we were trench-digging. We managed to finish off the bean tunnel preparation which we started last weekend.

Bean tunnel prepped and ready and a weed-free garlic plot

I did some clearing on the HAHA wildlife plot including cutting back the buddleja and mallow. I didn’t want to clear all of the dead groundcover as we’re due a coldspell so the wildlife needs some protection, but there are some unwanted weeds on there that need clearing otherwise they’ll take over.

HAHA Wildlife Plot

Now that I’ve cut back the old flag iris leaves I can see new growth in the bog garden. A few bulbs are emerging and perhaps with a bit more light there will be some flowers next weekend. 
Meanwhile, Jamie weeded the brassica cage on Plot3. I had the last of the Cavolo Nero, but we’re still waiting for Purple Sprouting Broccoli harvests – we were tucking into it in January last year.

Cavolo Nero with chestnuts and What the Cluck

Last Sunday gave us blue sky – such a contrast to the day before – Otto must have blown all the clouds away!

Marsh Lane hedge

The hedgerow was full of birds with 3 robins competing for our mealworms along with the obligatory magpies, dunnocks, long-tailed tits, a male bullfinch. Kites, gulls and buzzards were overhead. Many more birds than we saw for the RSPB Bird Count – typical!

Robin

Such a beautiful blue sky and lots of plotholders turned out to make the most of it. We were all pleased and amazed at how warm it was for a February day and so welcome on a weekend! It’s good to see areas of plots looking loved and ready for a new year of growing.

Flower garden waiting

That’s the flower garden in front of our bench. It has a few perennials just beginning to show fresh growth and the ever-present nigella seedlings. There are bulbs growing in most of those pots but only one tiny iris flower on show at present. The Christmas rose Hellebore that my sister gave me is still full of flower at home though and there are plenty of snowdrops around, just not on our plots!

Christmas Rose

I’m very happy to see that my Egyptian onions have sprouted in the polytunnel. I hope a slug doesn’t discover them, they’re only tiny at the moment.

Egyptian onions have sprouted

Earlier in February we dealt with our 3 Daley compost bins, which have been getting on with composting over the last few years.

Lovely home-made compost

We’ve been topping them up with fresh waste but no mixing or turning. All that went in the trenches that we dug for the bean tunnel.

After a few more chats with plotholders we took our aching bodies home. What a lovely weekend. Not exactly relaxing, but very welcome work – ooh my legs! Hence the song provided by Turin Brakes – enjoy.

Chim Chim Cher-ee

We had two visits to the allotment this cold weekend and yesterday (Sunday) everything was looking beautiful encrusted in frost.  

Frost on dandelion

The likelihood of pretty frost was mainly what dragged me outside. It’s so easy to just remain indoors but of course, once out and surrounded by birdsong on the allotment I was glad I shifted myself.

Macro shot of frosted dandelion

The frost on this dandelion was just starting to thaw as the temperature edged above freezing when the Wintry sun emerged. The macro shots bring out the lovely ice features which I certainly couldn’t see with the naked eye.

Early dandelion with frost

The temperature has been sub-zero for a few nights with day temperatures staying low. Some parts of the site haven’t had a chance to defrost at all as the low Sun doesn’t reach all areas.

Frosted January allotment

The ground and all the water collection points are frozen solid. I took the thick round slabs out of our buckets because I am rather fascinated by ice even though I hate, hate, HATE the cold.

Ice block in Winter Sun

You can see how thickly it’s formed in this photo – I stood them up in the raised bed. I hope the pond ice isn’t as thick as that smallest bucket. Male frogs apparently tend to stay in ponds, at the bottom, over Winter (females hibernate underground usually) but the ice can deprive them of oxygen if it stays for too long. I wonder why we found a dead frog last week – it was by the pond, but shouldn’t have been out and about…

Ice circles

The houseleeks couldn’t avoid getting a frosting but they won’t mind. They’re hardy little plants.

Frost tipped houseleek

And I’m sure this moss won’t be adversely affected either. Look how sparkly it is, just starting to thaw.

Thawing frost on moss

The birds seemed to be enjoying the sunshine on Saturday. I think this was a flock (a charm) of goldfinches but it’s difficult to see from this angle. The robin was happy to see us with his mealworms and we saw (probably) a buzzard land in a nearby tree. So huge compared to the tiny blue tits, wrens and long-tailed tits that were flitting about.

