Monday, 28 July 2008

School Club Harvest (or the Miraculous Never Watered But Still Grew Plants)

Usually when Monday approaches I start thinking about the school gardening club.

Actually, that's a bit of a lie. I used to start thinking about the club and what activities we would be doing on Tuesday. Towards the end of term however, my enthusiasm had started to wane and quite often I wouldn't think about this until Tuesday morning.

It's nothing personal. It seems a general malaise that is currently infecting my life. So last Tuesday I was rather relieved that it was the final one for a few weeks.

Weeding, watering and harvesting had been the main activities for the last two or three sessions, plus a visit from a photographer for the local paper was shoehorned into our busy schedule.

A lot of the produce has been slow to ripen so we've left in the runner beans, courgette and tomatoes with assurances from the members who live in the village that they will harvest them. I will probably pop in too but it does seem a bit cheeky for me to stagger away with armfuls of produce.

Plans for next term include sowing sweet pea seeds, bulbs and working on the herb patch in readiness for next spring. I've also got to look into grants and other funding because I'd like to buy a plastic growhouse (to put goodness knows where) and the bulbs.

The highlights? Definitely the children's enthusiasm and their possessiveness over the plot. It looks good and they should feel proud. The lowlights? Er....lack of working outside tap, the children's inability to remember to water the plants and a general lack of thanks (from adults and children).

For my part I'd mark my report card with a B minus. "Mrs B started the term well but ended a bit flat. She needs to maintain her energy and enthusiasm levels and to remember small but important tasks like entering the plot into gardening competitions, contacting nurseries for sponsorship and burning the photos onto a disc LIKE SHE PROMISED. All in all, could do better."

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

What I'm Enjoying In My Garden

This is what I'm enoying in my garden this evening. A very cold bottle of pear cider (excuse the wine glass, so desperate was I for this liquid gold I just grabbed any one).

It's been sitting in my fridge for nearly a week but I've held off (aren't you impressed with my restraint?) until tonight - the start of the summer holidays.

I did think it was a mini celebration but after the day I've had - four tantrums before 9.30am coupled with three trips to school (take the children, go back for the special assembly and then, blow me, back again to pick them up after lunch) - it's probably a case of drowning my sorrows. Still, this glass has made up for it. It is definitely my most favourite thing in my garden.

Monday, 21 July 2008

A Carrot Family Trip to the Plot

We have, somewhat surprisingly, managed to get up to the allotment. All seven of us. Doesn't often happen but it's nice when it does.

Thankfully we were the only ones up there save for a friend's husband who was morosely staring at their weeds. But I'm always amazed that it isn't full and bustling when we do visit at the weekends. Amazed and thankful this time as our youngest managed to forget the Golden Rule about others' plots (no damage done).

Don't worry, he's on our plot here

I wonder when others do go up there. Maybe they have a secret army of elves who come out of the woods at night and tend to their perfect plots. Or maybe they're retired and so visit during the day when generally I don't. Hmm. I know which theory I prefer.

Anyway, we managed to put in a couple of hours before everyone started to get a bit rebellious and moan about biting red ants, hunger pangs and baby brothers stealing the one strawberry they had been carefully nurturing.

We weeded, Hubby laid some old paving slabs that are my new paths (I've given up on everything else). Weeds will still be able to grow up the sides because they aren't a perfect fit having been salvaged from our back garden but they look nice. I think Hubby gets exasperated about this "looking nice" business but for me it's important.

Mud flower pot castles were made, on the newly laid paths

It also gave me a chance to outline my plans for the raspberry canes ("see like those over there") and to pick and eat a few of the fruit, sow some autumn carrots (which I didn't water) and plant an autumn gourd, oh and make a bit of an entrance to my plot (more of that later, I don't want to spoil you). A bit of work got done and nobody was too miserable or argumentative. Outright success in my book.

Raspberries were munched

Friday, 18 July 2008

Looking Down and Looking Forward

Oh dear.

