Landshare/Daveshare

Landshare is an exciting new project with some 4iP funding behind it. Or at least I think it has 4iP funding. It certainly is 4iP in feel as explained by Adam Gee on the 4ip website.

But anyway – I think it’s a cracking idea. It connects people who want to grow stuff with people who have land to grow it on. You can also be a ‘landspotter’ – someone who knows where there is unproductive land laying fallow that could be utilised for growing food. That’s a bit like the thinking around Feastside – an idea I’d love to see kick off again (and would try to actually get to the meetings this time). Or you can be a ‘facilitator’ – someone who just wants to muck in.

I think it’s more aimed at bigger land owners rather than someone like me, an allotment holder with a plot just a bit too big for family feeding needs. I’ve registered anyway, along with 200 other ‘landowners’ from the West Midlands, so when the site launches in spring we’ll see what happens.

Actually, we could just circumvent all that and you’re more than welcome to a patch of my allotment right now. There’s a slight catch in that the back half of it is almost completely covered in brambles. But if you fancy helping me clear it then you’re welcome to a bit of it to grow some spuds or whatever. We’ll call it Daveshare.

No really, help me clear it and I’ll introduce you to the wonder of grow-your-own. It’s in Bournville, on the number 11 route. 


Really overgrown bit at the back of this photo. It’s much worse than the pic suggests but not insurmountable. I’ve cleared about a quarter of it already.

Allotment – Year One


We got our allotment patch in Bournville just about a year ago so I thought it worthwhile to list what we grew and how successful we were:

  • Cabbage – I now love cabbage, having hated it from childhood. Problems with white cabbage butterflies but still had about 6 heads.
  • Carrots – total flop, carrot root fly won the day
  • Cauliflower – slugs had a field day but plants recovered to give us about 6 big caulies
  • Corn – stole the seeds from my neighbour and reaped a full guilty harvest.
  • Courgettes – one plant gave about 8 fat courgettes.
  • Garlic – flop, sprouted but then died off.
  • Herbs – got a nice herb patch going with transplants from the garden.
  • Leeks – again from a neighbour, very tasty.
  • Lettuce – a triumph, this is so easy to grow in many varieties
  • Onions – about half came through but small.
  • Parsnips – a surprising success. Enough for about 4 meals only but will do more next year.
  • Peas – a brief but bountiful harvest
  • Potatoes – earlies were wonderful, main crop floury and disappointing.
  • Rhubarb – lots of it, so much we gave it away.
  • Pumpkins – did the lack of bees this summer result in the total flop of the pumkin crop? I had such high hopes.
  • Runner beans – way too many, there are only so many things you can do with them.
  • Swiss Chard – easy to grow but have made little use of it on the dinner table.
Overall a good start and we ate well off it, I can only hope next year proves as good. I’ll bore you with the occasional update as we progress in 2009.

Did it rain while I was away?

Back from 10 days away to find the plot not starved of water and wilting, as I’d feared, but flourishing and bountiful and generally gone kinda crazy. I guess it rained in Birmingham while we were away.

August Harvest

The courgettes were half-way to marrows and there were 4 cauliflowers ready to pull. Before we left they had tiny heads on them but now had almost gone too far. Already had one in a potato and cauliflower curry. A couple of the lettuces were close to going to seed so we pulled them and are working our way through lettuce based sandwiches and salad in order to get through it. Runner beans aplenty of course but also some lovely succulent peas – mmmm.

I pulled a few main crop potatoes just to see how they were doing. Quite well as it happens. I need to learn how to store them properly when I pull the lot as we’ve about 4 rows of them (that equals a lot of spuds)

At the back of the plot the blackberries are coming in – again, lots of. I might try to learn to make jam.

July Harvest and Jamie Oliver’s runner bean stew thingy

 

Just a quick post to show you that the plot is now giving up some of its goodies. The overgrown back of the plot has plenty of lovely sweet red currants and raspberries whilst the last of the new potatoes are out of the ground. The longer they stayed in there the larger they swelled compared to the first lot we dug up six weeks ago but they are also more prone to little maggots drilling holes in them. We had to chuck a few of these but will have enough for a few meals. The runner beans are coming on in their droves, not my favourite veg in the past but picked young they are delicious. 

