Wow what a show!

So it was The Show on Saturday.

For those of you who are unlucky enough not to live in rural parts you may not have experienced an Agricultural and Horticultural Show. I know there are Horticultural shows all over Britain, you hear stories about them, where people compete for the biggest leek or the heaviest pumpkin – encouraging the growing of inedible vegetables has always had me a bit puzzled. But when we first moved here 9 years ago I was impressed by the diversity of stuff at our show. For the first time I realised that there were different types of sheep, excuse my city ignorance, there are some whose heads/faces resemble camels, some calves, some rabbits… There are also goats and poultry on show as well as horses – breeds, shires, mountain ponies and cobs, hunters, carriage driving, jumping, dressage and gymkhana games and a full on dog show. Then there are the horticultural, craft and cookery sections, this is where I get involved in a small way. All the photos are of the inside of the marquee where they are all displayed, next year I’ll take some pictures out and about…

one end of the marquee

and the other end…

For entertainments in the ring – there were stunt bikes this year, (horses last year), a parade of 30 odd vintage tractors and trucks, this year a Donkey Derby for the ‘great and the good’ of the area to risk their necks, terrier racing – where you bring your own dog to chase a ‘hare’ on a string, a small fun fair with rides and games, a children’s area, zorbing and bump balling, bands playing, punch and judy, a cookery theatre, (new this year, I wish I had checked this out but I was a bit distracted!) All of the local businesses have stands from tractors to handmade jewelry, the local charities and of course catering.
Last year I did a lot of watching, the horses and dogs, (friends’ children competing) this year I retired to the beer tent quite early in the afternoon and as a consequence missed much of the provided entertainment. Next year I will make more of an effort, there is just too much to be able to see everything which is I suppose why it is such a good show, something for everyone.

photo section in background, with some carved walking sticks

For the last few years it has also hosted the All Wales Sheep Shearing Finals, and this year was the 100th Sheep Dog Trials. Last year I heard that there had been attendance of 5,000, pretty amazing for the least inhabited area of Wales, and what a day out. TOWPCOE who was working all day so couldn’t go, was sat outside the pub at 6ish and locals who have grown up with the show and maybe haven’t been for a few years were saying what a good one it was this year and how they wish they’d spent more time down there.

I first started entering vegetables into the show quite soon after we had moved here, I have a feeling it is in my blood, (skipping my parents), from my grandparents who were all keen gardeners. Our aim with the garden is to grow all sorts of stuff to eat and encourage as much wildlife as we can. Starting with a polytunnel that was already here, (or we would have never got round to it whilst running the business,) we concentrated on the expensive things like peas,

local section peas, no prizes for me

open section peas, 2nd for me the others were of a more even size

broad beans, cucumbers, salads and of course the mainstays, tomatoes, courgettes and runners. We don’t do potatoes as we don’t have enough soil, (though next year I might do the 3 gallon bucket with 1 potato plant, weighing in the crop on the day of the show).

I have been entering whatever I have been growing each year.

a new category last year I think, better than the 2 lettuce category, which is such a waste as 2 whole lettuce wilt all day in a hot marquee

As the years have gone on and I have been able to spend more time in the garden the number of my entries has gone up. I do not go for specific ‘show’ varieties or do anything special for the vegetables I might enter. No growing carrots in sand in a drainpipe for me, life is too short for that sort of effort. Though I did try to get my runner beans in earlier this year, even with the polytunnel I didn’t have any full grown beans last year, mind you it didn’t work, they were just as short this year!  The hens didn’t do well this year, (1st prize last year for one), only one laying at the moment and no prize for her, but I did get a 3rd for my hot green tomato chutney.

mine are the short ones at the front, no prizes again this year, this seems to be one of the few categories where size really does matter!

Last year I did really well, winning enough prizes (and prizes do mean cash!) to easily cover the cost of entering the categories, the entry fee for the show, my snacks and a beer or two.  This year was even better!
I have been congratulating a certain local lady every year for winning one of the cups and had thought that my chances were very slim until she was no longer entering.

the cup for open sections

However this year I entered enough of the 60 odd categories in the open section to collect enough points to win (jointly) the cup for the most points in the open sections of vegetables and flowers.

prize-winning gladioli, next year I will enter both open and local sections

Not a mean feat considering I didn’t enter any flowers in that section, (I put them in the local section there are only 36 categories in that section). I didn’t think I had a chance in the open section, (more serious growers, including the joint winner who mainly grows dahlias of all sorts and shapes). Had I done for flowers what I do for vegetables – that is paying to enter both sections and put the veg in the section with the least entries, I would have won outright as there were no other gladioli.
Considering it’s been such a poor year for all vegetables around here I was stunned, but a poor year for me means a poor year for everyone I suppose. My seed germination was rubbish this year no tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, peppers at all. My tomatoes are mostly from a lovely lady in Borth who got hers going very early on and gave me 8 plants, they are a lovely variety of plum toms, I had the first few ripe ones yesterday from the polytunnel, and a couple of bought plants.

wow, I couldn’t have competed with that on a single truss

Courgettes are both from bought seedlings but did well in the show, but what did really well this year was the onions, I have never grown them before. I grew some from sets and some from seed which I sowed last summer and planted out this year.

my local section onions, the red ones…

the ‘onion cup’ winning onions, next year maybe that one will be mine!

The ones from seed were very satisfying though the picture didn’t come out (I think i have a dodgy button on the camera as there are quite a few pics missing, or maybe it was the beer!) Another great winner this year were shallots, I tried these last year for the first time and was dead chuffed at the lack of input needed, they were great and I entered them into the ‘group of vegetables’ in both local and open sections.

shallots and more onions, alongside some small broad beans and mangetout, 1st again

Garlic is something we have been self-sufficient in for the last 3 years, our harvest was 130 bulbs this year, all small, we have friends nearby who have grown the most enormous crop, puts ours to shame but it should be enough for us for the year – over 2 bulbs a week. I got prizes with it last year, despite the judge saying I had displayed it wrongly and should tie the tops like the onions. This year where I got 3rd prize,

open section, any veg not otherwise in schedule, I must ask them to add garlic!

the 2nd prize were bigger healthier looking garlic but not tied, not such a fussy judge.

Beetroot have not done that well again, the second year I have grown them, not enough water I reckon, perverse in this weather, the drawback of a polytunnel is the watering. I was told last year that ideally they should be the size of a tennis ball, so didn’t hold out much hope for my baby specimens, the bigger ones went into the local category

mine are the little ones front left

no prizes here but bizarrely in the open section some even smaller got 3rd, we cooked them all up yesterday and they taste sublime, baby beetroot are the way to go.

tiny things, I like the look of the long ones

I thoroughly enjoy myself, setting everything up in the morning, in a rush and late as usual. Seeing what other people have grown, admiring the crafts and cookery, all the effort put in from exhibitors let alone the what the organisers do for us all gives me a real boost.

some of the flower categories

and more…

some floral art

I have been trying to enthuse my friends to enter, it may mean fewer prizes for me, but it’s such a buzz seeing the results of the hard work you put into the garden in a big surge, whereas normally it gradually gets picked and eaten with no great fanfare. Bringing all the veg home, (I did leave the wilted salad leaves!) on foot because of the beer, I realised what a weight of veg was involved.

Maybe next year I’ll manage to get more people to enter. You never know I might win the cup as well, but that isn’t what’s important, (honest). Maybe TOWPCOE wouldn’t agree with me, it was observed  that it’s a while since I’ve been so smiley, it makes up for the grim weather for most of the summer. The celebrations continued for me well into the evening…

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