Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Operation OAP (Old Age Pussycats)

Snow - Elderly & flea ridden
Mollie - A dainty damsel in distress
In a world where we seem to be bombarded with negative news I would like to tell you a story to warm the cockles of your heart.

Please don’t do a social media flit through and just like the story; read through to the end and share the love.

Now grab yourself a cup of tea or coffee, maybe a biscuit or a slice of cake and read the story of Operation OAP (Old Age Pussycats).

A couple of weeks ago I heard the sorry tail (see what I did there) of 3 rather elderly cats.

Nutty - Longed for fuss
Snow, Nutty and Mollie were rescue cats who had been adopted by somebody my friend knows. She loved and cared for them and all 
was well in their world.

Then several months ago she moved in with a man and abandoned the cats –WRONG CHOICE MISSUS

Her sister took them in as a last resort and I can only imagine the shock and sadness these cats felt as their lives changed dramatically at probably the worst time it could happen – in their twilight years.

Whilst the motives of the sister were kind, the reality unfortunately is a bit of an EastEnders storyline. She already has one dog, three children and one young grandchild in the house and it is tough making ends meet. She and the original loved up owner made a few attempts to find homes for the cats, including contacting rescue centres.

Tragically the general consensus was that 3 would be a struggle, especially at their ages and the eldest, the gorgeous Snow, would be an immediate PTS. Any other option would require very expensive tests before they would accept them, which no one had the resources for.

Things were going from bad to worse for our sorry felines. They became riddled with fleas and were turned out of the house. They were fed and watered, but the food could be intermittent and had no cosy beds or corners to sleep. But most of all they weren’t having any of the TLC they craved.

 My friend tried to help by taking food and flea collars round and look for a home. She has 2 elderly rescue cats already, including a neurotic ginger whose mind would be fully blown by having other cats coming to live with him. She has had anxious moments trying to think of how to help.

The Hoff - he says NO!
I met up with my friend the other week and she told me the story. My immediate reaction was to want to rush round there and rescue them. But then what would I do with them? I also have a neurotic ginger cat and ‘the Hoff’ gets stressed out if another cat moves into the county, never mind being joined by 3 cats in his home…

It was time to get the thinking cap on and I started to put out the feelers, but it was not looking good.

I was gradually getting the full picture and it was becoming worse the more I heard: 3 elderly cats; Snow is around 16, Nutty 14 and Mollie 14. 

Mollie is a girl (I know, nothing wrong with my powers of deduction) Nutty and Snow are both boys. As they were from a rescue they were neutered. 

BUT they were all riddled with fleas, especially Snow; they probably had worms; their vaccinations had not been kept up to date; they were living outside and in the words of The Game of Thrones ‘Winter is coming’.

I reached out to an amazing friend on Facebook who has been involved in the collection of ex battery hens and finding new lovely homes for them. You’re probably not supposed to use the term battery hens anymore, but I have seen what they look like after intensive egg laying in horrendous conditions and it is not good. Anyway, Mel has worked tirelessly for these birds and cares so much about all animals. I knew that if anyone had a contact who would want to help these OAPs it wold be Mel.

I contacted her on the Sunday morning. By Sunday evening the plan was sorted. This was all thanks to the amazing Fenland Animal Rescue http://www.fenlandanimalrescue.org.uk/ in Peterborough.

Joshua and his small but brilliant team swung into action. The plan was made with offers of lifts, beds, bedding, scratching posts, food etc. A home was found for all 3 to stay together.

One of many cosy corners 
We then just faced one problem, where could they stay to get their initial assessments, treatments and fleas sorted. Their future owner has cats and whilst she was delighted to offer a home to our OAPs, she was less keen that their thousands of friends came with them.

I asked Hoff, but he slapped me across the face with his paw, so back to Mel then. 

She has an aviary in the garden (bigger than my lounge). It is water proof there are paving slabs and rubber mats. By the time she had finished making into a pussycat palatial paradise it was the ideal staging post. It wouldn’t be too big a shock for the cats and would make a perfect location for the de-fleaing process.

