Allotments, Food, Gardening, Grow your own, Growing plants, Health, Home Farmer, Homestead, Permaculture, plants, self sufficiency, The Good Life, vegetarian

Growing tomatoes

I am not an expert on growing tomatoes, I would like to make that VERY clear but I have been growing them for about 17 years off and on and I have been asked by a few people to write a blog about the basics.

If you have never grown anything I would definitely recommend starting with tomatoes – they are VERY hard to kill (Believe me I have unintentionally tested this out!) and almost always bare fruit!

If you have grown other things, then you may want to consider what you want the tomatoes for, basically salad or sauces? There are hundreds if not thousands of varieties (in fact that is the name of one of my favourite varieties!) And each one has it’s own attributes. But basically all you need to start is a pot or tray if you have one, compost and a sunny space.

Tomato seedlings when they first sprout.

If you have non of these, you can buy them all from the pound shop, B+M bargains, wilkos or any gardening centre. Just sprinkle the seeds on the compost in the pot and gently press down, cover with a sprinkling of compost, water and wait for the magic to happen…

Once the seedlings are quite strong (like the ones above) you can use a spoon to lift them one by one and place each in a smaller pot filled with compost. Unfortunately you have to say goodbye to the smaller feeble ones. This is called ‘pricking out’ and I hate throwing them away but this is survival of the fittest!

These then need to be kept in a sunny warm place and watered regularly. This is a fab phase, you will treat these little seedlings better than your children and they will cause you a lot less aggravation (hopefully).

Once they get to the height of the ones above you have to think about their forever home…

You CAN grow tomatoes outside in a sheltered warm spot. To do this you have to ‘harden them off’ which basically means toughen them up a bit. You do this by putting them outside (ideally in a plastic tub but not absolutely necessary) for an hour one day, a couple of hours the next and so on for about 5 days until you can leave them outdoors all the time.

It is less fussy to grow them inside but you do need quite a lot of space, I have grown them on the windowsill but they basically took over the whole space – day of the triffids style! So a greenhouse (no matter how small) is much better. You can pick plastic ones up quite cheaply at Wilkos or online.

The best thing to grow them are grow bags –

You make a small hole to place the plug (plant) in and water directly into the hole. You should be able to fit three in one average size grow bag. You can grow them in large pots too but make sure you have fresh compost or manure in them.

Once you get the first yellow flowers you need to start feeding them. Don’t worry this isn’t little shop of horrors – they are not carnivorous! You can buy tomato feed from anywhere that sells gardening stuff, my favourite is tomorite but any will do. It’s a liquid food that you dilute. Pour a cap full or two into your watering can every few days.

Most tomato plants are what we call Indeterminate or vine and these will need support as they can grow quite large. Bamboo canes are perfect.

Determinate or Bush tomatoes are smaller, can be grown in a pot or container and don’t generally need support but they don’t produce as much fruit.

The biggest pain in the arse with vines is that you have to ‘prick them out’ which means getting rid of some of the leaves to encourage more fruit to grow… you do this by when the first tiny fruits begin to appear, by stripping away some of the leaves underneath to allow light and air to reach them better. When there are about four or five groups of flowers, pinch out the plant’s growing tip. I tend to go a bit mad…


It looks harsh but the buggers grow back so quickly!

One of my favourite jobs is ‘tickling’ the plants. You do this to encourage pollination! When the flowers start appearing you just gently tickle them, then go onto the next and so on. I also find talking to them helps but they don’t like me singing, then again no one does!

That’s it really. Leave the tomatoes on until they redden, this can be as late as the end of September or as early as May. If it does get late you can harvest them when they are green and leave them to ripen on your windowsill.

I know this may seem like a lot of work but it really isn’t and it is so enjoyable and thereputic! Plus you get beautiful sweet tomatoes!

If you are a bit worried, or it’s getting late in the season you can buy tomato plants (or plugs) from garden centres. Just start with 2 or 3 and see how you get on.

Honestly if you are reading this you should give it a try, I refuse to believe that anything tastes better than eating something you have grown yourself!

Please let me know how you get on!

Italian food, Italy, opinion, self sufficiency, traditions

Buona Domenica!

One of our favourite Italian traditions is the Italian Sunday lunch. As a true Brit I can hand on heart say it rivals the Sunday roast, not just the food but because of the other traditions…

Here are the 10 rules for an authentic Italian Sunday lunch

Our Sicilian family!

1) You must invite ALL the family! Contrary to popular believes Italians do not have loads of children. Most Italians I know only have 1 or 2 children, but they keep their family close to them so aunts, uncles and particularly grandparents ‘nonni’ are regular guests for lunch or dinner and particularly Sunday lunches so invite all the family and if there is no grandparent – adopt one.

2) A large table! Obviously for the 20+ guests you will need a large table, ok maybe not large but long definitely!

