Goodbye Summer…..Hello Autumn…

It has been well over a month since I last posted but the time has flown by.  We have been down the allotment harvesting the last of the crops and starting to get it tidied up for next year. Ian spent 2 weeks in Italy visiting relatives and came back with some wonderful recipes one of which is a simple fruit salad. It is just various fruits and berries cut into small pieces, sprinkled with sugar and half a lemon squeezed over it. Once it has been left in the fridge for a while it tastes gorgeous, so simple yet so tasty. However, having become a huge fan of this pudding I was shocked at the price of fresh fruit and especially red and black currants! So we have decided to make one of our plots a fruit bed. We already have a blackberry growing at the top of this plot, called Black Butte, a thornless variety which had a good crop this year but is quite sharp so is more for jam-making than eating.

 

We have made a start with some old slabs we had at home making a central pathway. As you can see the blackberry support is a couple of old archways which will be taken down to make room  for the ‘new’ fruit cage Ian is building.The odd bit of trellis down the side is supporting a baby blackberry which appeared, it may be moved at a later date. We have ordered 2 raspberry plants and 3 honeyberry plants so far. The honeyberry is something new to us, apparently they are like blueberries but with a honey aftertaste! Interesting to try we thought. We are planning on black and red currants as well and maybe white currants if we have room.

The 2 plastic greenhouses have come to the end of their life unfortunately but like true allotmenteers nothing was wasted. We have kept the plastic covering and can cut it up for cloches when we need it. The metal outer frame is also going to be used as the roof part is one section and with the four of them will also be a good plant covering. The shelving inside them has become my ‘new’ green house staging and is much more stable than the plastic shelves I had in there.

As you can see the only plants left in the greenhouse are the aubergine and a couple of pepper plants. The aubergine exceeded  our expectations and we have had plenty of fruit from it.

These are the last few now. It is an unheated greenhouse and although we havent had a frost yet, the early mornings and evenings are fairly chilly now. The last of the courgettes and squash curled up after a particularly cold night so it wont be long before the greenhouse is empty too. In the flower bed the Cosmos are still in flower and my Chinese Lanterns are still going but the rest of the flower bed has been weeded and dug over as next year it will be used for the salad crops.

It seems odd not having any winter veg in this year but each plot really needs a good manure covering over winter and so we decided to let them all rest this year. The middle smaller plots have already been dug and manured and will be ready for planting garlic and onions next week. The rest is coming along nicely, nothing like some digging to warm you up, that’s for sure.

  

As for crafting I have been mainly cross-stiching and Ian has been making a leather  i-pod case for Jake. It is one that Jake designed himself and the prototype came out well so Ian is now doing it on the leather that Jake chose. I am currently doing a design of a letter V with a teddy bear for my mother-in-law Violets birthday. There are quite a few birthdays coming up as well as Christmas so I really must get some cards made. We have to post off a Christmas card and present for Ians Uncle Ernest on Tristan da Cunha by the end of October or else it will miss the boat with the Christmas mail. With the shorter days and colder weather we tend to hibernate in the warm so a lot more crafting than gardening will be done.

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Now in the How to…. section

Ian has added How to make a leather wallet.

Still Waiting For Summer….

