Tag Archives: work life balance

The Allotment in December – what’s happenin?

frozen_allotmentIt’s a bit grim up north

Last week we had freezing rain and a day that never seemed to get light, 9am seemed more like midnight, it was dreary. During this spell I visited the allotment before work to check that I’d properly fleeced everything in the greenhouse.


It was foggy on the plot and as I looked around all I saw was mess and all the jobs that need doing. I also saw that the frost was killing off my flowers, which have been very confused until now. I love frosty mornings but I must admit that morning was quite grim!
allotment_december_thawedIt’s still a bit grim up north

Only a few days later and the big freeze has gone! Today was much milder and it seems strange to think that we’re only a week away from Christmas. I wanted to take these photos of the allotment so I can start recording it through the months ahead. So much of it is really untidy and I have a lot of general chores to do. To be perfectly honest, I could be growing more but I prefer to grow just enough and then clear out the veg beds over winter and concentrate on bulbs and planning for the following year. Today I noticed a lot of rotting vegetables in the other plots and I’m glad I’m not in that position. However, I really do wish that I’d grown kale and I wish I still had leeks and broccoli left but I’ve eaten it, leaving me with only three sprout plants, just enough for Christmas dinner!



Rather embarrassingly untidy plot

my_sproutsThese are up next for the chop

I aim to start January with a bang and aside from sowing leeks for the giant leek competition I’ve got involved in, I will also start sowing peppers. The best peppers I had this year were ones that fellow allotmenteer Michaela gave me. I know she starts sowing them early at home and I think that’s why she is such a rock star at growing veg. She doesn’t wait until the spring, she gets a good head start. I’ll definitely have my leeks in a heated propagator to get them going for the competition. If you have any tips for growing ‘mammoths’ I would be most grateful. I usually grow them close together to keep them small so this is going to be a real challenge!

What do you do this time of year and what are your thoughts on starting off seeds at home before the spring?

It’s Blooming Marvelous in Amsterdam

I’ve had a quiet week on the blog front because I’ve been enjoying a short break in Amsterdam with Adam and some friends. I must say, there’s a lot more to the city than just ‘lads on stag weekends’ and the red light district. There’s also plenty of greenery and some delightful parks and gardens too!

Initially we tried booking an apartment but when it was unavailable we jumped at the chance to rent a houseboat on one of Amsterdam’s many canals. Having our own little garden was a big draw for me and I was intrigued to see what would be in flower. Seeing ducks float past the kitchen window on my first morning was pure joy!

As well as eating pancakes we visited two markets in the lovely Jordaan area where there was an amazing abundance of Squash and Pumpkin. My homegrown attempts didn’t work out for me this year, yet it seems that everywhere I go I see the most incredible and weirdest varieties imaginable.


We also took a walk to the iconic Vondelpark where the colours of the trees were stunning.

Our trip wouldn’t have been complete without visiting the city’s botanical gardens. It’s not exactly the best time of year though so the outside area was a little disappointing but inside the greenhouses proved interesting. From the little butterfly house to the canopy walks through the big tropical house. We made packed lunches every day and enjoyed eating them on a bench inside.

I was really impressed with Amsterdam. I loved the fact that people were successfully growing plants in the smallest of places. It has given me some great ideas for my small garden at home and some ideas for vertical planting at my allotment.

Okay, so it’s not a real garden, but it is cool!

What is it about bulbs..

This weekend was my big bulb planting weekend. It’s the one I’ve been waiting for and looking forward to. I had the whole of Saturday to get on with it and at around 10.30am the sun came out! Perfect. So I headed up to the allotment and managed to do anything other than plant bulbs. I cleared and gathered some leaves, which is a job worth doing for sure. I had a cup of tea, pulled a few weeds out and then…..came home for a sandwich?!

After that though I got myself together and armed with another cup of tea I headed back, did a bit of rough digging ready for the frosts, cleared lots of space and also got some pots ready to plant up with bulbs. Just then my partner in crime Adam (husband also known as ‘Moss’) appeared with a load of Violas and Rudbeckia that he’d salvaged from a garden that he was helping with. So we spent the rest of the afternoon re-planting these salvaged flowers?! I came home with a lovely, if somewhat bedraggled, bunch for the house too but the boot of my car is still full of bulbs! I know the Violas will last the winter but I have no idea about the Rudbeckia, I’m guessing not.

The ironic thing is that Adam had planted tons of bulbs (‘hundreds’ he claims) that morning for someone else and I planted none. I know I can plant Tulips until Christmas but with weekends now being my only time at the allotment I’m getting to that dangerous place in time where I could miss the boat. The bulbs will stay forever in my boot and I will feel guilty and say to myself ‘I must try harder next year’. However, I have the makings of some leaf mould, have done some weeding and dug some big chunks into my plot to expose it to frost. I do this every year as it’s supposed to kill of all the beasties but this year I was over run by slugs so I’m not sure it’s 100% fool proof.

So, next week’s to-do column is the same and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for the weather! To my surprise on Saturday there was lots of bulb talk on twitter and I read this really interesting post on The Patient Gardener’s Weblog. I really identify with this and am glad I’m not the only one with secret seed and bulb obsession. When I returned home tonight Adam was looking very serious on the computer and when I asked him what he was up to, he replied “buying some more bulbs”!!!


The Good Life 2012


When I was growing up I used to watch re-runs of the British Sitcom ‘The Good Life’ (The Good Neighbors in the US) but back then I had no idea that as I grew older I would identify more and more with the characters in it. Inspired by the lifestyle of Barbara & Tom Good and growing up in the countryside of the Lake District meant that I was always outdoors, spending time in the family garden, eating home grown produce, horse riding, cycling and living a pretty good life. However, a part of me also wanted some of what Margot had. I saw her as having fine food, a well stocked booze cabinet and expensive clothes. Moving to the City to study a Design Degree the good life was soon behind me as I focused on the joys of being a student, continuing my education by taking a Masters in Software Development I was going more and more down the career path. When my career took off I wanted to be Margot even more, status symbols such as nice cars and hobbies such as clothes shopping became my life, but then something just happened and I naturally started to be drawn back to my old lifestyle.

In 2002 I moved just 6 miles out of the city to a more rural location and applied for an allotment. The location really is the best of both worlds, having the countryside on my doorstep and the City only 20 minutes away. Since then Barbara and Margot have been my alter ego’s. Unlike Tom Good who left the ‘rat race’ on his 40th birthday to live a completely self sufficient life with Barbara I am still in the rat race and sometimes even enjoy it. So how can I achieve the best of both worlds and will I be able to sustain both? Unlike Tom Good, I don’t have my mortgage paid off or live in surbiton with a huge garden I can convert, I need to work to pay my mortgage and the bills. However, I don’t believe the work I do is in any way unethical or pointless so there is no problem there but at times I do feel like a living contradiction.


I know my dream is to once again live completely in the countryside and own a small holding, but to get there I need to work hard and I need to avoid burn out along the way. Achieving both and maintaining work-life balance without overdoing things is difficult and therefore I use the best parts of what I learn from my job to improve efficiency at home to allow me time to switch off and achieve balance through my other interests. So far it seems to be working pretty well, however, I’m still improving many areas of my life and this is what I intend to share on my blog.

AllotmentMy allotment



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