Allotment 2014

People have been asking about any progress on the allotment, and for the first time in months the answer is ‘yes there has been some’, so here’s an update.

We visited the allotment with the intention of planting potatoes and beetroot, but as we arrived it became pretty clear we had something else to deal with first:

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£20 of manure

We’d asked our allotment neighbour to get us some manure delivered, he’d said the cost is £20 but we hadn’t actually realised how much that would get us. We’re not currently growing enough stuff to use that much manure, so we decided the best thing to do was use it on preparing the ground for next year (now you see why I feel like blogging will be useful, I might have forgotten all this by next April). So we peeled back the first bit of black sheeting we put down last August – looking good underneath! A few hardy weeds that Andy dealt with:

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Underneath The Sheeting

He covered all of the bare ground, quite generously since .. well what else can we do with it all?? Both our allotment neighbours said we were doing the right thing, so fingers crossed it’ll have been worth the effort next year.

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Liberally applied manure

While all this was going on, I was tending to a smaller, fiddlier job. I was feeling sorry for the two fruit trees we bought before Christmas because they’d been planted, but grass had grown back up around the base. So I weeded and dug over the soil around the two trees, gave them a helping of manure, and tidied everything up with a nice row of stones (there are so many stones, I have to do something with them).

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Plum Tree Apple Tree

Andy carried on laying out manure under the next black sheet, which after we’d dug it over actually looked quite good – almost like we could plant things now.. but there’s a lot of other stuff going on, so it got covered up again. Here’s what it looked like pre-manure – plus the little corner we left around gooseberry bush 2.

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Under The Second Black Sheet

Last week I’d spent some time sorting out my Senshyu onion patch – I think I’d compacted the soil too much when we made the bed and it looked a bit sorry for itself. I think they’ll have a bit more room to grow now (and fewer weeds). It won’t be a huge crop, but it was just so we could say we’d planted something last year.

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Senshyu Onions (Planted 10th Nov 2013)

Since that one nice day the weather seems to have turned again, so we’re full of rain and holding off on further progress. I’ve planted a selection of chillies, peppers, herbs and assorted other things in the pop-up greenhouse in the yard, but they haven’t raised their heads yet. At some point soon I really want to get the potatoes and beetroot in, but beyond that the sorting out a new house is taking precedence over planting.

One interesting thing, one of our allotment neighbours was showing us round his shed – last year he planted grapes, red and white, and got 140 bunches or, more importantly, 60+ bottles of wine. Just something to mull over…

 

Allotment Progress

It’s been about two weeks since we took on the allotment now, and I realise I’ve not updated the original blog post I made to include any photographs. I’ll try to make up for that now by including as many photographs as possible.

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The Wilderness

This is the allotment as we took it on. Our allotment neighbours stopped to wish us good luck, one told us it was unfair to expect anyone to take it on in this state. I’m not feeling too aggrieved since the town council wouldn’t let us pay for it until the new year of allotment-ing starts, but it’s certainly a bit of a challenge.

What we didn’t realise at this point was quite how many Gooseberry bushes there are, or that we’d discover the best part of a house worth of rocks buried in the first 5 yards of land.

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29th July 2013

I decided I’d try to remember to take a photo from the same place so I’d be able to see the progress we’re making, and this is the first one. You can see the massive gooseberry bush emerging on the left, and the extremely handy bench that’s appeared on the right. We discovered that the centre of this photo is what seems to have been a compost heap, the soil there is fantastic (though covered in grass).

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30th July 2013

Here you can see the amount of rubble that my Dad retrieved from underneath the gooseberry bush. Ridiculous. I have no idea what it was doing down there, and at this point I didn’t realise quite how useful it was going to become. The second thing we discovered as we cleared further back was two more gooseberry bushes (granted, babies in comparison with the behemoth at the front).

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10th August 2013, 13:45

Getting to the present day, we decided to follow everyone’s advice and put down some black sheeting. The aim is to kill the weeds completely, including the roots, from lack of sunlight. You can see where the collection of rocks came in handy. The black sheeting we found at the back of the plot. I presume the previous occupants were full of good intentions and just never quite followed them through, which I can understand – I’m just thankful of all the free and useful kit they left behind!

