Author Archives: Duncan

Sunday 11th June 2017 Hot plot day

 

 

Another much anticipated of our fortnightly SitComma plot gatherings. The plot welcomed us in fine fettle after some delightful wet and warm weather and keen grass keeping from our summer grass mowing evening rota volunteers.  This meant grass cutting on the plot sessions was a breeze and allowed us to get on with some more creative tasks.

Tasks undertaken were, weeding, tying up grapevine (Sarah hopes to train it from the greenhouse to the potting shed and beyond, now that she has discovered a love of winemaking!), fitting re-claimed perspex into the Wendy house window-frames, building a new raised bed in the childrens plot (this one is for pumpkins…watch out everyone for future updates on progress), harvesting strawberries by the eager little ones, watering the greenhouse plants, harvesting some lavender, strimming, harvesting approx 8kgs of broad beans.

A highlight of the day was showing a journalist and her photographer from Sea and Bay Magazine around the plot. The magazine are doing a feature about allotment life and were enthusiastically welcomed by our team who wanted to share the story of our journey.  They were lovely ladies and seemed to engage with the energy on the plot, we will look forward to reading their article and if copywrite allows we will share on our blog.

As always the community element was as strong as the work party effort, and friendly advice and (and consolation after the election week!) was on hand. the day was topped off by the best fresh vegetarian food much of which was grown in our gardens and the plot, all enjoyed alfresco with happy friendly conversation and gratitude.

 

We look forward to anyone interested in joining us for watching the bees, listening to the birds and observing the clouds, (and a bit of gardening, eating and jawing) on Sunday the 25th June 10-14.00.

Before signing off we would like to say a big thank you to Fiona for the excellent talk she did at the Southend Food Plan consultation think tank at the Focal Point Gallery on Saturday. Hopefully moving forward the take up of SitComma initiatives and local food growing will mulitply, we are certainly seeing a groundswell of interest as we all evolve our awareness of the need for local resilience.

Peace Out Bug Hunters

Sunday 14th May Spring work day.

Last Saturday’s plot day began with rain showers but this gave way to a glorious spring day.  The plot seemed to have been on overtime since the last work session a fortnight ago, Broad beans ready to harvest, Gooseberries ripening nicely already.  Of course the unplanned plants and grass growing abundantly also, giving us some jobs and eventually nice compost.

The composting seemed to have taken off over the last month now the ambient temperature is rising, most of our fleet of bins yielding good quantities of this fantastic dark food for the plants and veggies.

This week we had a bonus of a substantial quantity of shredded organic matter from a tree pruning job, this amazingly had already partially decomposed in just 2 days and the aroma was delightfully intoxicating.  We mulched much of this directly onto veggie beds, to help retain moisture, blank out weeds and rot down, feeding them, the remainder giving some new material into the compost bins.
The asparagus ferns, donated to us by Seeorg a couple of seasons back, have been struggling due to being overcrowded by our explosive grape vine so we decided to finally create a dedicated Asparagus bed.  We dug down two spits and lined with twigs and small branches then a good layer of compost before laying the asparagus crowns over mounds before backfilling and watering well.  See you in a year for an update on that.

A well earned lunch with a variety of tasty dishes, spicy cous cous, egg fried rice, fresh salads, chia seed dessert.  A turmeric milk made by our own Ayurvedic sage Sarah, really heals and restores those flaking bodies.  We also enjoyed Water Kafir, which contains probiotics, great for restoring the healthy bacteria and is so tasty and refreshing yet simple to prepare.
Just as we sat down to eat, what perfect timing, we were joined by Emily from SAVS who came to learn about our project so as to formulate a way to incorporate the work SAVS does with Sitcomma.  Watch this space.

Once restored we took some time to share some poetry, and some healing mantra songs. s Sarah and I shared one of our favourite classic poems called Desirate, by an author unknown.  Fiona shared a gorgeous, wonderfully subtle gardening poem based around the (unplanned plants not weeds theme).  Susan shared a poem she wrote some time ago about a poor, blind thief fending for his mother, which had us imagining it was a snowy Christmas in victorian london, surreal considering the pleasantly warm day, the poem was very clever, entertaining and emotional we were in awe.

Refueled and and full of enthusiasm we finished the afternoon with some pressing jobs, Susan and I weeded the potato beds, Mark and Tilly weeded the raised beds, strawberry /  rasberry beds.  Kamil kept up the watering of  the plants and the compost while young  Nella and Mia played gayly around the plot.
We sharedsome vine cuttings which had struck over the winter, with our neighbour Jacky who very kindly, donated to us, some lovey iris ryzones.  We  try logging all our endeavors, lists are rarely completed but one tick for all who attended this work session, i’m sure was the ‘experiencing the joys of community’   Hope to see you on the plot soon,  second Saturday fourth Sunday of each month.

