Tuesday, April 29, 2008

oh oh oh I have been tagged :-) maybe this makes me an official blogger after all...
OK let's explain how it works:
The Rules:

* Link to the person who tagged you.
* Post the rules on your blog.
* Write six random things about yourself. And answer the questions below.
* Tag six people at the end of your post linking to their blog.
* Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
* Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

OK so I was tagged by Marigold. and I have duly linked her onto this blog. and have posted the rules (first 3 steps done then).
So now six random things about myself:
1. I can't stand eating bananas once they have ripened, they have to be just turned yellow or else it is a complete turnoff.
2. I am the youngest person on my allotment site (as far as I can tell).
3. I am in my 2nd year of piano lessons but I am not very good.
4. I am originally from Brisbane in Queensland, so don't ask me why I now live in a place that is cold and wet. Still before 20 degrees was woolly jumper weather and now when it hits 15 I am outside in a t-shirt :-)
5. My French counterparts find me a complete mystery because I am capable of drinking Guinness in pints, enjoy hunting through skips and collecting "rubbish" for the allotment, and don't give a sod about coming to work with mud all over my boots.
oh shit, it says 6 things...
6. I can cook more French dishes than most of the other French girls I have ever worked with or been acquainted with. Maybe that's boasting and isn't actually a random fact? oh well, tough luck, it's just as well otherwise you wouldn't have any recipes on this blog would you?? hee hee

OK what next - tag 6 people!!! oh dear that's rather a lot. I will have to dig into the allotment community for that. Right let's see, I will tag:
Greenmantle over at Quotidian,
Melanie at Beansprouts (this probably happens to her tons of times though)
Windy at Windyspot
Vortex at Vortex's veg patch
errr one more...mmmm I would be too shy to tag Allotment Lady as she is my all time gardening and homekeeping hero.
oh go on let's try Welsh Girl, I like the way her lines are never straight, a girl after my own heart :-)

Right there we go. Let's see what the chain reaction does...


Monday, April 28, 2008

A big gardening weekend. Well a big gardening 3 hours you could say, but it is better than nothing.
I had already pottered for an hour or so on Saturday with the seedlings: transplanted the small tomato plants from a tray into pots, resowed some sprouts as they are not working too well, and decided to sow a few more melons and pumpkins. I now have a huge collection of baby plants just itching to go outside, but they can't until after the famous "Saintes de Glaces", which are 3 days 11, 12 and 13 May when traditionally there is bad weather. I will however keep an eye on the weather reports, global warming changing these things somewhat.

I suppose I have about 30 tomatoes (yes got a bit carried away), 4 sweet peppers, 6 courgettes, 6 pumpkins, about 8 melon plants, 12 corn (ah God, the bloody cat tried to eat them! So I constructed a little plastic house around them to stop feline ravages - also sowed 3 more in a paranoid fit), some broccoli, some red cabbage, 6 rainbow chard and several flowers.
Anyway on Sunday the family was lethargic, the rain had stopped so I thought sod it, I will go and dig something. So I got down the plot and stood face to face with this:

Yes slightly terrifying, I grant you. 2 hours later I had dug it all over, taken out the weeds (well a pathetic attempt to in any case) and buried two bin bags full of horse manure under the soil. which gives us this:

hmm not quite the exact same point of view but you get the idea. This will be the 3 Sisters patch: sweetcorn, drying beans and pumpkin.
Quite exciting, I picked my first rhubarb and a scarole lettuce. Harvest! I made the rhubarb into a mixed fruit pie and it was very tasty (I got 3 medium sized stems off it).
I wanted to show off my strawberries, which are in full flower:

These are perpetuals, Mara des Bois, so I guess in a few weeks we will have our first strawberries.
And this lovely flower came into my garden bed. I think it is self seeded.