The pic below is a quick camera phone grab (not the best tool for food photography – colours are yuck) of tonight’s runner bean based dinner. It’s from the last Jamie Oliver book. He does it with fish but we made do with chicken. Tasted great though – the sauce has anchovies in it. Note the parsley which never grew very well for us in a pot out the back but is doing very well down the plot.

Below, how it’s supposed to look when made with beans that look like they were picked very young and a more expensive photographer not using a camera phone:

My new heap

Finally got round to sorting out the other half of the front of my plot. Took me ages to tidy all the crap I’d thrown in there and of course underneath was tons of great compost. I now have two heaps and plenty of compost. Wandering down to view my handy-work next day I was greeted by a visitor christening my work. I reckon it was the same cat I’d photographed previously.

New Heap

Rhubarb

A comment by Annette reminds me that I was going to do a post extolling the virtues of Rhubarb having previously not seen the point of it. The picking season for rhubarb is more or less at an end so I won’t do so in detail other than to say that my mind was changed by a couple of great recipes for it:

A great rhubarb and apple crumble by Tom Parker-Bowles.

An amazing rhubarb cake I found on a blog

Both recipes use fresh ginger which give them a distinctive taste – don’t be tempted to skimp on this. The cake is really the killer recipe. I used half light brown sugar + half molasses rather than muscovado sugar as specified but only because I didn’t have any of the latter in the house. There’s lovely moistness to the cake – really rather good.

The Daily Good Life

Led by Lucy at the Smallest Smallholding a group of allotment/small-holding bloggers have got together to create a Youtube channel about our attempts to live off the land to various degrees (in my case living off the land amounts to eating lots of rhubarb and new potatoes). I’m one of them despite or maybe because of my newcomer status. The channel will take a while to get populated but I’ve done my ‘intro’ video which is on my own channel and then play-listed on the Daily Good Life.

BTW – this is my first attempt at home-movie making. The camera was a present for my 40th birthday at the weekend. It’s a Canon MD235 – I’m sticking with DV tape for the meantime, great quality for under £200 vs paying £500+ for same quality as a hard disk cam. 

Allotment Plot update – June 2008

Time for an update on how our growing is going. I thought I’d start off by a quick explanation about the real reason we’ve become such keen gardeners. Our plot is a mere 215 feet from the house. If it wasn’t for that fact we wouldn’t pay it half as much attention.

So in late June our plot is beginning to mature nicely. I’ve already mentioned our lovely new spuds – lots more to come there as I’ve dug up only about a fifth of the plants. Despite picking lots and lots of rhubarb there’s still some to go. I did bake an apple and rhubarb crumble which was nice (touch of ginger and cinnamon) so I’ll make use of the last of the season’s pickings soon.

Runner beans are coming along nicely and flowering although the peas seem a little stunted. A neighbouring tenant gave me some leeks from France which are in the ground and haven’t died – a success by anyone’s standards. I stole some sweetcorn seeds from my neighbouring tenant (he offered me a some seeds to sow and I put the whole packet in – not what he meant, sorry) and they’ve come through but it’s very late to be planting these so I’m not even sure they’ll be big enough to pick come autumn. 

runner beans leeks sweetcorn 

We’ve now got lots of lettuce of many varieties. Both on the patio and on the plot itself. There’s not a single slug chomp on any of them and they taste delicious.

Lettuces

Finally, our cauliflowers are blooming (no heads yet though), some cabbages are in, our onions aren’t too far away from coming up and I’ve got tons of main crop potatoes for harvesting at the end of the summer (so many that they’ll no doubt be a give-away of those so get your orders in). Oh and we’ve got a couple of pumpkins on the go as well.

The plot itself still needs a tidy-up at the front and the back half of it is still completely overgrown although there are raspberries and redcurrants there for the picking.

mmm potatoes

Take a look at my new spuds:

 

Go on, click on the picture to get the large version. They look good don’t they? They taste good as well. I only got into this allotment larky in oder to grow spuds and here are my first ones. I can’t recall what variety I planted but have got about 20 plants worth – the above being the bounty of a couple of them.

Will do a full June allotment plot update soon – betcha can’t wait….

Dave