Browsing Posts published in February, 2012

Diggin’ it.

Saturday afternoon, I went down to my own plot and carried on digging and clearing out.  Normally, I’d get pretty bored with digging, especially with no-one else to chat with, but for some reason, I was perfectly happy on my own, just chilling out.More digging.  And planting!

I dug over another strip next to the one I previously dug, then dug around the apple/pear (…Don’t know quite what this is, but I’ll soon find out when it comes into flower in a few weeks time!..) to plant some freesia bulbs that should hopefully give me some great flowers in a few months time.

To the right here, you can see the latest digging efforts, and you can see where I dug around the tree.  I did have to be really careful when digging round here because of the tree’s roots -I didn’t want to damage them and risk an apple or pear-free year!

On Sunday, I was ably assisted by Ian (no relation) and we met for 10.00 up by the shops.

I repaired the door into the wooden greenhouse -refitting it and putting an extra hinge down by the bottom.  Now, it would take a nuclear strike to knock it off!  Meanwhile, Ian carried on clearing, and managed to get all the grass and top vegetation off quite a large area.Much more dug over.

Check out this photo to the left!

There are rose bushes in three of the four corners of this area, and Ian, being something of a pruning-wizard set to work and gave all of them a ‘haircut’.  Time will tell as we wait for the first blooms!

Meanwhile in the wooden greenhouse, there was an area in the smaller ‘off-shot’ that had been worrying me.  It looked like one of the shelves in this off-shot didn’t go back far enough.  Was there something behind this wooden panel?Ammo box full of tools.

Well the answer was a definite ‘Yes!’

Inside this ammunition box was an assortment of pliers, chisels, and old drill brace, various screwdrivers, a glue gun and loads of other ‘odds and ends’ that would be useful to a plot holder.

The old man had carefully packed his tools in this box and hidden it well away from prying eyes.  He packed them well, too.  It took me a fair while to figure out how everything fitted back in the box so the lid would site properly.

As I left for the evening, I very carefully re-packed all these tools put them back exactly as I’d found them.

Anyway, I have more LEAF stuff to attend to today -grant and funding applications, then tomorrow I’m seeing the log-suffering Mr Ward Senior.  Wednesday, I have business down town, but Thursday, well, we’ll see!


Strawberries: OUT!

I arrived on time last Saturday, and was very quickly put to work.  Many other volunteers had turned up earlier than normal, so it was only a very quick cup of tea during which we were ‘given our orders’.

Derek carried on with painting the top shed, Ian (no relation) carried on chopping wood, but I as given something infinitely more enjoyable.

Diane asked me if I’d like to rip some old and very woody strawberries out of the long bed on the top plot?

Does a bear wear a pointy hat in the woods?!Th strawberry bed before I started.

To the right here you can see the bed that had been started by PXI Nick and colleague the previous Thursday, and as you can see, they’d managed about half of it.

Well, I took to it like a man possessed!

You’ll also note that the sides of this bed were collapsing with rot, but as we have a load of second hand scaffolding planks to use for the sides, I didn’t have to be too careful in my work.

The only ‘thorn in my side’ was a young ash sapling that had grown right by the top edge of the bed.  If you check out this photo, you will just make it out in the centre of the shot.A young ash sapling.

Diane said it could be removed, but I had quite a job taking it out.  In fact, in all my pulling and digging I twisted my back, but as soon as it happened, I stopped and did a few stretches, then as soon as I got in, I ran a scalding hot bath and gave my back a good soak.  It seemed to work, because the following day, apart from a few ‘twinges’ when I’ve moved wrongly, it seems to be okay.  Hopefully no permanent damage done.

Anyway, I did permanently damage this ash tree! Its now sitting on a compost heap waiting to be chopped up for firewood -ash makes excellent burning material.

In the afternoon, I went down to my own plot -and you’ll be able to see all the fun I had very shortly over on the ‘Area 34′ blog.

In the early evening, I went back to LEAF and lit a fire for roast potatoes, some of Matt’s excellent home-made soup and some of Sara’s  exquisite home baked apple pie.

So, in short: A great day, lots done and marvellous food shared with good friends.

Who could want for more, eh?


No room at the… …Skip!

Yesterday was my hospital appointment.  I had another brain scan (…YES!  I have one…), which was even less fun than the one I had a couple of months ago.  No pain involved, but the machine they put me in was claustrophobic in the extreme, and the noise was incredible.