Easter Egg Hunt Produces a Good Yield.

The cooler start to the Saturday plot day and Easter Egg Hunt gave us worries that most people would take a rain check on visiting the plot but the weather gave way to a warm sunny afternoon and there where many “eggs” to be hunted for those that made it to the plot.

 

Work continued on the family plot with Kamil planting potatoes and Sarah painting the base colour on the Wendy house.  Meanwhile on the main plot, Alitja and Nella watered the seedlings in the greenhouse.  Duncan and Mark tended to the first, well needed grass cut of the season, Steve and his little one weeded the veg beds.

The lure of eggs bought along some of our neighbours with children who shared in lunch and the Easter egg hunt. Our new intrepid plot keeping neighbour, Peter and his daughter Amelia paid us a visit bringing some sweet Greek red wine no less! We like to socialise on the plot, well all work and no play and all that…

Just after a delicious lunch of sweet potato and butternut squash stew with traditional polish potato salad and lentil soup there was a little time left to pot up some of the pumpkin seeds we had saved from last year. Duly labelled and watered we can watch these grow in the greenhouse before planting out into the children’s plot.  In an attempt to have cooking facilities on the plot, we are experimenting with building our own rocket stove from recycled bricks.  I the want of fire bricks we are practising with plain house bricks using designs researched by Kamil on YouTube.

 

 

Family plot begins to take shape

Work day on the new family plot.  Jobs: till over area to be grass seeded, we were kindly donated a 2 stroke micro-rotovator by SEE Green party. The plot had begun to cover herself with greenery (some might say Weeds) we had to act fast before, Jim who single-handidly dug the entire plot over, the end of last year, might see. The little machine happily scrambled over the whole plot in double time and used only a couple of cups of petrol.

Whilst the plot was being prepared, Freya on her first visit to the plot worked on the layout, among some fruit trees and raised veg beds she envisioned a sensory garden including, stepping-stones, wind chimes, bunting, aromatic herbs and plants.  Watch out grand designs.

A promising discovery of several happy slow worm specimens cruising around the soon to be grass seeded area, we were more vigilant with the machinery after the first meeting with these handsome friendly guys.  This particularly gregarious boy or girl slow worm gave us a Celtic cross.

It’s ok Daddy I’ll keep shop Says Nella as Daddy wonders how he is going to repair his trusty bike trailor wheel, which at least waited until it got to the plot before deciding to shear itself away from the rest of the trailor.  This trailor has moved gear you wouldn’t believe possible.

After a tasty pan-world lunch of vegetable Massala made by Alitja and hard boiled eggs from my good trio of hen’s,  washed down with Sarah’s super healthy water Kafir drink.  Sorry no pictures  of the lunch this time, we must have been too consumed in both meanings of the word. The last jobs to round of a useful session was to fix up a Wendy house, some concrete garage sections made for a quick, solid and dry base, to help try and give this little children’s haven a third lease of life, yes This belonged to Freya before being donated to the neighbours who now donated back!.  Needs some new perspex for windows and a lick of paint, time for an art attack!  Leaving the plot I’m sure I speak for all when I recall the strong sense of achievement and comradary among not only our team but our lovely plot neighbours who are endlessly keen to share a kind word and often some useful tips, all part of the great allotment spirit.  Big Thanks to Kamil who returned the next day by himself to sew grass seed and a deploy netting system.

Team effort goes far… plot session 27/08/16

 

Re-invigorated by the cooler start to the day after the heat wave of late, Fiona, Jodi, Kamil and I keenly arrived at the plot first, to set up ready to welcome volunteers or visitors, there has been a steady flow of new faces and regular visitors this year and pleasingly today’s session followed this trend.

We were very happy to welcome four plot first timers (or first time I’ve seen them!), Councilor for Kursaal ward, Hellen Mcdonald, partner Jim, their friends Hellen and Aisha.  A more frequent visitor the plot recently Jason, a poetry collective member joined us just in time for Lunch, always great to hear Jason waxing lyrical on hot topics of mutual interest.

The work party helped turning over the raised beds to a fine tilth, as Jim says if the large clods are left to get sun baked they turn into brick hard.  I appreciated Jims collaboration to help with the next stage of the potting / tool storage structure build, namely creating the framework to support the roof sheets, these will also collect more rain water.

 

On a recent trip to Edinburgh we visited my Uncle who had kindly prepared dozens of cuttings from his beautiful ornamental, herbaceous garden.  Adding more diversity of plants to the plot not only looks pleasing but should encourage more varieties of insects and wildlife, a better balance means a healthier garden.

