Hello!

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I have no idea where the time has gone, I didn’t mean to take such a long blogging break but family life, new job, studies and the new allotment took over my life and there was simply no time, or nice pictures, for this space. I did manage to read all your lovely blogs on my phone but commenting on a phone was too much.

We have had a horrid week, Freddie got very sick and I was very run down so this Saturday morning called for sweet cinnamon buns and fresh bread. Generally my husband bakes bread but I decided to join the 52 loaves project on Instagram and made a delicious no knead bread although not as good as sourdough. The bread is super easy, it takes 5 minutes to put together and then it sits for 18-20h, after that it gets baked for 45min. And it looks great too.

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The cinnamon buns had some home made orange peel and glaze.

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I am forcing some fragrant daffodils and one pot is already showing buds!

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I looked at the garden today and decided that the only winter flowers I like are hellebores and Vibernum Dawn, I really don’t care about all the rest. Funnily enough just next to my hellebores I still have salvia Clary which never stopped flowering.

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The allotment is coming together, we managed to clear most of it and now have to dig it over and cover it up till we can start sowing and planting.

I managed to read some enjoyable books, Barbara Comyns’ The House of Dolls and The Skin Chairs, both excellent. Few months ago I started to read the Cazalet Chronicles which are great comfort reads. I am also reading Barbara Pym at the moment, Excellent Women, A Few Green Leaves (bit boring and bit too much like Excellent Women) and my favourite so far Crampton Hodnet.

Are you watching The Bridge? I had no idea about it and can’t wait to catch season 1!

Hope everyone is well and had good Christmas break.

Getting cozy inside

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With colder, wetter weather and shorter days we spend significantly more time indoors so it is always this time of year that inspires me to do some changes inside the house. Today we went down to a local car boot sale with a mission to buy gardening tools for the allotment but we ended up buying this sweet little mid-century coffee table instead. We needed something small and portable for the living room since our proper coffee table is stored away, having a busy small boy trashing the place the £5 price tag sounded just right. The table was very knackered, I went down to the shed to take the ‘before’ picture only to find hubby sanding it furiously. A layer of linseed oil and it was done. It looks a thousand times better and we are contemplating what colour to paint the edges and legs.

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The flowers are slowly fading away and I am trying to collect things to dry for autumnal display. I have several small living room improvements in mind like swapping ugly cables for something more interesting, creating better toy storage and sprucing up our bay window which btw is terribly hard to photograph due to a stream of daylight, must catch it on a grey day. I also want to have a go at growing succulents indoors and perhaps even making a terrarium. I am also still looking for the perfect rug, without the big coffee table the room seems to empty.

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I haven’t done a home DIY post in ages, I think the last proper one with before and after pictures was nearly three years ago so here are some shots of the transformation of one corner. Beware, it wasn’t pretty!

This is what we found when we got the keys.

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And this is the intermediate stage. The sofa got some abuse and all the knick knacks had to be removed slowly as Freddie grew more mobile.

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The present.

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It’s been busy

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It’s been very very busy since I started my new job, I seem to dash to the childminder, then dash to work then dash back to pick up Freddie and finally go home. The job is great and I feel very lucky to be able to work locally and part time but we all had to adjust. We also went through a bout of colds and other illnesses. And every weekend was spent on the allotment peeling off weeds, there is some progress and we even planted some raspberry canes but more of it later.

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The garden gets very little attention but I am amazed at the flowers. It’s nearly November and I am still collecting zinnias, cosmos, roses, dahlias and snapdragons, the beds are covered in nasturtiums, calendula, and the Vibernum decided to flower again.

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It’s only 7.30 but my eyes are closing so I am settling in bed with Odd Women and a cup of herbal tea.

Garden lately

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The garden is still going strong despite this cold wet weather and I am amazed at the strength and longevity of cosmos, dahlias and zinnias, they just keep giving.

My tomatoes are rather disappointing this year, such a tiny crop compared to last year it really wasn’t worth the effort. The tom above is Black Russian and very tasty but I only had about 5 fruits per bush.