Nothing at all like Star Trek.

Then I two more tests.  The first was to send clicks into my ears and measure the sound that came back out!  Apparently this is now normal practise for checking babies hearing soon after birth.

The second was slightly less fun in that they strapped a load of electrodes to my head -making sure they had good electrical contact by smearing exfoliant cream in my scalp and rubbing really, really hard.  Painful.  It felt like they were rubbing sand into my head.  This test was to measure the electrical impulses running down my aural nerves.

This second test came back as normal -there’s no damage to my nervous system, but the first showed that there seems to be some damage to the cilia in my cochlea.  That’s the fine airs within the ear mechanism itself.

Anyway, the specialist will be writing to me very shortly.  I’ll let you know the results!

Sooooo, the title for this piece…

When I arrived at The Plots about 2.00pm, I was pretty dismayed to find the huge skip so kindly ordered -and paid for- by the Allotments Office already utterly full.

Luckily, Jon was on hand, and somehow he made room for eight of my rubbish bags -which means I only have a couple left to dispose of.

Today, I plan to re-fit the two doors for my larger greenhouse and my shed.  They were pulled off some time ago, and it shouldn’t take too much to fix their frames and re-hang them.

Then later this afternoon, a cooking fire calls!

Matt will be making soup and Sara has promised to bring down one of her superb apple pies.

Much to do before then, though!


All revved up… 23/02/12

The rain has stayed away, and we’re all set for ‘The Arrival Of The Skip’ some time tomorrow morning.

Unfortunately, I can’t be there -I have a fairly important hospital visit, but Diane assures me that she’ll leave room for the many bags of rubbish I have left from clearing out my larger greenhouse.

So I won’t be there tomorrow, but checking with the always accurate BBC Weather forecast for this weekend shows that Saturday will be cold, but otherwise glorious!

We like this kind of forecast -it enables us to Get Stuff Done.

And after all the fun, well, I may have to light the fire for roast potatoes -of course, washed down will gallons of Plot Tea. (…”Tea Wi’ Clout!”…)

We’ll have to see.

More clearing and digging.

This last few days I’ve been pretty busy doing other, more boring stuff here from home, but that hasn’t stopped me popping over to my plot whenever I’ve had the chance.

I’ve now virtually finished clearing the large wooden/brick greenhouse and started to put my own meagre stuff in there, and I’ve broken ground!

Over the weekend, I’ve dug my first patch of land over.Beaking ground.

Its to the left of the main path leading to the greenhouses and shed, and here to the right, you can see the first patch, and I’ve just started on the second next to it.

After a little coaching from Diane, I’ve decided that by far the easiest way to do this is to ‘skim’ the thin grass covering off the top with a sharp spade and compost it, then dig the area left exposed.

By doing it this way, there’s much less of the back-breaking continual bending over to pick up clods of grass and roots.

Also, I must just say that the old guy who had the plot previously before the last tenant (…who incidentally grew nothing whatsoever…) must have spent thousands and thousands of hours working on this soil.

There is absolutely no glass that appears everywhere else on the site.  There are also no stones anywhere!

And the soil itself is gorgeous!  Light and fluffy with plenty of nutrients, and certainly no sign of the dreaded clay that appears so often when you put a spade into the earth.

If I can get stuff planted in time, this year is going to be a bumper year.

Anyway, the weather has brightened up, so I’d better get my gear on and get over there!

This used to be an ‘old drinking phrase’ used when someone was ‘a little worse for wear’ after (…or even during…) a long night out;-

“Look out!  So-and-so’s shed’s collapsed!” …All to much hilarity.

Well today, our shed collapsed, but thankfully no alcohol was involved.

Of course, I’m talking about the shed in the Orchard Plot, near to where the bees used to be.  Jez came to pick the two remaining hives up a couple of days ago, and we’ll be getting five more hives of our own in a couple of months time.  More on that nearer the day.The Old Orchard Shed.

So, back to this morning, and after a hasty cup of tea, we were all itching to wield crow bars and large hammers and get it down!

The only problem was that the ‘roof’ of this shed was made of various odd-sized pieces of glass of various thicknesses, ‘stuck’ together using mastic, glue and goodness knows what else.

You can’t really see much of the roof from the shot above, but didn’t it look in a sorry state?

We decided that getting the roof down would be our first priority, so we got the two short sets of steps and two of use went up them while the others waited to haul the pieces down safely.Taking down the glass roof.

