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Today was all about giving something back for me. I gave blood today. There’s a mobile unit that comes to our company for the day every 3 months or so which makes it really convenient to just pop out and give a donation. Please check out this link as 96% of us rely on the other 4% to give blood so if you don’t give regularly please consider it. I have a rare blood type , that only 2% of us have, which I know they are desperate for at the moment, so it has become an important date in my diary.
I also had the pleasure of travelling to Southampton General Hospital to present cheques for £2600 each to The Friends of PICU and the Teenage Cancer Trust charities. This was the result of the fundraising efforts of my colleagues at work over 2009. It was a proud moment for me as I am Chairman of the Charity Committee and also Friends of PICU was the charity I nominated for all their support when we needed them when Chloe was born with a heart condition. I took the opportunity to take Chloe with me to say a personal thank-you.
They’ve got some really big projects on the go at the moment. Friends of PICU have been refurbishing the family accommodation, which we stayed in, and are looking to put in washing machines and dryers so families staying longer-term can be more comfortable. They are also funding a part-time counsellor that will help support families, and staff, from a non-clinical perspective. I know from our experiences just how important this will be. The Teenage Cancer Trust are building a facility at the hospital dedicated to teenager’s cancer treatment. Teenagers often fall between two stools either put into children’s wards with very young children or on adult wards with much older people. This facility will create the most positive environment for their recovery, with internet access, ‘chill-out’ rooms etc, which has been shown to increase survival rates by 15% which is amazing. It’s great to know our money is helping in some small way to achieving all this.
All in all a great day, being able to give something back feels good!
I headed up to London today for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final between Southampton and Carlisle at Wembley. It was a great day out with Saints winning 4-1 in an entertaining game. Regular readers may have seen my football page charting the progress through this competition. It started as a way of keeping in touch with a couple of friends of mine on a regular basis. Little did I know as Saints scraped past Torquay United on penalties that it would lead to this day out. Following Torquay came, Charlton Athletic, Norwich all at St.Mary’s stadium and then MK Dons in the Southern Area Final over 2 legs. For the full story click here.
We were three rows from the back of the stand, pretty high up, so had a great view and the atmosphere was fantastic with both sets of fans making the most of this Wembley day out. It was Carlisle’s fifth final, they have won once, and Saints first.
For the statto’s amongst you here’s some facts. The trophy competition started in the 1983/84 season and was first won by Bournemouth. Previous winners who now reside in the Premier League are Stoke, Wigan, Birmingham and Bolton. Attendences this year are up over 50%, 235,084 people saw the matches leading up to the final with around 73,000 at Wembley. Saints hold the record for a non-Wembley tie at 29,901 and took 44,000 fans to the final.
Carlisle dominated the early exchanges until Murphy inexplicably handled a Saints cross and conceded a penalty. Saints talisman Rickie Lambert duly scored on the quarter hour mark. From then on Saints took control with Lallina scoring just before half time. Some fans keen to get ahead of the half-time queues would have missed that one and those late back missed Saints third nodded in by Papa Waigo. Antonio finished off Carlisle with a great shot from the edge of the box to make it 4-0 on the hour. A late consolation goal was conceded as Madine scored in the 84th minute. For the full match report click here.
Today was the Winterslow & District Horticultural Society’s Spring Show and the local village hall was full of flowers and other exhibits. I couldn’t go last year and this year the entries are significantly down so I can only imagine what it would be like on a good year.
I managed to get one entry in, 5 daffodils (3 varieties), but now I’ve seen the categories I could have entered 3 or 4 more classes. I won 2nd prize! Rach entered a Victoria sponge, although had a bit of a disaster with the edge of one half breaking away slightly but she managed to patch it up and also won a 2nd prize! That will go down nicely later with a cup of tea! So not bad considering we weren’t going to enter anything just before the deadline.
First and second prize in the flowering shrub went to a Mahonia Japonica (should have entered mine!).