The main reason we visited the plot on Saturday was because I need to saw some dehydrated coir compost block for making up a seed compost. Believe it or not, I had to remove my coat as I got so hot exerting myself – first time since about September 🤭

The coir block is rehydrated with warm water and then we add some vermiculite. It worked ok as a peat alternative last year, but I’m rather concerned about the sustainability of using coir. We’re not actually going to start most of our seeds yet, but it’s exciting as they’ve been arriving in the post all week. A few different flowers this year.

January has certainly provided some beautiful skies in the mornings and evenings – this was a morning photo. You can just about see the sprinkling of snow on the dormer windows from a thick, but quick, snow shower we had in the early hours.

Pink and blue sunrise over chimney and weathervane in Hungerford

The jackdaws have secured their spot for another year. They pair up and stick together with a lifespan of about 5 years. We look forward to watching these two rear their young on the chimneys opposite.

Jackdaws on chimney pots

And these two photos are my excuse for sharing this song by Turin Brakes. I liked the original in Mary Poppins (well, Dick van Dyke was always a favourite, even with that accent) but this version is so beautiful and the video makes me think I should stop whinging about the cold as I sit in relative comfort.

You’re Wondering Now

Another year gone, passing quickly aren’t they! Looking back I can see that it was a pretty good one. Here’s my summary of 2022, including my book list, for me and for you if you like 😊

January

A cold, wet start to the year but we did start some plot clearance and enjoyed a bit of wildlife watching. There was even a bit of snow, but too wet to properly settle.

First harvests of the year were Purple sprouting broccoli, carrots and leeks.


This was a great little story, quirky and fun.
I was drawn in by the cover.


This thriller was hard to put down, although none of the characters were likeable, even the ‘good’ ones who weren’t really that good.

I would have enjoyed at least another 100 pages of this book! A fascinating look into the lives of the characters and of the generally less good side of South Korea.

February

Storm Eunice caused a lot of damage at the end of the month, with several trees down in the area and the usual debris gathered at the corner of the allotment site – including Ivan’s whole polytunnel!

There were also some lovely blue sky days to enjoy and the Wildlife plot got a bit of a makeover with signs and stepping stones.

The wildlife camera showed us who had been sharing the pumpkin which we left out. Mostly mice and this squirrel plus a very interested cat. I had my 4th Covid jab and though I hoped for a good reaction, I was happy to remain working from home.

I really enjoyed this book though I struggled a bit initially (I usually read fiction). Living in the area covered in the book enhanced the passion of returning to old haunts and stirred up forgotten memories. It’s certainly heartfelt and encourages the reader to get back out there and make the most of the natural world, while we still can.

The characters were interesting, I was glad of the Principle Characters list so I could keep checking it. Although I enjoyed the breakout of each character I was surprised that we didn’t return to them a bit more and some of them were more standalone than I’d expected. The Russian setting added another layer of interest

March

British Summer Time brought some lovely warm temperatures but there were cold nights and a chilling breeze at times. We found frogspawn in a puddle so added a tiny pond to the wildlife plot. Within the month we had fully fledged tadpoles!

We re-located our bench to the back of our plot near our little pond. Hoping to be surrounded by flowers later in the year.

A usual March with lots of weed clearing and time spent showing new plotholders around.

I usually enjoy a du Maurier tale. The setting was lovely and some of the characters were interesting but I was disappointed with the ending in particular.

A beautiful setting, nice characters, lots of tasty sounding food and wine and the story was okay.

April

Aah, April! Sowing began in earnest, hot days but cold nights. Very few showers reached Marsh Lane, although clouds regularly threatened.

And a frog moved in to the new pond on the Wildlife plot – give them water and they will come 🐸

Jamie bought a small tumbler composter, but it wasn’t as successful as it claimed it would be…

I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this, but I’m glad I did. It’s weird feeling so sorry for Chrissie, who was so evil. I think a chapter by her mother would have been interesting as she is even worse than the murdering daughter. Or perhaps the father should have a chapter too – how awful was he?! With so many horrible characters it’s a surprisingly good read. 

