Posts tagged ‘allotment’

January 6, 2014

2014 Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! As we’re a week into 2014, I’m firmly closing the door on the Christmas and New Year festivities (which I’ve totally loved this year) and getting back into the swing of everyday life. The start of a new school term always brings about a return to routines and the end of Quality Street being an acceptable breakfast food, just as I’ve got used to the idea…

Traditionally the start of January is resolution time. Usually I like to write a giant list of resolutions for the year, some of which I manage to complete and some I don’t. I wrote recently about needing to be honest with myself about the things that I really wanted to do and forget the things that I think I should want to do. So, no marathon running goals for me, this year or ever. Although I think that if you want to make changes to your life, you should start them today, whenever today is, rather than waiting for January 1st, there is something tidy about making new starts in a new year, so I do find New Year’s Resolutions somewhat seductive.

2014 is going to be a year that contains many changes. My career, my home life, and the way I spend my time are all going to change, and not all of those changes are my decision. So, rather than trying to control everything, I’m going to try and go with the flow a little more. Which is terrifying to me! But, I think that trying to force things to happen is bound to end in failure. It is important for me to recognise what I can control and what I cannot.

Therefore my list is short, and perhaps a little vague. But here goes:

1 – Study for my RHS Level 2 exams.  I’ve written about this before, and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while (and really wanted to do) but life has got in the way of my plans. I’m determined to make it happen this time though. And I’m hopeful it may lead to more opportunity and who knows, perhaps a career shift.

2 – Make time. For my family, my friends, my boyfriend. Much of 2013 was challenging, sometimes it was painful and introspective, and it was a year in which my friends all supported me, but I feel as though I gave back little in return. I want to redress the balance and make time to visit my beloved friends and family and support them in whatever they are doing. My boyfriend has a year of change ahead of him too, and I want to be a supportive partner to him as we embrace our future together. (As an aside, I feel far too old to be saying boyfriend, but what’s the alternative? Partner makes it sound like we’re in business together…hmm)

3 – Say ‘yes’ more. And say ‘no’ more. Contradictory as ever…but by which I mean that I want to be brave enough to say ‘yes’ to the right opportunities that come my way, and say ‘no’ to things that I don’t want, need or feel like the right ‘fit’. And I’m not talking specifically about possessions when I say ‘things’, it’s really just a goal about being authentic and true to myself.

4 – Keep cycling. This is a bit of a vague goal, I appreciate, but I have really been enjoying cycling and I want to carry on improving, at my own pace, and just enjoying the ride. I have no challenges, competitions, sportives in mind at all. It will just be me, my bike and my boyfriend by my side.  Though, if you’re in Leeds and fancy a snail’s pace bike ride with a cafe stop in the middle, I’m your ideal companion!

5 – Visit somewhere new. Doesn’t matter where, I just want to keep exploring and having micro-adventures. And I really, really, want to go to somewhere I’ve never been in Europe in 2014. Fitting adventure into everyday life instead of waiting for a big chunk of time is something I’ve enjoyed in 2013, and I want to do more of it.

6 – Move towards being a ‘zero waste’ home. This is a huge goal and one in which I am going to be moving at an evolutionary pace, not aiming for an overnight revolution! On the back of reducing our reliance on the supermarket, the next step is reducing the amount of waste we create – less packaging, which in turn means less recycling. More composting and home-grown food! Which takes me nicely onto number 7…

7 –  Try my hardest to grow as much of our food as possible. 2013 was a dire year on the allotment for many reasons. I paid it a visit over the Christmas period and made a promise to it that I’d try my hardest to make 2014 a great year. Yup, I talk to my allotment. I appreciate that’s odd.

8 – Try yoga. We have a wonderful looking yoga centre near us and I’d really like to have a go at yoga, to benefit my (still too high) blood pressure and improve my flexibility. This is the year in which I’m finally going to do it, instead of just talking about it!

So, there we have it. Only eight things on my list this year. In addition to this are my usual ‘eat well, read more, learn new things’ goals, but they’re so heavily ingrained into my personality that I don’t need to specifically list them. As long as I’m breathing, I’ll be reading…

What are your goals for 2014? And do you have any advice for me in achieving mine? I’d love to hear from you.