I have got the folks at A4A trying to identify it for me!!
****STOP PRESS! One of the nice people at A4A has identified this:
it's an annual, called a Cerinthe major purpurascens - common name Honeywort****

In other news I still have the tomato and bean beds to dig, so I will have muscles by mid-May! the early spuds have come up through the ground, they don't need earthing up yet but soon...
Oh and a friend has given me a redcurrant bush! So I will have to pop down an plant that this week. Long weekend next weekend so some more gardening opportunities at hand ;-)

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oh gosh, our friend "windy" from the A4A site has given me a terrific link!
Lasagna gardening
The basic idea is to cover the ground in a mix of rich organic material, presumably eliminating all the perennial weeds through suffocation, then planting very covering plants such as squash.
I think this is a fabulous idea! In fact I want to try it right away! OK maybe that is a bit optimistic. Because I am not sure where I would get all the material from! I guess I have access to plenty of horse manure, and maybe some friends could give me grass cuttings.
But I am wondering if I shouldn't try an experimental area with it, let's say for the beans or the courgettes? I am sure that would leave my site neighbours scratching their heads!!
I just love the descriptions on the site.


Those of you who know that I had lots of troubles when I first got my allotment will be surprised to hear this. You will remember that the plot manager did not like my way of gardening, I covered areas of the plot with cardboard etc and this was frowned upon. I had lots of pressure to plan the whole plot quickly and I worked like a slave to try and get the plot to conform to their expectations. Well that manager has been given the boot.
Yesterday two of my neighbours came and chatted with me and I was surprised to hear that many of the other plotholders had defended me saying that the old blokes can't expect everyone to have the same ideas as them about how to garden, which I was not aware of.
Since last year I have been keeping myself to myself, just going down, digging and going home, of course being civil, saying hello to people I pass etc. And last night I got the impression that lots of the others think that I have been totally put off of my neighbours by a few bad eggs and so they came to talk to me to say if you need advice, just ask, why didn't you say you needed wood etc, we would have helped you, why don't you participate in the association activities etc. I thought it was incredibly kind of them (even though one of them is an "old boy" who thinks that my plot is a bit of a joke, which he said quite frankly but also admitted that if I am happy with it and I get some things growing, who gives a toss? he kept saying "why do you do things in little squares?? just do big long rows!!" I tried to explain that this way I can reach the plots without walking all over the place and it allows me to rotate the crops and only plant small amounts, but he wasn't having any of that...).
Now I feel quite bad that I have obviously put down as a bit of a snob but really it is a combination of wanting to stay out of arguments and because I am always in a terrible hurry down there because my family don't quite agree with me having the allotment.
Still now I suppose I can feel a bit more friendly towards my neighbours, they were very kind, although they obviously feel that I don't know my arse from my elbow (I just don't have the time or the material often, rather than lack of know how). One good point: they warned me that I have aphids on my broad beans and told me to kill them with...vinegar!! And they explained how I should tidy up the borders - the old fellow said, "get your shovel, mark out the line of your plot edge with it then everything the is one the path, slide your shovel under the ground surface and just chuck it all out". I said but won't that just remove the top layer of the path to which he replied, so what? you won't have anymore weeds... so I will try that.

I do admit that I guess I feel a bit ashamed of my plot, with its grassy areas, weeds, uneven edges, empty spaces when I see the other perfectly weeded plots, in immaculate rows, not a blade of grass to be seen, all in a big raised beds with neat planks all round it. I have never been able to find enough wood to cordon off the plot with a little 5 inch high wood border like the others. And the others have been gardening their same plot for countless years.

phew - got that off my chest anyway!
Does anyone else have strange relationships with the other plotholders?

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Well I thought I would give a quick seedling update. Everything is going great guns, especially the tomatoes, which is really terrific. I can see a magnificent tomato area shaping up this summer!!
The sweetcorn has just raised its first shoots, good news and finally the courgettes, melons and pumpkins are coming through, Of course they tend to grow about 5 or 10 cm a day!! which is a bit tricky...I am not quite sure yet how to deal with that one.
And all the other things that I am growing in pots for the first time seem to be doing very well: red cabbage, rainbow chard, flowers. The only thing that is slow is the brussel sprouts. Oh well, if they don't work out, I will get plug plants, I don't mind doing that when there are only a few items liek sprouts.
I will try and get some pics of all the little seedlings, they look so cute and tidy! quite unlike the plot which is probably in quite a state afetr about a week's solid rain. I do hope I don't get any rot problems with the onions???

