31 March 2006

Petunias Parsnip

Brits have been cultivating and enjoying parsnips for a couple of thousand years now. It may be one of those fetish things we have like spreading marmite on toast or HP sauce (don’t ask), on a good pie. They are disdained by our French cousins, who cultivate them only for cattle food. Lucky cattle! But IMHO (and I won’t be alone in this), you’ve never lived until you’ve had the perfectly roasted parsnip. This is one of the simplest ways to eat them. Just parboil them for 5 minutes, skin them and then quarter them and brush them with fat and roast them in a shallow pan (makes them nice and crispy). If you’re roasting a joint of meat just bung the parsnips in with the roast and they will soak up the meat juices. But that’s just one way, if you ask you will get deluged with good parsnip recipes. They have a distinct natural sweetness and taste something like a sweet potato with a touch of turnip. Glaze them with butter, sugar, orange and lemon juice. Yum!

Don’t know what your soil conditions are like but they really need a fairly deep, well cultivated soil as the roots are cabable of extending 3 feet down into the soil. In hard, stony ground they will grow stunted and the roots are likely to fork and if they get droughted they will be hard and woody and not very nice. Don’t let this put you off though. Just find a some 4 or 5 inch land drains or soil pipe, sink these into the soil a couple of inches and fill with sifted soil, firm it down and sow them in there. Problem solved but you will have to water them frequently.

Sometimes it seems they take forever to germinate and they have a long long growing season (about 7 months) before harvest. Over here we tend to sow March/April time to be harvesting in October/November. Follow the guidelines (if you can find any) in your locality. Let us know if you decide to try it and we will inundate you with recipes. Good luck.

30 March 2006


So anyway, as we're on the subject of parsnips, we learn today that parsnip in Russian is pasternak.

Scene 1. Manuscript thumps onto movie moghuls desk.
Dr Zhivago
Boris Parsnip

Scene 2. Movie Mohgul 'Oh please.....' (cut to script landing in the trash can)
there, 20th century cinema history re-written...........doddle.

pasnipinomy (adj/noun): the tendency of vegetables to re-write history

29 March 2006


On late shift so can go clodhopping for a few hours. Sowed three rows of parsnips (hollow crown) and put the chitty aran piper spuds in the greenhouse to harden off for a day or two. Ground too clarty to dig much after the heavy rain yesterday. May get 'em in at the weekend. The site is quite exposed so it does dry off quickly if there's a blow on.

Thumped another scaffold pole deep into the ground at front of shed....that's three in now. Purpose is to anchor shed and prevent it being tossed across the allotments by the huge winds that can blow up here. A few years back (so we're told) one was picked up at one end of the allotments and deposited at the other. Same with the greenhouses whose twisted and mangled remains lay dotted around the site. Suspect the wind was responsible for smashing the two panes of glass in the greenhouse roof at the weekend. I think it twisted the guttering round and smashed the downpipe into the glass. Smeg!


Sow cucumbers and get mushrooms!

Tomorrow, I'm going to put some lumps of lead in a pot on the windowsill and water them with the same stuff.

I'll be rich in no time.

28 March 2006

Mrs C W Earle, 1897.....................

June 2nd - "It must be admitted that one of the great drawbacks to gardening and weeding is the state into which the hands and fingers get. Unfortunately, one's hands belong not only to oneself, but to the family, who do not scruple to tell the gardening amateur that her appearance is 'revolting'. Constant washing and always keeping them smooth and soft by the never-failing use of vaseline or, still better, a mixture of glycerine and starch, kept ready on the washstand to use after washing and before drying the hands - are the best remedies I know. Old dog-skin or old kid gloves are better for weeding that the so-called gardening gloves; and for many purposes the wash-leather housemaid's glove, sold at any village shop, is invaluable."


Ben much better now and back to school. Even he was glad to get back. We're all on strike today. Personally, I think the whole of the plant kingdom should go on strike till us stupid humans come to our senses. Mass thickets round the supermarkets......oooh look, dahlias now! There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. There Will.

26 March 2006

Stuffing Cereal

Been stuck inside with the sickies all week & going a bit stir crazy. Ben running very high temp with bad chesty cough and now Cathy gone down with it too. Luckily I had some annual leave which had to be used up before April first anyway and so I get to play nursemaid. But you know how it gets when you can't get out of the house for days at a time.....brain starts to go even funnier than usual. Which sorry tale brings me to stuffing cereal.

