Browsing Posts in Area 34

Sweltering in the sunshine.

I’d finished everything I had to do here at Wardian Towers by early afternoon yesterday, so thought I’d get my gardening ‘glad rags’ on and hoof it down to my plot.Hot enough for you?

This last few weeks or so, what with one thing or another, I haven’t had much time to spend on my allotment, and by the state of it, it certainly shows!

On entering my greenhouse, I glanced across at the thermometer hung on the door post, and was greeted by this.


It was way too hot to actually do much work -things like the ‘industrial weeding’ would have to wait for a cooler day.

I did however notice my sad little olive tree, now surrounded by long grass and weeds, so I thought I’d clear around it.  It would give it some light, and give the freesia around it a chance to thrive in the glorious sunshine.

Cleared.And here you can see it after I’d finished.  You can see the freesia around the outside of the ring, but you’ll have to look really closely to see the olive.  Its towards the centre left of the patch of earth.  It’s branches make a ‘Y’ shape.

You’d think from this photo that it was merely a dead stick sat in the middle of this rough circle, but on getting up close and personal with it, it shows its still alive.New shoots on the olive tree.

And to the right here is the proof!  These new shoots have only recently shown themselves, and on looking further down that same stem, I can see other buds just starting to form.

At this rate, we’ll have a massive crop of olives by about…  …Oh, the year 2045 or so.

Still, with ‘Climate Change’ (…NOT ‘Global Warming’!..), we may have to bring this date forward by a couple of years.

Whatever.  Just the sight of this tree brings back happy memories of Cyprus, and that’s good enough for me.


Don’t panic! 02/05/12

Those large, friendly letters that ought to be posted somewhere pretty visible to all and sundry at LEAF.

Yes, its been seemingly quiet on these pages just recently, but that’s not because we’ve all emigrated, died or been evicted.

No, its because I’ve had a major hard disk crash*, and until just a few minutes ago I was blind and deaf because of it.

Anyway, its much too late to say anything sensible right now, and anyway I haven’t ‘Webified’ all the photos I’ve taken recently, so it will have to wait ’til Friday evening.

Why Friday?

Because Dear Reader, tomorrow evening, after a hard day’s ‘Plotting’, I’ll be attending a meeting of the Sheffield Bee Keeping Society with Diane, and probably won’t get home ’til late.

But, there’s been loads happening, and I can’t wait to sit down, get it all straight in my own head, then commit it to the ether.


*  The hard drive in question was an IDE drive and the replacement was a SATA drive.  Would Windows back-up recognise the SATA drive when trying to restore?  I think not…  fume

They said it would rain…

…But today, it didn’t!

Unfortunately, I had some urgent business to attend to this morning, so I didn’t arrive until nearly lunchtime.

Ian, on the other hand, had been down since seven this morning!  He’d been happily ‘pottering about’ (…as you do on an allotment…), planting bits and bobs and watering stuff in the main greenhouse.

After a lunch of bacon butties cooked ‘al fresco’ (…Marvellous!..), I set to and partially untied the pear tree.All tied up!

To the right here is before I took off the top blue rope, and you can see the iron stake and lower binding holding it firmly in place.

Untying the rope was no problem, but as I did it, I noticed that the trunk ‘sprang back’ slightly, loosening the tension in the bottom rope.

I think tomorrow -if the weather holds!- we’ll have to re-tie the bottom bindings more securely.

Top rope off.Here you can see it from another angle after I’d taken the top binding off.

Yes, I know its not quite straight, but its certainly better then it was before I originally tied it off a couple of months ago!

When the freesia I planted around it have flowered and died back in a couple of months, I plan to heap a load more soil around the base of the trunk.

This will ‘plant’ it more securely and it will cover up the very small roots that are currently on the surface of the soil.

Looking at the tree, the blossom has mostly died off, and I’m hoping that our new bees were installed in time to catch the nectar and do their job.  If the flowers were anything to go by, we should have a bumper crop of pears this year.  Fingers crossed!