Such a moving story. Too sad that it’s happening in the real world of today. The story left me wondering so much about the other people left behind whether in Athens, Syria or going through the UK immigration process. And now, thinking how these broken people could now go through this hellish journey only to arrive here and be flown off to Rwanda for processing… It’s appalling that so much depends on the luck of where we happen to be born.

May

It was a mainly dry month and we had some lovely hot days to enjoy around the bank holidays – perfect, we even had a barbecue and on that day we watched a nest of great tits fledge – such a delight to see! We also saw a swarm of bees resting in a blackcurrant bush – that caused a stir on site!

Ivan’s irises produced a stunning display and new growth is making the site look very appealing to more new plotholders.

And HAHA joined in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations by decorating a tree in the High Street.

I discovered how tasty bean burgers are using home-dried bean stocks as well as the usual bean stews. And finally a few beet thinnings to harvest as the PSB was over.

I quite enjoyed this time-travelling book, but I think the story telling wasn’t to my liking. Although there was a lot of sadness it didn’t touch me as much as I feel it should have and, for that, I blame the writing style.

I read another review which hated the final line and I fully understand why; it just didn’t seem necessary. It had interesting, though mostly sad characters and I enjoyed picking up on the 3 generations but I need something a bit more cheerful to read next. If you want to read a book about a child-killing-child(!) then I found The First Day of Spring to be more thought-provoking. 

June

It was a great growing month with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures (even reaching 30°). There were some good showers but mostly watering provided by us during glorious early morning visits. June was also the month when proper harvests started to arrive with broad bean salads with mangetout, radish and tiny beets. Chinese Dragon radish are my go-to for radish after this year’s excellent results.

And we had lots of froglets in the Wildlife plot pond! And the wild flowers are really putting on a lovely show with the teasels providing interest at every visit – discovered they are carnivorous with little ponds in their leaf joints.

I enjoyed two social events – the first proper socials sine COVID arrived: HAHA stall at the Jubilee event and a HAHA Work Day.

I really thought this was a good read. Such a terrible journey from Acapulco to America and such great characters. I particularly loved the little characteristics of Luca and would read another Jeanine Cummins book.

July

Phew, what a hot, dry month. So much watering required, but the early morning plot visits really were a joy.

Sunrise

And, with temperatures reaching 37°, you need to keep on watering!

And the amazing news – England won the Euros! The women’s team achieved it, such great scenes of a fantastic team!

It was so hot and dry people were tending to have early mornings or evening visits. It was beautiful and Colin did an updated drone video for us which shows the lovely growing plots compared to the dried paths.

Courgettes began to play a major role in our meals along with potatoes, lettuce, patty pan, runner beans, carrots and garlic.

Definitely gripping and thrilling. Had a few issues with the ability and confidence of Mirabelle given her upbringing, but it didn’t spoil the need to keep reading.

I loved this book set in Nazi Germany. Death’s narration was entertaining and added interest. The characters were beautiful.

An easy read. Zipping back and forth between the 80s and today kept it interesting. A bit twee for my taste but ok for a holiday-type read.

August

August came with a Met Office extreme heat warning and it didn’t disappoint – it reached 38° on the plot and plants were flagging or bolting as the ground dried up so quickly. 

The pumpkin matured far quicker than it should have and the beans had a short life this year though the borlotti were prolific.

HAHA had a lovely picnic where prizes were given out to Jenny and Zoe for best plot and the tallest sunflower (3.51m).

What an amazing month and what relief when we had a torrential downpour and the site sighed.

French beans, cucumbers and tomatoes joined the other veg in the trugs.

Zimbabwe and London this was an interesting book based on the sadness and trauma of domestic abuse. The trial demonstrated how domestic abuse is considered in different countries. The characters were well defined and any irritation with Diara, and Sophia, was forgiven by their back stories.

Phew. That was a harder read than I expected. The characters were interesting but Heathcliff was so awful. I didn’t expect that. And young Linton, ugh. I know he was abused horribly but what a wimp, he really got on my nerves! Even Catherine (the elder) wasn’t a nice character. 

September

A month that felt like Autumn had arrived in the early morning visits but then Summer returned for enjoyable plot days. No blight this year nor many slugs.

Always a great harvesting month including our very own delicious home-grown outdoor Mangomel melons and plenty of squashes.