Here, Jon and I are up the ladders while Matt and Derek waited below.

And great fun it was too!

After we’d oh-so-carefully taken the roof off, it was a pretty simple matter to knock down the rest of it.Roof off, walls next.

To the right, you can see Derek, Gary and Jon, busy trying to work out which bit came off/down next.

While we were doing this, I was reminded of a game popular in the seventies and eighties called ‘Kerplunk!’ where you had to remove straws one by one and have as few marbles drop into your tray as possible.  One wrong move here, and the whole thing could have collapsed and one of us could have been hurt.

Luckily, no-one was hurt -despite a couple of near misses (!), so we are now left with the rear shed that is considerably more substantial than the one we took down.

Now we have this thoroughly dangerous structure out of the way, we’re going to take our time in designing it’s replacement.

Rather than rush to get something up, we’re going to look around at what we can salvage and how we can put it all together.

After all, we can take our time, ‘Allotmenteering’ isn’t a race!

Typical that the only real rain of the week should be forecast for today, but then that’s the British Weather at its finest!

The BBC said it would rain this morning -bucket it down in fact, and before this lunchtime it certainly did!

This morning, while I was on my own plot (…still feels weird saying this!..), Derek and Diane worked in the greenhouse on some new work benching to enable volunteers to be able to shelter from the elements under cover.  Of course, Mitzi was keeping a close eye on things from her ‘throne’ atop the other workbench on her ‘royal’ cushion.

But then this afternoon, it brightened up quite nicely, so we were able to get out from the greenhouse we were sheltering in and do some work.

Amongst the work, Jon provided a ‘Master Class’ in planting parsnips.

This was down on the Children’s Plot where we’ve tried a few different things over the years, and nothing has really seemed to have worked.

Maybe Jon’s ‘Magic’ will break the spell, and this little section of land will be bountiful this season?  I guess only time and lots of TLC will tell.

We put lines about 1 centimeter deep about 9 or ten inches apart, and sowed the seeds liberally in the mini-trenches.  Interestingly, the seed was from some parsnips we’d grown a couple of years ago but left in to go to seed the following year.

So, I’ll let you know in the coming weeks what comes up!

Today, what with the weather and all, there weren’t many volunteers, so we had no fire or soup afterwards, but I’m assured the weather is going to be bright and cold tomorrow, so you can guess where I’m going to be!

Tomorrow, I’m going to ‘Break Ground’ with my first digging and hopefully planting.  There are some parsnip seeds left over from today, and we’ve always got garlic going spare.

Come Monday, I may venture down to ‘Wilko’s’ at Sunny Hillsborough and see if they have any onion sets for sale.

Then, I have loads of egg boxes saved up, so I’ll look at starting to ‘chit’ some early spuds for planting in a few weeks.

More soon…

I can remember years ago when myself and my soon-to-be-ex-wife bought our house together.

The cellar was of particular interest to me, for it was here that the previous owner -a very old man- had set up his workshop probably before the second world war.

All the ancient tools with rusty blades and broken handles; the odd-shaped pieces of wood that had to be for something, but completely mystifying to me.  The half-full tins of paint from decades gone by; the paint brushes, very old and with far fewer bristles than they should have had, but still clean.

The odd lengths of different types of string, the odd lengths of wire of various types, the odd sized pieces of glass, probably antique.

Well, this morning was exactly like that.

It seems obvious to me that the tenant before last must have been an old man too, and he collected and saved virtually everything that could one day possibly be of use.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those shallow types who ‘must have new’ at every opportunity.  I’m a true believer in, ‘Why buy new when you can repair the old?’  but this old fella really did take the biscuit!The mess before tidying.

Anyway, this morning and the early part of this afternoon, I worked on the large wooden greenhouse.

In the photo to the right, you can see just some of the right hand bench as you walked in.  This was before I’d started.

Well, two and a half hour’s back-breaking clearing up on both the benches and the area beneath them, and it’s starting to take shape.

The topof the bench clear.This old man must have drunk and awful lot of that ‘Klix’ instant coffee -the type you used to be able to get from a vending machine, because today I must have thrown out hundreds of the distinctive brown and white cups.  Most of them had dead seedlings in them, so the soil has gone on one of the compost heaps, while the pratty little cups have gone firmly in the heavy duty bin bags I seem to have been using so many of.