3) A table cloth is a must. It is unthinkable for Italians not to have a tablecloth. Preferably white but as these are modern times you can go patterned but it MUST be cloth never paper!

4) Unlike the table cloth you can use plastic plates and cups, especially if there are loads of you. Unfortunately, this is very popular in Italy and goes against every recycling rule we have been taught.

5) Enough wine to sink a battle ship and a matching amount of water. Sparkling as well but it must be bottled. As for the wine. Local wine is fine and if it’s a 5 litre bottle – all the better

My Molise friends and guests completely going against my list of ‘donts’!

6) A television. Yes I know it sounds strange but at almost every Italian Sunday lunch I have ever attended the television has played a huge role. In Italy every Sunday they have marathon Italian television shows that run for at least 3 hours followed by 15 football programmes. If the television can be placed high up so everyone can see that would be perfect. You often find them on top of the fridge.

7) The meal should comprise of at least 4 courses, preferably 5 or 6 and if you are at an Italian wedding expect any number over 11…

For Sunday lunch you should have;

Aperetivi ; Prosecco or similar is only ever served before a meal. NEVER with a meal.

Then –

Antipasti; cold meat, cheeses, olives etc

Then –

First course; pasta or rice dish

Then –

Meat with a small side selection of greens and maybe potatoes.

Then –

Fruit and cheese; Always seasonal. Italians don’t care how fruit looks – it’s all about the taste. Nuts can also be served.

Then –

Sweet course. This is where you the guest come in. You bring the cakes – usually bought from a local cake shop. Do NOT bring wine, unless it is a sweet wine to go with the desert!

Finally – A coffee. Well an espresso. Do NOT ask for a cappuccino. You will be thrown out for asking for milk.

And lastly a liquor to help you ‘digest’ the huge amount you have eaten. Italians are obsessed by digestion! Before living there I had only thought about it in terms of biscuits!

Lovely Bread should be served throughout. Do not make my mistake and fill up on that first!

Eating at a friend’s house where everything we ate was locally sourced! If you look carefully you can see the television in the background!

8) The meal usually starts at 2pm and finishes about 6pm! Obviously this depends on how many courses there are. Word to the wise. Don’t have breakfast first!

9) How to be a polite guest. This is VERY important. On your first mouthful of food comment on how wonderful the food is! You cannot go on about it enough! If you really want to impress, ask for a second helping! Even though you have eaten the equivalent of a week’s food.

10) Some DONT’S!

Don’t bring English food. Italians don’t trust it.

Don’t ask for butter for your bread. Butter in Italy is used to cook with only.

Don’t ask for seasoning! The cook will have seasoned it according to the recipe. You risk offending them by asking for salt!

And – Don’t get drunk. This is what’s is known as a ‘Brutta figura’ (Making a fool of yourself!) Get merry enough to need a sleep but not drunk enough to dance on the table. It never stopped me though…

You can of course recreate this in England but to be honest the best way to experience it is to get yourself over to Italy and find a good local family run restaurant and book yourself in for Sunday lunch.

And lastly the ONLY way to greet someone on a Sunday is by saying “Buona Domenica ” loudly and often!

So Buona Domenica!!

wine, travels, wine tasting, wine blogger, sommelier

Pinot Grigio ‘Sommelier’!

Hello again, this is your regular fix of Sara Jane’s wine blag, I mean blog.
For todays wine I want you to take you back to 1996, imagine you are in Venice, Italy and it is a hot summer’s day and you are sipping a beautiful, tropical flavoured dry, white wine (while wearing sunglasses and looking cool). Ok 3,2,1 you are back in your living room and it’s freezing cold but for a minute there…
Yes, today I am talking about my 90’s favourite Pinot Grigio.
I don’t do white wine in the winter and as a vegetarian I can drink whatever coloured wine I want with any meal BUT on crappy cold days we sometimes need to see the light – we need summer memories!
So (as always) this was on special in Marks and Sparks reduced from £9.99 to a much better priced £7.50.
Anyway again, ever honest, I can find Pinot Grigio a bit bland. But this is a far tastier one.
So notes; nice bottle – it says ‘Sommelier edition ‘ so that’s posh.
The colour is a good lemony colour, its not too watery or too cats piss looking (although as an aroma apparently this can be good)
The taste was really good, as a red wine drinker, what I do like about a white is there is rarely a bitter after taste and this definitely had no bitter tones, it tasted like I said like a fruity summer wine which you have on your holidays. There were hints of oranges and lemons and it wasn’t too heavy, which a Chardonnay can sometimes be. Nor was it dry and tasteless like a sauvignon blanc can be. But as I say this was better than your average and I honestly do think that was because it was discounted.
Fun fact! The pinot grigio grape is actually a red grape, this grape is not as colourful hence its used for white wine. That may be why I like it so much, that and the fact my mum likes it, but then she likes everyone!
Going back to Venice, although this wine is not from Italy, many Pinot Grigios are. It was a popular white wine drink when I was young and living in Northern Italy (as it comes from there) and so is quite effective for me. But yes, especially for all those trying to eat healthily i.e lots of veg and fish this would make a great accompaniment and if you cant get this exact one then go for the more expensive Pinot grigios – I reckon they are worth their weight to momentarily take us to a sunny piazza!
life

Adopted Italian!

