Health and well being

Recently I’ve not been feeling very good. My hernia popped a few weeks ago, not because of allotment digging but whilst sitting in work. And it’s been very uncomfortable. I managed to push it back but since then everything I eat sits very heavily high in my chest and makes me feel ill. Also working shifts has played an issue as eating later in the evening is really impacting too.

So I made a decision to try something different, I’ve tried it for a week now and it’s really made a difference but also some unexpected results too.

I’ve been having a yogurt/milk fruit smoothie for breakfast, with some porridge oats and a similar smoothie in the evening, when on a late shift (approx 3 times last week) and I have felt much better. I have used different types of fruit and change the combinations to vary the flavours, colours and textures to get the most vitamins, minerals and fibre possible. I have included nuts in some and oats in others. Also I’m having regular meals on the days I am home early enough to sit and eat with the family.

I’ve never been a regular breakfast eater, but I’m not finding it a struggle to have this as I can make it as thick or thin as I wish so can drink easily or take to work and slurp slowly during the morning. Also by pulsing rather than juicing I can leave ‘bits’ so have to chew a little making it last longer and more satisfying. Before starting this I would often not have anything to eat of a morning and be really hungry and grumpy by 11 o’clock and looking forward to finishing at lunchtime to get home and eat something, usually bread based and then suffer for it. However since having these I’m not feeling hungry, probably thanks to the slow release oats, and I’m not permanently thirsty.

I used to find myself making many cups of tea or coffee a day, and evening but when I’ve had the smoothies I’m not so thirsty, and this week has been exceptionally hot.

The biggest bonus is how I feel, less bloated even after eating a ‘proper’ meal, my skin looks and feels better too and I’ve lost 4 pounds this week but feels like much more as the bloating has gone, and my clothes feel looser so clearly it is having an effect. So I’m going to continue with this for the time being.

I’ve stocked up ready for the coming week, I have bananas, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, apricots, kiwis, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, rhubarb and apples also walnuts and almonds. I’m mostly using fruit for these as I have plenty of veggies when eating my family meals. I’m hoping in the future to be using more home-grown fruit as they become available on the allotment. I have added ginger to some and honey in others, sometime just the fruit and no oats. They all have been different and I’m finding flavour combos that I like better than others but still lots to play with. I am using a natural yogurt and/or skimmed milk.

I’m going on holiday in a few weeks so any extra pounds I can lose is a bonus, especially as I’ve just bought my first ever bikini !

 

Advertisements

Finally a harvest !

I’ve been very neglectful of the allotment over the last couple of weeks due to family issues taking priority. Apart from a quick couple of visits to make sure the greenhouse is watered everything else has been mostly left alone.

Thanks to a combination of warm/hot days and rainy days the weeds have gone bonkers, so this weekend was operation weeding, feeding and getting the early potatoes out of the ground.

I started by tidying the greenhouse and pulling out suckers, chopping off lower leaves and feeding the tomatoes and aubergines (eggplants, for our American friends) and I have my first aubergine growing ! The greenhouse is looking like a jungle, again.

Every year I say I’m going to plant a few less but they still take over and fill the space.

Next job was a quick tidy of the asparagus, raspberries, beans and pumpkin beds, and it looks like we have our first pumpkins starting to set. We only grow these to carve for halloween, and these plants came from last years pumpkin seeds.

Then it was time to finally (about 2 weeks later than it should have been) to get the Charlotte potatoes out of the ground. The foliage died off a while ago so I was hoping that the potatoes would be ok as we’ve had lots of very heavy rain this year. I spent about an hour just weeding before the digging began, and I’ll be honest the first two plants gave about 4 small potatoes so I wasn’t very optimistic. However then they got bigger and bigger. They are more like baking potatoes than new potato sized but still very usable, one of the last to be dug up was the biggest and a fairly bizarre shape, which Oscar thought was hilarious. I forgot to take the trug, and had been using my bucket for the weeds so the potatoes went into a washing up bowl and filled it. A decent crop that will make plenty of meals for us.

