Saturday 28 September 2013

Restore the Spode rose garden

There's a now a crowdfunding campaign to raise £2,500 to create a ceramic rose as part of restoring the Spode Rose Garden in Stoke town, the town just below my allotment...


Cool new plant, a £14.99 TomTato that produces tomatoes and potatoes from the same plant. Available from Thompson and Morgan in the UK. Although, arguably, spending £15 at the supermarket would probably get you almost as many potatoes and tomatoes.

Friday 27 September 2013

'Seed Collection Champions' needed in the Midlands

The UK's Woodland Trust currently wants Seed Collection Champions in the "central" region of the UK... "Beginning late October / Early November" of 2013.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Bonfire day

Weather: overcast and warm, hazy, with a very light south breeze.

Perfect day for a bonfire yesterday, with just a light south breeze to blow the smoke away from the road. It was slightly damp and dewy, but the carpet "rain hat" had kept the centre dry. It took me about half an hour to get it lighted, but with the aid of pages from The Sentinel it eventually took...

Then it went roaring away, and frazzled to ashes everything put in it — even the green stuff.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Home greehouse

At home I have big full-length south-west facing French windows. For the first time, this year I've been experimenting with having it serve as a basic simple greenhouse. So in addition to the allotment, at home I've been growing peppers and chillis in big pots with standard compost...

It's not been especially economical the first year. I've probably put in nearly as much on the pots / compost / seeds as the value of the crop I'm getting off them. I haven't used any feed, other than topping up with fresh compost as the level settles. I might try letting a couple of the pods get ripe, and then save the seeds over the winter. And next year I might go with a half soil / half compost mix. That should make them much cheaper than just popping down to Sainsbury's.


Weather: glorious day, bright sunshine and light high clouds, light wind. Not too hot.

A long three-hour stint on the allotment today, in the light of the glorious Sunday weather. Possibly too long and exhausting, to also take advantage of the nice weather forecast for tomorrow — but I'll see.

I took a woodsaw and secateurs and tackled one of the big jobs. I cleared all the fading honeysuckle off the roof of the shed, tidied up the currant at the front, and sawed back some of the dead tree that the honeysuckle had been climbing. Although I kept enough of the tree so that honeysuckle can reach the shed roof again next spring. So I now have a nice clear shed roof, reading for some felt and nails at some point before the autumn storms...

It's also left me with big amounts of woody material, which has made for a nice-looking bonfire...

I also hauled out a thick heavy 5ft dead branch, which I've stashed under the back hedge as a "beetle bank", rather than burn it. I already have a little beetle bank, in the form of a little pile of the more rotten of the stepping-planks.

I cleared off the broad beans as well, and dug out some more potatoes. I hauled up one that was fused together: if H.P. Lovecraft had grown potatoes, this is what they might have looked like... :)

I plucked four cooking apples from the community orchard. Cooked apples are not generally my thing, but a bit of a taste is nice once in a while. I also pulled some rhubarb to liven up the apple a bit.

Stoke town & Penkhull fireworks

New Facebook page for the Stoke town & Penkhull New Year's Eve firework extravaganza, for which the allotments and a deckchair (and a thermos) should give a fine view.

Friday 20 September 2013

Gallery 116 launches

The contemporary photography gallery in Stoke town had its formal launch tonight. Gallery 116 is just down the hill from my allotments. 116 Church Street, / 075 570 58582. My side/front pic from tonight, before the light went and the crowds arrived...

Mild autumn

Weather: mild and calm after plenty of showers, some heavy and prolonged.

Up to the plot to haul away another bag-full. This time I could only take as much as a natty back-pack could carry — as afterwards I was going to the launch of the new Gallery 116 photography gallery in Stoke town.

Courgettes still doing nicely, with flowers still bravely coming... although the leaves are starting to brown and skeletonise...

