Sunday, 16 December 2012

Festive Pumpkin Chutney

Chutney decanting, in moody black and white.
As I'm tapping this out, the windows in our flat are steamed up and the place is full of the smell of spices and sugar; that's right, we've been on the chutney again. We have been meaning to make up a batch to give jars of as part of Christmas presents, using one of the pumpkins that we harvested back at the end of September.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sunny Sunday stroll to the plot

Inspecting the fence
A gorgeous Sunday today, so despite not really planning to do any great amount of work we headed down the plot to take compost own and check on the fence progress. Happily, Tom has been busy and it's nearly done. Looks great, just makes the rest of the plot look a bit shabby by comparison.

We planted a few daffodil bulbs that had been hanging around.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Restaurant Review: Mannaza, Newcastle

The thrill of the grill, or some such other rubbish pun
What’s all this then? I thought this was a blog about an allotment? Yes, well, so did I, but seeing as we eat out a reasonable amount and I do enjoy prattling on about restaurants I thought I’d put up some resultant thoughts about where we’ve been. Moreover, we probably don’t go to enough restaurants to warrant a blog just for writing about them, and I couldn’t think of a name for a North East based restaurant blog that appealed enough anyway. “Beyond the Stottie” was as close as I got. Awful, eh?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Weird and wonderful plants under threat

Bird of Paradise plant
Some less than happy news from the horticultural world: I nipped from having a look at the fine construction job being done on our fence yesterday to a meeting at Moorbank Botanical Gardens which is just round the corner from our allotments. Newcastle University has decided not to renew the lease on the Gardens which has placed their future in jeopardy. You can read a piece about it on Sky Tyne and Wear here, and another in the Chronicle about the meeting here. I attended a session about marketing and fundraising ideas in a future apart from the University and then had a walk round the Gardens to have a look at some of the amazing and interesting plants they house.

Causing o' fence!

Our allotment's front door. No tipping, alright?
Not much going on in terms of gardening for us this weekend. We're waiting for onions and garlic to sprout, there's some tidying up to be getting on with, but not enough for it to seem worthwhile to go out and get wet and cold in weather like that which we've had this weekend. However, don't think for a minute that the allotment excitement stops with the gardening, no sir. Kasia took a wander down on Saturday and - drumroll - our new fence has started to go up!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Last of the turds, and the smallest vineyard in the world

Ooo, what a lovely day!
Well, the manure pile is no more. About this time last year we took delivery of four tonnes of the stuff, and we've been slowly adding it to newly dug-over patches ever since. The last of it went on today. All sections of the plot , apart from a few bits that still need tidying, are either now planted with something, or covered, awaiting the spring, which is quite smug-inducing.

Recipe: Chinese Style Knackered Sweetcorn Soup

Rescued corn
Since we harvested the underdeveloped cobs of corn  from our sweetcorn plants nearly a month ago, they've sat in a cupboard awaiting instruction. The need to do something with them became a bit more urgent yesterday when I noticed fluffy growths of mould growing over some of the cobs. Most of the cobs were retrievable; the smallest ones were like baby corn and I chopped the whole things up. I stripped the corn off the larger ones, it came away quite easily. If you don't have any knackered old sweetcorn for this recipe, I'm sure fresh stuff would be just as good...

Parsnip harvest, and help from a mercenary digmaster

newcastle blog
The leaf-strewn path to the patch
A fine day followed a soggy evening in Newcastle yesterday, making for good conditions in which to continue the slow work of tidying up and preparing the ground for next year's planting. Except that actually, the work done yesterday wasn't so slow at all, thanks to the phenomenal digging abilities of Kasia's mum, who visited to help us out/ put us to shame. All the remaining un-manured sections of the plot, both on our side and Toni's were dug over and most of the final dregs of the manure we acquired last year were spread over them. Today we'll get them covered up to suppress the weeds until spring.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Planting out, feeling grim

allotment blog
Long shadows as the mercury sinks
We staggered down to the plot on Sunday after an evening of making very generous and fulsome tributes at the temple of Bacchus, feeling none too great. This has, at least for me, become a bit of a regular weekenderly routine. The existential woe and grim foreboding that comes with any hangover worthy of the name is definitely ameliorated slightly by spending time around food that you have grown yourself.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Snow melts and alliums in!