I was 14 years old when my life changed forever. It was nothing bad! Actually it was really bloody good.

I was born in Chorley in Lancashire and my lovely parents were one hundred percent British. We lived in Leyland which was a homely town where everyone knew everyone and you felt very safe, if a little bored. Especially at the age of 14! I felt VERY bored! That pubescent feeling that life is waiting to happen was reflected in the heavy grey skies and cold weather but then it all changed. A brave deputy head teacher who was an Italophile, took a group of us from a Catholic school, to Italy.

The details of that trip are another story but suffice to say I fell in love with Italy and on my return vowed that I would learn Italian and live in Italy. It wasn’t easy. “Why do you want to learn bloody Italian?”, was said a great deal but I was adamant! My dream was bolstered by an Aunty who had lived in Italy and spoke conversational Italian. A trip back to Italy had been organised so I had the possibility to learn leading me to the end game! I began with a crappy phrase book and my aunty taught me my first words in Italian, which were obviously swear words as I was 15 years old! I learned phrase book Italian and went back to Lido di Jedolo where I had the holiday of a life time and on my return my determination to learn Italian was stronger. There were many more holidays to Lido di Jesolo and my Italian improved. But none of this was enough. I wanted to live there. I wanted to BE Italian!

My friends and I on holiday in Lido di Jesolo

While I was at university I made a friend who had done something called TEFL (Teaching English As a Foreign Language) and had lived in Madrid for a year. She made it sound easy but my formal English wasn’t strong as I had (unrecognised) dyslexia and although I loved creative writing my ‘creative spelling’ held me back. I finished Uni in Art and Design but in 1993 and with a recession there were no jobs. I took a job at the KFC in Preston to start saving for my TEFL course. I decided to study in Lisbon, Portugal as I knew if I went straight to Italy I probably wouldn’t travel further afield. Italy called to me the entire time so when a job was offered on finishing the course I headed straight to the country I loved.

This was the second life changing moment. The job was in Southern Italy in a place called the MOLISE! The Molise? Nobody I knew had ever heard of it! But off I went to teach at a summer camp in the mountains between Rome and Naples -ish. My pigeon Italian got me half way but I was at that terrible stage where I could engage in conversations but not really go to any depth. I loved my time there and made great friends who I still keep in touch with but at that time I thought my heart was in the north of Italy in Venice. I got a job and found a room in a shared flat. I had done it! I was living my dream!

Looking skinny but unhappy in Venice
Twenty Four is quite young to achieve your life’s goal and although I had a fantastic job and was living my dream it didn’t feel quite right. I was lonely and sad and had lost up to 3 stone in weight. I power dressed and even wore pearls and scarves but not in a rock way – in a Stepford wives way! I even stopped drinking pints! At the time I didn’t realise how unhappy I was until I returned to the Molise, back to southern Italy and realised just what I was missing! The south of Italy is like the North of England, poor, agricultural but happy. It felt like home. I quit my high paid job and followed my heart to a place called Campobasso.

Enduring the cold but beautiful winters in Campobasso

Campobasso is the Head town of the Molise region. It is a big town but really like a small village and I absolutely loved it there. I found myself again and am glad to say that the pint drinking, jean wearing party girl returned and the scarf and (fake) pearls were thrown in a bin! As a language learner and a language teacher my biggest advice for how to learn a language is to move to a place where NO ONE speaks your first language! This really worked for me apart from the fact that people in Campobasso spoke a strange Italian dialect! So that is what I learned! An example of the dialect would be … I don’t know in Italian is ‘non lo so’. In the local dialect its ‘Che ne saccio’!

I spent two of the best years of my life in Campobasso, I met some other American, Canadian, English and Welsh women and we became close friends. I didn’t make a lot of money but I was very happy. Two years went by and I knew everybody and every cat and dog! It was clear that if I didn’t move I would live there forever. Loving it as much as I did I was only 28 and I needed a change and more of a career opportunity. A friend and I decided to move to a city in the north east of Italy called Bologna. We chose Bologna because we heard it was a cool, arty, leftie city and we weren’t disappointed! I landed an amazing job teaching at the British Council, made special friends and had a great quality of life but once again fate intervened, and my life changed again.

Never knowing without a Prosecco in Bologna!

