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What we are up to

I’ve got to admit it, 2009 has not started quite as I planned. I firmly resolved to get more time on the plot and less on the computer, but life isn’t like that for me.

The final draft of the Essential Allotment Guide has been checked, double checked and the final, final corrections completed. So now there is nothing more for me to do until it hits the bookstores in March. I bet a mistake or three has crept through anyway. My brother-in-law has drawn some of the illustrations for me. He’s a fantastic artist and I was knocked out by what he did, especially as we were on a really tight deadline. You don’t know what illustrations you want until the words are written and I was way behind, but he worked away all over the Christmas holidays to meet the deadline. Big thank you to Stephen for that.

Just one point on my books, they’re aimed at passing on information on how to do things practically. They’re not full of colour photographs of perfect vegetables to inspire you. No, I give exciting diagrams of double digging instead. Mind you, part of my reasoning is that some large glossy tome sitting on the coffee table isn’t a lot of use really but you can take my book down to the shed. The other thing is the price. £5.99 is affordable to nearly everyone, throwing in colour photos and so forth takes the price way up. And let’s be honest, people do know what a carrot looks like!

Now you may have read comments from me last year where I stated “never again” after I finished Vegetable Growing Month by Month. Another resolution broken, obviously. I wanted to cover something more specific to allotments and growing vegetable on large plots cheaply. Hopefully The Essential Allotment Guide has got that out of my system and it will be as kindly received as my first.

Just to compound my madness, I’d chatted with the publisher about how we live frugally. Apart from growing our own, which saves money, there’s a lot of tips we’ve picked up along the way. Much of what we do has been inspired by a desire for self-sufficiency. My favourite book has to be the late John Seymour’s Complete Book of Self Sufficiency. It was described as the classic guide for realists and dreamers, although after 30 years I think it’s more for dreamers. There’s nothing wrong with dreams.

Yes, you guessed it, another book was born. We haven’t a publication date yet, possibly May or June but the first draft is nearly finished. We’ve gone through a few titles. The publisher rejected Practical Self Sufficiency to Save Money for Ordinary People Living in Normal Houses and Frugal Living with a Green Tinge and Sensible Ways to Live Better for Less. They felt it was a little too long. We’ve settled on Low Cost Living.

Now as Chris Tarrant says “but we don’t want to just give you that!” Oh no. One section of the web site that is really popular is the recipe section and especially the preserves. Now to be honest, this is really Val’s (my wife) domain. So we’re collaborating on a fourth book. Not that any of the books under my name would have got there without her ongoing help and support but this is really Val’s.

Who knows, there may even be more in times to come.

Now this keeps us busy, too say the least, but it doesn’t stop there. The chat forums on the site continue to attract new members and seem to get busier week by week. At the same time, the technology behind them is old and creaking. I’ve been really aware that one day soon they’re going to collapse under their own weight.

So an upgrade has been on the cards for months now. The obvious upgrade path was to move to the latest version of the existing software but there were a number of things against this. The existing software has been modified to give additional facilities such as the photo galleries and some of these modifications will just not work in the new version.

I also felt the new version was far too complicated for members. If I can’t figure out how to do things then what hope for the members? Anyway, I just don’t have the time to do this myself so I called in some experts. They’ve really come up trumps for me. We’re going to use a new system but it is as simple to use as the old, but better. You don’t need to work in IT to understand how to get around it, but it will give us some useful extra facilities.

The other thing with it is that it is easier to maintain and can be upgraded automatically so hopefully life will be easier in the future. We should be ready to go live in a week or two, I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

Finally, the seed suppliers all seem to have decided to update their web sites and add new products at the same time. This means that the vegetable seed section of the allotment shop needs a lot of work. Massive thanks to Val who is going through it all line by line and correcting / adding new products. She’s finished Thompson & Morgan and is starting on Suttons today. It’s a big job, boring as anything to do but we feel it’s useful to our visitors.

So, with all this going on, how am I going to get on the plot? I spoke with a professional gardener you probably would know the name of the other day. He suggested I get a gardener!

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