Wednesday, March 3

February in pictures

Monday, March 1

At long last!

Last week the weather improved and not only did we have two afternoons at Nostell Priory but we also had a couple of afternoons working on the allotment.
Our first visit had to be without Ruby as we wanted to visit the garden. In all our visits we have been restricted to the parkland as dogs are not permitted in the garden. We didn’t expect the gardens to be so extensive.  
It’s a pity that we can’t visit with Ruby as dogs are permitted in some NT gardens that are far more manicured than those of Nostell which for the most part is set out in a naturalistic style. To be honest much of the garden is very similar to the areas where dogs are allowed. There are, however some animals that they can't keep out.
Not wishing to deprive, Ruby of her walk we paid a second visit the day after keeping to the areas where she was permitted.
The weekend was spent at the allotment where we did some tidying. I pruned the rest of the roses and, Martyn gave the grass the first strim of the year. We also managed to do some general tidying. Martyn posted a video tour here.

The bulbs are coming into life on the allotment, I've never planted crocuses here but, a few years ago, I noticed a single flower which has since propagated itself and now we have a few small clumps. The tulips have increased in number too, as have the cyclamen, another plant that introduced itself.

The spring bulbs in our garden are also really starting to make everywhere look spring-like but I guess it is too early to start counting chickens.
The birds were enjoying the sunshine and their song competed with the sounds of strimmers and cultivators. They managed to thwart any attempts to take a decent photograph by assuming uncooperative positions.
A major breakthrough last week was the arrival of our seed order from Kings. Out of sheer frustration, I sent an email for the attention of the managing director. Whilst waiting for an answer, I posted reviews on a couple of sites and commented and messaged them on their Facebook page. I also mentioned that visitors to our blogs were watching with interest. I had a reply from the MD the same day apologising and promising that our seeds would be delivered by the end of the week and they were. As expected there were some omissions no doubt due to some items being sold out by the time our order was processed. Fortunately we did receive most of our seeds and have placed an order elsewhere for some extras. These are promised within ten working days - watch this space.
Our homegrown vegetables this week were used in a spicy vegetable and quinoa dish. Other than onions the rest of the vegetables - green beans, peas, and sweet corn - came out of the freezer. I also added some leftover red pepper. I didn't add as much liquid as the recipe shows as I didn't want a soup like consistency.
Our fresh vegetables were used as accompaniment to fish dishes and to some cheese and onion patties that had been made from our potatoes and onions earlier and frozen to provide a quick meal. 

A second vegetable dish was a spicy root vegetable casserole. Into this went onion, carrot, parsnip and potatoes. The food photographs that I take never seem to look as good as the dishes actually taste.

Martyn and I were reflecting this week on how relatively lucky we have been during the lockdown periods. Besides having the allotment and our garden to enjoy we also have  Nostell on our doorstep - a place that we have underused in the past. We are in a bubble with my sister and so we can visit her as usual. We also have been able to have most of our shopping needs delivered. There are many people a lot worse off than we are. 

The vaccination roll-out is progressing well so let's hope that soon we start seeing the benefits.  As always stay safe and well.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Wednesday, February 24

A fine afternoon at Nostell Priory

Monday, February 22

Some things are looking up - a bit

An improvement in the weather meant that we could actually get out in the garden last week.

The week started, however with a much needed walk for us and for Ruby. Current restrictions mean that we have to stay local and so we booked a visit to Nostell Priory for Monday afternoon. We stuck to the drier paths in order to cut down on the risk of Ruby needing a bath as she still had her stitches in.

It was a lovely sunny day and I took a few photos which I will post on Wednesday but here are a couple. Some of you may be familiar with the Where's Wally? books. This is my version of Where's Ruby?

