24 March 2008

Local Links

In a slight departure from the usual ramblings I've added a new category to the right of the page - Local Links. This lists some local food and drink places we use and visit, obviously not much use for most of you from outside of the local area but hopefully interesting all the same. The more observant may notice there are three breweries in the list! Sheffield used to have several large breweries all of which have now closed - which apart from Stones is no bad thing! We now have a thriving micro-brewery industry.

The Hillsborough Hotel is a local pub that brews its own beer on the premises - and very good it is too. We've had a couple of get togethers for the Allotment Association there. Anyone thinking of going, the Stannington Stout is amazing!

Kelham Island Brewery has a special place in my heart, it was the last major project of my degree before my finals (just a few years ago...) to produce a simulation of the brewery to see how they could increase production. Obviously I'd like to think I had a hand in the fact they built new premises next door after we found they couldn't increase production in the premises they were in... However, more importantly they do some very nice beer, Pale Rider being my favourite.

Bradfield Brewery is a relatively new find. Situated on the outskirts of Sheffield, about 10 minutes away from us but in the middle of the countryside, they do some more than passable beers and we're hoping to try the pub out soon.

Not just beer!
Probably the most regularly visited on the list is Coppice House Farm Shop. We probably go at least twice a month to stock up on meat. They raise their animals in the Valley just a few minutes from home, and just down the road from the allotment (plot no 1). They have a good philosophy in raising their animals, the meat is very good, and they also supply manure for the plot!

Our Cow Molly is in fact an ice cream maker on a local dairy farm. It is seriously good! I think we picked up our first pot at Coppice House Farm Shop, but on Easter Sunday we made it to the farm where it is produced - where the kids got to feed the new born lambs as well. Again the farm isn't far away from home and still officially in Sheffield, but was in the countryside.

Finally, picked up the South Yorkshire Good Food Directory from Our Cow Molly, which lists a whole variety of local suppliers of food, restaurants, farmer's markets, etc. Looking forward to trying out some of these in the book.

Yes, I know it's snowing!

After an early morning dash to cover up the recently planted potatoes before the frosts and snow returned on Good Friday, I was determined to get out to the plot at some point over the holiday weekend. So today, during yet another snow flurry I went to plot number 2.
Sadly the recent strong winds left the (plastic) greenhouse in need of repair. Unfortunately it was far too cold to be standing around trying to fix it properly, not to mention not having any tools to do so. So I propped the sides up as best as possible and wedged some bricks against them in the hope it will hold until the next visit. Despite this and the door constantly being blown open, the broad beans are finally through, the strawberries are looking well and two of the three trays of salad leaves are through.

Beds looking up the plot

Beds looking down the plot from the pond

Back outside in the cold, I dug over another bed and dressed with rockdust and tidied up a bit more. I discovered some mint and oregano (I think), seemingly randomly planted in the middle of a bed - OK so I know mint has a habit of appearing anywhere, but oregano? Dug up the remaining parsnips that had been left behind - all three of them -before digging out numerous dandelions and started on the couch grass... Get the feeling I'll be cursing that a lot soon.

Despite the weather, the trees and rhubarb are showing signs of life. The rhubarb always looks like some weird alien creature when it first starts to appear like this to me! One of the fruit trees has some sort of growth on the ground around it, that I'm not sure what they are, but despite this being the main reason I took the camera up for I forget to take a picture of it...

So, instead here's the 'spot the shed' competition!

However, because of the weather it was just a short visit to the plot! Maybe some time at one or both of them later in the week, let's hope it warms up a bit.

Fruit beds, still a work in progress!

14 March 2008

Time on the plot!

Taking advantage of the system being down for maintenance at work AND a decent day, I spent several hours in a planting frenzy on plot no 1. Planted my first earlies (Orla) - OK a bit early but you've gotta take a gamble sometimes - couple of rows of broad beans (Masterpiece Green Longpod), half of the white onions (Jet Set), a short row of carrots (Early Nantes), some coriander (both under a mini polytunnel), a row of spinach and a short row of spring onions (White Lisbon). I also moved the globe artichokes to their new position (after digging over and weeding the bed - again!). The roots on the artichokes were huge, so fingers crossed for a decent crop there.

Previously all the four veg plots were dressed with rockdust and dug over to remove (yet more) weeds, the hedge has been attacked (again) to bring it down to an almost manageable level - although there's still some (!) work to be down there, the shallots have been planted, raspberries pruned, all (I hope!) the Jerusalem artichokes were dug up, eaten, given away to friends, family, fellow plot holders and replanted in a different position. Pause for breath.

Fortunately this time managed to take the camera down as well, so signs of life first:

The comfrey coming back to life

One of the rhubarb crowns

The tulips and daffodils - bit late with the daffs, but the ones at home aren't out either.

The view down the plot, mini polytunnel on the left with the carrots and coriander in and the start of the 'new' path in the middle - the plan being some of the soil will go into the raised beds, the rest will be levelled and re-covered with the weed suppressing fabric, then eventually covered in bark chippings. This will actually narrow the central path and give more room for the fruit bed (on the right)

This one being the view up the plot, with the work in progress for the path in the bottom left corner, the potato bed at the bottom, polytunnel further up. However, the main reason for this shot is the hedge at the top (left of the pic) and to the side. yes it's still too big, but it's getting there!

On plot number 2 (sadly no photos), life is so much easier. Firstly despite the plot being approximately the same size as plot number 1, there is only about half the growing space due to bizarre bed layouts and large amounts of space devoted to growing non-fruit trees and shrubs. Secondly, the plot has been much more recently cultivated so has FAR, FAR less weeds so it's far easier to get ready for planting. So another batch of shallots have been planted (Mrs D said she liked having them in - we cooked up a large batch and froze them in ice cube trays so we could just use a cube or two as and when needed for speed, and of course they tasted good! 3 of the 5 beds have been dug over already.

In the greenhouse, the salad leaves are through and growing (slowly). The sweet peas and broad beans on the other hand aren't looking so good - mainly because I've yet to see any sign of them. On further investigation, the broad beans have put down some roots but they've yet to show themselves above the soil.

In the seeding sowing, I've invested in a heated propagator - which is great! Seeds germinate far quicker, the main problem now is I have pots of seeds everywhere, which isn't going down so well... Hopefully some of these will be able to go to the greenhouse soon, then of course I can plant more seeds! At the moment I have cauliflower, broccoli, celeriac, celery, two different types of tomatoes, carnations.