Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Flemish diagonal bond

 There is a building in Oxford, where I live, not a striking building, in any sense and nothing ever happens in connection with it. 

However the brickwork is a perfect example of Flemish diagonal bond and the pattern surrounding the roof is beautiful in an understated way.

Unlike, builders, we growers do not leave monuments to gaze at however when we grow flowers people will stop and wonder.....This makes it all worthwhile.  

Sunday, 17 September 2017

God on the Allotment

It is because we are so busy, that we never see God among the plants in the garden.

Who needs a preacher in monks robes when you have an allotment.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

What is Autumn

Autumn: the endless at arising and passing away of everything.

What does it mean.

It means do not hold on to anything.


Get up make your bed and get on with your life.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

What is Autumn?

Autumn is, to my mind, a lovely time; for it has tenderness and melancholy..

All around lie the first small signs of change-the evening chill, the yellowing leaves, rodents looking around for their winter homes.

There is also a hesitation in the air, a sort of vulnerability. A sort of soft smile plays across the face of the moon...the peace and stillness of an early Autumn evening...with the deep acceptance of the coming winter.

It is good to site on the allotment and let the chile wind touch my cheek and not be afraid of what is to come.


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The first leaf of Autumn

I sit with my back against an apple tree
Beside me the whispering slow moving Thames
Below me a carpet of gold

Into my palm a yellow leaf...the first of Autumn

Sunday, 3 September 2017

My Shed

My shed is a home away from home. On my allotment I have two of them.

One is for my tools and gear and the other is where I like to sit.

The space between home and the world between the inside and the outside.

Where I watch the day turn into night, where i listen to the flies in summer and see the seasons pass.

A place where I belong.

You do not have to sit in a shed to feel this.

If your eyes are open then you belong wherever you are even if you go beyond the gate all the way away.

Do not complicate a thing.

Give and take from this world moment by moment by moment.

Then you are never separate from you true home.

Remember the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Mid summer

It does not matter which month the calendar displays, or what the weather forecast predicts, nature alone decodes when winter has ended and summer has begun.
I have noticed that the weather in the spring is much more extreme: it is a time when the weather can be wintry for three days, summery for two, then return to colder, windier, weather then we had during the winter itself.

It has certainly been like that this year; however summer has made itself know now and is ready to start.

As growers such unpredictability means that it is crucial that we have a measured approach to the changing seasons. We must notice details and not wait for the papers to proclaim ‘Phew what a scorcher’ or to experience motorway traffic queues to know that it is summer.

When you have picked the last purple sprouting broccoli and next years seedlings are eager to be planted out, when the radishes and rocket are abundant and when the flowers appear on the strawberries, it is safe to say that summer is,at the very least, imminent.

The sun shines and it will not be long before we have a hosepipe ban, which will mean that real summer, in all it’s precipitous glory, arrives.
At the moment we are having a few balmy nights.Wrestle out the chair from the back of the shed and enjoy the evening.

It is 33 degrees here in Oxford and has been for the last three days



Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Mice

Mice are eating my cabbage shoots and have lost the whole crop.

But at least I was not burnt to death in my bed and I have set traps and will get them to night.

Then re-plant.

Monday, 12 June 2017

How To Get the Best From Your Herbs

How To Get the Best From Your Herbs

The use of herbs in our cooking has grown over the last couple of decades. Most top chefs recognise that the importance of good quality fresh herbs in their dishes can make a world of difference to the flavors of the food. So much so, that many top restaurants have their own herb gardens from which to pick and use only the freshest herbs.

Growing your own herbs in the garden or a container is an excellent way to ensure a good supply of fresh herbs or even growing them on the kitchen windowsill. But if you do not wish to grow your own, supermarkets now sell a wide range of pre-cut and potted herbs. Pots of herbs last longer than cut herbs, but need to be cared for just as houseplants do. They will need a sunny windowsill and be picked regularly to keep them growing and from going to seed. Other sources of good quality herbs might be a greengrocers, who often sell a wider range of herbs than supermarkets do. Also farmers' markets, often have more unusual varieties of herb such as angelica, lovage, pennyroyal, and uncommon varieties of thyme, mint and sage.

To get the best flavors from herbs, storage is very important. Many of us tend to store dried herbs as well as spices to well past their sell by date. This will definitely not enhance the flavors of your dishes to their best. Make sure you renew jars and packets of dried herbs frequently, as they go stale very quickly. While it's handy to keep a few dried herbs in the cupboard, most herbs taste best fresh, and some such as basil or coriander, have a very disappointing flavor when dried. Frozen herbs are a good substitute. These can now be bought from the freezer section in a supermarket or frozen from your own home grown herbs. This can be done by finely chopping herbs and placing them in ice-cube trays, top up with water and place in the freezer. This is handy to keep to put in stews and casseroles.

To protect the flavors of fresh herbs with cut stalks they should   be wrapped in a plastic bag (left open, not sealed) or in a damp paper towel and kept in the fridge. Bunches of herbs that have longer stalks can be kept like cut flowers in a jug or vase with a little water in the bottom. Do not fill right up as this may rot the delicate leaves. Some hardy herbs, such as curry leaves, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, can be stored whole in the freezer, wrapped in a freezer bag. If using potted herbs bought from the supermarket they are best kept on a sunny windowsill with the soil regularly moistened but not waterlogged as this will rot their roots.

