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Showing posts from 2008

ABC Wednesday - X is for...

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... Ex High Street names
On January 2nd this national institution will close its doors in Chippenham after 70 years of trading in the town. I joined the vultures crowds there yesterday to have a look round for the last time. The front of the shop still looks pretty full, but a quick walk to the back reveals lots of empty shelves. Even these fixtures and fittings are up for sale: 4 drawer filing cabinets are £25 and the store's safe (how ironic) is £150 - all arranged on one display stand (£20) as black and white photographs with the legend See the store manager for further details accompanying them. I bought a small book for gardening notes - the kind of thing I've always bought from there. The assistant at the till served me politely and with a smile, though it didn't reach her eyes.
A quick walk down the High Street revealed several more national names with the same demise. The estate agent arm of the Halifax bank closed in September and Roseby's (curtains) and The Off…

End of Year Surprises and Treats

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Gardeners' World hits the magazine stands today, so a big welcome to those of you who've hopped over here from page 22 to have a look at what Veg Plotting's all about. It was a lovely surprise to be mentioned amongst the great and the good of the garden blogging world :) My Open Garden blog will give you a general introduction to my 'normal garden and allotment' - click on the picture in the sidebar if you'd like to go there. Or do have a look at some of the key articles listed in my New Reader section on the right to help get you orientated here. In particular Where am I Veg Plotting? is a general introduction to Chippenham and Why do I Garden? is a quick summary of what motivates me. The 2008 review shows you some of my gardening highs and lows with links to the posts I wrote about them at the time. One note of caution - 2008's allotment plan turned out to be a complete work of fiction as usual: I'll be posting 2009's very soon ;) Otherwise, do di…

ABC Wednesday - W is For...

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... Wishing you a Wonderful Christmas

Peace to you all is my wish for this holiday time. We're off visiting family up north, but I'll be back in time for the next ABC Wednesday, if not before. In the meantime, just like our magazines and papers, I thought I'd leave you with some holiday puzzles and conundrums just in case you get bored.
Firstly some conundrums: Why are What's Today's Date and How Long is a Week amongst Veg Plotting's most popular Search hits? And how come the searchers expected to find out the answer from my blog? ;)A great puzzle for our times - Why does all the washing end up inside the duvet cover when you come to take it out of the machine?I thought you'd like a few puzzles too: Plants Are The Strangest People had a crossword on his blog a while ago. You might like to have a go, or use the link to compile your own. Here's the solution for laterFreeRice has lots of educational puzzles and you earn rice for humanitarian aid simply by ta…

Review of the Year - Garden & Allotment

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Allotment panorama - August 2008
It's time to review what was hot and not at VP Gardens in 2008. Last year I looked at the garden and allotment separately: I'm amalgamating them this time around.
What was hot
Not our weather that's for sure! However, there was still lots to celebrate: Regular cogitations with Threadspider - gardening's fun, but even more fun with a friend NAH actually helping with the digging - well what do you expect when there's a power tool involved? Some of the richest autumnal colours I can remember, which I showed you here and here Solving my Clematis mystery and discovering I have not one, but two sports in my garden The first major apple harvest from my plot - I've just had a light cropping before, but now the cordons and arch-trained trees are close to full production Discovering I have plants with escapologist tendencies Entering produce shows for the first time and finding the judges like my raspberries as much as my fellow plot holders do My O…

Plot Views - Year's End

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These are the last two images for this year's Plot Views project, where I've posted pictures of my garden and plot every couple of weeks. I suspect these images are of more interest/value to me as I now have a full year's record available for perusal. The allotment in particular didn't really seem to change much, but then would I expect it to? As far as the garden is concerned, it's made me realise the bottom of it is too much of a shrubbery and so I'm planning significant changes to that border next year. I also did quite a bit of step sitting in the autumn (always a dangerous move as it's where I usually dream up the next gardening project) and I'm pondering just how much of the lawn we actually need. I know the type of camera I use distorts the size of our lawn, but I'm wondering whether an extra border at the bottom of the wall would be a good plan. NAH as usual will disagree...

