We went to examine a vacant plot last week and came away having signed on the dotted line. I see before me a winter of heavy digging in an attempt to tame yet another South West London allotment.
It’s only two years ago that I took over the plot at North Sheen. That plot was in a fair old state but the wonderfully light soil conditions meant that I was able to make impressive improvements day by day. This new plot is based on heavy clay soil so no doubt our rewards will be considerably slower.
It’s quite an exciting time, daunting but full of promise. The fresh start is an ideal time to have a complete re-plan. I’ve listed all the veg that the kids are prepared to eat, added a few of our favourites and armed with a spreadsheet and a measuring tape, I ought to be able to make a highly productive strip. Planning isn’t one of my strong points though, within the space of 5 minutes I managed to order the same seed from two different catalogues – I’ll have to extend the leek bed.
Here are the initial photos from our first visit, it’s a long thin plot of 5 rods. We can’t actually start work before the 1st October, which effectively means that D-Day is set for Saturday. I better book the massage session now.
I got quite carried away last year and came very close to investing in a £100 dehydrator for converting my courgette glut into dried stock granules. As it happens the glut never really arrived so I had a lucky escape and am happy to plough my money back into seeds for next year.
The harvest has been a bit light again apart from the chilli peppers which have gone positively nuts. I don’t have quite enough to go in search of a cheap Stockli but I do have enough to try out my new freebie dashboard dehydrator.
I spotted the idea on lifehacker but it originally came from the tangled nest. Seattle dashboards probably get to higher temperatures but despite pretty overcast conditions for the last few weeks the chillis do appear to be drying out. They also look pretty jazzy.
Mushrooms are tricky critters. The line between deadly poisonous and delightfully edible is a vague and fluffy one.
Take the Common or Shaggy Ink Cap as an example, classified in some quarters as an excellent edible it also takes centre stage on our poster of “Some Poisonous Fungi” and is tagged as “dangerous when consumed either 48 hours before or 48 hours after, drinking alcohol”. With a 4 day alcohol free window required, I would say that makes it permanently poisonous for me.
Mind you, it could be just what I need to keep me on the straight narrow in the sober run up to the Great North Wetsuit fitting escapade.
The Death Cap or (Amanita phalloides) is deadly poisonous, apparently responsible for 80% of all mushroom related deaths but it is damn hard to distinguish between that and the edible sister mushroom the Tawny Grisette or Amanita fulva. [Actually my book says it is responsible for 80% of deaths (full stop) and I added the mushroom related bit as I’m pretty sure mushrooms haven’t knocked heart disease and cancer off the top rungs of purgatory.]
I’ve labelled the central fungus in this collection as a death cap but have since decided it is a tawny grisette. Just as well we didn’t bring it home or I may be tempted to test out my identification skills in a dodgy roulette style.
I’m afraid my allotment mushroom logs have not sprung into glorious fungal abundance, they remain as two derelict stumps with a stippling of doweling. This colourful collection were snapped on our weekend trip around Longshaw Estate in the Peak District.
We were there in search of the much sought after chip butty of Grindleford caff fame but got rather sidetracked by the mushroomy loveliness of the landscape. We weren’t the only ones, every time I squatted down to gill level, the park warden would pop out of nowhere to bagsy my find. He was supposedly taking a couple of baby wardens on a navigational skills walk but it seemed to have morphed into a tracking skills workshop.
I’m not really complaining, admittedly I don’t like being approached from the rear, especially when I have it partially exposed and facing skywards, but he did prove to be rather useful on the mushroom identification front. I’d be able to rattle off the names of all of them if only either of us had half a memory between us. As it is, we came home with only a vague recollection of names beginning with R and have spent the last 2 days ferreting through every fungal book to hand.
Here’s what we’ve come up with, in a very unreliable fashion, starting in the centre and then going clockwise from top left:
1. Tawny Grisette (Amanita fulva) or possibly the Death Cap, tasty or deadly – you take your choices.
2 & 13. Earthball
3 & 4. Dunno
5. Beechwood Sickener (Russula mairei)
6. Green cracked russula (Russula virescens)????
7. Sulphur tuft or honey fungus, another one of those edible or not choices.
8 & 9. Shaggy Ink Cap
10. Some form of Boletus
11 & 12. Possibly another form of overblown boletus