Preparing Herbs

Fresh herbs are usually best prepared by picking the leaves from the stalks, apart from herbs such as bay, (although this is not always necessary), then chopping them as finely as desired with a chefs' knife or two-handled rocking knife (mezzaluna). Herbs such as chives can be cut in bunches into small pieces using kitchen scissors. Some tender herbs - particularly basil, tarragon and mint - bruise easily which can adversely affect the flavor. To avoid bruising and discolouration, do not chop these herbs too finely and make sure you use a sharp knife. They can also be added as whole leaves to dishes, or torn into small pieces with your fingers.

What gives herbs their unique flavor and fragrance is their highly volatile oils which in some cases dissipates quickly after exposure to heat, so to get the best from your herbs it's best to add them to dishes towards the end of cooking, or just before serving. However, some herbs such as sage, bay, rosemary and thyme are best when given time to infuse with the other ingredients in the dish, so should be added at the beginning of cooking dishes such as stews, soups and casseroles. Tender herbs - such as basil, chives, mint, chervil, dill, coriander, parsley, tarragon - can also be used fresh and uncooked to make salad ingredients, toppings and garnishes. In this case they should be picked just before serving.

Getting the best from your herbs just involves a few simple steps in storing and preparation. Using fresh herbs wherever possible is always best.




Monday, 5 June 2017

Growing Herbs In Containers

Growing Herbs In Containers

Growing your own herbs is something that everyone can do even if you don't have a garden. Most herbs are suitable for container growing, in fact some such as mint are better grown in a pot as it is very invasive. Herb containers are well suited to patios, balconies or even the kitchen windowsill. You can design your herb container to suit the space you have available as well as your taste.

Providing the conditions are suitable, the choice of herbs you grow is up to you, but there are one or two rules regarding the siting and design. A collection of herbs in containers in a convenient  sunny place is a great asset for the kitchen. The downside is that many outdoor pot-grown herbs die out in winter. However, they can be harvested in autumn and stored for use throughout the winter season.

Most herbs can easily be sown from seed, but for more instant results it is often easier to buy ready rooted plants from garden centres. Beware of the pot-grown herbs offered in supermarkets, as they are usually grown under glass and are often too tender and stressed to adapt well to life outdoors. These however can be used if you wish to make an herb container indoors.

While most herbs are suitable to grow in containers, some are a little more delicate to grow such as basil, marjoram, coriander, and tender perennials such as French tarragon. These should be started off indoors or a heated greenhouse and planted out in spring when all risk of frost has gone.

Some herbs can live outside all year once they are established. These hardy herbs include; mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage. These can be sown indoors as with the tender herbs, or sow them outdoors in May in containers.

It is very tempting to rush out to the garden center as soon as spring comes to buy your plants, but you should not buy herb plants until the weather warms up in late spring. Winter planted herbs are vulnerable to root damage in the cold wet potting media.

Before selecting your herbs you should consider not only your favorite herbs you wish to grow, but how they will look in your container if you want them for decorative reasons as well as their culinary purposes. Many herbs have decorative flowers such as chives which have lovely purple flowers. Lavender and rosemary also have purple or white flowers. While chamomile has pretty yellow-centered white flowers. Pot marigolds provide a wonderful splash of bright orange summer colour to compliment the mainly greens of a herb container.

Choosing a Container

Once having decided on the herbs you wish to grow, you next need to decide on the container you are going to plant them in. If growing herbs such as rosemary or mint, they do need a fair amount of space as opposed to an herb such as thyme which is very low and  spreads across rather than up. If planting bay, you might want to grow this in it's own individual pot and clip it to shape on a regular basis. This way you will not only have fresh Bay leaves for your cooking, but a lovely tree to admire. Also when choosing a container, choose one that gives your herbs a deep root run where they can be left undisturbed. Long tall pots have the required depth and look good massed together. It is also worth buying a container that is frost hardy. Some glazed pots may look good, but will crack if frozen. For this reason, wooden planters make excellent containers for herbs.

Planting Your Container

Once you have chosen your containers you can now pot them out. You will need some gritty, well-drained compost, adding up to 25 percent by volume of coarse grit or perlite to a loam based compost. The compost should be kept moist, but never let it become soggy. Use a balanced fertiliser to encourage leafy growth, rather than potassium-rich fertiliser that might promote flowering. The herbs can be replanted frequently, using generous pieces of root, into rich potting media, taking care to avoid over potting by putting your cuttings in too bigger container. The best way to judge if your herbs need re-potting is if they look straggly, lift roots and repot into fresh compost. Larger perennials such as rosemary and sage can be left in the same containers for several years before they need repotting.



Over wintering herbs in a container

Some herbs die back in winter, such as French tarragon and mint. These and most herbs will look after themselves if placed where they cannot become frozen, saturated by rain or allowed to become too dry. To protect more tender herbs in winter they are best placed against a sheltered wall away from wind and rain or in a coldframe or even in an open fronted shed. A protective sheet of glass, plastic or plywood will keep off heavy rain and protect from frost.