Splitting cloves
We had been starting to fret about our order of over-wintering onions and garlic arriving from Thompson and Morgan, thinking that with the nights darkening and the clocks about to go back, time was running out to  get the blighters in the ground. I think in television they call this kind of thing "jeopardy". Just when I was getting ready to ask to cancel the order, up they turned; cue much punching of the air and "yeeha"-ing. Well not quite, but I was chuffed...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Rabbit Rillettes Recipe


Ok, so strictly speaking this recipe has nothing to do with our allotment, but what the hey, it tastes amazing and is dead easy to make so I thought I'd write it up. If you don't want to know about something delicious to do with a rabbit, you need read no further!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The match at the patch

Smoke on the allotment. Which is almost, but not quite, a Deep Purple lyric.
We've been blessed (figuratively speaking; I'm not thanking any particular deity for this. I don't have much time for those guys) with blue skies and even a bit of warmth over the weekend which has made pottering around on the plot very pleasant. 

My parents were passing through yesterday, and in exchange for little more than some genuine appreciation my Dad brought a chainsaw over to hack up some knackered old planks that weren't good for anything much more than burning.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Wrong-Cabbage Kimchi Recipe

Cabbage; prepare to be Kimchi'd

In this first year of growing stuff on our plot, we've tended not to do much to our veg in the kitchen; everything has been cooked very simply, probably because we're still getting used to actually having home-grown veg around and treat it as a bit of a luxury. However nice fresh cabbage, cooked in just some butter and a bit of stock, is though, we were probably a bit cabbaged out but still left with a whopper in the fridge.

We'd recently had a couple of great Korean meals at Mannaza in Newastle, where we'd eaten Kimchi for the first time.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Emergency Chutney Recipe

Having spent a particularly fine night in the Lake District (no space to chat about here, this isn't a travel blog!), we got home yesterday to find that all was not well with the green tomatoes I had salvaged from Toni's discarded plants. A few looked like they were trying to ripen a bit, but a good number of them had developed some scabby bits on the exterior and some had gone full blown mouldy. They had only been sat on a windowsill for two days, so all this seemed a bit odd, if not quite distressing. Clearly the change in scenery had not been to their taste.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A Pit Fit for a Fig

That's not some daft tongue-twister I just made up for a laugh (I've got better things to do, just about), but a roundabout description of what we've been up to today. We've started buying Kitchen Garden magazine, after quite excitedly finding a copy in Carlisle Tesco. Not really having thought that magazines solely dedicated to growing food existed (not that there's any reason why they shouldn't of course) it brightened up an otherwise dull train ride to find a copy. I should point out here that contrary to popular belief, excitement can be found in Carlisle Tesco, provided you find gardening magazines exciting. Rock and roll...

Ripening Fruit, and Ripe Cheese in the Shed

In the sun, yesterday.
With it having been about a week since we'd been down the plot, it was great to get down yesterday on a day off to get some bits and bobs done. Having to go to work every day really cuts down your allotment time! There is a very autumnal feel on the plot now, with so many things having been harvested, and others, such as courgettes, coming to the end of their tenure. We've got quite a few empty spaces now. Those that haven't been treated to any manure since we've been on the plot are, when clear, going to get a good dose of rotted turd before being covered for the winter. Lucky them.

Friday, 28 September 2012

After the Deluge, part deux

It has been another week of treacherous weather in the North East. While floods in June and August came as a result of biblical, if brief, downpours, this time it was an unspectacularly relentless spell of precipitation over 48 hours that did the damage. You've got to feel for the poor folks of Morpeth, some of whom are flooded for the second time in four years. In Newcastle, things weren't quite so bad, although some fairly serious gusts on Monday resulted in the town being littered with the skeletal remains of discarded brollies that just weren't up to the job. 