Nice collections of spring flowers.
The baking section.
This flower arrangement won a first prize in the “arrangement for Easter” class.
This arrangement took second prize.
This arrangement won the “fun without flowers” class.
Last, but not least, were the children’s entries, decorated eggs, welly boots, Easter hats and bunnies!
I’ll definitely be trying some more classes next year and can’t wait for the summer show now as I did really well last year.
First though I’ve got my sights on the Salisbury Community showin early July. The schedule is out now so if you live around Salisbury why not give it a go? See you there!
Had a day off work today to catch up with a few jobs round the house and garden. My last post said I was giving up on this year’s Spring Show but I’ve been talked into entering one of the classes as entries are only half what they were last year (Rach is also entering one of her lovely Victoria sponges). So first job was to get some daffs cut for the class of 5 daffodils, three varities. I’ve grown three varieties of daffs, St. Keverne, Ice Follies and Fortune plus there’s a few random ones scattered around the garden already. So now there’s a dozen cut flowers in water and I’m hoping they will be in full bloom for tomorrow.
I’m really pleased with the daffodils in the front garden, they’ve started to bloom at last!
I wanted to do a tidy up of the flower beds and noticed that I do have a hellebore growing, just the one flower, despite what I said in my previous post. Hadn’t noticed it before, I have no idea when I planted it!
I noticed the smaller of my two Japonica’s was still in flower (the larger one flowers in Autumn).
I tidied up the herb containers ready for some new arrivals in a couple of weeks.
On the veg front everything is growing on well. I planted some broad beans that I’d grown in toilet rolls and noticed that some of the ones I’d sown direct ages ago are just starting to poke through the soil. I dug over the main bed that I manured a few weeks ago so that can settle ready for some salad potatoes that I’ll put in next weekend. No sign of my exhibition carrots yet but all the salad veg I sowed under the cold frames has germinated nicely.
Strange going’s on in the onion bed though. I covered the shallots and onions with one of my mesh tunnels to stop the birds pulling them out. Now a hole has appeared at one side of the mesh tunnel and something, I presume a rat, has tunneled underneath two of the onion rows and there’s a couple of tiny carrots lying on the soil surface. So this creature must have found a couple of tiny carrots in the soil I’d dug over in one of the other beds and dragged them through it’s tunnel in my onion bed. Weird! I replaced the soil and put back the one onion that had been dug up so no damage done really.
It turns out I don’t know my trumpets from my doubles, my multi-headed from my large cup, the list goes on! I didn’t realise that showing spring flowers was so complicated. Add the fact that only a couple of the 100 or so daffs I planted in Autumn are starting to show themselves and apparently I should have already cut them in preparation for Saturday’s show. To heap misery on the situation the tulips are weeks away and I don’t even grow hellebores or container primulas. I give up!
So I will just be a spectator come Saturday afternoon rather than in the running for a 1st or a cup. I’ll have to wait for the Summer show to take on my local rivals!
Joined the library today, first time since I was a teenager. I picked up 3 books, “How to Grow Your Own Food – a week-by-week guide to wildlife friendly fruit and vegetable gardening” by Dirty Nails of the Blackmore Vale Magazine; “Using the Plot – tales of an Allotment Chef” by Paul Merrett; “Dahlias – the complete guide” by Philip Damp, former General Secretary of the National Dahlia Society no less. I’m sure there’ll be loads of handy hints in them and, best of all, it didn’t cost me a penny!
The RHS Grow Your Own pack arrived through the door today. Nicely presented, inside were some recipe cards, a glossy pull-out poster with RHS events on one side and a handy fruit and veg planner on the other. Plus a packet of tomato and carrot seeds. Just waiting for the BBC DigIn pack to arrive now. Even if I don’t need the seeds they’re great to give to novice gardening friends to get them into growing their own too!