It is taking a lot of resources to
care for these loving & lovely cats
I picked up the cats on Wednesday, which I was able to do because my boss gave me the afternoon off. She also gave me a donation for what is going to be an expensive programme of care for the cats be warned, I will be returning to this point later (hint hint).

I went to where they have been living and I am not going to lie, it was not a good place. The first thing I must say is the woman who took them in did so with a kind heart because she didn’t want them to be put to sleep, but unfortunately the care was lacking.

Basically they were living outdoors and in an alleyway down the side of the house, which was very smelly. Even the condition of the garden was not good and there were a lot of hazards for them to contend with. The cats ran towards me when I got there and clearly they were absolutely desperate for love.

Any residual doubts I had about if it was the right thing to get involved and if their plight was really as desperate as I imagined disappeared at this moment.

Packed up and ready for their new lives...
I loaded Snow, Nutty and Mollie into the boot of the estate car I had borrowed, thanks Dad, and gave them some biscuits before starting the journey to their halfway house.

Turns out that Snow is quite a chatty catty and we conversed for most of the journey whilst Nutty and Mollie snuggled up together. It was a long drive and they did very well, but it was a great relief to get to Mel’s.

We took them straight to their temporary home and let them out. Mel had put down food, biscuits and water and all 3 dived in and polished off the lot – which is quite unusual for elderly cats to want such big portions at one sitting.

A little uncertain, as they have been through a lot
We sat with them and had a coffee whilst they settled in. Mollie and Nutty headed for a little hen house with fresh smelling bedding and curled up together, a few moments later they were washing themselves. 

Snow was more anxious, but also clearly keen to be around us. They had all been round for strokes and seemed to just enjoy having the company.

Mel had set up various cosy, enclosed beds at different levels with planks of woods as ramps, litter trays, a heat lamp and heating pads.

I gave Snow a lovely stroke before I left and got a rub around my legs. I opened the lid of where Mollie and Nutty were nestled and was greeted by the sound of them purring…

Nutty & Mollie settle in - their purring contentment makes it all worth while!

Nutty tucks in
Mel is giving me regular reports and they have all settled into their routine. They don’t eat as much as on day one, but it is still a lot for older cats and it is obvious that Nutty and Snow especially are food anxious. In just a couple of days their characters are starting to show and they clearly love having all the TLC and time that Mel is giving them.

They are not out of the woods yet. They have been to the vets and received treatments for fleas and worms with blood tests being taken to check for any major issues. They had to wait for their vaccinations because the vet advised that Snow especially needed to improve his general condition since it is a live virus which could knock them sideways. 

Snow's coat was brown with flea poo
& he was teeming with fleas
Mel said that she has never seen anything like the number of fleas coming off Snow and believe me she has been involved in a lot of rescues. The poor wee man even has them on his face, forehead and between his toes. He also has cystitis and Mel has some cranberry juice to add to his water. The vet has also fallen in love with them because all 3 behaved so well and even gave him a lot of love! 

The thing I found so sad when I first heard the story, was that all 3 faced the possibility of being put to sleep just because they are old and their final memories would then have been the worst time of their lives; just when they had every right to expect a warm, loving and safe home to see out their days.

Whatever happens over the coming weeks and months they are getting that now with Mel and they have a loving owner and cosy home waiting for them.
Much deserved fuss for this gorgeous old boy
I am sharing this story because I’m not embarrassed to say that it has made my heart swell.

We are bombarded with bad news and stories which only spotlight the truly awful people and terrible events and I truly believe that this has a negative impact on how we view the world.
Snow & Mollie enoying the comfort of a heat lamp
and freshly groomed coats
 This story is about those who go out of their way to help. It is not an easy thing to do and it is going to cost Fenland Animal Rescue a lot of money to help not only our 3 OAPs, but every other animal that they rescue.

Mollie, starting to relax knowing she is loved and cared for

It is very easy for you to become a part of this positive story. PLEASE DONATE AND SHARE
Oh Snow!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Brussels Sprouts – not just for Christmas!

Is it really just one month since many us were bursting at the seams following a yummy Christmas
dinner and for many their annual helping of Brussels Sprouts?