Tuesday, saw another trip to the veterinary hospital where, Ruby parted with her stitches. Once she recognised where she was heading, Ruby wasn't at all pleased but it was a different story when she quickly came back out again and headed home. Twenty-four hour surveillance is thankfully over but don't tell Ruby that another vet's visit is booked for early March. This time for her booster inoculation.
Things are starting to take off in the garden. I love to see the first snowdrops. We don't have any special varieties of snowdrop. Ours are unnamed and were just sold as either snowdrops or double snowdrops. Some clumps have bulked up well over the years but it's early days for some that we planted just over a year ago under a newly planted area under a crab apple tree.
It won't be long before the tub of crocuses above are fully opened. We just need a few sunny days - what are the chances? I ought to weed the tub but I don't want to disturb the bulbs. The ones in the open garden aren't as advanced.
Bulbs in the front garden are pushy through, including some dwarf tulips. This is always a sign that the perennials need cutting back to give the bulbs room to shine.

A small bed containing one of our bird baths is situated just outside one of our house windows. We like this to look interesting for as much of the year as possible. In early spring the interest is provided by bulbs. Later it will be planted up with summer bedding. 

Bulbs can often get in the way when planting the bedding plants so last year I plant miniature daffodils in pots which were sunk into the ground. These were removed once flowering was over and the pots were sunk into the ground elsewhere in the garden. On Saturday the pots were replanted in their flowering positions. There are crocuses planted in the same bed and in retrospect I should maybe have planted these in pots too so I could avoid the bulbs when replanting the daffodils.

Just outside of our kitchen door on the patio we have a sarcococca planted in a tub. It was planted there to give us the full benefit of the early scent. The plant is clothed in tiny petal-less flowers and the perfume is lovely but the leaves look very pale which I imagine is chlorosis caused by lack of nutrients so when the weather improves I'll give it a good feed.
On Sunday, we paid a visit to the allotment. As we knew that it would still be too soggy to do much work, the main reason for our visit was to harvest a few things. We gathered together some sprouts, parsnips and leeks. We stayed for a couple of hours and managed to pruned one of the bush roses and cut back a couple of buddleias.

Onto this weeks meals:

Monday, I made a fried rice recipe which used some broccoli, sweet corn and  green beans from the freezer, along with onion and carrot.

On Wednesday, I made a vegetable tagine served with apricot and almond quinoa. This made use of some Crown Prince squash, onion and tomatoes from the freezer. Although I cooked the amount in the recipe there was far too much quinoa. Instead of the individually mentioned spices I used ras el hanout.
On Friday, I made a chicken and vegetable pie based on this recipe. Into this went, carrot, onion, frozen peas and sweetcorn. I didn't used the method described in the recipe to make the filling but more of a casserole method. I also added some herbs de Provence to the filling. I didn't make a full pie but instead just added a puff pastry top. This was served with some braised red cabbage from the freezer.
Sunday, I made a vegetable cottage pie based on this recipe which calls it a shepherd's pie but to my mind a shepherd's pie has to contain lamb. I used carrot and some of the last of our onions and potatoes. We'll soon have to buy more!

By the way we are still waiting for our large seed order from Kings Seeds. They are saying that our order should arrive by the end of this month. Even considering Covid issues, I do think two months wait for an order especially when our money was taken straight away is a poor effort. 

The garden centres have been kept supplied and if we had ordered the same seeds from our local garden centre they would have delivered to us within 5 working days.  As it is we have had to buy some seeds from the garden centre that needed sowing. We can't contact Kings to cancel our order as no-one is manning the phones and emails are ignored. I think that they are prioritising customers who don't qualify for a discount. Orders from retail and those from individual customers were being delivered within 21 days even though our group order is made up of individual orders. It will be interesting to see whether we will in fact receive our full order or whether by now some seeds will have sold out. We are really considering not ordering from them in future and forgoing the discounts.

As always keep safe and well

This week I am linking to Harvest Monday hosted by Dave's Our Happy Acres blog

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Tuesday, February 16

Just a sharp scratch

I’ve no even slightly connected gardening activities to report from last week. No plot visits, no seed or plant deliveries, not even time browsing seed catalogues. I wonder whether visiting some of my favourite gardening blogs counts.

The weather has been bitterly cold with, at times, a bitingly cold wind. We even had another flurry of snow on Wednesday. At one point it looked as though we were in for a significant covering but fortunately that didn’t materialise.  At one point I did wonder whether I was going to be able to make my Covid jab appointment. According to the weekend news, I should receive a letter this week inviting me to book an appointment, as that is when my priority group will start to be given the option of a vaccination. Our area must be ahead of the game as my text came from our doctors last Monday

My appointment was for Thursday morning at a nearby rugby club. I knew what to expect as Martyn had his jab the previous week. For those of you still waiting, I thought  I’d share my experience.

