From My Allotment Diary (Thursday, March. 20th, 2014)

March 20, 2014 by BigGee   Comments (1)

I've got this distinct feeling that I'm biting off more than I can chew these days! It's now the Spring Equinox & I still haven't yet got around to publishing the latest newsletter since last autumn, and I now realise that I haven't updated my blog since January. A few things it ISN'T is laziness, neither is it a problem with the availability of time, due to the annual allotment frenzy at this time of the year - although I've rotovated most of my plot whilst the soil had just about dried out enough for the job. The atrocious weather we've experienced should have ensured that I've had enough time to do my writing chores - but not a bit of it.

imageThe REAL reason? The gardeners Chat-Shed FORUM. I think I now know how Dr Frankenstein felt after he created his monster. Whilst the forum does not require that much time to administer, it does take up huge swathes of time posting & chatting. All of this is of course the product of success. When I first launched the forum I never for one moment realised that it would take over my life! Not only has it swallowed up the main Gardeners Chat-Shed site - members no longer contribute much on here, instead they all seem to be addicted to the forum. It's also swallowed up my time that I used to dedicate to the main site, the newsletter & my blog etc. I now find that what I would have published in my blog or in the newsletter now finds it's way into my forum posts! I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find things to write about without repeating the things I post in the forum. It's a bit like the 'headache' that coaches have in selecting their team when they have a glut of stars on their hands that they can't all include in their team.

There have also been other complications. Not least the time taken up finding a new allotment site for the Aeron Vale Allotment Society - that is a mammoth task in itself. We've surveyed no less than n9 prospective sites over the last few months but have yet to find a suitable location. Then there's the perennial time waste battling the 'lunatics in charge of the asylum' where I currently cultivate an allotment plot. That could fill the annuls  of a diary the size of War & Peace on it's own - so I won't get tempted into writing the details here - suffice to say it's serious enough to involve solicitors & the police to cope with attempted illegal evictions & lots more!

Anyway must plod on - why didn't someone consider putting 48hours in every day instead of 24? And why doesn't someone warn unwary folk of the consequences of starting up a popular gardening forum on the Internet?

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From My Allotment Diary (Friday, Dec. 27th, 2013)

December 27, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (1)

It only seems like yesterday - but it's over SIX weeks since I last updated my blog.

The main 'time eater' has been the new Gardeners Chat-Shed Forum that I've not long completed. The FORUM is now on it's feet and doing very well. Lots of nice decent members on there, lots of posts & plenty of banter. We're turning into a great big happy family.

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Strange really - the main Gardeners Chat-Shed was put together nearly four years ago, but it's never really taken off. Roughly 350 members but very few contributors. When I first put that site together what I had in mind was something different to the usual gardening forums on the Internet, where there would be lots of different contents and lots of information, but it seems that gardeners are reluctant to play with something different. So after a head scratch I decided to go back to the older 'Forum' format and voila lots of activity and plenty of input. I still don't quite know why that is, I suppose if it ain't broke I shouldn't have tried to fix it! Still there's now two for the price of one (to quote a common Christmas shopping marketing slogan!).

 I should have got the newsletter out before the end of December, but I bit off more than I could chew at this time of the year. Not to worry, it's a pretty bare time of the year when it comes to allotment gardening anyway, so hopefully the newsletter faithful won't mind a January/ February offering instead of the scheduled November/ December issue. I doubt if many will notice anyway!

Well the Christmas madness is nearly over & it's as far away now as it ever was. One bonus is that I won't have to listen to the insane chirpings that I've been listening to since October about how many 'shopping days' are left till Christmas. Another week or so and the dust should settle and we can all get back to normality. For a celebration that causes so much stress, and is perpetually accused of being daft and commercialised, everyone insists on falling into the same trap every year. The next bit of news will be how the divorce and suicide rates have peaked in January!  I suppose there are some things in life that I'll never fathom, Christmas & why gardeners prefer old fashioned forums to new style 'social network' sites being just two at the top of the list!