I pulled a couple of larger spring onions and another courgette. The peas have finished now, so I’ve left a few on the plant to dry for planting next year. I have sown more carrots (fingers crossed these grow) and some pak choi in the greenhouse to keep the pigeons off them. I’ve also got a few things growing at home from seeds we bought at Chatsworth flower show, luffa and cucamelons. Both are almost at a size to go into the greenhouse and hopefully it’s not too late to get some crops from them.

Now I’m exhausted, but things are growing and we’re eating our own crops regularly, I’ve started a list of plants and varieties to grow next year. Things I’ve enjoyed, or not and I’ll be looking at trying to get some seeds ready for the next growing season.

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.

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.

IMG_1842

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.

IMG_1845

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.

IMG_1828

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.

IMG_1840

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 ?

The growing season begins.

It’s hardly felt like winter. We’ve had a few cold, snowy days but other than that the weather has been unseasonably warm. It has meant that the weeds are growing and the fish are still happily swimming around the ponds.

Over the last few months I have changed a few of the larger beds into smaller, more manageable growing spaces. So I’ve been doing some planning, ready to get growing this year. I got a lovely book for Christmas last year, Companion planting by Bob Flowerdew. I’m going to try a few of his techniques to mix the crops to maximise the space.

I’ve started with one of the permanent beds, I originally had set it up as a fruit bed, but now I’ve moved the strawberries and have planted asparagus alongside the raspberries. I bought second year crowns so hopefully will get a crop next year.

I made a list of all the veggies we enjoyed last year and new ones to try this year and have planned out the beds. I’m growing a few different things this year, and looking forward to trying some new varieties of plants we grew last year. One thing we all agreed on last year was none of us like broad beans but loved French beans,. The joy of growing your own is finding your own favourites, and not just what the supermarket has in stock.

The potatoes are chitting nicely, and the seedling are starting to sprout, some look ready to pot on already !

P1010628

The allotment beds have been fed and turned ready for the upcoming planting to begin. The flowers are starting to appear also and it will be time to start our sunflowers again, last year Oscar planted Van Gogh, these are my favourite sunflowers, a smaller variety but multi-headed and they flowered until the end of October. Here’s hoping for another sunny, happy growing year ahead.

It’s an exciting time.

This year we will be growing :

  • Asparagus – Ariane, Mondeo, Pacific 2000, Purple pacific
  • Aubergine – Black beauty
  • Beetroot – Moulin Rouge, Burpees Golden, Cylindra
  • Cabbage – Golden acre, April
  • Calabrese – Ironman, Green Calabrese
  • Carrot – Flyaway F1, Paris Market 5, Harlequin
  • Celeriac – Monarch
  • Courgette – (to be confirmed)
  • French Beans – Isabel climbing beans, Cobra climbing beans, Hilton dwarf bean
  • Kale – Dwarf green curled
  • Leek – Musselburgh
  • Pak choi – Shanghai
  • Pea – Hurst green shaft
  • Pepper – California Wonder, Colour spectrum
  • Potato – Charlotte, Albert Bartlett Rooster
  • Radish – (to be confirmed)
  • Spring onion – Lisbon
  • Sweetcorn – Lark F1 hybrid
  • Tomato – Principr Borghese
  • Turnip – Snowball, Purple top

Also we are going to plant pumpkins again for Halloween carving, I saved the seed from last years pumpkin, fingers crossed.

What are you growing ? Any tips, ideas, suggestions or varieties you recommend.

A day at the opera

I’ve always loved the ballet, the music, dance, grace and beauty but recently I’ve been seeing adverts and posters for opera performances, so for my birthday last year I was given tickets to see a filmed, live performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly from Glyndebourne.

We arrived at the beautiful Liverpool Philharmonic, and was greeted with a cold glass of Prosecco and  shown to our seats. The performance began, and from the opening of the first act to the interval everyone was mesmerised.

