September 2013

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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