Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dark evenings

The dark evenings have returned, in part welcome and in part with a little resentment as it will not be possible for the foreseeable to pop to the allotment after work in daylight.

The dark nights do however have something different to offer from the summer, things that I do look forward to and sometimes crave.

With the days becoming colder, stews, casseroles and roasts start to take the place of salads on my weekly menu at home, these accompanied by an olen fire when in town or an evening sat in front of the wood burner when out in mid Suffolk with Poppyman offer a safe, warm and cosy retreat from the weather outside.

With the garden and allotment tidied and ready for the winter months, activity turns to inside jobs and joys, the house is getting blitzed this week, and accumulated junk sorted, to make the space more liveable with more hours scheduled to be spent inside. With thr house clean snd tidy, seasonal pumpkin carving, catching up with writing and the opening and eating if preserves from the summer can commence, of course as the dark months roll on, so focus will turn to seed catalogues and scraps of paper with lists, notes and plans for the garden in spring.

With everything all caught up with inside, it wont be long till spring and starting to emerge from my four walls, but first, there is the matter of this years jam, and that it needs to be used to fill plenty of home made cakes and scones that I plan to enjoy in order to get myself through what may or may not be a cold long winter.

A quick titivate

Last night when I got home it was nearly dark, no gardening for me then.

Hiwever, having noticed a few weeds over the weekend, the floodlight was switched on and the whole yard illuminated, just about bright enough that I could pull up a few weeds and clip a couple of bits into shape.

Apart from a leaf clear after the birch have lost their leaf, thats about that for another year out in the town garden, though I really must find time to creosote the fence and put up a small greenhouse on the patio.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Last walk of the week off

A fabulous late birthday lunch was had today at a pub on the river Deben, and a short walk along the river to wear off two or three of the calories. What a great end to a fantastic week off work.

Allotment tidying

With the clocks changing, its not likely that I will have daylight after work now to potter on the allotment. With weekends being at Poppymans there is not much time in the coming months to spend on the allotment.

8am saw me on the allotment starting to trim and weed, 8am on a weekend, how unusual!

The pear and apple trees are now pruned, the cumfrey and hops lopped back and rogue raspberry canes that will be lifted and gifted, cut to about 1foot tall, so as to be tidy until I get a chance to dig them out.

I have strimmed all of the grass paths and weeded all of the beds (with Poppymans help), so in all everything is just about passable and not bad for 3 hours of graft. All of the construction jobs; I have decided to leave them till spring.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Fizz Bang!

When I first met Poppyman, he invited me over for fireworks on our first November 5th together. Several friends arrived and we ate food that we had made around the bonfire, and then Poppyman started to set off the fireworks.

Previously to that I had made the annual trip to the towns firework display, but this was somehow do much better, a smaller scale, more intimate, with soup, jacket potatoes, beer and sparklers by a bonfire, no wonder Poppyman had been doing his annual firework display for a number of years where he lived out in the Suffolk countryside.

We had several more years of similar events, with the added fun of making guys, drinking sloe gin when we learned of its magic and inviting our close friends to share in our delight and fun that fireworks create.

With moving the firework displays stopped for a while, building work and such really took over, though many public displays took the place of the home display. During this time we discovered the displays at Heveningham Hall and the Museum of East Anglian Life, where much to our delight, bonfires are a central part of the evening.

Last year we started back to our displays, inviting our neighbours to enjoy with us the rockets that we set off. This year is back to full pelt with fireworks, Poppyman has been firework shopping again and an evening in the garden with our neighbours enjoying our fireworks, fire and food cooked on the fire as well as a drink or few.

To follow we have arranged to meet friends at our favourite public display at Heveningham Hall, their bonfire year by year is not a spectacle to be missed.

As with all good things, the tradition continues and also evolves, getting better and better with maturity and of course great friends and neighbours.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Getting ready for winter

After a few days away, we returned to spend a couple of days working on the garden, to get it closer to being ready for winter. I had written a job list, which allowed me to work a little more methodically, so that I could use time more effectively, and allowing my jobs to wander after the essential ones were completed.

The big job was pruning the roses over the arch and making repairs from the rusting over the last year, note to self, buy the expensive or the most you can afford, cheep is generally not worth having.

With Poppyman taking care of the lawns, I completed a general chop from front to back which has now got things tidy, now that most of the herbaceous perennials have died down.

A few jobs done in the greenhouse and the last of the tender plants stored under glass to assist them through winter and there is no shame in how the garden is looking for this time of year.

Sugar Beet

Autumn, the time of year when in Suffolk, roads start to collect the occasional lump of sugarbeet at the side, as the occasional rogue root parts company from a lorry filled to almost spilling point.