Would you believe I started this and the Magnetic Poetry strands bec…

Christmas Cheer

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Where would Christmas be without at least one comedy vegetable moment? And with the sad demise of That's Life! (a 1970s to 1990s Sunday night TV show where they were a key feature) it falls upon me to bring it to you this year, freshly picked from the allotment and in its prime ;)

And if that wasn't enough, today's the winter solstice so the days get lighter from now on - huzzah!

Magnetic Poetry - December

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December's Magnetic Poetry, 2004

After last month's angst, December saw me return to something like my usual optimistic self, but with the least words left on the Magnetic Poetry calendar to express it in some way never mind in a poetic form. However, as some of you know already, all the words in the world probably wouldn't have improved matters that much. I'd still be a bad poet ;)
So ends my journey round my magnetic poems from 2004, which are on public view in our downstairs loo. It also means less bad poetry will be found in this blog from now on. Perhaps that's a welcome gift for a certain hatted one?
And if you really do want to see the rest of these poems, plus a few others slotted in for good measure, then my Bad Poetry label presents you with the entire anthology. Alternatively if you'd like something in much better taste, then the poems I've highlighted in contribution to Garden Bloggers' Muse Day can be found here.

Random Thoughts From Abroad

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I was tagged ages ago by Gardening 4 Life (sorry it's taken so long to respond!) for the 6 random things meme. I've played before (here and here if you're interested, with a little variation on the theme), but decided to bring a little order to my usual chaotic ramblings and bring you six firsts this time around. They're the first ones I thought of, thus the randomness of this meme is preserved ;) First memory - being pushed in my pram by my mum. I was wearing a bright yellow romper suit at the time.First book - Grimms' Fairy Tales. These are the darker, more scary tales on the whole and I snuggled onto my mum's lap whilst she read them to me.First kiss (not family) - a boy I met at the local swimming baths when I was 10. Most of us had free swim passes as kids, so most of the holidays were spent down at the local pool. I probably looked like a prune at the time as I'd have been in the water for about 3 hours.First gardening memory - cutting down an enormous…

Review of the Year - Signs

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If you'd like to see a larger image or skip the slideshow, do click on the View All Images button.

I've made a slideshow for your enjoyment today. Relax with a cuppa and see some of the things I've found whilst out and about this year. Signs of the times x 30!

If you like what you see here, I've made a couple of miscellany slideshows of photos not published on Veg Plotting this year. You'll find them on my occasional blog, Box of Delight and they're called Wiltshire Within and Wiltshire Without respectively.

ABC Wednesday - V is For...

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... Voices

Last night saw our choir's latest concert and we were in our Wiltshire Wailers guise again. That's when choirs from Bradford on Avon, Corsham (mine) and Hullavington get together to form a choir of over a hundred voices. We sang a very similar but expanded programme to last year and also had the same singing group as support.
The Wiltshire Music Centre is a magnificent venue, having great acoustics and thus makes our job a little easier to perform. We had a little bit of fun with While Shepherds Watched, as we sang it to the tune of On Ilkley Moor Bah Tat*, a traditional song from Yorkshire. Those of you who listen to I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue** will be most familiar with the concept of One Song to the Tune of Another (I particularly recommend the Bank Analogy explanation in this link for our current economic times)!
Our choirmaster listened to the feedback from last year and included Silent Night, so the audience could join in. But being Chris he had to incl…

My Signature Plant Is...

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My picture may look like a clue, but I've been having a bit of a think lately about what my signature plant actually is. It's all Tina's fault really, as she posted about hers a while ago and finally plumped for Acers. Hmm, that could be a strong contender for me too, after all one has followed me over several house moves in 24 years. However, builders recently damaged my tree, so it's not the magnificent specimen it was. Let's see, Patient Gardener decided it's annual Rudbeckia for her - sadly gone until next year. Well, I've yet to grow them (though I'm having a go at growing the perennial kind from seed next year), so they'll have to remain Helen's province for now. Mr McGregor's Daughter's undecided as she has so many candidates to choose from. Whilst I do grow many of the plants on her list, none of them chime that well with me, so I'll muse a bit more and see if you agree with my final choice.
As I have both a garden and allot…

GBBD - Surprised, Moi?

