Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ye Gods this hurts...

How not to approach preparing your allotment for spring planting:

1. Make sure that five energetic blokes are digging and clearing the plot next to you. This will make you feel jealous, motivated and deeply guilty at the same time. Make sure if possible that you also have someone working on the plot on the other side with a big French tool and that all other plots on the site as far as the eye can see were double dug in Autumn.

2. Don't undertake any physical activity for anything up to fifteen years. Don't even run for the bus. Get someone to hold cups of tea to your mouth if possible.

3. Instead of doing an hour at a time, like the five energetic blokes on the plot next to you who are running a sort of shift system, try to stay up at the plot for as long as there's anyone else there.

4. If you can, use a big French tool that you are relatively unfamiliar with, weighs a considerable amount, and causes you to use muscles in your arms, hands, shoulders and back that are almost entirely undeveloped in human beings that don't belong to the Eastern European Shotput and Hammer Federation.

5. Occasionally transfer to a fork, spade, and grass hook to ensure no muscle group misses its punishment.

6. Get up on Sunday and do it again.

7. Then go to work in a kitchen.

End result: (a) Very little actually cleared because it's too damned cold to stick your bare hands in the soil to get the perennial roots; (b) it looks even worse because the buggers on the other plot (including an archaeologist, natch, and an Australian who grew up on a farm, double natch) have done so much more than you; (c) your hands hurt when you try to grip a pen.

8. Get drunk. It's the only way forward. You know it. I know it. Gin solves everything.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Beer Garden

So the boys from the pub have taken the plot next to mine - the Champion of the Thames PH finally has a beer garden, albeit 20 minutes bike ride from the actual pub. This is going to be fun. Roughly two of them have gardening knowledge and experience. There seem to be up to ten people involved, and a Jack Russell. I won't seem so stupid! And I might finally get the damn shed fixed.

Managed to break neighbour's fork handle hoiking out bramble stumps (cleared about 1 sq metre. There's just 35 sq metres to go. Wheee!) and had to leave very contrite note, written, of course, in bloody fountain pen as that was all I had and so will be blue blob by the time he reads it. Bought plastic handled piece of crap for a fiver from Lottie store. However, caught lucky break as neighbour was passing the Live and Let Live PH on Sunday night as I was leaving after finishing work (and heading to the Champ to drink gin, yes, obviously). Found out his name! Very excited but I'm not going to share it with you as he is still My Neighbour With The Big French Tool to me.

Planted stuff in newspaper pots. Updates as soon as nothing whatsoever happens.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Big French Tool

I got my hands on a big French tool! And bloody useful it was as well. It's like a six pronged garden fork, bent at a right angle, with a huge long handle, so you sort of sling it at the ground, then stand it on end and wiggle it, and it just clears the ground for you. So much faster than forking it over. Still will have to do the whole forking forking bit (hee. Did you spot what I did there?) but it doesn't look nearly as bad now. Well, at least the bits of earth that you can see through the mat of perennial roots. Weedfest.

And I found potatoes! Don't know if I mentioned that all my spuds went belly up, but they did. One week there were plants, the next stalks, then just couch grass. It looked like ten tiny grassy graves. Of varying heights, as that was my stupid triangular bed experiment. Sort of like the seven dwarves had various industrial accidents. Anyhoo, I was forking one of them over and found tiny dinky spuds in the earth - only a couple of handfuls, but enough for dinner with a few leeks. And half a cow that I accidentally bought in the Grafton centre when picking up a wheelbarrow. I got one of those canvas jobbies, the EasyWheel Lite or some such arse, on the grounds that a) I'd be able to get it up to the plot and b) it was cheap (£40 from Argos). Lite my backside. Still, it's supposed to be able to take 70kg, which is more than the weight of a dead dwarf, so fair enough really. Won't half feel daft on the bus, mind. (No it won't fit on the bike. I'm not even trying. Don't be silly).

And the pub mob is arriving tomorrow to look at the neighbouring plot. Even the landlord (also my landlord) who has grown nothing but toenails in his life and wouldn't know a growing plant if you stapled it to his head. Oh, dear God, what have I done...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How Sad Am I?

Spent Monday night making pots out of old newspapers. http://www.geocities.com/newspaperpots/. How sad am I? Then realised I only had enough compost left to fill one of them, so they're sitting in the kitchen as a testament to my pitiful social life. Sent off heritage seeds order and accidentally ordered more stuff from Seeds of Italy http://www.seedsofitaly.sagenet.co.uk/default.htm although luckily read through order first as many of their packets can contain up to 10,000 seeds which is a bit over the top even by my "must order thousands of seeds that I will never plant" standards. So east Cambridge is looking good in case of famine as well. Yay!

Also found elderly seed sprouter belonging to mother with instructions in German, so if the worst comes to the worst I can eat the damned things in a very Teutonic and efficent manner.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Christmas is finally over...

...and I have absolutely no excuse for not going to the allotment. Or for not writing this blog. Damnation. Went up to collect seed order on Sunday, which was rather embarrassing, as I have enough seeds to feed north Cambridge should I actually manage to get any of them to work. Work, grow, you know what I mean. Astonishingly, found that hurriedly-shoved garlic and onions were actually starting to sprout! Green stuff! I'm growing something!

Pulled a leekling that looked most like a leek and took it home to eat. Very proud moment. Followed by several very gritty moments as I hadn't washed it properly. Glad now that I didn't put manure on that bed. Not that I have any manure, but the principle holds.

Sunday evening after work (I try to kill people with my cooking a couple of times a week- it has actually succeeded once, but that's another story that I probably shouldn't publish) I wandered down to my local. Think I might have mentioned that my neighbour who has a large french tool (really) and the guy across from me who is on the committee both occasionally drink in my local, even though it's not actually local to any of us, as they are actually neighbours. That wasn't one of my better-constructed sentences. That was a shent of a sentence. Anyway, it turns out that a group of the lurking regulars had conferred over Christmas and the idea is being bandied about of getting a pub allotment. So I mentioned that the one next to me (it used to be a double plot) was free and already had fruit trees, bushes, growy stuff etc.

My cunning plan is that the boys (ha!) will take on the plot and I will have a constant supply of conversation, labour and probably beer. Cunning, no? So will press the issue and possibly execute a fait accompli by taking the plot for the outrageous twenty quid involved and presenting them with the title. Though that may not be quite such a good plan as I'm likely to end up with twice as much utterly unmanageable land to grow slugs in. Still, it could be fun?

Came home after work tonight and filled in my heritage seeds order form just in case I have to feed southern Cambridge as well. Hope they like slug stew.


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