Growlygracepress's Blog

On being judged.
August 29, 2016, 7:47 am
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I did enter the flower and vegetable show and I won the first prize in the two classes that I felt I had a good chance of success because I had very strong contenders. I won the bouquet of summer flowers and I won in the group of three vegetables where you have to show two of each vegetables.

I stuck in a cucumber and some beetroot under no illusion that they were going to do anything and I did enter the three dressed onions from seed just to experience the dressing of onions.

I was really happy about the flowers winning as I have been bring back little bunches of flowers all summer and I have them in little vases in the kitchen and on my bench. I did enjoy making a cutting garden but I am going renovate it, replace all broken woodwork, repaint all the rusted metal and replace the green netting with black and then I will have an incredible fruit cage. I’ve been buying up all the £2 fruit plants at Morrisons in a couple of years time they will be big and strong.


This week I am going to clear the vegetables that are ‘over’ and plant the vegetables for next spring. Because the garden is full of a horrible thing called ‘club root’ I will be planing out stuff in compost filled pots just to see how they manage. The vile ‘club root’ only attacks brassicas it can be treated by applying lime but it’s going to take many years.

I am going to buy even more seeds with the prize money!


Re-engaging with bookbinding practice.
August 26, 2016, 7:53 am
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This is a little ‘proof of concept’ book that I did some months ago. It was after the set of ‘hinny’ books and I got distracted and wanted to make ‘memento mori’ books.


This is what I came up with. I was not that happy about the finish, not happy about the leather, not happy with the definition of the raised design and absolutely over the moon about the end papers. So when I hit the bench this week I reached out for the little book and glued down the endpapers and put it in the press. It can go to a good home.

I am going to have another shot at the little skeleton books because I am really keen on them as an idea. Another thing is that I can’t find a white leather to use for an onlay.

So I am going to make nine perfect ‘hinny’ books and then I am going to make ‘momento mori’ books. Can’t wait.

At the beauty shows.
August 26, 2016, 7:38 am
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It’s the vegetable show at my allotment association tomorrow and I deciding whether or not to enter stuff in to it. I am not that keen on ‘competing’ I refuse to enter books in to any sort of beauty show.  But I am very sympathetic to the traditions and customs of English working class life especially as it is in transition.

The problem I face is that I have absolutely not a single clue what it means in the schedule “2 Pot Leeks (6″ Tight button)” or 1 Intermediate Leek (6-8″ Tight Button) I can just about get my head around ‘dressing’ onions.

I have been growing monster leeks as in a moment of utter madness I decided to join the ‘leek club’ this happened.


I have been sleepwalking and while I started with the best of intentions I have half a poly tunnel filled with massive leeks this photograph does not do them justice. I have no idea of what ones I should show, no idea of how to get them out the ground, no idea of how to make them beautiful and I am going to have to strong arm the most curmudgeonly man you can imagine in to helping me.

I would be so up for this show if they had a Pork Pie class in the Produce Section.

Tending my garden.
August 23, 2016, 8:35 am
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This is the cutting garden on my allotment I did it because I thought I would do something bookish and printish with the flowers which will probably be prentiousish.

I will go down and take cuttings and put them in a flower press and do ‘something’ with them still very keen to do cyanotype.

I will let the flowers go on for a few more weeks and then I will lift them. The allotment has a lot of aggressive weeds for lots of reasons, the garden next to me was poorly worked for several years, the lovely chap whose garden this was used a lot of weed suppressant fabric and straw to keep it down to a dull roar and when I came along and pulled every of the weeds came back with a vengeance.

It was overwhelming and one time real despair. The allotment has two open beds which are very large areas with out paths.


Traditional allotment technique is to use planks of wood to walk upon to hoe the beds and it’s a bit of an art form. So I am going to divide the beds up with paths. Making a total of five beds it’s now more manageable, I am going to use weed suppressant fabric which has holes cut out to plant through. I am going to a weed burner. I am going to weed methodically and take the weeds of the garden on a daily basis. No weeds left behind.

I can haz pork pie.


This is pork pie number one.

If I had to identify a ‘thing’ I do that is unhelpful it’s my reluctance to follow a recipe I dislike submitting to a list of commands in a precise order. When it comes to cooking I am a busker. However I own a gazillion cookery books and I love reading them I am just not that in to cooking from them.

However I have known for many years now that I wanted to make raised pork pie and the stars became aligned several months ago. I started to buy the ingredients so they were in the kitchen. The first thing I bought was lard. One morning I was making breakfast and I realised I had run out of vegetable oil for frying so I reached out for the lard and it must have been the first time I had fried with lard for thirty years. It was a revelation. So I kept frying with lard and it got better and better. I had to buy more lard and still in the back of my mind was I am going to make pork pie.

So last week I had been reading about mise-en-place as I am going to restructure how I approach bookbinding and I decided to make a pork pie.

