Summer Allotment Diary
By Simon Read
I want to talk about beans and growing them. Runner beans, French beans, Broad beans, Borlotto beans and many other types of bean can be seen on any allotments around the country this time of year.
Easy to grow and highly productive, their only drawback is that they need watering every day, which can be a bit of a pain if you work full time. So, I invested earlier this year in an automatic watering system, now up and running on my half-plot.
It’s not cheap, but it has freed up my time and it’s an investment which will last for years. My system consists of a water butt with a tap and its stand, from which a 13 mm pipe is laid down my plot passing close to my bean wigwams.
Attached to this pipe, using a specially-designed tool to make the holes for the connectors, are 4 mm dripper pipes which are then laid around the bean plants at ground level. These have carefully designed drip holes at fixed intervals which you can choose.
I have installed a timer, just below the tap, which enables me to set a wide range of combinations of frequency and duration for the watering times. Apart from the water butt, stand and tap which I already had, the cost for my starter system was £63 online, including £5 delivery.
My beans are thriving on regular watering and the system uses less water than traditional watering cans. With minor adaptations, this system also works when attached to a main tap, so you could water your prized garden plants whilst you enjoy a holiday in the summer.
By Margaret Roper
Ready in only 30 minutes!
You will need the following ingredients for 25-30 melting moments:
- 5 ounces’ soft butter or 5 ounces’ soft margarine
- 3 ounces’ caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla essence or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 ounces of self-raising flour
- Desiccated coconuts or oats
- Glace cherries
How to make:
Heat oven to 180ºC, 350ºF, Gas Mark 4 and grease two baking trays.
Cream the butter or margarine with the sugar until very light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla essence or extract.
Stir in the flour and mix well.
Roll walnut sized pieces of the mixture into balls and toss in rolled oats or desiccated coconut.
Cut each glace cherry into quarters, four quarters for each melting moment.
Place on baking trays, flatten slightly and place a small piece of cherry on each biscuit.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown but NOT dark brown.
Optional: You can use jam in place of cherries!
I would suggest that you leave your cooked biscuits to harden on the cookie tray ENJOY!
If you would like to send in your recipes to be featured, please email: email@example.com
Nature Notes #1- Bird Song
By Peter Wilkinson
Now that Spring is here you may be aware of an increase in bird song, by our resident birds and by the influx of summer visitors now starting to arrive from overseas. Why do birds sing and why do they sing more at this time the of year? It would be good to think they do it out of sheer joy of the arrival of Spring but it has more down to earth reasons.
With a few exceptions, it is only male birds that sing, although both sexes will make a series of calls. Song and calls can be differentiated by the length and complexity of the sound. Types of alarm call are alarm calls, for instance when a predator is near such as the local cat, or contact calls to keep in touch with family members or a group. Singing is used to attract a mate and to defend a territory as part of the breeding activity. Breeding activity takes place (usually, pigeons and doves for instance will breed most of the year) in the Spring hence the peak of singing at this time, the dawn chorus reaching its peak in early May. Once the breeding season is over most birds have no reason to sing. One exception is the robin as it will fiercely defend its territory all year round.
A male bird will sometimes sing from a favourite song post, a tree top for instance. Singing will often be accompanied by some display activity. Skylarks will sing as they ascend high into the sky followed by a parachuting descent. This is showing off to females!
Some birds are happy to live in social groups, Sparrows for instance. Others will adopt territories which they will defend against other birds of their species. Song is used as a warning to others of the same species that “This is my patch”.
Just as toddlers learn to speak from their parents young birds have to learn to sing from their fathers or other male birds. Some song birds have just one song, others have a more extensive repertoire of several songs. Some birds are good mimics, I have often been fooled by a Great Tit making a very passable impression of a Marsh Tit. Song thrushes are also good imitators. It is not known precisely why birds imitate other birds and sounds but it is probably to enhance their repertoire to impress the females.