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We've had our share of "weather" here on the west coast in the last week or so. Gale force winds, torrential rain, followed by more of the same in the form of huge Atlantic storms. The old Jet Stream has apparently been working overtime - travelling at speeds touching 300mph across the ocean. Should have been great for Santa if he managed to get his reindeer up to 30,000 feet! We haven't moved on much from the Dark Ages have we? When some of us could actually have been convinced of such supernatural happenings as a fat old man in a red suit and bushy white beard travelling across the heavens in a sleigh drawn by flying reindeer carrying a sack full of enough toys for every child on earth (a sobering thought even for a lunatic asylum member). However to tell our little ones of such happenings in a supposedly sane and scientifically enlightened time makes it even more akin to raw madness! And we have the cheek to laugh at people who still carve totem poles out of wood & worship them! Or change the kit colour of a football team from blue to red because it will bring good luck, although the team is still called The Bluebirds (Cardiff City). Or produce our crops and feed them on fertilizer and transport them around the globe to be eaten out of season using a fuel that we know is running out. It makes you wonder if our perception of sanity is actually deserving of our continued existence on this planet. I'd better stop there otherwise I'll depress myself to the point where I'll become a suicide statistic for the January figures, although contrary to popular belief, suicide rates apparently peak in late spring/ early summer in the UK. Or is that another mad myth designed to keep gardeners going?!

Whilst on the subject of depression my allotment plot was under two feet of water again this last week (as it usually is at least twice a year & five times in 2012). So our seasonal dinner came from the supermarket this year - because the parsnips, cabbage, sprouts and other goodies were doing  a 'swaying seaweed at the bottom of the ocean' act. How depressing is that? I think it's time for a serious think about a move off the site, which is actually a lunatic asylum with the lunatics still in charge of it. So it may be time to move on.

 

From My Allotment Diary (Wednesday, Nov. 6th, 2013)

November 6, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

I think it's high time to update my blog. It's been ages since I've had a chance to apply myself to it. I'm well covered with excuses for not doing so though.

It's been a very busy little period. Not so much on the lottie, because of the weather, but goodness knows there's plenty to do down there. It's screaming out for a good autumn tidy-up. I made a good start a few weeks back, and just over a ½ of it has been cleared & dug over, but the rest is proving very slow. I also have my polytunnel to sort out, but I've still got a few tomato plants that are still cropping and one cucumber plant doesn't seem to know when to stop! It seems such a shame to stop things whilst they're still fruiting - but they are on their last legs, they won't put up with much more prolonged cool weather and shortening days.

The main focus for me has been the new gardeners Forum that I've built. It's been a bit of a slog getting it completed, but it's up and running now and has been live for about a fortnight. However the work doesn't end there, the trick now is to attract members. That is an evolving process. It's a catch 22. In it's early days it has few members so the number of posts are low, as it attracts more members then the posts and the interest should blossom - but it doesn't happen overnight. So anyone reading this blog please look the Forum up and tell all your friends about it. The URL address is: http://gardenerschat-shed.net/forum

In between hours dedicated to building the Forum site there's always the other things going on around us. I often think that middle aged people like us get a double whammy. We have the generation before us to care for & help. In our case it's my mother who's well into her eighties now and living on her own. Then we have the generation behind us, that consists of four sons ranging from late thirties to an 18 year old (although they're all living away from home by now) & then there's the grandchildren. Without a doubt it's the 'middle' generation - which is now us - that tends to burden the greatest load when it comes to families. Ah well - it's the way of things i suppose, I just hope that the generation behind us looks after us when we move on to the next stage!! Mustn't dwell on that . . .

imageAnd 'oh yes' there's the Aeron Purple Star beans to get out, now that they're sufficiently dried. That'll be another day marked off for attention in the next week or so. With nearly 70 requests for seeds to be sent out I'll have to press-gang the 'kitchen staff' into service I think, but she's quite good with things like that - bless her!

 

From My Allotment Diary (Friday, Oct. 4th, 2013)

October 4, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (3)

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By this time of the year things should be slowing down a bit, but I think my clock is wired backwards, because time is just flying by!