The time came for my 5th COVID jab. Boris Johnson eventually resigned as Prime Minister and incredibly (not in a good way) Liz Truss took over…

The zinnias continued to put on a fabulous display and I got some decent photos of a Hummingbird hawk moth on the Wildlife plot. It was a very good year for spotting these amazing moths.

Sweetcorn, pak choi, peppers, Honeyboat squash and melon were new goodies to be taking home from the plot.

I was drawn to this because of the Tenerife link, though there was less Tenerife than I’d expected. It was a good read with excitement, intrigue and a bit of romance. There was a bit too much detail at times but overall I enjoyed it.

October

Our first proper frost arrived on 11th October! What a shock when the rest of the month was quite reasonable with plenty of Autumn sunshine. The zinnias and various other plants couldn’t recover from the -2.8° temperature. 

Less of a shock was that we got another Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, after the embarrassingly short and appallingly costly few weeks of Liz Truss.

The final courgettes were harvested before the frost came and tomatoes and peppers were taken home to ripen. I created my first ‘mini planet’ of the site.

And my first ever batch of rosehip jelly – note to self, use bigger rosehips if possible.

The frost stopped the courgette production line but Cavolo Nero appeared along with masses of tomatoes and butternut squash.

This was such an emotional read through the generations. I did get a bit confused with the characters and should have kept a closer eye on the family tree, but I really enjoyed each chapter covering a different individual and their joys and, too many, troubles. It made me sad, but the end of the book made me happy

I couldn’t put this down. All through I was wanting people to tell the things that were left untold. Beautiful and so sad. I really like the way Celeste Ng tells a tale and her characters are perfect.

November

Two pieces of bad news hit the site – idiot vandals and a greedy housing developer.

We tried not to let it get to us and we’ll continue with site as we have for the last 13 years. And some good news – I actually grew some quite decent parsnips! Not many, but enough to enjoy.

 And we had a HAHA Autumn Work Party with a welcome bonfire.

It was an extremely wet month, we weren’t used to it this year. Our first parsnips went home.

I wouldn’t call it Science fiction because their isn’t enough of the science in it. It’s more of a social commentary on people who happen to live in a sort-of alternative universe. I would have enjoyed a bit more from the characters, but maybe that’s the point… maybe they couldn’t achieve ‘more’. It left me thinking, which always makes me consider it a well-written story and it also left me a bit sad, though I did enjoy reading it. 


Twisty turny. It’s him! No, it’s her! No, it’s her! No, him … on and on till ohhhh

December

After that very wet November, the Arctic blast arrived! Wow, what beauty in that rime ice which formed due to the freezing fog.

The temperature dropped below -10.2° on a couple of nights but no snow for us and it was mostly rainy/grey and mild for the rest of the month.

And then Christmas came and went with some lovely pressies, including these interesting books which I’ll be delving into in 2023.

Brussels sprouts appeared on our Christmas harvest list.

And here are the last books I’ve read this year, though I’ve just started another Kevin Wilson one, so it seems he’ll be first on my reading list for 2023 as well.

**spoiler alert** Great location in the Kentucky mountains, interesting characters and an unexpected courtroom drama. Maybe it was rather ‘and they all lived happily after’ but I’m glad! 

Wow, the lead character made a lot of poor choices in this story. Clearly used to being on the outside he didn’t fit in and it seemed like he didn’t want to, though I think he just couldn’t. Even when offered decent things, he couldn’t appreciate it and didn’t respond as expected which caused upset. Definitely a story to leave you thinking…

A tiny little Christmas story filled with kindness and extreme sadness, especially as it’s based on fact

Song title provided by The Specials as in 2022 we said goodbye to so many, including the great Terry Hall. Now we’re ready for 2023 and I wonder what is has in store for us…. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Ring Out Solstice Bells

Work is over for the year (for me) so I went into town yesterday morning and enjoyed wishing everyone I bumped into a Happy Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

After posting a couple of cards to friends houses we walked up to the allotment. The weather wasn’t too cold and the Sun appeared a few times but the site is very soggy as we’ve had so much rain since the arctic blast moved on. This is the data from our plot thermometer which we left outside the polytunnel, in the shade. You can see we had two nights where temperatures dropped below -10° And then rose to about 7° in the day.

Temperature chart

Unfortunately my remaining squashes in the polytunnel don’t look to have survived that extreme temperature – I should have protected them more 😔 But we’re pleased and surprised to see that the broad beans, which were flattened by the frost, have managed to recover. They can stay in their little cloches for now.