Elsewhere on our Plot, Ian was keen to show me some of the red cabbage seed we planted a few weeks ago showing themselves.Red Cabbage!

To the right here is a close-up of one of them.

Ian remarked that he could only tell they were red cabbages amongst all the weeds by comparing them to the seedlings we have in the greenhouse which were planted only a week or so earlier, but with the warmth and shelter have come on slightly more quickly.

Tomorrow when we go down, one of the first jobs will be to put some upturned bread trays over these little guys before the pigeons spot them!

You may remember that awful yellow-piping monstrosity that had been ‘built’ around the patio area we now sit on to drink tea and put the world to rights?  Its been ‘coiled up’ on the other side of the path, looking a right cat’s breakfast.

Today, I bit the bullet and took it apart.  It was made from different lengths of yellow gas pipe, various ragged pieces of netting and some rotten wooden stakes.

It was fixed to the stakes by three inch ‘posidrive’ screws.

Undoing the screws was a nightmare!  Trying to unscrew them from wobbly bits of wood that I couldn’t hold down properly because of the piping being in the way, then fighting with the wretched netting…  Yak!

Anyway, its done now, so we’ll have to figure out all the different lengths and what we’ll use them for.

Tomorrow, the weather looks to be grim, but not as grim as Monday or Tuesday.

Still, that doesn’t worry me!  I’ll be nice and warm and dry for the first three days of the week on our bee training course with Charles our head beekeeper.

And I can’t wait for that!

Lookin’ For The Lad.

Unfortunately, there was no ‘Plotting’ today -the weather’s been horrid!

It been raining now pretty much constantly for the last three or four days, apart from the odd bright spell when you think, ‘Ah, it’s over!’ only for it to start raining even more heavily within minutes.

Still, we certainly need the water.  With large parts of Britain under threat of drought and with hose pipe bans already in place, I heard yesterday that the forecasters reckon it could rain like this for an entire month and we’d still not get the water-table back to where it should be at this time of year.

Well, I’m all for a bit of rain, but I’m thinking of the stuff I’ve got in the ground -and the stuff that’ll be ready to go out in a few weeks, and I’m thinking of the digging I’ve yet to do, and I’m thinking that a little sunshine would be great!

So today, I’ve been down town and over to Sunny (not!) Hillsborough to see a couple of people I had to see.

When I got back, I started doing jobs I’ve been putting off for ages here at ‘Wardian Towers’.  Jobs like clothes washing, cleaning the bathroom and kitchen; that kind of stuff.

When you live alone, there’s not much motivation to be had when faced with a huge pile of washing up, but an old friend once gave me an invaluable tip:-

Before you start a job that you really don’t want to do, but nonetheless needs doing, put a smile on your face, turn up your music then pretend you enjoy doing what you have to do.  Pretend that its a fun job, and within a matter of minutes, why, it is!

And it works!

Pretty soon, you’re humming along to the music, having a whale of a time!

Of course, a certain member of this household, some would say the main guy around here doesn’t like it when his Dad’s clearing up and making noise and moving stuff from exactly where he wants to sleep.Staying out of Dad's way....

After a ‘tantrum’ (…during which I tried really, really hard not to laugh…), he stalked off to ‘Catch Some Zeds’ on his own.

So, a couple of hours of happy, noisy mayhem, I’d finished.

Time for a cup of tea, I thought.  Time for a quality ‘chill’ moment with my cat.

But my cat was nowhere to be found!

You’d think in a one bedroom flat there wouldn’t be many places to hide, but Alfie knows exactly where he can have some quiet.

I eventually found him here.  Sat on the bedroom windowsill, looking out at all the people struggling up the hill, laden down with shopping bags, fighting the wind to keep their rain hats on and their hoods up.

Ha!  He’d better hope it stops raining tonight, because he’ll be out in it himself!



A quiet and gentle day…

…Made even better by the fact that there was no hedge to cut!

Ian had already put the kettle on as I arrived -this time lighting a small fire in the barbeque that The Old Fella had left us.  And a fine cup of tea it made, too!