Since my last blog post (which seems like yesterday) there doesn't seem to have been enough hours in the day. I suppose all the little "time eaters" add up. This last month we seem to have had extra appointments - Drs, hospitals, opticians, dentists, chiropodist etc. etc. These appointments aren't a big deal separately, they just seemed to have arrived in a cluster. Added to that we've had visitors for most weeks in the summer (both family, friends & the canine variety).

The last were Dave Amphlett & Samantha - Dave is "tig2dave" here in the Shed (the web-site members on this site who read this blog will know who I mean). Thoroughly enjoyable - I must be doing something right for them to travel all the way down from King's Norton two years on the trot to see us! Long may it continue. Here are a few 'holiday' snap-shots:

From left to right Moi, "Her indoors" with the K9 lodger & Dave

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Same again but with Sam on the far right

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Just before Dave & Sam arrived from the Midlands we'd got busy lifting our potatoes before the Indian Summer gave way to the autumn rains - which have arrived big style by now!

imageWhat a bumper season 2013 has been for the spuds!

Although Mr Blight did arrive towards the end of the season, it was too late for him to cause much damage. A few haulms caught a glancing blow, but all the tubers seem to have escaped any damage. Excellent size & quantity. Probably the best crop for years as can be seen above.

My other half was pressed ganged into action for the 'big lift' (it gives her a nice little change of scenery once a year - imageso I unlocked the ankle shackle that tethers her to the kitchen sink & led her down the lottie for a day out and a bit of fresh air! )

imageShe looks quite happy with the treat doesn't she? She doesn't mind the K9 lodger supervising at close quarters - just in case she makes a dash for it!

But the drama doesn't end there. Just after the photo below was taken, she straightened up & spun around too quickly, the result?

imageA rush of blood from the grey matter and the next thing I heard was an almighty crash. I turned around to find that she'd fainted, crashed into a water butt, and landed on some concrete blocks (this is what you get when you take your kitchen staff out to the fields on a hot day)! Jokes apart, she had a nasty fall & landed up with a big bruise on her back & a lump on her arm (don't forget that this was during the time her broken little toe was mending from the supermarket trolley experience that I reported in my last blog). But being a plucky Scouser, she got up, brushed herself down and just carried on. They don't make them like that anymore!

The other rod I've made for my back this year is to invite some fellow lottie gardeners to try my personally bred new runner bean strain that I've named the Aeron Purple Star.image As members of the gardeners Chat-Shed & readers of my blog will know, this is a variety that I bred a few seasons back. After trialling them to check they come true I gave them a name and then decided to let some gardeners know of their existence. So I posted a couple of messages on my own web-sites and then posted a few messages on other gardening forums. Whilst I expected a few responses imageI didn't anticipate the deluge of enquiries I've received! So I've been frantically harvesting the pods, shelling & drying them to send out to fulfil my 'orders'.  I hope I'll have enough to go round! The bean count for the orders is fast approaching a thousand. So not only will I use up my own crop but the crops of my triallers as well. Happy days - it's a nice headache though - but time consuming - I ordered a box of 150 Jiffy bags yesterday!

The time finally arrived last week to take our K9 lodger 'Wilson' back imageto his rightful home. (I know it's an odd name for a dog but didn't you  see the Tom Hanks film 'Cast Away'? CLICK HERE to see a clip of the scene where he thought he's lost Wilson). Our Wilson's been with us for weeks and had become a permanent fixture. His 'holiday' started way back in August when he turned up with our grandson Cai's baggage when he came to stay with us for his summer holidays. Cai went back & Wilson stayed on - I think I've explained why in an earlier blog post. Anyway much as it grieved us he had to go - I think he was quite sad too!

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From My Allotment Diary (Sunday, Sep. 22nd, 2013)

September 22, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (1)

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imageThis last week has consisted of health misery, tomato gluts, the start of the (Aeron Purple Star) purple podded runner bean seed harvesting, pumpkin selection for our grandson's upcoming annual Halloween silliness & a birthday party.