December 13, 2013

Bringing The Garden Indoors.

Now that I’ve moved to a third floor flat, I am without a garden of my own. This is offset somewhat by my allotment and we have a shared garden, but it’s overlooked by several large trees. This makes for wonderful bird watching – I appear to have become an accidental twitcher – but means that the garden is darkened, covered in leaves, and any plants would need to compete with lots of tree roots so it doesn’t bode well for much growing.

So, to satisfy my green fingers,  I want to bring some of the outdoors into our home.

The first thing I did was plant ‘Paperwhite’ bulbs into little terracotta pots. I have a handful of these around the flat and they’ve brought a bit of cheer and a heady fragrance into our home. Although you can force these in the dark, I just left them in my mother’s greenhouse for a few weeks and they’ve flowered quite quickly. I love that the bright green shoots are mirrored in the green that has grown on the old terracotta and they look wonderful against the pale walls; a touch of next Spring in the early days of Winter.

Paperwhites in pots

I’m currently reading through ‘The Virgin Gardener’ by Laetitia Maklouf again, which has some great ideas for gardening without a garden. I’m going to have a go at growing succulents, as I was really inspired by the Alpine House at RHS Harlow Carr earlier this year. The structure of these little plants fascinates me, and they’ll be a great way to add greenery to our home.

Alpines at RHS Harlow Carr

There will of course be herbs in the kitchen, but I’m on the lookout for the best plants we can have in the rest of our home too. I’m after plants that will last well, help clean the air, cope with the temperatures and look great too.  I’ll be doing a spot of research over the next couple of months, but if you’ve any fabulous suggestions, do let me know!

October 25, 2013

A month without supermarkets.

Last month, I had a bit of a meltdown in the local supermarket. I’ve written before on the paradox of choice and how, sometimes, when faced with too many options, I go into some kind of paralysis. When forced into a supermarket, I often find myself wandering aimlessly round  as though drugged, then like the proverbial deer in the headlights, standing in front of an entire aisle of soup, unable to drag myself away, nor make a decision about which to buy.

And that’s precisely the reason that I’m quitting them. That, and the knowledge that half the world doesn’t have enough to eat and the other half, well, me at least, is deliberating over what seems like an endless variety of food.The balance is quite clearly off and it makes me uncomfortable. I want to have a better feeling about my food than I do now.

So. What to do? Well, I’m about to move to a new area of Leeds which has an array of small independent shops. I’ve just started getting a weekly veg box delivery again. And I’m determined to make the most of my allotment produce. All of these things add up to one answer. Stop going to the supermarket. See what other suppliers are out there; the Leeds Bread Co-op that delivers locally, the farmers’ market, Leeds City Markets, Handpicked Food Hall, and a myriad of other folk. I want to know where my meat comes from, try raw milk, eat seasonally, cook more, meet the people who produce the food that I’m buying and eating. I don’t want to be that person that I become when I’m in the supermarket, making choices like a zombie. This isn’t about me being a ‘foodie’. I don’t really understand that term anyway; surely everyone who eats is a foodie? This is about making more sustainable choices, being comfortable with what I’m eating and enjoying myself. Fewer, better options feel better for me than the vast warehouse-style supermarkets that just make me uncomfortable.

It’s also not an exercise in deprivation. I’m no Jamie Oliver with his unthinking ‘ buy ten mangetout from the market’ type comments. I appreciate that this is going to take more time and is likely to cost more money. I also know how completely fortunate I am. Believe me, if I worked awkward shifts or had a very tight budget, I would stay in the supermarket, without question. I am grateful that I can make this decision.  I’m also hopeful that perhaps I’ll waste less food, use less packaging and appreciate what I’m buying, cooking and eating a bit more.