The weather today was forecast to be very rainy, but as it hadn’t started by mid-morning, we decided to light the ‘Big Boys Burning Fire’ in the old oil drum and see if we could get rid of some of the privet cuttings.Two red cabbages make a showing.

After a couple of false starts, we finally got it going, and were merrily burning at a great rate of knots when there was a loud cry from over the bottom fence; “Aaaargh!  I’ve got my washing out!!!”


Still, as soon as the lady asked us, we put it out very quickly -we had water on standby in case of; ‘Fire In The Hold!!’ (…Which when you really get it going, happens surprisingly often -and surprisingly quickly!..)

So, at a bit of a loss for jobs, we decided to properly stake the pear tree to stop it swaying alarmingly even in the slightest breeze.

Now, Diane has said that we probably shouldn’t stake this tree -she’s all for ‘letting it naturally be’, but I’ve thought long and hard about this, and I’m afraid I must disagree slightly.  The way it swayed in even the slightest breeze can’t have been good for the roots.

Ian had found a three foot metal spike some time ago, so I very carefully positioned it as close to the trunk as possible, then very gentle tapped it in using a lump hammer.  I’m sure I didn’t hit any roots as it went in.

When there was only about a foot of the rod sticking up out of the ground, Ian and I very carefully put some plastic sacking round the delicate trunk, then bound it securely to the stake with some of that blue rope there seems to be so much of.

Of course, in all the excitement, I didn’t get a photo of it, but promise to tomorrow!

We then went to ‘play’ in the greenhouse.  We planted some more peas, and I went around taking photos of stuff.  That shot up to the right is one of the pots of red cabbage that Ian planted a while ago, and if you look carefully, you can just see the two young seedlings showing themselves.The early peas are making a go of it.

This shot to the left here are the first early peas that Ian put in, already making a go of it.  In a week or so, these will be ready to go out, and we’d better get some proper netting up to try to combat the ever-greedy pigeons.

After we’d done all this, we just sat on the patio, idly chatting; planning where stuff is going to go.

All great fun!

Tomorrow is a LEAF afternoon, but I’ll be down first thing to carry on pottering in the greenhouse.  Ian will be down later, so we’ll have to see what trouble we can get in before heading up the lane to LEAF!

And yes, I’ll get the photo of the pear tree!


Right. Thats it. I’m done.

No, really.  I mean it.

I am now officially sick to death of lopping 6 feet off privet hedges.

But more of that later…

I was the first to arrive at The Plots this morning, so wasted no time in feeding the ‘Honorary Vice ChairCat’ Mitzi-Moos.Once there were three beds, now there is one!

After a little fuss and quick catch-up (…Well, she is HVC, after all.  She needs to be kept in the loop…), I went down to the bottom plot -The Demonstration Plot- and had a look at ‘the boys’ + Diane’s terrific work yesterday.

Yes, this shot up to the right is the same piece of land as I took the photo of yesterday.  This is after Gary, Shaun, Patrick, Derek and of course Diane, have worked their magic on it.Another potato bed, ready to be planted.  Nearly.

To the left here is the front bed of the same plot I mentioned yesterday.  The guys have taken out all the bindweed, rubbish and general detritus to leave it nearly ready for planting up this week.

After feeding and chatting with Mitzi, I plodded my weary way down to my plot.  Weary, because I seem to have been cutting hedges for at least two lifetimes, possibly three.  For my past sins, no doubt.

Still, as soon as I unlocked my gate, I felt the now-familiar ‘lifting of spirits’.  I felt ‘back home’ on my plot.  A great feeling.

Even the sight of the last of the hedging couldn’t dampen my spirits.  I was on the home run.  Soooo nearly finished!An hour or so into it this morning.

To the right here is the hedge after about an hour’s lopping.  I was starting to see my next door neighbour’s plot for the first time, and I was anxious to see just what lay at the end of my hedge.  Would there be a pot of gold?

Possibly not, but it would be fun finding out!