The health misery has consisted of a bout of oesophagitis - that's a posh medical term for an inflamed gullet. In my case apparently caused by 'chemical burn' thanks to a tablet that got lodged in my gullet. Pretty damned painful! Then also this last week my feet started to really hurt with rheumatic/ arthritic type pain that was even more painful than the oesophagitis! Sleepless nights and hideous 'teeth gnashing' pain through just the weight of bedclothes on the tootsies - that's before trying to walk about on them!

I'm only guessing, but the condition may have been partly self induced to a degree due to an overload of deadly nightshades!

imageWhat I actually mean is TOMATO & POTATO overload (I don't actually go around eating THE deadly nightshade {Atropa belladonna}, I haven't reached that state of senility yet) - both the above mentioned crops being members of the nightshade family. According to medical experts, the nightshades are well documented culprits  of aggravated flare-ups of  immune system malfunctions in susceptible souls, resulting in chronic  bouts of inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis, gout, & many other similar ailments, including a close cousin of theirs - Behçet's disease - which I've been diagnosed with for a number of years. This would appear to fit the bill; because with the glut of tomatoes and the surplus of potatoes from the lottie, the diet has tended to reflect a higher than usual intake of both crops (can't blame the ol'cook though, she - bless her - just serves up what I throw at her!). Ironic really, when you consider that we grow our own healthy crops to aid our overall well-being!

Anyway, it doesn't end there. I also got told by the optician this week (during the chore of the annual  eye test), that I have cataracts developing in  both eyes!

imageDoes it end there? NO. Not to be out-done, Josie then went and broke her little toe by stumping it on a shopping trolley (wry smile from moi - I always knew that the flaming weekly  shopping trip IS bad for your physical & mental health!).

Not wishing to make this blog sound like an episode of 'Casualty' I'll move on.

imageSo back to toms. A tad later than usual, the toms are now reaching glut proportions, but a good month later than usual (it's been that kind of season, due to the long spring and early autumn - with a shortened but glorious summer sandwiched in between). This last week saw the first of my Black Krim toms harvested, and well worth the wait they were. The picture above shows two of them alongside an ordinary sized red variety (Ailsa Craig) that I have this year.

imageThis heirloom variety of 'beef-steak' toms takes some beating in between two slices of bread & butter! Unless of course you happen to get sore 'dogs' & other joint pains as a consequence!  Isn't life a bitch?

This last week also saw the start of the exciting process of harvesting the (by now) black papery pods of the imageAeron Purple Star runner beans. Mine are not quite ready yet, but  my allotment mate Stephen (who doubles up as one of the triallers of my newly discovered purple bean) has some that are starting to reach the point where they can be collected for seed.

I've not advertised the bean very much, however I have dedicated a web-page to it on my Aeron Vale Allotment Society web-site, so that other keen allotment growers & amateur gardeners who are curious to grow it can order some - totally free of course (apart from the cost of P&P). Quite surprisingly - given the low level of exposure it's had - I have orders for the bean seeds from as far apart as Doncaster in Yorkshire to Birmingham, London & south Wales. I only hope we'll have enough to go around. I'm sure we will, because it's quite amazing how many beans you can get from each plant.

imageAnd yesterday (Saturday) I had to go on a pilgrimage to Llanelli play park, because our grandson Cai was having a birthday party down there. He's not actually five until next Wednesday, but that being a school day he had his party early on the previous weekend.

imageI really didn't feel up to it - being hardly able to walk, pumped up with pain-killers & only having about three hours sleep the night before - but needs must for a dedicated grandfather! I'm glad I managed it though. Josie stayed at home, nursing her little toe and looking after the "holiday lodger" who's still with us - Grandson Cai's dog, Wilson! I don't think she minded too much, as she doesn't celebrate birthdays as she's one of Jehovah's Witnesses - very sensible - who needs an excuse for a party anyway?

imageI also took him the pumpkin I'd promised him last year for this year's Halloween lantern - I think I've made a rod for my own back there. I took one to him last year, as a surprise and helped him carve it out. He insisted that I take him one every year from then on - so killing two birds with one stone, he got his pumpkin early this year as well as his birthday party - it might save me a trip in a month's time. His Dad can carve this one out for him!