My veggie container garden has been neglected along with the allotment, this blog and to some extent the school gardening club.

First it was apathy, inertia and just being downright fed up and then it was the Vile Vomiting Bug that had six out of seven of us laid low.

The Cloud of Gloom is still hovering above my head (can you see it? Can you?). Nothing is growing. Well, that's a lie, green things are obviously growing because they're not dead but as for copious "look at the kilos of veggies I've harvested" posts - forget it.

I can't pretend I'm not green with envy at others; well, I could but really, what's the point? And I shan't, as a stand against some of the (non-gardening) blogs I read, pretend life is wonderful and I never get fed up. Life is quite often hard and I am very fed up.

If I start waffling about why then this won't be a gardening blog, so I'll just contain my ire for my Albatross of an Allotment (told you I wasn't happy). I just can't seem to get to grips with it. The weeds are under control, in that they are there but small and easily remedied with two hours work, probably every day.

There are great big patches of dirt where voluptuous veggies should be and I don't know why I haven't filled them. Then there are the veggies that have decided to put in an appearance. Honestly, I don't know why they bothered. It was hardly worth the effort.

But enough! As I cling to the edges in my Pit of Despair, trying to get a toehold so I can haul myself into the fresh air and sun of normal life, I've decided to reach for the rope labelled Looking Forward.

At the end of this is the box marked Seeds I Can Plant Soon For Next Year, thanks to Sarah Raven's website which I was browsing for a friend's birthday present. I've often wondered why she can't make do with Suttons seeds but she is into the pretty pretty version of country living (think Cath Kidston, Emma Bridgwater) so click away I did.

I read a couple of articles and discovered seeds you can sow in August for next year and - oops - accidentally put two packets of ammi majus Bishops Flower into my basket, y'know, one each. Apparently they make a lovely cut flower although I haven't a clue where they'll go in my garden. I'll worry about that later. I also bought some sweepeas to sow next month and a couple of other things for my friend.

It was a bit of a relief, frankly, to find these articles. I had thought that, in my usual way, my interest in gardening and this blog has run it's course and they were just another entry on the long list of Things I Never Stick At.

But it is nice to have a goal, even if it is to see how hopeless I shall be in growing these flowers. Hopefully my potting shed, built by Hubby, will be up by then and that will help. Oh yes, ever the optimist me.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

It's All Change In the Carrots Garden

I'm really indecisive. The subject of how many times the kitchen and Aga have been moved gets brought up far too often if you ask me.

Unfortunately, I'm just the same with the outside. We are Not Happy with our garden. Basically, it's not big enough (and neither is the house) but it's all we're ever likely to have so we, I, need a way to come to terms with it and lurve it.

Gardening books, mags, programmes and shows have been scrutinised, nay obsessed over, in a bid to find Ideas. But some changes are happening and some have been thrust upon us. And all without a plan being agreed.

Take, for instance, the shed at the bottom of the garden. All forlorn, unloved and leaking it stood, forgotten. Until Hubby decided he needed it for His Stuff. So it's been spruced up, made water-tight (funny how that happens when he needs it) and moved.

Actually, I quite like its new home, near the house, at the top of the garden. I'm thinking a lick of paint, something lovely growing up the sides, room inside perhaps for a fork or two. He's thinking Hands Off!

The bottom of the garden, also neglected, is now crying out for attention. "Do something with me before the neighbours complain" it shouts at me every time I look out the window. Sometimes it cries "Look at all this wasted space. Space! Wasted! How could you, ye of such small home crammed with lots of kids!"

But for once I know what to do. The climbing frame is earmarked for where the chicken pen is, nicely hidden by the willow tree. Next to it will be the hammock strung between two more trees. And that space opposite, recently vacated by Small Shed will be home to my Potting Shed! Hurrah! I did voice concern that my shed was a little too close to the Children's Corner to be anything remotely retreat-like but Hubby, with his shed no where near the children, assured me it would be fine.