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I'm most surprised this month as I was expecting to find very little in bloom today. I can in fact present you with almost exactly the same slideshow as last time, so I'm keeping it in my sidebar with a slightly amended title. I've also added this picture of Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) found poking through my Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin'. It's a true winter plant, blooming profusely on wiry thin stems. Further good winter flowerers are waiting in the wings (next month's GBBD subjects perhaps?) - Viburnum tinus 'Eve Price', Viburnum davidii, Skimmia japonica and Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty' have all stayed steadfastly in bud owing to the several days of hoar frost we've had lately. Looking at this picture of a frozen primrose flower below, I'm sure you'll understand why. Do click on either picture to enlarge if needed.


Garden Bloggers Blooms Day is hosted by Carol over at May Dreams Gardens.

Review of the Year - Graffiti Art

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Click on View All Images if you don't want the puzzle style effect and/or you would like to view a larger image.

It's that time of the year when our media starts their picks of the year and Veg Plotting isn't going to be the exception. Today's post is the start of several compilations to keep you entertained over the darkest days of winter. I thought it was also a good opportunity to have a play with another Slide option as it fits the subject matter so well. Besides, it covers up the fact there's only 10 pictures in the slideshow!

2008 was the first time graffiti appeared in Chippenham in its more 'artistic' guise, though of course whether it's art is still being hotly debated. Suffice to say Banksy, its most famous proponent, has seen some very lucrative sales of his work this year, plus the recent publication of a 'coffee table' style book. Sadly the stencil-style works appearing around Chippenham and Trowbridge aren't Banksy, though I do h…

Round Robins - Good or Bad?

It's the time of year when not only Christmas cards flop onto our doormat, a lot of them contain this year's crop of Round Robin letters as well. These have had a bit of a bad press of late, particularly as The Guardian political sketch writer Simon Hoggart has developed a whole income stream for himself by writing several books containing the worst examples readers have sent to him.

Now, I don't mind Round Robins at all. I look forward to receiving long newsy letters with my cards, especially as a number of my friends live so far away. They always bring a smile to my face when I get them. Having handwritten my letters for a number of years, I also understand how difficult it is to continue in this vein. I succumbed to the charms of word processing when I reached an annual tally of 15 (each one took about 3 hours to complete), now it's significantly more than that. I haven't had any bad examples like Simon's, though my brother-in-law does get one that's ful…

Sign of the Times

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The current news and talk is stuffed with how badly things are going at the moment, but it's often the tiny details of our lives which really bring home how well we're doing or not. Two weeks ago I was struck by the number of construction cranes* I could see in the yard of the hire firm by the M1 motorway in Sheffield. Surely a sign that times are hard in the building industry - in the north at least.

This week a foray into Chippenham's High Street revealed a number of similar details: the number of newly unoccupied shops (at least 8); a rush to snap up the cheap offers available at our stricken Woolworths; the lack of fresh Christmas trees on the outside of the shops - a simple, but lovely decoration in keeping with our small town that's become rather a tradition. However, for me the most telling detail is the closure of one of our charity shops.

The news tells us these are booming as shoppers turn from buying new items to make their hard-earned cash go further. But I…

Hoar Frost - You Ask We Answer

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Crystallised Eryngium - 7th December 2008, in my garden
In my Comments on Monday Gail asked:
Is this the famous English hoarfrost we have all read about! PS Our high school song spoke of the hoary walls and we all laughed in teenage ignorance!
I was just going to give a quick answer in my comments, but what better topic is there for You Ask We Answer than the great British weather? So the YAWA staff here sprang into action immediately to find out.
The word hoar comes from the Middle English hor, which in turn comes from the Old English har. It's related to Old High German, which makes me wonder if there's a connection to the German word haar (hair), which we're singing about in Silent Night at choir at the moment. Hoar itself has two meanings: the first is ancient, such as a hoary beard, which means one whitened with age, just like NAH's! The second is white, thus giving us the descriptive white frost, sometimes used instead of hoar.
The BBC Weather Pages says hoar frost fo…

ABC Wednesday - U is For...