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I spotted this crazy looking zinnia the other day, no idea how it got into the mix but I like its madness.

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This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago when I was deadheading daily, now I left the cosmos to go to seed.

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A beautiful mess.

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Roses didn’t have it easy, the heat destroyed the first flowers and then showers washed out the late ones.

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A late sowing of beans, just an experiment, let’s see if I get a decent pod out of it.

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Pumpkins are looking great but I am not sure if the squashes will manage to mature, I haven’t got any experience with those, can anyone advise?

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I love these hawthorn berries, so autumnal and warm.

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Allotment diaries

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I went to choose my half plot yesterday, I was supposed to have a choice out of five, then four and when I arrived it was three. I don’t mind as I was prepared to wait way longer and take what I was given. I was so excited when I got the phone call I couldn’t sleep!

I am using pictures I took on a recent trip to Wisley but I promise to document everything from the start.

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My choices were:

1. pretty well managed plot, no fruit trees or buildings, smallish looking, situated right at the back under massive trees – NO

2. mid section, pretty well maintained plot, a small fruit tree, no buildings, looked smallish – NO

3. completely overgrown with the most evil weeds I have ever seen, central location, no buildings, water supply right there, next door belongs to my neighbour and I have another neightbour right across, looks rather big, three cherry trees – HELL YEAH!

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The allotments are a mere 10 minutes walk from my front door and nearby Freddie’s future nursery which will make my life very easy as there is so much to do. I first need to clear a path and make a raspberry fence as I have got a very messy hoarder type neighbour who claimed two half plots and is not using them. My plan is to take over one of his parts in the future, he is trouble.

I’ve been planning what to grow in my garden and what at the allotment and I guess all herbs, lettuce, ornamental crops and tomatoes should stay. Then the allotment will have permanent beds with strawberries and asparagus, potatoes and vegetables, raspberries, blueberries, rhubarb and a cutting flower patch. I would also like to go for a Japanese wineberry, cranberries, Mirabelles and raspberry All Gold.

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I will record my steps over here from the first gritty pictures to, hopefully, a fully working and productive plot.

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Petersham

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It just gets better and better there. This time I went on a Monday so I wouldn’t have to eat their delicious cake. The child was disappointed.

Lots of dahlias, dark sunflowers, tithonia Torch (seeds ordered) and cosmos purity. I feel inspired again and I have decided to create a cutting patch next year.

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Let’s have a slice of cake and some news

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We are nearly in October and lots of things have happened here. My husband’s laptop broke and he highjacked mine for three weeks. The child spilled water on my laptop and it spent days drying out. The apple harvest means I am endlessly dealing with the windfall and producing copious amounts of apple sauce and pies. I got a job! I am starting in October after a week at my parents’ place. A job, a trip and a new allotment meant I needed to have my front and back garden ship shape. I also need to put things on ebay, take stuff to charity shops, sort out cupboards and make sure my son has got enough pants and socks. In addition I managed to potty train him and organise his childcare. Ufff.

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I am baking two apple pies a week, usually the standard pastry with lots of lovely cinnamon-y apple filling but the other day I tried Nigella’s double apple pie with cheddar pastry and it was delicious. I also got to use the mysterious ingredient called Trex. The pie was great and held its shape after taking it out of the spring form.

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The pie was accompanied by TV shows (re-watching The Wire) and films (hilarious Clear History and ‘oh my God poor Zola must be turning in his grave’ Les Miserables which I switched off after not even an hour). And reading, I was in a desperate need of something modern-ish and reached for Steinbeck, I knew once I do it I will be yearning for more of his books because last time I ended up reading his best writings in one go. This time I am really enjoying Travels with Charlie and want to hit the road.

What have you been up to?