These little green vegetables are synonymous with Christmas dinner and have been the butt of many jokes, including the late great Terry Wogan’s annual reminder in September to put the sprouts on so they are ready for Christmas.

I am going to stick my hand in the air and declare that I am in the pro-sprouts corner and have been known to eat them on days other than the 25th December, which is lucky as I always get a good crop from my allotment and it would be a terrible shame to let them go to waste.

Forget Brexit and Marmite, Brussels sprouts are a key issue dividing this nation - many of us love ‘em, but just as many of you hate ‘em and would be happy to see this little brassica off the menu 365 days per year.

Soggy, smelly and tasteless
Are not members of the cabinet, though on second thoughts…

They are in fact words which have often be used to describe the Brussels sprout.

If you were unlucky enough to endure an annual helping of overcooked sprouts, then I can certainly understand your prejudice against them, but in the age of the steamer and a myriad of imaginative recipes it is very each easy to avoid the Ssts.

Fart fuel
Speaking of tasteless! Unfortunately the humble sprout also endures a reputation for causing rather odious emissions. [insert your own 'Trump' gag here]

It is not the only food to have this side effect; beans, dairy produce, onions and the brassica family are other examples. The common denominator between them is they are all hard to digest which causes tummy turmoil.

The brassica flatulence is because they contain a complex sugar called Rafinose and our intestines lack the necessary enzymes to break this down. The bacteria in our guts will have a good go, but this process generates an explosive mix of hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide.

So this creates the wind, but what on earth makes them so smelly? This is due to brassicas have a sulphur containing chemical to help protect their leaves and this is at the root of the smelly flatulence problems which some people experience.

People’s individual ‘fartability’ depends very much on the bacteria community living inside our own unique colony.

If you are a chronic sufferer (or your family and friends are) then eating more vegetables can help your body become more adept at dealing with roughage. There also dietary supplements designed to help break down complex sugars; or you may want to invest in a pair of charcoal pants, reputed to absorb nasty niffs. If all else fails, you can always get a dog.

And now for the positives
I have always found Brussels sprouts the easiest of the brassicas to grow. All gardeners come to know what will and won’t flourish in their region and many of the brassicas, especially broccoli and cabbages don’t seem to thrive in my corner of East Anglia. Therefore sprouts are a great source of greens and in season through the winter.

If you can’t grow them it is worth finding places other than supermarkets to buy them, such as independent farm shops. Try to get the trees and ask them to leave the tops on, as these are delicious steamed, or fried in a little butter.

They are also comparatively cheap and if you do have to get them from supermarkets they can often be found at a really bargain price in the reduced area.

It is a very versatile vegetable and below are a couple of my favourite recipes:

Creamy Brussels sprouts
This is often the recipe I use for my Christmas sprouts and just add in some chestnuts.

  • 1 kg/2lb 3¼oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 8 rashers cured bacon, cut into pieces
  • 250ml/8¾fl oz. double cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Cook the Brussels sprouts in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes. Drain and refresh in a bowl of ice and water. Drain again when the sprouts have cooled. (I am going to be very honest and say I have yet to bother to refresh them in said bowl of ice)
  • Add the bacon and fry over a medium heat until crisp.
  • Add the cream and crushed garlic to a small pan and bring to the boil.
  • Stir the sprouts into the crisp bacon; then stir in the hot cream.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve straightaway.

Deep-fried sprouts with goat’s cheese and black chilli flakes
You can also shallow fry or roast this dish. Black chillies have been chosen for their sweetness and because they are not overly spic.  However, they can be difficult to find and you can use red chilli flakes instead (maybe reduce the quantity)

Serves 4
  • 30-35 sprouts, bases trimmed, outer leaves removed
    4 tbsp. soft goat’s cheese
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ tsp grain mustard
  • A dash of milk
  • Salt
  • 2 sprigs of parsley
  • Black chilli flakes, or red chilli flakes

  • If your sprouts need washing, pat them with kitchen paper, making sure they are really dry. Then score both ends, from the top to almost halfway down.
  • Mash or blitz the goat’s cheese with the olive oil and mustard. Add milk until a thick drizzling consistency is achieved. Season with salt to taste – fried food takes a lot of seasoning, so make sure that the flavours come through really well.
  • Deep-fry the Brussels sprouts at about 165-170C/330-340F, until the outside few layers of leaves are going golden brown, but the inside is still green.
  • Drain and tip on to kitchen roll and leave, preferably in a warm place, for a minute or two. Season with fine salt.
  • While the sprouts are resting, wash and chop the parsley, arrange the sprouts on a big plate, drizzle with the goat’s cheese dressing and sprinkle with chilli flakes and the parsley. Serve while warm.