In previous years I’ve just grown veg, now I’m embracing the dark side and having a go at growing flowers. It’s a pretty miserable day here and I’ve been left alone to look after the girls. Rach is off at a local NCT sale helping out and trying to make some spending money for our holiday.
So in between nursery rhymes, painting, stories etc I thought I’d sow some flower seeds. I moved the operation indoors and the dining table became a temporary sowing area. I’ve recently received some seeds from Maureen which was amazing and a very kind offer. She has collected them from her garden, something which I need to learn to do this year! And put a little note on each packet to help me. There’s a whole host of them, some I’ve never heard of, so it’s exciting to learn more about them and to see their progress. Here’s the list:
Mixed Sweet Peas
Red Orach – hardy vegetable like spinach and deep red leaves mean it can be used as an ornamental border plant.
Sweet William – to be sown direct outside
Cenrinthe Major pururascens
Nasturtium tom thumb mixed
California Poppy ‘Golden Values’
Pumpkin Rouge Vif d’Etamps
Tomato Gardener’s Delight
I’ve sown all but the Poppies and Sweet William in a mixture of trays and pots filled 3/4 full with moist multi-purpose and topped with seed compost. After sowing I’ve covered the larger seeds with a thin layer of seed compost and the smaller ones with just a sprinkling of vermiculite. Then into the sink to soak up some water and then onto the windowsill. Job done!
Most of the seeds sown so far are up and well away with the first true leaves on the cauliflower, calabrese, onions, sunflowers and lettuce. I have some peppers and chilli seedlings coming on and waiting for the courgette and squash to germinate. I’m really pleased that all 3 cucumber seeds I’ve sown have come up as the seed I use, Dobies Carmen F1, is quite expensive at £3.75 for 6-8 seeds (although I do get 50% discount on that price ordering through my local Horticultural Society). If they survive the pack of seeds has latest me two seasons and I will manage to give one plant away each year as I only need two plants in the greenhouse to be self-sufficient in cucumbers from May-October (and we eat a lot of cucumber!). So all in all good value.
A week to go to our local Spring Show and my daffs are nearly there.
I’ve never entered, or even been to, the Spring Show before so have no idea what I’m doing other than what’s on the schedule. I was hoping to enter some of the flowers I planted as bulbs back in the Autumn. There’s a dozen daffodil classes of various sizes and types, a couple of tulip classes (no chance for me as mine are only 3″ out of the ground), flowering shrub, primula and a few other classes such as collection of spring bulb, mixed vase of cut spring flowers etc. Then there are handicraft, homecraft, photography, art, flower arranging and junior sections. We’ll see how it goes, I need to get my entry form in a couple of days beforehand so I will wait and see what I’ve got in the middle of next week.
Here’s the Plot Defender aka “Polo”, my dog, a rescue Staffie cross. He hasn’t featured on this blog before. He likes sticks and proving how destructible so called indestructible toys are (I used to have a Staffie as a kid, Grip, full pedigree name, Grip ‘The Dandy’ III – he used to chew up a car tyre in a few weeks!). Polo’s dislikes are cats and pigeons so he makes a great defender of my patch of earth.
Whilst I’ve been typing Chloe has been busy practising being the next Jackson Pollack!
What a lovely day we’ve had. I was up early with my youngest daughter, Emily, who woke just after 5.30. Managed to get her back to sleep after a bottle which meant I could get out and walk the dog for an hour whilst Rach had a lie in before the girls woke. I take our dog Polo on a circular walk around the village which follows an old Roman road for part of the way. I always wonder about the legions marching up the road from Winchester direction to Old Sarum, who knows what artefacts lie buried around this area beneath the fields. Got to the top of the hill and the sun was just coming up over a distant ridge, what a cracking sunrise it was and the sun was in my face all the way down the hill through the village.
Inspired by UpHillDownDale’s Weymouth post I decided to take the family down there for Mother’s Day. I hadn’t been for years, it’s just over an hours drive down the A354. They’re building a new Olympic relief road on the approach to Weymouth and apparently have unearthed a viking burial site containing 51 decapitated vikings.