We, of course, have done nothing yet. There's the rubble waiting to be used as a base. And the overgrown jungle hill has been flattened and is waiting for....well, not sure really. What we really need is a remote control to freeze frame the children for, um, two months to give us a chance to catch up with everything. Either that or a nanny. Alas we have neither so this weekend we will be cracking on.

And the motivation? The chicken pen has now been vacated, thanks to Mr Fox, who rather ironically made good use of the space made by Hubby's shed removal to spy the chickens and make off with them. We've had hens for years and never had any trouble.

I shall miss the Bossy one, who kept laying in my herb bed. Really I feel quite sad about them both. And the partridge eggs Broody (who was always broody) was incubating. Still, I'm trying to look on the bright side, in an irritating Pollyanna-ish way, because I guess it means the garden plans might, finally, come to fruition. If I don't change my mind.

Friday, 11 July 2008

My Happy Accident

To say that I'm clumsy is probably something of an understatement. This becomes too glaringly obvious when I'm gardening.

In my own garden I'm mostly fine. It's when I have to go to the allotment or the school garden. My biggest trouble is trying to do Too Much and Rushing, oh and Having Eyes Bigger Than My Arms.

Matters are not helped because I never seem to get everything planted. Either because I'm slow or time-poor. Or a combination of both. So mostly I'm scurrying about with plants perched precariously on buggies or trugs or, worse, in my arms.

Unfortunately I don't really have storage in either place. Nor a greenhouse. So, because I'm not rich, I grow a lot from seed and transport them. And this is where my problem lies. Usually on the floor, in a compost-and-seeds-all-mixed-up-mess. Or a crushed-seedling-mess.

Ages ago, on one of my too infrequent visits to the allotment, I dropped half a tray of purple sprouting broccoli. Rushing because it was getting dark and I'm a scaredy cat, I cursed and scooped the lot up before running to my car.

At my "potting table" at home I hurriedly filled some pots and planted, none too carefully, the seedlings I could salvage. And there they've sat for about six weeks.

And how wonderful and healthy they now look! All that benign neglect has worked wonders. I'm actually putting off planting them at the allotment because of those pesky slugs. I need to read up on how other people protect theirs because y'know how the ones I did manage to plant are faring don't you? Yep, they're a lovely row of chomped-to-the-stump of nothingness.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

All Right Aubergine?

I think I may have posted before about how much I love aubergine plant and how I'm really looking forward to picking the handful of the vegetables that it will hopefully produce.

But I don't think it's very happy chez Carrots. I don't think I'm proving to be very adept at aubergine growing (which, let's face it, is hardly surprising).

I keep the soil moist but sometimes the leaves still look droopy. Plus there's an orange colour appearing on them and they're also looking a bit....raggedy.

So that's three things wrong with it. Apparently these plants do not appreciate windy, inclement weather. Thinking about it, I think I'll be lucky if the plant survives, let alone produces anything.

A search round the web hasn't provided much information about what may be wrong with my Baby Belle, but I have learnt it really should be in a greenhouse or conservatory. I don't have a greenhouse but the 'eating' end of the kitchen is glass so that may be it's new home. Then I'll be able to add 'Toddler' to the list of what's wrong with my aubergine.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Black Clouds Are Gathering......

So where are you summer? Who ordered the rain, and why is it so chilly?

I'm mighty glad that my vague thoughts about camping this weekend came to nought. Mainly because I failed to voice them out loud. Sometimes going away is so much harder work than staying at home. Especially when it involves tents. And little people.

I'm also cheering myself up with the thought that at least I don't have to get out the watering can. Not that I'm lazy or anything you understand. But, but....I'm not feeling great still and everyone is very grumpy. Roll on the end of term. Or maybe not.

So thank you everyone for your kind comments on the last post. To cheer myself up (and no doubt you, if you've made it this far) I took some photos of the blooms in my garden.