Broad beans - frost survivors

We were even more pleased to see a ‘charm’ of goldfinches on the teasels – that was our main aim for growing them on the HAHA Wildlife Plot. I hope to get a photo at some point. There were lots of other birds around including what I think were redwings. I really wish I’d taken my big camera so I could have zoomed in.

Brassica cage

We’ll need to visit again before Christmas to pick some sprouts, otherwise I’m not intending to move very much. Good news re our allotment tools that were stolen – it seems the site insurance will cover the cost of replacement! That was rather unexpected but most welcome from HAHA’s NFU Insurance.

A decorated house in Hungerford

Here’s a photo of some Christmassy pea & garlic soup I made with Christmas Tree toast … well, everything is Christmassy now isn’t it. 😊

Pea soup with Christmas toast

So, that’s the shortest day celebrated with a bit of Jethro Tull. It’s all up from here… MERRY CHRISTMAS

, I hope your Christmas is a happy and healthy one.

In the Cold, Cold Night

Fosted Geum

Coo, that’s chilly! I’ve never seen such spiky frost. Apparently it’s called Rime Ice and the freezing fog will have helped cause it, along with the arctic blast. It’s rather stunning, I hope you agree as here are a few more examples.

All the wire on site was significantly thicker than usual.

Hairy fence

And netting looked hairy.

The teasels were extra spiny.

Especially the stems!

The coreopsis flower was still just about recognisable.

And the chard… well!

Even the brassicas didn’t seem too happy, it may have been a bit too icy – even though they’re meant to taste even better after a frost (hmm, I wonder if the whitefly survived).

We enjoyed a few bubbles whilst on site.

You can see the bubble just beginning to freeze in this photo. Looks like craqueleur.

This beautiful one stayed stuck to the pot for ages.

Meanwhile Robbie enjoyed a few mealworms. Aww, poor little chap had to puff up his feathers to keep warm.

Anyway, that was quite enough playing in the cold – look at the thickness of the ice!

Thick ice

We’ve had a long day. We got up extra early to enjoy the Hungerford Christmas lights in a proper frosty, foggy Winter Wonderland at 4:30 this morning (4:30!). Only to find they switch the lights off at some point in the night – doh! But the super-frosted spiders webs everywhere were amazing, so it wasn’t too disappointing.

Frosted spiders webs

And a few lights were left on for us to enjoy.

Christmassy shop

So that was yesterday, as the temperatures slip down again overnight….brrr. No snow so far, but maybe in the coming week. The White Stripes provide this perfect song title.

December will be Magic Again

It’s December and the countdown to Christmas has begun! The weather has turned from a drenching November to a cold start to the month; not frosty, just grey.

Advent calendar. Carrot and chestnut soup

That isn’t egg nog – it’s carrot and chestnut soup, flavoured with garlic, turmeric and cayenne pepper. I just had to have a taster before storing it to be my lunch for the next few days. It’s very tasty. I picked the carrots when we visited the plot yesterday – so c-c-c-cold and we’re not used to it. Our carrots have been mostly small this year, but there are plenty of them.

Winter potatoes

Also whilst on the plot, apart from chatting to a handful of other brave souls (well, we’ve had a manure delivery which is always a draw), Jamie emptied the final potato bag. They were meant to be Nicola potatoes but something must have gone wrong with the labelling – there shouldn’t be any pink ones in there! Anyway, a nice haul of muli-coloured little spuds whatever variety they are.

Final tomatoes and pepper

We picked the last pepper and a few remaining tomatoes as the temperature is due to drop below freezing this week. I added the cavolo nero to a tofu curry last night. It such a good flavour, shame about all the whitefly. They’re pretty dormant on site at the moment but as soon as they warm up indoors they start flying about 😬 so the leaves need a lot of shaking outside and a thorough wash.

Tofu curry with Cavolo nero

I’ve been having porridge for breakfast and have been using the rosehip jelly that I made in the Autumn – it did set and melts nicely into the hot porridge. (Not convinced that it tastes any different from sugar though!)

Rose hip jelly on porridge

We decided to put the Christmas Tree up, as all the lights are up in town and across the road – if I’m brave enough to go out before the sun is up or after it’s gone down I’ll get some photos. Our tree looks like it has for the last 30-odd years but it is so pretty with so many little trinkets that we’ve gathered over the years.

