Northern soul

It's not often that our small village comes together for a community occasion and I have lamented in the past about the problem of getting people to come to events at the garden, but for the first time in many years the Soul Soup Project managed to crack it. We've been part of it since the summer, when a rather ambitious council officer asked me if the Greenfingers Club could join with the Live at Home group of older ladies to grow vegetables for the autumn soup event - in September for eating in October.

I suggested starting in the next few weeks might be a better bet if we wanted anything other than a parsley garnish so we planted up the new veg trug with autumn varieties of beetroot, turnip, carrot and peas. Unfortunately the turnips were wiped out by cabbage whites and I think the seed companies meant 'autumn varieties if you live in the far South' as the rest are looking decidedly pathetic and are unlikely to come to much before the really cold weather sets in.

However, we were able to provide some apples and potatoes for the school kitchen towards the soup, so all was not lost. David also stoked up the wood fired oven to bake some of the bread rolls. The school was buzzing with people all afternoon and the curried parsnip and apple soup was so good that I was the first to put my hand up when the request for 'take outs' came round.

There's a short window of a few hours between the hop vines being nicely pliable for making wreath bases (above) and becoming so brittle they break easily, so I have to work quite fast after cutting them down. Each one varies quite a lot as some seem to twist better than others, but it's quite a therapeutic job and I managed ten before lunch before arm ache set in.

There's been a bit of a 'weaving' theme to this week as I also spent a few wonderful hours in the sunshine weaving in the waifs and strays to tidy the willow dome - a job which Greenfingers began just before half term so I picked up where they left, weaving in all those above 'little person height' which is actually most of them; luckily I never get bored of weaving willow.


An apple a day

This lovely autumnal display at today's Apple Day was courtesy of Lynne, one of our creative garden members, who ensured the 12 different apple varieties we had on offer this year looked superb, while I ran around like a headless chicken trying to remember all the things I'd forgotten, like knives to spread the apple butter (twice).

The weather wasn't the glorious Indian summer variety that the weather forecasters tempted us with a few days ago, but even though it was a little overcast it was mild and it didn't actually rain, so there are two reasons to be thankful.

While preparing for today's event I'd forgotten to have any lunch, so I was very relieved to see David making an impromptu veggie pizza with roasted tomatoes, smoked garlic, red onions, herbs and courgettes (all from the garden) which he popped in the wood fired oven. I may have been a little bias as I was ravenous, but I think it was one of his best!

We did a bit of apple pip planting and colouring in between, but the main focus was definitely eating - from the aforementioned pizza to apple crisps, scones with apple butter, and tarte tatin. Eating good food outside with lovely company is a pretty good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

It's been a bit tricky to get much done on the allotment lately, other than a bit of weeding, as the ground has just been so wet. Working it in this condition would do more harm than good, so I'm trying to resist, however frustrating it may be. I'm keen to put my spring cabbages out, but they may have to wait a little longer.

I didn't think I had any squashes, but then I found two hiding among the foliage (including this one above), which was a lovely surprise. Let's hope they get a bit of sun and warmth to ripen on the plant before the first frosts.

It's harvest time and we usually donate some produce to the school for their annual festival and collection, but this year we haven't got as much as usual to spare, so instead David made a great hop loaf (above) which consisted of small rolls which could be torn off and shared out among the older people in the village, and we also gave a bag of apples.

The Greenfingers Club is up and running again and they've been busy making their plot look ship shape after a summer of neglect; potting on pak choi plants and collecting seeds.

No hops this year unfortunately - the combination of a very damp/windy spell just when they were ripening well and us taking a rare break away from the allotment for more than a few days resulted in a soggy, brown mess instead. Never mind, there's always next year! When you grow hops in a marginal climate, you have to take the rough with the smooth and last year was a great harvest, so maybe next year will be better.
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