A busy week

Things have been very busy this week, we’ve had family issues to deal with, car problems, work and inconsistent weather so the allotment has been very neglected. Apart from a good soaking in the greenhouse on Monday I’ve not been near until today. I felt very guilty, especially when I saw the weeds, but they’ll have to wait until another day.

All I did was give everything a good water and feed the things that needed it and harvest a few bits for Sunday lunch.

However the things that made me smile with joy are the flowers, mostly bulbs and plants that I put in last year, again they’ve been a little neglected but they are all the better for it.

The wine was a gift from my plot neighbour for looking after his plot a few weeks ago whilst he was on holiday.

I hope my beautiful flowers have made you smile too.

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A sad time for the family

The last few months haven’t been very kind to our family.  In October last year my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it’s one of the most aggressive cancers and very difficult to treat if found in the late stages. The signs make it difficult to diagnose early too, abdomen or back pain, sudden onset diabetes, sudden weight loss and appetite loss, nausea and vomiting, itchy skin and dark urine. You may have some, all or only one of these symptoms, generally it is found when being treated or investigated for other problems. Unfortunately my uncle was stage 4 and due to how aggressive this cancer is, even with 12 weeks of chemotherapy it spread to multiple organs and he lost his brave battle in February.

Shortly after this my other uncle had a fluke accident, he fell from the emergency exit of a coach, around 15 ft high onto a concrete floor and broke 17 bones and punctured both lungs. Thankfully he wasn’t alone and emergency services were there very quickly and after a couple of weeks in intensive care he was moved into a rehab ward. He was doing really well and was up and about quite quickly, thankfully he’s always been very active so this helped with his recovery. He had a slight relapse with a bout of pneumonia, but this was to be expected after his lungs had taken a bit of a beating. He is now home and still has a way to go but getting around well and even been back to work a few hours.

In April my auntie was taken into hospital, also with pneumonia, and after a few weeks backwards and forwards, with various problems she came home and seemed to be doing well. Then last weekend we got the worst phone call any family could ever have. She had taken bad overnight on the Friday and lost her battle on Saturday morning. Personally I think she was just too tired to carry on the fight. Over the years she has battled everything, breast cancer on both sides, both knees replaced, one twice, her shoulder needed replacing, she had a lot of lymph nodes removed and all the time she worked full-time, six days a week. She was self-employed so quite often she was back in work within days of being out of hospital, not the best way to recuperate and probably didn’t help. She was one of the funniest, craziest people (every family has one) and she always made a family get-together great fun. She will be missed very much, but we have lots of funny stories and know that she’s no longer in pain and actually passed very peacefully.

It has given us all a great shock but also made us all realise life has to be lived to the full. Both her and my uncle gave everything to life, and both lived it to the full.

Please if you have any signs or symptoms as described above then go and see your doctor, better to be checked than leave things too late.

 

Harvesting and Growing

Finally the rain has stopped ! woo hoo…. the sun has arrived and brought all the slugs, snails and weeds with it.

I have had to harvest all the garlic, very early as it was so wet and all the foliage was dying back very quickly, so leaving it any longer would have been a disaster and probably rotted away. It’s very mixed results, we either have small but perfectly split bulbs or single mono-bulbs. None of it is very big but at least we have saved it and will have enough to keep us going for a few months.

The onions seem to be doing fine and are bulking out well, especially the red ones, and I have finally mastered the art of growing spring onions, and we have eaten quite a few already with still plenty to go. The strawberries are fruiting and ripening faster than we can eat them, everyone (except me) is loving them, I’m loving the raspberries. These tiny plants are producing the sweetest fruit and just enough for me … sssshhh don’t tell.

I had a chat with my neighbour about the artichokes and he gave me a few to try, although I never got chance as my auntie pinched them from me ! There are still lots and he said I can help myself, as long as I leave a few for the bees. Sounds fair to me.

I’m still getting regular pickings from the rhubarb and am taking the larger radishes each time to thin them out and it seems to be working well. The potatoes are doing well and soon we will be pulling the early Charlotte’s.

Some things seem a ways behind this year, we had already had our first crop of broccoli by this time last year but this year they are only just starting to bud. Also I’m now on my fourth sowing of beans, thanks to the rain and pigeons, I’m not hopeful of any this year, which will be very disappointing as they were my favourites last year. However the peas are doing really well, the plants haven’t grown particularly tall but are covered in pods and flowers.

The greenhouse is growing well, mostly, the tomatoes are flowering and the peppers are both flowering and fruiting. I’ve gone with mainly sweet peppers this year and only two hot chilli plants, the opposite of last year. We had so many chilli plants last year that we are still using the dried chillies and will have enough to last most of this year also (and we use a fair amount), I’m not sure what is chomping on the aubergine leaves but it’s growing steadily so fingers crossed.