Christmas Tree

And I received a gift through the post – well, it was a prize actually! I came 2nd for my Christmas card photo for the National Allotment Society competition. Here’s my prize – that nice book which has recipes as well as growing hints and a bundle of seeds 😊

Prize from NAS

And this is the photo I entered – from a snowy day in March 2018.

Snowy Leeks

I was going to use the Smashing Pumpkins Christmastime song, which I love but it seems that I used that in last Christmas’s post, so here’s a great song instead by Kate Bush. Enjoy.

Happy Together

I learnt a new word today after spotting this teasel amongst the dried flower heads.

Vivipary– when seeds germinate whilst still on the parent plant. Viviparous germination isn’t uncommon, particularly when it’s been rainy and warm. I have noticed it before on Nigella and calendula but it’s a bit more obvious on a teasel. We still haven’t seen any birds enjoying the seeds – we were particularly hoping to see the classic goldfinch shot – and they clearly missed a few on this seed head!

It was a HAHA workday yesterday and there was a friendly group of volunteers cutting back the hedgerow, particularly the bits growing through the fence, and clearing rotting wood from around the site including, sadly, the Wildlife Plot bench that the vandals smashed up – it was beyond repair. 

HAHA Work Day

The spikiest prunings (blackthorn and hawthorn) were used to plug gaps in the hedge in the hope of spiking any would-be intruders! The rest of the clippings were added to the marvellous bonfire.

Some of the wood was spared from the fire because it had interesting life forms so we added that to the wildlife plot wood instead. Like this fascinating fungus – Candle Snuff fungus. It’s common in the UK, but I don’t recall seeing it before. It’s also known as Stag’s horn fungus for obvious reasons.

Another fungus, that looks more interesting up close is this resupinate polypore. New word of the week #2, resupinate = upside-down. This fungus manoeuvres it’s gills to point to the ground for quick spore dispersion. Up close it looks a bit crumpet-y to me and rather pleasing.

Crust fungus on decayed wood

Apart from fungi, one particular piece of rotten wood was home to many insects including millipedes, wood lice and centipedes. And something that does tiny rectangular poops…

And a handy hint regarding garden critters: Fast moving insects tend to be good for gardens, as they’re often predators of the slow moving insects which are more likely to be pests due to being herbivores. It isn’t always the case and not all herbivores are slow (being a herbivore myself, I find that insulting 😄). We also found a few snails where they are probably preparing to hibernate. These lucky ones were found by Kate so were put back somewhere cosy rather than being slung over the hedge 🤭

A handful of snails

These and other interesting subjects such as the dredging of the canal which is currently ongoing, birds over the marsh, otters, the vandalism, obviously, and so much more were discussed during snack time after the work was completed.

And the fire kept going until we left after sundown – 4pm…. The weather was dull all day and we were very lucky that the rain arrived later to dampen down the pile of ash.

It was a fun and productive day, we won’t let the haters get us down too much. The song title is brought to us by The Turtles.

Bitter Tears

Anyone else had a really rainy start to November? It was so rainy on Sunday that we had to shelter in the car when we got back from the allotment! The rain was streaming down the road.

Rain gauge

While we were on the plot it felt quite warm and we even saw the Sun for a short while. We went to the plot specifically to pull our last potato plant – Nicola. Surprisingly they’re not very scabby and don’t seem to have been slugged. Although they were rather muddy.

Nicola potatoes

I pulled up the Chinese cabbage which had been desecrated by slugs and snails. I was pleased to find a couple of cabbages that weren’t completely destroyed and had matured enough for form a heart. I think I’d try them again, under a sealed enviromesh net as they are very tasty. I like them raw but they’re a nice addition to a chinese dish too.

November harvest

That’s a nice harvest for November. The tomatoes are continuing to ripen on the plants and the Chinese Dragon radish are lasting so that was plenty to feed me for a couple of lunches.

Home-grown salad

Yesterday, I added some left-over marinated tofu to the plate.

Salad with tofu

Last week I roasted two small squashes for dinner. A Honeyboat and a Winter Celebration. I thought it was a bit too much for just me (Jamie’s still refusing to eat my lovely squash) with the Spanish rice and grains but I’m glad I chose to cook both squashes. 