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Gate detail - Pound Arts Centre, Corsham ... Undecided

The past few Wednesday mornings, I've been attending a Creative Writing course at our local Arts Centre. It's not been the most pleasant of experiences for me and on the whole the quality of my work there hasn't even been up to the standard of this blog. I wasn't sure if the course was the right one before I started, but it did say it covered non-fiction and as I haven't the first idea about writing (and I'm always keen to learn and improve), I decided to take the plunge.

Today's the last session and I've been trying to decide whether to return next term. Last week the tutor announced a radical revamp of the proposed course based on the needs of her students. A pity it didn't happen earlier. Whilst it sounds much better, I'm not sure the delivery will be executed. That'll be a no then. Creative writing wise, I got much more out of November's Your Messages project and the best piece I…

Garden Wishes

It's the season of 'Lists and Yellow Bootfulness' * which means the practical work here at VP Gardens is grinding to a halt owing to a surfeit of sticky clay and the mad preparation that is Christmas. Not to mention the dreams of the best ever garden and plot next year, which in turn mean there's further lists to compile - of things to do, seeds to buy, possible plants to add to the groaning area next to the cold frames etc etc.

Then I awoke one morning last week with another list to add to the growing pile: the absolutely no holds barred one. Forget the ones containing the attainable and achievable, this list is the mother of them all and has the things I would love to have in my garden if money, time and space were no object:
A swimming pool. I've always dreamed of having one - in fact it was top of the list of things I would have when I grew up. That's before practicalities like 'buy a house to live in' crept in.An ancient oak tree. One with all those …

Frrrrrosty!

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Click on picture to enlarge if needed. Clockwise from top left: 1. Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles' 2. Fence topper detail 3. Unknown alpine 4. Fence detail 5. Crocosmia 'Lucifer' 6. Pinus 7. Shed detail 8. Fern 9. Berberis
Thanks to PatientGardener'sreminder yesterday, I managed to rush out to bring you today's sample of the glittery, frosty wonderland out in the garden just before it melted away. Of course the few flowers I have in the garden are looking a bit sorry for themselves at the moment. I wonder if they'll recover in time for Garden Bloggers Blooms Day?
NB Happy Mouffetard and Victoria also posted lovely frosted scenes yesterday, as did Gary and Karen last week :)

Oh Deer

Our newspaper had this story last week. Apparently our local agricultural college has saved a herd of deer from a zoo that's due to close, otherwise they would have been put down. The deer will be added to the college's wild animal studies where appropriate. Awwwww.

However, it seems the herd will also be used to produce venison. How ironic - it looks like the deer have jumped from the fire into the (eventual) frying pan don't you think? BTW if you think I'm against the deer's eventual demise, I'm not. If fate had dealt a slightly different hand nearly 30 years ago, it could have been me rescuing the deer: my first job interview after leaving university was at the Hill Farming Research Organisation (just outside Edinburgh, sadly gone now it seems) to join the deer farming research team.

I didn't get the job as the research funding was scrapped, so it's also ironic to be telling you about it today!

Plot Views - Brrrr it's Frosty!

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Shhhh! The soot man's been up at the plot too and I have his address and the offer to go and help myself at any time!

VPGGB # 5 - It's Nicer to Share

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Amongst the coffee quaffing and cake crumbs last week, Threadspider and I got down to the serious business of deciding which seeds we need for next year. As members of the Chippenham Garden & Allotment Society we're entitled to a whopping 40% off D.T. Brown seeds and 10% off anything else in their catalogue. We'd had to look sharpish as the deadline for the order was 1st December. There's plenty to choose from what I'd call the 'basics', plus a few more of the more exotic line thrown in for good measure. Though for more unusual seeds it's often better to go to the more specialist catalogues. What better excuse is there for a few weeks of browsing through masses of shiny booklets and dreaming of perfect plots and gardens whilst curled up in front of the fire?
Anyhoo back to more pressing matters, our order. As well as the bargain catalogue in front of us, we've decided to share the seeds between us wherever possible - pretty sensible when we're ta…

During the Season of Goodwill...