Talking about not being up to the job, it looks like what's left of our fence has finally shrugged it's shoulders and given up.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Mail Order Alliums

Of all the things I had no idea about before starting off this allotment game, high up the list of previously held ignorances is the extent of stuff you can grow over winter. I was vaguely aware that kale was a wintery thing as I remember my mum cooking us seemingly endless kale-based meals when we were kids. I wasn't keen on the stuff back then, though I love it now. However; broad beans, onions, garlic, spinach, hardy lettuces, and no end of brassicas- who knew?!

Last year we grew shenshyu overwintering onions and some unknown variety of garlic, both of which were procured from a stall at Newcastle Quayside Market, with mixed results.  The onions did not too badly at all, despite trying to run to seed quite frequently. The garlic wasn't so great, producing piddly little cloves that I can scarcely be bothered to peel. This year we've gotten a bit more organised and have just engaged Thomson and Morgan to provide us with a mixed selection of garlic, three different types of onions, plus some "Shakespeare" as they seem to be well-rated. I'm looking forward to these arriving so we can see which work well. I'm especially looking forward to the elephant garlic - even though it's not a "proper" garlic - as at least we should be able to get some decent sized cloves of the stuff. Godspeed our fine prospective alliums!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Lazy Harvest Time

Fresh back from brief holidays in Dublin, we had just time to do a swift bit of harvesting and surveying of the plot this morning, after having escorted my sister down to the Great North Run.

Mutant Veg = Jealousy/ Bemusement

So last Sunday, with a head that felt like it was filled with aching fur, I trotted with Kasia down to Newcastle Civic Centre to have a look at the Allotment and Garden Show.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A milestone of sorts

This weekend just gone we finally got to the stage where all parts of the allotment are either planted with something, or have been well dug over and are more or less sans weeds. It's only taken 15 months! Some people seem to come onto a plot and sort them out in a matter of weeks. Well, that was never going to be the case for us, but it feels good to look around and see everything being tidy and under control, if still a bit scruffy. The last patch to get dug over yielded some mega-dandelion roots.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Want a plot? Come on Down!

We attended the AGM of our allotments at Nunsmoor in Fenham, Newcastle today (it's just by the BBC). Apparently, and in contradiction to what I'd always presumed about allotments in general, there isn't a waiting list at the moment. So, if you want a plot and don't want to wait, gimme a shout and I'll pass on your details to the relevant authorities!

A Full Day (and a bit)'s Toil, Plus Double-Newt Action

Things looking pretty tidy from the gate
You've got to love bank holidays, that extra day makes all the difference. Saturday was, allotment-wise, a write-off as it rained pretty much all day. It was that fine rain that gets you really wet too. We thumbed our collective nose at the elements and headed to Tynemouth and Whitley Bay for a traipse round the market and second hand shops, and to get some shit-hot chocolates (Salted Caramels and Malbec Truffles both great) at Gareth James and really amazing coffee from Ouseburn Coffee Co. Sunday, however, was a peach of a gardening day, the sun coming out regularly but also disappearing often enough to stop it getting too hot to want to work.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Pickle my seed

After picking a bunch of nasturtium seeds from the plants in our border on Tuesday, I've now got them pickling away. If this works out then I reckon we're onto a total winner as regards future cheapo birthday/ chrimbo presents; "I grew these and then pickled them myself" I'll regularly exclaim, as various relatives and acquaintances unwrap yet another pot of macerated seedage, their faces full of wonder. After all, who can refuse a delightful home-grown gift? So thoughtful, so personal, so authentic. And so very, very cheap.

brining my seeds

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Harvest (in the nick of) Time

When, in the depths of winter, we're plodging around in freezing mud like idiots in order to try and get a patch on the allotment sorted, it'll help to have a record of a day like today. A day when, after work we popped down to the allotment and dug up the remainder of our spuds (Marfona 2nd earlies- no main crop for us), three cabbages, 4 massive courgettes, some rhubarb and a few berries. Good frigging times.