 

Finally, I took the plunge and put in the new pond, it’s not finished but it looks good and with a few buckets of water from an established pond has really helped to get it up and running. I’ve started planting around but need to work more on the edging and planting in the pond itself. The other ponds have plenty of wildlife, including some tiny frogs and the planting is really starting to establish and fill out. It’s looking really pretty with lots of flowers.

I hope your gardens are growing well and you are enjoying your outdoor space.

A noisy problem

I love having birds in the garden and we’ve always done everything we can to encourage them, feed stations, bird bath and plenty of shrubs and bushes for them to hide and nest in. However this year we have an issue, a very noisy issue.

At the front of the house we have six foot high hedges, a holly tree and a conifer and usually its a harmonious place filled with cheeps and tweets from various babies, that was until a couple of magpies arrived. They decided to build a nest in the holly tree and have caused mayhem ever since. First they chased the blackbirds out of the hedges and into the conifer, which was going well until a very windy storm and we found two blackbird babies, much too young to fledge, on the floor at the base of the tree. The parents quickly decamped and set up home at the back of the house and are successfully and peacefully raising the next brood.

Next it was the wood pigeons and jays, both of which used to visit morning and evening but have given up fighting their way to the food whilst being bombarded by screeching and flapping. Although occasionally the jay ventures to the back of the house for food.

Now it’s the humans, we live on a main, busy road and during the day it’s not as much of an issue (I think the magpies must be getting their beauty sleep then) but from around 10 at night all hell breaks loose. Anyone dares to walk along the road gets screeched at from the top of the holly. Unfortunately some of the local cats have also joined in and have now taken to sitting at the bottom of the tree. They don’t do anything other than sit there but the cawing and screeching is so loud and can go on for hours.

I have been out in the garden at ‘stupid o’clock’ in my pyjama’s shouting at them to shut up and chasing the cats away. I was wondering what the neighbours thought if they saw me, but then a couple of nights ago whist opening the window to see what was causing that night’s noisy outburst, I spotted the neighbour in his garden, pj’s and slippers waving a newspaper around and telling the magpies, in very clear language, what he would do to them if they didn’t shut up !

Thankfully all the rain we have had recently has really settled them down, although I think it might just be the lack of cats and people around. Fingers crossed the noisy critters have given up their torment and will let us all sleep peacefully at night.

A cheeky weekend away

A few weeks ago we noticed an advert in the newspaper for a weekend break, which included a visit to the RHS flower show at Chatsworth. It was a really good deal, so we phoned up expecting it to be fully booked but no, they had a few spaces remaining. Oscar was all set to be away for the weekend too so it fell perfectly for us.

Early on Saturday morning we arrived at the coach stop to be greeted by a very funny driver and a lovely, comfortable coach. After a couple of stops to collect more people we were  on our way. The weather wasn’t the best, cloudy and drizzly most of the time travelling, however by the time we arrived at our scheduled visit, Stratford-upon-Avon it had stopped and the sun was trying to make an appearance. We had four hours to explore, so first we had a walk around the historic streets.

After our stroll we took a cruise along the River Avon, it was sunny and warm. We were given a map and audio guide to hear more information on the sights along the way.

Then it was back onto the coach for a short trip to the hotel for the evening, Jury’s Inn near Leicester. We were being housed in B wing, we all pointed out it sounded like prison, and judging by the look the staff gave us it wasn’t the first time they had heard this ! The room was not prison like, it was huge, we had a double bed each.

The evening meal was decent, the beds very comfortable and breakfast was lovely. Then back onto the coach for a 9am departure. Stephen, the driver, was excellent and we arrived at Chartsworth house at 10.25, five minutes early.

And then the fun and excitement began…

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We walked round all the stalls, chatting to people and getting ideas for things to make and do.

Then onto the floral marquee to find new favourites and pick up some plants and seeds to bring home. The scent in this tent was amazing, and without being there you can’t really explain it. heady, at times overwhelming, sometimes subtle. The thing that struck me most was being able to pick out the different scents from different flowers. The colours and blooms were stunning, and I took lots of photos of plant labels and have copied them into my allotment book with descriptions of the type, height and spread of each plant.

We had a look around the beekeepers tent and then sat down near the river for a glass of Pimms and listen to the band playing on the field.

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Lastly we wandered around the show gardens, they are a lot smaller than I expected, however it’s good to see what can be achieved in such a small space, as most people don’t have huge gardens and some of the ideas can easily be used on the allotment too.

I had a chat with some vegetable growers and after tasting a couple of things and seeing some interesting plants I came home with only two packets of seeds.

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I’ve already sown a couple of these and am excited to see what happens.

Allotment update

The weather is driving me mad ! It was so hot and sunny and I’ve had a few busy weekends so I’m trying to get to the allotment in between work hours during the week but it keeps raining, sigh, however I have discovered that I’m not the only person who allotments in the rain, it was lovely to see a friendly face and enjoy a warming cup of coffee and chat in the shed.