On arriving at the car park we were greeted by yellow jacket clad, masked volunteers who organised the parking and gave me directions . Before arriving at the club door, I was greeted by another volunteer and asked all the usual questions about whether I had any symptoms and I was handed an information sheet. I then headed for the club building.

Outside the door, I joined a socially distanced queue with two others to wait for admittance. The man queuing in front of me told me that he was really excited when he received his message but now he was there he was feeling less happy. Apparently he didn’t like needles.

Once at the front of the queue, another volunteer squirted sanitiser on my hands. I was then told that I could enter the building.  

Just inside the doorway was a table where I had to give my name. I was then given a card showing my name, date of birth and details of the vaccine about to be administered. It was reminiscent of registering for a conference and receiving a name tag.

The room that I entered had about eight tables arranged down its far side each manned by two people.  At the side of the room nearest to the entrance were eight chairs spaced at two metre interval where I had to wait for my turn to receive the injection.

When it was my turn, I was escorted to one of the tables where the card containing my details was checked and I was asked more questions about my health, allergies and some effects that might cause were described. I didn’t suffer any after effects. The vaccine was given, and no it didn’t hurt at all.

I was then given a timer set to fifteen minutes and escorted to another room where about twenty chairs were arranged at two metre intervals. I was directed to a chair and told to wait until my timer pinged. Of course I managed to have a timer that didn’t ping but I kept an eye on it until it reached zero. As pings sounded and people got up to leave, another volunteer disinfected the chairs. 

As I left I was told that I would be contacted for my second dose in 8 - 12 weeks time. Apparently it takes about 21 days for any degree of immunity to be created so my risk of contracting Covid is still as high as it was prior to the vaccination.

The whole operation relied on a large number of volunteers so recognition should be given to them. They were all really pleasant and friendly, even when standing out in the freezing cold. Whilst I was there, a constant stream of people were being vaccinated.

Anyway now I have to wait for my next text before I go through the whole process a second time.

Just off at a bit if a tangent. I wonder why it is OK for so much junk mail and charity bags to keep popping through the letterbox? Is it just me who throws them straight into the bin? Regardless of any potential risk of infection our postal service is struggling to deliver important mail with some people commenting that they haven't received any mail for over a week.
We may not have been gardening but we have been kept on our toes with, Ruby. She became very interested in her stitches so constant surveillance has been necessary. Her stitches come out on Tuesday so we will then be able to relax.

Of course I still managed to do some cooking.
Monday, I made a turkey stew that included some of our leeks, carrot, onion and frozen peas and green beans.
Wednesday, I used the slow cooker to make a vegetable korma using, our potatoes, onion, carrot and frozen peas. It also used red pepper and a courgette that I had to buy. The only problem was that the potatoes broke down during cooking so I think next time I’ll cut down on the stock. Liquid doesn't thicken in the slow cooker so the end product was a bit 'thin' but it tasted better than it looked.

Friday, I used orzo for the first time and made a tomato and chickpea risotto based on this recipe. I added our onion, frozen sweet corn and some spinach. Next time I won’t sauté the orzo as this caused it to stick to the pan and I’m not sure why it was necessary. I’m guessing someone just substituted orzo for rice in a recipe and treated it in the same way.
The orzo made a nice change from the usual rice based risotto so will become a store cupboard regular.
Sunday I made a vegetable and black bean hash which used, our potato, carrot and onion along with red pepper, spinach (I didn't have any kale) and some mushrooms. 
My korma used ground almonds which prompted me to mention another favourite gadget. My stick blender has a grinder attachment so rather than buying both flaked and ground almonds, I just buy flaked and use the grinder to make my own ground almonds. It’s also really useful for blitzing root ginger. I blitz a batch and then freeze portions in an ice cube tray. It will also chop herbs, if they need to be chopped finely and can be used to make a curry paste.

