Posts tagged ‘victory garden’

Slightly red-faced (and sore-backed)

Aw crap, I really shouldn’t have left the allotment to its own devices for THE WHOLE OF APRIL. Dear God, it’s worse than it was when I got it now.

Lots of digging and dandelion tea for me!

April 25, 2009 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

Long weekend

The long Easter weekend got off to an unpromising start – when I finished work on Thursday evening, there was nothing in the house to mix with gin except flat Lilt from our cocktail party a month ago.

It got better. On Friday, I woke up with a huge surge of enthusiasm for doing all the things I normally don’t have the time or energy to do and spent the day finishing the i-cord on my cardigan and sewing the jacket I’ve been working on for a year.



Then on Saturday I woke up and felt absolutely exhausted, thanks to a busy previous couple of weeks, and spent most of the day lounging around not doing very much. Well, I made some bread and went shopping, but that was about it.

On Sunday, we went to see Scientist Fiancé’s family and ate too much roast dinner and played silly games. And Monday was gorgeous and I spent most of the day in the garden. I had breakfast outside and then did some ms6001735uch overdue weeding, as a result of which you can now see the gravel. I also rescued the peas, which have been in need of potting on some days now, and planted squash and more peas and lots of basil. And probably some other things. Also, my coriander is still looking reasonably healthy, which is good news as I have a terrible track record with coriander.

And here are some pretty Easter flowers:


I hope you all had lovely weekends.

April 15, 2009 at 10:09 am 2 comments

Gratuitous photos

Blackberry wine

Blackberry wine

Look! Look!!! We made blackberry wine!!!

Well, we made it last autumn, but finally got around to bottling it last weekend. My resident homebrew expert was concerned that something had gone wrong with it (hence general apathy regarding bottling), but there was a bit left over that wouldn’t fit into the bottles and we thought it would only be scientific to sample it – it was fine. Very tasty. Now we just have to leave the other five bottles in a cupboard for a year or two. Hmph.

These are some particularly attractive chillis. I didn’t grow them or anything, but I have been photographing vegetables recently. For no real reason other than they’re pretty.



And lastly, some flowers, from my dad. I love irises so much I’m thinking of having them as my bouquet when we get married.



Today I have planted some cornflowers and some mixed flowers and herbs that are meant to attract bees. I also finished that cardigan I’ve been making for yonks. Hurrah! Now I just need to learn what blocking is and how to do it. It looks complicated, from what I’ve read. And I made yoghurt. What a productive day!

March 27, 2009 at 2:13 pm 1 comment

Allotment update…

Went down to the allotment yesterday and:

  • made a minuscule amount of progress covering the grass in places where I want to eventually grow things
  • snipped some bits off the currant bushes because a friendly old man told me to
  • pulled back some of the grass in another part of the plot and discovered some RHUBARB!! Yaaay!!!

I also picked up some books in Oxfam this weekend: The Age of Consent, by George Monbiot, which is actually about global justice and creating (as far as I can tell without having read it yet) a globalised democracy to stop corporations and the IMF riding roughshod over the planet and the poor, but which had been put on the ‘Gender Studies’ shelf and I felt I ought to rescue it, and Not on the Label by Felicity Lawrence, of which I have already read the first chapter, where she talks about caming back from living in Pakistan for a few years and being utterly astonished by English supermarkets, ‘permanent global summertime’ and ‘choice’, while everyone expected that the food she had been eating was bland and restricted, and in fact she’d found it more varied and tastier. This was very similar to my own experiences coming home from Africa, on which more when I’m not supposed to be doing something else.

November 24, 2008 at 9:31 am 1 comment

In which I realise heirloom vegetables are superior to F1s and experiment with vegetables

Scientist Boyfriend has spent all weekend swotting up on pensions for an exam, so I’ve been trying to find ways to entertain myself that don’t involve making a lot of noise or having to use the sitting room. I haven’t yet got round to making curtains, but I have sewn up the end of my second sock, which looks a lot better than the first. I might take a picture of them to put up next week if you promise not to mention that one of them is a good two inches longer than the other (and than my foot).

I’ve also pottered around the garden, by which I mean I’ve done a bit of weeding and stared at my tomatoes like a paranoid… thing that stares at tomatoes. (Hmm. Must work on analogy.) Three of them are turning red (as, excitingly, is a pepper, which I had more or less resigned myself to eating green!) and I am totally converted to heirloom varieties. All the plants grown from organic seed or given to me by other gardeners (who I know use old, non-F1 varieties even if I don’t know exactly what sort these plants are) are, if not ripe, at least looking mostly healthy and appear to have withstood the sneaky substitution of a deluge for summer, while the F1s, designed for commercial growers who spray with things, have all succumbed much worse to blight and the fruits are going rotten and I don’t know if I’ll be able to salvage much. So there we are.