The best description I have heard of Brussels sprouts is from a friend of mine - she always calls them fairy cabbages and who doesn’t want to eat fairy cabbages more than once a year…

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Winter – time to lay the foundations for your allotment

On the 1 January 2016 I fell down a few stairs and managed to rupture my ankle ligaments – the most shocking part of this story is that I was stone cold sober and not even hungover from New Year’s Eve!

It was obvious that the diagnosis wasn't going to be good after I took my boot and sock off and the Dr's first reaction was eugh!

Before this accident I had managed to dig over a couple of beds and plant my garlic, but the majority of the winter clear and dig was still to be done and this injury saw me spend the whole year playing catch up and it was probably the worst year on the allotment so far.

 Hopefully 2017 will be a better but this means putting the spadework in over the winter.

Dig, condition, leave repeat
Deep breath for the first job is to dig the beds. 

There is a good chance if you ask 10 allotmenteers how to prepare a bed you will get 10 different answers – some will advocate the double dig; some prefer the no dig approach, some like to clear all the stones as they go along  but get rid of one stone and 10 will appear for its funeral!

My chosen method is to dig the bed with a large fork, taking out old crops, except for the nitrogen enriching bean roots, clearing the weeds and breaking up any large clods of earth. I remove rocks, but leave stones, which help with the drainage, especially if you live in an area with a clay-based soil, like Cambridgeshire.

You can then add manure and/or compost if it needs it for the next year’s crop and that bed is ready for the frost and the worms to do their work.

Come the spring time each bed just needs a quick once over with the large fork, then use a smaller fork if necessary and finally rake it over.

General tidy up
Winter is a good time to give your plot, tools etc. a tidy and preparation for the next season and big congratulations to everyone who manages to complete the job list they set themselves at the start of the winter.

My ever-growing pile of crop labels are testament to my annual failure to sit down with a bucket of warm water and a wire brush to clean the writing off ready for the next sowing season #epicfail

I do usually manage the general tidy up of the allotment, gathering string and sticks and getting rid of any rubbish etc. and have every good intention to take the time to oil my fork, spade and other tools…

Let the sowing and planting begin
Yes, you can still plant and sow at this time of year. Winter garlic should already be in and once again mine has come from the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight, including their fantastic elephant garlic.

It is also fine to sow over-winter lettuce and some spinach, both under cloches, to ensure some nice early crops, which give a great sense of satisfaction early in your allotment year.

Winter is the perfect time to plan your beds for the next season. I rotate my crop planting, as this helps with the general health of the plot.

With the plan in place I can look at getting vegetable seeds, along with any companion and
bee attracting flower seeds. Most of the flowers I love such as sweet peas, calendula, cornflowers, poppies and the very useful, but prolific nasturtiums are self-seeding, but I may well supplement this with some purchases from the wonderful Higgledy Garden  http://higgledygarden.com/

So, (pun intended!) that is the Winter to do list – now just need to get on with it and avoid staircases…

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Such a perfect day

In an orchard with quite a view
Then later made jam for you
And then home

A few months ago a very nice couple bought some strawberry jam from my Auntie Allie stall and mentioned that they have some plums trees. They said they can never harvest all of them and would I like to have some when they ripened.

That would be a resounding “yes please”.

I got a call to say they were ready and so Dad and I headed out there with our full plum picking kit which, as it was a very sunny day, included hats, water, sticks with a hooked end to pull branches towards us without damaging them and crates for putting the plums in.

We turned up at the address, which turned out to be a lovely farmhouse where we met their very friendly Staffie dog.