This happened. I was trying to be organised and cleaning up all the time, I was weighing out all the ingredients, I was trying to understand the recipe, I was learning new stuff, I was failing to take note of what time it goes in to the oven, when it gets turned down and when it comes out. I was using scales, I had the wrong equipment, I didn’t even know how to use the ‘dolly’  this is the wooden mould that you raise the pastry around before you fill it with meat.

So I had to improvise with a bread tin. The pastry is way too thick but the filling was great, the jelly was great and as proof of concept it is a massive success.


This is pork pie number two

I made this the next day. I went to the shops and bought some measuring spoons which were a revelation, a spring form cake tin and some prunes. This was a handsome pie

The pastry was thinner and the filling was great.

I have learned tons and tons.

I am going to make more stuff out of the books. The next thing is going to be baked cheese cake then scotch eggs, stake and kidney pudding, French onion soup ( I don’t have the patience to caramelised onions ) and cassoulet.

I am doing this to become a better bookbinder and it’s already working.

what I am going to learn.
August 17, 2016, 10:34 am
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This is a list of what I am going to investigate and invest my time in.

I want to make pork pie with a hot water raised pastry and serve it with pickled onions and piccalilli.

I want to have a relativity weed free allotment.

I want to develop a system of making books where by all the component parts have been made and I can assemble ten of them at a time. Right down to having the leather cover pared, the decorative feature cut out, the gold work ready to go.

I am going to create Mise-En-Place on the bookbinding bench.

I believe in the right way of doing things.
August 17, 2016, 7:51 am
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I was talking to someone yesterday and I was going on and on about the balance of getting things right and minimising the things I got wrong. The person was uncomfortable about ‘wrong’ and I was explaining that in bookbinding there is a right way and a wrong way of binding a book. If we apply a technique that means the contents of the book is insecure and subsequently the contents separate form the case than that is a clear case of failure and is totally avoidable.

Bookbinding is about constructing mechanisms that make the book secure, lets it function and that these techniques combined with consideration about the materials means that the book be around for years to come. I want to future proof the book for one hundred years.

In the garden I got things wrong and I got things right. What I did best was that I planted out the entire plot with plants that I started from seed from three heated greenhouses.

I failed to appreciate that the garden had a considerable problem with invasive weeds and that I did not have a practice in place that allowed me to be effective at combating them.

I should have went in with soil testing kits and mapped out the whole area and treated the soil effectively.

Every plant went in to a hole made with a bulb planter and a handful of grub. So I am feeding the plant and in early spring I am going to feed the soil using the rotavator.

Erratic watering caused stress with the broccoli and they produced seed.

I need to plant three or four lettuces every couple of weeks.

I am putting plants out at the moment and I am taking care with the brassicas. I am going to make them a big old house, I am going to use weed suppressant fabric,  I am going to grow them in pots in the ground.  I am going to protect them from the evil club root.

When it gets down to it sometimes the solution is chuck money at it.

On gardening and making books.
August 16, 2016, 8:53 am
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This is my allotment. The photograph does not show much but what you can see is that it’s has a path running down the middle, it’s on a slope and I am very keen on wind break fabric. The other thing about my allotment is that it’s not beautiful. It’s very industrial, it’s practical, it’s purpose is to maximise food production as effectively as possible, throughout the whole of the year.

A garden is not a great big blank slate which you plug seeds in to and step back and take the vegetables months later. It’s a dynamic living space which is not only home to the seedlings but also plants you don’t want and fungal lifeforms in the soil that will attack your plants. I have to live with mares tail, chick weed and club root and I am going to go to battle with them every day.

I see allotments that are in ‘failure’ people are attracted to the notion of ‘doing the allotment’ but fail to realise how much work is necessary and to what standard they need to achieve. They are engaging with creating a narrative and they are playing a role in it. I think they are ‘doing the allotment’ so they can talk about it with their friends and family. The ‘we-were-down-at-the allotment-this-weekend’ They get discouraged by failure where the garden is just a feed back mechanism.

I decide on growing a specific vegetable based on the seed merchants notes and what I understand about what is growing on my plot.  I put a developed plant (and not a seed) in to soil (that is in good order) in the right time of the season and I look after it (by weeding around it, by feeding it and taking care of it’s health) I also have to harvest the plant at it’s optimum and not just leave it out to go on to produce seed.

And I think it’s the same when your engaged with making craft items in my case bookbinding.

starry starry book
August 1, 2016, 8:56 am
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This little book is the result of a very long and over though out experiment and it’s been a roller coaster.

It’s a little book and it’s holding it’s own. In the no man’s land of the craft shop people need to buy stuff. This is ‘stuff’ for them to buy. I can make the little book as efficiently as possible with out compromise to my standards. I can just about accept the bitter pill that is the in cash terms I am going to get about £12 for it.

I can’t do the craft fairs or worse still the artist book things. As I have no money I can’t go off on a jaunt to promote it and besides my appearance works against me.

I think I will just have to be brave.