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10th August 2013, 17:30

This photo doesn’t really do justice quite how far we’ve managed to clear. There’s now three pieces of black sheeting down covered in rocks from the back of the plot. We actually found that some allotment fairies had brought us two more massive pieces of black sheeting and left them by the greenhouse. I don’t know whether they were just being kind, or if maybe they’d borrowed some sheeting from this allotment while it was abandoned. Either way it was extremely useful yet again.

When we were uncovering more black sheeting at the back we found a slow worm underneath! So exciting. I’d never even heard of slow worms until recently, the allotments at the bottom of the hill have signs warning people to check for slow worms so I’d looked them up. They look like snakes, but they are actually legless lizards. It was about 1.5 feet long, and slithered away before I could take a photos. Fun anyway!

Just to emphasise quite how much we’ve got cleared now, I took some photos from a bit further along.

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Before
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After

One thing to add finally, our allotment neighbours have been so lovely during all of this, particularly the people opposite. They were one of the first to introduce themselves and offer encouragement, and since then we’ve had about 5 meals out of their free food. Lettuce, cucumber, potatoes, broad beans, purple beans, beetroot, and a whole tray of little strawberry plants ready for next year. It’s given me more enthusiasm to keep going, finding recipes foods we’re going to be able to grow. It’s just nice to find nice people :-)

So yes, things are progressing, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to plant some stuff over winter.

Recipes

Recently, and probably inspired by the potential for growing our own food, we’ve been cooking a lot of more interesting things to eat. Some have been successful, others slightly less so, but I figured dumping the good ones here would mean I’ll know where to look when I want to cook them again.

This first recipe we tried was lovely, the only issue being Andy put chilli flakes in (as per the recipe) and cooking them made it really spicy for me. I think next time we do it I’ll see if I can convince him to add the spice after he’s already served my portion…

Huevos Rancheros

Eggs poached in tomatoes served with pan friend flatbreads.

  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 brown onion
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Chop the onion into smallish pieces and fry in the pan with a bit of oil.
  2. When the onion is soft and nearly going brown, add the crushed garlic. The aim is to cook it a bit, but not let it burn
  3. Tip in the tin of tomatoes and simmer to reduce it down for a while.
  4. When the tomato/onion mix has become less watery and more ‘gooey’, make two poached egg sized dints and break an egg into each. Cover and leave to cook for about 5 minutes.

Flatbread

  • 100g plain flour
  • Tepid water
  1. Sieve the flour into a bowl, and make a well in the centre.
  2. Add water bit by bit and mix using a metal spoon from the centre.
  3. Keep adding water and mixing until you’ve formed a dough. Continue kneading until it’s elastic-y and bounces back into shape.
  4. Break off small balls of dough and roll on a floured surface until it’s a uniform thickness – approximately the same as a 50p piece.
  5. Heat a dry frying pan, drop the flattened dough into the pan and cook both sides until it ‘bubbles’ and goes brown, like a pitta bread.

Allotment

As ever, it’s been a while since I posted! This time the thing that’s sparked my inspiration is a lovely letter from the town council, informing us that our application for an allotment has reached the front of the queue!

We’ve been given a plot that looks quite large – the letter included a pen drawn map with the plot highlighted. We haven’t been down to inspect it yet but that’s on the agenda for this evening. I’m looking forward to working out what to do with it, hopefully it won’t be in too bad a state and we’ll be able to make some use of it this year, even if it’s only a corner to be used for winter veg.

I’ve been reading about the best ways to get started with an allotment and I’ll be trying to take some of that on board. One example was making note of the weeds there to get a feel for the type of soil, another was explaining the problems with weeds, and suggested covering as much as possible with old carpet to kill everything from lack of light. Some are obviously more long term plans than others… I’ll see what fits with our intentions.

One thing we’re going to suffer from initially is a lack of tools. I’ll be scouring the local Freecycle and supermarket notice boards to see what bits and pieces I can pick up. My mum’s recently had a greenhouse from freecycle and that sort of thing could be ideal… just maybe a year down the line when the ground is cleared.

