A new coat for winter

Earlier this autumn we realized that our (attractively?) scruffy, weathered allotment sheds were becoming a bit too dilapidated. The roof of the green one was leaking and the protective stains covering the wood had essentially been worn away. Some sort of  refurbishment was sorely needed if we wanted them to remain standing through the coming winter winds and rain. So we finally assembled the necessary supplies to give them a much-needed spruce up.

“Forest Green” – the thirsty wood soaked up the paint and cried for more.

She loves to paint – even sheds.

The little red shed brightens up.

We’re pleased with the results – aesthetically and practically. But do you know what the best thing about finally getting around to painting the sheds was?

In preparing to paint, Nick cleared away the nettles and logs from behind the green shed and by doing so unearthed my long-lost set of keys! There they were, rusting but perfect, right where they must have been flung out of the door’s lock months before. Hooray!

Potato harvest

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the weather, our potato and tomato plants had succumbed to blight while we were away. A fungal disease, blight is almost impossible to avoid in rainy summers. It causes the leaves and stems of the plants to turn brown and rot. Soon the fruit is also affected and becomes inedible. It is evil.

Tomatoes ripening on the windowsill. These represent about half of our total crop for 2012.

Blight basically wiped out our tomato crop this year, and experience tells me that I really must stop trying to grow tomatoes outside in this climate! Especially full-sized ones. We’ve eaten a few cherry tomatoes from plants we stuck in pots at home and, without a proper greenhouse, that’s probably all I can reliably hope for. Rather than be willfully optimistic in the face of hard evidence, my growing plans for next year will not include tomatoes.

Now, blight on potatoes is also bad, but not as instantaneously devastating. As soon as we returned, we cut the blackened foliage at soil-level and left the tubers in the ground a couple of weeks so the skins could harden some more. Then we dug the crop up. It’s fun to dig potatoes – like a treasure hunt. We laid the harvest out on the soil and, considering the rotten season, it didn’t look too shabby.

Charlotte – in better condition than the King Edward and Pink Fir Apple varieties.

Red Desiree – a great-tasting all-rounder

We placed the potatoes into paper sacks to bring home to store in the cool of the garage (along with some deliciously tart damsons we gathered from nearby trees).

It would be nice if the story ended there – with a vision of our larder well-stocked with potato varieties to see us through til spring (which did actually happen last year!). Unfortunately, blight-affected potatoes do not store well. They are compromised and rot especially quickly. Also, many of these potatoes have slug holes in parts of them (quel surprise!), and these invasions invite decay as well. I had to go through the lot yesterday and throw out a number which were already bad. So, the starch of choice for the next month or so will most likely be – potatoes.