Friday, 22 April 2011


Hmmm... blog may be being somewhat neglected lately, but not at the expense of our fruit and veg.

Sometimes I worry that I've overly focussed on the pheasant, but couldn't help laughing (repeatedly - after all, you gotta take your laughs where you can find them) at it being utterly distracted by the sight of itself in some mirrors that someone has leant up against their shed - the stupid thing spent a good couple of hours pecking at it's reflection last weekend - not sure whether it was misplaced masculine agression at a supposed rival for the females affections, or pure & absolute vanity and self-love. But hour after hour, it was peck peck peck peck peck. Mwah!!

Excitingly, I have a stuffed pheasant in a case borrowed from my local museum school loan collection currently sitting up in my studio at the moment, about to become an oil painting for me to permanently enjoy (or if I don't like the resultant painting and I'm not too ashamed at the outcome, may offer it to my allotment shop to cheer up their blank walls).

What's new, is that last autumn we aquired another half-plot.  I chose one at the neglected end of the site - no-one is anywhere near us, so brilliant for occasional bbqs and beers (unlike our older half-plot, surrounded on both sides by energetic semi-retired plot-workers with beautiful straight rows of perfectly marshalled (and frankly, larger & more perfect looking specimens than mine) veg, so generally, the original plot is just too overlooked to just stop, sit back, and just enjoy the great outdoors. But the downside of the new plot is that it's surrounded by neglected plots and woodland, so everytime I approach it down the quiet paths spade in hand, a dozen pigeons flap off in a panic. But fine by me - that's where most of the least-attractive-to-winged-rodent root veg have gone so far this year - onions, garlic, shallots, potatoes and parsnip.  And anything else is being netted, Oh, and slightly disheartening to me weeding, is that the slightest breeze carried wafts of weeds and dandelion seeds on every breath of wind, but hey ho - small price to pay for relaxing & enjoying the great outdoors. And seeing as how the neglected plots are unlikely to be re-let till next Oct/Nov, I may take advantage of the surrounding space and guerilla plant some of my pumpkins - at least it'd keep the weeds down.

We have rhubarb and purple sprouting broccoli coming out of our ears at the moment... as is the asparagus, but as this is only year 2 on 2-year old crowns, we are being very good at licking our lips and leaving that alone for just one more year. Can't remember the proverb about being patient, but I'm sure spending several years waiting for an asparagus crop is a good example.

 Gosh - it's all just too exciting once again!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Return of the Unpleasant Pheasant

I sowed 60 aquadulce broad beans back in early January.

Ever so gently nurtured them on windowsills.

Very carefully hardened them off in the cold-frame at home.

With love, braved the mud, and planted them all out in neat rows at the allotment.

Only to see them decimated this week by the resident pesky allotment pheasant.

And for what? The darn thing doesn't even eat the shoots - just idiotically pulls them up in the hope of the odd worm maybe, if it's very very lucky, making an appearance.

Wanton vandalism that leaves me dreaming of shooting the darn pest....

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Spring And I Are Nearly Sprung

Like many things I like to grow, I've been quietly hibernating since last Autumn.

Well, by that, I don't mean literally gorging myself, hiding in a cave, slowing my heartbeat and going into a semi-comotose state while simultaneously devouring my fat reserves (now that part, I wish).

No, I mean I've just been plodding along through the depths of winter, getting up 6am in the dark, working dawn to dusk in the much-maligned public sector, coming home again at 6pm in the dark, spending the evenings munching on (probably more than I care to admit to) packets of Bombay Mix and downing (probably more than I care to admit to) glasses of red wine in front of (probably more than I care to admit to) way too much TV. Talking of which, increasingly throwing (probably more than I care to admit to) my slippers at said TV at the rot and nonsense spewing from assorted politicians mouths, in a middle-eastern fashion of disdain or disgust.

Yeah, specifically, anytime David Cameron, Nick Clegg or  George Osbourne try to justify any of the drastic public sector cuts they are making. Anything that impacts on or damages the arts, museums or libraries is of particular significance and importance to me at the moment.

But on a more personal note, for the last few months, it seems that weekends have been all about about catching up on housework or DIY.

But as the month of February marches on, I'm feeling the sap rising once again, and along with the urge to haul myself back down to the gym, there is the need to start planting seeds again and get things growing. But equally I feel the urge to get my arty expressive juices flowing once again.

This year I have a second new half-plot to develop on the allotment (though it's been too wet and muddy since November to be able to do much yet). But more importantly, thanks to completed DIY projects at home I've finally been able to turn a room over to become an art studio.

I cannot begin to express what an utter joy this is....  it's been about 16 years since I last had a dedicated space to make art - a space that isn't really normally a kitchen or living room, so needs everything tidying away at the end of a painting or drawing session.

To get myself back into the regular habit of drawing and painting (so yes, I confess to spending several weeks so far looking at the room with a great deal of trepidation and a not a small amount of fear, noodling about in my "studio", pretty much terrified of all the clean paint brushes and white paper and blank canvasses I've lined up) I'm determined to spend some time in there every single day drawing or painting anything at all - anything just to get the creative sap flowing again. To get going again after what amounts to several years of doing very little creative work (bar this blog which I started last year to kick-start myself drawing again), I've promised myself I will spend at least 30 minutes a day in there doing something/anything creative.

Obviously, I have more time at the weekends.  I bought myself an assortment of yellow flowers this week to paint, so I've been struggling with that today. I quickly realised that it really is almost impossible to paint sumflowers without referencing Van Gogh. But his work is always such a pleasure to look at (I had been reading about him recently, which might've influenced my choice in flowers?) so I got some books of his work out and couldn't but help making the sunflowers I was trying to paint even more Van Gogh-y in style than than the painting was going to be anyway. But his work is such complete joy to look at, and a real challenge to even attempt to emulate.

But besides all of this, seeing as how March and April are the key months for getting seedlings going, I'm just duty bound to end up drawing and sketching these...