It was there that I met my husband who was on holiday visiting his sister. Although he was born in Catania, Sicily he moved to the UK when he was 4 and immediately dropped his Italian. We fell in love and because he was training in English law, we decided to would move back to the UK and live in his Camden apartment. It turned out he lived down the road from my sister! I had never lived in the south of England. So in 2002 I moved back to England and my life here began.

We regularly go back to Italy and weirdly my Italian goes from strength to strength, I think because I don’t care about being accurate any more I have become more fluent!

My husband’s Italian is not as good as mine and this often confuses people.

We are now slowly teaching the children to speak Italian and they are very much in touch with their Italian heritage’ Not just from my husband’s Sicilian side but also from my adopted Italian side.

I hope one day they will follow in our footsteps and live there. But as THEY are our children they will probably follow their own path!

My husband Massimo and I the first year we met.

life

Sainsbury’s Barbera D’Asti

For my first ‘official’ wine blog I am going to talk you through the very basics of what tasting wine is all about. This review is about the Barbera D’Atsti from the taste the difference range at Sainsbury’s (Thank you Paolo for the gift 😉)

It’s a bit of a posh wine! Costing about £7.50 but what I liked about it was how it was a bit of a dark horse.

I love Italian wines! That’s no surprise! It’s where my love for the (alcohol) grape started and this is a good example of an undervalued one. It is from Piedmont. Which literally means bottom of the mountain and comes from the left thigh of Italy (If it’s a boot). It can get bloody cold there so you need something to keep you warm! For the purpose of these blogs I am going to give you the 3 usual descriptions; appearance, colour and taste.

Appearance first. For some reasons posh wine people don’t describe the bottle? But I think it’s important! You don’t want to turn up at a posh party with a crap looking bottle – unless of course what is in it is surprisingly brilliant! I want something that looks the part! This bottle definitely says SERIOUS and like you know what you are talking about! As for the actual colour of the wine, pour a bit in a glass and swirl it around. I know, I know you will look like a tosser but that’s the point! Toss that wine around in the glass and describe the exact colour! It’s a laugh – trust me! Generally the darker it is the fuller (bodied) it is but not always ! This was a dark red like a red rose! You don’t need me to tell you that all reds are red but describe the exact colour – this was almost black. As I have said before I generally can smell nothing when it comes to red wine but others in our group got a fruity smell. This became obvious when we tasted it and the cherry taste came through! It wasnt like a fresh cherry, more like a glaced cherry on a brakewell tart! Actually that was also both the colour and the taste! And probably the smell (or ‘nose’) too! I am going to be honest and say that it didn’t taste of much … at first! It isn’t as full bodied (rich) as I usually like but once it ‘opened up’ I.e

was left for a bit the tastes came through it was very smooth (not bitter) and creamy! It is the perfect accompaniment for Italian food and we had it with our Italian Christmas dinner of (vegetarian) Lasagna and it was perfect! So I would give it a 7/10 and in conclusion say it’s a good fruity medium bodied wine that’s great for showing off at an Italian restaurant! Enjoy!! Oohh and also top tip!! If when you open a wine you think it needs to breath or it doesn’t taste great – whizz it around in a blender or nutri bullet and this will aerate it and it will taste completely different! Honestly! Try it!

Let me know what you think and if there are any wines that you would like me to review!! Happy January and salute!

Blog, Family, Food, Gardening, Grow your own, Homestead, Italy, life, life stories, opinion, Permaculture, The Good Life, Uncategorized, vegetarian, women

New year, new blogs!

Hello again! Please excuse my silence on wordpress. It has been a tough year for many reasons (which I will be writing about at a later date) but for today I want to focus on 2019!

My new year’s resolution this year is to write more blogs. It’s just that. That simple! Looking back on the last few years and particularly the fight to save farm terrace allotments, the main thing that I miss (apart from the actual allotment site obviously) and the campaigning rushes, is the writing and the interaction with people. I have since written bits but life took over and I had to stop. Now it’s time to start again. However it is hard to start because I don’t know where to start! I obviously want people to like my posts but I dont want to write them just so people will like them and follow me. On the other hand I dont just want them to just be the ramblimgs of a mad woman! I want them to be funny, interesting and informative and most importantly truthfull outlooks on my life. But apparently I have to narrow down my ‘niche’ ! From what I can understand I basically have to concentrate on just one area of my life! Ouch! I have so many passions; allotment, interiors, pets, vegetarian food, wine, camping, walking and Italy just to name a few! So how do I do it? Seriously answers on a postcard please! Especailly from fellow bloggers, insta people and those friends who do follow me. What would you like to see more of in 2019? This is a big year for me as 19 is my favourite number (I was born on the 19th) so I want it to be a good one. After spending all summer doing up the kitchen and autumn doing up the other downstairs rooms, the garden got a beating and this year my design concentrations will be on that! And sorting out this wordpress layout which is now as dated as my garden! Anyway these are my very basic 2019 goals. Apart from losing 5 stone, eating healthier and creating more me time blah blah blah!

