So, something else I have been intending to write about: the allotment. We were able to get one of the allotments in Wardington - it took a couple of visits to find out just what was available. And then Tony and I made a trip to Oxford to meet the letting agents and get it all fixed up. There were lots of plots seemingly available but the occupiers of some of them were unwilling to accept that they had given up. Shame, because there was one particular plot that I really wanted. And still do - more than a year on it still hasn't been touched. Lease signed, the weeds were cut down by Brendan and Charlie and our allotment started to look like this: There were a few picnics and barbecues to be enjoyed as well as hard work. For the next few weeks and months everyone was hard at work, weeding and digging. Again, it was mostly Brendan and Charlie who did most of the hard digging. At the same time, it was necessary to think about buying and building a shed. Slowly, it took shape. Until we had this: Fran took care of the painting. Aided and abetted by Laura - who unfortunately lost interest when she found Tony's iPad. You are forgiven if you immediately thought 'seaside beach hut'(mea culpa - I chose the paint!). And Brendan was back to digging. His accomplice has disappeared though. Painting duties finished, Fran came to the rescue. Now we could think about planting something - but it was too late in the year to think about sowing seeds so I bought a box of goodies from Rocket Gardens. And in no time at all they were out of the box and throwing their roots down, gasping for sustenance. Those little darlings provided us with greens all winter. There were some surprising varieties there and I wondered, what have I done. All that money (these babies were not cheap!). But I needn't have worried. The giant red mustard that looked as though it just wanted to wither and die changed its mind and became the jewel in the crown of many a winter salad. There was pak choi, land cress, cabbage and much much more. Something like 13 different vegetables, mostly unusual varieties. The red cabbage was interesting. It didn't seem to do much all winter except grow huge, tough leaves. I kept saying, no, it will start to heart up. But instead those cabbages got bigger and bigger, the leaves got tougher, and still no hearting up. We started chopping off some of the lower leaves because those monsters were taking up far more space than was acceptable. This is what those monsters looked like in June of this year: But then, hearts started to form and we picked a few. Here is my effort: Back to last year. Autumn came and went. There was a huge pile of weeds that had been cut back, roots that had been hauled out, general detritus. It needed to be burnt and eventually some suitable weather arrived. Of course, the children loved to help. But with the arrival of winter I wasn't able to go as often. Brendan and Fran did though. All winter long they dug so that by spring it was looking like this: And I was starting to help again: It's all looking good now, isn't it. Netting has been erected to keep out those pesky pigeons. And the first early potatoes are in. At about this time we discovered that we were only using about half of our allocated plot. Just as Brendan and Fran had finished digging our original 'patch'! Hmmmm!!! They decided that enough digging had been done for the time being. Fran had planted soft fruits all down the edge of our original space. Now we had almost as much on the other side. Brendan made an executive decision. Black plastic was laid on top of the weeds to suppress growth this year. But we were running out of planting space so then Fran cut holes in the black plastic and panted courgettes, squashes, pumpkins, tomatoes and corn - now all growing happily. This pic was taken a few months ago: And then this: Today, the courgettes are taking over, the tomatoes - when they can outgrow the courgettes, are beginning to ripen and Laura is thoroughly enjoying picking baby corn and eating it. Totally out of the blue, an offer was made for a greenhouse. We didn't need a second asking! As always, Brendan and Fran did the hardest part, dismantling and cleaning the greenhouse before Brendan and Charlie carried the frame through the village, from the cottage:
through the village
through the churchyard
and finally, to the allotment.
Fran washed all the glass, bought new where necessary and got it all in place. All by herself, she's an independent lass. But sadly, no photos as a result.
I think this is becoming a long post. Should I finish here? Who knows when I may finish if I stop now, so I will press on.
Laura and Oliver enjoy their time at the allotment. There's lots to do but they also have to rest from time to time. (And Laura has to protect her chair, make sure Nonno doesn't steal it!)
It's always a hive of industry at the allotment:
Fran enjoys pottering in the greenhouse
And Brendan is enjoying the fruits of everyone's labours - although we are finding that those courgettes are very prolific and extremely good at hiding themselves. (Charlie and Tony are beginning to complain though - not more courgettes…)
The greenhouse has been a great success and Fran and I are looking forward and planning what we can grow in it over the winter months.
Meanwhile, there are tomatoes
Peppers (or they may be chillies - our labelling leaves a lot to be desired!)
And somewhere in there are cucumbers and basil (but I haven't any photos, you'll just have to take my word for it!)
One last photo. I haven't mentioned the tree climbing exploits and I don't have any of Laura and Oliver in their den. But on one of her few visits to the allotment, here is Eva.
I hope to keep more up-to-date with future developments but for now, that's it. Sorry if I seemed to skim over the progress we have made this summer. You should see the crop of potatoes we got!