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Pottering On

With Kasia being away for the weekend, and it only taking about 2 minutes out of the day to feed the cat sufficiently, I had plenty of time on Saturday to spend on the allotment, pottering about.  It was really great to sit in the sun, read, and watch the pigeons rapidly chew through the seeds which actually we put out for their less sizeable cousins.  Ho hum; if they're stuffed on wilko's finest birdseed, perhaps they'll be less inclined to fraternize with our crops.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Storm Sandwich

A day of mental weather on Sunday meant that two slices of allotmenteering had to fit either side of a big meaty filling of a pretty serious thunderstorm.  Not for the first time this year, chunks of Newcastle found themselves underwater.  Things were fine down on the plot early in the afternoon and when the sun came out it was red hot.  Then it got muggy as hell, we were treated to a ferocious thunderstorm and then the heavens opened.
A storm brews over Fenham

Don't quarrel with sorrel

What a rubbish post title, sorry, couldn't think of anything else that rhymed with sorrel.  Anyway never mind that; to the topic at hand.  We'd been enjoying plenty of sorrel in salads but I fancied cooking it, and found a really simple sauce recipe from good ol' Hugh F and set out to make poached eggs with sorrel sauce for a weekend breakfast.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Autopilot Plot, And A Polytunnel Out Of The Blue

We've been a bit rubbish lately, not having been down the allotment as often as we might have done.  My excuse is having had a turbo-powered dose of man flu.  Happily enough, a lot of things are quite content to grow in your absence.

Things looking nice in the sunshine

Monday, 16 July 2012

Actual, proper, genuine, sunshine!!

It's been over a week since I wrote anything on here, and with good reason; we've barely been down the ol' plot.  The weather has been what they refer to at the Met Office (probably) as "utter shite", with the only question being how many months worth of rain will fall on any given day.  But hey, you know all this right?  I mean you noticed didn't you?  Thought so.  I was all set to write some grumbly screed about how awful it all was when KA-POW!!, we've had a weekend where it only rained a tiny bit, and the sun even came out!  Weird.

Blue sky not photoshopped.  Seriously.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb...

Some things seem to just want to grow despite you.  We got given a crown of rhubarb when we got the allotment last May and buried it in one of the first patches we cleared of weeds.  After a few months there didn't seem to be any growth on it, so we dug it up to make room for a couple of blackcurrant bushes and lobbed it on the weed-heap.  A couple of months later and Kasia noticed it had, phoenix-like, managed to spring to life.  It was re-dug into a new patch and, hey presto, we've just harvested our first rhubarb from this  unlikely specimen.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

After the Deluge

Apparently the weather is discussed 282 times per second in the UK, which isn't very surprising when it's as mad as it has been in Newcastle over the last few days.  See here, here and here for three of the more dramatic vids of the downpour.  We were down the allotment earlier in the day when it was raining a bit, though there was no suggestion of the drama to follow.

The View from the gate on a damp morning

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Season So Far...

Leeks! Garlic! Me!
So here we are in late June, roughly halfway through our first proper growing season.  After getting all excited about it, especially in March when the weather was (briefly) amazing, we've seen a fair chunk of our efforts completely scuppered by one of the wettest and coldest summers on record.  Seeds haven't germinated, courgettes have perished in record time and things have just generally been as sodden and grim as.... well, let me know if you've got a really good "cold and wet" metaphor, I can't think of one.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

In The Beginning...

Day 1; The view from the gate
So, it's been more or less a year since we got the call, got shown round a bunch of weed-stricken plots and made the choice of our own half-plot of smallholding heaven.  We'd been on the waiting list for about 9 months on a couple of different allotments.  The one we ended up on has a pleasantly unfussy, slightly ramshackle feel to it; a lot of the other plots didn't exactly look like Monty Don was at the helm which was reassuring, considering that, at least in the near future, neither would ours.
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