By this time, Diane, Shaun and Matt had arrived, so after a very quick cup of tea, I went down to carry on.

Wassat in the corner?And very quickly discovered my ‘pot of gold’.  An Anderson Shelter that was obviously put up before the last war.

The steel of the roof and walls is still secure, and there’s even an old chimney in place.  Unfortunately, the wood burning stove from beneath it is long gone, but that won’t stop me ‘acquiring’ something to go in it’s place.

Pretty soon it was lunchtime, so I wandered up the lane to see the guys.

As we were waiting for the kettle to boil, a bee landed on the table in front of us.One of 'our' bees, laden with pollen.

Notice it’s back legs with it’s pollen sacs full?  At first we couldn’t work out where this dark pollen had come from, but on later thinking about it, my betting is that it had been down to my plot and plundered the berberis next to the small greenhouse!

Early afternoon saw the arrival of my next door neighbour, Jim.  He’s fighting like mad with his plot next door.  He’s already cleared most of it and is starting the digging that you always have to do on a new plot.  Still, he’s going down to Wilko’s this week to buy some onion sets and seed potatoes to put in, so at least he’ll be able to see as he’s going that there’s already stuff in the ground, growing.

At three o’clock we broke for tea and went up to see the guys busy at work on the LEAF Plots.

During tea, Jim gratefully accepted some rhubarb with the intention of ‘persuading’ his teenage daughters to make the family a crumble.  We’ll hopefully get a report of how it all went next weekend when he’s back down!

All too soon, it was time to go, but as I left my plot, I couldn’t help but take a quick, proud shot of all my work.

As I left this afternoon.All the greenery you can see in this shot to the left is stuff I’ve already cut down!  Next time I’m down, I’ll clear it all up and probably have a fire -if the wind’s in the right direction!

Matt left at much the same time as me, but Diane and Shaun were still hard at it working on the potato bed by the fence.

It was looking pretty good, and next time I’m down I’ll get some more shots of it.

I won’t be down tomorrow, but Tuesday -if the weather holds- I’ll be back ready for more work.

This time, with no hedge cutting.

Hooray for that!


Obviously, its not only the second sunny morning of the year, but after all the grey, rainy and cold mornings of late, it appears that way.

A little later, I’ll be heading over to Area 34 -its far too nice to be stuck in front of my computer all day.

And what will I be doing?

…Why, cutting back the hedge, of course!

I have been doing this since before I was born, or so it feels.

Why stop just when I’m starting to hate it?

(…Sorry to be so negative here, but the coffee has yet to kick in…)

Shorts and sun hats, anyone?

Ah, not today, Ref!

Today was much colder than of late, and as the day wore on, the wind picked up.  By the time Ian and I left for the afternoon, it was gusting quite badly.  Any thoughts of just sitting drinking tea were straight out of the window.

Unfortunately, I had a major disk crash this morning so was a little late, but Ian, being the ‘early bird’ had already planted loads of stuff in pots and trays in the larger greenhouse.Dwarf French beans.  Soon!

He also directly planted three rows of dwarf French beans (…see photo…), then a little later planted some dwarf French purple beans at the other side of the patio.

After the obligatory (…quick!..) cup of tea, Ian started working round the bay tree between the two greenhouses, taking out the surface weeds, then literally fighting with the humungous dock roots.  Of course, he won, but sometimes it was a pretty close thing!

Purple Swarf French Beans.  Soon!To the left here is the area he put three rows of the purple dwarf French beans in, then covered it with a screen we had ‘spare’ from the smaller greenhouse.

We figure the Old Man used these in high summer to keep the greenhouses aired but used them to stop the greedy pigeons from going in the greenhouses for ‘lunch’.

Of course, when these beans are large enough to be of no interest to the birds, we’ll take it off and store it.

And I carried on with the hedge-lopping…

I swear, when I close my eyes, all I can see are the great gnarled and twisted branches of privet.

Still, because it was that much cooler today, we got quite a lot done:  We weren’t standing around chatting, but had to keep warm with physical activity!Going, going, going...