To avoid your container becoming waterlogged, stand it on pot feet or stand containers on bricks. If very cold weather is forecast, protect containers from freezing by wrapping in bubble polythene or garden fleece.

Basil is one of the herbs that will not survive outside in the winter and can only be grown if brought indoors into a warm, bright frost-free greenhouse, conservatory or a sunny windowsill.

Growing your own herbs is very simple and satisfying to do. If you select your herbs carefully you can be sure of fresh or dried herbs for much of the year.

Monday, 22 May 2017

How to lose weight organically:



A lot of people spend a lot of money and a lot of time trying to lose weight and most of the time without success.

What if I told you there is an easy way and the joy of it is that it will not cost you anything and further more you can do it from the comfort of you own home.

The main thing is to remember the main thing and do it. 

Weight lose program:

As soon as you wake up in the morning----before you eat anything or even brush your teeth: Drink 1.5 liters of water.

It is very important that you do not drink or eat anything before or after for one hour.

This is the only dietary related suggestion; the purpose of it is to clean the body so that it is easier to burn your body fat faster. Other than this you can eat whatever you want when ever you want.
PLEASE do not ignore this simple approach. Try it for 100 days and you will lose weight.

You can use bottle water or filtered or boiled water if you like. If you find it hard to drink so much water at once, start slowly with one liter and add a little every day.. This will soon become a nice habit.

If you really want to go for it: repeat this process in the evening.

One hour before you go to bed, drink  one and a half liters of water. Make sure you do not eat or drink anything before drinking the water and nothing from the time you drink it till you wake up in the morning and repeat the process..




Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Bees!

I was sitting on my allotment seeing how peaceful and beautiful it is, how lovely the birds are and how perfectly it has evolved.
I fine it all very sad because I am seeing it all die. There are fewer birds...some species no longer come to the allotment to nest, there are fewer fish and I never hear a frog anymore.
The one good thing is that there are still plenty of bees. 
I have been reading about bees and they are truly amazing. If they get sick,they go of into the bush to die alone so as not to bring disease into the hive......If they are out at dusk and to far from the hive to get back before the sun goes down; they lie down on their back to keep their wings dry so that they can be off collecting pollen as soon as the sun rises. If there is a wind the bees will put little stones on their back to give them a steadier flight. Always look to the bees because if they die we all die!

Beware the fruits from the West: When you bite into a strawberry the last thing on your mind is childhood brain development, however from here on out you should think of it.
 The reason for this is that the USA is rescinded a proposed ban on chorpyrifos and a lot of others.


I have got all my crops in and at last it is raining here in Oxford, the first time since the first of March. Thank God for that! 

Monday, 15 May 2017

All about Garlic

Garlic 

Garlic (Allium Sativum) is not only one of the oldest herbs but one of the most valued plants. It has been used extensively not only in cooking but it has been prized for at least 5000 years for it's medicinal, healing properties. In fact in ancient civilisation the strong potent qualities of garlic were thought to have supernatural powers. 

Garlic has long been known to reduce blood cholesterol levels and that possibly the plant can reduce the risk of further heart attacks in cardiac patients. It is also a stimulant for the immune system and used as an a powerful antibiotic. 

One of the main characteristics of Garlic is it's strong odour. Allicin gives the characteristic smell. This is largely due to sulphur containing compounds which also accounts for many of it's medicinal properties. These compounds are excreted through the skin and lungs, eating fresh parsley is often recommended to eliminate this odour from the breath after consuming Garlic. If new to using Garlic it is best to use it sparingly to start with.

Medicinal Uses of Garlic


Before modern medicines and antibiotics Garlic was commonly used to treat wounds and is still widely used to treat antibiotic- resistant infections. Today Garlic is commonly used in the treatment of infections, such as: chest problems, digestive disorders as well as fungal infections like athlete's foot. As already mentioned it is widely believed to be a good long-term remedy for cardiovascular problems, helping to reduce blood cholesterol levels and the risk of thromboses. Garlic can also help to dilate peripheral blood vessels resulting in the lowering of blood pressure. It can also help to regulate blood sugar levels, therefore being helpful with those suffering with late onset diabetes. If used topically, the cloves can be used to treat acne and other skin infections. Extracts from Garlic are also often used in remedies to prevent colds, flu, catarrh and bronchitis and to reduce nasal congestion. For medicinal purposes, Garlic is always best used fresh.

How To Use

For treatment of acne, warts or verrucas, rub fresh garlic cloves directly onto the affected area. It can also be mashed to make it easier to apply. 

To reduce high cholesterol, lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels and improve the cardiovascular system, the cloves should be added to the diet on a regular basis. 

For intestinal parasites, steep 3-4 cloves in water or milk overnight and drink the next day.

If the idea of using fresh Garlic does not appeal to you because of the odour, commercially bought Garlic pearls can be taken. However, the less odour they contain, the less effective they are. 

A word of warning, Garlic is very heating and can irritate the stomach. While safe to use in cooking, do not take Garlic for therapeutic reasons during pregnancy or while breast feeding as it can cause digestive problems such as heart burn. 

