We’re a talented family, my little lot. The hubby Rob Spooner is an author. My son is a drummer, my younger daughter a skilled artist, and my older daughter (in addition to being mum to my two fabulous grandchildren) makes her own unique range of polymer clay earrings. She is completely self-taught, and currently in the hobby-that-could-perhaps-become-a-business phase, working it out as she goes along. Claydropsdesigns can be found online at etsy and will also (when I get my act together in the next few days) be available here at SomewhereinwestCornwall via the Shop page. I am particularly taken with these gingerbread men, and of course the various bee-themes danglers – and, my personal favourite, the knitted polo-neck-jumper danglies, which just happen to be an exact match to my own favourite winter-snuggle sweater, with which I’ve been wearing them. And then of course there are the Christmas specials …
The hubby has never really shared my passion for allotment-growing. He does enjoy the results, ie: delicious edibles; random plant-part (leaf, stalk, flower, fruit or bulb) transformed into plate of food. But, the ‘before’ bit – mud and dirt, seeds and compost – It’s just not his thing. There is, however, nothing like a spot of ‘friendly’ competition to get a man going. Thus, when a friend earlier in the year suggested a pumpkin growing contest – played out in public via the wonders of Social Media – he was in. So began one man’s first attempt at growing-his-own …
Here’s how it went.
April. Let the learning curve commence …
… June …
… July – August …
… September – October …
Sadly, ‘Giant Ginge’ didn’t quite make it to record-breaking proportions. So, no prize win for my man (this time). And, once picked and left to cure, the stalk very obviously started to rot. Meaning, this beasty had to be used sooner rather than later. So, it was, into the oven in large chunks (skin on, seeds removed) to be roasted to reduce moisture content and improve flavour (these giant pumpkins are bred for size, not taste, they are full of water and not the greatest for cooking and eating).
The cooked pumpkin flesh (skin removed) then went into the freezer and came back out again today, to be transformed into a big pan of soup (some of which we ate, freezing the rest as individual portions for future use). This, for me is the real winner. It’s all very well, al that macho ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ competition. Growing something that can be turned into something that can be eaten – this, for me, is the real winner.
Pumpkin soup recipe
When I say ‘recipe’ I use the term loosely. This is more a list of ingredients (in no exact proportion) and a general cooking method, to be adjusted to individual preference.
Onion (red, white or a mix of each), 1 or 2, also a leek or two, if you want.
Celery, 1, 2, or 3 sticks, however much you want (none, if you do not like it.
Garlic (two or three cloves, more or less or even none, it is your choice)
Pumpkin, whatever type you happen to have, however much you want, either roasted (as above) or simply chopped and used raw.
Root veg: sweet potato, carrots, parsnip, whatever you have, in whatever amount feels right.
Orange split lentils. These give ‘body’ to an otherwise watery soup, but can be left out if you do not like or cannot eat them. (maybe add a normal white potato if you leave out lentils, for extra starch, boosting texture).
vegetable (alternately, chicken or beef) stock, or water.
Additional seasonings: salt, pepper, herbs of your choice. Chilli, etc.
Method: chop onions (and leeks if using), sweat to brown in pan, add celery, cook a further few minutes. Add garlic (if using) together with stock, lentils (if using) and other veg in order of how long it will take to cook (carrots, for example, take longer than pre-cooked pumpkin). Simmer until just soft but not overcooked. Blend or mash (stick blender is helpful here). Add seasonings – either mixed in or sprinkled on top to serve.
Well how exciting is this?
Our little community garden (Weethes Cottages Community garden, aka WCCG) is front page news! Ok, so it’s *only* the front page of a small weekly, but font page is front page. We are ‘trending’!
A moment of fame.
Not that this was the aim when we set out to transform the overgrown green in the middle of the street into … well, we weren’t sure at that point exactly what we were going to so with it. We just knew that we wanted to do something with what was then something of an eyesore. An oval of grass, 28m-6m, of no particular point or purpose. This was back in November 2019. Fast-forward two years, and here we are. Front page news, with what is now an actual garden. A wasted space, transformed.
It’s been a steep but enjoyable learning curve, for all involved. My own role has been to get things going, and keep it going. This began with a ’round robin’ postbox drop, inviting all who might like to participate. Local Lib. Dem. councillor Penny Young played a huge part in this early stage, steering us forward under the criteria of various current environmental policies, and helping us seek the necessary permissions. We (various neighbours) had been talking for several months about the possibility, but none of us knew how to actually get started. Penny helped us with all of this.
On a practical level, we’ve had some stops and starts. Deciding to go down the ‘no dig’ route, we set to work in November 2019, enthusiastically covering the ground with whatever we could find – I had various pieces of black woven ground cover going spare at the allotment, so we used these, and put out a call (via social media and word) of mouth for large sheets of cardboard – with which we were then inundated, from shops and offices, schools and anybody who’d recently had any large item delivered. All of this we used to cover the entire area, held down (or so we thought) firmly with rocks, planks and various other (again, so we thought) heavy items. The plan being to kill (or, at least, weaken) the grass, in preparation for work to begin in spring. And then … disaster. Typical Cornish weather. A howling gale, lifting everything up and off, so that I found myself out in the pouring rain one dark and windy November night, lifting off everything that had been put down, being concerned that we might find rocks, planks etc hurling through the air doing damage to all of our cars, parked nearby.
Undeterred, we came up with a ‘Plan B’ – still going with the no dig ground cover, but now covering just a select few smaller areas, leaving most of the grass to do its overwinter thing. This turned out to be the way forward, enabling us to plant up small areas as we went, create different features of interest, over time. This also allowed individuals to get creative, contributing as much or as little as they wanted to, or were able. For some this meant regular daily sessions, getting stuck in weeding, digging, and planting. For others it meant buying or donating seeds, plants, or tools, offering ideas. For some it meant being unable to physically contribute, but nevertheless joining in with enjoying the end result; a shared space, to be used by all. Sometimes it’s ben the little details – for example, the donation of a part-tin of yatch varnish lurking in the back of a shed: exactly what was needed to finish off the project name signs, which I made using bits of old wood, otherwise going to waste. All contributions, large or small, have been equally valued.
2020 of course brought covid lockdowns. Here the project really came into its own, as people (who might otherwise be shut up alone at home) were able to work together, yet separately, outside, in shared purpose. This had the effect of really bonding people together, and since then, friendships have grown -as has the garden. A further year on, and this summer (2021) has seen things really taking shape, with the addition of gravel pathways connecting two seating areas, one with a bench and the other with a picnic table, and an ever-changing display from the variously planted areas. In July we participated on the Eden Project’s Big Lunch, everybody coming together in celebration of joint effort. And this week we made it to the front page! Who knows what the next two years will bring, eh?