Well, it’s now the end of August and it has been the coldest summer in 18 years apparently! I don’t disagree with this at all, as when we are planning a walk or a trip to the allotment the decision is whether to wear a jumper or fleece, not suncream! I’m hoping for an Indian summer like the one we had in 2009. It was the end of September of that year that we got the allotment and everyone said it was the best time to start as the winter is best for digging over. We had so much clearing to do, planning where our plots would go etc that we were prepared to go down in woolly hats and scarves to crack on with it but it turned out that October was hot and sunny and we did most of the digging in t-shirts! Fingers crossed we get it again this year as we are going to dig over every plot and manure them. The top two plots aren’t too bad but the bottom one has been really disappointing and we can only put this down to the fact it wasn’t fed last year. We dug our early potatoes up a while ago but have just started digging the main crop and it is a great crop. It was a bit like christmas though as all the labels we had written to remind us of the varieties had been washed off so we had no idea what we were going to be digging. Fortunately we had some of the packets they had come in and, through deduction, worked out that the first rows were Pentland Javelin and Cara. My enthusiasm at the beginning of the year to write down every detail of seeds planted etc seems to have vanished around April and so I didnt even have it written down. Next year there will be weatherproof labels and a proper list and plan so we dont have this next year (famous last words!) We know that the last few rows are Pink Fir, International Kidney and Roosters. These were our experimental rows and we have already dug up one plant of Pink Fir but they were a bit small althought there was enough for the two of us and they were delicious as was the one International Kidney plant we dug. By the time we have dug them there will be enough to keep us going through till next spring. The onions have now been dug up and most of them have now dried, and a bumper crop it was too.

The sweetcorn are nearly ready to pick now, Scary Mandy seems to have done her job. We know one plot that had a few taken by badgers but so far ours are fine. We did pick one to see if it was ready and it looks like it needs another week but I cooked it up and it was delicious. The french beans have been fantastic, I have picked, blanched and frozen loads and I’m so pleased that we decided on them over runner beans this year. On the whole things have been good but not as good as previous years but this could be down to a number of things, bad weather, bad soil, using last year seeds etc. but we have plans to make next year better. I did sow seeds called Autumn Squash and assumed they would be similar to Butternut. Only one plant survived the weather but grew well and soon filled out and flowered. I was delighted when mini green squash appeared but when Ian went down to water he found two that had got to a good size and picked them before they rotted. The only thing was they were still green so we left them in the conservatory to ripen but they stayed the same colour. One of them started rotting underneath so I cooked the other and, although it had had a green skin it tasted how it was meant to. However, when we went down Monday there was another one that had grown massive! Still green though but we picked it anyway and when we got home Ian weighed it and it was 8.5 pounds! Thats bigger than any of my children were when they were born! Still not sure why its green, could just be the lack of sun but they taste how they are meant to which is good enough.

 

I know it looks like a marrow but its definitely a squash!

Our holiday in Graffham was well needed and a lovely break. The weather wasn’t great but the scenery of the South Downs made up for it. We had a few lovely walks and did some geocaches as well. We had a day in Chichester and visited the cathedral and gardens there and wandered aroung the town. A place we will certainly go back to.

At the top of Duncton Hill

The Serpents Way.

Chichester Cathedral Town Centre

Craft-wise I have been buying more cross-stitch than actually sewing. A charity shop we visited had a Lilliput Lane kit and 3 small vegetable kits that I couldnt leave behind! I have been sorting out my cardmaking bits too as I am swapping rooms with Emily to have the smaller room. It was a job that needed doing and hopefully when we have it all sorted I can get my cardmaking mojo back! I also want the sewing machine set up as I have been using it a fair bit lately and really need to make more use of it. I have a few simple patterns and some fabric to have a go with and am looking forward to having a go. Ian has been working on his leather and has posted a ‘how to’ on the leather wallet he has made. The next few days will be spent digging up more spuds and hopefully having a bit of sewing time too.

Where did July go?…..

I can’t believe its a month since my last post! It has been a busy few weeks with a lot going on although really that’s no excuse. It has been ‘bitty’ things as opposed to anything in particular but the time has flown by! We have had a couple of birthdays, including Ian’s, and have finally go the house back to some sense of normality. The loft is looking a bit tidier if still, somewhat, full. Down the allotment things have not been as good as they could have but the potatoes have done very well as have the onions.