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Some of you are already aware of our own Zoe's (Garden Hopping) story about her battle with breast cancer. If not, I urge you to catch up with her moving Journey here. And there's more - she's already giving back something to the people who are helping her by preparing a beautiful advent miscellany for you to enjoy over at her Christmas Greetings blog . Why not visit now, settle down for a good read and then make a donation? If you do so, you could win a super prize!
There's even more - a couple of friends from where I used to work sent me this the other day:

A favour to ask, it only takes a minute.... Please tell ten friends to tell ten today! The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on their site daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on 'donating a mammogram' for free (pink window in the middle). This doesn…

ABC Wednesday - T is For...

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...Tinsel
Having got over my bah humbug!* attitude to the season, I'm now embracing it like a child and getting far too excited about the Christmas decorations. Sometimes I think I'll never grow up - I'm still looking forward to my birthday despite my looming half century next year. Nothing demonstrates my childishness more than my love of bright, shiny tinsel. However, I don't go mad and strew it everywhere. The picture shows my entire collection, used for strategic highlighting - the gold used to go around my PC at work, this year it'll be one of my accessories for our carol concert. I'll be wearing it like a gaudy feather boa along with some gold aspen cone earrings I bought back from our Colorado holiday a few years ago. The silver is a tinsel headdress used for last year's concert, this year it'll replace the ubiquitous paper hat which usually falls over one eye when I'm out to various Christmas dinners. The purple always adorns the Hi-Fi cabine…

Blogsworth - Comment Follow Up

Firstly a big thank you to all of you who've helped to make this my most successful post to date, especially to everyone who stopped by to Comment. There were so many good points raised, I feel the best way to answer and thank you all is to write a follow-up post today rather than just responding to you in there.

I always love it when someone picks up from where I left off and writes a post over at their place. For me that adds to the value of my blog, not in dollars and cents, but I think it adds to the respect, friendship and sense of community we have here. That's invaluable. So thank you Stuart for not only responding over at your place, but providing lots more information on further 'valuations' available within the blogosphere and for sharing your experiences when it came to the crunch of an offer being made for your blog. The fact there are several valuations out there, all coming up with very different answers shows it's hard to measure the worth of blogging…

GBMD - The Field Mice's Carol

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Villagers all this frosty tide
Let your doors be open wide
Though wind may follow, and snow beside
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide
Joy shall be yours in the morning!

Here we stand in the cold and the sleet
Blowing fingers and stamping our feet
We come from far away you to greet
You by the fire and we in the street
Bidding you joy in the morning!

For ere one half of the night was gone
Sudden a star has led us on
Raining bliss and benison *
Bliss tomorrow and more anon
Joy for every morning!

Goodman Joseph toiled through the snow
Saw the star oe’r stable low
Mary she might not further go
Welcome thatch and litter below
Joy was hers in the morning!

And they heard the angels tell
Who were the first to cry Nowell?
Animals all, as it befell
In the stable where they did dwell
Joy shall be theirs in the morning!

Until today I've been a bit bah humbug! about Christmas. But it's the first of December, so I'm ready to get into the festive mood! It may be officially winter now according to our gardening c…

Pruning Rage!

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Like Plant Mad Nige, I'm feeling a bit peeved at the moment. No, not at farmers like he is, but my local council. It would appear it's our estate's turn to have its public planting tidied up. Don't get me wrong, I usually would approve heartily, but WHY did it have to include all the lovely red berried Guelder-rose providing food for the birds AND all the dogwood and Salix stems that are meant to provide our open spaces around here with some winter interest?
Surely the work plan this time around could have included just a quick tidy up of the dead or dangerous deciduous wood, plus all the evergreen trimming, followed by a visit in late winter (prior to nesting time and after the berries have been eaten) to complete the rest? They've made a good job of the evergreen stuff, even cloud pruning some of the nameless bushes we have - a nice touch above the ordinary don't you think? BUT we do have mass plantings of gold, green and red stems, which a couple of days ag…

VPGGB * #4 - RHS Membership?