So, my statement of intent: For the whole of November I  will make sure I don’t step foot in a supermarket. I’m very hopeful that my lovely boyfriend will join me in this challenge. I think he will. As long as we find a decent beer shop! Who am I kidding, I shall need that too. At this moment in time I can only think of one problem. I need fishfingers. So, I need a non-supermarket place to buy or a great recipe to make fish-fingers. Otherwise my lovely, incredibly fussy, four year old boy will starve. Any ideas on that?

During the month, I’m going to blog about the places I find along the way. I’m also doing the Blog Every Day in November Challenge with Rosalilium, so November is going to be a busy old month on Margot & Barbara. If this month works out well, then the plan is to keep going to the end of 2013. And then, who knows. Can we get through the whole of 2014 without Tesco? Sounds good to me…

 

Bloggers: Fancy joining in? Let me know, and we can link up. 

Readers in Leeds, are there any places I should try? I’m thinking of independent food growers, producers, shops, markets etc. Let me know! 

July 24, 2013

Three Good Things: Week Two

The first week of Three Good Things was so well received and I have been completely delighted by how many people got involved. It seems that I’m not the only person who wants to slow down and practice a bit of gratitude for the small things in life.

We may not live perfect lives – I know I definitely don’t –  but there are a lot of things to be grateful for. Things that bring a bit of joy to the everyday, a spot of sunshine and a smile. I want to document them and be reminded that, although my life is not perfect, it is my life. And I’m incredibly lucky to be living it.

So, here we go…

One: My sweetpeas

IMG_7117

The first thing on my list this week are my sweet peas. More than any other flower I know, sweet peas demand to be picked. The more flowers you pick, the more flowers the plant produces, in the desire to ensure its own survival. Added to that, if you choose one of the older varieties or perhaps Matucana (the original sweet pea) you are rewarded with an incredible fragrance from so few flowers. And, if that’s not all, they’re incredibly easy to save seed from. Just allow the pods to dry well, and pop out the large, dark seeds. Keep them somewhere cool and dry and they’ll be fine for sowing next year. Just remember that if you choose an F1 hybrid variety, the saved seed will revert back to the parent, and so you might well end up with a colour you weren’t expecting. But, hey, that’s part of the fun of gardening…

Two: Bun making with my daughter.

IMG_7137

I’m not the kind of parent who does lots of craft activities with my kids. Something I’m going to attempt to change this summer. But I do cook with them. This week, we made buns. Not cupcakes or fairy cakes. Buns. That’s what my mum calls them, and so that’s what I call them. Anyway, these ones, with too much icing and a mountain of mini marshmallows on each one, were lovely.

Three: New perfume!

IMG_6919

This week I was reminded that delated gratification can lead to far greater rewards. For about a year now, I’ve longed for a new perfume. One specific perfume, to be precise. 34 Boulevard St Germain, by Diptyque. I don’t know about you, but every time I see something that I’d really like, I say to myself ‘on payday, I’ll buy that’.  Of course, each payday comes and goes and I don’t buy lovely things. I pay bills.

This month, however, I did buy it. After a year of wishing that I could have this perfume in my life, I finally do. If you see me around, expect me to smell of it! It’s a complicated and quite unique fragrance, inspired by the flagship Diptyque store in Paris. As the store sells a myriad of perfumes, candles and home scents, you could be forgiven for thinking that it would be a tangled mess of a smell. Not so. It starts off with green top notes, then the mid notes are floral and then dries down to  the lingering woody, earthy, rich and perfect base notes. I love it. Adore it. And it feels more special to me because I had to wait for it. I doubt I’d be treating it with the same reverence if I was just able to buy it on first encounter without having to really think about it.

So, that’s my three good things for this week. I’d love you to share your Three Good Things, either in the comments or in a blog post. Here’s a little round up of all the fabulous people who wrote a post last week – do go and read them!

Hello Kirsty  – In which we learn the Spanish for ‘we are turtles’ and see a glimpse of the best birthday party dress ever. Brilliant.

Espresso Coco –  More language fun in this post. And some of my favourite things from one of my favourite people and collaborator on a brand new blog! It’s about TEA. You’ll love it.

Leeds & Me  – Isobel has greener fingers than she thought! And because of this post, I’ve a new book on my reading list.