 

From My Allotment Diary (Tues. Sep. 10th, 2013)

September 10, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

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It was a topsy turvy kind of week last week. Two hospital appointments 60 miles apart on different days, a Dr's. appointment that included a blood test appointment with a nurse, an eye test at the opticians, (all routine - no new pests diseases or lurgies!). Then on Thursday Josie's brother Bryan & his wife Sue (+ their dog Misty) came to stay for the weekend. We already have one 'lodger' who's been here a few weeks - Wilson - our No. 3 son's Yorkie (a REAL character who seems to have decided to be a permanent fixture in a new home). He came as a package with our grandson Cai a few weeks back, whilst Alex & Becca went to Turkey for a fortnight's break. Cai, at the end of his holiday with us, went down to his other grandparents, because he had to go back to school, (they live right by his school, whilst we live about forty miles away). As the grown up holidaymakers didn't come back until a couple of days after school started, and the other grandparents have a cat, Wilson became a castaway in sunny Aberaeron on the far flung shores of Cardigan Bay!

imagePersonally I wouldn't mind keeping him permanently, (although I doubt if my other half will go along with that) - he's a super little dog, and he's really no trouble. He's become a regular companion for me on the lottie & enjoys nothing better than whiling away the hours with me down there - we've really bonded big style. However I fear we'll be separated soon! Anyway I digress . . . back to my lottie diary.

I love this time of year - despite the foreboding onset of colder weather & the inevitable long winter that's heralding it's approach. However in a year like we've had, when there's still sunshine & dry periods in September, my favourite job on the lottie is lifting the onions & shallots, drying them and then roping them. It's extremely satisfying and relaxing in a contented sort of way. The end result just looks so good & is a constant reminder of my season's efforts.

imageSo that's exactly what Wilson & I busied ourselves with yesterday. Roping the dried alliums!

In fact the method I use, which my grandfather patiently taught me when I was a boy would more accurately be called 'plaiting'. Plaiting onions (or shallots) requires three lengths of thick string (or thin rope - whichever way you look at it!). The dried onion stalks are then intertwined in the plait to produce a 'rope'. image

It takes time and patience, but the end result is a lovely sight and a huge convenience for storing the crops over winter.

Whilst storing onions in net onion sacks is  very quick and requires less effort, I find that 'roping' onions is a far superior way of doing things. The onions get air, they don't press against each other and if any do turn bad you can remove any 'rogues'  from your rope before it affects any others. Plus of course you can see every single onion when you inspect your ropes.

imageThis little effort will stay in the polytunnel for a few weeks to finish 'ripening' in the sun and out of the wet. Then they'll get the heave-ho home, where I'll hang them from the rafters in the garage, which is the ideal storage space as it's cool & dark. We finished the last of the 2012 crop in early April this year - after this year's plants were in the ground & already growing. That's a real testimony to the old fashioned methods used in days gone by to store your onion crops.

Mind you, I've got very sore little finger-tips today from all that plaiting yesterday. Ah well NO PAIN NO GAIN eh?

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From My Allotment Diary (Wednesday, Aug. 28th, 2013)

August 28, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (1)

It's been a struggle over the last week or two. Work on the lottie has been limited to minimalist effort watering & feeding in the polytunnel in the evening, harvesting bits 'n pieces as needed and not much more.

 

I've been dogged by a continuous headache, feeling exceptionally tired and exhausted & generally not feeling very well at all. Visits to the lottie have been more of a necessity than a willingness to go there for pleasure.

 

Whether it's a virus that's hit me or the side effects of a new treatment I've started I don't know. The symptoms have coincided with the time I've been injecting Liraglutide (Victoza) for my diabetes problem, but that may be a coincidence, so I'm waiting to see how things pan out. Either way I've been feeling exceptionally rough with no enthusiasm to do much. Nausea has also been a problem, but that probably is the effects of the daily injection - apparently it's a common side effect in the early days, as is headaches, but the fatigue may be due to other factors. Ah well nothing to do but press on.