These poor dogs have gained a terrible reputation, but from working at an animal rescue centre I just know them as very loving animals, who really struggle in the kennels because they crave human company. In fact, many people refer to them as ‘Nanny dogs’, as they are seen as being very suitable pets for families to have. Of course, as with all animals, it is nearly always about how they are raised and treated, but I digress from my perfect day!

It was then a short walk down a farmhouse track to the orchard – a bit more than just a few trees then. The orchard was created in the 1920s and included many varieties of plums including Blue Tsars, Victoria and Greengages.

We were there for the Blue Tsars, as the Victoria and Greengages aren't quite ready yet.

The trees were dripping with fruit. Blue Tsars are a variety I haven’t tried before and they are yummy. However, the key with fruit picking is to collect more than you eat!

There were quite a few wasps around, attracted by this fruity bounty, but I found that if I just kept calm and out of their way, they were happy enough to share.

Oh and this was the view from the orchard – not bad!

Once we had filled a couple of crates, Dad and I headed back to the farmhouse where we were treated to homemade scones, with homemade jam. Theirs is a kitchen that sits at the heart of the home, and they even have a Rayburn range cooker in the corner.

Although I could have moved in permanently, we did eventually leave with our haul. There was no cash payment made, instead I left them with a jar of homemade jam and chutney (not plum flavour) along with some salad and vegetables from the allotment.

I then decided to take full advantage of the sunny day, by heading up to the allotment.

They are also looking fabulous at this time of year and this was my afternoon view, which isn't bad either.

This is harvest time on the plot as well and my bounty included raspberries, lettuce, spring onions carrots, green beans and of course courgettes!

You can always tell someone who is new to veg growing, when they turn up at the allotments with ten little courgette plants for their plot. If you suffer with having too many courgettes, then here is a blog I wrote earlier http://auntieallieproduce.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/the-courgette-conundrum.html but again I digress...

The final part of my day was starting to make delicious stuff with the plums – there were so many, that I spent the next couple of days making various jams and chutneys for the Auntie Allie stall, oh and friends and family as well.

I have made a couple of batches of plum and cinnamon jam, some plum and apricot (also home grown) jam and finally a spicy plum chutney.

So this is the recipe for Auntie Allie’s perfect day - A farmhouse, a dog, an orchard, meeting nice people, working at my allotment, harvesting produce and making stuff from it.

This growing your own and making your own lifestyle is not an easy one, but it is one that soothes the soul, which is why I would love the opportunity to do it full time!

Feel free to contact me if you would like to help make the dream a reality – there will be a jar or two of homemade jam and chutney in it for you!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Step away from the rhubarb

That’s it, rhubarb harvesting season is over…

 … well, so my Mum says, but there are a few schools of thought on this issue.

The folklore is that you should stop pulling rhubarb on June 24th, as this is the date the devil goes into it. This seems a very precise date, and with all the rhubarb growing, in the UK alone, he is going to be spread very thin!

However, like many of these stories, there may well be some sensible reasoning behind it. Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which is poisonous if consumed and an irritant if it is contact with your skin for an extended period of time. Over the course of the season this acid is said to start to travel down the stems, so it makes sense not to pull it too late. 

The general consensus is that the harvesting period is between May and July/August. However, I am not one to argue with my Mum, so no more rhubarb for me this year.

Thankfully, it has been a good year for this vegetable in my area, so I have plenty of yummy rhubarb chutney and rhubarb and ginger jam in stock. This is very fortunate as they are both very popular on the Auntie Allie market stall and in the Auntie Allie house.

If you don’t grow rhubarb already, then I can recommend it as an easy to grow, easy to maintain crop with lots of uses.

How I planted mine

I got mine from a fellow allotmenteer who was ready to divide his. Rhubarb crowns (the name for the plant which is over a year old) should be divided every 5 – 6 years and when the plant is lying dormant in the winter. You use a spade to cut it into three or four parts. It seems like a very destructive thing to do, but rhubarb is very, very tough – which anyone who has tried to get rid of it will know. 

You just need to make sure that each of the pieces has a large bud to provide the shoots for the following year.

