Friday, 28 October 2011

Progress (at last) at secret saffron location!

I had almost given up hope that the saffron crocuses which I planted on the allotment would come to anything, but look what I found this week! After many fruitless inspections I was reluctantly concluding that they must have rotted or been eaten (there were a number of suspicious, rat-sized holes nearby…). I had left this patch of ground pretty much undisturbed as I wasn't really sure what the emerging leaves were going to look like, and suddenly there it was, in all its glory. My first Saffron Crocus.
Sadly I was not there in the pre-dawn darkness, armed with a pair of tweezers to extract the stamen before the sun rose. That, I understand, is the correct harvesting technique for these beauties. But I did very carefully weed around it and I can report that there are a number of others which are about to flower. Now all that remains is to harvest, collect and dry our very own Lincolnshire Saffron.
I will let you know when I have made my first million!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Easton Walled Garden

We had a lovely day at Easton Walled Gardens at the weekend: 12 acres of 'lost' gardens in a beautiful valley in Lincolnshire, between Grantham and Stamford. The gardens have been restored and there are walks, meadows, roses, a kitchen garden supplying the tearoom, and a cottage garden.

Sweet Peas are a particular focus. Whilst it is a bit late in the season now they grow and collect the seed from around 60 varieties. I feel that a return visit in the height of summer to see and smell them at their best will be a must.
This is a place where children are actively encouraged to play, and there is lots for them to do. Half-term activities included a Fairy and Acorns Trail (we didn't do terribly well, but as you can see, we did find one on the Potting Shed door). A particular favourite was Pumpkin Rolling down the steep, terraced slopes into the Lower Garden. This was great fun even for those whose pumpkins split, leading to automatic disqualification.
Details of these activities and lots more are on their website at
Well worth a visit!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Black gold

Things are slowing down at the lottie and there is less to do. It is time to reap the rewards from a year of composting.
On a recent visit the wind was cold and biting, so it wasn't much fun. I was there to turn and hopefully empty the compost from our two bins: one black, plastic, tardis-shaped bin, and one open wooden bin. Nearly all of the contents of the plastic bin was ready, and there was a good 12 inches or so of good compost at the bottom of the open wooden bin too. Digging that lot out and distributing it around the plot felt like a pretty good workout!
We stopped composting in the garden a few years ago as we had a bit of a rat problem, but it is a palaver hauling everying down to the lottie. We could also do with some compost to improve the soil in our garden. I am hoping to try out a tumbling composter at home in the hope that a sealed unit won't attract vermin. I like the idea of wormeries but haven't had one before since I gather that they don't work during the winter. Maybe now I have the greenhouse I could move a wormery in there during the colder months?
Intriguingly, I have also just been reading about a snailery which works along similar principles to a wormery and gets the little blighters working for you rather than against you. Now that would be an alternative to my inescapable chamber of death (the subject of a previous post)! I will have to investigate.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


On my last visit to the lottie I picked what will probably turn out to be the last of the runner beans. Once the weather cooled down they really slowed their production but it felt pretty good to be still gathering them in October.
This is the first time I have grown runners. My neighbour, Catherine, used to share her surplus with us in previous years.  Knowing that she liked them, I was pleased to be able to share some of this year's crop with her in turn.
Sadly, Catherine died suddenly last week after a stroke. It has been very strange not seeing her popping in and out, putting her very elderly neighbour's bin out, fetching her newspaper and so on. Her funeral is next week. I hope to be able to go, and I suspect I will think of her when gathering next year's beans. Insha'Allah.

Friday, 21 October 2011


We have had our first frosts so my youngest daughter is itching to go and pick some sprouts. "Have we got some?" enquired Him Indoors. Clearly he wasn't there when they were planted, weeded and watered all through spring and summer! It did not feel like sprout season last weekend as I really do associate them with winter. I'm not sure I will be able to deflect her much longer though!
It would be a shame not to indulge her on this one: she is genuinely excited about the prospect of the first sprouts for dinner and it makes a nice change from being pestered for sweets and chewing gum. It can be a half-term activity to go and pick some.

 # ends

Sunday, 16 October 2011


Yes, that's me. Gutted. After all that work, there is some pesky animal eating the allotment produce which I have stored in the garage.
I first noticed that one of the apples had been nibbled, and threw it out thinking that I had simply made a mistake in storing one without noticing that the birds had got at it. Then on Friday there was a second apple with a chunk missing. Him Indoors then checked through the sacks of potatoes (I wasn't brave enough, fearing that there might be a rat lurking at the bottom of one of them!) 3 of the varieties are fine but something has been having a good old munch on the Pink Firs.
I always plant on the basis of "one for me; one for the wildlife" and I take it as read that things are vulnerable and will be eaten by all manner of creatures whilst growing at the lottie. However, I had naively thought that once stored in the garage they would be safe as long as they didn't rot.
From now on I will be allowing the dog (a terrier) to roam much more freely in the garage and will even encourage next door's cats in (although not at the same time, obviously) in the interests of pest control. Bloody vermin!

Friday, 7 October 2011

And here comes Caspar

Just when you thought you had enough to do, what with the job, the kids, the garden and the lottie, someone has the bright idea of getting a dog.
Actually, that someone was me. Him Indoors queried whether it really was sensible to have another hound following the death of our wonderful first dog, Dylan. And what I actually said was: "If we have reached the stage where we are too busy to have a dog, then something has to give". Dangerous talk, readers! But come on: it's the old live to work or work to live arguement, isn't it?

Move forward a few weeks and skip over a few heart-breaking trips to local dog rescues, and we found Caspar.

He is a Lakeland Terrier/Jack Russell cross but most of the time he looks more like a sheep. He has driven us nuts at times (especially when he kept doing mammoth wees on the kitchen floor); he has removed every single plant label from the pots in my garden and he has eaten nearly as much of the fruit grown in the garden as I have (see Plum Bonanza for just one example).

He hates the allotment as he has to be tied up down there. So that's another time-saving idea (walk the dog to the allotment and combine the two tasks) which has failed. But he is a great little dog: good fun, lively at times but really mellow with the kids.

Here he is guarding some broad beans, back in early summer. At last, some garden produce which he does not want to eat!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Unseasonal madness

What madness was it that found me and my two daughters in the shoe department of a large local store yesterday morning, buying winter boots?

As all parents know, a promise is a promise. And this one was made last week when it seemed that Autumn had well and truly arrived. Clad in shorts and vests because of the crazy temperatures outside,  the girls paraded up and down trying on a succession of knee-high, fur lined, leather winter boots. Sadly there are no photos so you will just have to trust me readers: they looked like a pair of mini-rock chicks off to Glastonbury.
Despite the sweltering temperatures this week I have been unable to ignore the fact that my garden is looking a bit sorry for itself. As the flowers of summer faded there were some distinct gaps, with only Rosa Sister Elizabeth and some verbena providing any colour.

As beautiful as they are, it wasn't quite enough.
So I took myself off to the garden centre as well as the shoe department, for a seasonal fix. There wasn't a huge choice but I found a few things I am missing from previous gardens.
I spent the afternoon planting Sedum "Autumn Joy", 3 Japanese Anemones "September Charm", and Crocosmia "Babylon" and "Lucifer".
These are planted and things are looking better already. As for the children's boots, I think they will be staying in their boxes until the temperature returns to something more like normal.

Lincolnshire Sky

Lincolnshire Sky