Visitor from Down the Lane

On Tuesday, our good friend Richard Cannon of “Down the Lane” fame came up for a couple of days. We met through a forum ages ago and we’ve spoken many times on the phone but this was the first time we’d met in the flesh.

Hardly had he got over travelling up from Ashford, we dragged him out to the National Vegetable Society meeting in Crewe. The speaker was Graham Wagstaffe and his talk was on container growing with a slideshow.

I must admit to being a little sceptical about some of the results from very small containers but the proof was in the photographs. He certainly gets good results.

One interesting tip – if you’re sowing French beans into compost, mix a little soil that has had beans growing in it before in. He reckoned it doubled the germination rate.

I had a bit of a business problem arise on the Tuesday night, someone attempted to fraudulently claim a large refund out of my PayPal account so I’m afraid Wednesday wasn’t as productive as it could be. I didn’t sleep on the Tuesday night so was washed out on the Wednesday. I’m happy to say it has now been sorted out but it was frustrating. Luckily for me, the person involved isn’t really as clever as he thinks. In fact, I’ve seen retarded slugs with more sense. Hope he reads this!

Still, Richard persevered in showing me how to use some video editing software and we tried to make a video of Val making butter. She’d chanced upon some double cream reduced in the Co-Op and cleared the shelf.

Unfortunately, I’m not too good with the camera either and the light levels weren’t brilliant. I might publish it (the video) if I can correct it sufficiently. Either way, we’re eating lovely butter again! I think it took her about 20 minutes all told, so not a huge task. We do have an article with full instructions on it here: How to make Butter

Oh, while I think about it don’t try those daft recipes for making butter where you shake a jar for 3 hours. An electric whisk is the way to go.

Then I was telephoned by the Financial Times, no less. No, not an in depth interview to gather my views on the best way to resolve the international financial crisis or how I was safeguarding my £11.76p savings in the bank. They wanted to know if there were more people growing vegetables because of the credit crisis. I resisted pointing out that rushing out in October to plant veggies is not going to make a huge difference if your house is at risk.

However, if you are starting this veg growing lark specifically to save money, pop a comment on here. I’d like to know how much of a factor money saving is to people who grow their own.

On another note, the new kitten is settling in well. He now runs in and out of the catflap and steals food from under Mr Squeak’s nose. Squeak is not too happy. Unfortunately, Claudipus is not looking well at all. I’m afraid we’re talking a few days before it will be time to call the vet out for the last time. Considering the vet gave him 2 weeks nearly 6 months ago, he’s not done badly but we’re dreading it.

Photo below: Richard Cannon (Tall & Handsome) on the right of shot. Myself (Short & Nearly as Handsome) on left of shot. Richard wanted a photo for his web site.

Richard Cannon and Me

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
9 comments on “Visitor from Down the Lane
  1. Roz says:

    Hi John, your bit about resisting the urge when the FT called you creased me!

    I just really wanted to say that my thoughts will be with you in the next few days. After writing to sympathise when Claudipus became ill, at the beginning of June one of my cats was diagnosed with kidney failure. I lost him on 16th August, he died at home. So I know how you feel, its a horrible time, we cat lovers just can’t help punishing ourselves over and over again can we! You know the old saying John, dogs have owners,cats have staff!

    I am definately going to try the butter recipe, and hope you manage to get the video sorted.

    This website is great, thanks for all you do.


  2. Richard says:

    At first glance I thought you’d slipped a picture of Mel Gibson and George Clooney in there John.

    Just to let anyone reading this know that over the past few years John has helped me immensely with techy problems and a few veggie one’s at that.

    Thanks John and Val for a really pleasant and rewarding few days and may the Website, like your vegetables, grow and grow. You deserve it.


  3. Steve says:

    John – it’s always great to read your stories and your site is one of the main reasons why we started growing our own veg at home.

    I haven’t totted up the costs of how much we might save as a family – but my wife (who does) has noted a sizeable drop in our weekly food bill over the last 18 months.

    But the price is almost inconsequential to the fact that our 2 little ones are growing up knowing what real veg looks like, trying stuff they would never have tried any other way (carrot and parsnip soup, beetroot, runner beans, etc) and generally helping out.

    And it doesn’t cost a fortune to do this!

  4. virginia thomas says:

    I have 127 yards, half plot only, divided into 8 rows, I am a new plotter since February this year. 2 rows set for the potatoes growing, the amazing outcome is I have not bought any potatoes from shop since June and I expect this will last till end of this year(feeding for 4). Also carrots, onions, garlic, cabbages including most salad leaves and oriental leave saladand many more on trial vegetable, it certainly a bumper harvest so far. Many thanks for all the tips and advices from you and your friend (Down the Lane), I certainly benefit this high tech plotting informs.

  5. Tracy says:

    Hi John.
    Sorry to hear about poor Claudipus. I had to have Toffee put to sleep last week, the one with the grey face in the avatar. He was only 5 and it’s devastating. My thoughts are with you and Val.

  6. melanie says:

    Hi john,
    On reading your lastest blog i wanted to comment on the financial times calling you.
    I started my allotment last year and i certainly did not save money, starting off is expensive (even with second hand and borrowed everything) not just in tools but in time and effort.
    It is certainly not the easy answer to the food costs rising. We have been so used to cheap, easy and poor quailty food, and that is not the way it should be.
    Growing your own is not about money but about health and economic benifit, providing a good diet and world for your family.
    Its also really hard work, but i’ve got to say the best fun i have ever had!!
    Really sorry to hear about your poor claudipus

  7. lesley says:

    sorry about the cat.They break our hearts but i would still never be without at least one.
    As for veg growing i look at it this way…….
    I pay for compost seed tools etc as i would pay for the tools for any hobby or the gym.
    The veg are all free. BONUS!
    I actually save a lot more cos it means i go to the supermarket much less (as one who tends to buy more than i actually need once i go into one)
    So result all round i reckon.

  8. martin and emma says:


    Stumbled across this site as we are anxiously waiting for the keys to our allotment. we have been offerd 2 small patches next to each other at an allotment in stoke on trent. We have always wanted to grow some of our own food but garden space was never sufficient. I know these havent bene touched for well over 12 months so will be a real challenge, but its a family effort with 2 daughters aged 10 and 8 wanting to get stuck in. Will let you know how we go!

  9. John says:

    Hi – at the same time as learning about my allotment I started to learn about databases. Having logged and crunched every single cost and weighing every crop in a slightly crazed and obsessive manner, I can say that in my first year 2007 I saved £170 on Tesco prices (organic where possible), and this year it will be over £200.

    Of course, we would not normally buy 30kg of runner beans or 25kg of courgettes in a year – so this figure includes “gifts” to friends, family and colleagues – and we often buy veggies on sale etc so nothing is exact, but my lottie definitely saves me money as well as being a great source of pleasure and relaxation.

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