You have to offer sick kids food even if you know it's not likely to get eaten. So come breakfast time you put out the cereal (doesn't really matter which one, they all end up as reinforced concrete anyway) and Ben bless him does his best but there is nearly always half a bowl or more left. Now you would think that after years of being a semi-intelligent responsible dad that I would know what to do with a bowl of half eaten cereal. The sad truth is I don't. Mostly I put it on the drain board and hope it will go away. It never does. For hours it will sit there taunting me every time I come into the kitchen to brew up.

The obvious solution is to eat it. Forget it, it aint gonna happen. You can tip the milk in the sink and put the soggy residue in the trash. You can tip the whole lot down the sink and then spend half an hour twirling it around with a finger trying to persuade it to go down the damn plughole all the time thinking pretty soon this is gonna backfire and the trap and wastepipe will go on strike. And, there's the bit that refuses to go down the plughole whatever you do and it'll sit there all day going Ner ner nernerner didn't get me. You can take it into the garden and feed it into a border behind a bush surreptitiously checking the neighbours windows to make sure they're not watching and going 'look what the useless numkin is doing now'. This is even more embarrassing if you're a hard man like me wearing dayglow yellow kitchen gloves which I do because I get eczema if I don't boo hoo.

Now this IS (temporarily) satisfying. Take the lot upstairs and tip it ala Bruce Willis (die hard cereal killer II) down the pan and use your self-loading automatic pump action cistern to flush it to the oblivion all such badness deserves. If you're a crap actor like, say, Roger Moore you would likely add some completely inane and obvious aside like 'cheerio cheerios' or, 'well, he was a bit flaky anyway'.

Ultimately, non of these solutions feel right. Why not? Is it just me? Should I see a shrink? If anyones thought this through and knows the right and proper thing to do (no, we don't keep chickens, pigs, dogs, cats, marmosets or anything else), please post the answer or the number of a functional therapist.

Boy oh Boy do I NEED to get out the house and go Clodhopping. I was gonna plant spuds and dig some more this week and now look at me. Whinge over....nightall.

19 March 2006

Mini Bar Opens!

The Mini Bar Is Now Open

Visitors to the bar most welcome but must observe strict dress code.

1. Wellies or stout boots derigeure
2. No ties allowed (not any colour)
3. All outers must be liberally spattered in mud, paint or unidentifiable gloop.
4. Everything should be a little whiffy!

The bar is clean (relative), air conditioned (fully) and serves a wide variety of drinks which include tea, Tea, TEA, Tea, tea, more tea and yet more tea. Customers may choose from an interesting array of drinking containers, some advisable, some less so. A hint of meths is optional!

Sitting On It

Blog won't let me upload pictures today. Fdisked the hard drive and removed some partitions last week and re loaded everything and discovered no modem driver. Double D'oh. Maybe that has something to do with it. Hate computers.

Clear cold day up at Clodhoppers with bright sunshine. Removed last bits of old metal shed and took them to the tip. Cathy dug over the patch by the greenhouse which, now it's done, looks quite big.

Some brave souls have taken over the plot behind ours which looks like it's been derelict for a few years. Masses of junk on it & in a terrible state. They've started to rebuild the fence on the east side. Don't know why. Seems to me fences serve four purposes. To sit on, on your bum or in your head. To keep things in. To keep things out. Or, to mark a boundary. The boundary is already well defined. The one they're building won't keep anything in or out so I guess it must be to sit on. I think allotments look better without them meself....more open, more sort of communally feel to them. What do you think?

The tomato seedlings going great guns and the sweetcorn too. Sadly the cucumber and pepper seeds all no show but Cathy says wait and be patient. Not my strong point!