How To Grow Your Own Garlic

Garlic is extremely easy to grow and produces numerous bulbs that can transform your cooking as well as be used for medicinal purposes. To successfully grow your own Garlic a warm sunny location is needed to ripen the bulbs. The bulbs need to be grown in rich water-retentive soil, but with good drainage. It can be planted any time from mid-Autumn to late winter, but to get the best yields, planting before Christmas is recommended. 

Buy a head of Garlic from your local store and split it up into individual cloves. Just before planting, thoroughly rake the top of the soil and add a general fertilizer. Plant them directly into the soil 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart using a trowel or dibber to plant each one with the pointed end upper-most. The tips of the cloves should be hidden just below the surface. Firm the cloves in gently. 

As Garlic is shallow rooting it cannot compete with other plants such as weeds, so the ground around them should be regularly weeded. An occasional watering during dry spells will improve the yield of your Garlic crop. However, do not water once the bulbs are large and well formed as this could cause them to rot. 

The earliest varieties are ready from late spring to early summer. You can tell they are ready to harvest when the stems begin to yellow and bend over. Loosen the bulbs from the soil with a fork and spread them out in the sun to dry. They should be stored in a net bag in a cool dry shed. 

Apart from Garlic's  culinary enhancing flavour, it has many medicinal uses and has recently been the study for it's anti-cancer properties. A diet rich in Garlic appears to lower the incidence of stomach, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. Perhaps the 'old wives tales' about the supernatural powers of Garlic were not so far fetched as people once thought after all.  

Friday, 12 May 2017

Weed management

Sat down on my allotment, the other day  drinking a cup of coffee, I saw the most amazing sight. I saw, perched high in a tree top, a heron guarding a nest. With its long beak and hunched shoulder, the prehistoric looking bird just sits in the eggs for hours while the tree swings in the wind.However the next thing that happen was that the heron was attached by five or six crows who chased him round the sky and then amazingly another heron came and saw the crows off and the heron went back to siting on the nest as if nothing had happen.  

Weed management
Most weeds are still slow going as it is very dry now. Except dandelions which love the dry. Please dead head or mow and put the seed heads in a bag to rot down. Once the rain arrives the weeds will go made so be prepared as weeding little and often is far easier than letting things go. A good sharp hoe makes short work of most of them. 
Allowing the weeds to grow will influence growth and yield of your crops, particularly early on. Weeds reduce the available nutrients, water and light that your plants need to grow. Once crops are established they'll shade out some of the weeds but some say allowing weeds to affect crops in the early days could reduce the eventual yield by up to 50% even if you weed properly later.
 The weather is challenging ....very dry and alternately beautifully warm and cold. Weeds are valuable green bulk so aim to manage them on your plot. Non-seeding annuals are fine on a good hot compost heap. 

Perennial or seeding annuals can be managed most easily in a thick plastic bag and left sealed until rotted. The green compost bags are perfect. This works with dandelion heads too! When black it can be added when building or turning to a compost bin. 

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Courgettes

I have just put my  courgettes in, hoping for another year of a bumper crop. I find them such an easy plant to grow; all they need is water and  with some ‘feed’ once a month and your are well away. The only thing that they do not like is frost.
I grow mine from seed and then plant them out this time of the year.

If you do not have the time or the space to start your crops off from seed, you can always start with ready grown plants.
Not everybody has the time or patience to grow from seed, so mini plants are a great speedy way to get going.
All types of plants can be found at a good garden centers and now is the time to get going.

If you live near a sheep farm now is the time when farmers start to thing about shearing their sheep. It is worth while going to have a word with them to see if you can get a bag or two of shoddy or dages as they are some times called.

This is the dirty bit of wool around the sheep's rear end. It makes a great use as bulky manure for incorporation into your soil or compost. The nitrogen content varies from 2per cent to 15 per cent.  The shoddy acts like a sponge and helps to hold moisture. It is slow in action ( meaning it does not break down very fast ) but well worth having if you can get hop of some.

Another great cheap and valuable manure for those who live near the sea is sea weed. It is comparable to farmyard manure, though slightly deficient in phosphates. A big advantage is that sea weed is free from weed seeds and much better then anything else. Seaweed, you will find ferments very quickly. To my mind, seaweed is an ideal organic manure and should be used at a similar rate too farmyard manure. 
If you are going any where near the sea this summer, it is worth while bringing home a bag or two of fresh seaweed.       


it is on the allotment where the simplicity of life is not obscured by lies that men tell themselves to believe that they are masters of their own fate.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Ten Ways To Use Herbs

Ten Ways To Use Herbs

Herbs have been used throughout history for their medicinal properties and some are highly prized for this such as Garlic and Basil. However, today we use herbs more on a day to day basis to enhance the flavours of our food or as ingredients in essential oils and perfumes. Here are ten of the most popular ways to use herbs.

Herb Oil

Herbs steeped in oil can be used for salad dressings, marinades, stir frying etc. This can give a huge boost to the flavors of your dish. Olive oil is best used for this but sunflower oil can be used. Add one or more of your favorite herbs to the oil and leave to steep for about a month. Strain the oil then bottle it. Basil is well suited to this and is a favorite ingredient in Italian cooking. Rosemary, fennel and garlic  also make excellent herb oils.

