I made cupcakes

I didn’t weigh anything though. 3 eggs, about 4 oz of sugar, whisked madly.
Added about 4 oz flour, orange zest and a big spoonful of juice. Cup full of oil.
Mixed again and cooked at 180’c for about 16 minutes.
Out they came, slightly browner than I’d probably have normally done them but they taste lovely.
Served with lemon frosting.
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Everyone on the internet is wrong…

It’s going to be one of those days again.

I’ve just looked at facebook and found a thread that starts “I’ve had my allotment for a month and the ground is too hard to dig, and it’s covered in weeds, help what should I do.”

Well I really want to tell them to give up! Of course the ground’s not too hard, you’re just not using the right tools or muscles! And there’s no compulsion to dig either. But no this person has sat about for a month – perhaps only visiting the plot once.
Is it wrong to think that if someone’s took a month to get round to asking online for help; not even asked at the site, then it’s just not a hobby for them.
Maybe their library has been shut for a month. Maybe they had no expectation of ever getting an allotment so hadn’t ever bothered reading up or been growing things at home.

Perhaps this is the problem. Waiting lists are so long (not on our site or some others in the area) that people don’t expect to ever get an allotment. So they put their names down in the secure knowledge that they will never have to worry about knowing how to dig over an allotment plot, or when you can plant cabbages.

Of course, I started this post with the title that included the word ‘everyone’ and within a minute or two I found myself back on the forum where someone has said they’ve basically done nothing on a hugely weedy plot.
Someone was sympathetic and said “oh yes there’s nothing you can plant in July, what a hard time to get an allotment.”
What absolute poppycock. There’s tons of things that you can plant in July. It’s not too late for French beans, lettuces, lots of salad leaves, beetroot, radishes, even potatoes if you’re able to find some.
Yes you’ve missed the chance to put other stuff in but there’s tons of stuff you can be doing on an allotment in July. Even the garden centres are full of stuff you can plant straight away.

Is it just me? Am I being harsh? Should people who take on allotments just look at them for a month watching the weeds go to seed?
Maybe my next book needs to be ‘What to do when you take on an overgrown allotment plot’.

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What hobbies do you have?

I’ve got several hobbies. One of them is growing fruit and vegetables. I’ve just picked 960g of raspberries this morning. Mostly from the canes in the garden. I went out to feed the birds and noticed that some of the berries were huge and in dire need of picking. So I collected a bag and rounded them up. I popped on to my allotment plot and picked a few from there, but not many.
I have put them in the freezer and think I’ll make wine with them. Or jam. Or leave them in the freezer until I decide.
I’ve got a cupboard full of jam and plenty of bottles of wine. I really don’t need more wine or jam, but it seems wrong to waste the fruit. I have a friend or two who might take them and use them. That’s what happened to the gooseberries I picked; just gave them away.

Do I have too much fruit? I suspect in a bad year I haven’t, I should swap some of the autumn raspberries for a different variety. Maybe that pale orange raspberry, or an early fruiting one.
I’ve got garden centre vouchers left from our wedding last year I could spend on a raspberry or two.

Fruit picking

As a child I disappeared into the summer farms
As my mother helped with the harvest.
Travelling in a landrover like a sardine
Along with other kids and mums
We were transported like slaves to the farm.
And spent all day running about along rows of beans
And through a wild orchard by the stream.
Ghost stories in the shed sat on top of bales of straw
Sandwiches in the sunshine.
The smell of blackcurrants takes me back
Instantly to those blissful summers
Our mothers picked all day
Whatever needed to be picked
Our days disappeared into the past
Carefree summer memories.

Charity collectors at the door

What are your views on chuggers who door knock?
I think they should be banned. I don’t like people knocking on and disturbing me whilst I’m at home. I work from home so it can be quite annoying to be in the middle of a piece of work to find some chugger at the door trying to collect for a charity I don’t believe in.
I don’t give at the door ever!

I recently saw a young man door knocking an elderly person’s door. I stood and watched as it was actually dark – I was on my way home from the community garden and the night had drawn in very quickly, so it wasn’t even 8pm. The old lady was quite disturbed to have this young man at her door and that’s why I stopped. I spoke to him and he said the terms of his licence meant he could door knock until 9pm. I don’t think that’s acceptable – I think it should be limited to dusk.

I know people don’t have to answer the door just because someone’s knocked but people do – they wonder if it’s a friend in need, not some chugger, so open the door.
I just don’t think there’s any need to allow it. I don’t imagine anyone gives money at the door after dark or ever signs up for whatever he was collecting for.

I don’t know what he was collecting for as his ID card was for a company which collects for charities … a sort of chugger chugger if you like.

I’m going to email licencing at the council and ask them to not allow post-dusk door knocking by charity collectors.

