Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The shop opens for business!

On Thursday night I finally got round to making the green tomato chutney, following the recipe my Dad always used from the Sarsons pickles and chutney recipe book.  I didn't have any white onions (I left the onion planting up to Chris this year and he thought it was a good idea to plant all the red ones and just a few white ones, not realising red onions are meant for salads, and we don't eat many salads in winter).  Next year I'll make sure we plant plenty of white onions.  The chutney should have taken 1 hour and 30 minutes to make, but it took far longer to boil it down to what I thought was the correct consistency.  Considering it took ages to make, I only got 3 medium jars and 3 small jars, of very dark, but tasty, chutney.  I don't know where I went wrong.  Perhaps a less thick consistency would have been OK and I overcooked it.  Or it could have been the red onions.  I was hoping to make about 10 jars for Christmas presents.  It was 12.30am by the time it was all bottled up (I started at 8pm).

Some good news - the shop opened its doors to the public on Thursday.  It took £180 on its first day of trading, which is pretty good.  I was working as a volunteer on Friday afternoon and the shop took £190.  I also volunteered all day on Saturday but we only took £90.  Which isn't bad considering we've only opened as a 'soft launch' in order to iron out any teething issues, before the official opening in the next week or so.  The shop's not even been publicised yet.  Our sales target is £150 per day.  I enjoyed volunteering in the shop.  I took two of my pumpkins for the window display, which looks ace.  I added a few extra things to the window display, I repriced some items, and served on the till.  It's a shame I can't afford to apply for the other shop manager's role, but the pay isn't enough for me to cover my outgoings.

Down at the flea market on Sunday I got two cool books about handicrafts and soft toys.  Just look at some of the amazing soft toys in the book.  I wish I knew how to use a sewing machine so that I could try and make them.  None of the local colleges offer dressmaking courses any more, I don't know why (possibly because shops like Primark sell clothes so cheaply that it doesn't seem worth making them at home anymore?)

After this I went down to the allotment.  I picked two huge parsnips.  Chris tried for ages to pull them out but failed.  So we watered them and tried again in 30 minutes and they eventually popped out.  They're very big!  I'm going to roast them in maple syrup until they go soft chewy and slightly charred round the edges - delicious!

The runner beans have gone an amazing lilac colour.

I pulled out the remaining courgette plant and dug over and weeded the squash bed.  Chris made a new bird table for the allotment so we put this in the middle of the old squash patch.  Hopefully the freshly dug soil combined with the bird table wiill be a big hit with our feathered friends.

Before the dig.

And after.

I watered and picked the last of the chillies and peppers.  Next year, I'll sow the chillies and peppers first as they seem to take the longest out of all of the plants I've grown.  They definitely need a long growing season in order to turn red.

The fig has lots of little fruits on it.

The brassicas are growing well.

The leaves have turned red on the blueberry plants.

The beans look very sad now.

You can see from the photos that the sun is much lower in the sky and is casting lots more shadows.  When I get up for work it's dark.  The clocks are due to go back this weekend, so it'll be even darker still, but lighter in the evenings.

When I got home from the allotment I picked the last of the flowers in the garden.  There's been two frosts this week, so I don't think some of the tender flowers will be around much longer, because the wind and rain has picked up too.  I ended up with a punnet full of really pretty flowers. I pressed the flowers inside a book and I need to leave them under a heavy weight for 4-6 weeks to press.  I would like to use the flowers on cards if they turn out OK, as I've got a bit of a thing for buying people cards at the minute and I always like receiving nice cards.  I might also make a little collage titled 'Our garden 2010', which I could frame for the wall.

Here's what the back garden looks like now (excuse the blur - the light levels were quite low).

One of the nasturtiums is like a triffid.

And a close up of one of the pumpkins that rotted.

I picked some raspberries from the garden.

The paperwhite narcissus bulbs that I planted have sprouted.  I read in Alys Fowler's gardening column in the Guardian that you should give the bulbs a shot of vodka when they are about 10cm high, as this slows down the growth.