Its also the time of year when while in middle school, I went to the science lab with my class to be shown how to make sugar. Grating and boiling sugar beet, no doubt found on the side of the road by our teacher, and then boiling to death in a beaker over a Bunsen burner filled the lab with a horrible stink, we were all gagging by the end of the lesson. The familiar smell has been present over the first half of my life, living in Bury St Edmunds, where steam and smells from the sugar beet factory would blow over the town.

But did I learn how to make sugar? I remember boiling the beet and pouring the liquid into a big jar, and reducing it done to a sticky pulp. It certainly smelt sweet, though on advice from a mate, I didn't dare sample. We were told that lots of refining was needed to get our gunk into a state that resembled that of sugar in the shops. There the bell went and I remember feeling almost non the wiser and a little sick. But now I look back, the experience affords me a little more appreciation of the processes involved in the enormous factory in the town where I grew up.

Welsh towns, hills and beaches

Our whistle stop tour of Southern Wales focused on the area between Tenby and Newport, where we explored towns, hills and beaches alike.

As with all of our tours we packed in the sights, and discovered so many more that look set to make a packed return visit one day.

Short walks were made up hills, along beaches and along cliffs, with numerous stops for cake and good food.

By far as with all of our trips away the real highlights were those of the natural world, stunning beaches and geology being an ever changing and dramatic back drop to the whole of our tour.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Bike ride to Cotton

I bought Poppyman a bike for his birthday, so we set off on a bike ride to test it out.

From Westhorpe we went via Bacton to Cotton, where we had lunch at the Trowel and Hammer. We then made our way back via Wickham Skieth and Finningham, where we paused at the White Horse for a cup of hot chocolate. No calories lost then!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Sunday roast

We have just cooked an enormous roast dinner, following a craving that I have had for a few weeks.

As we head into winter, what better way to spend an afternoon or evening preparing a meal that warms and will help you stock up with reserves to get you through the harshest winter.

Our roasts taste all the better for including ingredients from the garden. Potatoes of all colours, providing an interesting addition, complimented with the green of sprouting broccoli and kale. With the batter pudding made with eggs from the ladies who inhabit the vegetable plot, the only thing it seems we currently cannot provide ourselves is the chicken, though thats not always been the case.

The family business used to be hatching day old chicks, and at the end of the process as a family we would eat fresh chicken that we had all been involved with producing.

Its on my to do list, to hatch, raise, kill and prepare chicken for eating, though we need a little more space for this project.

Another project that we hope to start in spring is keeping bees, one I am very excited about. Another dream is to grow barley and wheat, enough to try brewing beer and to be combined with hops that I already grow on the allotment. With the wheat, id hope to grow, grind and make a loaf of home grown, home baked bread.

As I say, all dreams at the moment, but I have found that if you have a dream, with a vivid imagination, it is always possible, with time and energy, to get a dream to become a reality.

Of course this all sounds very ideal. The reality I sense is rather different. The reality of my life means that with limits on space and time our vegetable growing is only supplementary to what we buy to eat, having more space and time I would love to change this situation to be that we grow all we need. For the time being it is still a great feeling knowing that all of our growing efforts impact positivly on wellbeing, physicsl health and also our finances, even if at times in a very small way in the form of the occasional home roast dinner.


This week we visited Wales, from each location, I collected a sample stone that reflected what I saw as the typical type of stone of the location in type, shape and size.

When I was younger I remember visiting gift shops on holiday and seeing collections of semi precious stones and crystals. I wanted a collection like these, but could only afford a piece of amethyst. I remember visiting a cave and being told that 'blue john' was a mineral that was exclusive to the location, again the cash situation was preventative.

As a teenager I collected the odd stone, quarts was a fascination, dad said it was in his watch and pulsed when pumped full of electricity.

A little over 8 years ago, after meeting Poppyman, he took me for a walk in Thetford forest, I found some great looking flints. I took two fine examples, as a reminder of the day, to place on the mantle piece. This was the start of my collection of stones, or rocks if I am being correct. My collection is not very considered, it is merely one that doccuments our travels around the uk.

I fell in love with the rock collection at Ipswich museum, the little white patches with black writing looked neat and tidy and gave the ordinary a sense of importance and caused to take a second glance.

I decided that I would do the same, giving my stones greater significance.

The codes I wrote on them related to an initial record on a scrap of paper, codes translating to places and dates. This then went into a database one wet evening, a copy now accompanies the physical collection, stored together in a large box under my bed.

Im no geologist, but recently a friend explained that it made perfect sense that I collect stones, given that I spend so much time connected to the land and enjoying landscapes.

One day I may start to research what it is I have collected, I may even start another related collection that I have wanted to form for some years; soil and sand samples from places I visit.

