Friday, 29 August 2008

The Jam Factory (plus giant popcorn, miniature cauliflowers and a minor rant about The Weed Police)

Ds1 picking runner beans from their raised bed. And yes, those are weeds he's standing in. I like to think of it as a wildlife meadow...

I feel like I ought to give an update on the allotment and as we were down there this morning it seems a good time to post some photos.

Recently I've been having an ongoing battle with a certain member of our allotment committee -aptly refered to in his absence as 'The Weed Police'* {g} - about the weeds on one of our plots. Ok, ok, so I can see the weeds. I look at them quite often. At least once a week. I don't really need someone to point them out to me.
As The Weed Police and the rest of the allotmentees know, the year has been frustrating for me because of a long term back problem. Since April I've been unable to dig, hoe or do any heavy duty work on the plot. I do what I can, when I can, but on days when I need painkillers just to put a sock on, I'm not really up for digging a plot full of horsetail and thistles! The situation hasn't gone unnoticed by The Weed Police: every single potential weed seed is seen as a crime against the essence of gardening. Empathy...sympathy...compassion - not words in his dictionary. So we are now at the point where he is threatening to take one of the plots away from us. Having seen the way he has bullied other allotmentees in previous years, it's not an empty threat. It took a large bar of chocolate and several glasses of wine to get over my last encounter with him. If someone stands between me and my gardening, I am not a woman to be messed with!

Rant over.

So...on to the allotment photos...
We've had some good corn cobs, about 18-20 so far I reckon. However some of the later ones still on the plants are poor, with small shrivelled corn. What's caused this? Not sure. Could be the cloudy cold weather leading to fewer bees and poorer pollination. [Ah...just remembered, they're wind-pollinated. So there goes that theory]

Not too bad, fairly normal cob.

Weird, shrivelled, dried out cob.

The popcorn we planted (straight from a Tescos packet of popping corn) is getting taller and taller. There are signs that it may finally be doing things (the big fluffy beardy things on top are promising), but no visible cobs yet. If it actually produces popcorn it would be fantastic. Hey, who needs expensive seed from seed companies?

Ds2 with the giant popcorn plants

The comfrey patch, grown from root cuttings this year. Looking pretty good eh? If only the rest of my crops were this invasive...

The tomatoes are pretty poor. We've had a few but it's been a slow year and now the blight is starting to get to them and the fruit is dropping off all blackened and soft. Not good. The plants at the allotment are looking really rather weak and I suspect the allotment plot is quite nutrient poor now. The ones at home, in the garden and the greenhouse are much stronger, greener plants. What we really need is a lorry full of horse poo. Not sure how I'm gonna manage carting that about in a wheelbarrow with a bad back. Maybe we should just acquire a horse and park it on our plot? (I'd like to see what the allotment commitee says about should keep them busy for a while lol.)

This is about as big as the tomato plants down the allotment are getting. Not a great result.

A caterpillar (and his thinner previous incarnation) on my cabbages. Darn it, those !$*!ers grow fast. Need I say more?

The leeks are coming on fine despite their usual neglect. Leeks are consistently reliable even when I do nothing with them. I do need to hoe some more earth up on their stems or we'll end up with very short leeks. (Another job to add to the list)

The leeks. Looking sort of leek-like. Not the most exciting plant, but a good winter staple.

Potatoes? Urg. Don't talk to me about potatoes. Dug a whole row up the other day (ignoring my back) and was getting around 2 potatoes per plant. 2 per plant!!! That's only one more than I planted! I feel cheated. Next year I'm just gonna throw a bag of tescos cheap spuds in a hole in the ground and I bet I do better!

Runner beans? Finally getting there and now have a minor glut of the things. It's amazing what you can put runner beans in when you put your mind to it. Runner bean soup, runner bean curry, runner bean spicey bean thing, runner bean sandwiches (only kidding)...It's like the courgettes all over again...

Runner beans, picked dd1-style (i.e. all sizes of beans, indiscriminately grabbed and wrenched by the fistful and dragged from the poor unsuspecting plant)

Talking of courgettes...we've got a few, though nothing resembling a glut (yet). The plants are showing signs of fungal infection as per usual this time of year, so I need to get down to the allotment again and spray with a milk dilution. Not to be advised for use in the greenhouse: after a while the greenhouse stinks of months-old milk (I write from experience).

Courgettes, looking like something out of a gardening book. It's a shame that the only way the kids will eat them is if they are mushed up in curry. Seems rather a waste...

Either I've discovered a fantastic new miniature breed or once again I have failed to grow cauliflowers. Still, if there's ever a market for cauliflowers the size of a ten pence piece, I'll have it cornered.

'One day we'll all be millionaires Rodney...'

Have also been making loads of jam as the freezer is now full to the brim of apples, blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and a few strange things in odd tubs that I forgot to label. I can't fit anything else in!! So far, I've made 13 (yes, 13!) jars of blackberry and apple jam. Plus another 4 large jars of raspberry, apple and banana jam today. The banana is a great addition to raspberry jam, as I found out by accident a few years ago. How does one find this out by accident? Well, let's just say I was a bit bored in the kitchen and wondered what banana would taste like in jam. As many home educators find with their children, the most amazing creativity can arise from total boredom... {g}

Personally I don't like jam, but it's fun to make and over the years I've discovered that you can pretty much bung any fruit into a jam and get a success. I've made some blackcurrant syrup over the past couple of days too, but it seems like a lot of effort for not a lot of product. It didn't help that the darned stuff was so high in pectin (fruit acid that helps jam to set) that it set in the jelly bag that I was using to sieve it with! Had to heat it up twice and still couldn't get much juice out of it. Maybe I'll have more luck with the blackberries I've got. Blackberries and raspberries are doing wonderfully at the moment. Must be all this rain and gloomy weather.

Talking of jam, the kitchen looks like a bomb site after today's creations, so I suppose I'd better go and do something useful...

[* Also known by some members as 'The Weed Gestapo', but perhaps that's going a bit far {giggle}]


Carolyn said...

I've got myself an allotment now too!!!! I can guarantee it has more weeds than yours!!!!!!
6 foot high and no soil in sight!!!
Bit of a project there I think.
Always love reading your tales from the lottie, need a good laugh and reassurance that they don't all look like the owner lives in the little shed on site! You know, lying in wait for the weeds to poke up through the soil.....

Big mamma frog said...

Hey, I hadn't thought of that! maybe I should just move into a shed on my plot. It'd be so peaceful. I could sit all day and write a bestseller (ha ha in my dreams!). Good luck with the allotment. I'm guessing you have around the same amount of spare time as me (i.e. zero). Are we mad or what??