Bouquet Garni

This is a little parcel of herbs made up to put in stock, stews or casseroles and should be removed before serving the dish. To make, gather a bunch of several sprigs of parsley, thyme and bay leaf and tie with fine thread or string. Other herbs can be added to your preference. Place in with the other ingredients and remove at the end of cooking time. If using dried herbs, these need to be placed in a muslin bag and tied.

Herb Butter

This is a good way to add flavor to your food at anytime as it can be made and stored in the fridge to use when wanted. Herb butter is simply butter in which finely chopped herbs have been mixed. For this herbs with strong flavors should be used such as garlic, chives, rosemary, thyme or sage. Parsley although a mild herb, makes an excellent herb butter to accompany a fish dish. Mix about a tablespoon of herbs to about 4oz of softened butter, beat until they are evenly mixed. This can then be put into a mould or shaped into a roll between greaseproof paper. It should then be put into the refrigerator until firm. It can then be either sliced from the roll or served straight from the mould. A variation of this would be to use cream cheese instead of butter. This makes an excellent spread for sandwiches.

Herb sachets

Herb sachets can make wonderful presents to put into drawers and cupboards to make clothes smell fresh and clean. One of the most commonly used herb sachets is a Lavender sachet. Lavender is well known for it's relaxing and sleep inducing properties. One tucked under the pillow at night it will aid sleep.

Herbal Teas

There are many well known commercial brands of herbal teas on the market such as chamomile which is commonly used for relaxation. But it is very simple to make your own herbal tea. A drink made by steeping the leaves of herbs as well as the flowers or fruits in hot water is known as a tisane. Mint and Chamomile are the top two favorite herbs for this. To make use fresh or frozen herbs rather than dried and pour boiling water over the leaves and allow to stand for 5-15 minutes. For most herbal drinks 3 teaspoons of chopped fresh herbs to one cup of water is sufficient.

Herb Vinegar

As like herb oil this is very simple to make but can make all the difference to the flavor of your cooking. One or more herbs can be used at a time. First slightly crush your herbs and place in a jar. Pour over 500ml of tepid white wine vinegar. Cover tightly and place in a warm place for 2-3 weeks giving it the occasional shake. Strain the vinegar and then bottle. Include a sprig or sprigs of your chosen herb. Suitable herbs for herb vinegar include: dill, rosemary, bay, basil, mint and time.

Pesto

This has to be one of the most common uses of Basil in cooking. It is very versatile and easy to make.  Pesto is an Italian sauce which is used with steak, poultry, pizza and most importantly with pasta. It is a blend of Basil and Garlic with parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil all blended together. It can be used on it's own drizzled over dishes such as mozzarella and Parma ham, for dipping bread or used as an ingredient in pasta dishes etc.

Pot-Pourri

This is a mixture of dried flowers, leaves or herbs that remain fragrant for a long period of time and used as a room fragrance. Often flower petals such as rose are used because of their wonderful scent. However many herbs can be used to make your own pot-pourri such as Lavender which is a very popular herb to have as a room fragrance. If using fresh Lavender, it can be dried first in a warm place such as an airing cupboard for a week or two. It can then be placed in a bowl to release it's scent.

Salad Flowers

Flowers from herbs can be used to both decorate and add flavor to salads and other cold dishes. These included the purple flowers from chives, the attractive orange nasturtium flowers, basil, thyme and pot marigold.

Fines Herbs

This is a mixture of very finely chopped herbs with a delicate flavor. Three or more herbs are required for this mixture such as; parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon. This mixture is used fresh or dried and is mainly used as an ingredient to egg dishes.

As can be seen herbs are incredibly versatile and provide a vital ingredient to cooking as well as household uses.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

How to make a bottle cloche

 We were told, here in Oxford, that there would be a -4 frost. So I went down to my plot to protect my crops form this frost.

I was mainly concerned about my apple blossom. So I covered the trees with netting. They are all small trees, so I could do that.

I have tomatoes growing in my polly tunnel, so I put plastic bottles over them.

Large large plastic bottles are very good to use to protect seedlings and young plants from   early spring frost, as well as damage from pest.

To make a bottle cloche carefully cut off the bottom of the bottle, then place the plastic tube over the plant, pushing it gently in the soil. Put a short cane in the top and push it into the ground to help hold the bottle in place and stop it blowing away.

What I am doing on my plot

Not a lot really, keeping the weeds down, trapping rats. I caught three this week and watering.

I have also spend a lot of my time up at the local hospital. A family member has been ill and we have sat up there for hours.

As far as I am concerned, the NHS is the best. The staff are so caring, day or night.
The UK government, to their shame, treat the NHS staff, as less then human.
There are two doctors who have an allotment near mine and as they have so little time, I try to help them when I can. I feel that is the least that I can do, as a sort of pay back..