Holiday week off

We didn't manage to get half term and holiday to land on the same week, so unfortunately with driving back to Suffolk from wales, with leaving a bit later and heavy traffic I was unable to make class this evening.

With now having intranet
access, I hope to catch up with things in the next week.

Next weeks a week off, catch up time, for me, with it being half term.

I fell in love with ferns while in Wales, I may need to buy more for a damp shady corner of the garden now!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Seeds and fruit

This evening was all about seeds and fruit, how they form, the different parts, functions and dispersal.

Next week is a 'quiz' though i keep hearing in my head the word exam with a pass meaning life and fail redulting in eternal damnation or something painful. Im sure that it wont be terrible, more that I have not sat an exam since I did a maths teaching ceryificate around 10 years ago, so im just very out of practice and concerned at remembering the long words and technical terms.

Looks like a bit more extra reading of notes and books this week it is then.

Cheered by the sculpture outside of the classroom block where I was this evening.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Chippenham Park, Suffolk, England

The weather was kind to us for a visit to meet up with a few Oldhorts friends at Chippenham Park.

Located to the west of Bury St Edmunds, access from the A14 and A11 made it a great venue for us to all meet up and tour the gardens.

The formal gardens by the house were immaculate, contrasted by the naturalistic planting of shrubs over the long pond. The winter walk appeared to be in its infancy, but it is apparent that it will grow into something very special indeed. The gardens around the main pond and the long herbaceous border for me really did shine. Where the walled garden, though hosting some great structural planting, seemed a little disjointed in its design and 4 unrelated planting quadrants.

Certainly a good day out, especially as the gardens are not open very often.


Polystyrene is a materials that I really do not like and avoid as much as I possibly can, though from time to time it pops up in an unavoidable fashion, either through opening a box and finding it as packing, or as the container for plants that you want to buy for the garden.

Having recently purchased some violas for a bit if autumn colour, I was left with two x12 polystyrene plug cartons, items that I did mot want, but was loathed to send to landfill. Re-use was my only option.

My mission is to re-use these two cartons as much as is physically possible and for as long as is possible, thereby reducing the demand I may have placed on other materials for the jobs that they will be employed to do.

Job one is to hold compost for a few left over garlic bulbs, small ones that are not set out with the rest, but may be needed in the event that any of my good bulbs rot off over the winter. With me placing these inside a cold greenhouse, and with the additional insulating properties of the material, I will be offered the opportunity to compare in part the effects of a little warmth and frost protection on garlic as it grows.

Of course as I plant out any bulbs that grow, the cartons will need to be used once again. The choices I will make again in spring will again reflect the insulating properties of polystyrene, hopefully these properties will assist in providing me with added success in germinating seeds and raising tender seedlings.

Meantime, I continue to avoid polystyrene where ever possible, to ensure that the rubbish placed in my black (destined to landfill) bin is kept to a minimum.


Its not really a hobby, more something that on reflection that we have realised that we do. When ever out and about in Suffolk, and beyond, we usually visit village churches, as a part if our exploring places.

I have no religion or faith, so visiting churches has no significance in that respect, however with a love of fine art, architecture and craftsmanship, churches and their contents tick many of my boxes for interest.

I take countless photos, churches seem, on looking through my hard drive, to be one of my subjects of choice, I like that the photos provide a record of what I have seen, and where I have been.

Church yards are spaces that I also enjoy, their grand scale, that is often left to become unkempt and in parts sometimes wild, can provide a haven for wildlife, and on odd occasions can offer some wonderful examples of planting, sometimes deliberate, sometimes not. Often the plants can surprise, with on occasions plants that have been used to decorate graves naturalising, or curious examples setting seed and growing in abundance, from a nearby garden.

What is always provided by our numerous visits to churches and church yards, is a quiet and relaxed tour, full of visual interest,contrasts and surprises.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Next year already

With having had a few weekends of fun of late, we have not spent as much time in the garden as we would have liked, however we have squeezed in a few jobs, and with the annual clearing of many herbaceous plants a little early, we are managing to delay the final tidy for winter.

Following a bike ride today there was still a couple of hours of light left to get a few bits done, namely getting in onion sets, garlic and broad beans, most of which are in plugs in the greenhouse, so as to get off to a good start in readiness for next year.

With many of the vegetable beds still not cleared completely, I agreed with Poppyman to plant garlic in a cluster, which given that we have started planting in clumps or patches, may see the idea supersede neat rows in part next year. As its a method we have not yet tried, I guess getting it to fit our crop rotation may be of interest in trying?

Next jobs up in the garden will include pruning roses, clearing the rest of the herbaceous beds and mulching. Then theres the fruit planting and allotment preparation for winter, luckily we have time off work at the end of the month!