AAAGH! It’s a horrible human/vegetable hybrid come to destroy the world! Not really – it’s just me with a hollowed out squash on my head. Why did I put a hollowed out squash on my head? A good question. Basically my head was there, the hollowed squash was there and it just seemed the right thing to do. If you ever feel like putting a hollow squash/pumpkin on your head then here’s a tip – put a tea towel on your head first like I did. This helps stop pumpkin juice from dribbling down your face and neck – but not entirely.
Anyway, this is the giant squash I grew this year and I am very proud of it. And I am not the only one to dream of monstrous half human, half-veg beings because Dan’s new album with his band Pig with the Face of a Boy is called The Girl with the Arms Made from Marrows. The title song is a very sad story about a girl with marrows for arms who goes to seek her fortune in the big city and meets a horrid pickler. I think she sets up a veg stall but it doesn’t end well. I’m afraid the story of Pumpkin-headed Jo doesn’t end well either. It ends with me eating my own head. In fact I ate a bit of it last night in a pumpkin curry.
Dan and his pals have made a video of one of the other songs on the album – Middle. It’s about a nasty climate change denier and is very clever because it was filmed in one shot. You can watch it here.
Devastating news. I have a bad back and have been officially told not to do any digging on my allotment. How am I going to dig over my beds? According to my physiotherapist, I am not to do any digging until she has sorted out my back muscles so my plot will just have to go to wrack and ruin UNLESS Dan comes over and digs it for me. Or maybe Alan Titchmarsh could come and do it now that he is not presenting the Chelsea Flower Show any more. If anyone would like to volunteer to come over and dig my plot then please get in touch.
Here is a selection of the pumpkins and squashes I have grown on my allotment this year including my mega-squash, which weighs in at TWO STONE. I know because I weighed on the bathroom scales. I wonder if it will taste nice. I think you’ll agree that this is an impressive collection although some of the butternut squashes are a bit small and some look almost phallic – or is that just my torrid imagination?
Here I am as “Grower of the Month” in Your Allotment magazine, a boutique publication for allotmenteers in North London. The mag is perfect for anyone battling to grow crops on London clay as all the articles are about people trying to do the same. I don’t know what I am doing in this photo. I think I am pointing to some beetroot, which I have since dug up and made into pickled beetroot and borscht. The inset is an embarrassing photo of me getting my silver cup for flower arranging from the Mayor of Harrow, a very exciting moment in my life, perhaps the most exciting moment. It can be quite stressful when a gardening journalist comes to visit your plot. Before Your Allotment came to see me, I spent days weeding and tidying so I could pretend that my allotment looked smart all of the time.
Dan and I were given a very warm welcome when did the show in Seavington (pronounced Sevington), Somerset on Saturday. Not only had our hosts adorned the stage with homegrown fruit and veg, and THREE bags of John Innes compost, but a local artist had created a series of glorious paintings as a backdrop to our sold out performance.
The show was organised by fellow Jo and award-winning vegetable grower Jo Mills. She’s an archaeologist by trade and sometimes organises talks so had to explain to villagers that the show was about a different type of digging (the world’s best musical comedy show about archaeology Can You Dig It Up? is still in development).
Jo did an excellent job in fulfilling all the requirements of our show rider, including providing Hungry Caterpillar tissues and homegrown tomatoes in the dressing room. I won’t go on stage unless I can blow my nose on a Hungry Caterpillar tissue and Dan refuses to sing unless he has fresh, homegrown tomatoes for his voice so we were glad to see all our not-unreasonable demands had been met.
Jo has also kindly given us some exciting climbing French bean seeds to try. Dan says we should have another competition but we all know where that will lead – to Dan losing again. He’s not an award-winning vegetable grower like me and other Jo, you see. Jo had even brought in an album of her many prizes for her produce – something for both Dan and I to aspire to although I am already half way there what with my silver cup and sheaf of certificates (Dan has none). Anyway, all in all it was a splendid evening and we’re very pleased to have helped Jo and her posse reach their fundraising total for adaptations to the village shop.
If you’d like us to come and do a show in your village then do get in touch.
Here are the first carrots harvested from my carrot bath and I am very pleased with them. They include two special yellow carrots, which I grew for the first time this year and which have done particularly well. I can recommend growing carrots in a bath – or any other container – especially if your allotment has a heavy clay soil like mine. These carrots are much better than the deformed and frightening carrots (or scarrots) that I have grown in previous years mainly because this year I planted them in nice, soft soil and did actually bother thinning them a bit, a task I dislike because it feels like murder. I am so delighted when a seed actually grows that I can’t bring myself to discard them. I am sure Dan – who is a part-time, amateur communist – understands my aversion to crushing the weak. I wonder if our friends at the British Carrot Growers’ Association endure the same anguish and guilt every year.