The costumes, stage settings, music and singing were beautiful. It was simply stunning. The performers were perfectly cast, Lieutenant Pinkerton had a very American soldier look, the marriage broker was very slimey, Cio-Cio San, the Geisha (Butterfly) had so much emotion, it was wonderful. Although I’ve never seen either this or Miss Saigon before I was aware of the story, and whilst it was sung in traditional Italian we did have the benefit of English subtitles.

During the interval we had a choice of a staying and having the full Glyndebourne experience with an indoor picnic or could venture out. We chose to pop across the road to an Italian restaurant and had an Italian Antipasto and Arrabbiata prawns with flat bread. It was delicious.

Then back for Acts 2 and 3, again the acting, singing and emotion was breathtaking. The lady next to me didn’t know the story and was very grateful when I handed her a tissue near the end. The experience was something I am looking forward to repeating, and will try at some point this year to see a live performance.

I would say, for anyone unsure about ballet, opera or even classic theatre the live screenings are a great introduction, especially for children. You get a look backstage, some insight into the production, cast, characters and story line.

A little about me …

There are often these lists floating about on social media, and usually I don’t complete them, but love reading people’s answers, you learn surprising facts about people you think you know quite well.

I thought it would be a good way for you to learn a little about me.

  • Who are you named after : I am named after an elderly lady my mum knew. Unfortunately just after I was named the Gilbert O’Sullivan song – Clare was released and it became a hugely popular name. Personally I don’t like it, but not sure what I would prefer to be called. 
  • What is your favourite meal : I enjoy flavoursome food, strange thing to say but let me explain. I love chilli, ginger and garlic. I love Indian, Italian, and Thai food. Well cooked, well seasoned food. I can’t abide coriander, lemongrass and mashed potato. 
  • What is your favourite smell : I love the smell of newly cut grass, of lavender in the garden, lilies and tomatoes in the greenhouse, but my most favourite smell is my freshly showered boy snuggled up next to me watching tv. 
  • What was your favourite holiday : A difficult question to answer, I’ve been very lucky to visit some wonderful places and many I would love to return to for various reasons, but there are so many places still to visit. However there are two places that I will definitely return to again, India and Italy. I love India and have been a few times, the last time I was 6 weeks pregnant. The people, food and country are amazing, so many temples, shrines, cities, and beaches to see. Italy is beautiful, and where I was married. A country of historic cities, Rome, Milan, Venice, Verona, and my favourite Florence.
  • What is your favourite book, author and/or genre : I’ve always loved thrillers and horrors, Stephen King is still a firm favourite but over the last couple of years I’ve discovered Liane Moriarty, I’m not sure what genre these books would fall into but she is a wonderful storyteller with characters full of warmth and life. I have laughed and cried during these books, they leave you feeling like you’ve made some new friends and wanting to know them more. 
  • What is your favourite ice cream flavour : I love a really good vanilla ice cream, a honeycomb, last year I had a gorgeous rhubarb and ginger. 
  • What was the last movie you watched : Aquaman (in the cinema) and all the Spiderman films (not my choice – at home) 
  • What is one thing you like about yourself : I’m a caring person and will try and help anyone, if I’m able, or get help and advice when I can’t help directly. 
  • If you were a crayon what colour would you be : Without doubt I would be purple.
  • What is your hair colour : Light brown, with lots of  hidden grey (with help).
  • What is your eye colour : Brown 
  • Coffee or tea : I discovered a few months ago Moroccan mint tea in a restaurant, they make it themselves, after chatting with the owner she gave me the name of a few brands that have a similar one, my favourite is Tea People Moroccan mint, its a loose leaf tea so you can add as much as you wish to make it weaker or stronger. I’m avoiding coffee, only because I prefer it  with sugar and am trying to be good.

So that’s a little about me. Anything else you’d like to know feel free to ask, however I reserve the right not to answer…