 

We've had a busy time of it in any case, with lots of visitors coming to stay & having our four year old grandson Cai with us during his summer holidays. You forget how an active four year old takes it out of you! He goes home tomorrow - that'll give the peas a chance to grow again! We took him out to Aberystwyth castle today & spent the day picnicking and following him around the castle playground! A good job our No. 4 son Teifion was also with us, so that helped, but just sitting in the sun and strolling about felt like a hard & difficult day's work for me.

 

At least I've managed to write the news-letter and got it e-mailed out last night to all our members in the Chat-Shed & on the Aeron Vale Allotment Society web-site. That's another chore put to bed till October! Click on the download icon below if you'd like to read my efforts:

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talk of October, the nights are already visibly drawing in, another six weeks or so and the old clocks go back an hour - I'm REALLY looking forward to that (not). The thought of it depresses me even further.

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From My Allotment Diary (Monday, Aug. 19th, 2013)

August 19, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (3)

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imageJust a quick blog to show off one of my cucumbers that I picked over the weekend.

It's meant to be a shortish variety called 'petite'. Now either a different variety of seed sneaked into the packet of 'petite', or there's been a genetic throwback somewhere!

imageThis specimen has reached 23" and it was still growing well before I picked it. It's brothers & sisters seem to be long and slender as well. Amazing, if I wanted long slim cucs I'd probably have landed up with gherkins! On the other hand, this year I thought I'd try a short cuc (after all most long varieties only get half eaten in in one go in our house) so I tried this 'petite' that I hadn't grown before and look what I landed up with!

I think it's called "Sod's Law" - I'm not complaining though. Next year I'll be back to lemon cucs & one green variety. They're yellow round ones that actually have a slight lemony taste - they're beautiful & sweet. Unfortunately the cold spring meant that the germination rates for the lemon cucs was a disaster - que sera, sera I suppose - as Doris Day once famously sang!

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From My Allotment Diary (Friday, Aug. 16th, 2013)

August 16, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (0)

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My head's buzzing this week! In fact I'm so disorientated that all day yesterday I thought  it was Saturday, when in fact it was Thursday!

It's all down to going from being 'home alone' for a week, whilst Josie was away in Birkenhead, with peace & quiet, time to do things at my rate and in the order I choose -  to suddenly going to the other extreme where I feel like Burt from that ancient old TV soap opera spoof called "Soap"!

Everything is in turmoil and permanent flux around me. First Josie came back on a Tuesday,  she arrived at 6pm at 6.30pm our No. 3 son's partner arrived with Cai, our grandson who was staying with us again till yesterday (that's Thursday NOT Saturday). On Wednesday our friend Ying from Thailand who lives in London turned up with her son Kriss who's over from South Carolina where he's in a military academy with Southern Rednecks! Not because he wants to be a soldier (or a Redneck) but because his mother thought he could do with the experience and needed to lose weight!. He's a fantastic bright lad of 18 who's just got a fistful of 'A"s in his maths & science "A" level exams - he hopes to come back to go to university over here, possibly at Swansea, he's reached the rank of lieutenant in the academy, but I digress. Anyway, he and his mother turned up on Wednesday, closely followed by our No.4 son who was Kriss' best friend when they went to Pennant primary & Aberaeron secondary schools together. So he's staying as well. In the mean time Ying who has a 7 year old daughter who's been abducted by her estranged husband & taken to Beirut - as her father is Lebanese is in a fix and wants help to take her case to the European Court of Civil Rights. Right, are you with me so far? Good - let me take a breath.

Yesterday another friend of Josie's who lives in the Irish Republic got in touch to say that she's flown over from Eire to Liverpool where her parents live, because her mother had a 'funny turn' as she quaintly puts it. She's now travelling down from Liverpool to Aberaeron to stay with us for a few days before she goes down to Fishguard to catch a ferry back to Ireland. Getting her to make sense of the list of bus times, numbers & connections from Josie (who has them at her fingertips since she got her bus pass) is in itself a task and a half - Jan's now decided to come by train via Shrewsbury, probably a shrewd move under the circumstances!