Making muffins – poem

Last night I made muffins.
I found the recipe and followed it true
Unusual for me I know
As haphazard is my normal routine.
Use the mixer and made frothed eggs and sugar
Made flour clouds rise and fall
Added oil, vanilla essence and mixed again
A creamy smooth batter in the bowl
Needed nutmeg grating in, brown specks floated on and mixed again.
Spooned into dark muffin cases
Evened out until all the mix was gone
Apart from enough to lick from the bowl
To satisfy that part of me that needs raw cake mix.
Then placed in the oven.
They rose and rose, little peaks of pleasure.
Timer beeped and skewer tested they sat and cooled
Whilst I melted butter and painted it on
Dipping them in sugar and cinnamon.
The smell was heaven, and warm cake soft and divine
One stolen, a taster tester,
The rest for friends today.

Ode to a muffin
You are more lovely than a cupcake
More flamboyant than a pie
Less fancy than a butterfly cake
But more satisfying.

Normally I make chocolate cake by throwing the right sort of ingredients in the right sort of amounts into a bowl and mixing. Then putting it in the oven until it’s done. And then it gets eaten. You can’t go wrong with a random chocolate cake mix made up on the spot.
Even when it’s bad its still very edible.

Buzzing into view!

I’ve just sent the link to my husband to see what he thinks about making me a frame case like that! That’s a really cool way of displaying bees for talks!

Green Lizard's Blog

We had an opportunity this week to share some bee knowledge.

Following an invitation from the local scouts, we did a bit of hive PR.

In order to do this an observation case was needed.



A clever man took to the workshop.


He created a viewing box for a frame from a standard hive. It has a type of Perspex forming the sides, a broad base to keep it stable and ventilation
so that the bees get good air circulation.


He collected the bees in the afternoon.



After he checked on line advice he made sure that the right type of frame was selected. A honey frame would be best so the borrowed bees would be well fed for their brief holiday.

He also ensured that the queen was left at home to prevent the remaining bees from misbehaving.

With the bees safely installed we managed to take the…

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Waking in darkness

The Victorians were terrified of being buried alive. Some had bells installed and people to watch for the bell being rung from beneath the ground. These days we should all insist on being buried with a mobile phone.

This story from Greece of screaming being heard from the grave is horrific.  It’s a bit early for halloween stories and I don’t want to be reminded of the zombie ebola story from a few days ago.

Waking in the dark
Feeling the penetrating darkness
The still air, becoming more stale.
Moving hands and finding the shape of the cell
And realising it’s a coffin.
Waking in the dark
Thumping on the inside of the lid.
Air getting hotter and harder to breathe
Screaming becomes harder
There are no sounds above
No one is coming to help.
Closed eyes make no difference to the dark
Anger and despair wash over the soft silk lining
And fill the lungs with sleep.
Eyes close never to reopen.

How to grow potatoes

This is just a quick plug for one of my books – How to grow potatoes – I thought I’d give it a mention today as I was emptying out the last of my potato sacks yesterday. The ones that hadn’t been watered enough had predictably small potatoes. The ones that had had more water had bigger potatoes. That’s really logical!  The important thing is they were all healthy. No blight coloured leaves, no slug damage, no pests in the bags at all. Lots of slugs on the outside of the bag but none inside.
I had only thrown the spuds in the bags as an experiment; there were lots of little tiny spuds left that I wasn’t going to scrub and eat!

The lack of slug damage was interesting. What was special about these bags? I’d had slug damage on every other potato plant I’d grown, so what was different here?
I had rolled over the tops of the bags when I’d filled them with manure. I had used fairly fresh looking stuff that was nice and soggy and had piled in comfrey leaves on some of them and then added potatoes and topped up with more muck. But I didn’t unroll the bags. That meant any slugs climbing up from underneath would automatically go under the rolled up part of the bag and not make it inside.
I had moved the bags regularly from one side of a path to the other and killed all the slugs that were underneath each time. it was a good place for slugs to hide and I caught plenty there, large hungry monsters.
No slug damage was an excellent result – it means the potatoes I have grown should be able to be stored for longer. They’re also cleaner than from the soil as the muck hasn’t been watered for about a month now and so had dried off leaving it easy to get the spuds out. The muck is now lovely dark stuff, albeit with lots of tiny roots in so it’s been thrown on top of a bed of grass clippings to break down over winter.

So would folding the tops of all potato bags over do the same? I suspect it might, the slugs will find the dark area inviting. Moving the bags regularly also means some slugs will fall off when you move the bag, leaving them in plain sight so you can destroy them.


How to grow potatoes: Growing potatoes in pots, bags, tubs and in the ground. Plus recipes on what to do with your potatoes once you’ve harvested them.