Allotment-Spring Update

This post is long overdue but honestly, we have been so busy at the allotment, there was just not enough time to sit down and write it up.

Since the start of the Spring, we have spent a lot of time at the allotment, keeping very busy with planting and some new projects. It might not sound much but try and do any work with the little ones around and you’ll soon understand why everything takes twice as long as it normally would.

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And that’s fine,  because the allotment is for the children,  for them to learn first hand, to experience things by seeing, touching and feeling, to understand their surroundings and how things work…Their enthusiasm and eagerness to participate is refreshing and energizing to keep going and growing.

The allotment is our happy place, I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I cannot emphasize it enough.

Anyway, enough of the blabbering, let me show you what we’ve been up to.

Planting

After a shopping trip to buy our seeds, we spent a couple of sessions planting. The children were more than happy to help and filled up pots with compost, selected which seeds they wanted to plant and with a little bit of guidance, they finished the job.

We transferred the pots in our new greenhouse where we’ve been taking care of them since, observing their progress with each visit.

Projects

Greenhouse- this is big!We have a real greenhouse!Of course, we had to risk assess the area and we put a protecting fence on the side and the children know they can only go inside with an adult.

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Strawberry planter- we decided to change the way we grow strawberries because they became very crowded in the previous patch to the point we lost control over them and they didn’t yield a  very good crop. So we thought we would give this set-up a try. So far, so good.

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Minibeast hotel- we already had one but it needed a bit of sprucing up so we ended up building a new one. It’s a bit smaller but tidier.

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Adventure play area- this is the biggest project we’ve attempted so far this year. We had to relocate the sand pit which was hard work, but it meant we had a bigger space for the adventure area and linked to the existing stepping stones/ number logs. It is still work in progress, we involved the children in placing the tires and the beams and we are still to put the finishing touches.

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Playing and learning

Every visit at the allotment is packed with fun, playing and learning through play. It’s the simple things such as filling and emptying buckets in the sand pit- learning about quantities; digging for worms-learning about habitats and observing live animals; watering the plants – knowing the plants need water to grow, practicing their physical abilities by running, climbing, balancing…

 

 

 

 

 

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Allotment in Winter

Our visits at the allotment during Winter are infrequent. The cold weather dampens even the most enthusiastic gardeners. So we visited maybe twice a month and for very short periods of time.

The allotment looks very sad compared to the lush vibe of the greenery and summer life so our visits were purely to check on the last crops we left growing through the winter.

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Early December we had some very cold days so during one of the visits we found the allotment frozen. The children were delighted to play with blocks of ice that we found in the plant pots.

dsc03412 The children handled the ice, commenting how cold it was and explaining their knowledge of how water turns into ice when it’s “freezing cold”.

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Even the pond was frozen.

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The last visit of 2016 got us harvesting the remaining parsnips that surprisingly fared very well even in the frozen ground. We’ve had some funky shaped parsnips, some very big ones and some “babies” as the children referred to them.

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We had enough parsnips to roast and make soups and also to share with the Dee’s Childcare families.

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2017 is here and we’ve only been to the allotment twice- to harvest the broccoli and to do a bit of clearing and preparing the soil for spring.

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I cannot wait for Spring to come so we can start working on the allotment again.

 

 

 

Green tomato chutney

Green tomatoes? Chutney? I know! Exactly my thoughts. But after two years of growing tomatoes at the allotment and ending up with a big batch of green tomatoes, you have to become creative, so why not green tomato chutney? It’s delicious with some cheese crackers and perfect to eat this time of the year.

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The recipe I used was a mix of other recipes I found online and after reading so many I kind of followed a bit of all of them. If anything, my recipe will give you tips about what works or doesn’t.

Ingredients

2 kg green tomatoes

450gr onions

450gr sultana

450gr apples(We had loads of apples from the allotment and had chopped and froze previously)

450gr muscovado sugar( I used a mix of muscovado and brown sugar)

1 l malt vinegar

salt

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I made the chutney twice. First time I had 2 kg of tomatoes  but the second time I only had  1 1/2 kg of tomatoes so I  adjusted the quantities of all the other ingredients accordingly.