This week the weather is set to be mild so maybe we will get out a little bit more especially as Ruby will have lost her stitches and be OK to go for some walks. Don’t tell her, but due to all the mud, it may mean more shower time too.
As usual keep, safe and well and here’s hoping for those of you who haven’t received the call it will arrive soon.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Monday, February 8

What a week that was

Last week was a pretty hectic week although gardening hardly featured at all. 

The only remotely gardening related occurrence was the delivery of a small parcel of seeds from D T Brown. 

We bought:

Broad bean - Luz de Otono for a late sowing

Climbing French bean - Golden Gate

Lettuce - Headed Mix

Radish - Icicle

Cabbage - Rigoletto

Mooli - April Cross

Tomato - Crimson Crush

Swede - Invitation

Broccoli - Rudolf

I’m really disappointed that our main seed order from Kings Seeds is being seriously delayed. A group of the plot holders on our site have group membership of the NAS which entitles us to discounted seeds from Kings. This year we placed our order as usual  but received notification that due to COVID related issues and higher than expected demand our order could be delayed for up to 8 weeks. It seems retail and individual orders are being processed before allotment group orders. This means that we will not receive our seeds until March and even then some items could be missing. I have expressed my disappointment that orders from long standing allotment customers seem to be at the bottom of their list of priorities.

So if we have not been gardening why have things been so hectic.

Last Wednesday,  Ruby was booked in at the veterinary hospital to be spayed. This was something that we were dreading as she hasn’t had an anaesthetic before and we didn’t know how she would react. To make matters more stressful we had another fall of snow on Tuesday so we were worried that we wouldn’t make the appointment.

Then my sister rang to say she had received a telephone call to arrange for her to have her COVID vaccination on the Saturday.

Fortunately the snow didn’t hang around and Ruby minus her breakfast was duly delivered to the hospital where the hand over was arranged under pandemic protocol conditions. We’d opted to have her surgery done laparoscopically and also for her to have an optional blood test to check whether she was likely to react badly to the anaesthetic. It was then a case of going home to wait for a call. This is always a fraught experience.

After what seemed to be a lifetime we had a call to say everything had gone according to plan and Ruby had come out of the anaesthetic but was still groggy. A pickup appointment was arranged and we could breathe again.

Her fur that was nicely groomed the previous week is now rather patchy but it will soon grow.

Meanwhile, Martyn received a text inviting him to book his Covid jab which he did for the following day.

We picked up Ruby who although still a little wobbly was ecstatic to see us. On arriving hone she was ready for a small meal, the portion size didn’t impress but as advised she had another small meal an hour later. 

The next day she was her normal self. The vet told us to keep her calm which is being a full time job as she is so full of bouncy energy. She thinks our attempts at play are pathetic and can’t understand why we won’t let her have crackerdog or doughnuttting sessions. We also have to keep her constantly in sight to ensure that she does interfere with her stitches. On Sunday we had to send a photo of her stitches for the vet to check that everything was OK and hopefully her stitches will come our next week.

Both vaccination appointments were kept so now I am the only non-vaccinated member of our social bubble. I did, however receive a text today and am booked in for my first jab on Thursday.

Weather wise when it hasn’t been snowing it has been raining which has resulted in flooding. Fortunately we escape flooding at home but some roads around us are flooded.

Despite being on Ruby watch I did manage to do some cooking.

On Monday we had Chicken curry with green beans that incorporated our frozen French beans and onion. I used yoghurt instead of creme fraiche as it was what I had in the fridge and my own spice mix instead of curry powder.

On Wednesday we needed something quick and so had some of our frozen tomato sauce with shop bought aubergine, mozzarella and tomato ravioli.

Thursday I made a stir fry using our onions, frozen peas, and green beans. I also added carrot, peppers and spinach. Instead of adding soy sauce which we don’t use I used sweet chilli sauce. This was served with noodles.

Friday I used the slow cooker to make a vegetable hotpot. Into this went our parsnip, Crown Prince squash, onion, and carrot. There was enough here for two days so on Friday it was served with dumplings and on Saturday with Apache potatoes.

That’s it for this week. With another week of Ruby watch to look forward to wish us luck. 

As always stay safe and healthy.

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett