Why is it when you get an allotment you start becoming a bit of a Womble?
Things I might once not considered using will now take on a whole new life, down on the allotment.
Our shelter was constructed of pallets, the small greenhouse thrown away by someone else and the table given to us by someone else on the allotment, who had found in on a skip!
Bricks no longer of use to anyone else become borders…
A broken spade takes on a new life, helping us out with the watering…..
Even my water butt was courtesy of a fellow allotmenteer who works as a gardener and had a client for whom it was surplus to requirement.
In these times when people are looking to lead a more sustainable life it’s good to see that less is being thrown away and more things put to a new, if not different use.
When we arrived on the allotment we were given the choice of two sheds which were already in place. One was a small metal construction with a bent and twisted door. The other, concrete, slightly larger and with a good roof on it. The floor was rotten and moves when you walk upon it and there was no door – but it had a wee window! I requested the latter and then asked Freecycle if there was any chance someone might possibly be throwing out a shed door. By the power of the internet (not Greyskull) a kind gentleman answered and a couple of days later we drove over to collect a new door for the shed. He had even pinned the hinges and screws to the door – perfect!
In times when the internet and the news scares us with tales of how awful the world is and everything that is bad, it’s hard to see the good. But, when you look, you will start to see it everywhere, shining through, sometimes in the most unlikely of places.
It is more satisfying to help someone else and know you have created happiness, than to do anything which would upset or annoy others. Again, something we see all the time down on the allotment. Like minded people, from various walks of life, all trying to make the most of their plots and their time, but also taking time out to help each other out.
Such help maybe an offer to water plants when others are on holibobs, an excess of seedlings, strawberry runners or even the fruits of their hard work. It might be help to make the site itself a nicer place to spend time, doing up the shelter, clearing away any rubbish which may have built up over the years or clearing the brook from weeds and silt to help it run more freely. It is this sense of community which I think many of it miss in a world that often moves all too quickly.
We are at that time of year when the courgettes are coming through thick and fast, if not picked quickly enough them soon become marrows. Because they are such an easy and delicious vegetable to grow, almost everyone on the allotment will have plenty of their own, so no market for any extras there. When I have the inclination I will make either courgette cake or courgette chutney, but at the moment it is simply to hot to slave away in the kitchen for longer than necessary!
Fortunately I have family and friends who are always willing to take any extras, now with all the lovely people I train with at dragon boating this pool of people has been extended out. In one evening I managed for find takers for an entire trug full of courgettes/marrows. It’s always good to be able to share the love…… and the vegetables!
Despite a couple of wet and miserable days we awoke today to a drier, brighter day than expected. A good job too as this afternoon was to be my first experience of racing in the dragon boats and a warm, sunny day will always be more preferable to a rainy one – although you get wet whichever, so rain wouldn’t stop us!
Usually there are only enough paddlers for one boat to go out, but today the team were joined by the Purple Warriors. This is a group of either serving or retired members of HM Forces who have some form of disability or impairment as a result of their service, but don’t let that mislead you, they are formidable!
Fortunately they decided to mixed the teams up, so it wasn’t all them against us. It doesn’t matter if you are paddling with people you’ve never met, we are all in the same boat both literally and figuratively, the aim is the same and the camaraderie is part of what makes dragon boating such a fantastic sport to be a part of.
We were only on the water for an hour or so, but we managed to get three races in and each was great fun and close finishes, not being competitive I wont mention that our boat won two of the three…
As I’ve probably mentioned before, the great thing about this sport is not only is it a great form of exercise, but the people are there lovely, to which end when we get back on dry land the usual routine is to get the boat out of the water and safely stored away, a cool down and stretch and a chance to ‘Hug a Hurricane’ – a group hug. Then we are back to the clubhouse for food and a drink, this time, thanks to the Purple Warriors, it was a barbecue. Sitting with friends and family, in the warmth of the sun with a cold drink and a plate of food, what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon….
When I was given another plot at the allotment it was a blank canvass, there were no borders already in place, only those I dug out myself. I started with the standard rectangles, but then got to thinking outside the box…. okay, someone mentioned they looked like a line of graves. To which end I ended up doing a couple of circles, but what to plant in them…..
Turns out that wasn’t a difficult decision, I’d use one for flowers and the other for herbs. We have two bee hives on the allotment, so I figured a few extra flowers would be appreciated by them as well as us. The herbs were just an obvious choice, it’s always good to have a selection on hand for cooking, they also smell so good and the bees are just as happy there as on the dedicated flower bed.
I’d bought a chive plant in the supermarket, used it and then, when it looked a bit sad moved it into the greenhouse, then with my new herb plot it made sense to give it a chance down there, well there was plenty of room! To be honest I really didn’t think it would survive, but it did and it thrived.
Fast forward and down at the allotment this weekend the chives were looking distinctly rubbish, until you looked a little closer…
In amongst the dry, straw like chives there were fresh stems and the flowers had dried out. I reckon the plants will come back as good as ever, but now I have seeds.
I’ve picked out a few, popped them in a plastic bag, given it a shake and now have some chive seeds, ready to sow for some new plants for back at the house.
When nature provides it is always worth following her lead and making the most of the opportunities.
This is a point proven by my sweet peas. Last years plants were okay, but I didn’t save any seeds. When I cleared away the spent plants the pods were dry and seeds inevitably fell from them into the soil. I didn’t think too much about them, after all, to get new plants you need to sow seeds at the right time of year, soaking them in warm water first to help the germination…. err, no, apparently not.
I did sow new seeds in the greenhouse, but they really were quite weak and pathetic. Meanwhile, down at the allotment, the fallen seeds were poking their heads through and have become the strongest, most beautiful mass of flowers, encompassing almost the entire flower plot. They were so prolific we not only brought a constant supply of flowers home for the kitchen, but also gave them to friends and family. The smell was so sublime that they had to be shared.
I’m planning this year to see if I can save more seeds, allowing some plant’s to ‘go to seed’ so that I can try to grow my own right from my very own seed, peas, beans, carrots and onions, who knows what will or wont work…. only one way to find out though…..
During training I’d heard people mention the Vogalonga group and it meant nothing to me, to be honest it took a while before I was clear on what all these different groups were and where I fitted in. I knew the team we trained with were the Hurricanes, and to do so we had to be members. Then there were the breast cancer survivor group, eventually a name was decided upon for that, we were the Paragons. So who were the Vogalonga group??
Turns out ‘Vogalonga’ were a group of ladies who had already committed to go to Venice to take part in a 32km rowing regatta, called the Vogalonga. This regatta has been taking place every year since 1975, it’s a non-competitive race which takes place as a protest against the growing number of powerboats which are active in the area and which are causing damage this amazing city.
It never occurred to me that this would affect me in any way, other than there was another group of ladies who were also new to dragon boating, until one day I was asked if I wanted to join them. Of course not, I can’t do that. I’ve got work, I couldn’t afford to go, I haven’t been paddling long enough, I couldn’t go somewhere like that without my boys, oh, and I Hate flying.
Returning from the morning’s training I met my husband down at our allotment and told him about this invitation. I’ll admit I was laughing about the preposterous idea of me going to Venice, but he wasn’t. I was instead met with the response I really wasn’t expecting – go, why are you even thinking out it, just go, you’ll love it! Oh sod, back to my promise, my promise to try not to say no to new opportunities, I said yes.
Within a couple of weeks we had booked our accommodation and flights, our team leader had arranged hiring a boat and helm in Venice and we were committed, or perhaps we should have been committed! We all upped our game, instead of just practising on a Saturday morning we tried to also fit in extra sessions during the week, some even bought their own paddles. But then another realisation, in the hour or so we were out on the water we would cover anything up to seven kilometres…… the Vogalonga is thirty two kilometres!! That’s not on a relatively flat lake but on canals with lots of other boats and in open sea with the waves and wash of motorised boats. Panic, well maybe a little.
Despite the nerves I made it onto the flight, got chatting to the poor soul next to me, jealously coveted her glass of Prosecco and before we knew it we were landing – Hello Venice!!
We were lucky to get a few days of sightseeing, eating and perhaps the odd glass or two of wine. It really is quite a beautiful place to explore, especially after you’ve got the hang of jumping on and off the vaporetto!
We made the most of the time, visiting the usual tourist traps, including the islands of Murano, Burano, St Marks Square and the Biennale Arte, an art exhibition this year titled May You Live in Interesting Times – that we do!
I try not to be too much of a tourist, but I’m afraid you cannot help but snap away with the camera, it is too beautiful to not try to capture in a photo, or two….. or more.
Soaking up the atmosphere was the best part of it though, just being there with the warmth of the sun, a gentle breeze and the smell of summer jasmine. Picking up fresh focaccia and a simple cherry tomato pizza from a small supermarket and taking it to eat in the park with a bottle of water. Finding a little jetty at the end of a narrow alleyway, away from the crowds, and sitting in the sun, watching the boats go by….
It was an early start for the race and despite our nerves walking to the centre to the get the boat we were looking ‘bad ass’, we were strong, we were confident, we were hoping we hadn’t bitten off more than we could handled! Then when we got to the centre all we wanted was to find the person who decided that one toilet cubicle was sufficient for a shed load of women about to embark of a 32 km boat race!!
After a rather shambolic start we were finally loaded into the boat and we were off. The waves of open water were new to us, the soaking as water came into the boat was not! The huge number of boats surrounding us was amazing, but totally fabulous. We called over to ask where fellow paddlers and rowers were from and cheered them, they asked where we were from and were met with a role call of countries.
Everyone was just on a high being out on the water, surrounded by so many other like minded people. I thought after a while I’d be tired, bored and wishing it was all over, but not a bit of it. We were enjoying the sights, the crowds, the music…. well okay it was singing, but not entirely in tune and I’m not sure everyone knew the words, or maybe they knew them, but were singing different songs, then before we knew it we were pulling over at an island (sand bank with a lonely bush – soon to be a very well appreciated bush by those who needed a little privacy!) and a spot of leg stretching, selfie taking and ermm, refreshments…
The second half was long and tiring, but it was still fun. We sang everything from ‘Row, row, row your boat’ to ‘I will survive’ to a strange, made up song about dragon boating for which I never did quite get the words for – but the words I could pick out I sung really loudly, that makes up for it, right??
Then there was the traffic jam, yep, it even happens in boats. Of course there are no traffic lights on the canal, oh no, traffic control came in the form of a man in an orange wet suit who suddenly popped up in between the various rowing boats, Dragon boats, kayaks, etc etc. all vying to get under the same small bridge and all trying not to get caught in the oars of the rowing boats which all take up a ridiculous amount of room.
We may have been stuck in the jam of boats for ages, waiting to get through, but it didn’t matter. The buzz was amazing, the people dining in restaurants at the side of the canal were cheering as, as were those on the bridges, there was an elderly lady leaning out of an upstairs window ringing a cow bell at us. Everyone was happy and smiling, both in and out of the boats.
Finally we were through and approaching the finishing point, as we approached it our names were called out over the PA system, how they managed that given the huge number of boats we were surrounded by I will probably never know, but it send up another huge cheer from the ladies in our boat. Our medals and T-shirts were unceremoniously thrown into the boat and then all we needed to do was turn around and head back again, back to the sports centre to return our boat and our helm!
I will admit to a disco kip before heading out again for dinner that evening – six hours on the water does rather take it out of you….
Would I do it again? Definitely!! Did I treat myself to a bottle of bubbles on the way home, certainly did!
I do believe that kids ought to be allowed to use knives, start fires, climb trees, run around the woods and generally be kids, experiment and learn about all these things, but of course all preferably without actually hurting themselves!
When my son was old enough I wanted him to join the scouting organisation, taking his first steps as a Beaver. I added his name to the waiting list of the nearest Beaver group and waited. Eventually though all we got was a message to say they were closing down and had passed the waiting list to another group, one a couple of miles away.
Meh, not a problem, there were at least two alternative groups closer by, we’d look into them as options. Well, that’s what I thought, until I got a phone call from the leader of the group the waiting list had been passed to. He was so enthusiastic and was setting up a presentation evening for prospective newbies, well it would be rude not to go along and what harm could it do …..
As it turns out the enthusiasm was infectious and there was such a positive feeling about the group and what they wanted to offer the kids we signed him up. Turns out it was the best decision we could have made. He loved his time as a Beaver, then a Cub, a Scout and now he is an Explorer and still loves it so much that the volunteering he started, helping out with the Beavers, for his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award, he carried on with. He has been doing this for two years and shows no signs of wanting to stop!
Of course why should the kids have all the fun? I still like playing with knives, well in as much as I like to whittle, so I saw my chance to do something useful with my whittling.
As he started to go to Scout camps I got thinking about my brother and how, when he was a Cub/Scout, he had a blanket/poncho he took on camps. It was an old, army surplus blanket my Mum had sewn his old badges on, a great way to keep his old badges and keep him warm on the cold evening spent outside. And so started another project.
Mum found me another old blanket, which would be nice and warm, but blooming itchy. I was chatting about it with my Sister in Law when she came up with another blanket, but this one was a very soft, but very thin…. put the two together and hey voila – the perfect blanket, then to make it unique…. oh, and hope the boy in question actually wanted it!
The blanket is a work in progress. Each time he’s moved up a section I’ve unpicked the badges from the uniform to add them to the blanket. We have also started picking up fabric badges whenever we go away anywhere, so it will become a real keepsake for him.
One of the things I love about being down at the allotment is the wildlife we are surrounded by, quite often things you just don’t see unless you are quietly weeding a bed or planting out seedlings.
A few weeks ago I was clearing a bed, ready to plant some young leeks, when I was joined by a small friend. I’ve always found robins to be the bravest/friendliest of birds (with the exception of my hens who can be positively brazen!) and this one was landing within arms reach.
I have no doubt this one will be very fat, very quickly, as he jumped down to the earth to pick out wee bugs as I was working on clearing away the weeds and turning over the soil, he had no fear of me, that was for certain!
We are also lucky enough to have a couple of bee hives, down on plots nearby to ours, on the allotment. Watching them bumble from one flower to another is fascinating, especially when they become fully laden with pollen.
All in all our allotment is heaving with wildlife, we have squirrels, fox, a couple of cats who come over to hunt the rats and mice and my favourite, the slow worm. I can’t tell you how excited I was to discover slow worms as I was digging out the compost bin. I’m happy to say none were hurt and all relocated to the other end of the plot to a compost heap which is now their little sanctuary.
Of course I have no love lost for the snails, slugs, aphids and caterpillars, but I find the rest of the wee beasties down there quite beautiful in their own way. Apologies if you don’t like bugs, but they really are worth taking a second look at, unless of course, they’re in the house, in which case they can leave and never be seen again!!
Ever said yes to something which you were not at all convinced you wanted to do? I think we all do at some point. Well, that’s what happened to me at the beginning of this year. I’d made a promise to myself to not turn down new opportunities and experiences, after all, life really is too short to say no, well not all the time anyway! Enter the Dragon, well Dragon Boat courtesy of one very bubbly lady who comes bursting into my world, ‘I’m starting a new dragon boat team, a team for survivors of breast cancer, it’s good for you, it’s fun, you’ll love it!!’ Did I believe her? Well, to be honest, no, not really, but she was so enthusiastic and my friend Sarah was up for doing it, so I remembered my promise and said yes, I’d give it a go. In my mind that meant I’d show willing, go along, have a go and then get back to my running the following week.
So one chilly February morning Sarah and I drove out to Wraysbury, not knowing what to expect. We didn’t know anyone else there or what we were going to be doing, of course I’d Googled Dragon boating, read all about the benefits of it for those who have had breast cancer and then seen photos of all these people who seemed so in synch, well that could never be me – I’m far to clumsy to be co-ordinated!
Well I needn’t have worried, we picked out our buoyancy aids and a paddle each and were given a safety talk and demonstration of how to paddle, then to heave this huge boat out of the shed and down to the water. Nervous? Hell yeah!! We were lined up and decisions were made as to where in the boat we should sit before our first tentative steps along the jetty and into the boat.
Quite honestly I don’t remember all the details, but what I do remember is how fantastic the coaches and existing paddlers were. We were a new team, with no name and no idea what we were doing and we had come along and, to be honest, invaded a very well establish team, the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes were a well practiced team and here they were with a load of newbies loaded into their boat, trying their best, but no doubt making lots of mistakes. There was the unmistakable clash of paddles and splashing of water but they were so gracious, so encouraging and so helpful. Okay, I’m going to give it a go next week….. that really was fun….
I then thought I’d alternate between Dragon boating and Parkrun, which I’ve been trying to get back into. Maybe it was the extra lie in on a Saturday morning, maybe it was the fear of not improving as quickly as the rest of the team, or more likely I just really enjoyed being out on the water, working hard, but doing so as part of an evolving team. Sometimes ending up going three times a week and I’ve have now even managed to get my son to join me. Whatever, it’s a brilliant way to start a morning……
Of course, once you start on with something new like this it really does snowball, in all sorts of ways, now when I can’t be out on the water I find myself trying to read up about it, find out more about the community, the races, the different groups and strangely fascinating are articles about training and techniques, one site I’ve found really worth while is http://www.dragonglobe.com it starts to make sense of things, like why the coaches put people in the boat in the order that they do, that was all in an article ‘Sections of a Dragonboat’.
In May 2017, after years on the waiting list, we were finally given a plot at the local allotment. At last the space to try to realise our growing ambitions. Did we know what we were doing, errrr, no. But, we had ambition and willingness to work hard and learn from anyone willing to impart any knowledge our way.
The plot was completely engulfed in weeds, it was truly unloved and uncared for, but it had potential… a lot of potential. We were very lucky to find there were raised borders in place, at least that helped in as much as we could tackle the plot one border at a time.
Before long we had uncovered a selection of fruit bushes, red and yellow raspberries, black currants, red currants and white currents, along with two beds of strawberry plants.
We worked hard, cleared and planted and before long it was starting to look like we had made a difference…
The first year definitely proved productive, with more than we could eat ourselves, this meant sharing with friends and family as well as learning how to preserve in chutneys and with freezing.
They say there is a book inside everyone, well I’m not sure I have a whole book, but there are things I’d like to write about and, after some pushing from friends, I’m giving it a go.
Everything from life on the allotment to time on the water, from what’s cooking in the kitchen, places I have visited to arts and crafts. Who knows where this will go, I don’t, but I’m looking forward to the journey…..
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
When I was little I was given a small square of the garden to do whatever I wanted with, as was my older brother. He decided to dig a hole, a big hole, with a tunnel. I was a little more traditional and tried to make a small pond and planted flower seeds. The results were polar opposites, my pond was a disaster and seemed to constantly get holes in it and drain away, whilst the flowers grew and thrived, almost too well!! They were strawflowers, we had an abundance and because they were a perfect flower for drying it felt like we couldn’t get rid of them and it feels like they were around forever!
I never stopped enjoying playing in the garden, when we moved the new house had a huge greenhouse and I remember spending hours in there….. but looking back I can’t for the life of me remember what I planted!!
When I finally got a house of my own it had a small garden and now I could do whatever I wanted with it. Again I can spend hours playing in the garden, but don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert, I just enjoy it.
The same is true for cooking, starting out with eggy bread as a child and just trying new things, repeating successes and getting grumpy at failures. I’ve had my fair share of the latter, not sure what good use my home made marmalade could be used for, I tried calling it marmajam, but the texture was still like glue and it didn’t taste great. I’m sure there are still jars lurking at the back of the cupboard – it’s hard to admit some failures, especially those which you’ve spent ages hovering over a hot stove to create!
I also knit, sew, crochet, whittle and felt, little projects, as and when the mood takes me, these things tend to go in phases. Ongoing is the gym and the latest addiction, Dragon boating, that one I never saw coming. This time last year I had never heard of it!
Oh, there are also two daft cats in the mix as well…