Anyway this is probably enough of a ramble about an allotment I haven’t even seen. I’ll try to remember to update this with a photograph when we’ve managed to get there :)

Knee Update

I’m sure there are other things I wanted to talk about here, like the brilliant BarCraft we went to, or the awesome work training I went on, but really all I can think about at the moment is my knee.

The operation seems to have gone well, the surgeon specifically said that it had needed doing and I would see great improvement when it’s all healed. This was fantastic to hear since over the last 6 months it had improved to the point I was beginning to wonder if I should just live with it. On reflection I think I was just kidding myself – yes I was okay for walking but pretty much nothing else, and any kind of slippy floor was plain terrifying. It’s still reassuring that the level of improvement should be noticeable above that I’d seen from healing on its own. Seems crazy that knees are so complex they aren’t able to heal themselves, but thank goodness for modern medicine.

At the moment my knee is swollen and horribly bruised, particularly the back of my knee which is dark purple. When I left hospital there was no bruising at all but the physio warned me not to be alarmed when it did but it’s difficult. The combined weirdness of it all is pretty much the worst part at the moment. It’s so swollen it doesn’t bend properly and feels numb, but at the same time I can feel the metal staples and clips whenever I try to do anything. I’m so looking forward to the 31st when they’ll be removed.

The pain has been a lot more manageable than I had expected. It’s uncomfortable but not acute – as I said I think the mental aspect is worse, whenever I have cause to think about someone poking around inside my leg and then fastening it back together with staples it makes me cringe and pull faces. The medication they gave me has been great and apart from a lot of 3am awakeness I’d say altogether a success.

It’s not directly relevant now but I want to mention the general anaesthetic – it absolutely fantastic. I’ve now had 3 generals in my life, two during childhood for dental reasons and this now. The two previous were the most horrendous experiences, the first because of the anaesthetists inability to find a vein with his needle, and the second due to asthma complications with me insisting on gas because of the first. This time I didn’t even realise I was going under until I woke up from a dream some time later. I think I must have been less awake than I realised as by the next morning there were parts of the previous afternoon that I was a bit sketchy on, but I didn’t feel sick or confused, and it was all so relaxed. Amazing how well it works when done right.

Here are some pictures – not too gruesome, but I guess some people might find it weird. I just think it’s fascinating, having never had an operation before. Also I wish there had been more info on what an Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction was actually like online before I’d gone in, so here we go.

Before

Now 1

Before and shortly after shots, both from hospital. Not much swelling at this point (comparatively). I’d been expecting ‘three holes’ all around the knee, so what the upper thigh wound is I have yet to discover.

Now 2
Shortly After
More recent pictures, with immense swelling and bruising going on, sadly not the best bit of bruising which is right round the back of my knee, but you get the idea.
I can walk around without crutches in the house now, very very gently and slowly, but I daren’t go outside without them. Just waiting for the swelling to go down, and then for the 31st when the dressings will be changed and the staples removed.. not sure I want to see what my knee looks like then :-(
Anyway, will update this more when there’s more to say!

Hurray House

As ever it’s been a while since I updated, but the good news is the house we put an application in on, is now ours! We’re fully moved out of the old house, which has been checked and we’re getting our full deposit back. So now I’m a much less stressed Sara, and I can almost think about Christmas coming (far too quickly…).

New house is very nice, particularly the bedroom in the attic like my old room in Lancaster. The rain on the roof is lovely to hear, and I can still see trains rushing past the window – in fact I can see trains better from this house than I could when I lived right next to the railway station!

The living room and kitchen are more or less sorted out, the study is unpacked and desks/computers assembled – it’s probably the room that looks most lived in, but I think that’s just because we put up a lot of pictures. Then the bedroom is also pretty much there, bed is all comfy and nice, but we need more sets of drawers now we don’t have a ‘walk in wardrobe’ room of clothes.

All in all, it was an eventful few weeks and I’m very glad for it to be over. Now I just need to get Christmas out of the way and prepare for life on the road.

Application

So we went to see the house today, and it was as nice as I’d hoped! It’s bigger than it looks from the photos online, which is great. Particularly the kitchen, it’d be nice to have work surfaces and cupboards to keep things in. There’s a downstairs toilet too, which always feels like something posh people have.