In the meantime my mother phones up last night to ask me to take her to hospital next Tuesday (a day I was supposed to go 60 miles in the opposite direction to Prince Phillip hospital in Llanelli for an appointment of my own, that's now been cancelled so that we can take my mam to Aberystwyth hospital). On top of that grandson Cai is coming back again in a week to stay with us while his mam & dad go off to Turkey for a holiday. I feel as if my brain's in a pickle jar. ALL I ever wanted was a quiet life and my allotment plot. Are you confused? You will be after you finish reading this blog.

At the moment our house could quite easily be mistaken  for the reception lounge of an United Nations conference hotel! In the meantime I'm desperately trying to find holes in this turmoil to disappear down to my lottie to do some overdue work, then, on top of ALL that, guess what? It rained yesterday afternoon! Would you believe it!

Anyway, down to more sane moments in my life, here are a few photos of the lottie up until a few days ago (before the chaos bomb exploded around my ears).

I've picked my first apricot. It's a Flavorcot and despite the cynics (who are ALL wrong) you CAN successfully grow apricots in Wales - here's the proof:

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You would not believe the taste!

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This fruit HAS to be picked and eaten fresh to get an idea of how wondrously sweet and exquisite the taste is. If you think the supermarket apricots are nice, you'd wet yourself if you tasted this!

The apples are also quietly ripening. This one's called 'Scrumptious'

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As for the rest of the produce, it's suddenly exploded in growth. But it's been an odd season. Very slow to start with (after the horribly long & cold spring) and then we had all the heat & dryness come upon us. Everything looks good, however it seems to be 'going over' very quickly. Young fruit & veg seem to be maturing very quickly, runner beans especially. Young short pods seem to have the texture and taste of much older & more mature produce. Things like lettuce seem to be running to seed far quicker - everything seems in a hurry to get it over with! Perhaps they know something we don't!

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The green 'debris net' mini net tunnels are home to the giant savoys & other brassicas that I showed a picture of in my previous blog.

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Even the sunflowers have decided to "grow up" early. They've flowered at just over 5 feet instead of the usual 10. They should be the same height as the runner beans.

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The gap is where I've lifted all my shallots - they're now hanging up in the polytunnel drying out ready to rope

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Onions won't be long before they're in ropes.

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You know the wise advice "don't eat yellow snow"? Well when it comes to peas it's a case of "don't eat the purple podded ones". Fine exhibition at over 6', lovely purple & white flowers, flaming awful bitter tasting peas! One to strike off the list for the future - unless you want to grow them to add colour to your flower borders!.

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The corn finally got it's skates on. Only about six weeks ago I was contemplating whether to dig it up and grow something else in the space, because it seemed to be getting nowhere. I'm glad I didn't though! My mate Stephen often muses about the evening we stood in judgement whether to execute or stay the execution. I decided to give it another week or two - it must have been eavesdropping on the conversation and got frightened into life!

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More runner beans than you can point a stick at! These are Armstrong - the 'Aeron Purple Stars' are close on their heels. These had a four week start on the others. Dave - if you're reading this - YES we have purple pods! How are yours developing? Any pure purple/ black pods?

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See what I mean about the lettuce bolting?

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The cucumbers are coming on a treat in the polytunnel.

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Plenty of toms, but unlike the rest of the produce that can't wait to mature faster than usual, the old toms are very stubborn to turn colour.

And here's a few photos of the 'processing plant' complete with child labour in the form of a grandson who was captivated by the runner bean slicer that he was in charge of - with his grandmother's heart in her throat, in case she had to take the tips of his fingers home separately to his mother! No problem he went back with ten digits in situ! WOMEN!

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The one of the left is No.4 son - a bit early in the morning for teenagers (it's only 11.30am).

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A satisfied lottie owner and manager of the processing plant!

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From My Allotment Diary (Sunday, Aug. 4th, 2013)

August 4, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

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Haven't been caught in a downpour since last year! It got me this evening though.