Underneath the two benches were sheets of polythene, cracking and brittle with age.  Under all that were hundreds of sweet wrappers, house and furnace bricks (…they’ll come in very handy…), and quite a few sheets of rather thick glass.

Maybe these pieces were for the old man’s cold frames?

This afternoon, I really would have liked to have carried on with my clearing and discovering, but duty called in the shape of an important funding meeting.  Still, that went well, so I can look forward to tomorrow morning down on my plot.

More clearing, more bin bag filling, but I’m not complaining!  The weather forecast for the morning is grim, but hey, I won’t mind.  I’ll be a snug as a bug in a rug, warm and dry!

In the afternoon, with the brightening weather, LEAF calls, so we’ll have to see what Diane wants me to do.

Depending on volunteer numbers and just how much the weather will brighten, there may be a chance for a fire to roast potatoes on.  This would be good, because there’s quite a lot of old wood from my plot that needs burning, and I know that there’s an awful lot up in the pallet privy that needs to go as well.

Anyway, its way past my bedtime right now, so I’ll bid you a fond ‘Goodnight!’ Dear Reader.

Problem? Sorted!

Yes, I know I put the last two posts in the section up very briefly, only to take them down again as if nothing had happened.

Well, Dear Reader, I can now officially announce that Plot 34 is mine!

Late yesterday morning, I went to the allotments office, signed and had witnessed two contracts -one for me, the other for the council, and left the building with a happy, happy smile on my face!

I had some other business to attend to in town, so didn’t get back to the allotments ’til nearly five in the afternoon.

After a brief and happy chat with Diane, I thought I’d pop down to my plot and just have a ‘little wander’ around and check out it’s many little cubby-holes and long-forgotten corners.  (…Like did I mention that there’s an Anderson Shelter hidden away in the far corner, complete with chimney -but no stove underneath it?  Or the low ‘coal bunker’ type affair in the far opposite corner?  Or the ‘Hidden Gateway’ behind the larger greenhouse that may well lead into Narnia?..)

So when I neared my gate, you can imagine my surprise when I saw a new chain and lock across my plot doorway!

Now, some of the other LEAF volunteers who’d followed me down said I ought to break the lock and chain and force my way in, but I thought not.

Instead, when I got in last night, I emailed the very long-suffering head of allotments at the council, and told him what I’d found.  I then asked him to clarify that since I had signed the official tenancy, then surely the plot was ‘mine’?

I then said that unless I heard otherwise by noon today, I’d go down there and take the lock off myself.

Well thankfully, he emailed me first thing this morning and said that as far as the council are concerned, the plot is indeed mine!  Obviously, it’s not; the land is still owned by the council, but as a fully registered tenant, I have the same rights as I do my little flat.

So, after a very enjoyable lunch with my long-suffering father, I sauntered over to the site, happily swinging my large hacksaw, an evil glint in my eye.

Today’s volunteers spotted me from the LEAF allotments, saw my swinging hacksaw, and a couple of them put thumbs up.  They knew what was about to happen!

In the end, it was Matt, our artist & chef and myself who went down there, and on arriving at my gate, still padlocked, I handed over the saw to him.  He really wanted to be the one who cut the lock, and I wasn’t about to stop him!

It only took a few seconds to cut through -I suspect it was a ‘Pound Land Special’- but with great ceremony, we undid the chain and entered…

…And found my allotment much as I’d last seen it.  All the buildings were still there, but the guy I mentioned last post had taken all the hand tools. (…Well, there were his friend’s I guess, and its not like I’ll be short of a spade or a fork -I have the keys for the LEAF tool lock-up!..)

Some other odd bits and bobs were missing, but nothing major.

I’d got off lightly!  After all the expletive-ridden fireworks of the other day, I’d fully expected there just to be just scorched earth!

So early tomorrow morning, I’ll be back, this time armed with heavy-duty black bin bags to start clearing out the greenhouses and the fabulous shed.

And I can’t wait!

On a more sobering note, the other day, I slipped on some black ice while carrying my faithful laptop and camera.

The laptop I’ve very carefully nursed back to health -apart from some slight cracking on the corner.

My camera was not so lucky.  I’m going to have to get another screen for it!

Still, the rest of the camera works -I’ve tested it- so I’ll be able to get some pictures ‘blind’, but luckily it has a very good auto focusing system, so with a little help from Photoshop, I should be able to get some half-decent shots.

More very soon…

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