The tomatoes have finally perked up and after a feed have had a growth spurt as have the peppers, some even have flowers starting to appear, although the aubergine is very disappointing. I’m even debating removing it, maybe a job for next week ….

The sweetcorn has also filled out and is doing really well and now has a pumpkin friend growing, although I’m not going down the three sisters route as I’ve heard the beans can be a nuisance to the corn once they start growing up and wrapping around. I have a fixed bean frame which is currently housing a lot of very happy peas, some have even started to flower. The beans haven’t done very well, a combination of cold and slugs, hopefully they will start to shoot up once the weather warms up a little more.

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The broccoli and kale is booming, in fact it’s doing so well I’ve had to raise the netting a couple of times over the last two weeks. The leeks have settled well and have had a good weeding and look happy, as do the parsnips although I can’t say the same for the carrots. I planted three varieties in different areas but have around 10 carrots growing in total. The beets, radish, pak choi and turnips never fail and need thinning out a little and covering to avoid the dreaded pigeons eating them all !

The courgettes are starting to produce fruit, this year I’ve only planted two as I learnt the hard way last year just how many fruit they can produce. However I have made a slight error with pumpkins this year and currently have seven, yes you read that right, seven growing very happily, after I planted four seeds and nothing happened for a month, I planted another four, I didn’t get to the allotment for ten days and bingo, seven happy pumpkin plants. I’ve moved one into a space with the sweetcorn but the others I have left and they have a fair amount of space to ramble. I’m not doing butternut squash this year, thankfully.

The fruit bushes are coming along nicely, the raspberries have a few berries as do the gooseberries, they are still very young, small bushes so even a small crop is very satisfying to see. The strawberries are covered and some of them are huge, again the birds and I are fighting over these gorgeous juicy fruits. The pear tree needs to be thinned but I’m going to leave it until the end of June to see if any drop naturally. The newly planted blackberry bushes have really shot up and have had to be tied up.

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The sunflowers have gone missing again ! I noticed whilst I was there in the rain the last few days that there are a lot of slugs and I’m not very happy that the frogs aren’t doing a better job, I really don’t want to use pellets so might have to invest in a few traps.

Phil’s rose is blooming and looks beautiful. It’s still only a small rosebush but has the biggest yellow flowers with red tips. On a grey day it really stands out, like his beautiful smile always did.

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The compost area had spilled out, the front board had come loose a month or so ago and with everything needing to be planted out, it was left to it’s own devices and I finally got round to sorting it out and we had a lovely surprise underneath. Our first crop of the year, potatoes, enough to keep our family of four supplied with three meals.

My allotment is a really big space, it measures 110ft long by 15ft wide (33.5m by 4.5m), not including the shed and greenhouse so has lots of growing area, we still have two full beds covered and unused plus a smaller bed covered. I’m thinking of creating another pond area in this smaller bed as it’s at the opposite end to the others and will hopefully help with slug population down here. I’ve bought a liner to make a shallower, smaller pond than the others, no fish but hopefully plenty of other wildlife and plenty of planting around and in it. But that’s a job for another day.

I bought myself a present, a new 25m hosepipe and reel with 7 setting spray nozzle. The old one didn’t have a reel and it had also sprung a few leaks, even the repairs had leaks. I have used a long piece from the old pipe to run from the tap to the reel and then can use the new hose to cover almost the entire plot, if I need to top up the ponds or water the flower area I can use the smaller piece from the tap at the other end of the plot. It’s so much better and much easier to pack away.

My only other possible plans are to create a herb bed, as I only have thyme and rosemary at the moment. Also my neighbour has a huge artichoke plant, which has lots of globe artichokes on it. I’ve dropped a few, very subtle, hints that I’ve never eaten one, he harvests most of them but always leaves a couple for the bees. So I’m tempted to plant one, if I don’t like it then all is not lost as the wildlife will be happy.

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All the basics are covered and growing but I’m looking for suggestions for what to grow or do in these two remaining beds, approximately each about 15ft by 15ft, so a decent size. What do you think, any suggestions welcomed ?

Patterns

I seem to be surrounded by number patterns. I wake during the night and look at the clock to see 12:34, and quite a few times in work I’ve looked at the computer and seen the same time too. I’ve regularly picked my phone up, or seen a clock showing the time is 11:11 or 1:11

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Yesterday we went out for the day. I bought a parking ticket which expired at 18:31 and as we arrived back at the car I took my phone out of my pocket and it was 18:31, even Oscar was impressed by this.

It’s such a strange feeling as it’s not just once or twice but happens on a regular basis, some days it gives me a comforting feeling but other times it creeps me out.

Have you ever noticed patterns like this around you ? How does it make you feel ?