Saturday, October 01, 2005

Time off for good behaviour - and what is a 'Spiv' doing up the lottie?

Thursday we had a day out at Norwich – have you ever been there? It is a wonderful city, with an historic market place, a castle, cathedrals, dozens of churches, many used for all sorts of things other than worship, there are theatres, cobbled streets, lots of small and interesting shops, as well as the ‘big boys’ of the retail world all in walking distance, and now there is a huge new shopping mall to add to the Castle Mall.

I was there for a bit of retail therapy. Off with the gardening togs and on with the make up, and glad rags. With the onset of Autumn and the cooler weather, it was time to get my winter wardrobe of clothes, as my life changes during the winter, from outdoor labourer to indoor lady! We had a great time and lunched in our favourite café situated down a little cobbled side street and had Thai chicken kebabs in a creamy sauce with coriander and spices rice – for the princely sum of £4.95 each!

Friday the weather was a wash out again, torrential rain all day, so I pampered myself by getting my hair cut and totally restyled – funky lady for winter – the summer pony tail got chopped off for a more feminine style which will take lots of faffing about each morning, - which I have the time to do in the winter, as I am not rushing out to grab that sunshine.

Today. Saturday, I was determined to get up the lottie before the rains came – and I got such a surprise when I saw several others had the same idea – the place is usually deserted, apart from the activity on the pig farm that runs alongside the allotment track.

K was right down the bottom of his plot picking runner beans, so I went and had a chat to him as I hadn’t seem him for ages. He’s been busy baby sitting he told me, ‘That’s nice’, I said. ‘It’s not’, he said, ‘I would sooner be working up here!’ I went to admire his cauliflowers, he and his brother grow really good ones, but this year, he tells me that the rabbits had got in and ate them, even though the weeds were really tall and camouflaged the plants, and they had put a temporary plastic fence around them. That is such a shame, I wanted to pick his brains about growing them whilst admiring them – maybe next year.

Geoff was on his plot up the top end by the farm, and making his version of a little greenhouse or vertical cold frame that he saw for sale for £40 in a shop. His version is made out of old cold frames that he had, plus bits and bobs of plastic, wire, an old cupboard, television stand and perspex. I expect it will do the trick just as well as the purpose made one. I had gone up the lottie after doing a few errands around the village, so arrived looking rather smart with new hairdo, makeup on, and smart clothes and gilet. He greeted me with the words, ‘What you are doing up here all spivved up?which made me chuckle. Here is a photo of the Spiv just back from the lottie and a bit windswept! I realised that Geoff (and the others)had only ever seen me in my allotment gear, of Pat’s old golf trousers, at least two sizes too big, old baggy tee shirts, usually topped with an old long sleeved shirt of Pat’s to keep the sun off me, and an old white floppy cricket hat to keep the sun off my face and head. ‘Don’t worry,’ I said, ‘I am just going to put all my old clothes on, on top of these, so that you will recognise me’. We chatted for a few minutes before I went off to my plot to unload the car.

T walked past, and stopped for a chat, I hadn’t seen him for weeks either! It delayed the start of my work, but made a nice change.

I started by pulling up some parsnips, still thinning out, so getting all sizes from very large to small, but all of edible size. I got a bit side tracked hand weeding en route and pulled up lots more parsnips than I needed. The variety Tender and True are just like the name implies, and I soon filled up a big trug of them. Some will be distributed to friends, and the rest sliced up, blanched and frozen.

On to the carrots next to do the same thing. Fly A Way, is the variety that needed more thinning, and they still are small and not nearly as sturdy as the Keratin row, but sweet and tasty – just slower growing without the strong carroty taste and smell. I spent quite a time pulling up weeds along and in between the rows, but it looks nice and tidy when it is finished.

I took a break, and went for a walk around my ‘estate’. The purple sprouting broccoli have survived the caterpillars so my hard work has paid off. They are looking really healthy now, despite some nibbled leaves. I could not resist going down to look at my newly planted strawberries, and they no longer have the floppy stem look of newly transplanted runners, but are sitting up fresh and proudly after all the rain. The grass seed is sprouting and I was staggered to see that the seed I sowed just last week is sprouting green whiskers too! I might even have decent grass paths before winter if this continues.

The flowers and foliage are all looking so fresh and the newly cut lawn at the very bottom looks great, so too the new flower borders. Next year the corrugated iron sheets that I used for fencing will be hidden by the plants.

Day dreaming and site inspection over, it was back to harvesting and tidying. I noticed another flush of runner beans and Cherokee trail of tears beans, so I stopped to pick those. Beneath them there were a few cucumbers that needed picking – if we don’t eat them I will tell them they are courgettes as they get chopped into chunks for yet another bulk batch of one of my concoctions for the freezer.

I decided to clear the courgettes and squash from the raised bed – on impulse as the bad weather looks set in and I didn’t want to lose them to frost. I had 13 butternut squashes of varying sizes, and a dozen courgettes, some of which I left to get to marrow size as I want to make marrow jam. They haven’t quite achieved that size, more like very big cucumbers, but there are enough of them, so will do nicely.

More runner beans and Blue Lake beans to pick from the canes beyond the raised beds, before realising the site was deserted and it was way past lunch time, I grabbed a huge bunch of Sorrell to cook for lunchtime, loaded up the car and headed off home.

I presented my next door neighbours with a selection box of the above goodies, they presented me with a bottle of home made wine, which was a lovely and nice surprise – in a bottle which I recognised as one of a batch I gave them of empty organic wine bottles that I found in the pig shed. They are such a lovely shape, and I used some for home made flavoured oil bottles. Olive oil flavoured with sprigs of rosemary, or garlic, or sun dried tomatoes or aubergines – they make nice presents. What goes around comes around.

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