Wednesday 23 August 2017

Allotment update - August 2017

Isn't time going quickly? I have been convinced for some time that someone is in fact meddling with time - one minute you are planting seedlings out and the next minute you are pulling up the beetroot! I did read that "subjective time" is to do with the number of new experiences we have - an exciting trip somewhere new flies by but a slow afternoon with not much to do drags on. Watching the clock doesn't help either....

Anyway, so much for a brief history of time, what's been going on in the allotment?

This is the first year we have grown gherkins - and the way things are going we might not have to grow them for a couple of years, there's only so many that you can pickle and eat!

This is just one batch!

There's just three plants,  happy in an unheated lean-to greenhouse.

Two methods of preserving have been used, cold pickling - the uncooked gherkins put into spiced vinegar (quick fix as we went away the next day) and the other, more traditional method I think, of boiling the gherkins for 8-10 minutes and then putting in the jars, and pouring spiced vinegar on top, then sealing etc.The latter will last longer than the former.

This is just for one meal, midweek, with pie from the local butchers (and I mean local - just round the corner from the house and the meat for the pies from 3 miles or so away!)

The courgettes have gone a bit mad, we're giving them away! And the carrots, well - see below!

Beetroot have been really good this year as well, not bolted at all, though I would imagine that it is time soon to pickle some.

This photo was taken a few weeks ago - now you can't even see the tyres! This year there are three tyre stacks (again a bit of recycling - some from the local garage who are only too glad for them to go, and three from being dumped in the countryside nearby)

In Spring - weeds go in the bottom of the stack, followed by old compost from pots, window boxes and the like, and then fresh compost for the top layer. As the carrots are at waist height there is no danger from carrot fly and the tyres keep the carrots warm right into the winter.

And finally....

This is what happens when a potato happens to grow round some stones, reminds me of the Wrong Trousers in the Wallace and Gromit film of the same name!

Sunday 11 June 2017

Your environment needs you!

Even in the most built up suburbs, we all have some connection with the environment. Whether this is a few street trees, a small park, window boxes or bird feeders on a balcony, it is still a connection, a chance for wildlife and fauna to exist and to flourish.

Much has been written about the benefits of having trees in built up areas, they absorb CO2 and pollution, they act as shade and mitigate the heat effect of the city environment, they will support some form of other life, even it is just a few sparrows and invertebrates. And yet, for some, they are inconvenient, too hard to maintain, to mow around. Sheffield City Council and Amey PLC are chopping down large numbers of trees against local wishes in Sheffield and campaigns such as @thesadsquirrel on Twitter among others are fighting to try and save them. Some of these trees even act as memorials to soldiers lost in the world wars, but this doesn't seem to be enough to spare them.

And now, we have as Environment Secretary here in the UK a man who regards wildlife and environmental laws as inconvenient, who is completely unprepared and unqualified to do this job. The Government itself is prepared to do deals with a political party who (among many other controversial policies) has climate change deniers and creationists among its MPs!

So, what to do? There are plenty of organisations who are prepared to stand up for nature, for the environment, to campaign against destructive policies, actions and developments. Everyone canm write to their MP about issues in the local area and online petitions can be promoted to garner widespread support. Any MP wishes to keep their seat, especially at the moment with such a fluid and evenly balanced situation in Parliament, and enough local opposition to a proposal will cause them to take notice, especially in marginal constituencies. Collective. focused action can work, and even direct protests, done in the right way, can have an effect on public opinion and those in power.

We can also get involved, with volunteering, donations to wildlife and environmentally friendly organisations, to enable them to do projects to protect species, habitats, to lobby and campaign and for collective action. Each of us can some something positive directly for nature, from a bird feeder, a patch of wildflowers in a garden, plants good for pollinators (though do be careful and have a look at the work of Dave Gouldson on supposedly bee-friendly flowers on sale in certain stores), leaving a pile of twigs in a corner for a hedgehog to make its home, or a patch of nettles or buddleia for butterflies.

On a wider scale, we can change travelling habits, not quite as easy as it sounds sometimes, local public transport can sometimes be expensive or infrequent or not convenient to get to work. Changing to a more fuel efficient car, or if affordable an electric one. In the house we can use energy efficiently, recycle as much as possible and choose products that minimize impact on the environment and wildlife. Again, not easy sometimes and making certain choices may be difficult for some. But most people are in reach of a store with local produce, or a market, or can choose produce as local as possible from the supermarket where possible. Or grow your own! Even in a flat, like my grandparents were 10 floors up, you can grow tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers!

The message is, don't give up, keep looking at ways to change habits and purchasing in favour of the environmental benefit, and do the best you can under whatever circumstances you find yourself financially and physically.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Our friendly blackbird

On all four sides of the allotment are hedges now with a mixed cotoneaster, holly, hawthorn,bramble, rosehip and some other bushes I can't name at the top end (one of which has beautiful yellow flowers), and also a hazelnut tree filling in a gap on one side and privet/hawthorn around the rest.
Last year, we had a blackbird nest in one hedge, the sparrows in the middle of the hawthorn at the top and a robin nesting in the hazelnut tree.

Not quite as busy this year, sparrows down the bottom and a blackbird nest at one side. Now, there were a pair of blackbirds early on going into the hedge but of late, since the chick has left the hedge, it only seems to be the male that is feeding the fledgling.

Here's the fledgling, as is usual with young birds they just sit around look very sorry for themselves and a little bit helpless, but of course it is better to leave them alone for their parent to find them. As happened in this case, the male blackbird came and worked its way down the allotment making a gentle calling note until eventually the little one caught sight of it and clumsily flew into the damson tree to have a catch up with Dad!

Around the allotments at least one other blackbird pair have nested, there was a young mistle thrush this evening (last year both mistle and song thrushes fledged young, as well as dunnocks, and robins and maybe a pair of linnets that hung around from Spring).

The swifts are whizzing around as well now, from just 5 two nights ago to 9 last night and now 25+. Some house martins around as well but for swallows you have to go to the next villages and for sand martins down to the river. No bats yet, there's usually at least one or two as it goes dark down the allotment path.

Monday 8 May 2017

When last season still hasn't finished..

One of the rather pleasing inconveniences of growing your own is when a particular vegetable produces for so long that it takes up space that is needed for next season's vegetables! This is what has happened with the purple broccoli, which has still been producing right up until now. 

Also shown are some of the asparagus spears we have been growing, as with all asparagus plants it can only be cut for 4-5 weeks to avoid weakening the plant too much so it is very much a crop of late April-May and a very time limited treat!
Here is one of the purple broccoli plants. This patch is actually needed for this year's potatoes, some of which have been put in where the broccoli isn't (with protection on more than one night against frost damage!). Normally we let the broccoli go to flowers to help pollinators at this time of year but this year it is coming straight up after going to flowers so that more potatoes (Sarpo Mira, Desiree, Red Duke of York) can go in.