Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer Solstice

I didn't think we'd be able to celebrate the Solstice out of doors yesterday. The weather forecast was for yet more of this rain that we've had for a while - but we were lucky. Towards evening the heavy clouds thinned out and left us with a fine but breezy sky so we (all four of us!) went up the hill to the allotment carrying candles, fleeces and very importantly, beer!

The way I've spent most summer solstices in the past is in my garden at home, where I light candles as the sky begins to fade and while I'm waiting for the first star to appear in the sky I think about the year we've had. I remember the people I used to know who've gone from this planet and I turn my spirit outwards to all the people I love in the hope that there is some power in the human mind that can touch them even when I'm not with them. It's a very special time of year for me and although I've done the sunrise at Avebury thing with all the druids and the drumming, I find the solitude of the evening at midsummer in my own garden a more conducive channel for my energy. So that's what I did yesterday too, just me, well, me and my cat. My cat always comes into the circle of candles and sits with me. I'm sure it helps.

But before that, J and the boys helped to erect what is possibly the world's smallest and most recent standing stone next to the pond on the allotment! We'd found it some months previously under some brambles when we moved the compost bins at the bottom of the allotment and it was just the right shape for a teeny little monolith so I decided that midsummer day was an auspicious day to put it in place.

The hole was dug, the stone placed facing the sun as it sank behind the hill and we placed seven candles around it to celebrate the Solstice. Then we all drank beer. The boys showed signs of having humoured mummy enough so before they left I took them along to the end of the allotments where there is a wild area of large trees and bushes in which a fox has been seen with one cub this year. We crept as quietly as we could into the wild area but weren't lucky enough to see the foxes this time. I've seen adult foxes many times on the allotment but I'd love to see the cub.

The photos this time are of our new standing stone (!) and a pile of our broad beans on the kitchen table. I am immensely pleased with the beans this year, we won't get masses but since I planted them quite late because of squirrel damage to my first batch, they've done really well.
They taste good too. Now, mysteriously I seem to be typing when I could be weeding so it's time for me to go....

.....and a merry Solstice to you all!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fruit picking

Hello again. The country has been overwhelmed with floods, I was watching the TV news last night and they showed dramatic footage of people's houses and gardens with swirling brown floodwater racing through buildings and making rivers out of roads. There was obviously a lot of damage. I'm sure many promising vegetable gardens were washed away too. If it happened to you, you have my sympathy.

Here, it hasn't been so bad, There's been a lot of rain, more than enough to thoroughly water the allotment and wash out a local garden party, but not more than we can handle.

We went up to the allotment this morning in a break between the showers, sensibly clad in wellies and with a big umbrella. It was just nice to get a bit of fresh air and I wasn't really expecting to do much up there. However, the sun came out and it was really hot for a few minutes so we stayed and picked fruit. The gooseberries are ready so I'm picking them a punnet at a time and using them fresh. Last year I put far too much fruit in the freezer and some of it's still in there so I don't want to freeze any more just yet.

We picked strawberries and raspberries too and the first tiny picking of redcurrants. Now I have to think of creative ways to cook them! Some of the gooseberries have already appeared in the form of crumble for tonight's dinner, the strawberries and raspberries are in the fridge waiting for inspiration and I think the redcurrants may turn into a sauce to go with tomorrow's lamb. Sometimes it's hard to know what to do with all this fruit. Yesterday I made a cake with raspberries and cream (which the boys loved) and there's still some of that left! At this rate I shall get dreadfully fat.

While we were on the allotment we had a good look at the broad beans. J's always very pessimistic about our progress up there and he was making gloomy noises about the blackfly on the beans. I hope they'll be alright, there are lots of ladybirds chomping away on the blackfly so maybe we'll get some good beans in the end. We ate the first picking of them tonight, they were lovely, very tender and young. I cooked another batch of supermarket frozen beans as well and spooned them out into separate piles on our plates so we could see if there is a significant difference in taste or texture. (Not much, but ours were definitely better)

My family is quite used to experiments like this.

The weather forecast is quite reasonable for tomorrow so I hope I'll be able to do a bit of weeding before the bindweed outclimbs the runner beans. There's a bit of a competition going on between them at the moment and I think it's up to me to make sure the beans win.
Happy gardening

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A new beginning in the middle

Well, It's only taken about 14 years, but my allotment is finally looking really up together so I thought I'd start a blog to celebrate!

I took over a fairly run down allotment when my younger son was only about three, I remember he used to come up there with me while the older one was at school and we'd spend the odd hour, me pulling out couch grass and him poking mud with a stick, but for years it still looked very half hearted and our produce was very meagre. Well, you know how time just slips away and suddenly he's a great lad of sixteen who doesn't want anything to do with growing vegetables but the vegetables are finally showing promise....and as for the strawberries this year...yum!

I suppose I've started putting all that nurturing into my little patch of land now that the boys are growing up. The kids are reaping the benefits in other ways (like eating the strawberries)

My allotment is on a gentle slope overlooking the city. I've divided it up in different ways over the years but it seems to be settling down into a series of small beds, some permanent like the rhubarb and the artichokes, and some that follow a rotation of potatoes and beans and onions and brassicas in the time honoured way. I've also given over a small bed to flowers and I'm so pleased I decided to do that, it adds to the feeling of well-being I get from this plot of land. Vegetables are more purposeful than flowers, more business-like if you see what I mean so to sit in my garden chair under the big apple tree admiring the flowers is one of the most chilled out ways of spending my time that I ever get to do.

We (that's my husband and I) take quite a few photos up there so I'll see if I can put any of them into this page to make it look extra pretty! I'm new to this blog stuff.
Happy gardening (it's good for the soul)