A Hell of A Woman – This blogger is one of my online best buddies and in this post she shares news of a great new project.

Lady Lugosi – This post made me laugh out loud and again, there’s a brilliant project included.

Spider’s Filthy Assistant – I love this post. It’s sexy, optimistic and has made me want to pay a return visit to Edinburgh this year.

Nyssapod – A post from one of my  favourite online friends. I’m coveting the phone case in this post! And I’m going to listen to the money-saving Audioboo.

Looking at this list of posts has made me smile the biggest grin. I probably shouldn’t have it as one of my Three Good Things for next week, but it’s tempting…

July 17, 2013

Three Good Things: Week One

With sincere apologies to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for the blatant theft of his book title, I’m calling this post ‘Three Good Things’ and it will be the first in an ongoing weekly series that I shall post each Wednesday.

Three Good Things is inspired by ongoing conversations I have with friends and from re-reading sections of The Happiness Project. It’s about focussing on what I do have in my life, instead of what I don’t have. A friend of mine mentioned that he’d done a writing project with his children during a period of change in their lives to get them to remember good things every day and it’s really resonated with me. I spend a lot of time planning the future; I can often struggle to keep my mind in the present day.

In times of change or upheaval, or when things feel like they’re an ongoing battle,  it’s good to be able to slow down and practice a bit of gratitude. And that’s what I shall be doing in this series. Each week, I shall choose three things to share. Things that have made me happy, made me smile, brought me a bit of joy or peace and made me grateful for the life that I have. I will always be a planner, always have one eye on the future and always strive to better myself and my life in one way or another, but this will hopefully help me be thankful for what my life looks like right now.

Robert Brault wrote ‘enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realise that they were the big things’.

So, without further ado, I present to you Three Good Things.

One: Strawberries

The first thing to bring me joy this week has been my strawberries. I’ve had a difficult year on the allotment this year. I’m living further away from it, and life is so busy that it’s often a challenge to get there. It can feel like a chore, instead of the hobby it is supposed to be, when I’m trying to work it into my schedule. And the sun, though very welcome, means that watering is an ongoing necessity.

Thankfully, my reward for all this effort has arrived in the form of beautiful strawberries. Giant, sweet and warmed by the sun, these are the best fruit I’ve ever grown and I’m thrilled with them. The fact that they match my red toenails pleases me enormously too. I always paint my toenails red. Actually, that’s not true. On a whim, I painted them blue the other week. Then I had a really long bath, which made my feet go wrinkly. After getting out of the bath, I dried my feet, and realised that the combination of the wrinkles and the blue toenails made my feet look like corpse feet. Those of you who remember my kayaking experience of last year will realise that this isn’t the first time I’ve had that feeling about my feet… Given that ‘dead’ isn’t generally a look that I aim for, I swiftly removed the blue. I shall be sticking to red from now on!

The colour on my toes is Dragon, by Chanel, a truly bright red which makes me feel happy whenever I look at it.

IMG_6880

Two: The Cluny, Newcastle

The second thing to bring me lots of happiness this week was The Cluny, a brilliant pub in the Ouseburn area of Newcastle. We had such a great night out. The warm summer evening brought heaps of people to sit outside the pub on the curved stone steps and ‘village green’ area, so, armed with pints of beer, we sat and people-watched. It was a moment in my life when I wasn’t thinking about the past, or planning the future but was simply happy to be in the moment I was living and with the person I was with. These moments in life should be treasured and I’m very happy to remember that feeling.

The Cluny is a wonderful pub, filled with a great variety of beers including my favourite Timmermans (a fruit beer, I’m such a girl!) together with a live music venue. I really recommend it.

IMG_6931

Three: My lovely bike

The third thing that has made me smile this week is my Pashley Princess Sovereign. I’m pretty sure that I gave her a name but I’ve forgotten it, and when I took her out of the garage on Sunday she was covered in dust which made me feel a bit shameful. Nonetheless, the minute I got in the saddle, I remember why I love her so much. We had a little ride in the sun, punctuated halfway with a Primo’s gourmet hotdog (therefore reducing the health benefits of cycling to nil) and I’ve promised to myself that I won’t leave it as long before we go out together again.