I hope whatever yours are you are succesful and I look forward to following you on your journey! Happy 2019!

Dedication, Family, Father, Huskisson, life, life stories, Orbituary, Parenting, Uncategorized

Gerald Thomas Huskisson 16/04/38 – 07/02/11

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(Gerry stood with his brother Harry)

A famous writer once said “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give” If that is true, then Gerry made a great life. He was the most likeable of persons.

Gerry was born Gerald Thomas Huskisson on 16th April 1938 in the Liverpool Maternity Hospital. Oxford Street. His parents Harry and Eileen had four sons,
Gerry was the eldest, then Harry who sadly died, and Philip and Stephen.
They lived in Norris Green in Liverpool from 1938. Gerry grew up during the war and as a young child didn’t see much of his father, who was away on service. When Gerry was four he answered the door one day, and shouted to his mum that there was a strange man at the door, it was his dad

On passing his 11+ Gerry went to Evered High. At 16 Gerald began an
apprenticeship as a TV engineer with Stuart & Dorfman in Liverpool. This gave him an insight into electronics which held him in good stead for his later career. With his dear friends Robert Lambert and Mike Mullen they set out to become close friends with the entire female population of Liverpool an exercise of monumental failure! They holidayed in Spain, Scotland and the isle of man, they partied they
danced and had what they still regard as a truly wonderful teenage life together.

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(Gerry third from left with his friends)

The summer of 1959 saw Gerry called up for national service in the army to
the royal signals. He was soon promoted to Lance Corporal, serving in Hong Kong and Oman. Mike served in the Royal Artillery and although on different continents they still maintained contact through letters and phone calls.

Gerry had played Badminton in his youth with his lifelong friends Mike, June, Jimmy, Barbara, Frank and Lesley. The Royal Dragoon Guards found out that he was a badminton champion in the making, and he was transferred.
This enabled him to miss guard duty, He was the ringer in the team and all the rest were officers. Gerry was not a great lover of national service but he learned new skills. On leaving the army these skills were put to use in his new career as a cameraman for Granada TV in Manchester. He worked on many shows, Coronation Street and Top of the Pops to name just a few.

Gerry worked for a while on Channel TV in Jersey and along with his friend Peter Kane Opened a television rental shop in St Helier, which they later sold to Rediffusion TV.

Gerry emigrated to Canada where he was employed to carry out seismic surveys. This involved travelling in old Dakotas and helicopters, which he loved. He spent a lot of time based in America, a country he grew to love. He travelled the world, working in far-flung places such as the Gabbon, Alaska, Egypt, and Thailand. He even bought a farm in Rhodesia.

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(Gerry sat on an airplane wing on one of his many adventures)

Working in Pakistan presented Gerry with his biggest challenge to date – No Alcohol!!.
Now as you know Gerry liked a drink and he decided homebrew was the answer. The kits had to be well hidden in the luggage, however as it was illegal to bring it into the country. This homebrewed beer had an acquired taste but after a week of
drinking, it was like a fine wine.

When Gerry was not working abroad he had various other jobs, including owning a sweet shop in Longridge and the more credible delivery man for the famous ‘Lancashire Laminates’ company. He even had his own shirts with his name printed on it.

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(Gerry centre with his brothers Phil and Steve)

Gerry met Kait at the Moulin Rouge hotspot in Southport in 1970. He chatted her up with the immortal lines “I’m not going to dance with you – but I will buy you a drink!”.
Kait turned her nose up at the Brandy and Babycham, but he rectified the situation by buying her a straight Gin. He offered to run her home that night – but all his car tyres had been let down – “Son of a gun”.

They became what Kait considered pen pals (he was working in Saudi Arabia at the time) and married almost 2 years later. Lou can remember when Gerry left the house to call Chorley hospital from the local phone box and returned to announce “you have a baby Sister!”

Gerry stayed working as a TV engineer until Sara was 7. He doted on her and helped Louise in her new role as big Sister. He loved them both very much and was a great role model. Gerry and Kait had a very special relationship – they both supported each other in their individual ambitions as well as their joint ones. They were best friends and wanted only the others happiness. Sometimes this involved time apart – Gerry with
his surveying career and Kait with her girlie holidays. They never selfishly held each other back – there were no regrets.

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(Gerry and Kait)

As a family – the Huskies still travelled together. On Gerry’s half day off every Wednesday afternoon, come rain or shine to Freshfileds – in the Toyota Celica or the D.E.R Van. Happy family holidays were spent in Scotland, Ireland and France.
Kait and Gerry really enjoyed their holidays together. They visited most of Europe, Turkey being a particular favourite and they travelled all over U.S.A.