In other exciting news, we’re off to Somerset this weekend for a show at the Seavington Millennium Hall on Saturday night. There aren’t that many tickets left.
Yesterday was one of the proudest days of my life when I was crowned Queen of Flower Arranging and best novice jam-maker at my local produce show. Above is a picture of me with my award-winning allotment blackberry jam (although I must admit that I only picked the blackberries and my best friend actually made the jam but picking the berries is the hard bit, I reckon, so I am entitled to the glory). Below is my winning flower arrangement, which also earned me a massive silver cup. The fact I was the only person who bothered to enter any sort of flower arrangement in no way diminishes my achievement. No one can deny the fact that I am now officially the best floral artist in the whole of Harrow, north London.
However, perhaps my proudest achievement was winning first prize for my beans (non runner) as there were actually quite a lot of entries in this category. I also got a third prize for my courgettes (out of four) and a second prize for my patty pan squash (out of two).
Here are the courgettes, which must not exceed 150mm in length. I had planned to enter my round courgettes, which are much more impressive, but I didn’t have four the same size.
And finally, the squash, which I think should have won. The only other person to enter this category had also entered patty pan squash but one was big and one was small – so much for conformity. Mine were both the same size. Also – I had done some research, which said the optimum size for harvesting patty pan squash was two to four inches, which is why I harvested mine when they reached about four inches wide. But the other person had a seven-incher and five-incher, which I would argue were TOO BIG. To be fair, I think the winner’s squash were in better condition so maybe that over-rides everything but still.
I will be back next year when I hope to retain my flower-arranging title and win many MORE prizes. Did you know you can just enter of a plate of blackberries? Growing them takes no effort at all! I must remind Dan to update all our posters and show literature to say that I am an award-winning vegetable grower.
There’s another, more interesting royal baby in town. Rodney, star of the hit vegetable cultivation-based musical comedy show Can You Dig It? and showbiz royalty, has given birth to some chillies as yet un-named. This is a great achievement given that Rodney nearly died in a terrible falling-out-of-the-tour-bus accident earlier this year in which he came out of his pot and broke limbs. Rodney has been part of the show since it started so is very dear to both me and Dan although I am the one who looks after him and the one who nursed him back to health after his mishap. Every year Dan predicts Rodney will die and every year Rodney proves him wrong so well done, Rodney.
If you have seen Can You Dig It? then you will know that we delve into the mysterious world of competitive vegetable growing in Dan’s excellent song The World’s Hottest Red Hot Chilli. The song is all made up because neither of us has actually entered a show before. But at the end of this month I am planning to change that when I attempt to display some of my allotment produce at the Harrow in Leaf annual show. It is all very daunting but thankfully Harrow in Leaf have produced a useful guide entitled Don’t Be Afraid Of Showing so I am trying very hard not to be afraid. There is a lot at stake. It costs 20p to enter a category but the minimum fee is £1 so I have decided to enter FIVE categories.
The trouble is that I am not growing that many things eligible to enter. However, I am hoping that I will have the 10 French beans (of the same length) needed to enter the “beans – non runner” category and three beetroot for the beetroot category (75mm tops, whatever that means). I also plan to enter the “pumpkins or squashes” category with two patty pan squash. It is very complicated because they must be the same size and the ideal size for patty pan squash is 3 inches across but the one I have in the kitchen at the moment is too big at five inches across so I must harvest two more but keep measuring them to ensure optimum girth. The other two categories I am aiming for are “novice jam” with the blackberries that have started ripening on my plot and “floral art”. I am considering entering the “basket full of posies” class. As Dan knows, from our failed attempt to get on a gardening TV show, I am quite a good flower arranger.
It is all quite exciting but I don’t really know why I am bothering as last year’s results make it clear that J Harding usually wins most things and J Hillier also does very well. Maybe this year it will be J Stephenson. You never know.
It’s National Allotments Week! Woo! And just to prove once again that Dan and I are not making it all up, here is a picture of my allotment although it’s a bit out of date as everything has grown loads since this was taken last week, which was not National Allotments Week. As well as celebrating our own allotments this is a time to pity people who don’t have allotments and show our support for those who do have allotments but could have them snatched away such as the folk at Farm Terrace Allotment in Watford who are fighting to save their plots. Can You Dig It? is backing their campaign and you can support it too by donating whatever you can spare. Click here for more information.