I also made a chocolate chilli cake yesterday, which was yummy, although there was no evidence of my having put any chilli in it. If you fancy trying it and want a bit of a kick, up the chilli content. I’ve also discovered more things to do with kale, in preparation for a winter of cabbage and parsnips. (Also got the first parsnips since last winter, will be making soup methinks!) Heartily recommend both these recipes for a veg box crisis moment:

Penne with kale, gorgonzola and roasted onions (from, and

Stuffed mushrooms with kale

Didn’t follow them to the letter – had no gorgonzola so just added parmesan (and also pine nuts because we are pine nut fiends and add them to almost everything!) to the first and used brie instead of goat’s cheese in the second – but that’s a much more fun way to cook anyway. Also had two nice squash dishes this week, much more exciting than last year’s stuff-with-brown-rice-and-roast experiments, acorn (I think) squash and hazlenut lasagne a few days ago and spaghetti squash with olives, tuna and tomato sauce this evening.

And once I have snatched Scientist Boyfriend from the jaws of pensions-related doom we’re going blackberrying again and are going to make blackberry wine. Found lots of berries last week on my 11-mile walk last week, so have to hope they haven’t been eaten by anything else in the meantime. (I was trying, incidentally, to decide what I wanted to do with my life, as everything I want to do requires me to have money and everything that pays will make me miserable. All I decided was that walking is fun and I’d quite like a dog. Blackberry wine, I suppose, comes a close second to meaning and direction or hard capital, though.)

September 21, 2008 at 7:54 pm 2 comments

Garden – before and after

Yonks ago now, I was looking for a photo of my garden to send to Pattie for her Victory Garden Drive and idling through the folder on my computer (self-deprecatingly called ‘Hippy Photos’) where I keep photos relating to gardening, knitting etc and came across an old one of the garden when we first moved in. I acquired boxes and plants grew so slowly that I never noticed it changing, and I’m now so used to it being chock full of green things, but what a contrast!

This was the garden when we moved in.

This is the garden now. (Not pictured: beans, peas, potatoes, butternut squash, dalek.)

September 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm 3 comments

Bottled sunshine

“It is all very well to talk about ‘the fruits of the earth in their season’, and very nice too; but it is nice to be able to eat tomatoes in April, or pork in August. Of course if you buy these things from a shop you can eat anything at any time of the year, but then you find you have to catch the eight-thirty every morning and go and sit all day in a stuffy ofice to be able to afford to do so.

If you do not want to catch the eight-thirty what you do is you grow these things for yourself and preserve them.”

(John Seymour, The Fat of the Land, ch 8)

“Jams, chutneys and pickles embrace the seasons, but they also, in an elegant and entirely positive manner, defy them. They do so by stretching the bounty of more abundant months into the sparser ones. We shouldn’t underestimate this achievement. Over the centuries, wizards and alchemists have used all the power and magic they can muster to try and catch rainbows, spin straw into gold, and even bring the dead back to lift. They’ve failed of course. Yet all the while, humble peasants and ordinary housewives have got on with the simple business of bottling sunshine, so that it may spread a little joy in the leaner seasons… They call it jam.”

(Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, introduction to River Cottage Handbook No. 2 – Preserves by Pam Corbin)

The weather is starting to feel distinctly autumnal. I even slept with a hot water bottle the night before last, admittedly mainly because I’d been curled up in bed hugging it for stomach cramps, but the sheets have that crisp chill about them when you first get into bed. Part of me is almost able to get excited about curried parsnip soup, but since the actual summer was moderately dreadful (I am slightly puzzled when at people going around saying, ‘This summer has been TERRIBLE/A TOTAL WASHOUT!’ (delete as applicable) – I find it hard to believe they can’t remember last summer, but I accept it hasn’t been superb) I wouldn’t mind an Indian one as well, just so I can wear that pretty pink dress again…

Scientist Boyfriend’s mum’s new house has a garden full of apple trees, rhubarb and brambles so we went over for Sunday lunch yesterday, on the pretence that we enjoyed their company, but really so we could plunder their garden for edible goodies. I wasn’t sure you were supposed to pick rhubarb this late, but I was under strict orders to the contrary and now have two huge bags of the stuff. I also have lots of green beans that I want to freeze. Right now, I’d be quite happy never to eat another French bean again. But I’m sure that in the middle of January I’ll get some out of the freezer and think, ‘Ooh, these are nice! Wouldn’t it be lovely to grow some beans again next year!’ and get the seed catalogues out and the whole process will begin again.