Thoughts while working


I am disgusted at people who are moaning about another UK election. People died for the right to vote. 
Lets get on with it.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Salads

It is time to turn your mind to salads. There is so much more to salads then just lettuce leaves. You can add flavor and crunch with colorful extras and now is the right time to make a start.Get Sowing




I do not know if you have been to the city Granada where you will find  the Alhambra. It dates back to time when the Moors controlled Spain and inside this palace is a mosque whose walls are so ornately carved that if you were to try absorb them in a single glance, you will inevitably fail. You have no choice but to study the details instead.

And so it is with God. You try to see God all at once and you will not succeed.

The only way to see God is to focus on details knowing that you cannot see God as a whole.You cannot grasp the vast complexity of those thousands of fragments of God. 


Monday, 3 April 2017

How to grow potatoes in a bag:

To my mind, to day is a very sad day. Wednesday 29th of March; The day the UK starts to leave the EU.
How we can say we will be better off outside the biggest market in the world, is beyond me.
We must just wait and see.


I do not know if you have every tried to grow potatoes in bags or bins. It is a fun way to grow them.

I do it every year, the reason is that my plot is on the banks of the Thames and we some times get floods. So by growing potatoes in big pots I can put them on my bench which is four feet above the ground and well away from any flood water.

  1. I find that early varieties work best. It is best to chit your potatoes, you do this by standing the tubers upright in a tray somewhere war and light. After a couple of weeks you should have small shoots on them.
  2. I then third fill a potato planter bag or bin with compost. Put in 4-5 chitted potatoes and cover them with compost to a depth of three ore four inches. The place the pot in a warm bright spot.
  3. When the plants start to grow, cover the plants until the bag is full.
  4. This is the important bit; keep watering the bag/pot and harvest when the flowers have died back.

What I am doing in my garden:

Early Spring, to my mind is always so full of promise. Get busy planting, growing and caring for your crop.
It does not matter what other people are growing, only grow what you are going to eat.

I have Tomatoes, rhubarb, potatoes,beans,cabbage,salads,mint,basil,parsley, on the go at the moment. I am cutting my grass and weeding my beds

What I am thinking about while digging 

And note that some who despised now will be greatly honored then; and some who are greatly honored now will be despised then Luke 30.13
Does this mean that the people on the edge of society might well be the center and the people in houses will be on the circumference?




Wednesday, 29 March 2017

How to care for your lawn:

There is story that goes around Oxford about some visiter from the USA who looked at the wonderful lawns in St Johns College here in Oxford and asked the grounds man how he got his lawns so fine.

The reply was: Well, cut it and roll for about 500 hundred years and they turn out looking like this.

Well, how do you get a great looking lawn?
There are four steps and they start right now.

Mow the lawn: Make sure that you set the blades high for the first few cuts, slowly lowing the blades gradually through March and April.

Scarify and Rake: Lawns can look tired this time of the year, so rejuvenate with a thorough raking, using a lawn rake. Doing so will help get rid of dead plant matter and moss. If you lawn has a lot of moss it is a good idea to treat it with some organic mosskiller and then rake out the moss when it has died. 

Weed and Feed: This is a very important step and best done at this time of the year. Spread lawn feed by hand unless you have a big lawn in which case  use a wheeled applicator.Spend some time removing dandelions.

Seed bare patches:You might have some worn ares on your lawn, well do not worry. Loosen the soil surface and sprinkling on grass seed and then spread some compost post on it. 



What I am doing on my plot:

Still repairing my raised beds. After six years they need a bit of maintenance.

Looking after the seedlings.

Planting more potatoes.

Cutting my grass.

What I am thinking about when digging:

A wall-eyed pike is put in a aquarium. He is fed for days with little minnows. Then in the middle of the experiment, a glass partition is placed down the middle of the aquarium so that the pike is now confined to one side.

Then the researches drop the minnows, on the other side of the glass. Straight away the pike goes for the minnows, but he hits himself against the glass. He circles and hits again. He tries for a third time, but now he is hitting the glass a little less hard..

After a few more times, he just sort of nosing up against the glass. He is feeling that he is not going to get those minnows. Petty soon, he just swims around in circles and ignores the minnows on the other side of the glass.

At this point those doing the experiment take out the glass. The minnows come right up against the gills of the pike and he does not even try to eat them.

Th experiment ends when the pike starves to death. He is sure that he is not going to get those minnows, so there is no point in wasting this time or hurting his nose. again.

To my mind that is the human story, people spiritually starving in the midst of plenty. We would rather have wars and droughts then learn how to eat.  



Sunday, 26 March 2017

This sign was seen on the London Underground this week; I think it sums things up nicely.



This sign was seen on the London Underground this week; I think it sums things up nicely.



The following was seen on the London Underground this week; I think it sums things up nicely.

Service Notice:

Date:22/03/17

TIME: 14 45

All Terrorists are politely reminded This is LONDON and what ever you do to us:

We will drink tea and jolly well carry on.


Friday, 24 March 2017

March is the time to dig at the allotment

March is the time to dig at the allotment.

A days work on your plot will pay dividends  later. If you weed and prepare your site now, you will get much better results for the rest of the year.

Start by  going over the soil little by litter, going down to about two spades depth and make sure you take out any weed roots that you come across. Dandelions and docks are the ones to watch out for.