IMG_6999

So, those are my Three Good Things for this week. See you here again next Wednesday!

I’d love for this series of posts to develop a bit of community – so do tell me, what are your good things this week? 

February 20, 2013

A meat-free month

I spent January as a vegetarian. Nothing to do with the recent UK scandal about horse meat and food security (which became news after I’d started)  but for my own personal reasons. I’m not squeamish about meat eating – after all, I have long owned a copy of John Seymour’s ‘Complete Book on Self Sufficiency’,which contains the unforgettable line  ‘first lure your pig to the killing room’, but it’s the sheer quantity of meat that it seems people are eating that I am uncomfortable with.

Meat used to be revered. Reserved for High Days and holidays, a piece of meat would be cooked – perhaps for  Sunday dinner – and then the left-overs used through the week to make more dishes. Thrifty cooks still do that now, and there are a proliferation of good cook books and websites on thrifty cooking and eating. But what makes my stomach turn is the unthinking way in which meat is eaten all the time – and largely poor quality, untraceable meat, in mince, burgers, chicken nuggets, etc etc.

It’s simply not sustainable for the planet for an ever increasing population to eat meat in the quantities we do. Huge emerging middle classes in quickly developing countries are now eating more like the UK or USA, when previous traditional diets were largely vegetarian. Great swathes of rain forest are getting cut down to graze beef cattle. Field after field of grain is grown – not to feed people, but to feed animals that will then feed people. The difference in resources required is enormous.

And as for fish, it is a worry that the humble mackerel, once the king of under-appreciated fish, has now made it’s way onto the MSC‘s list of unsustainable fish. I’d say the MSC is the best place to look if you’re interested in making good choices about the fish you eat.

I’m not suggesting that the world turn vegetarian. Though it would help, and it will be interesting to see what impacts the recent horse meat scandal has on the long term eating habits in the UK – though really I suspect very little. What I’m suggesting is that, by reducing the amount of meat we eat, choosing it carefully when we do eat it, and really enjoying it, instead of mindlessly buying another burger, we might help reduce the impact on the planet’s resources. I know that it is something of a middle class answer to talk about ‘making friends with your local butcher’ as not everyone has the luxury of either the time, money or indeed butcher, to make that decision, but choosing to eat less meat is within everyone’s grasp.

So, I shall climb down from my soap-box now.

What I’ve realised after a month of vegetarianism is that it can be much cheaper. A bag of lentils as a source of protein is far less expensive than even the cheapest cut of meat. I wanted to spend the month cooking proper food, not heating up vegetarian pre-prepared stuff, and I found that everything I cooked was cheaper than a meat containing equivalent.

I ate more vegetables too. I realise that this sounds obvious but I do not think for one second that a vegetarian diet is immediately healthier than an omnivorous one. After all, crisps, sweets and chocolate are meat-free, and I have met vegetarians in the past who have existed largely on chips. But when I’ve taken the time to cook new vegetarian dishes, it’s felt really positive, and not a second rate option.

I have a goal to try one new vegetarian dish each week for the year, and I’m keeping a little record of what I’ve cooked. I have been using Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘Veg Every Day’ and Sarah Raven’s ‘Garden Cookbook’ a lot, and also the recipes which come from Abel and Cole. My veg box is a place of ever increasing interest because of this shift in my eating and I can only hope that my allotment will be too.

I said that I’d had a month of vegetarianism, and since the end of January I have re-introduced meat into my diet. I’ve eaten meat twice. On both occasions, it was a really considered choice, in places with a strong provenance. I didn’t regret my decision, and thoroughly enjoyed what I was eating. Mindful eating definitely is a key, in my mind, to that decision. Apart from those two occasions, I have remained meat free and I am likely to carry on eating like this for some time.