Gerry was proud of Louise and the life that she made for herself in london, he tried to see most of her plays, performances and street theatre. He loved musicals and was particularly fond of Brigadoon! He enjoyed spending time with Lou in london and in particularly visiting restaurants where he could sample cuisine from all over the world.

Gerry fully supported Sara’s time in Italy. He and Kait would visit her often and even took up Italian lessons at night school. Although he rarely spoke Italian in front of them While on holiday he always managed to wander off on his own and come back with wine, beer, cigarettes and even new friends.

In 1997 Gerry travelled around south and central Turkey with Kait, Lou, Cousin Cath and French friend Lore. He loved the looks on people’s faces as they tried to figure out the relationship between one man and four women! Whilst holidaying in Turkey he was even asked by a man for a dance! Gerry of course obliged!

Gerry enjoyed a very good relationship with Massimo and Andre whom he was even known to buy rounds for! He was fantastic as the proud father of the bride at Sara and Massimo’s wedding. Looking dappa in his top hat and tails.

In his role as Grandfather (or Gran Gran!) Gerry excelled, he loved Emilia, Luca and Sofia to bits and was always affectionate, playful and encouraging with them. This earned him the nick name ‘mannie’ (short for male nanny) with Sara Jane’s friends.
He even changed nappies (not often) and could be found dancing round the living room to the Telly Tubbies. The kids adored him.

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(Gerry and Kait with their grandchildren)

Gerry loved pottering – usually with a list of jobs that Kait had given him. He enjoyed escaping to his greenhouse and pricking out! His tomatoes were the talk of 47 Balcarres Road and the flowers in his heli-pad often took second place over his bird bath. Gerry loved his feathered friends and Lou and Sara-Jane often joked that he spoiled the birds more than the two of them.

Gerry was at his happiest surrounded by family and friends in his dining room.
Gerry was a very sociable person, not loud but generous with his home, food and masses of alcohol as long as Frank Sinatra and Count Basie were blasting from the music system. Although he would joke that everyone was free-loading.
Gerry had a wicked sense of humour – quite literally! and enjoyed nothing more than saying a few mischievous words before leaving the room with a twinkle in his eyes!

He and Kate enjoyed hosting many new Years Eve parties which were world-famous.
And come the end of the night Gerry would tell everyone to go home and then make sure the house was locked up and his girls were safe.

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(Gerry, Sara Jane, Kait and Louise)

Gerry’s social life was generally based around sport. We often joked that he would watch tidily winks live from Scunthorpe if it was on the TV.
Fox Lane cricket club was his Mecca. With his great pals Terry and Doreen, Jack and Jean, Eileen and John Pallot and Don he would sit and drink and talk usually with the lounge bar to themselves.
As a special treat Kait, Lou and Sara-Jane were sometimes allowed to visit.

Gerry loved playing badminton and had recently taken up crown green bowling, taking great pleasure from his very occasional wins.
But Gerry’s big passion was football and Liverpool FC, whose games he avidly followed on Ceefax. It was often joked that Gerry and his brothers Phil and Steve knew the line up of the team before the manager did! The night before he died Kait, Lou and Sara all spoke excitedly to Gerry on the phone. It was his 39th wedding anniversary and Liverpool had beaten Chelsea. Gerry and his girls told each other how much they loved each other.

We know for certain that he was very happy that night and that match of the day was enjoyed with a bottle of red. In his father of the bride speech Gerry had said in Italian (he was always full of surprises!) that his family were the lights of his life and he was certainly the light of theirs.

There are no regrets, Gerry’s was a life filled with love, Laughter and always a tale. Don’t remember Gerry with sadness, he wouldn’t want that, instead remember him with a smile and a raised glass!

#motherhood, Allotments, Blog, child rearing, life, Parenting, self worth, Uncategorized, women

Got to have your carrots dangling!

Being a parent is bloody hard work, actually being an adult is. There are so many demands and constraints and it can all get too much. Now I should mention that this is not a gardening nor an allotment blog. Not really, but read on…

I love carrots and we have had hit a hit and miss success with them. With a large pet rabbit and a shy guinea pig carrots are in high demand in our garden. But what I actually want to talk about is the figurative carrot. The carrot at the end of a stick with a donkey chasing it…. for now let’s forget about the stick!

The carrot encourages the donkey to continue running, that there is a reward at the end.

This is my key advice on life! You are the donkey and you need to have your carrot dangling! You need your reward for dealing with all the shit life throws at you, just ahead, in front of you, encouraging you to carry on.

Now your reward (your carrot) could be something big like a holiday or something small like a coffee with a friend. We are not all rich enough to afford brand new cars for example but we can all take an hour out to watch a favourite programme or do whatever floats your boat!

For me this idea came about when the kids were very little, I had three under 4 and it was a whirl wind of nappies, bottles, boobs and cold cups of tea. Finally after my youngest was about 6 months I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, or several lights, several carrots/rewards.

