Summertime

left to right from the top: Chaucer students get stuck into Plot18 during the holidays, apples growing at LEAF, the Bee Project at LEAF, blackberry picking.
left to right from the top:
Chaucer students get stuck into Plot108 during the holidays, apples growing at LEAF, the Bee Project at LEAF, blackberry picking.

“Summertime…” says the George Gershwin song “….and the living is easy.” With the summer we’ve been having there have certainly been some days when just sitting down and enjoying the sun and all that’s alive around you has without doubt been the most sensible thing to do. That said there’s still been plenty of work to do on the various plots and allotments PXI is involved in – Plot107 has produced loads of fruit this year, especially rhubarb and gooseberries despite the fact its all got a bit overgrown in places, and now we’ve teamed up with Chaucer school to work on the neighbouring Plot108 we’re hoping to be even more productive next year as we also hope to use it as a base for some out of school youth work.

As well as the work in Parson Cross Park, we’ve been busy down on Herries Road at LEAF and at Plot64. The new plot is still taking time to get into a productive state again, with loads of weeding and digging out still to be done as well as avoiding disturbing wasps nests! Even so it’s gradually beginning to take shape and hopefully by next season we’ll be looking to plant.

At LEAF we’ve been busy with some enthusiasm from some of our younger volunteers over the summer helping to do much needed work harvesting, weeding and replanting. The bees are also doing really well there and continue to busy themselves with storing up and making honey. We’ve also had time for some social time, last Saturday LEAF threw “open house” and invited people round for tea, using food made from stuff grown on our various allotments – in the end about fifteen people came and made their own pizzas in the pizza oven before sampling a range of pies, cakes and crumbles.

Soon we’ll be looking to the apples and pears and other “hard fruits” and hopefully be working once again alongside Abundance (the Sheffield urban harvesting group http://growsheffield.com/abundance/  ) and starting some more jam and chutney making and cooking sessions at Mount Tabor and at the Cross at Yew Lane. So enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and look forward to the seasons to come.

Space2Grow Sessions

Here’s the new Winter 2012-13 Space2Grow poster ….. as well as the Thursday afternoon sessions, we’ve got a garden “Working Day” on Saturday 17th November at Yew Lane – everyone is welcome to come and have a look around and help with planting the new raised beds. We’ll even provide snacks for lunch and plenty of drinks!

It’s chutney time!

It’s that time of year when we start to think about what we might do with some of the excess of our fruit harvest in order for it to last us through the winter – one of my favourite ways of doing this is through chutney making. Last year PXI-Space to Grow ran a number of days in the pavillion at Parson Cross park and at Mount Tabor where a few of us got together to make some lovely chutneys. If you’ve never made chutney before or if you want to try a new recipe here’s a video from June Bingham who lives locally showing us how to make a lovely Pear & Walnut Chutney …. enjoy!

 

June uses Fairtrade products alongside local produce to make tasty foods to enjoy, you can watch more of Junes Fairtrade recipe videos on YouTube.

“Many hands make light work”

Weeding on Plot107

With all the rain, and the sunshine in between the last few weeks have been good for the weeds on all the plots in Parson Cross, so we were very grateful on Plot107 for the offer of help from a group of students from Sheffield University Chaplaincy when they offered to spend a day working with us on the plot. Thankfully the weather stayed fine and we were able to clear the remainder of the overgrown part of our plot as well as building three new beds ans planting them with onions, peas and beetroot.

At the start of the day one quarter of the plot was up to shoulder high with a variety of weeds including thistles, docks and others – but after only a few hours of work not only was the area completely cleared but we’d also built three new small beds and planted them up. We also spent a bit of time slashing back the weeds from some of the unallocated plots that were starting to block the path down to Plot107. If anyone is wanting a plot they really should contact the Sheffield Council allotment office and ask about Parson Cross park – although the plots aren’t full allotment size, most are big enough and as far as I’m aware taking a plot here wouldn’t mean your name coming off the Councils main allotment list. To be honest those of us already growing there are really keen to see the other plots taken as soon as possible – so even if you don’t want a plot for yourself but know someone who does, why not get in touch. As well as families, the plots can also be taken on by local groups, there is already a couple of under fives nursery plots, and one cared for by Chaucer School, as well as our PXI plot – so maybe your youth group, tenants association or similar want to take on a plot?

Lunchtime on Plot107

Of course the great thing about plot life is that it is never all about work, and yesterday was no different there was plenty of opportunity for conversation and joking around, as well as the opportunity to share lunch together. There’s something about eating together that helps to build friendships, perhaps that’s why feasts and suppers feature so often at different places and times in the Gospel stories about Jesus – whether it’s wedding feasts in Cana, loaves and fish near Galilee, or the Last Supper in the Upper Room in Jerusalem – and so perhaps as we sat and ate and joked together in the middle of Parson Cross yesterday we also were a small part of that tradition.