I then dug a hole a bit bigger than the new crown, placed a load of alpaca poo in the bottom, then the rhubarb crown on top of that. I then firmed it in and watered well.


Now you need to show some patience, as your new rhubarb will thank you for leaving it be for a year to become established. In year two, it is worth showing a little restraint and then from year three you can harvest away, although don’t pull more than half of the plant at a time.

Pulling, is exactly the right term to describe how you should harvest your rhubarb. Reach down to the base of the stalk, give a slight twist and then gently pull, don’t cut it. Trim off the leaves, which are fine to go in your compost bin. I have also heard of some people using them as a weed suppressant, but I haven’t tried that yet to say whether it works or not.

Over winter care

The plant will start to die back naturally, but for the winter you should make sure the stalks are removed, as it is important to expose the crown to any winter frosts we hopefully get to experience. I also give the crown a good helping of more alpaca manure, which certainly seems to ensure a very good crop.

Cooking with Rhubarb

Rhubarb and ginger jam is very popular. Less well known, but very yummy is rhubarb chutney, which is definitely one I like to keep in my stores cupboard.

Rhubarb crumble is a firm favourite and is the pudding of choice for many a family roast dinner.

For the more exotic tastes you can try making a rhubarb and custard cocktail, rhubarb and ginger syllabub or you can always just stew it.

Au revoir rhubarb, until 2016...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

I Have Just Enjoyed a Very Dirty Weekend…

...putting manure on the allotment

In the days when most families kept a milk cow or chickens, animal manure was commonly used as a garden fertilizer. But with changes in food production methods and the advent of artificial fertilizers, many gardeners stopped using it.

Fortunately, many organic growers have re-discovered the benefits of manure as a fertilizer, soil conditioner and compost ingredient.

The reason that manure is referred to as ‘black gold’ is that it is such a prime source of N-P-K which is the value given to fertilizers, whether they be man-made or organic. This doesn't stand for Nitrogen per Kilogram or Nice Plot Kisses, but refers to the content of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), which are so beneficial to the health of plants. The N-P-K number is useful but, for example, chemical fertilizers will usually have a higher N-P-K rating, but don’t have the organic matter which natural manures contain.

Manure also contains a lot of humus, which is not a chickpea dip originating in the Middle East, but rather a bulky, fibrous material that comes from plant fibres and animal remains. Humus effectively supplies food for plants, preserves moisture in the soil in dry spells, gives good drainage in wet times and stores nitrogen in the soil.

So animal manure is a great way to improve the condition and nutrional value of the soil and as many organic gardeners say ‘Feed the soil, not the plant’

You can buy composted manure from garden centres and it can be used straight on your garden.  However, this is rather an expensive option, especially if you have an allotment or large vegetable patch.

My preference is to source fresh manure.But don't just go to your local farm or stables, get sack fulls of manure and put it straight onto your plot, or it could end up causing you a whole host of problems.

Things to consider include:
  • Type of manure
  • Time of year
  • What crops you want to grow

The N-P-K numbers given below are given are just a guide as they are affected by type of bedding used, age and diet of the animal

Horse Manure: 0.7-0.3-0.6
This is a ‘hot manure’, which means that if you put it straight on your veg it will burn it.

It is not as rich as chicken manure, but obviously you get a lot more of it and it should be reasonably easy to get hold of from your local stables.

The best type of horse manure is from stables using straw bedding, but you can also use it if the animals have been on wood shavings.

Horse manure can contain a lot of weed seeds, which you can kill off by hot composting before putting it on your beds. You should also think about the stables you get it from; there are tales of allotments getting horse manure when the horses have been on a lot of medication, which has killed or damaged crops.

Cow (dairy) Manure: 0.6-0.2-0.5
It may be lower in nutrients, but is considered by many to be the best soil-builder option. It is an excellent source of humus. Some gardeners have said that it is a little wet for heavily clay based soils.

You will obviously need to contact your local farmer to see if they will spare you any of their cow manure.

Chicken Manure: 1.1-8.0-5.0
As you can see this is very rich in nutrients and is another ‘hot manure’. The quantities you get are likely to be a lot smaller, which makes it very useful as a compost activator.  The best source of chicken poo is your own flock, or a local free-range farm.