Birds do not have vocal chords as we do, instead they have something called a syrinx, deep in the breast used in conjunction with muscles which control air pressure and pitch coming from the lungs. The resulting resonation can make the whole body of the bird appear to vibrate with the sound. It has been shown that just as humans do, birds have regional accents although in the case of birds the region can be only a short distance away.
Learning bird song can be a challenge but very rewarding. Best to concentrate on a few at a time, the common garden birds for example.
For more information on individual species including an audio of their song visit the Royal Society of Birds website: http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/
If you would like to share your own nature notes or nature tips please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Building Historical Miniatures
By Graham West
I am currently building miniatures to set up several battles from the 100 Years War between England and France & the Wars of the Roses.
I have purchased numerous miniatures from an online supplier called Crusader Miniatures. Miniature bases are also required so that the metal / plastic figures can stand up on the battlefield. There are a few options including flat round bases, flat square bases or bases that are moulded into a small plinth for the figure to stand on. I have been using Citadel bases from Games Workshop.
The first step is to glue the base and the miniature together using superglue. I use the gel form of super glue as it’s much easier to control without getting in onto fingers. Care always should be taken with super glue.
The next step is then to prime the miniature with an undercoat. The easiest way is with a spray. The two tones that are most often used are white and black spray. Black spray is quite suited to knights in armour.
Once the miniatures have been primed then colours can be added, sometimes a base coat and then layer colours. Additional effects can be added using inks and dry brushing. Citadel produce a good range of such paints for painting miniatures.
My Lego meet up!
By Graham West
Oxford LEGO Meet-up had its second meet-up on Saturday in the new Rose Hill Remo Cafe at the Community Centre. We were kindly allocated a table for the meet up so we were able to sit down and have a nice cup of coffee while discussing all different aspects of LEGO building.
The group decided to build a Giant Pumpkin as its the Autumn Season and nearly Halloween at the end of the month. We decided to build a hollow pumpkin construction with a lid so that fairy lights could be placed inside. The mouth and the eyes of the pumpkin were to be left as open slots so that light from the fairy lights could shine through.
We used a green LEGO baseplate for support and nearly 1,000 orange LEGO bricks bought from LEGO.COM Pick-a-brick. The bricks were different shapes – if you are familiar with LEGO then you will know there are studs on the top of each brick. We mainly used the 2×4 brick, the 2×3 brick and the 2×2 brick. For the teeth we used slopping roof tiles that are more common in the colour red, for building LEGO house roofs.
Our meet up group is a newly formed group that can accommodate 6 persons at a session using the RSVP pre-booking system. We are hoping to hold sessions once a month in the cafe for constructing a variety of different models. Those who came to the session thoroughly enjoyed themselves and had a great time.
Anniversary of my Dad
By Manuela Fernandes
My late father Michael Fernandes, who was the Field Secretary at the allotment for more than thirty years, passed away on August 10th 2014, after suffering from vascular dementia and a fractured hip.
See below pictures where his friends met to celebrate his life:
Left to right: Colin Sharp (chairman LRRAA), Sir John Grimley-Evans, Cathy Gibb, David Penwarden, Lydia Penwarden and Theresa Gurl, all allotees, (front) Manuela Fernandes).Photo by: Pearl Bevan.
Are you a golf lover?
By Graham West
“The game of golf would lose a great deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green.” – Ernest Hemingway.
For a good golf player, putting and shots around the golf green are just fifty percent of the game. These are known as short game skills. Putting skills can be practiced on a putting mat, a shortly clipped lawn or carpet with a putter and ball.
Putting games can be played with friends to build skills that can be used on an actual course as well as having fun with others or yourself. A good range of putting games can be found at:
To challenge yourself, why not try adding some obstacles to your homemade course. Possibilities include using ornaments and making archways or humps to make your own crazy golf game.