 

You can see by the size of the £2 coin how large they are and the second picture shows the dining table with the onions laid out to dry in the conservatory. We still have 2 rows to dig up so they should keep us going well into the new year. I had a mammoth blanching session and have now frozen carrots, french beans and cabbage. We decided this year not to bother with runner beans, they are a fiddle to prepare and no-one is really that keen on them so I planted dwarf and climbing french beans and so far have had 2 buckets worth to blanch! Ian’s blackberries are also doing well, we have picked and frozen the ripe ones and when he has enough he will do some pots of jam. The berries are really sharp to eat off of the bush but in jam they are gorgeous. So far Scary Mandy has protected our sweetcorn and there seems to have been no badger activity, although too many people say they think its me on the plot! I am a fair bit slimmer than her , I think, and I wear my trousers the right way round, unlike her as Ian dressed her with them back to front!

Hopefully next post I will have a few more pictures to put on as Ian and I are off camping in West Sussex next week. Planning some walking, geocaching and sightseeing as well as a deserved rest. We are staying at Graffham Campsite which is a woodland site and looks extremely peaceful. I have bought the peppers from the allotment greenhouse back home so they can be watered while we are away. The 2 peppers I have at home are doing really well and Im hoping that some will be ready for picking when we get back.

We have done some walks recently including the Round Aylesbury walk. I was not impressed at all by it, the signage was atrocious and even with  a GPS we managed to get off track making a 12 mile walk into 16!! In places it was well maintained then in others it was overgrown and used as a dumping ground. not one I would recommend. We did, however do a circular walk around Whiteleaf and Princes Risborough and that was gorgeous, about 6 miles but, until the last short bit, in the middle of nowhere. Just how we like it. We did pop out this morning to do a couple of caches and one had a geocoin in so we can take that away with us next week.

I am plodding on with Country Footpath but have just picked up a tapestry kit from a charity shop of a Woodland path. It has been a while since I have done a tapestry so I am looking forward to it. Will take it with me next week and see if I can make a start on it and add a photo next time. Really hoping for good weather next week, although im happy to camp whatever the weather a bit of sun makes all the difference 🙂

Who’s Great Idea Was This?…..

After 16 years of using the loft as a dumping ground for all those ‘we may need it someday’ bits we decided to empty it out and give it a good sort. Before we started this seemed like a good plan but after we had filled the spare room with boxes and realised we had only emptied a corner it didn’t seem so much fun! Looking through some of it made us wonder why we had not only had we stored it for all these years but also why had we kept it in the first place. I had kept pieces of paper that Amy had bought home from school when she first started at 5 and she is turning 25 this weekend! I have kept some of the more important bits like cards and special drawings but it seems I kept everything from spelling lists to school notes! Also in this heat a loft is not the best place to be and Ian must of lost several pounds in weight after being up there! We have a large number of boxes filled with books that we cant actually move at the moment as we packed them in the loft so they are staying up there and Ian is going to build a book-case along one of the living room walls so we can get them down. A large pile of loft stuff  is now heading for a car boot sale and if it doesnt go there then it will go to the charity shops, and we have enough rubbish to do 2 dump runs!! However, today we ignored the black bags and boxes still left to be sorted and had a day out in Chepstow as Mat was holding a conference there and asked if we would like a trip out, same as we did to Stratford. So at 6.30 this morning we headed up the M4. We have visited Wales a number of times but have never been to Chepstow and I have to say it is a lovely town. We had a few geocaches to do there and the best one was at the start of the Offas Dyke Path. It overlooked the estuary and although it was a windy day the sun was out and it was very warm. We found a lovely Wetherspoons pub called the Bellhanger and had breakfast before we started there, lunch when we got back to the town there and then an afternoon coffee before we were picked up for the journey home. the nice thing about long journeys is that I can sit in the back and get some knitting done. I have started a ‘mug hug’ which is basically a cardigan for your mug, not particularly practical but I think they are cute.

  

 

 

Down the allotment we have dug up several rows of our early potatoes and have eaten a fair few already, it is always a sign of summer when we have our first new potatoes. We have had a dinners worth of the french beans and carrots and in the greenhouse the peppers are doing really well. Good job really because this year everything has been a bit disappointing. We are not sure if its because the ground needs feeding or if its because Im using old seed but we are planning to manure each plot this winter and also buy new seeds for next season. We still have plenty to keep us going but we were really spoiled with the exceptional results of our first year and so last year and this year haven’t matched up to that standard. Never mind, we are gardeners and so are blaming everything from the soil to the weather and are already looking forward to next season.