If you know any pigeon fanciers in your area, then you may want to speak to them about getting hold of some pigeon poo, which has been prized by gardeners since the middle ages, as it is also very rich in nutrients.

Sheep & Goat Manure: 0.7-0.3-0.9
This is another type of ‘hot manure' which will need to rot down before you can use it.  It has a higher nutrional value than horse or cow manure and is a little pleasanter to handle. The small pellets mean that it breaks down a lot quicker. As it is very dry, you may want to use the pellets in a liquid fertilizer.

You are likely to have to collect it yourself with the permission of the landowner. However, if they have sheep or goats inside for the winter or birthing, then you may be to get hold of bags of manure which will also contain urine soaked straw, which will give even higher nitrogen levels.

Pig Manure: 0.5-0.3-0.5
Is very stinky stuff, so your neighbours may not appreciate you using it!

It doesn't contain much organic matter, so either needs to be full of straw from the bedding, or just added in small quantities to your compost heap to rot down.

Rabbit Manure: 2.4-1.4-0.6
As you can see rabbit manure is high in nutrients, especially nitrogen, but again only available in small amounts, so best used as a compost activator.

Alpaca Manure: 1.5-0.2-1.1
The Auntie Allie manure of choice!

I am lucky enough to have a source of alpaca manure. It is not a ‘hot manure', so can be spread straight onto your plot without risk of ‘burning’ your crop and the alpacas 3 stomach digestive system means that it doesn't contain weed seeds. It is virtually odourless and alpacas tend to use one or two toilet spots, which makes it easy to collect.

It is lower in organic material than some other farm manures, but it is enough to still act as a soil improver and can even be made into a ‘tea’ which will really help your seedlings.

Manure not to use
Do not use the faeces of your dog, cat, or other meat-eating mammals as manure for your garden or in your compost heap, as it can contain harmful diseases.

As you can see from the above, most manure should be well-rotted before use. However, many gardeners still add 'hot manures' to empty beds in the autumn, as the elements will break it down over the winter months. Even then, I tend to use horse manure that has rotted down for a little while.

The question of which allotment crops need compost manure is very easy to answer –all of them! 

This is the manure that you have added to your main compost heap in balance with green and brown material. A compost needs to have been held at 130 degrees for at least 3 days to kill any pathogens and making it safe to use all year round. Or about 6 months to fully rot down.

In the Autumn I add rotted hot manure or alpaca droppings to the beds which are going to have the following crops the next year (there will be more, but these are the ones that I grow):
  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Cabbages, brussels sprouts
  • Squash and courgettes

I also make sure that my rhubarb, raspberries, gooseberry, and currant bushes have all had a feed of manure at the same time.

So that is the Auntie Allie Manual of Muck, which is based on a bit of research, combined with what I have found works over the last few years of being an allotment holder.

One final note, if you live near a zoo, then you can approach them to get hold of some very exotic manures and one elephant poo can probably do one whole bed…

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

I have a dream, a fantasy, part 6

Marry a millionaire or win the lottery
Working title for this section was ‘clutching at straws’.

There must be plenty of single multi-millionaires knowing around just waiting to marry you

Do I detect a note of sarcasm in your tone? Of course, the best time for me to have met and married a multi-millionaire, was when I was younger, more attractive and working in formula one

Unfortunately I was too busy being career minded to even think about that (and of course all the multi-millionaires were living it up with in the Paddock Club, surrounded by glamorous models).

To be quite honest, I am not really looking to get married (multi-millionaire or not). However, a partnership in this enterprise with somebody with some shared interests and ambitions would be ideal. 

They can bring lots of money and some time to the equation, whilst I will bring lot of time, energy, knowledge, ambition, oh and some money to the table. 

Please feel free to contact me if you are interested…

So, what about the lottery?
What is the statistic again – you have more chance of being hit by a meteor, whilst herding dodos in a lightning storm than you have of winning the lottery…

The other problem is that I rarely do the lottery. Having said that, when I do get around to buying a ticket I fully expect to win and am always shocked when my numbers don’t come up.

All in all, I don’t think this is a viable plan of action either.