Then rake the soil over to give it a fine tilth and you are all ready to go. Little weeds will come up after a few days and it is the easiest thing in the world to hoe them down.

I am always amazed how few people turn up in march to do do this. The allotment site that I am on in Oxford has 250 plots and over the last few weekends I have only seen about twenty people working on their plots.

As to what you grow...Grow what you are likely to eat.

What I am doing on my plot  

I am putting supports in on plants that may need it later.

Dead heading my daffodils

Helping my neighbor repair their shed that got some gale damage

Hoeing round my spring cabbage.

Repotted my mints; which are not doing very well at the moment.
Digging out nettles which seem to double in size overnight.

What I am thinking about while working:

What is my core and how can I heal it...if indeed it needs healing. To what do I belong?
I am part of every problem.


Monday, 20 March 2017

Equinox

We are half way through March and your garden has endured long dark winter days, frost,rain and maybe snow as well. and then suddenly nature decides to time for a change and it is spring.

So you will see your plot, after lying semi-dormant and glum through the winter, wake up and ‘spring‘ into action.

Its like being a young child waiting for your birthday counting the days until the frost has disappeared.....However caution is advisable. As I write this snow, has return to New York and a cold snap has returned.

Get your sowing wrong and you will lose your plants to a late frost. Get it right and your plants  will crop earlier, extending the growing season.

Be in touch with your garden and learn how to listen to nature. Your instinct will dictate when the time has come to plant.

For myself, I watch the grass and the hedge rows...When I see growth there; I go for it because I know that  Nature has got going, the birds nest, the soil warms, sap rises and life springs forth all around you .

21st of March is an important milestone because it is the equinox which means ‘equal night‘ a time when day and night are of equal length. It is a significant turing point
in nature.Get your willies on and get out there.       
  You will find that being outside puts life’s niggles into proportion...even if you are grumpy, you will find it hard to remain so under the blue sky.

What I am doing on my plot:
Cutting my grass because it has started to grow.

Making my first move on weeds that are coming up. I notice that nettles seem to double in size  overnight this time of year. So I spent half an hour digging them up.
I once made some nettle soup...it was awful, so I will not try that again.

I have a small glasshouse full of seedlings which need looking after.

Pulled  my first rhubarb this week...it was lovely. I reckon that rhubarb and my soft fruit pay for my plot. My wife Jean and I have a bowl every morning for breakfast and if you reckon that is worth 50 pence bowl, that is one pound a day which is well over 300 pounds year. My two plots cost 84 pounds rent year. ( they are 11 pole plots ) So I am quids in really.   

And as always tiding up and watching. 

I have also resigned from the allotment committee this week. I have done my five years, it is time for somebody else to have a go.

What I am thinking about when digging:

Another famine in Africa....how and why have we come to this again. It just makes me so anger and sad. I spent much of my life in Africa and understand a little of what goes on.

We in the West have so much. If you just think of water on tap any time of the day or night...Am I thankful or just take it for granted? 


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

How to clean your pollytunnel

Over the years and winter months, your polytunnel will have been subjected to a great deal of damp weather. This will have left deposits of algae and other dirt on the tunnel, which will cut the light that gets through.

It needs to be washed. This is quite easy to if you have access to a hose pipe with water pressure. However, if you are on a allotment like I am then you will have to find other ways of doing the job.

I use soapy warm water and a very soft broom. I simple stand on a pair of steps and wash the tunnel gently. I try to do this when there is a light rain, which I find helps to wash of the dirt as I loosen it with the broom.

The soap that I use is Aloe Vera MPD

MPD is multiple detergent for cleaning.  It is just a one multi-purpose product  that I use for the laundry, dishes, floor, bathroom,garden pots, car, garden tools, pollytunnel and the glass house. 

A liquid detergent that is highly effective and very economical to use, made by Forever Living Products

  • environmentally friendly.
  • safe
  • great for lifting grime
  • cuts through grease
  • concentrated liquid detergent
  • phosphorus-free
  • biodegradable ingredients

non-abrasive formula contains mild aloe vera to soften and condition your hands and clothes. This revolutionary, multi-purpose cleaner is available only through Forever Living Products.


I also use this to keep my plants free of ‘bugs’ using a mild mix in a spray.

What I am doing on my plot.

I have sown spring cabbage and broad beans. I always sow my seeds in little pots or plugs 
in my glasshouse and then I plant them out when they are bigger enough. I feel I gain time by doing this and get stronger plants.

My winter onions are coming along fine and I have given them a hoe. There is still time to make a plantation of Eschallots, however the work should be done this week. On soils where it is difficult to grow onions from seeds, onion sets may be well substituted, and now is the time to plant them, allowing 15 inches between the rows. If not already done you have still time to make a sowing of leeks.

I have also sowne my sweet peas. Once again they are in pots and I will plant them out  when they are ready. I love sweet peas, they fill the house with wonderful scent.
Thoughts while digging


When am no longer here what happens to what I have done.....what I have started cannot be stopped .......  too many moving parts are in motion.