Up the stairs to the first floor are two bed rooms, both large and not strangely shaped, as well as a shower room in-between. Then there’s a stair case up to the third floor, where the master bedroom is, along with a bathroom. Yes you read that right, for some reason the house has 3 toilets, one per floor. I guess that’ll be useful if we ever throw a party??

Anyway I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, we’re now in the nerve wracking bit. We’ve submitted an application which essentially means that unless they turn us down the house is ours. It gets instantly taken off the market (which is a relief) while they do all the checks, so all we can do is sit around and twiddle our thumbs.

We spoke to the current letting agency and asked if they’d let us move out before December 17th and avoid paying an extra month’s rent, and the landlord is apparently happy for that to happen. It means we need to be completely out of here by the 16th December though, so we’re restricted somewhat by how long it takes for the application form to be processed. I am hopeful though, as otherwise it’s going to make Christmas really complicated.

It’s a bit more expensive than we’re currently paying, £12.50 more each per month, but it seems to be a really nice house and I’m excited that it’s in Ulverston. Particularly across the road from one of the best rated pubs in the whole district (according to CAMRA). Roll on the application decision so I can feel like we’re making progress!

All in all, a productive day. Definitely feel happier about the situation knowing we’ve found something. Just need to cross our fingers it goes through in good time.

Finding a new house

I was a bit surprised on Saturday to find a letter from our letting agency informing us that the landlord wishes to take back possession of his property, and that we have two months to find somewhere else to live. Surprised is probably an understatement, completely shocked is more like it. We’ve always paid our rent on time, our inspections have been fine, but suddenly out of nowhere we’re forced to find a new house.

At first I was partially excited at the prospect, I do love searching for houses and nosying around inside them. I started thinking of all the things “wrong” with this place, and the sorts of things we could aim to improve by moving.

Pretty much straight away the excitement was replaced by sheer dread. Two months isn’t long enough to be picky about finding a house, and moving somewhere new is expensive. Will we have to pay rent in this place for the full two months while paying deposits and application fees on somewhere else? How likely is it that we’ll luck into finding a property that comes with its own white goods, or is that another expense to add on top?

There are far too many questions without answers, and I think the most annoying thing about house hunting is that everything takes Time. Nothing can be rushed, appointments only exist when they exist and we’re not the only people searching. Applications have to be written that require crazy amounts of documentation to prove who we are and how much we earn, and while all this is taking place, someone else could be swooping in and taking the very property we’ve been sat around waiting to view.

So where am I now? I’ve booked us a viewing at a house for tomorrow, and I’ve arranged for work to allow me time to go and see it. If everything goes to plan we’ll put in an application, and then wait yet some more. If it doesn’t go to plan then the whole cycle of waiting will begin from the beginning.

I can only imagine how much worse this is if you’re buying a house, where the stakes are much higher and when there’s meaning behind the emotional investment.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that tomorrow brings good news, and that I can say we’ve at least put an application in. That’s about the best I can hope for.

Music profile

Found an awesome Last.fm tool today which gives you a tag cloud of your favourite artists, and I thought it was interesting enough to blog about. Which is funny as I haven’t blogged about anything in forever.

Anyway.

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Music tastes over the last 12 months

 

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Music tastes overall since 2007

 

A non-knee related entry

The weather today was outstanding. I woke up with every intention of having the laziest day ever, but once I’d looked out the window that.. went out of the window. I’m still a bit restricted in what I can do with my knee so my initial thoughts of going on a walk were swapped out for a drive through pretty places with some stops along the way for taking photographs. In all honesty it was so cold I’m glad the majority of time was in the car with the heater on.

On the road to Kirkby-in-Furness

We’re still exploring and learning the local area round here, I feel like I know Lancaster like the back of my hand, but Furness is still a bit of a mystery, let alone having the whole Lake District on the door step. It was really fun to just drive random roads and find out where they go. I GPS tracked the whole journey, so the image locations on Flickr should be accurate.

Tarn Hows

I want to go back to Tarn Hows again when I’m supposed to be exercising my leg because it looked like a really gentle walk with paths right the way around the water. Hopefully by then it’ll be a bit warmer too.