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Dahlias at the RHS Inner Temple Show - September 2008

There's been quite a lot of debate recently in the blogosphere about the RHS, where it's headed and the value of membership to its members. James has a particularly thoughtful article plus comments over at his award winning Blackpitts blog if you're interested in what's been said so far. It's been a timely discussion for me as my membership is due for renewal in January. NAH purchased it for me 2 years ago as a welcome Christmas gift. Last year I renewed it without a thought, but this year every purchase has to count, so here goes.
Membership cost £41 this year and my benefits according to the RHS are: A monthly magazine (The Garden) rrp @ £4.25 - however, I believe the net value to me is nearer £10, (not RHS' £51) when compared with other subscription bargains like Gardens Illustrated, who discount theirs and give away a free book. I'd also like to know how many non-membership sales there are of this ma…

Why Do I Garden?

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Stuart of Blotanical fame has set a 160 character challenge this month: to provide an answer to the question Why Do I Garden? Here's my response.

It's:
Wonderful
Healing
Year-round

Inspiring & Creative

Dirty
Outside

Great
Active
Rooted
Doing not Vegetating
Environmentally sound
Nourishing
!

Sadly it looks like Blotanical is no more, so I can't take you there via a link to discover hundreds of fellow gardening bloggers :(

How About A Time Machine For Your Garden?

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Dr Who garden complete with TARDIS - RHS Show Cardiff, April 2008
How's this for the ultimate in garden sheds? A local landscaping firm is auctioning off their replica 10 foot tall TARDIS to raise money for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance Appeal. It was built for a Doctor Who themed float shown at Devizes and Pewsey's carnivals (note to self: must write about the local Autumn carnival season next year). One of the firm's owners was quoted in this week's Gazette & Herald: It would be a good Christmas present.We've had suggestions it could be used as an allotment shed, portable loo or a children's playhouse.

The shed can be viewed and delivery is also promised - though to Joy's place in Canada might be stretching their goodwill a bit far. The reserve price is £80 (around $120 USD) and in view of the success of the TARDIS category in Shed of The Year, I'm sure it'll raise far more than that. Sealed bids should be sent to: Elm Tree Fencing & Landsc…

ABC Wednesday - S is for...

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...Sprouts
I have to admit sprouts aren't my favourite vegetable, in fact I agree with an ex-colleague who described them as spawn of the devil at an office Christmas lunch a few years ago. Nearly everyone else looks at me like I've gone mad when I say I don't like them. They ask What DO you eat on Christmas Day then? and look at me pityingly. Answer: roast parsnips plus leeks and carrots freshly picked from the allotment usually. No problem. You may have guessed the picture illustrating this post isn't from my allotment. You're right - it's from next door's.
I was most amused when Anna (thanks Anna - I'll link to you when your Blog's ready) contacted me a couple of weeks ago with the information there's an annual sprout festival held in Worcester. It appears a local chef there believes the sprout is a much maligned vegetable and is doing his best to redress the balance. Unfortunately I couldn't tell you more about it at the time, but it did g…

Mushroom Magic

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As well as being a vintage year for autumnal leaf colour, it's been a great season for fungi around here, especially at my allotment. The weather plus my mulched prunings and next door's used pet bedding seem to have provided ideal conditions for various toadstools to thrive. The above picture shows a fungus that's new to me which I found growing near my apple trees. I've narrowed it down to either Stropharia cyanea (Blue Roundhead) or Stropharia aeruginosa (Verdigris Agaric) using the extremely useful Rogers Mushrooms website. However, from the description and photos there (or anywhere else) I can't really narrow it down to the species level - not surprising since the description of S. cyanea says it's often mistaken for the other one. Either way, it's not edible. I don't think it looks that appetising anyway - what do you think? Can anyone confirm which one it is?
BTW Apologies for not replying to your Comments, messages and e-mails over the weekend, b…