We had a nice day, first at the farmer’s market which is on the 2nd Sunday of every month. Bought a few things, smoked mackerel, sausages, an Aberdeen Angus pasty and a bottle of Liberation from Suthwyk Ales which is going down well as I type. The girls tucked into some cheesy foccacia bread as we strolled up the line of stalls. Then we walked down past the marina, through the harbour, and along the sea front. The sun shone most of the time, the odd cloud here and there but very pleasant. Some fish and chips on the prom for lunch and a wander round the town. I’d recommend Weymouth plenty to see for a day out.
Mark Anderson does these sand sculptures on the beach keeping this tradition alive.
An old tall ship with the Condor ferry in the background. You can catch a ferry to the Channel Islands and St.Malo from here.
Forgive the film quote but I couldn’t resist for the title of this post. Like many people I have had no real success in growing standard carrots in my first couple of years. There were a few last year which got me 2nd prize in the local summer show but the fact that the judge couldn’t bring himself to award a first prize tells its’ own story. People round my way struggle with carrots!
I am a Finance Manager by trade; not anything to do with banking I hasten to add, and although I am not one of those that talks in ‘management speak’ one thing that has sunk in is that “if you don’t change something you will continue to get the same result”. So this year it’s all change on the carrot-front. So following my usual ‘run before you can walk’ approach I’m having a crack at growing exhibition standard long carrots! Why not I can’t do much worse than I have already.
The seeds have arrived, they are ‘Javelot’, a long carrot from Exhibition Seeds. If they get anywhere near those in the photo I’ll be well chuffed.
I’m growing the majority in a raised bed but the main effort will go into two sand-filled dustbins. These have been ‘settling’ for a couple of weeks.
An Internet trawl led me to Ted Bailey’s “Grow and show guidelines” and a recipe for the growing medium as follows: to 25 litres of John Innes number 3 compost add 16 ounces of silver sand, 8 ounces of medium vermiculite, 8 ounces of calcified seaweed and finally 4 ounces of lime. I bought the John Innes and lime from Scats, the Silver sand from Homebase and the vermiculite and seaweed from eBay. I mixed the ingredients in a wheelbarrow and then seived the lot throwing any lumps onto the plot.
First I watered each dustbin to get the sand nice and moist. Then using a long thin iron bar I made a 3″ diameter tapered hole in the sand near the outer edge of the dustbin. I then filled with the growing medium, I did this carefully by hand tamping down with my fingers to get rid of any air pockets. I then packed in as many as I could (Ted recommends 6 inches apart, mine where a bit closer together than that). I managed to get 12 holes into the first dustbin and 15 into the second as I got a bit better at it.
I then carefully watered each of the filled holes and sowed 4 or 5 seeds in each. They will be thinned to leave the strongest one and the foliage supported in some way eventually to prevent any damage. I covered in fleece to speed up germination a bit.
That’s it, all in all it took me a couple of hours to do and hopefully it’s just a case of keeping an eye on their progress and I should have some exhibition standard carrots. We’ll see!
It was a lovely afternoon, and as I wandered around the garden I found some more signs of spring.
And my one and only rhubarb crown is growing for the 2nd year.
I picked any dying leaves of the overwintered lettuce (winter density) and was pleased to see some signs of growth. I wish I’d put the plastic bottle cloches on earlier, like before the snow, as they may have been bigger by now. Still they’ve survived.
Finally I made up the two plastic cold frames I bought cheap from B&Q last year. I set them up on one of the raised beds and sowed some salad veg in them. Lettuce (Salad Bowl and Red Deer’s Tongue), Spring Onions (White Lisbon and Lilia), Radish (Mixed, Saxa and Albena) and some Wild Rocket.
All in all a satisfying afternoon. Off to the coast tomorrow for a well earned family day out.