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ah a week of holidays.
A week of rain.
Almost non stop.
The gods are against me.
Still, I did manage a few odd jobs in the garden, like the trip to the riding stables to get another boot load of horse manure. I had intended to dig that into the tomato and squash beds but that never got done because of the rain. I did manage to dig over and weed the fruit bed, and plant a new blackcurrant bush. I also managed to plant the maincrop potatoes and some new lettuce and remove the old cabbages that were starting to bolt.
And biggest surprise of all, I took some pictures.

First thing, I took this of the inside heart of an artichoke plant. You can see the baby artichoke growing in it.
And this is the fruit bed now it has been dug over, weeded and some of the annoying grass removed. You can see the new bush in the middle. The black plastic is where the strawberries are and the leafy thing on the left is chives.

This is the herb bed, rather loosely named :-) There is parsley, lemon balm, thyme and a rose bush as well as some newly planted mint, tarragon and rosemary (can't see that from here). You can see that the paths are getting the better of me...
Now this next pic is an overall view, you can see the plastic bags with the manure in them. And the tarp is covering up the tomato bed, saving me a bit of work. You can see the broad beans just behind the black bags and further down on the left hand side there are the spud and allium beds. The messy patch where the bin bags are will be dug over next week and manure-trenched in readiness for the squash and corn and melons.

Perhaps this gives a better view though:

You can see my hopeless polytunnel, the messy paths around the plot that drive me mad and the general chaos. But you can also see the nice raspberry bed that gets thicker by the day and the strawberries that are getting lots of leaves and a few flower buds. Since I took this the spud bed just near the polytunnel has been dug over and the bolting cabbage just after the tunnel on its right have been taken out. I think I shall save that bit and the bit next to it for courgettes and leeks.
Hope you have all enjoyed seeing some new pics. Hopefully in a week or two I will have decen weather so I can get down there and weed a bit more and tidy it up before planting the summer crops that are growing all over the house: I have seedlings of tomatoes, sweet pepper, red cabbage, broccoli, corn, flowers, courgettes, leeks, pumpkins and brussels, all driving my hubby mad...

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Just to tantalize everyone I found an electronic copy of my Cheesecake recipe. It is a big hit usually so I thought I might share it. Now I have adjusted it to French dairy products but I will try to give equivalents. Bon Appétit!
Here goes:

Antipodes' Cheesecake

For the base :

For the filling :

Also - a spring-opening cake tin about 23-25 cm and an electric beater.

Making the base :

Making the filling :

Preferably, make the day before, serve cold with whipped cream and fresh fruit (strawberry or passionfruit coulis is delicious with it).

Le Cheesecake d'Antipodes (French version)

Pour la base :

Pour la garniture :

Il faut aussi un moule avec une fermeture à ressorts de préférence ou un moule à gâteau rond et un batteur électrique.

Comment créer la base :

Comment créer la garniture :

Servez de préférence le lendemain, bien froid (on peu ajouter de la chantilly ou des fruits frais (avec des fraises, c’est un délice).