How to make it

Chop the tomatoes and apples in small cubes, then slice the onions finely. Mix the tomatoes and onions, add the salt and leave either overnight or about two hours- I tried both and they worked fine. This step is for draining the excess water from the tomatoes.

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Next step is to put the vinegar and sugar in a big pan and slowly bring to boil, stirring the sugar to dissolve it. Add the apples and sultanas, stir for 10 minutes. Strain but do not rinse the tomatoes and onions and add to the pan. Bring to boil and then let it simmer, stirring occasionally. I can’t give you a precise time, I knew it was ready when the mixture thickened, I would say about two hours.

How to preserve

Wash and heat the jars and the lids in the oven for 40 minutes on low heat.

Once cooled, fill them with the chutney and make them look pretty.

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It’s quite easy to make, you really can’t go wrong with it, just be prepared for the strong smell of the vinegar. It’s worth it in the end. The taste is a delicious mix of sweet and tangy and the personal satisfaction of eating a homemade chutney  with organic vegetables that we grew made it even tastier.

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Last year we gifted a jar of chutney at Christmas to all of our families, this year we have a different surprise. Just wait for it!

Autumn allotment update

It has been a while from the last allotment post so I considered the new season a good excuse to give you an update.

The allotment is looking very lush, there are still lots of crops to be harvested, lots of green and colour from our autumn flowers. It’s looking as lovely as ever.

I don’t have a favourite season but if I had to choose, it would definitely be autumn. The crisp cold mornings that turn into warm sunny afternoons…

Anyways, let me show you a few of our crops

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The corn is looking very well, lots to be harvested, just giving it a bit more time for ripening. We’ve made an enclosure around the corn to protect it from the foxes that stole all the corn the previous years- hopefully, it works. So far so good.

The bean teepee is still very green and full of beans. We’ve picked beans many times, there’s lots more coming and also enough to use as next year’s seeds.

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We’ve got our first melon!!!How exciting!Thank you uncle Morning for the contribution. Can’t wait to taste it.

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We are at the second attempt of broccoli. Last time we got mainly leaves, hoping for a better crop this time.

Other crops are tomatoes, a few and very small carrots, green peppers, more courgettes and marrows, parsnips and of course leeks, the most important ingredient for the children’s favourite soup.

I might have said this before, but I’m going to repeat it shamelessly- I am so happy and proud, it brings me so much satisfaction seeing how the hard work we’ve put in through the year materialises in these beautiful, tasty, organic vegetables.

And the children…they are around, having all the fun, of course.

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If you lasted until here, I will reward you with some pretty pictures.

Fairy Garden

The Fairy Garden is one of our most beloved projects we have done at the allotment. The time, effort and passion that has gone into this is unbelievable so brace yourselves for a magical journey. Bring your imagination and I’ll sprinkle a little bit of fairy dust and we can begin.

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It all started with the decision of making use of the pond area. If for the first two years we concentrated on the plants and the allotment area itself, this year we took interest in the pond area.

So first we cleaned the pond and all around it. That’s when a plan began to take contour.

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Next were the ideas. Obviously, we researched the internet for inspiration and began searching items for the fairy garden -shopping trips to poundshops, charity shops and boot sales. Maybe grandma’s decorations or our own boxes of trinkets we don’t use but never found the to strength throw them away.

Once confident we had enough things to get started, we put on our imagination hats and began.

A broken flower pot we had picked up during a drive was the first to take shape as a small fairy world. Now be careful, keep on the white pebbly road and don’t give in the hypnotising whispers of the fairies. Whatever you do, don’t enter the small house at the top. You might not be able to find your way out.

Next was the fairy tea log with a special entrance guarded by a cheery looking dwarf. But be prepared, unless you know the password, you can’t come in. The children chose “Open sesame” but don’t tell them I told you.

The central piece is a beautiful glass stand held by an angel. This is a very sentimental piece as it was given to us by grandma (Norman’s mum) and we felt it doesn’t need much decorating, just a special place so it went in the centre.

