Not sure what was going on here. I think this is one of my camera’s own recent compositions. I recognise the power lines behind the allotment, but who knows where the wafty branches came from. The whole thing looks like a charcoal sketch, with just enough spikiness to qualify for Becky’s March Squares.
He’s been sitting on the kitchen cupboard all winter, and I’d grown used to his being there; rather forgotten that he might be eaten. Then last week I did remember. Soup. We need more soup! It was quite a tussle breaking into him, and then I found a quarter of him was more than enough for a big pan of spicy squash and onion concoction with added tub of tomato ‘stock’ from the freezer. The soup did us for two lunches, the first day topped with plain yogurt and rye bread croutons, the next with homemade walnut-parsley-garlic pesto and toast.
The rest of the squash has been consigned to the fridge, there awaiting more souping and roasting (perhaps with dates, soy sauce, lime juice and onions). All hearty winter food.
But then, the thing is, when I first broke into him after much battling with my largest knife, and the two halves finally fell apart on the counter top, out whooshed the scent of summer. And I was transported, and all without the need for white mice magicked into coach horses by passing fairy godmothers. I was back. Those weeks and weeks of long hot days (with all that hauling of water about the allotment and (not the least of it) tending to his highness). And then I thought, well now, it will soon be time to sow more Crown Princes, seeds kept and dried from a princeling eaten back in December. And finally I thought so this is the essence of things, the cycle of sowing, growing and harvesting, of being nourished and the pleasure of simply being. And that made me feel very happy. It’s amazing how much mileage there is in a pumpkin. Thank you, Crown Prince, for your great beneficence.
copyright 2019 Tish Farrell
English allotments are too often rackety sorts of places, and ours on Southfield Road is far from beautiful. The accumulations of tat on some neglected plots go back decades – broken glass, old bricks, shreds of plastic, rusting tools. Bit by bit they are being tidied up, the detritus carted off to the tip, aka the local recycling and waste disposal centre, this being done by one or two good souls who have more than enough to do on their own plots. But despite the overall unloveliness of the place, it does provide some interesting visual moments. The top photo was taken last spring – damson blossom and barbed wire with distant ash tree.
And here are some more views taken on my camera’s monochrome setting. A touch surreal I’m thinking:
This wintery looking hedge is on the lane to Downs Mill, though it was a mild afternoon when I took this photo, more like spring. The hazel catkins along the field path by the house have been thinking much the same, their tassels opening to the late December sun. Out in the garden the Dyer’s Chamomile (grown from seed last summer) is still flowering, as are pink and coral hesperanthus and hardy geraniums. None of them seem to have been bothered by the few mornings’ frost we had earlier in the month.
Otherwise, there have been a couple of gales, lots of murk with fog and too much rain, but also blue-sky days too, and so far little sign of winter as we once knew it. Up at the allotment the Swiss Chard is having yet another flush of juicy leaves and the pot marigolds have started to flower again, their petals adding a zing of colour to green salads. And in the fields all round the winter wheat is zooming up.
The old apple tree at the allotment has a litter of lost and decomposing apples all around it. As I took this photo yesterday I tried not to think of all the stuffed baked apples they added up to; the crumbles and tartes tatin missed out on. Just as well, says the waistline. I’ve recently been struggling to make a pair of corduroy trousers, the struggle being in the fitting department. Having adjusted the waistband to a state of snugness that allows only slight room for expansion, I do not need to grow out of them before I’ve worn them. Anyway, I’m sure there’s plenty of wildlife that will be glad of these windfalls, blackbirds and slugs especially.
I said in an earlier post that plant life was galloping away to flower and set seed all before being fried. Now with the end of July approaching, we have definitely reached the fried stage. I took the header view of Townsend Meadow as I was coming home from the evening’s allotment watering. I thought it captured the day’s residual heat in a ‘baked-to-a-turn’ kind of way, a muted version if you like of Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with crows, a work that always seems to exude its own hotness. It’s a shame the local rooks did not put in an appearance to complete the scene, but sensibly they seem to be keeping a low profile – no doubt roasting quietly in their treetop roosts on the Sytch where the brook no longer flows.
Rain keeps appearing on the weather forecast, and then disappearing. Today’s promised thunderstorms have blown away. I think we’ve only had one significant watering in two months, and the heatwave looks like continuing.
Up at the allotment the harvest has been hit and miss – much bolting of lettuce and wilting of peas; puny potatoes, though wonderfully free of slug spit. The sweet corn continues to flourish and is starting to form cobs, and there have been loads of raspberries. The courgettes keep coming, and even the squashes are producing. In the polytunnel the Black Russian tomatoes are fat and delicious, and the peppers and aubergines beginning to fruit. All of which means much hauling of watering cans every evening.
Here then, are more scenes of simmering Wenlock in and around Townsend Meadow.
Please visit Su to see her changing season in New Zealand
6 am and I’m up and dressed and heading over the field to the allotment. No sign of the sun this morning, but there are plenty of yellow flowers standing in for it, including the ragwort with departing red-tailed bee (a female, I think). And it’s only when I reach my plot that I remember that early mornings are the time to catch the courgette (zucchini) flowers looking their best. I discover a real cracker by the polytunnel. Not only is it making all its own sunshine, but it is also hosting some very busy ants. I can only think they are grazing the pollen.