September 8, 2008 at 3:35 pm 3 comments

Garden successes and failures

Someone on SSish started this thread, and I thought I’d post it here as well so I can refer back to it more easily.

Things that have done well this year are:

cut and come again lettuces
strawberries (few and far between, but tasty)
tomatoes (so far so good)
most herbs
chillies, esp the indoor ones

Things that haven’t done so well are:

butternut squash and pumpkins – lots of flowers but no fruit, even with my hamfisted attempts to pollinate them myself
pak choi – all got slug-munched, but if I had been more assiduous with the beer traps they might have been okay
peppers – just would not grow from seed, had to buy plants (though all seem to be doing okay now)
blueberries – only one of 3 bushes flowered, but the berries on that one were yummy

I’m a bit anxious my peppers won’t ripen. Scientist Boyfriend mentioned that he saw some of those plastic mini-greenhouses in Woolworths for £5 so I might invest in some, though not unaware of the inherent contradiction of buying lots of cheap plastic things in order to free myself from the system of just buying lots of cheap plastic things. I think I also read something about needing to cut off the tops of the plants so the existing peppers can ripen, but I can’t remember where I read this or if in fact I dreamt it and it is, in fact, not true at all.

Next year: be more vigilant with slugs and research squash sex more thoroughly.

September 5, 2008 at 9:47 am 1 comment


I’m still here, but have been more than usually engaged in real life – have been doing lots of interesting things at work rather than just writing up meetings and seeing lots of uni and gap year friends, and the weather’s been lovely and amongst all that I haven’t really felt like paying too much attention to the internet, nice as it is.

I’ve been rather neglectful of my garden, however, and am now worried my potatoes have blight but I think this is unlikely to be a direct consequence of anything I have done or not done and more likely because the weather was rather damp for quite a while. We have acquired a table on which we can eat outside and most time spent in the garden is now spent drinking sauvignon blanc and eating dinner rather than digging. I’ve also managed to write, ooh, a whole page of my novel. This is progress, but only compared to what I’ve achieved in the last year.

I’ve eaten some peas and they were yummy and some new potatoes (lifted the whole crop today and they were all fine) which were quite possibly the nicest potatoes I’ve ever eaten. Two of my blueberries appear to be ripening and my bean plants are covered with mini-beans. They’re also being rather aggressive towards the peas, taking over all their stakes, as well as sending off shoots to climb the potatoes or the honeysuckle hanging over the fence from next door, and one enterprising shoot sent itself two feet into the air and, finding nothing to climb, is now climbing straight down the cane again. I’m beginning to see why the story was called ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ rather than ‘Jack and the Tomatillo’ or ‘Jack and the Pak Choi’.
I started knititng the second sock but had to unravel it and start again as it all fell off the needles and I got confused. I’ve managed to do quite a lot this week. There was an article in the Guardian about the type of people who were going to be least affected by rising inflation, and it was basically anti-social knitters who walk everywhere, but really prefer to stay at home, drink vodka and have sex rather than fly on holiday and go to the cinema.

So, that’s what I’m doing this winter then!

July 26, 2008 at 7:56 am 3 comments

Not evicted!

Well, our landlord came to inspect us yesterday. We were slightly worried what they’d make of the 5 demijohns of wine, plastic bottles full of other suspicious-looking home-brew and the sheep fleeces in the study, or whether they’d agree that ‘maintaining the character of the garden’ could accommodate the acquisition of a dalek and the depositing of wine boxes with salad in them in every available space, but Scientist Boyfriend said they were ever so impressed we were growing so much stuff and that I’d made 10 jars of jam and agreed to all our requests to tinker around with the garden and put up curtains.

So, I’m allowed to dig out the spindly-looking fern out and replace it with something. Scientist Boyfriend wants veg, I want things for bees. Or we might put some fruit bushes in, so future tenants will benefit too. We’re also allowed to put in a water butt. I wonder if this will mean we’re doomed to get no rain and thus counteract the summer-destroying effects of the garden table, or if the weather pixies will get so confused about which to avenge us for that order in the cosmos will break down…

Now I have to figure out how to turn the curtains in our cupboard into something that will fit on our window before next winter. Hmmm….

July 9, 2008 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

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Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."