I ordered a fantastic looking selection of garlic bulbs for planting off Thompson and Morgan's website.  It only cost £17 for a selection of 10 different varieties including softneck and hardneck varieties and elephant garlic.

It was -1.5 degrees centigrade on Monday morning.  Pretty cold (for October anyway).

I've finished the first of the armwarmers I started.  I got stuck with how to make the thumb slit using DPNs.  But a quick post on Ravelry's forum and I was up and running again.  It was as simple as just turning the work and working back and forth in knit and purl rows. I love Ravelry - it rocks.

My Mum went on holiday to see some relatives in Ireland, and I asked her to bring me back some 'Fifteens' cakes.  You can only get them in Ireland and they're yummy - they're really easy to make too from (15) digestive biscuits.   Mmmmmm...

I went to the shop update meeting last night.  I felt a bit bad afterwards as I ended up sounding off about something (in a nice way of course).  I couldn't help myself because it's something I feel strongly about.  Someone suggested getting a fridge for the shop to sell cheese and milk etc.  This is a fine idea, you might think, but my concern is, aren't we just becoming another form of supermarket if we try and become a one stop shop for people?  Shouldn't we be encouraging people to use the cheese stall on the market?  There's also plans to link with a veg box scheme in another borough, OK fine, some people may want this, but shouldn't we also have links with the fruit and veg stalls on the market?  Then people can choose exactly what they want rather than buy a large box of veg, some of which may be surplus to requirements and thrown away.  I am worried that if people don't use the market it will disappear.  Then all we're left with is whatever the supermarkets choose to sell.  If we're thinking about transition towns and working towards a sustainable future for our town, we can't put all our eggs in one basket (excuse the pun), by getting all our things from one shop.  For example, if everyone started getting their fruit and veg and cheese from us.  Over time, this might mean the market stalls go out of business and shut down.  Then what would happen if the shop were to shut down too (God forbid)?  There wouldn't be an alternative other than shopping at the supermarket for cheese and fruit and veg.  Throughout the process of setting up this shop it's been important for me that the shop only sells things currently unavailable to buy in town.  It shouldn't be taking trade away from local traders who are already struggling.  I would love to sell eco wool at the shop, but I would prefer the local wool shop to stock it instead.  The co-operative should be helping to encourage people to use local shops.  We should be signposting people to a stall that sells local organic cheese or fruit and veg. Then, come peak oil, we will have a local supplier network in place, rather than being reliant on supermarkets.  I always feel bad after I've spoken my mind.  Obviously, my face went red, as it always does if I speak my mind (thanks face).  But I made it clear it was only my opinion, and they should consider how other people feel too.  I've been tasked with visiting the market stalls to see if they sell local or organic produce, and if not, whether they would be willing to stock these types of products as we know there is a demand for them.

Well it's Halloween at weekend and I've bought some white face paint and fake blood in anticipation of going out dressed like a zombie.  But I might not bother as my friends are going on a pub crawl.  Why is no one having a house party?  I'm not a big fan of pubs - too much drinking and the music is too loud to hold a conversation, and I'm not much of a dancer.  Give me a coffee bar, a comfy sofa and some background jazz anyday.  Crikey, how old do I sound?  I was a party animal once, honestly.

I feel like Jerry Springer, with my 'final thought of the post', but sometimes you've got to stop worrying about how other people are and just be yourself and do what seems right to you.  Other people might like dancing and drinking, but I'm not a big fan, but I need to remember that's OK.  I don't need to be like everyone else.  It's OK to be me.  And it's not OK not to be me.  Being me is what I am best at.  I need to stop trying to be like other people, and feeling bad when I'm not.  We should celebrate our differences.  Yes I blush when I'm on the spot.  Yes I don't like dancing around and being the centre of attention.  But there are lots of things I do that other people don't, that are just as valid as extrovert behaviours.  I just wish I could be me, without thinking twice about how others perceive me.  I'm getting there, slowly...

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