Allotmentation, allotmenteering…??

So, I’m now an allotment holder. But I’m unclear on the terminology. Does that make me an Allotmenter, an Allotmentist, an Allotment Practitioner, or something I’ve not yet thought of? I’m sure I’ll have many more questions over the coming months (and years, if I manage to keep the Allotmentation going). The burning issue, though, is one which worries me on a daily basis.

Bodily functions.

It is a well known fact that the majority of Allotmentists are men. As such, they have (literally) a built in advantage in that they are able to ‘pee on the move’ with minimal need for preparation or forethought. However, how do Allotmentationers of the female variety get by? So far, I’ve held it in until I’ve got home. My allotment, you see, is not of the upmarket variety with toilets provided, and we are surprisingly short of bushes behind which one might achieve a certain  degree of privacy (except for clumps of stinging nettles, and I’ve never been the most daring thrillseeker in the world). So really, how do I cope? Men are advised to pee on their compost heaps, to encourage faster biodegrading of the ‘organic matter’, but it would take a far more brazen spirit than I to climb up and then squat upon the heap of horse manure which passes, at present, as my compost heap.

As far as I can see it, I have a couple of options. 1. Develop greater bladder strength (although I do pretty well, especially after two children!). 2. Build myself a small cubicle over part of a compost heap, to use as an open air toilet. 3. Buy my shed, put up curtains and buy a Shewee. Then discreetely dispose of contents of bottle onto compost heap in nonchalant manner.

Decisions, decisions. As you can tell, this issue has been occupying my mind for some weeks now, and I still haven’t reached a satisfactory conclusion! It’s all very well if I were gardening in a remote field with only cows or sheep for company. But allotmenteering with many gentlemen around, only two of whom were my side of sixty, makes the issue somewhat more difficult to resolve.

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Small steps to home grown produce

I’ve taken the first small steps towards starting to use my allotment today. I’ve bought a hoe, a pair of gardening gloves and some bulbs of garlic to plant! I also made a list of what I want to grow, and got it into some sort of plan so that I know which ones need to be planted first.

This month I need to clear the weeds that have accumulated since the last occupier used the plot last year, prune the gooseberry bushes, mark the sections of the plot so that I remember whiat goes where, apply for permission to put up a shed, lay some paving stones at one end, get a compost bin, plant garlic, plant rhubarb and order seed potatoes, fruit canes and asparagus crowns to plant in the coming weeks. Not much happening, really!

We got the allotment!

I rang and made an appointment to view our potential allotment this morning, and by lunchtime I had signed the allotment agreement! I’ll have to wait a couple of days for a key to the entrance gate of the allotments, but other than that, I’m in! Hopefully next week I can make a bit of a start on preparing the ground for my crops (I do feel grown up writing that!).

Our plot is long and narrow (83’x14′) and goes down as far as that bit of corrugated metal you can see. Apparently it was worked up until last year, so the weeds are probably quite superficial. We’ve got a couple of gooseberry bushes already, as well as sage, mint and something else I can’t remember! This was originally only half of the plot, but was split into mine and the one next door in order to try to reduce the waiting list (apparently there are still 43 people waiting for a plot in this allotment alone!). Slightly unfortunately, the other half of the plot is where the shed was, so I’ll have to provide my own. However, on the bright side, I’ve got the big poles half way down my plot which will be brilliant to hold up my runner beans and sweet peas. There’s already a decent boardwalk down the left hand side, and a rough path made mainly of old carpet down the right which I hope to straighten soon (its wonkiness bothers me!).

This year, this nearest bit of the plot will have my potatoes. Then will come my miscellaneous bits and pieces before the beanpoles. Then a patch for my brassicas, and then at the far end my fruit patch will be started.

You can better see the bottom end of my patch in this picture.

Another thing I hope to get done soon is a better visual indication of where my plot ends. I’m not sure whether to go for solid fencing (probably just random bits of wood etc) or whether to use plants as borders, like lavendar etc. I’ll think that through while I make a start on my fruit patch. And, I hope that we get some more days like this when I come to start work, as it was a lovely bright day (if a little chilly!) which would be much better for my spirits than having to lift unwanted grass in drizzle!

Green fingers (or not!)

Exciting news! I had a note through my door today, inviting me to make an appointment to view a plot at our local allotment, with the possibility of being able to rent the plot! Yay! Please keep your fingers crossed for us, that this plot will be in good condition and in a good position!

If we get the plot, I’ll be hoping and praying for a better summer than we’ve enjoyed the last couple of years, so that I get a chance to actually plant some fruit and veg!

Updates as and when I know more…

Sowing and sewing!

Bank holiday weekend turned out to be very relaxing and generally lovely. Yesterday I had a trip to Llantwit Major with my friend Maria to visit her grandparents – too rainy for any photos, I’m afraid, but I’ll definitely take some to share next time I go.