09 March 2006

Shedding It

By late summer, there were no signs of a shed appearing over the horizon. Another work colleague had offered us an 8x6 Shedmaster metal shed and we dismantled it and took it to the allotment where it lay in an untidy heep for a long time. The truth was, I didn't have the heart to put it up. The thing had no soul. It felt wrong and I know I would've hated using it. On a practical level too it was inadequate. For a start, the thing is constructed round a metal base which is bolted to slabs so it more or less sits directly on the ground and would have been very damp. It is also very difficult to put shelves up on metal walls, you would have to build free standing shelves. It would have been very insecure as you can almost cut through the metal with a pair of scissors. And, damn it all, it would just not have been COZY!
Then, another wave of synchronicity pointed the way. Our neighbour two doors up had all her old wooden doors and windows removed and replaced with delightful plastic ones. I blagged all the windows and the front door. Next a joiner friend was moving workshop and having a clearout and we got a number of carloads of valuable timber. He was also taking down a stud partition wall in the next week or two and there would be loads of 3x2 timbers up for grabs. Next, a skip appeared just round the corner from where we live full to overflowing with old floorboards as well as quantities of heavier 6x3 timbers. I took as much as I could manage before the skip dissapeared.
In addition to all of that, we have an e mail based swapshop in our area and from that came lots of paving flags as well as other timbers suitable for cladding. It's obvious where all this is going.....we were going to build our own shed. And we did.....and here it is.....snuggling up to the greenhouse.

As I write, all that remains to do is put on some guttering, tittivate the interior with a mini-bar, jucuzzi and so forth and slap some preservative on the timbers.

At last......somewhere to store STUFF.

......and park the tools.

...................and dream!

08 March 2006

View Eastish Towards Quernmore Valley

I love the snow. You can't see the weeds. You can't see all the undug bits. Just a soft silent blanket over the world. It was great snow for snowballs too.....Ben and I had a brilliant snowball fight!

This blogging lark is a parp on a modem connection. It takes too long to DO anything. It's either give up the blog or do it at work on broadband.

Tiny slip of a moon. It looks just like a comma falling out of the sky.

I don't understand this blogging software. It's got a mind of it's own and is doing daft things!

Discovered some nice allotment blogs and put a few links to them on my page. Seems to be the done thing so I don't suppose the authors will mind.

06 March 2006

The Greenhouse Goes Up

Anyway, to go back in time a bit again. One of my colleagues at work had a greenhouse that he wanted rid of and we were happy to oblige and had a smashing time dismantling it. So there it is now, a snug fit at the north end of the allotment.

On a trip to the tip to dispose of all the broken bits of glass etc we had a look in the hardcore skip and lo and behold, there were ten or so of THE most perfect foundation stones to put round the edge. I just love co-incidences like that. Mind you, the springs of the old Sierra were nearly bent double moving them.

The greenhouse was eventually open for business in July, rather late in the season and just in time before we dissapeared off to British Columbia for a month. The tomatoplants just got thrown in and left to get on with it which they did fairly well given the lack of TLC. Made loads of green tomato chutney when we got back. Yum!

Next thing was the shed.....but nothing much doing on the second hand front there and in any case, it would have to wait until the autumn/winter time. It's just getting boring carrying car loads of tools and STUFF back and forth.

Comings & Goings

As far as I know, I am the only bod on the allotments with legs this flexible! They look beautiful covered in snow with the sun shining down brightly - the allotments, not my legs.

We went to see Clare Short MP last night. She talked about her career in politics to date and it was quite frightening to listen to her account of the steady demise of collective decision making in the cabinet under TB since they came to power.

She managed to achieve a lot during her time at the dept for international development and it is a pity that such a talent has been lost. Labour has lost an awful lot of good people in the last few years........and it's now spinning so fast it will lose a lot more.... till all that's left is one fluffy psychotic poodle spinning under a Bush.

03 March 2006

Now there's optimism for you! Chris has staked out two 8x6ft plots at the back of the allotment for a non-existant shed and an equally non-existant greenhouse. Holly is supervising the levelling operations.

In the beginning was the plot.......and the plot thickened!

Spring 05 - The plot is on the south side of Lancaster, about a mile or so from the city centre. A standard 90x30ft plot, in not too bad a state but with rather 'tired' soil resting on clay with a lovely cushy mattress of horsetail just about everywhere with roots that go on for ever and ever and ever amen. The good old boys just seem to rotavate it all in every year....guess it saves their backs but every little cut piece just produces more.
Regrettably, there's nowhere to store tools and there's no greenhouse so we put the feelers out for both of those early on.

If you're wondering what Captain Scarlet (aka Ben) is doing, he is checking to make sure that it's not a Mysteron Plot.