I also can’t finish this blog without a thank you to Claire and everyone who sponsored her in the Sheffield half marathon – together they raised a wonderful £115 to support the work of PXI in Parson Cross – thank you and may God bless you.

Busy Week and New Neighbours

Angela at work on Plot107

It’s been a busy week on Plot107 and on many of the allotments in Parson Cross Park.

On Tuesday we had a really good chutney making session, and on Friday, Me, Fay and Simon moved some more of the stumps that had been left by tree surgeon at one of the houses nearby …. the logs have proved really popular with a number of allotmenteers for helping mark out beds, and as seating.

On Plot107 it’s also been a weekend of welcoming and preparing for new neighbours. On Plot 90 we’ve just said hello to Diane and Keith with their daughter Laura, and on Plot 108 we’ve been helping with clearing off  all the weeds ready for the arrival of a group from Chaucer school. I think it’s great as more people are coming on site and working their plots, its great just to see it all starting to look and feel like real allotments, and also to see the different ideas, designs and approaches people are having and sharing.

That said Sarah, Chloe and Lisa were able to use their new brick fire today for the first

Lisa & Chloe put the kettle on ...... with a bit of help from Mum (Sarah).

time, getting the kettle on for a brew …. and it was needed amongst the showers …. mind you if next weeks weather forecasts of an late heatwave are right we might be praying for those showers again to put some more water on the ground.

Chutney in the Park

A group of us had some fun this morning up at the pavilion making chutney from the Abundance recipe. We made around six jars of Apple Chutney using the apples we harvested a few weeks ago and six jars of Apple & Pear Chutney ….. it has to be said they both tasted lovely. We were all commenting about how much food that grows around us is still left to waste,and the joys (apart from when there are wasps nests) of going out to pick blackberries, bilberries and yes even apples and pears.

In case you want to experiment at home, here’s the recipe.

Abundance Chutney Recipe

This recipe makes about 1.8kg (4lbs) of Apple Chutney, which should fill 6 medium jars.

Ingredients

900g (2lb) local cooking apples (after coring and peeling)

225g (8oz) onions (again after peeling and chopping)

560ml to 840ml (1 pint – 1.5 pints) vinegar (start with a pint, you may need less)

350g (12oz) brown sugar (again, see how sweet the apples are, use less if necessary)

56g (2oz) mixed pickling spice (in a spice bag/tied up tea towel, bashed a bit) OR 1-2 tsp powdered spice (straight into the mixture)

225g (8oz) raisins or sultanas

14g (1/2oz) salt

2 tsp ground ginger

Method

1. Peel and finely chop the onion. Put into a pan with the vinegar (a pint to start with). Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft.

2. Meanwhile, peel, core and finely chop the apples.

3. Add the apples to the onions and vinegar, bring back to the boil, and simmer, mixing well, so that the fruit starts to soften.

4. Add all the other ingredients and the spices. Bring to the boil and simmer, stirring frequently to avoid the mixture catching on the bottom of the pan.

5. Keep going until the chutney is thick and brown. Lovely!

6. Pour into hot, clean, sterilised jars immediately, and seal.

7. Label with contents once fully cooled.

Sterilising Jars

To sterilise your jars, wash them in hot, soapy water, rinse with hot water, then dry with a clean tea towel. Place on a baking tray, and put in a low oven (100C/gas mark 1) for 10 minutes. The jars will be hot: be careful, and don’t put them on a cold surface. Alternatively, run the jars through the hot cycle on a dishwasher.

Add the chutney to the jars while they’re still hot. As the chutney cools down, it will contract, pulling down the tamper button in the lids. Et voila. Perfect jars of sustainable chutney, that will only get better with age.

A Shoebox for Christmas

Have any of you ever done a shoebox for Christmas?

Since it started over 20 years ago, Operation Christmas Child has been supported by many churches and community groups such as  Brownies, Guides and Scouts groups and many more – all joining year after year. I thought it would be good if this year we were able to send some from us allotment growers and PXI….

If you’ve not got a shoebox handy, you can often get one from a shoe shop like Shoe Zone in Hillsborough by just asking.

First of the shoeboxes, packed labelled and ready to go!

Of course no one has to, but if you’d like to do a shoebox, take it wrapped and filled with the kinds of stuff its says in the link,  to Fays office at the park pavillion (if Fay isn’t in then you can leave it with Simon or any of the rangers), I’ll pick them up from there and send them off. You’ll need to decide if its for a boy or a girl, and want age group, and then you need to put a sticker on it. You can either get these from the pavillion again, or ask me if you see me around. If possible drop £2 in the box as that helps pay the costs of getting the boxes to all the different parts of the world they go to.

I need all the shoeboxes in by 5th November ….. at least you shouldn’t forget the date….. so if you want to get involved start packing those boxes, here’s a link to show you what to put in it:

What to put in a Shoebox: http://www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk/what-to-pack