Today was another lovely day. Dad took Mum and I to the supermarket to do our grocery shopping, as I’ve lent my car to a friend for a few days. Then, he took me back to their house and fed me lunch. This left me with plenty of spare time, and so I took the opportunity to make a cover for a notebook I recently bought. Soon, I’ll be going on holiday for a week, and I always like to have a notebook with me, to keep journal entries, record where I’ve been and generally use it as a memory nudger for when I get home! However, I thought that this year I’d quite like to take a pretty book, which would be especially for holidays. I also wanted one with incorporated a pen or pencil as I have a really bad habit of losing them with alarming regularity, but notebooks like this are both hard to find and then costly when you do find them. And then came the idea for a book cover.

I had a couple of fat quarters lolling around at home generally being less than useful, so I press-ganged them into this project. I bought a cheap hard backed notebook from Tesco, and a new pen (only a cheap one, but I intend for it to live with this book and never leave its side!), made a pattern, and produced this cover;

holiday journal

The photo’s not great, as I just took a picture of it on my lap, but you get the general gist of it. The green part on the spine is the pen holder, and you can just see the pen poking out of the top of it if you look closely. Inside the front cover, I’ve put a small pocket;

inside journal

I thought that this could be a good idea to keep tickets from day trips etc, ready to put in my memory box when I get home. Perhaps I’ll publish another hand-written post, from this journal, after my holiday. The last one attracted a great deal of interest, at any rate.

Anyway, I digress. Apart from my book (which I’m very pleased with – all girly and holiday-ey!) I’ve made another three and a half jars of dandelion jam. I boiled it for a lot longer this time, and I think it has set better than last time. However, next time I make any I’m considering mixing it with apple in order to help with the setting – there’s obviously very little pectin in the dandelions (wouldn’t really expect much, if you think it through!) and so it can use all the help it can get! I do use specific jam sugar, but I really think that either added pectin or apples will be the way forward for my next batch.

Also, my first lot of seedlings is coming up well on my kitchen window.

sweetcorn seedlings

My cucumbers and leeks are looking good, and as you can see, the sweetcorn are thriving in their current position – long may it last! I’ve got tomato and pepper seeds germinating at the moment, although they were only planted a few days ago so I’ve got a wait before they’re anywhere near this big! I think I saw a pair of seed leaves poking out of one of my pepper pots this morning though, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there’ll be more to see tomorrow!

And so that, together with a Thai vegetable curry which I made for dinner this evening, has been my day. Busy, but in quite a nice, relaxing sort of a way!

A novice gardener!

I’ve never been the most enthusiastic horticulturalist, but recently, encouraged by Jo‘s enthusiasm to start a vegetable garden, and by my own desire to both save money and provide good food for my family, I’ve been trying to learn a little more about growing my own vegetables and fruit. Well, this week, as I’ve been able to spend more time at the farm than usual, I’ve taken the opportunity to really get on with our vegetable garden that we are establishing up there.

Yesterday was a hard day. I was digging up a piece of lawn (which had at least been mostly cleared by the pigs) to prepare it for planting part of the vegetable patch. As I’ve not had my laptop with me at the farm, I took a notepad and have been writing posts longhand, to copy out when I got home. Yesterday, I tried to write a post after I’d finished digging for the day, but I was far too tired and muscle sore to compose full sentences. I was going to try to make sense of the bits and pieces for you, but have decided that it would be far more illuminating if I just wrote down exactly what I came out with yesterday!

Weak wrists; enthusiasm, not strength; overestimating ability; unfit; tired; wobbly, digging; heavy soil; clumpy, stony, long roots; so peaceful it’s hard to be energetic; Distant sound of the road overshadowed by birdsong and panting dog; hedonistic pleasure; self-indulgent; still wobbly arm muscles – effort to hold pencil!

There you are. That’s yesterday’s post for you!

Today went much better. I did a bit more digging and then actually got round to planting some potatoes. I found it all very exciting, as I’ve never grown my own potatoes before. I can’t wait for the shoots to appear! But to the photos;

trench

This was my first trench that I’ve ever dug – I’m very impressed by its (nearly) straightness! (The string was leaning to the left a little in the breeze, by the way!)

sticks

These are my ingenious twelve and eighteen inch measuring sticks that I made in order to measure out the ocrrect distance between potatoes and rows!

potatoes in trench

My first trench, with my first ever planted potatoes! These are second earlies (whatever that actually means other than they harvest earlier than the later ones!) and I did the whole ‘choosing the two best shoots’ bit, although I did have to phone Mum to find out which way up they should go!

potato patch

Et voila, my patch at the end of today. Five rows (approximately fourteen or fifteen feet long) planted up with an assortment of potatoes! Also, please notice the neat edging of stones! This is to facilitate Jo’s weeding, as she is a self confessed ‘novicer novice’ than me at all of this, and so with this edging I’m able to say “grass inside stones bad, outside stones good”! I’m looking forward to the whole patch being planted, and am eager to get on with a little more. This is dangerously addictive!