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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

How To Go Organic

Organic growing:

Many pesticides and insecticides that were in use to fight pest and diseases last year have now been banned. Over 100 hazardous active ingredients have been taken off the EU market for health and environmental reasons. The list is far too many to record here. This is going to make it more and more difficult to garden and use sprays to control your problems.

So maybe it is now time to start gardening organically, even if you have never thought of doing so before. Knowing the basic principles of the organic way of doing things will stand you in good stead and the Spring is a good time to start.

The whole idea is to use the strengths and characteristics of your garden to get get the most out of it. That means only choosing plants that are suitable for your garden conditions and avoiding growing anything that requires extra work and artificial help.

There is nothing to be afraid of, people have been growing so called organic food since the dawn of time. It was only since the Second World War that chemical options were available. There are still a lot of good growers about who know what they are doing. Ask around you are bound to find one who will be more then willing to help you.

The most difficult thing is too start and give it a go.

Weeds are the easiest thing to start with. Stop spraying them and get your hoe out every week and hoe round your beds.. I have two full size plots and it takes me about half an hour a week to do them both. I have one rule on my plot as regards weeds and that is:  Do not grow them!

As for bugs I check my plants every five days and spray them with a mixture of Aloe Vera MPD and water with a bit of washing up liquid thrown in.  

Obviously there is a lot more to it than that: a lot is learnt just by starting. When things go wrong, which they will, find out how to fix it and do so.

The easiest way to start is to plant some potatoes and follow that with leeks.

Growing Organic isn’t a quick fix to acquiring freshly grown fruit and vegetables but is a life changing activity that is well worth the time and effort dedicated to it.

What I am doing on my plot:

Sowing  hardy annuals right now. I make a fine surface by using the rake vigorously and thinly broadcast the seeds on it.

I am cleaning up and putting compost on my Asparagus. 

If you are thinking of putting in Asparagus now is a good time. Make sure you get it right because the plants will be there for a long long time. 
The importance of trenching, or at least doubling -digging the site ,need not be overemphasized. A bed of about five feet wide is ideal, because this will contain three rows of plants 18 inches apart. Allow one foot from crown to crown in the row itself.

I grow a lot of potatoes in large pots and so this week I have been renewing the soil in them. This is just a question of emptying the pots onto one of my beds and putting the soil from the bed into the pots.

A neighbor of mine two plots down from mine has given up and he said I could take anything off his plot that  I might need. He has quite a lot of useful wood and some paving slaps which I would find useful. So I am moving it onto my plot.
Very kind of him. 


Thoughts while digging:
If you read scripture you can clearly see that God is not nice; God is not your Uncle in fact God is an earthquake which does rather pull the rug out from under me and I wonder just where that leaves me?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Sunday, 5 March 2017

What to do with your Parsley:

Parsley

Parsley is a multi-purpose herb that no kitchen should be without. As it is so versatile it can be used not only as a garnish but for flavoring food and as a vegetable. There are two main varieties of parsley: curly leaf and flat leaf. Both can be used for the same purposes although flat leaf parsley has a slightly stronger flavour and tends to be favored more in Mediterranean cooking. One of the great easy dishes that uses parsley is  Tabbouleh. This makes a great accompaniment to meat or fish dishes or as a stand alone salad.

Tabbouleh

Ingredients:


25g/1oz bulgar wheat or packet of couscous
2 large, ripe vine tomatoes
large bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves only, washed, dried, finely chopped 
small bunch fresh mint leaves, washed, dried, finely chopped
1 small red onion, peeled, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt flakes

Method:




1.Place the bulgar wheat or couscous into a mixing bowl and either follow the packet instructions or cover with 50ml/2fl oz of boiling water. Stir, then set aside covered in cling film for 20 minutes, or until the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water. You can always add a little more water if it is too dry. 
2. Skin the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain, peel and discard the seeds. Cut into quarters and place in a serving bowl.
3. Add the mint, onion and parsley to the tomatoes and mix well until combined. 
4..When the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water, remove cling film and  fluff it up with a fork until the grains are separated. Add the bulgar wheat to the tomato mixture.
5..Drizzle over the lemon juice and olive oil and add the salt flakes to taste. Coat all the ingredients well in the liquid. 

This is delicious served with hot crusty bread or flatbread.


What I am doing on my plot:

I have put in my early potatoes. I have put them in deep and covered  the bed with a plastic sheet to keep out any hard frost that may yet turn up.

It is my experience that the frost has got to be at least -3 and last at least eight hours to go into the earth, so the potatoes should be quite safe were they are.It will be at least three weeks before they are showing above the ground anyway.

I am tidying up my soft fruit and checking the fruit cage for damage. We had gales a few days ago.


Thoughts while digging:

I am a Black Coffee Drinker. I drink plain old French Coffee, strength 3.

Now all of a sudden most Cafes here in Oxford have “Coffee of The Day”. It seems to me that there are now hundreds of kinds of coffee and I have been trying a few, making up for all the years that I have been sheltered. I do not know why it is that alcohol and tobacco are now bad, but jolts of caffeine are suddenly good.. It is beyond me and makes me feel old.

After all my tastings I am sticking to my French Coffee...black in a cup and Jamaica Blue Mountain at Christmas.