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What’s a fairy garden without the mysterious woodland area- only here you will find mushrooms that will give you magical powers, owls that can tell you stories from far away lands, squirrels and hedgehogs…And there is another special entrance to the woodlands, but you know the password already. Just remember, don’t tell…

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The newest addition is our very own miniature rookery!!!Very excited about this one, took a long time to complete and it was done with love and dedication.

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These are the main areas of the Fairy Garden.In between them, we have placed flowers, random ornaments and decorations. It has been completed by laying down moss, painting the fence green and rainbow bricks around the pond. In the centre of the pond is another water fairy who is being kept company by two goldfishes. Can you spot them?

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I hope you enjoyed this tour of our magical fairy oasis, I will leave you with a few close-ups to spark your imagination and give you ideas for your own stories…

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Allotment Harvest

Yes the time has come!Today we harvested and it was good, actually it was better than good. It was amazing! We had the biggest harvest yet.

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Ah the feeling when all your hard work has paid of…I can’t explain it but I’ll try. As you might have got the hint- the allotment is our happy place. We spend a lot of time there and in all honesty is hard work to look after the plants and at the same time involve the children, make every visit a learning experience.

So when harvest time comes and you get a rich one, wow, it’s the best feeling.It’s a feeling of achievement and the children enhance it with  their expressions of amazement. The shrieks of joy when they spot more potatoes as we dig them out the ground, trying to learn and remember that the big green vegetables are called marrows, asking over and over if they can eat the apples, like not believing that it’s actually the time do so.

Ok now I’ll show you what we harvested.

Firstly, the potatoes. I think the children learned the most about the process of growing vegetables through the potato patch.

Let me show you a little timeline of their involvement.

Step 1- digging the ground in preparation for planting. This is early spring, maybe even February, but don’t tell anyone, we couldn’t wait to get started.

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Step 2- planting the potatoes. Learning that the shoot has to stay on(a few were taken off because they didn’t know what they were) and the potato has to be planted with the shoot on top. This happened at the beginning of April.

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Step 3- observing the potatoes grow, taking care of them, watering them all through May-June-July

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Step 4 – harvest in late July, early August.

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And a very good harvest, might I add. Enough to share with the children who proudly told us they had mash for dinner from the allotment potatoes. Now if that’s not a feeling of achievement, I don’t know what is.

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Enough of the potatoes, we have more.

Cucumber, our first ever cucumber. This was the first year we planted cucumbers and we weren’t disappointed.

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Also courgettes and marrows- the richest plant in vegetables- we harvested so many already and there’s more to come.

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Beans, apples, more salads and even yellow tomatoes

Allotment Annual Barbecue

Our annual allotment barbecue has definitely become a tradition now. For the third year, on the last Sunday of the school term, we invite all our families (past and present) to the allotment, to enjoy a day in the fresh air, show them around the new projects, the crops – all this accompanied by food and drinks. Perfect day.

In preparation for the big day, we created a scrapbook full of pictures, showing how everything progressed- the crops, the projects, children’s learning and the fun they had.

Also, we spent the Saturday before, tidying up, doing final touches or things that we couldn’t do with the children around.

The main project was rearranging and tidying up the Fairy Garden and the pond area. Cutting the grass, fixing the swings, refreshing the games table were other things we worked on. Go team Dee’s Childcare!

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Leaving the allotment on the Saturday evening, after a long’s day work, I took a few snaps, feeling very happy and excited for the next day.

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And when finally the day came, we had such a nice time, everyone came with food, drinks and good mood. The children were so excited to show their parents around, we didn’t need to intervene.

The older children took over the little road, doing their own thing- racing games, gymnastics shows and the younger children spent time in the mud kitchen and sand pit. No surprises there.

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IMG_2199 Towards the end we harvested some potatoes, courgettes and marrows for our guests to take home and then took a group picture , a memory to keep for years to come, to remind us of all the lovely people and the good time we had together.

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I’ll leave you with a little message, written by one of our parents in the scrapbook which summarises the day

“Once again an amazing bbq event, that brings all the Dee’s Childcare families together in one place at the same time. And what nicer place to be but the DCC Allotment, where everything is green and fresh, where parents and children experience nature. Looking forward to next year.xxx S.”