(Incidentally, if you’re looking for good articles on the recent horse meat scandal, and the UK attitude to eating horse meat, try Them Apples)

October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

It’s finally Halloween, though it feels as though we’ve been celebrating it here for about a fortnight already. The kids have been dressed up at every available opportunity and we’ve already celebrated at school, at the local sweet shop and on Primrose Valley with crafts from Wyke Beck Valley Pride, an environmental project happening locally.

But now is the day itself. Happily, we managed to grow a pumpkin to carve this year. It was supposed to be Atlantic Giant, the large orange ubiquitous pumpkin. Clearly, it is not orange. It’s not round either, but that might be because we rested it on something to keep it away from slug damage. I cannot decide if it looks like this because we did something wrong or if it was a rogue seed from a different pumpkin variety that found its way into the packet. Either way, it is suitably scary, and with a bit of imagination from my daughter and carving from my husband, it now looks like this…

I will be dressing as a Mexican sugar skull for our family party, so if you want to see what I look like,  follow my Instagram feed, because it’s sure to show up! I’m Margotbarbara on there too. If you’re celebrating Halloween, I hope you have a great time. If you’re not celebrating, I also wish you a lovely evening, and hope you’re not disturbed by pesky trick-or-treaters…

September 12, 2012

My top ten plants for bees

So, I promised that I’d give you a list of my favourite plants for attracting bees. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but I’ve chosen plants that I really like, so not only the bees benefit! Bees prefer a relatively sheltered space, with sunshine. We’ve successfully grown a wildflower mix on the allotment and I’ve also decided to replant the small raised bed I have in the front garden with bee-friendly plants too.

There are a few points to bear in mind:

1 – It’s useful to have a variety of plants with different flowering seasons throughout the year, giving a longer period to support the bees.

2 – Local native flowers are better, which seems quite obvious really, as they share natural habitat. You don’t have to solely plant native species, but consider including them in your garden. Make sure that you get any native species from an approved supplier instead of collecting from the wild, obviously.

3 – Single flower varieties of cultivated plants are better than fancier double-flowered varieties.

4 – Weeds are a great source of food and habitat for many beneficial insects and pollinators, so if you’ve enough space to leave a patch wild, that’s always appreciated. You could go the whole hog and have a logpile too…

Lovely bee! Image from the super talented Abi Manifold.

My Favourite Plants for Bees – these are plants that I’ll be including in my planting either at home or on the allotment.

1 – Lavender. Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ which is the one that you’ll think of as the ‘traditional’ type or Lavandula stoechas, which is French lavender, with the bracts at the top ( like a pair of bunny ears!)

2 – Sunflower – Any variety of Helianthus annus will be great. After this summer’s success, we’re definitely planting these on the allotment again.

3 – Hellebore –  Helleborus argutifolius or really any other type. I love Hellebores, they’re gorgeous plants that hide away often unnoticed in the garden. They’re perennials, so they don’t have to be replaced each year, and they’re in flower before almost anything else – which helps the pollinators in the colder months. Other early flowers include crocus and single varieties of snowdrop, which are also lovely – but look at my Hellebore!

Hellebore in my front garden.

4 – Dahlia. I adore Dahlias. The more flamboyant and day-glo the better. For the bees, however, we need less flamboyance and single varieties instead, such as ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ which is popular and well-established. So, I’ll include a few single varieties in my all-new-and-improved cutting patch on the allotment next year. The good thing about dahlia is that they’re flowering once many other things have gone to seed, so extending the season into early Autumn.

5 – BorageBorago officianalis. A pretty herb, the petals and young leaves of which can be frozen in ice cubes to serve in summer drinks. A win – win situation, I call that… Just be aware that this can self-seed and get a bit invasive if you don’t keep on top of it. I might grow mine in a separate bed on the allotment.

6 – Harebell. Campanula rotundifolia. This is the wild Harebell, so if I did grow it, I’d have to be sure that I got it from an approved supplier. I love this little wild flower – it’s the perfect example to me of something that might be called a ‘weed’ but is completely beautiful. Also, Plantlife named it the county flower of Yorkshire a while ago, so it seems fitting that I grow it.