Such a hive of activity on the plot this time so much so we were all so ravenous come lunch time we even forgot to photo the wonderful feast , how sinful!  Alitja’s meditereanean gluten free pea pasta bake, some fresh toms from the plot, yum and to keep up the standards fiona had baked superb vegan chocolate brownies.
Re-energized we finished the day’s session by giving the plot a good drink before we went on our merry ways.

Poetry on the Plot Sunday 24th July ’16

IMG_3187

By Sarah Yapp, photos by Sally-Ann Ashley

With the sun blazing down, people who were discovering the plot or the first time began to arrive laden with cakes and poetry books.  The table had been set out by Fiona with her delicious falafel, salad and tea and the plot welcomed us into her arms.

A strong Green Party contingency arrived with Simon and Sue, Jason, Fiona and myself. We were also joined by two of the Lady Garden Poets Rachael and Susan. Haley and Jason also brought poetry to share.

Sally Ann, Susan and Fiona had been hard at work weeding the beds, and clearing the way to dig up the potatoes which were finished flowering. However, Cake, poetry and the ever-growing group of guests was calling.

As unusual  the food was delicious and there was ample for everyone, topped off with Lavender and Blackberry fairy cakes and Rhubarb crumble cake, all made with produce from the plot, we settled down to listen to the poets. The setting couldn’t have been better for poetry, the air was super still, and the surrounding nature provided a wonderful amphitheatre capturing the voices, the laughter and the applause, and keeping the feeling close and intimate.

We were encapsulated first of all by a very apt poem by Susan called “The Allotment”, a bittersweet look at the cycle of life as seen through the eyes of the gardener on the allotment.  Then we were blown away by the performance piece by Jason and two lovely poems by Hayley and one by Rachael.

A lull in the poems brought out poems from the floor from Simon, Jude and …. Er…. Me! As I spoke my poem I was aware that there were more than humans in the audience… that the plants and trees on the plot were relishing our words, the birds engaged with the gestures of Jason’s poem about Orpheus and the sun and clouds even engaged with our words, providing light and shade to our storytelling.

Altogether the poetry on the plot event was a lovely day, very relaxed and inspiring, and we all went away with a feeling of fulfilment and joy, that something truly amazing had occurred and that we had planted our roots just that little bit deeper into our community.

Late spring bank holiday workday Sunday 29/05/16

A warm day with gentle breezes, birds singing their hearts out and vegetation getting into full swing the broad beans are nearly 6ft and just coming into flower, see below.  A great welcoming to last Sundays Community allotment work day.

Sarah, one of our green party candidates, holistic therapy expert, business owner and entrepreneur joined us for her first visit to the plot.  Sarah stuck straight in with clearing one the raised beds ready for planting the brassicas.

Leaving in some self seeded purple orrack (alpine spinach) gives a great visual contrast to the Cauliflowers, cabbages and brussels.  The purple orrack may help confuse the cabbage white butterfly, it’s war this year what with the netting too (when it finally gets fitted) The orrack  always adds a twist to salad.

 

Fiona set to greenhouse duties, feeding and watering the eager seedlings begging to be planted out.  I attended to some  grass cutting or to reframe that, some compost creation.  Actually a bit of mowing is quite therapeutic.  Kamil’s family growing family paid a visit and little Nella took charge of monitoring the water-butt dispensing.

A steady flow of visitors through the day.  Mark who works with Scope on various growing projects,  kindly brought some  seeds for us to grow.  We look forward to trialing the ‘Super french bean’ which apparently is a super climber and heavy cropper and some summer and winter squashes,  which we plan to grow up over the shed. Mark also showed us some nifty flip cards which tell you all about each veg or fruit and how where to grow them.  Available free from the Organic seed company.  It was a pleasure to welcome Mark with wife Tilly and baby daughter Mia,  yes that’s Mark number 2 today!  They said they enjoyed the plot tour and will be back to get involved soon.

Our two year old grape vine is excitingly sporting tiny grape bunches, can’t wait to see these grow to bunches of grapes,  Transition wine? watch this space.

 

With all the exciting goings on we almost forgot about a lunch break, good job we remembered, with Fiona’s herby focaccia bread and Alicja’s humus with roasted veg followed by a piece of my not so healthy but tasty(if I do say so, and I do!) carrot cake.

Feeling slightly guilty after all that indulgence we got on with a few more jobs on the list,  I continued with the butterfly netting for the cabbages, while the girls saw to some weeding and tidying on the soft fruit patch, while Kamil and kean helper Mark attacked laying weed suppressing membrane over the new family plot with gusto. The plan is this should stop the grass and make it easier to dig over. for when we find a willing work force to help in this eppic task!  Another wonderful day down on the plot, which now in it’s fourth year is starting to show character, grape vine, fruit trees, berry bushes and a productive Rhubarb patch.  The yields of our hard work are beginning to appear, come down and have a cup of tea and take a few plant / fruit cuttings with you.  See you next time.  Dunc