We booked a cheap get a way to Devon and that was a huge thing to look forward to. My mum who lives 300 miles away booked to come down more often, more rewards and my eldest was due to start reception and my middle child nursery. FINALLY I could perhaps have a bit of time to myself. My carrot! As she was my third I was happy to leave her sleeping while I had a hot (uninterrupted) shower! another carrot! Suddenly the first thought in my head when I woke up was not how would I cope with the monotony of my blessed day but more what ‘rewards’ I could fit in or was working towards.

Of course it goes without saying that children are a huge reward but I doubt there is a parent alive who would not agree that you need your other ‘rewards’ too!

Now as they are 11, 10 and 7 it is ‘slightly’ less labour intensive although still the idea of a hot mug of tea, unitterupted in my own home is still a big reward I can tell you.

This idea of rewards also obviously applies to allotments. For example we know as gardeners that the beds which can be such hardwork to dig will become the perfect growing areas for our plants and that in spring the seeds we sew will (Quite litrally in the case of carrots) become the vegetables we will enjoy in Summer. Not to mention the well deserved flask of coffee or glass of wine after a productive day on the plot.

When you think of it we use the analogy with kids. Eat your food then you can have desert. Do your homework then you can play etc and yet we are so crap at doing it with ourselves. Its almost like we don’t feel like we deserve it! Like as adults life itself is enough of a reward and it is but it is also bloody hard work and we deserve our carrots.

My own carrots might be a cup of tea and ten minutes on pintrest after writing this, a new hair do, a new camping accessory, a night out with the girls or simply an extra 10 minutes in bed!

Obviously everyone’s carrots are different but I honestly believe that you have to have your next reward to keep you going through the stresses and strains. Like the seasons themselves we know that after a long hard winter the spring will arrive and after that the summer and hopefully an actual bed of carrots!

Allotments, Blog, Campaign, campaigning, Community, council, Environment, Food, Gardening, Grow your own, Health, Judicial Review, Mayor, Permaculture, self sufficiency, The Good Life, Uncategorized

Farm Terrace Allotments now (and then)

(‘Now’ photos credit Marcus Dove)

Mayor Dorothy Thornhill and her Lib Dem council have finally bulldozed Farm Terrace allotments in Watford. All that remains are a couple of stubborn sheds (left to give the last few animals some refuge) and piles of rubble.
Of course we knew that this would happen and we know that in their embarrassment to wipe out any connection to an allotment site the area will change beyond recognition. That is why it is so important for us to record it now.


Farm Terrace allotments date back to 1896. They were at least three times the size they were at the end and reached out to behind the hospital and towards what is now Laurence Haines school. They can clearly be seen here behind Vicarage road stadium.

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Many people ask me what exactly Watford Borough council will do with the land and the truth is that we honestly don’t know. When the judge at the Royal courts of justice finally ruled in favour of them destroying the allotments she did so unconditionally.
Originally Watford borough council said it would all be used for a new hospital and then they said it would be for part hospital ‘buildings’ and partly for housing on the development known as the Health Campus. the irony was not lost on us and within a few years they could no longer claim any health benefit and the name has now been changed to the Riverwell development. Here is the latest photo that I could find of that and you can see the allotments listed as part of the Northern development zone, you can just about still make it out.

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In 2009 when we first got a plot on Farm terrace There were roughly 120 plots and around 90% occupancy. Typical of that of any allotment. We had neighbours all around and there was a waiting list for the vacant plots.


The first thing Watford Council did was to close the waiting list, they then asked for voluntary relocations. Some people who had already fought development took this. There then, as is well documented a huge public legal battle. We were fighting not just for our own site but for the protection off ALL allotments. In spite of our best efforts and after a bitter 6 year battle we lost. During this time, and make no mistake, in order to make the allotments look derelict, unused and unloved the council started picking off the remaining plot holders. We were offered, new plots, shiny new sheds and up to £1000,00 in compensation to vacate. In the end just 24 plot holders remained. I estimate that around 10 years ago there were probably about 90.


We won the first legal challenge and even after that, we continued to offer a compromise to the council. They could take most of the vacated site, but they were not interested. They wanted it all and I do believe the mayor Dorothy Thornhill wanted a win.
As per legal requirements we were offered replacement plots but there was nowhere near enough to take us all and the site offered was more than two miles away. In the end around 10 of us relocated to 4 or 5 different sites but the move was too difficult for most.


My own personal difficulty lies in the fact that for the local community of Farm Terrace (of which I am part) there are no local allotments now. Slowly over a period of time they have been cut back and cut back until now like Farm terrace there remains absolutely nothing!


We will still have our memories but soon all that will be left of Farm Terrace will be these blogs and the well documented press coverage of our case.

