Straw in, roses out; ubiquitous rhubarb

Am still here! When I do have some time in the evening I’ve been heading down the allotment, so the posting has been a bit sparse. However, a couple of things to note today and an obligatory picture of rhubarb.

Bought a bale of straw from Gorgie City Farm. 15 minutes later, we had manged to get it strapped into the bike trailer. It’s one of those things where it would be far quicker in a car (but I don’t have one) and I did get to have a chat with a couple of the farm workers in the interim, so I’m quite happy with the way it turned out.

straw bale in a bike trailer

straw bale in a bike trailer

Now I’ve got my strawberries protected by straw underneath and netting above, so I’m expecting a bumper crop.

Later this evening, my allotment neighbour gave me some roses that were blooming.

a posy of roses: white, pink and peach coloured

a posy of roses: white, pink and peach coloured

And here’s the haul of rhubarb from last week, all 4.4 kilos of it.

jam, rhubarb and sugar prepping for making more jam, and bags for the freezer

jam, rhubarb and sugar prepping for making more jam, and bags for the freezer

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Summer bounty

Hectic, hectic month on the plot. Tidied up, built a raised bed, planted seeds that I’ve germinated in my new greenhouse, moved stuff around on the plot… and over the last few days I’ve been harvesting and preserving produce. I’ve made cordials, frozen beans, preserved some garlic in extra virgin olive oil, eaten loads of vegetables, and the biggest success has been today’s strawberry ice.

strawberry granita, with a helper

strawberry granita, with a helper

The girl is helping out so much. She loves it, and she’s getting the hang of the plot. Yesterday a pal joined her and she delighted in showing him around. I was so proud when they were watering the peas, she moved along the row whilst the pal was static.

kids looking intently at a bug

kids looking intently at a bug

And here’s her lovely grin

lovely grin on the girl, who's standing in front of the blackcurrant bushes

lovely grin on the girl, who's standing in front of the blackcurrant bushes

By the way, we love her frog t-shirt. And this is a frog in our garden — a benefit of letting the grass grow long.

a frog in our garden

a frog in our garden

As usual when there’s a situation where nature is running its course , I’m reminded of a Summer haiku by Issa:

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
casually

It’s not too late for elderflowers

The peak of the elderflower season’s gone but there are still a few newly-opened infloresences around, on lower branches or in sheltered spots. This year I vowed to make elderflower cordial and today is the day…

today's haul of elderflowers - about 25 heads

today's haul of elderflowers - about 25 heads

The first step in The River Cottage Cookbook recipe is to steep 20-30 heads of flowers + zest of 2 lemons in just-boiled water for 4 hours or overnight. The recipe also calls for zest of an orange, but I didn’t have one.

elderflower infloresences barely covered in just-boiled water

elderflower infloresences barely covered in just-boiled water

Strain the liquid. For each 500ml of liquid add 350g of sugar and 50ml of lemon juice. Here, I had 1100 ml liquid and used 775g add sugar and 125mllemon juice. Bring the mix to a gentle simmer, skim, leave to cool, strain again and bottle.

It’s gently cooling at the moment, and I’ll bottle it up before bed. Apparently she who knits’ mother is impressed that I’m making cordial.

Other produce today includes a few small turnips, two beetroot, a box of mixed lettuce and enough fruit (strawberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants) to make two summer puddings. Tomorrow, when the daughter is asleep for her afternoon nap, I’ll break them out for me and she who knits.

lettuce and summer fruit

lettuce and summer fruit

Allotment in the snow

Went down to the plot on Thursday to collect my gardening gloves, and took some pictures of the plot under a covering of snow.

Four blackcurrants on the right, two elder on the left and invisible garlic at the rear left

Blackcurrants, elder and invisible garlic

Gardeners’ Question Time yesterday told me that garlic shouldn’t be waterlogged, which I suppose means that I should have cleared the snow a bit rather than just wondering how the plants would survive.

The blackcurrants at the end of the plot are starting to bud, and squashing one of them brings forth an astringent smell. There’s a hint of blackcurrant leaf in there but mostly it smells of cut grass; so that may be the smell of cut meristems.

Broad beans at the back; phacelia at the front

Broad beans at the back; phacelia at the front

I’m planning on sowing the other half of the Super Aquadulce at the front of that bed, and that should be done by the end of the month. I’ve also learned a better way of sowing and staking broad beans: double rows with stakes on the outside of the double row.

Strawberries are behind the redcurrant

Strawberries are behind the redcurrant

a kilo of windfall potatoes

Two years on the plot and I’ve never planted potatoes, but they still come up! I was digging over a bed for the last of the garlic and Winter onions, and got a few pink fir spuds and about a kilo of white ones. Tonight’s tea is going to be the last of Wednesday’s stew, mashed potatoes and steamed cabbage.

Spent this morning’s annual leave planting a dozen broad beans — an experiement with overwintering them — and preparing ground for manuring. Also transplanted 3 runaway strawberry plants close to the redcurrant bush, and am already dreaming of next year’s Summer Pudding.

It was cold with bouts of rain and a light fall of snow, and getting perennial weeds out of the beds (mostly grass roots and equisetum) was cold and dirty work. It’s not the middle of Winter yer and there’s still life on the plot: the weeds are still growing, A robin kept me company once I’d started to unearth worms and other minibeasts, and a tit was calling from the blackcurrants.

Creating, maintaining, transforming

I felt the need to get to the plot because it’s a time of renewal and change in the Celtic calendar. At this time of year one has to make the most of the weather, and it turned into a gloriously warm and sunny day. I just went down to propagate some blackcurrants but then spent 3 hours getting stuff done: built new compost bins, propagated 4 blackcurrants and 2 elder, and dug up the remaining redcurrant bush.

new compost bins in the sunlight

new compost bins in the sunlight

elder, blckcurrants and strawberries. the bed has been weeded!

elder, blackcurrants and strawberries. the bed has been weeded!

a view of the allotment with the remaining redcurrant

a view of the allotment with the remaining redcurrant

Had a friend round for dinner last night who pointed out that this was like the Hindu trinity: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer and Shiva the destroyer or transformer. I certainly transformed the redcurrant as I took the secateurs to it and put it into the habitat pile behind the red shed, and I’m becoming less squeamish about uprooting plants because I know that the minibeasts and fungi will find the remains attractive.

The other friend who was round for dinner suggested I could rip up the vicious rose in the centre of the plot if it was getting out of hand. That is probably going a step too far, but I will prune it back hard.