I am plodding on with my Country Footpath cross stitch kit and, despite the many greens it is quite easy to follow. I will update with a picture soon when I havve got the house back to normal!

A Week of Celebrations…

We seem to have had something to celebrate every other day this week. It started with Emily’s 17th birthday, then it was our 20th Wedding anniversary and a couple of days later Fathers Day! A great excuse for card-making but I sat at the table and waited for inspiration and yet even surrounded by gorgeous papers and embellishments I struggled to come up with anything! Eventually I made Em a cupcake inspired card but I seemed to have lost all ability to stick paper straight! It did look good in the end and I was pleased with it but I admit that the card for my father-in-law was one from my ‘already made’ box. My dad doesn’t ‘do’ fathers day as  he feels its ‘commercial nonsense’ which, considering my distinct lack of inspiration, was probably a good thing. We had everyone up for Ems birthday and fortunately it was a lovely evening so we were able to go into the garden and light the chimnea and sit on our log seats toasting marshmallows. Em  had picked a ‘retro’ birthday tea as it was her last year before becoming an adult, so we had triangle sandwiches, crisps and jelly and ice-cream!

It seems incredible that we have celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, the time has flown by.  We decided to go out for the day and stop for a bit of lunch. While we were out we visited a charity shop and I found a lovely cross-stitch kit that reminded me of some of the wonderful walks me and Ian have done. So despite my resolve to finish my foxglove kit I couldn’t resist starting this one.

Ian had a good Fathers Day with presents from the  girls and a KFC dinner which is always a winner!

We had a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon this week. My brother had a work meeting there and so we hitched a lift to do some geo-caching in the area. He dropped us off at the town of Wellesbourne about 5 miles out of Stratford and we had a great day doing a circular walk and 18 caches in total. The main one was a Little Quest one, this is a series of 48 caches with each on in a different county so is a long-term project. We have dont the local counties of Bucks and Oxford so it was great to add Warwickshire to the list. It was a great walk of about 6 miles from Wellesbourne to Charlcote and back again. The weather was good all day until we got to the last 2 caches when the heavens opened! We put on our waterproof coats but this was not ordinary rain, it was horizontal rain and the drops were the size of 2 pence pieces! We were drenched and covered in mud, there was nowhere to shelter so we just ploughed on until we got back to the town where it promptly stopped raining and the sun came back out. As we turned the corner into the town we spotted a charity shop so, not fancying an hours drive back home in sodden jeans, we popped in and found some trousers and asked the lovely shop manager if we could buy them and use her changing room to put them on. As Ian bought a shirt and  jacket as well she was more than happy to let us. We did have to explain to Matthew why we had different clothes on when he picked us up!

 View from our picnic..

 Before the downpour!

 Outside Charlcote house.

 Wellesbourne Church.

The nesting birds in the garden are now fledged but they are still feeding the babies and are beginning to look a bit worn out. This year we have had so many more breeds in the garden than previous years which is brilliant. The baby robins are the noisiest and are so cute sitting with little pot bellies calling their parents constantly, I’m sure the parents will be glad when they can fend for themselves!

   

 

My Very First….

As you know Ian enjoys leathercraft but he has accrued rather a lot of leather  and as it was taking over the craft room he advertised it for swaps on the bushcraft forum. He was offered a hammock as a swap for some and as John  lives in Wales and Ian was going that way fly-fishing he decided to deliver the leather to him while he was there. When he had left Johns he sent me a text saying that John had really liked my walking stick with the little compass on and had also given me a present. Well he got home and handed me the present, a book called Longer Walks in Pembrokeshire and as I read the author’s name, John Fenna, I realised it was the very person he had delivered to! Not only that John had signed the front for me but he had added a note about the stick too. To say I was chuffed is an understatement. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift. My first ever signed book and if it doesn’t inspire you to visit Pembrokeshire and try some of these walks then I don’t know what will. There is ‘The Knights Way’ and ‘The Miners Walk’ to name just 2 of them which are the ‘short’ ones at just 10 miles!! A blooming good read and guide-book and we are certainly planning on a trip to Pembrokeshire.

