30 June 2011

a double barreled draw

Sunday the 26th July. Now I'm pretty sure I should be doing something.

I'll just have another 15 minutes in the sun and then maybe tidy up those strawberries...hang on...somethings coming through...no...it's gone.

Something to do with gardening? *checks pots on patio*

Something to do with lunch? *makes cup of tea and wanders upstairs to find cat*

What are you doing in here? *removes incredibly hairy cat from between pillows on bed*

Why have I put books in bubblewrap? *facepalm*

In the spirit of Blue Peter (but with a little less sticky back plastic), I promptly scribbled names of the entrants onto some scrap paper...

...swirled them around in a mixing bowl...

...and pulled out two winners...

...both with double barreled names.

Initial intelligence implies that neither appears to own a pony, nor half of Shropshire.

Congratulations to Francesca Light-Wilson and Cressida Stanley-Williams, who will each receive a copy of Giles and Sue Live the Good Life, courtesy of Giles Coren.

Anyway, I'd love to stay and chat, but lunch is drawing to a close and I have some important colouring in to do.

27 May 2011

Win: Giles and Sue Live the Good Life

The urge to blather on, is as alway strong. To tell you all about how many exciting things have happened in the last two years. To regale you with tales of comedy and tragedy, of loves lost and found. But it's a Friday, the bank holiday weekend is so close that you can taste it and I know that you're not really in a reading mood.

So, to business. (I didn't even bother with a witty title...)

Last week, after nearly two years of writing this blog, I achieved a bit of a milestone, 1000 of you had read some or all of it.

I wanted to thank you. And to get a few more of you on board. But how? I didn't know many of you. I had no way of contacting you individually. And most importantly, I had nothing to give you.

I had a cup of tea whilst I thought about this.

Then something that my Grandmother used to say popped into my head, "If you don't ask, you don't get" (she also used to say "better out than in", wise woman).

A few tweets back and forth with Sue Perkins and Giles Coren, an arranged drop off, a ransom by the staff of The Bull and Last, some ginger biscuits, a journey into NW5 and a rather lovely compliment later saw me with two copies of Giles and Sue Live the Good Life in hand.

Now the temptation to keep one is strong, if for the comedy photos of Giles and Sue, being Tom and Barbara alone - but I am a man of my word. They are both up for grabs.

To win one of the two copies, all you need to do is Like the Elevated Agriculture Facebook page, then send an email entitled "I like Elevated Agriculture", including your name as it appears on Facebook to elevatedagriculture at gmail dot com (terms and conditions apply*).

I was dragged up proper, so I would like to say thanks to both Sue and Giles for responding to my tweets, to Giles for providing the books and to the staff at The Bull and Last for eating my biscuits - you are all wonderful people. Thanks.

Now what are you waiting for? Go Like me!

Terms and Conditions
1. The competition will close on Friday 24th June 2011 at 12 noon (BST).
2. Two winners will be drawn at random, each to receive one copy of Giles and Sue Live the Good Life.
3. Entries are open to residents of the United Kingdom only (sorry kids but I can't afford international postage!)
4. The competition is open to all existing fans of the Elevated Agriculture Facebook page, you just need to send an email in and be a UK resident.

5. The winners will be notified no later than 5pm (BST) Sunday the 26th June.
6. I can't enter.

Privacy Policy
Your contact details will never be given, sold or otherwise passed to a third party.

26 May 2011

Strategic gifting leads to strawberry goodness

Now some of you will look at me blankly (liars), others will try not to make eye contact, but the really honest ones will be nodding and grinning slightly sheepishly.

The Bourne Identity box set given to your Uncle on Christmas day in an attempt to avoid Dad's Army re runs; the over engineered enclosed headphones for your sibling who thinks that the whole world wants to hear *boom tish boom tish boom tish* emanating from their iPod; or the Nigella Lawson cook book given to your other half in the hope that you will awake at 3am to find them scantily clad and eating chocolate mousse straight from the fridge...

At one time or another we've all indulged in a little strategic giving...come on don't give me that look...fine, ride that moral high horse, but the rest of us know better.

Now I've never had much of a fondness for terracotta, but when I spotted that foot high urn, with strawberry plants poking out of the various orifices, I didn't exactly fall in love, but certainly wanted to take it home, feed it, care for it and then eat every last bit of delicious juicy strawberry goodness it could provide.

Being the kind well mannered son that I am, I thought that it would make a great Mothers day gift, my Mum being not particularly chuffed with cut flowers but very keen on things that are still alive.

So it spent the summer of 2009 in the garden, the strawberries were large, juicy, plentiful and shared out with anyone who happened to turn up at dinner time. As the colder weather set in, the Terracotta cracked, flaked and split, whilst the plants slept, indifferent to the charms of the British Winter.

Come Spring 2010, the plants were prized from what was left of the terracotta and redistributed around the flower beds - where they did what strawberries do best and spread out as much as possible, whilst the urn became a B and B for the local arachnid community.

A year on and the garden is being redesigned, overgrown beds cleared, hedges cut down to a more manageable height and strawberries corralled back into pots.

Now don't get me wrong, they were doing fine in the beds, but spending more of their time being eaten by ants, wasps, birds and our particularly stupid tabby cat than by me. Obviously things had to change.

All of the plants were surprisingly shallow rooted, clogged up with dead leaves and stems and hanging on to a good handful of stones...a quick fork/shake/trim brought them back into shape...and into my planters.

Biodiversity was never really a strong point of Elevated Agriculture, space being somewhat confined, but I now find myself with strawberries everywhere and no room (or at least no more pots...) for anything else.

Given my maxim that you should only grow thing that you really want to eat, is this a bad thing?

Answers on a postcard, or even better on our Facebook page.

19 May 2011

lost and found

It finally happened, I'd lost the plot.

I remember taking it all out of the van in August and putting it in the back garden...from there though it appears to have migrated during the Winter.

Now this is not a problem encountered by your average agriculturalist. Plots don't just wander off. Pots on the other hand...

So after a bit of digging around under the drifts of beech and oak leaves that had enveloped the patio, planters, pots and troughs began to emerge.

Things weren't looking good for the potatoes, but then again if I'd done my job properly there shouldn't have been any left in the bag...slacker.

The lettuce was long past its best, having gone to seed and then been ignored, on the upside the root structure looks pretty cool.

The plants that have once again won from being totally ignored are the strawberries. A little bit overgrown and tangled but most definitely none the worse off for a winter under some nice dry leaves.

It would be easy to just leave them to it, but the grow bag was starting to look a little bit tight for the 3 extra plants that had self seeded and knotted together. The soil from the lettuce troughs was well sieved, all the bits of root structure removed and then put right back where it came from, before the strawberries were settled in their new spacious accommodation.

Don't get too comfortable you juicy little b*stards...