The Excellence of Second Hand Sloes

Sloe PortIn search of suitable bottles for the preparation of the annual glug of sloe gin I found last years experimental sloe port.

I planned on leaving it for 2 months to mature but here we are 10 months later and I can only say that it has matured fantastically.

It is a crying shame that I have an 8am Monday morning presentation but if they knew how smooth this tipple was, I’m sure they’d forgive me for a lacklustre performance. I can only hope so anyway.


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Constructions Galore

We’re only getting alternate weekends down on the plot at the moment, so it’s a great blessing when we manage to coincide with the good weather, although after 5 hours of meddling in the mud and sun this Saturday I was fit to drop. Good job we had an extended weekend to recover.

I spent most of those hours pottering in the greenhouse we resurrected on our last visit. It’s just about hanging on in there but looks like a very well worn teddy, complete with stitching and bandages – I don’t think I’ll manage to squeeze another season out of the plastic covering.

Tomato Contraptions

I banked all the sides up (inside and out) with old and new grow bags to try and protect it from the ravages of the wind and then set to, planting 15 assorted tomato plants and experimenting with an array of self-watering gadgetry and fancy supports.

The first watering system I tried out was the “Growtube” but my bottle reservoir just evacuated its contents within the space of about 45 seconds and resulted in most of the contents of the grow bag spewing over the sides. I was reasonably happy with the alternative bottle attachment you can see in the right hand side of this photo. It at least held the water for the 5 hours I was watching it. So long as it hasn’t got a permanent blockage I shall be happy.

Bean Support

While I was sweltering under the polythene, Lynn was out in the open, constructing stuff that actually has some sturdiness about it.

The plot won’t know what hit it.

We now have a bean support system that doesn’t look as though it will crack under the weight of the first two pods, a peculiarly creative broad bean “thingy” and a stretch of wind break that will offer further protection to the rapidly decaying greenhouse.

Cat's Cradle

I’m feeling quite happy with the plot at the moment. We seem to have got on top of the situation and set ourselves up for a good growing season.

The challenge now will be to keep on top of the watering and find enough space, that hasn’t already been colonised by the ubiquitous onion sets, to grow actual food. I’ve got 12 squash seedlings in the greenhouse but have no clue of where to put them, perhaps I need to get myself on the waiting list for a second, dedicated, squash plot.

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Amanita Fears

I went to the plot this weekend with the intention of digging over acres of land ready for mammoth spud burying activities on Good Friday but the ground was too soggy for me to bother. I did a bit of shed tidying instead and laid out a load of the bargain seed potatoes that Dad and I bought from B&Q.


I had to dispose of a load of King Edwards as they were black and soggy with the blight. No wonder they appeared to be such a good bargain.

The shitake mushrooms had ballooned over the past week and had turned a touch slimey. They were splattered with mud from the rain as well so weren’t altogether appealing. Not having tasted them yet I thought I’d overcome my reticence and cook them up with a few sausages.

I didn’t really enjoy them too much. They tasted mushroomy enough but it occurred to me during the cooking process that I didn’t really have a clue what shitakes looked like. They did appear to be growing from one of the dowells that I had inserted but as they were alone it could be possible that a stray variety may have self seeded itself in the log – perhaps a highly poisonous fungus of the deadly variety?

I love mushrooms but this sort of russian roulette with the foraged specimens does really put me off my lunch. I’m not dead yet but them Amanita phalloides takes 6 days to wipe you it, I think I’m on day 3, so watch out for a long delay in blog posting.

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Oyster Imposter


I did a quick flit to the plot this weekend to harvest roast ingredients and to rescue the developing mushrooms.

I was surprised to find a beautiful chestnut fungus occupying the place where my foetal oyster mushroom had appeared only days before. I obviously got my logs labelled incorrectly and these were actually the shitakes.

I picked a cabbage that was frozen through to the core. I probably shouldn’t have picked it in that state, the leaves were practically transparent. It cooked up pretty well though and the flavour didn’t seem to be impaired by my impatience.


I pulled a couple of the shitakes as well but then forgot to add them to my pork chops. They are still on my work surface now so I hope they dehydrate themselves before going mouldy, so I can use them for some exotic dish that I may rustle up in the future.

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Month in Pictures – December

Month in Pictures - December 2008 

Life dried off a little for December and I managed to get down to the plot quite a few times.

The grotty dark nights resulted in a couple of torchlit digging sessions but I also found myself shamed into a day of weeding after passing by on the train and noticing the big blocks off lush green weeds where the onions were supposed to be thriving.

The chard is still dazzling passers by with its jazzy, party coloured, stems. I think the pink is particularly fetching but the orange doesn’t seem to withstand the frost as well as the other shades.

There’s been quite a lot of frost already which has probably sweetened up my swedes and done wonders for the brussels. The bracing wind doesn’t have a lot going for it though, it has shredded my polythene greenhouse and although I’ve patched it up and folded it away in the shed, I don’t hold out much hope for it lasting another season. I hope Wilkinsons survive the economic downturn at least until the summer, so that I can buy another one.

The wind also lifted a big patch of felt off my shed roof but fortunately Lynn is a roofer par excellence and shimmied up on top and sorted the job out with style. Given the number of nails used, there is not a chance that it will be shifting again, it’ll stand up to hurricane Katrina should it need to.

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Sprout Torment

I rose early enough today to make a quick detour to the plot to source a traditional array of Christmas dinner delights. The carrots may have been merely bite-sized but the parsnips have got to be world-record challengers. I got so carried away that I dug an entire bed of them. That should make for a fun festive period as no-one else seems to like parsnips. Maybe they’ll change their minds after I’ve made them endure a succession of parsnippy dishes: roast parsnip; parsnip, ginger and garlic soup; curried parsnip soup; parsnip cakes with borlotti bean and garlic sauce – need I go on?

Mega Parsnips 

I struggled to carry the freshly dug roots home along with enough spuds to feed 10 but it all proved worthwhile in the end. I was proud as punch to see my hard grown purple sprouts being force fed to the children amongst screams of “yuk” and “don’t make me”. I also spotted a number of semi-gnawed purple orbs being slipped to the dog under the table. I was tempted to follow suit myself actually, I’m not really keen on the purple ones, they are a bit peppery and not sprout-like enough for my liking. I’ll have a field of green ones next year though, so I hope that dog does actually like them.

It was good to note  that the mushroom logs that I prepared last Christmas have actually started to show signs of activity. They don’t look exactly appetising but I think the oyster mushroom may be about to blossom.
Oyster Mushrooms

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Month in Pictures – October & November

Month in Pictures - October and November 2008 

October and November were such washout months that I hardly got to the plot at all. When I did go down, the place seemed just a little too grim for photography and so here I am, left with a tiny handful of snaps with which to rustle up a double “month in pictures” montage.

The winter roots were a success and I did manage to get a few bean and flower seeds to dry off enough for storage before the deluge came and never went.

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Night Life

I’ve been finding it difficult to find the time to get down to the plot recently, but faced with the prospect of yet another meal of tinned mushroom soup, I thought the time had come to rescue some of the remaining winter roots.

Armed with 4 high power bike torches I headed down to the allotment to spook myself in the gloaming.

My helmet lamp is quite bright so I left it on to dig amongst the carrot beds and for ferreting amongst the brocolli in search of early shoots.

My tea is looking more promising tonight.
Late Night Carrot Ferreting

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