One potato, two potato...

I forgot to take pictures on the potato day, so I had to wait until I had some time to stage one for the blog, which is why this is a little late being posted. It didn't rain on the day, which is a definite improvement on other open days, so things are looking up. It was great to see new and old faces at the garden (about 20 visitors in all) and the home made leek and potato soup seemed to go down a treat. We didn't sell as many as we needed to break even, but some follow-up pester emails afterwards should see most of the bags going to good homes and put us back in the black!

The quality of the seed potatoes was superb, and I was really impressed with the customer service from Carroll's (I'm really not on commission.....), who even gave me information sheets and point of sale laminated cards to go with each variety. So often you get really shocking service from companies who really don't give a monkey's, so I think it's worth noting those who still go above and beyond for their customers.

Moving on from waxing lyrical about potatoes.....I've got some lovely, crumbly leaf mould (see above) which has been gently composting for the past 18 months and is now ready to be added to some home made potting compost. I've got a few different 'recipes' involving everything from sand to molehills, so I may test a few different ingredients and ratios to see what works best.

We've got a new addition to our tea making facilities which, once we get enough dry twigs and newspapers together, should save energy and money. Our small gas cooker works ok, but in the cold it's hard to get much in the way of heat going, and is a little like trying to heat a kettle on a candle. It's also not very environmentally sound to be using all those gas canisters (which also seem to stop working long before they're out of gas) so we've splashed out on a storm kettle, which is quite a costly outlay but will save money in the long run.

David lighting the storm kettle

Thursday saw the first volunteer day of the new growing season, and it was great to have Peter and Victoria back again. Between us we managed to dig up some strawberry runners to grow under cover for an earlier crop as the bed was congested and in need of a good weed. Victoria did say it was a dock bed with a few strawberries in it, but I've seen far worse! Peter also sieved several wheelbarrows full of compost and weeded the raised beds ready for sowing spring greens.

It's all change in the polytunnel as one side is left to rest for a season, and the other is dug over and compost added, so there was lots of moving around courtesy of David and Alan. We also had several visitors, including Paul who used to volunteer at the allotment, so it was no wonder that the biscuits freshly baked that morning ran out by lunchtime (that's due to the amount of people on the allotment, not Paul's greediness, in case that wasn't clear).

It's a chicken's life: dustbathing in the polytunnel

Greenfinger's after school club also started again on Thursday, so it was all go - lots of digging, weeding, compost sieving and chicken gazing to be done with the children's usual enthusiasm and energy which kept me going until I collapsed at 5pm with a cup of tea.


Snow go

Work has ground to a halt today, but what a great opportunity to get arty with a camera....


Snow scenes

Ginger striding through the snow

Insect house

Snow sofas

Ginger looking for a snack

Hope springs eternal

There's something extra special about catching a glimpse of spring on a cold, snowy day in February, especially since we've had such a cold, long winter. These snowdrops did the trick, and even made me feel I could start planning my seed sowing.

Not surprisingly, very little has been achieved on the allotment these last few weeks, due to a combination of snow and frozen ground, although I did manage a general tidy of the allotment.

I've also cleared out the polytunnel, as a 'hen party' that any Geordie lass would have been proud of had taken place in there, and it looked like a bomb had hit it. I'd better explain: Ethel (who was pretty innocent in all of this) had been recuperating in the Hop Garden spa (otherwise known as the polytunnel) after being bullied mercilessly by the cockerel, who was far too big for her and now has a new home with lots of girlfriends his own size. She was off her food, hiding in the nest box all day, and had gone 'light', meaning she wasn't well at all.

So, she was isolated in the polytunnel, where she could still see and hear the other chickens, but not be bullied, until she recovered her strength. I'd let the girls in for some company and came back a few hours later to find soil all over the place, plants that were in pots upturned, and all the anti-hot spot tape that could be reached pecked off. Quite what is so tasty about the polystyrene on the tape, I've no idea, but luckily it doesn't seem to have done any lasting damage (to the chickens that is: the state of the tape is another matter entirely)

Our new notice board (recycled from the High Spen Heroes garden)

I've had news from Carrolls Heritage Potatoes that the seed order will be with us in time for the Potato Day on 22nd February. This year is a test to see how well it's received; hopefully it will prove popular and we can make it a regular feature.

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