Allotments, Blog, Campaign, campaigning, Community, Environment, Gardening, Grow your own, Health, opinion, The Good Life, Uncategorized, Watford

Starting over again.

It has been one full year since we received the keys to our new allotment. It was bittersweet. After being evicted from Farm terrace, part of the legal requirement was to offer us a new plot on a new site. “Like for Like” that phrase will stick with me forever. In the end six of us took plots on the second nearest site of Hollywell allotments. It is about a 20 minute walk from our house whereas Farm Terrace was a 5 minute walk and was an old sewage farm so the quality and indeed general appeal was not ‘like for like’. However for the purpose of this blog I am not going to focus on the negative but instead the positive. I have had too many years of negative.

We went to look around the new site on a cold winter’s morning. It was not inspirational but then hardly any allotments are at that time of year! We talked about it and decided that we would take over an area of wasteland, thick with brambles and overgrown weeds so that we would be able to be together. The council would have to rotovate the ground and replace everything we had as part of the ‘relocation’ so at least we knew that we wouldn’t have to clear the plots. This did not make us popular with other plot holders as usually when you take on a plot it is your responsibility to get rid of anything unwanted.

This work was done and the plots were measured out. Those who had (and still wanted) 10 poles or 20 got them. We had 5 and we are happy with 5. The highlight for me was a brand new shed! At Farm terrace we had an enchanting home-made shed which had been left by the previous tenant. But for all its charm it was rat infested and falling apart! The shed the council had to give us is brand new (another big faux pas for other allotment folk) and big enough for the whole family to shelter from the rain in!

Because the quality of the soil at Farm terrace had been so good they also had to give us a lot of fertilizer. However this was dumped at the end of the allotment site and we had to organise ourselves to transport it to the new plots before anyone else could help themselves. This was done by wheel barrow load for load and took days.

I felt completely apathetic to the whole move. I can only liken it to having to have a pet dog put to sleep only to be given a new pup. Yes, it’s lovely and yes you are so ‘lucky’ but you don’t want the new puppy you want your old beloved dog. I felt hurt and completely unappreciative however for the sake of my family and friends I got on with it.

Now starting a new plot all over again is bloody hard work even with the ‘help’ we had but in our favour we had years of gardening experience and most importantly we had each other and that made it easier. We got to work quickly as a united group helping each other. Our first job was to put in the (now dilapidated) raised beds we brought with us from farm Terrace. I was also able to create a flower bed which I had always meant to get round
With the help of our friends we put in a patio in front of the shed and created space to sit and have a chat and a drink! We also made some temporary beds and began putting in plants and seedlings. My husband and I both work and could only spare weekends and the occasional morning or evening but I am proud of what we achieved.

Other ex Farm terrace plot holders were similar to us and worked about 50% of their plots others managed to work almost all of theirs again helped by the fact we were all in the same position and we could help each other. Thanks to Roger who is next to us I got my first ever harvest of peas!

The kids found it difficult at first. whereas before they had basically had the run of Farm terrace and knew it like the back of their hand they too had to start afresh and unfortunately they got shouted at a couple of times by other plot holders who understandably did not appreciate them on their plots!

Even I have found making new friends on the new site difficult. I had no enthusiasm left in me and was not in the mood to be happy and positive. Like most allotments our new one does not have an association and despite the desperate need it is often difficult to convince people. Allotments need an association because without one you cannot legally fight any threat of a land grab and, as we found out, an association brings people together even if the leg work can be difficult to begin with. Organising this is on my list of jobs for this next year.

The best thing about the new plot was that for the first time in 5 years we can plan and make arrangements for the future, It was never worth investing neither time or money in Farm terrace as we never knew if and when we could lose it. The luxury of being able to build something knowing it can be improved and bettered in the future is priceless.

In the middle of the summer we organised and held our first Allotment gathering and we invited past Farm terrace plot holders and supporters of our fight. It was a lovely day.

We have all named our plots Farm terrace Corner so that the name Farm terrace will never be forgotten. We regularly meet up there and have started a Wednesday coffee morning and have been able to encourage friends and neighbours to take plots on the site.

Now a year on I do feel positive about the new plot and have grown to love it as I did our last plot. We are lucky to have it and each other and gradually I have reduced the amount of times that I compare it (unfavourably) to Farm terrace. The kids feel like its home now and the added bonus of new children to play with is a luxury Farm terrace could not offer them.

I will never forgive Dorothy Thornhill and her Lib Dem Council for orchestrating and overseeing the destruction and abandonment of Farm Terrace Allotments. The people in that, my, local area who either live in small terraced houses or flats will never be able to grow food there. It will be a car park.
But now it is time to think about myself and to think about the future. That said I am aware that we are not safe from land grabbers. That no allotment site is. But prevention is the best medicine and if we can build a community here, create an association and make sure all the plots are worked it will be much harder to lose this plot.