I hope you get the opportunity to try some putting- why not try one of the local crazy golf courses in Cowley or Headington. And why not send in your pictures of your homemade course to email@example.com to be featured on the site
Volunteering at Oxford Eid Extravaganza
By Graham West
I volunteered to go to the Eid Extravaganza Festival to help raise well needed funds for the Oxford Homeless Project.
The event was held on a hot Summers day. The event field was very well organised as all the participating traders had to line up their tents in straight lines. I was placed under the shade of a huge Oak tree at the edge of the field near the bouncy castles and an ice cream van.
On the day, a good number of people kindly helped the Homeless Project by attempting my Giant Buzz Wire. They could have 3 tries for £1 and had a lot of fun with the game. There were plenty of prize winners who won a prize of Minions bubbles.
Overall, I am very happy that I was given the opportunity to help out this good cause. I enjoyed the festival very much (the cakes were delicious) and I look forward to next years event.
Are you a music lover?
“The more you love music – the more music you love” (Unknown)
A good way to relax the summer away is to take the time to listen to some baroque on your day off.
Simply, Baroque is simple lines of music intertwining that fall and dance in and out of each other. Its emotional qualities are its “soothing,” “inspiring,” “uplifting” and “relaxing”, and often described as “energizing”. This will create a life of ease and beauty for you to enjoy.
The baroque music era was from 1600 to 1750. Popular composers that have contributed to this genre of music include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi and Georg Philipp Telemann. A good example for you to listen to is Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, Allegro (brisk and lively).
There’s are also some new names that have emerged in this genre including – Johann David Heinichen, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, and Santiago de Murcia among many others.
I hope you ﬁnd some time to relax and listen to your favourite music whether that is rock, reggae, pop, garage, jazz or soul.
Anyone a plant lover? Are you interested in growing your own?
By Graham West
A month ago, I planted some cacti and succulent seeds using re-hydrated compost discs. What’s that? That’s compost that is in a compressed form that just needs a couple of cups of water adding so it’s ready to plant seeds.
I am currently growing a mix of cacti and succulent seeds including the Giant Saguaro, Prickly Pear, Golden Barrel Cactus, Joshua Tree, Century Plant, including many more (see below for a common association).
They say if you give a seed what it needs it will grow. One of the key things cacti seeds need to grow is light. I managed to germinate (Germination is the process by which a plant grows from a seed) the cacti and succulent seeds using light from a 20 Watt LED light bulb.These bulbs are available from Amazon. Alternatively, a south facing sunny windowsill is also ok for germination.
Designing a desert landscape for your succulent or cacti can be fun. Using gravel can be fun, as well as using sand and small pieces of rock which represent desert boulders. Desert landscapes naturally mimic the art of Japanese Bonsai. A green house to enclose the landscape can be made out of coat wire or bamboo canes coated with cling film as this will create a moist atmosphere for the seedlings.
See what I have done below:
So why not give it a try yourself? Grab yourself some seeds and get planting! Send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured on the site.
If you’re a coffee lover
By Graham West
How do you make your first coffee of the day?
The morning coffee – whether the first cuppa is made at home, on the way to work from a coffee shop from a trained barista or at work – it’s a necessity for some of us to get us going in the morning to wake us up for the day ahead.
If you’re too sleepy to make the coffee when you wake up in the morning, then it is possible if you like filter coffee to put it on a timer so you get it straight away, so it’s ready pronto!
Filter coffee is just one style of coffee, if you are a coffee lover then you will know there are a whole variety of different coffee formats for the drink including: espresso (strong, small cups), cortado (with a blob of cream), latte (5/6 milk with a shot of espresso), flat white, cappuccino (made from frothed milk and the end result is often dusted with chocolate) and mocha (coffee and chocolate).
There are a lot of different devices on the market to choose from, to make that perfect coffee brew including the trusty percolator (mocha pot), the cafetiere (plunger), traditional espresso machine, pod machines, filter coffee machine.