Inside the polytunnel, the French marigolds are in full flower too. I planted them out among the pepper and aubergine plants to deter white fly. It seems to work. And they are cheery too, but difficult to photograph as they seem to reflect the light and end up looking remarkably surreal; as if they might be made of marzipan.
There’s nothing surreal about the cucumber flowers though. The plants are churning out fruits at a rate of knots. I pruned off excess stems and now think I may start restricting their water intake. There are only so many cucumbers one can eat – even mini ones.
The allotments are a lovely place to be in the early morning. I got lots of jobs done: feeding beetroot and leeks, tying up wayward tomatoes, sowing Florence fennel, Paris market carrots and Boltardy beetroot, harvesting cylindrical and golden beets, leeks and Russian kale, and a single huge globe artichoke, which may be past its best, but we’ll give it go this evening. If it’s too tough to eat, the garlic butter will do on something else. What a trial that will be!
In the raised beds the sweet corn is tasselling, the French beans and raspberries are cropping furiously, the borlotti beans are making pods, the Crown Prince squash are blooming, and soon there may be a couple of crunchy Greyhound cabbages to pick.
All in all, it was a very yellow kind of morning, brimming with bright prospects, though it is a shame about the lack of larks. I dashed home at 9.30 for cup of tea, only to think that I might have left the allotment tap running. So it was back up the field, through the towering wild oats, and past the browning rapeseed crop. I hadn’t left the tap on, but I had forgotten to collect the Russian kale, so it was worth making the second trip. Then home again to make raspberry jam.
After Sunday’s bizarre experience with a paramotor wing over the garden during supper, here is a true exponent of the art of flight. Quite silent too.
It was nearly 7 pm last night when I finally thought it might be cool enough to head up the field to the allotment. In places, the nettles and grasses are leaning over the path at ear-height, and the nettle stings can be vicious, even through clothing. At one point the makeshift path alongside the rapeseed crop all but disappears, and it’s a question of remembering to turn left at the opium poppy, which was fine when it was flowering redly, but not so easy to spot now it’s gone to seed. I’m beginning to think I need to go out armed with a machete. Also the ground beneath my feet is so unyielding, it is difficult to walk on; baked into unexpected ridges and contours that are hard to navigate when you can’t see the way ahead. Who would have thought going gardening could be so challenging.
Of course, I had to stop to take this photo, the sun shining through the allotment boundary hedge.
On the plot I have been trying to shelter the plants’ roots with whatever vegetation I can find up there: comfrey, horseradish leaves, even rhubarb leaves. I’m now eyeing up the goat willow tree on the neighbouring abandoned plot, thinking a little prune of its leathery foliage might make some useful shading material.
So far things are surviving – apart from the strawberries that is, and the broad beans which produced a half-hearted crop and then fainted away. The most astonishing success, at least so far, is the sweet corn. It just keeps on growing, and with scarcely any watering, which is very strange for sweet corn. I bought the seedlings by post after the seeds of my own first sowing rotted. They were tiny when I planted them out in May – no more than a hand’s width tall. Now look at them.
They cost £2 for 20 from Delfland Nurseries which probably works out cheaper than growing them yourself from seed, and certainly cuts out the faff. I also bought some of their Iznik mini cucumber seedlings, which are now producing well in the polytunnel. The fruits are about 4 inches long when ready to pick, and delicious. The best thing is you eat the whole thing at one go, so no more squishy-cucumber-end discoveries in the fridge.
The Black Russian tomatoes are busy fattening in the next door bed. They are now one of our favourite tomato varieties, under-sown here with dill.
Outside, the runner beans are struggling to get up their sticks, but we’ve had our first good picking of the climbing Alderman peas. These peas are supposed to continue cropping over the season, but I’m not sure that this will happen with four more weeks of drought and heat promised. I have just planted out another lot, sown for quick germination in lengths of plastic gutter, and I shall definitely grow them again next year.
We’ve been told there is a ‘world shortage’ of lettuce in UK supermarkets. It doesn’t germinate well in heat. I have grown some of my own, but I was also very pleased that I bought a tray of ‘living salad’ lettuce from Waitrose. It was intended for cutting fresh into one’s sandwich, but I planted out the seedlings instead, outside covered with fleece and also in the polytunnel. So far it’s doing well. I reckon there were about 50 seedlings in the tray, several different varieties, so plenty of lettuce to share with neighbours.
Now for some more hot-plot shots.
One unforeseen circumstance of the hot weather is that my piled-high compost heaps are bone dry, and are therefore doing very little rotting down. While I don’t feel I can help them along by actually watering them, I have heard that the addition of urine is very beneficial, and since most of the allotmenteers are chaps, it has occurred to me to put up ‘please pee here’ signs. All deposits gratefully received.
copyright 2018 Tish Farrell
This was my shed when I took up allotmenting eleven years ago. He who builds sheds stopped it leaking and leaning into a complete state of collapse, and I and the snails and mice were very glad of it for several years. But then two years ago I left behind the plot it stands on to concentrate on my polytunnel plot. No one has taken it over, and this year it is doing a good imitation of the prairie with elephant’s eye high grass and thistles. Rather sad after all the hours of digging I did there. But at least the shed is still standing, and this year, the greengage tree that stands over it has quite a bit of fruit in the making. The artichoke, though, was eaten long ago.
Traces of the Past: Black & White Sunday Please visit Paula to see her dramatic seascape