I'm not really into flowers. In a vase on my kitchen table but growing them? Not so much. I think I will eventually, but first I need to get a handle on growing veggies. But to remember that sometimes I do have blooms in the garden, I took these. While dodging the downpours.

Friday, 4 July 2008

And Exhale...

I needed to be soothed but eschewed my usual chocolate. Or glass of wine (well, it was 9.30 in the morning) or a pick-me-up-book (really, really trying hard on the book buying front).

So I took a detour Wednesday morning. Head still fuzzy from the previous day's migrane (luckily it just started as a bad headache so I was able to do the gardening club. But it progressed. Rapidly. Adding five children and six after-school activities to the mix does not help. Have I mentioned I don't love Tuesdays....).

With three children in tow, one of whom was off poorly with some lurgy that she later shared with me, we mooched up to allotment. No tools with which to dig. No plants to put in the ground for the slugs. No camera even (that's an old picture), we pottered.

We were only up there for a short time. But we were on our own. And were there long enough for me to exhale and fill my lungs and spirit with a lush, green boost.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Chuffed To Bits

I've been awarded the Arte y Pico Award by Sheila of Gardens of Petersonville. I feel completely chuffed to bits as I can't remember ever getting an award. No, not even at school. I know, it is sad....

Thank you ever so much Sheila, I feel very honoured to receive this from you. I'm sorry I've taken a day or two to blog about it but a migrane laid me low for a couple of days (well, as low as you can go while looking after a three and a two-year-old. Not low enough, not lying-on-the-bed low, unfortunately).

So here I am, very graciously and not at all head-swellingly saying thank you and passing on a bit of bloggy love round the 'net. There are a lot of rules and I think I'm following them. Here's the history of the award:

The origin of the Arte y Pico Award: "This prize has arisen from the daily visits that I dedicate to many blogs which nourish me and enrich me with creativity. In them I see dedication, creativity, care, comradeship, but mainly, ART, much art. I want to share this prize with all those bloggers that entertain me day to day and to share this prize with those who enrich me every day. Doubtlessly, there are many and it will be hard to pick just a few. The people I will name today deserve this prize, as do the very long serious list of bloggers I also enjoy to read. But I will name the first 5 and leave the rest of the work to all the bloggers that visit other's blogs and are nourished by them."

Here's the 5 rules bit for this award:

1. Choose 5 blogs you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogging community, regardless of the language.

2. Each award should have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.

3. Each award winner should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented him/her with the award. (Sheila said she wouldn't be hurt if I didn't put this in. I, on the other hand.......)

4. The award winner and the one who has given the award should show the Arte y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award. Translated, it means "the peak of art."

5. Show these rules.

Now onto my choice. Can you feel this cyberhug whizzing through space to you? Whaddya mean, no? In no particular order I award the Arte y Pico to: Victoria at Victoria's Backyard for having a really lush, enviable garden and for writing about it in an interesting way; to Rhiannon at GreenPatch because she's a mummy allotmenteer and I admire her hard work; Karen at An Artist's Garden for her stunning photographs and finally to two blogging/gardening mamas across the pond whose writing style and blogs I admire and enjoy - Kate at The Root and Melissa at Garden Portraits.

Enjoy! Enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Babies and the Baby Belle

I love my aubergine plant, a Baby Belle. I've never grown one before but I love the purpleness, the pretty flower, how it will produce teeny tiny fruit that, no doubt, only I shall eat.

The other day I repotted it, with a little help. As soon as they heard the rustle of the compost bag, the smashing of broken pots, the little ones rushed over, eager to be involved. So how could I resist?

Some compost ended up on the patio, there was a fair bit of patting down so it needed fluffing up and the tub isn't as full as I'd like but they're happy so I'm happy and, I hope, the aubergine will be happy.

I loved all the comments on my last Aubergine Post so I'm going to look out some recipes to use up those gorgeous veggies that will be coming our way. I can't wait.