The plot needs a couple of days work on it soon, to clear it off, and to have a bonfire while this quiet patch of weather lasts. But I might take the overgrowth off the shed before I get a bonfire going.

Acorns and oak-galls (amazing micro wildlife havens, apparently) are forming nicely on the tiny oak...

Still a few larger apples on the tree... most have fallen...

Onions still fattening nicely... I should have put more in, despite the onion-fly threat... although this one is on its way out and was plucked...

Perpetual spinach still happy being perpetual... needs to be harvested more often...

Strange forest toadstools emerging from the woodchip on the paths...

Monday 16 September 2013

Losing the Plot 2

The Mikron Theatre will be back in Stoke this autumn to perform their sequel to the play "Losing the Plot" — the popular play about allotments that was hosted at Burslem School of Art. This year, there is only 1 performance, so tickets are limited. The data is Saturday 28th September 2013, at 8pm.

"Tickets are £5 each for all tickets (no concessions this year). To book tickets please email with the following:

Telephone number
Number of tickets required

You will collect and pay for the tickets on the night. (If tickets are not collected and paid for, you will be invoiced at the full price)"

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Pet Shop Girls

Need a few lizards or grass-snakes for your allotment? A new independent specialist pet-shop has opened up just down the hill in Stoke town, is in The Sentinel's business section today. HD Reptiles also has a rescue and re-homing service, if you find a stray boa-constrictor under your bonfire :)

Monday 9 September 2013

Hartshill Heritage Trail

Hartshill Heritage Trail walk on 14th September...

"A walk to highlight some of Hartshill's rich heritage. The walk encompasses the development of the area, the key people who helped to shape it, and how Hartshill's history differs from that of the general understanding of the history of The Potteries."

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Wild North Staffordshire - new film

"Halcyon Days", 16th October 2013, Staffordshire University.
"The work of local wildlife filmmaker Andy Holt, featuring his new films of kingfishers and close-up work on insects. This is supported by a new award-winning documentary Wild North Staffordshire by Peter J. Durnall."
A film which took four years to complete.

Sunday 1 September 2013

It's a gas

I'm not sure about this new idea in Stoke-on-Trent Council about methane coal bed gas extraction. I've nothing against it in principle. But apparently you have to pump the water out of the coal mines, and then keep them dry, in order for it to work. So that means...

1) You don't keep a deep coal mine clear of water without pumps. Pumps which use power presumably, unless perhaps they can be powered by geo-thermal energy?

2) Bringing massive amounts of highly polluted waste water to the surface. Where does that go? Getting the water out is not a one-time operation, but would presumably need a big decontamination plant to handle keeping them dry long-term. Don't the Council remember what was chucked down the mineshafts when Shelton Bar and the other highly polluted industrial sites in the city were cleared and decontaminated? All that sludgy water down there is not likely to be very nice. Dealing with it in huge open evaporation ponds might not do a lot for the new green eco-friendly image that the city is currently crafting.

3) Some of the recreational lakes in Stoke could be drained dry by draining the mines, because lakes such as Westport Lake apparently let down into 'bottomless' flooded coal shafts. Or so I was once told by an old local Councillor who knew the area well as man and boy.

4) The possibility that draining the mines could cause mine collapses and thus housing subsidence right across the city. There used to be fairly frequent housing subsidence due to the mines but that stabilized around about 2003-ish and has hardly bothered us since (despite what the Council's spurious housing-clearance surveys have claimed). I really wouldn't want to risk triggering housing subsidence again, if I was in the Council and keen on being re-elected. And what is being planned is directly under the city, as the council themselves said in a report for the Green Bank, the city is...

"the only English city immediately above sources of geothermal energy and coalbed methane reserves"

Maybe it can work. It's been done elsewhere, although seemingly not directly underneath a major city. But all in all, I reckon environmentally responsible shale gas extraction would be a far better option to explore, in terms of bringing much-needed cheap power to the pottery industry safely and cheaply.