Son of Shrek – or is that daughter?


Back in potato planting time this year, I was struck by how much one of the desiree seed potatoes looked like Shrek.  I decided that Shrek was going to get special treatment.  He got extra comfrey in his bed before planting, extra water when it was scarce and he was lovingly weeded and talked to.  He even got his very own name tag in the bed at planting stage. 

His tops grew well and he’s been the last of the main crop spuds to have his greens die back. Everything has died back quickly this year because of the drought/flood conditions, so tonight I thought I’d start the exciting job of digging up the main crop to see how much treasure was buried! 

Well, as you would have expected, Shrek’s potatoes were much, much bigger than the crop from his companions.  Most of the spuds were easily twice the size of the ones from the less spoilt plants.  However, although they were mostly just oval, pretty much what you expect to see from your everyday spud, the first one I pulled out was a bit of surprise.  I bring you ………… son of Shrek.

Barn Life

Gosh it’s been such a long time since I last posted – most of April and May have gone by in a mad whirl, with loads more work on allotment Plots 258 and 259.  Mo came and helped with setting up some posts and I strung wiring between them and planted a grapevine and two sorts of blackberry cultivars.  Two new raised beds are set up, bean pole supports are in place and potatoes, onions and runner beans are all in position.  The runner beans are on mark II after the mark Is were put in on the same day as the only frost for months arrived.  So it feels like the allotments are doing ok.  Apart from the drought of course.

At some point at the start of May it occurred to me that this time off was supposed to include some re-decoration time and that half of the year would soon be gone.  Inspired by the thought of visitors arriving part way through June I launched into frenzied activity, supposedly starting with our own bedroom but somehow accidentally diverting to the toilet next to the main bathroom.

So far that room has been gutted out, it has been plastered in our absence during this week and with any luck, Pete the Plumber will be calling around at some point during the coming week to install a new loo before a lot of people turn up to share a party with us a week on Saturday.  Our bedroom has also been stripped of woodchip and is ready for plastering.

So – Barn Life.  A lot of time over the last couple of weeks has disappeared into the odd world of games and both locations were based in big barn conversions.  We spent a weekend at the ‘Peaky’ game writing/playing conference on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire borders.  My second Peaky and a very different experience to the one the year before.  I didn’t entirely enjoy the game writing experience this time, but I felt that I learned a lot.  I had a fabulous time game playing on the Sunday though – with my supposedly sweet fairy tale girl secretly duffing up Red Riding Hood, pushing grannies into ovens and stealing ruby slippers.

Now I’m here at the edge of the New Forest, based in yet another enormous barn conversion, this time for a whole week.  Four games later and I’ve enjoyed each of the ‘worlds’ I’ve been taken in to.  I have been a school girl (twice), a royalist old lady, a roundhead soldier and a spolit and shallow socialite.  I’ve escaped zombies and triffids, taken drugs, had my throat ripped out, thrown molotov cocktails and worn some fabulous, high fashion clothes.  I’m ready now to go back to being the person who isn’t even able to squash a greenfly.

Allotment Frenzy

This week so far has definitely been all about the plots with very little time spent behind a computer or at a desk.  Not a huge amount on the enterprise project either, although that has continued brewing nicely in the background. 

Saturday was marching day, but from Sunday onwards the glorious weather has  called me out every day.  These are the results:

asparagus beds

Backlim and Gijnlim asparagus beds

Asparagus beds on Plot 258 – this is where the first potato beds were 3 years ago.  All change now.

Plot 259 taking shape

 Now have six beds dug on the new plot.  Four taken up with broad beans, onions and 1st early potatoes (Juliette).  Two left for main crops.

To blow or not to blow?

Ok, word of the day is ‘uniqueness’.  What I want to know is,  if anyone else subjects their tomato seedlings to breathy exhalations in the hope of making them grow up big and strong – to put in plainly, do you blow on your tomato plants?

 No idea where the idea came from, if it was suggested or read somewhere.  I know that I have a horror of ‘leggy seedling’ syndrome, that awful point when you’ve nurtured plants through spring and do your best about hardening them off gradually and still your little darlings curl up and die at the first puff of wind when they’re exposed to the elements.  Eeep.

tomato seedlings march 11
leggy, but not in a good way?

Wherever this idea came from, these seedlings have had the soft breeze treatment over the last few days.  So it would be good to know what the #allotment gang or any other growers think.  This may be the first of a set of Friday polls on gardening related questions that are burning me up, so be warned!


Today being Wednesday was SSES11  day.  Thoroughly enjoyed being back with ‘the gang’.  The morning was about risk management and being reminded that it’s always best to build that sort of stuff in early, even if it’s with a light-handed approach.

Loved the afternoon session though, which was on Agile project management.  Such a breath of fresh air after the Prince2 of Doom system.  Had a lot of fun applying some of the techniques to Got To Read set up.

Word of today is ‘transformation’.  It would be good to think that all the mad, random thoughts I’m harbouring about Got To Read could be transformed into a doable and shareable plan through the magic application of Agile.

And, in gardening related news, the first of the Black Beauty aubergine seeds have germinated and are bravely poking their heads above the compost.  Still no sign of the Long Purples or the Marconi Rosso red peppers yet though.