       

 

 

As Promised Here is The Photo…..

Well despite the heavy rain and strong wind we have had over the past week our scarecrow is still standing and as promised here is a photo of her.

I was hoping to give her a really cool name but it seems that people are mistaking her for me!! I would like to point out that, although she may be wearing clothes similar to what I would wear ( a bit less bright !) I am not as ‘well padded’ as she is. Stan, who has the plot next to us, said to Ian this morning that he nearly came down to say hello to me yesterday then realised it was the scarecrow, so she is called ScaryMandy! I must say though that if you catch a glimpse of her out of the corner of your eye she does look real. She is surrounded by our smaller Poundworld ones.

 

The lupins that I have in the flower bed by the shed are now turning to seed but the poppies are looking great. I have now planted most of the flowers and have a mix of French Marigolds, Coreopsis, Phlox and the obligatory tray of unknown flowers, due to losing the seed label! Every year I promise to be more organised but every year there is a tray of plants that I have no idea what they are.

The peppers in the greenhouse are doing well but the one that I am really looking forward to is called Big Jim and it is the long red sweet banana peppers. When we went over to our local supermarket a while ago we bought a pack of two of these peppers and, although they are delicious, they were £1.90 for 2!! So I’m hoping we get a good crop from it but even if we don’t I love the name of it. The one next to it is a smaller, hotter variety. I bought this as my Ring of Fire Chilli seeds didnt germinate first time of sowing so I bought this one. However, the second sowing has produced 3 plants, only small at the moment and probably a bit late but the greenhouse is lovely and warm for them so we shall see what happens. We don’t have a strawberry bed anymore as it took up a lot of space but I did keep 2 plants purely because I had grown them from seed and everyone had said it was a hard thing to do. These 2 have flourished though and this morning we had our first few strawberries from one of them. I must admit this is one of the best bits of an allotment, a quick rinse under the hose and probably the best and sweetest strawberry you could have, although I’m a little bit biased of course! I must remember to take a photo of our ‘rescue’ plant. When we were in Wilkinson’s a few weeks ago there was a very sorry-looking aubergine plant. We have never grown them before and had no idea what to do with it but it needed rescuing! I read up on it and they need a grow bag and a greenhouse. As both the plastic ones are full of tomatoes and cucumbers and the greenhouse is full of peppers and leeks, I put it into a large plant pot with growbag soil in and stood it in the middle of the greenhouse. Well I have to say it has flourished in its new home and even if it doesn’t produce anything it is an impressive looking plant. Another ‘rescue’ plant was a grape-vine saved from a garden centre about 2 years ago. Italian Tony from the allotment gave us advice on looking after it, as he has some very big grape vines in his glass house down there and he also gave us a big blue barrel to plant it in and again after some TLC that has grown into a very healthy plant.

    

At home I have some salad planted just in pots outside the back door and the lettuce leaves are nearly ready for picking and the radishes are looking healthy too. The 2 green pots are dahlias that I grew from seed and the green trough has purple spring onions coming through.

Birds, Scarecrows and Flying Ants….