That autumn coolness

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The air is cooling down fast and even though we are enjoying warm sunny days, evenings and mornings are chilly. I am very excited for this autumn, my first year of pumpkins, the apple tree full of fruit, picking blackberries, bonfires and the most wonderful news I had yesterday – we are getting an allotment in October! We will be able to choose one out of five plots, must start thinking about my criteria, I thought I will be just offered one place so this feels luxurious to be able to pick the best. I am trying to plan ahead but without seeing them I can only imagine what they will be like, I can only assume there will be lots of clearing and weeding and soil improving. Will there be a shed? Or even a greenhouse? Or maybe raised beds would be preferable? I have to start reading my Allotment Manual and wait patiently. The two months I have will give me time to make sure my garden is taken care of and any other unfinished projects.

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I am hoping to produce a large number of perennials and raise them in the greenhouse to fill up the gaps in my flower beds, I collected lots of lupin seeds and I have some lovely black hollyhocks which are already growing. I also got organised with spring bedding plants, namely wallflowers, I have a tray of seedlings that will be strong enough to be planted out in October and should give us some bright colour in the spring (I can’t believe I am talking about spring 2014 already!)

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This weekend I am sowing more spring onions in pots and planning other crops for overwintering like garlic and broadbeans.

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My largest and most orange pumpkin.

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Freddie got a packet of sunflower seeds and I was so happy when they turned out to be not entirely yellow and short with multiple flower heads, this helps to use them in vases but I am also drying the past heads for some winter bird feed.

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Note to myself for next year: more zinnias and sow them early! They are great as cut flowers and they also brighten up the garden.

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Last month, feeling bit desperate to have something flowering into autumn, I bought a couple of hellenium plants and I am so happy with these, they look fantastic in the border. This sets a theme for the late summer/autumn garden, I will try and grow rudbeckia Brandy and more echinacea in similar rusty colour. Then I will move the pink echinacea to the far bed where the theme is pink and white. It should look nice.

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Speaking of the far flower bed (which was bare last year and turned out fantastic this year) I did a small experiment, it turned out to be a gardening success. When we moved here there weren’t many nice things in the garden, few roses, crocosmia, recently discovered daylilies and a woody old phlox. The phlox was so old it only gave me one stem with few flowers, it looked old, sad and tired. So this spring I dug it out, split it in four, started to nurse it to health in pots, then I planted it out into semi shaded area with rich soil and this summer I have four beautiful plants with multiple perfectly rounded heads full of blooms. Thinking back I could have probably made more plants but perhaps I will split it again in a couple of years. Crocosmia got split as well – it is so easy and productive, it grows all over the garden now. I find this part of gardening the most exciting and very satisfying.

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H.E.Bates

Only recently I read The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates and what a joy it was. Reading it on a summer’s day under a tree with a treat at hand creates the feeling of pure escapism. Wonderful characters full of warmth, lightheartedness and humour, the dreamy Larkin Farm with neverending feasts, the romance of Kentish countryside. The perfect summer read. I will be happily reading the rest of the books, next stop: France. I think the Penguin editions are rather lovely but I fell head over heels for the Folio Society’s version with great illustrations by Alice Tait.

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I am so grateful to all of you for fantastic book recommendations, thanks to Victoria I discovered another side of Bates’ talent, the sad romantic side (with a huge helping of flower references). I read Love for Lydia and absolutely loved it. Have you read any of his other books? Which ones are your favourite?

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Garden in late August

 

I am so excited about the pumpkins I go to touch and poke them every day. This is the first year I grow them and I just love the jungle they created, I could not tell which leaf belongs where. I am supposed to remove some of them to allow just a couple on each plant to grow to a decent size but I am not ready for it yet.

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The tomatoes are still very green, argh, I keep feeding them weekly but perhaps it is the time to chop their tops off.

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I spotted some beautiful borlotti bean flowers, I am not sure if I will have any beans though, the seeds were old and the plants are not performing as they should. At least they will improve the soil.

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I have a lot of sunflowers to keep the bees, and the birds, and even the squirrels happy.

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Hubby’s chillies are looking very good, we will have enough for the whole year and then some.

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