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Right, let's get down to the nitty-gritty - I am on holidays next week and have to get the garden sorted before the Great Planting Campaign that will surely occur in a couple of weeks' time. SO it will be hard labour all round methinks.
To be done:
Don't worry, I will keep up the blog!! A few before and after photos will cheer me up I think :-)

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My God, the things we do for our baby plants!
I felt as nervous as Christiaan Barnard last night, I decided to transplant my seedlings into little pots so armed with loads of plastic pots and a bag of potting mix, I put some paper on the kitchen table and got to it. It took me over two hours!!! It was like bloody open heart surgery! And there were a few deaths along the way...
I managed to transplant....wait for it...
15 Marmande big fleshy tomato plants
about 8 Gartenperle cherry tomatoes (I think one or two might get given away of those)
about 8 Harzfeuer small round tomato plants
3 sweet peppers (I fear I might end up buying plants for those, I can't seem to get them to germinate properly)
about 15 other tomato seedlings of indeterminate type (I think they are Marmandes, I forgot to label them :-S anyway they are doing quite poorly compared to the others which are very vigorous, so I tried changing them around in a new pot with fresh potting mix.
about 12 small orange French Marigolds, to plant with the tomatoes,
and about 60 leeks. That was very tricky, I experimented with a way of thinning them, don't know if it will work. I lay the pot on its side, and put down a layer of soil then lay down the seedlings, then another layer of soil, them more seedlings. It isn't perfect but I couldn't see how to transplant them otherwise...
There is still a pot of about 40 leeks to do!!! Arrrgh!
I also started off 3 Jap pumpkins, just because I had soil in the pots.
I still need to do some more next week, I will start off the pumpkins, courgettes and melons and the sweetcorn, some basil (can't get that going outside) and sow some Sweet William flowers in modules.
Still for now I am quite pleased with how it is progressing even if I now have pot plants all over the bloody house!!
Oh and I caved in at Lidl yesterday and bought another packet of yellow dwarf beans, I love them, and a small blackcurrant plant! for 5 euros it seemed a bargain. It can go in next to the strawberries. Dunno if it will fruit this year, well I guess you only add blackcurrant to other dishes anyway, they are a bit acidic to eat by themselves. Wonder if I could get enough to make some liqueur??? yum yum

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Monday, April 07, 2008

A mixed weekend down the allotment. We have gone from brilliant sunshine to overcast to freezing winds and frostiness.
I had two sessions down there this weekend: a very quick one on Saturday afternoon to plant some plug plant lettuces I had bought (I think I will give up altogether on sowing lettuce, it is a waste of time and money). OK I admit I went and splurged at the garden centre. I bought lettuce, 15 summer cabbages (Cabus, the pointed ones), a nice rhubarb plant (the 2nd one), a rosemary shrub, some mint and tarragon (which I didn't have in the herb bed) and some cornflower seeds.
Then on Sunday all of us went down (miraculous, a family outing to the allotment!) and hubby and Biggest One fixed up the collapsing compost bin for me and also weeded and put a nice border around one of the flower beds. It was freezing! But teh sun came out after a while and warmed things up a bit+
While they were doing that, I planted my cabbage, mint and tarragon, resowed some peas (they just aren't doing well) and sowed some beetroot and radishes. I also tidied up the flower beds a little (not really as much as I would like to, but time was running out) and sowed a variety of mixed flower seeds, the cornflowers and some zinneas.
The rhubarb is doing well, soon we will be able to pick some I think, and I noticed something very cute with the artichokes: a tiny artichoke head starting to develop inside the centre of the plant!! So I guess I will have artichokes soon (my neighbour says they get multiple heads from the centre of the plant).
The onions and echalotes seem to be doing well, lots of green shoots all over the place, and the scarole lettuces are finally growing! No sign of the spuds yet but I noticed lots of "mystery potatoes" starting to shoot when I dug over the bed for the cabbages so I think I might see spud growth soon.
As for the fruit, they are getting their new growth. The raspberries have made new shoots all over the place!! And the strawberries have got some good foliage coming. Even the new ones planted in the autumn.
Now for a seedling update:
I feel quite happy with progress so far, even though the bindweed is starting to come up again, there seem on the whole to be less weeds than last year. However I am still unsatisfied with the edges of the lot, it seems so messy compared with other lots but I can't afford to edge it with timber like a lot of the others have done. Perhaps I should try stones??
Pictures soon, it's a promise.

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