All this fine weather is wonderful but it does mean we are spending a lot of time at the allotment watering. Most of the vegetables are now in the ground and doing well although half of the cauliflowers didn’t survive. I have no idea why this year I am having such a problem with Brassica, my cabbages didn’t survive and I ended up buying small plugs to put in. I have got some more coming on in the greenhouse and hopefully they will do a bit better. It’s annoying because our very first year every Brassica I sowed came through to the point that I was giving trays away but this year has been a disaster for me with them. On the other hand the sweetcorn has done very well and after hardening them off in the cold frame I have got them into the ground. We have a problem with sweetcorn loving badgers so Ian has erected a chicken wire fence around them with some on the ground around the fence as well, as badgers have incredibly sharp claws and it doesn’t take them long to dig under the fence. Our other defence is a scarecrow which Ian made from an old pair of jeans and a bright pink jumper that I had found in the wardrobe. Along with my allotment hat she is very lifelike if you catch a glimpse of her from the corner of your eye! A photo will be taken next time we are down to show her off. We also bought 3 smaller ones from the pound shop so fingers crossed the badgers will look at other plots for their midnight snacks!

Also an update on the birds nesting in our garden. The first pair of robins, that had nested in Ian’s old boot in the ivy, had their brood which fledged successfully and another pair of robins have taken up residence. They are very busy taking food back to the chicks but the other day they didn’t really have to work too hard. We have a flying ants nest at the base of an old tree and every year, just for the one day, they leave the nest and start climbing the tree in their hundreds and then when they are at the top they fly off. This meant the robins just flew to the tree, filled their beaks and took them to the nest, nice and easy for them.

 

We have had a lot more birds nesting around us this year. The blue tits have a brood in the nest box at the bottom of the garden but we have also had great tits, a wren and coal tits all visiting us with newly fledged babies, and I’m sure there is a blackbird and songthrush nest nearby. They really are lovely to watch.

The Cross-Stitch Bug Returns…

It never really goes, just hibernates for a while. I don’t know if all crafters are the same but I sometimes have ‘favourite’ crafts that take priority whether it be knitting, card making, reading etc. but at the moment it is definitely cross stitch!

Yesterday we bought a frame for Harbour the Michael Powell kit I finished a while ago. It was from The Range, which has a great selection of frames and I chose this one as the wood reminds me of driftwood on the beach. Because of the awkward size of the kit Ian adapted the mount to fit the picture, and I think it looks great and it is now hanging on the wall for all to see.

When I was sorting through my cross stitch sewing box I came across a kit that appeared to be finished but was still on a hoop, called Heart of Flowers. I remembered finishing it but wondered why I had left it on the hoop, however, looking closer showed that I hadn’t finished the back-stitch! This is unusual as I enjoy the back-stitch. I always think it finishes a picture and can bring the whole thing to life. So it was put by my chair and I decided it would be finished! I got it all out and remembered why it had been shelved! All the back-stitch is in different colours and, to be honest, is all over the place. There are lots of areas where the stitch is between the holes of the Aida and, although this can be very effective, on this particular picture it just doesn’t seem to look right. I’m not sure whether it’s because some of the flowers are small or if it’s the 14 count Aida but I have decided to use artistic license and follow the chart but adapt it where I see fit. It is the only way I think it will get finished as, after all, I’m the only one who will know which bits have been changed and its more important that I like how it looks even if it’s not what the design dictates!

The Country Diary Foxglove kit, my current large project, is coming along great. I’m really enjoying this one and, although it has plenty of shades of purple, the chart is very easy to follow and the flowers are taking shape quite quickly, always an incentive to carry on.

I enjoy the small cover kits that come with magazines as they are quick to do and give a break from the larger projects. I have just started the All Our Yesterdays kit that came with the World of Cross Stitch magazine and took it with me to do while Emily was at physio. I mentioned to Ian that I could really do with a case to carry small kits in my handbag and so he decided to make  me a leather case. It is a gorgeous red with matching buttons and is the perfect size for a small kit and scissors and thin enough to slide into my bag.

 

One hobby that we never get tired of is geocaching and we now have 281 caches. Our next goal is to do an EarthCache and we are hoping to do one in June when we are going camping in Hereford to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. There are some wonderful walks in the area as we will be right on the border with Wales and the Black Mountains. Hopefully by then the weather would have remembered its summer, it’s the end of May and at the moment  it feels like the heating should still be on!

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