Roasting squash

The Winter Celebration tasted nasty, bitter (lucky Jamie didn’t choose that day to try again with the squash!). I threw it away along with the two remaining ones from storage. I’m aware that cross-pollinated squash can develop a bitter taste, however these weren’t saved seeds and looked pretty regular. Apparently environmental stress can also cause bitterness, but that’s usually a result of temperature fluctuations rather than just the extreme heat of this year. Or, perhaps the lovely looking orange squash wasn’t entirely mature. Whatever, it was rather disappointing! Luckily the Honeyboat was as tasty as usual.

Squash for dinner

We’ve had so much rain recently and it’s been mild so there’s a lot of new growth. The HAHA Wildlife plot is looking good with plenty of ground cover with mostly welcome weeds and evidence of self-seeding from some of the flowers from this year. Very little grass and not too many thistles in evidence so far… In this photo I can see borage, foxgloves, allysum, daisies, evening primrose, golden marguerite and lots of nigella seedheads.

HAHA Wildlife plot

I should have put this photo on my last post, which was titled Autumn leaves, it’s been so colourful this year. Just look at this lovely lot from a tree by our flat.

Colourful Autumn carpet

The song title is provided by INXS, partly due to the bitter squash experience, but also the bitterness I feel to the housing developer and landowner of our site. In February a 10-year lease was proposed, with a  1-year cancellation clause, and was verbally agreed – Hooray! – then in September they “changed their minds”. So the Council have to cover the cost of legal fees every year. Appalling and disrespectful behaviour to the 80+ households currently enjoying the site and the wider community. The latest development plan showed the Marsh Lane site as being ‘not currently developable’ – for 15+ years but they’re just trying to use the site as a bartering chip for other inappropriate building schemes.  They make me sick 🤬

Autumn Leaves

Flashing pumpkins

Halloween was on Monday, which isn’t the best night to celebrate, but the clocks have returned to Greenwich Mean Time so we got an extra hour in bed at the weekend which is always a bonus. We spent a couple of hours concentrating on Sunday afternoon… carving pumpkins is a serious business 🤭

Only one of those was home-grown this year but we have to have one each; one for the plot and one for home. I had a 4-day weekend which was great. We had a lovely walk at Bowdown Woods in Newbury on Friday. It was warm and sunny. I was hoping to find some fly agarics but they were all past their best, nibbled or booted.

Woodland walk

I photographed this little lone mushroom at the allotment. I’m not sure what variety it is, it looked like that all weekend. I’ll see if it changes over the next few days, if it isn’t completely eaten.

Last weekend the temperatures reached 21° so we were in tee shirts on the allotment. I wonder if this is weather we’re going to get used to for future years. The weeds are loving it, especially with rainy mornings and sunny afternoons. The garlic has germinated already, in just 4 weeks – that’s fast, I normally find it quite slow to germinate, which is why we’ve ended up with two plantings some previous years!

Garlic sprouting

Jamie sowed the broad beans on Sunday. Aquadulce Claudia We don’t want them to grow too quickly this side of Christmas but we wanted to get them sown before the really cold weather arrives… if it does arrive. The little cloches are for mouse protection.

They’re far enough apart so we can put net cloches over once they’ve germinated.

Broad beans sown under cloches

I cleared the raised bed. I’m planning on it being a herb bed from next year. That’s lettuce at the end of the bed. Slugs have avoided it so far – famous last words; they ruined my Chinese cabbage ☹️

Cleared raised bed

Ivan showed me how to trim back the bearded iris where a fungal disease has damaged the leaves. They’re sprouting new plants around the crown. That’s spread a lot since it was planted last year; the corms need 7hours of sunshine a day to be happy and flower.

Bearded Iris

Talking of Ivan, he gave us some of his dried peppers. They’re not chilli, so I look forward to adding them to some dishes over the next few months. And our peppers in the polytunnel are finally changing colour! They’re yellow at the moment.

Dried peppers

This was a meal we had in the week – mostly home-grown (apart from the plant-based steak strips) including some of our Salad Blue potatoes, roughly chopped and roasted.

Blue potatoes with a veggie stir-fry

Here are a few more pics from our Autumn woodland walk. The song title is provided by the Goo Goo Dolls.

Autumn in Bowdown Woods