I went down the lottie at around 6 - ominous clouds about and a Met Office yellow warning of rain around 6 - 7, but I had to water my toms, cucumbers & melons & shut my polytunnel doors for the night. On arriving, I stupidly decided to do a bit of picking - before the rain, I knew it was on the way, but decided to out run it and pushed my luck - mistake!

We're going to the Doctor's in the morning for me to get taught how to inject myself. I'm starting on Liragluctide for my diabetes. So, as we're out and about we've decided to call on my mother, who's got a bit of a chest infection, we thought we'd call to check up and spend a bit of time with her. Anyway, whilst I was down the lottie tonight I thought I'd pick a bit of fresh veg for her (that's what all good boys do for their old mums isn't it?). So after getting a nice white ball-head cabbage, some beans, shallots, a cucumber and some spring onions, for Mam, I decided to push my luck even further, by digging up some salad blue potatoes, for her & us. Having done that I then had this urge to go & cut a Savoy cabbage for Josie (she's a big cabbage eater - as due to her food allergies she can't have anything with too much sulphate or phosphate in, cabbage seems fine). Now having said she's a big cabbage eater, I don't think she'll polish this one off in one meal - even with my help!

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Anyway, whilst in the middle of my race against time before the rain started, my mate Stephen turned up. As is our wont on occasions like this, we decided to have a cuppa & a chat - whilst sitting in my polytunnel - another BIG mistake - because by now the impending thunder clouds were catching up and about to get the 'drop' on me!

I donned a straw hat that was hanging in the polytunnel (a precaution, in case my 'rain run' timing was a bit out). So looking like a regular Cuban Organoponicos gardener, I went to cut my Savoy. That's when the heavens opened!

Now picture this. My cabbages are under a 4 foot high by 16 foot long net tunnel & held down with tent pegs (the netting that is, not the cabbage), what I'm trying to say is - it's a time consuming faff. So when the rain started coming down like a waterfall, I was trapped, crouched half in & half out of one of one of my net tunnels - still fighting with a huge Savoy with a stalk like an oak tree trunk.

As Stephen could do nothing to help, he decided to take off full tare for his car, with an overgrown courgette I had given him sticking out of his hand like a big green truncheon - flashbacks of a scene from the Keystone Cops flooded my head. I gave up racing the rain & decided to take my medicine like a man - without fighting - so I quietly got on with the job whilst getting soaked to the skin. Could be worse, it's hot & humid & a summer drenching with warmish rain is not that bad really. At least that's what I kept on telling myself for consolation!

Here's a photo of me on my arrival home, clinging dearly to my Savoy! (Not the biggest in the tunnel by the way - just the nearest to reach in a downpour)!

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It wasn't just the night of the Savoy in the rain! Some Salad Blue potatoes also made it home. They are an old heritage potato variety, that are believed to have originated in Scotland back in the late 1800s.

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They are instantly recognisable by their striking blue (purplish) skin and flesh (don't dig them up in the twilight they are almost impossible to find in the soil at those times). A real jaw-dropper to show off to friends, this makes it a potato that could be used for special dinner parties to impress your guests! Not being snobs ourselves, we don't go in for that sort of stuff though!

Apart from being a second early 'salad' potato it has good uses for mashing, whilst chipping qualities are also good. When baked it retains it's dark blue coloured flesh. Salad Blue potatoes are also said to have natural antioxidants which are meant to benefit the human body.

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When boiled they do lose a little of their dark blue pigment, however they then turn a beautiful light blue/ turquoise colour.

Finally, they are absolutely gorgeous tasting - a rare thing with flashy show-off varieties (like the not so nice tasting purple podded peas that I've grown this year). I highly recommend Salad Blue to everyone, so give them a try next season - you won't be disappointed - I promise.

Maybe with this thing for blue & purple I'll plant a full plot of purple/ blue veg one of these days, including my own discovery - the Aeron Purple Star runner bean . . . hang on I feel hot . . . I think I'm hallucinating . . . must have caught a chill in the rain . . . . EVERYTHING'S turning blue!

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