Self-acceptance, library angst

Word(s) for today – Self acceptance.  Hmmmmmm.  Hard one to work on, that, especially if one were to take it too seriously.  I guess the most useful interpretation of this at the moment would be in accepting that I have two modes of working and living.  Utterly driven/obsessive or lazy/lethargic.  When in mode one, mountains are moved.  When in mode two, molehills are mountainous.

Not having been in mode one over the last week, posts about word-a-days have been missing.  They were; Tuesday ‘Enrichment’, Wednesday ‘Partnership’, Thursday ‘Risk-taking’, Friday ‘Purification’ (!), Saturday (Ease), Sunday (No word – I got that slack), Monday (Efficiency)

But last week was very sociable at least. Met up with two ex-colleagues for coffee and chats on two different occasions.  Attended a jewellery party.  Went to see Black Swan. Took part in the Mayor’s Quiz (5th out of about 30 teams). Made supper for and had an Only Connect practise evening with potential team mates. Made food for and went to a 70th birthday party.  Tried out three new recipes.  Sewed sweetpea, radish, sunflower and pea seeds.

Also, my mail inbox was over-run with information about potential library closures.  The whole thing is depressing and exhausting.

Hmmmmm, having written that actually maybe what I think of as the lazy/lethargic mode isn’t so lazy after all.

Rhubarb wilt, drilling and meringues

I’m launching  into my third month of ‘unemployment’ and ending the second month of SSESing . The November plans for taking 6 months just to whup two allotments into shape, do some much needed decorating and also relax, aren’t happening. To be honest, those plans always felt like a dreadful indulgence anyway.

So, acknowledging that, this week may need a bit of desk-based focus and a bit more planning. It may need a new blog too, to track progress through school and, fingers crossed, development of a social enterprise. I think I mentally made this bargain with myself on Friday and so over the weekend I’ve indulged in some lovely, hands on activities in prep for the brain strain ahead.

ladder allotment


First off, I had a brief lesson in the use of a proper, mains powered electric drill from my helpful husband. I’ve used a battery powered one for drilling wood before, but mains powered tools make me, somehow,  nervous.  Also, the thought of drilling into a brick wall felt a bit daunting.  Anyway, the lesson gave me confidence for making the two holes needed to fix my much anticipated ladder allotment in place.

The idea behind getting one of these, which came from the Ladder Allotment Company , is to have a supply of herbs for cooking just outside the back door.  The ladder comes as a kit for self assembly.  It was reasonably straight forward apart from one of the pre-fixed brackets being screwed in askew and needing removal and re-fixing.  The top bar is the one that required holes drilled into the wall behind.  The wall seems sturdy enough still!  In case you’re wondering, this colour is called ‘Willow’ – the kit arrives as plain, untreated pine. 

The other thing I’ve done for  the first time this weekend is to make meringues.  Two trifles needed 8 egg yolks and throwing away 8 egg whites just seemed so wasteful.  Here are the results – they’re pale brown and crispy on the outside and lightly chewy marshmallow texture in the middle.

swirly meringues


Two successes – hurrah.  But here’s something that hasn’t gone well.  Proud as I was of my prowess in rhubarb forcing, its all gone horribly wrong and, well, wilty.  When I popped over to have a look in the week, with the expectation of triumphantly returning with glowing pink goodness, the poor leaves had gone all droopy and some of the stalks had collapsed.  Anyone able to say what’s gone wrong?


pride comes before a flop

Word explosion

Every morning, I pick up the pot of words and give it a good shake-up prior to choosing a card – it’s the opportunity for just the right one to jostle its way to the top.  Today’s vigorous shaking ended with me sitting here as a cloud of purple and glittery green rectangles rained down –  I’d hadn’t put the lid on properly.

As they all fell to the floor, one solitary card settled and remained on the desk top – it said ‘surprise’. 

Just because there’s been no blog here for a week, it doesn’t mean there haven’t been any words.  In fact they were (drum roll) – Monday ‘sensitivity’, Tuesday ‘open-heartedness’, Wednesday ‘uniqueness’, Thursday ‘simplicity’, Friday ‘wonder’, Saturday ‘understanding’ .  That leaves only Sunday which I read, put back in and immediately forgot.

There wasn’t any energy in me last week for blogging – it was all used for fighting off a horrid cold. 

Couldn’t go to school on Wednesday, but we did get to a fun quiz with lovely people on Thursday night, which we won, even with a score of 70 ish out of 12o.  Hmmm.

The weekend was all about World Book Night – which was fantastic and about which I’m hoping to write a bit more later today.

I think this week will be better .


Delight – today’s word.  It was sunny.  I washed some trays and pots with citrox solution in preparation for the great planting and made some paper pots too.

Mostly though I’ll be delighted when the worst of this cold is over.  Bleugh.

Harvest? In February?

I seem to have been hatching a cold all week and now it’s here with a vengeance.  Would that be a good film title?  ‘Sneeze Hard with a Vengeance’ – hmmm, not quite right is it?

Bit  low key today – such a rainy old day.  Today’s word is ‘harvest’ and my first reaction  was that it was at the wrong end of the year.  However, the Guardian Supplement was talking about Harvest – an event which is held at Jimmy’s Farm which is not very far at all from us.  So maybe this is a prompt to put it in the diary now.  I was also reminded that the rhubarb forcing is going really well and I think we may be eating some very soon, plus I pulled up the last of the carrots on Friday and they’re sitting in the fridge and we’ll eat them for dinner later.

So, well done word-a-day pot.