7 – Comfrey – I keep this in a pot as it can go a bit mad and over take everything. Comfrey is also called knitbone  (something I learned in an old pony book as a child!) – and is used as a herbal remedy for problems with bones, muscles and bruising. It also makes a great, although stinky, high- potash plant food when the leaves are infused in a bucket of water. Again, a plant that benefits me alongside the pollinators.

8 – Mint.  I really recommend Mentha piperita ‘Black Peppermint’, it has a strong, quite powerful fragrance and taste, making it perfect for tearing up in a mug with hot water for peppermint tea. Far better than the dried out sachets you can buy. Mint can also be invasive, but if you keep it alone, don’t put it in too small a pot, it’ll just be unhappy. Give it plenty of room.

9 – Apple – Malus domestica Hurrah! Bees love apples too. A great excuse for me to finally get that last space in my row of cordoned trees filled with another old English variety of apple. I’m thinking a cooking variety this time. For pies, obviously…

10 – Jasmine. Jasminum officinale We have a giant plant of this outside the front of our house and it smells incredible – I’ve already told you how I bring it into the house. The bees love it too. They must be as attracted to the fragrance as I am.

So, there we have it. My list of ten plants I will be growing to attract the bees – as well as use as cutting flowers or for eating! It’s important to choose the right plant for the right place, considering your soil type and the exposure to the wind, for example. The Royal Horticultural Society have a big list of both cultivated varieties and wild flowers that will attract pollinators, so do go to their website and have a look.

I’ve just realised that this blog has got very gardening-heavy recently. I will blog about different things soon, I promise!

September 10, 2012

Burgon and Ball Trowel: a review.

Since spending more time on the allotment, I’ve come to realise that gardening tools are a bit like kitchen tools. There are a lot of fancy gadgets to spend your money on, but you’re more likely to rely on a few well-made and carefully chosen pieces of kit.  My beloved Felco secateurs definitely fall into this category. I never go to the allotment without them. I’ve been a bit short on other tools though, and so I’m really grateful for this beautiful new trowel courtesy of Notonthehighstreet.com.

Designed by Sophie Conran for Burgon and Ball, it’s one of a complete range of hand tools designed to fit women’s hands – they’re slightly smaller, with a slimmer handle.  It has a curving back, which just looks like a design, but actually it really helps stop you losing soil off the back of the trowel, so it’s practical too. It’s reassuringly weighty (but not overwhelmingly so), demonstrating its nice quality. I’m already really enjoying using it, and look forward to the  beechwood handle developing the warm patina of many years of use. All the tools in the range come individually packaged in a lovely blue box, and would make such a nice gift.

Photo from Notonthehighstreet.com

I’ve been really impressed with Notonthehighstreet.com‘s range of products. They have an extensive range of gifts for all the different people in your life, many of which are hand-made in this country by craftspeople; a great way to support small businesses. The standard is really high, I’ve loved everything I’ve bought from there in the past, which has mostly been jewellery as gifts. In fact the only problem with the site is the amount of choice, which means it takes ages for me to decide!

Now that the Autumn term has started at school, my thoughts are already turning to Christmas (there, I said it) and it’s the perfect place to look for unusual, often personalised, presents. I’ve already seen a few things that would be great for my kids so I’ll be back soon.

With many thanks to Notonthehighstreet.com for providing me with the gorgeous trowel to review.

August 29, 2012

Sunflower

Earlier this year, I was sent some sunflower seeds by the lovely Helen at The Good Life Mum. I planted them with my daughter and she has done her very best to look after them. Many of them grew to about a foot tall and then stopped. We have these in a row outside the back of our house. But, thankfully, one of them grew and grew. I’m so thrilled that she has managed to grow such a giant sunflower as reward for all her efforts – it’s a good lesson for her to learn.

Each of my children has a small raised bed on the allotment, and alongside her ‘wild flower’ seed mix (which has been hugely successful and much loved by the bees) she planted one of her sunflower plants.

I don’t really have any idea how big it is, as the only scale I have is Eve, who is a tall five year old! Once it’s finished flowering, we’ll allow it to go to seed and then dry the seeds to collect for using again next year.