And to the right here is my effort for the day.

Yes, I know it looks no different to the last shot in the last post, but believe me when I say I cut another six feet of it today.


Lunchtime, Ian cooked a couple of pork steaks on our rocket stove, and these wrapped in breadcakes, washed down with ‘Area 34 Tea’ really were just what was needed.

The weather forecast for tomorrow has been changing quite a bit over the last few days.  A while ago, it was saying that tomorrow it would rain cats and dogs.

Checking this morning, they’re saying it’ll rain all day, but only cats and dogs in the afternoon.

This could well mean that I get a ‘day off’ to nurse my aching back and dab the scratches and cuts all up my arms.

Oh, and see if I can breathe some life into this computer…


Slash and Burn!

Well maybe not slash and burn per se, but certainly felt that way.

Yesterday, we’d said that if the wind was in the right direction, then we’d have a controlled fire in an oil drum whose bottom I knocked out the other day up at LEAF with a cold chisel and lump hammer.Hedge with a haircut!

And today, the wind was in the right direction.  But that was for this afternoon.  This morning, I carried on ‘slashing’ the left hand most hedge.  (…Well, as much as you can with Diane’s telescoping lopping shears…)

To the right here is the hedge from a kids-eye view about lunchtime.  If you click back to the last image of this hedge from a similar angle, you’ll see I’ve made pretty good progress so far.

While I was happily lopping away, Ian was working his magic on the area around the smaller greenhouse.  A few days ago, I’d dug up to the front of it, but it still needed finishing off, and this is what Ian masterfully did today.

If you click on the image to the left, you can see where he’s been working because the soil has that ‘freshly dug-over’ look.Digging around the small greenhouse.

He’s also moved a few paving slabs that were stood on their ends right in front of the greenhouse.  This was because they could have been excellent slug ‘dens’, but also because tomorrow he plans to re-use these slabs along the edging towards the path running down the right hand side.  I’ll get some photos tomorrow to show what I’m on about.

For lunch Ian had brought some ‘chuck steak’, bread cakes and French mustard.  And a frying pan!

And delicious it was too!  For me, there’s nothing to beat home-made food cooked over an open fire, washed down with Area 34 Tea, all sat out in the open air looking over what we’d done.  Marvellous!

All too soon it was back to work, so while I cut down yet more hedge, Ian prepared an area for a ‘proper’ Big Boys’ Fire.A 'Proper' Big Boys' Fire!

Once he’d got it going, I quickly downed tools and went to help him keep it burning.

We’ve found that these ‘oil drum’ fires a great for a ‘controlled burn’ in that you don’t spread the fire over a large area, so there’s very little mess and crud spread over a large area.

The only downside is that once you’ve got a small fire in the middle of a ring of bricks and you put the oil drum on, you have to really keep feeding it.  Fast burn?  Not half!  We were both constantly feeding it some pretty hefty branches -as you can see by the photo, and yet we could have put even more on.

And the heat was massive!

Within just a few minutes, we were down to T-shirts, sweat pouring off us, and Ian had to get the fresh water bottle so we could keep hydrated.  Thirsty work!

After a burn lasting well over an hour, we figured that the neighbours had probably had enough smoke for one day, so we let it die down and go out.  On looking round, we figure we’ll need at least one more burn, maybe two -especially as Jim next door asked us to burn some stuff for him too!

By four thirty, we decided that we’d ‘played’ enough for one day -after all, it’s not a race, so wearily packed up the tools and said a ‘Goodnight!’ to the plot.By the time we left this evening.

This shot shows my progress, and tomorrow I hope to get much further.

Today during a break, we discussed our pear tree and how it sways alarmingly in the wind -in all directions.

Luckily, today Ian found a long, thick metal ‘spike’ amongst the detritus.  Tomorrow, we plan to drive this spike good and deep right next to the pear tree (…crossing our fingers to avoid roots…), with only eighteen inches or so showing above ground.

We’ll then carefully ‘bind’ the tree trunk to this stake to prevent it moving around so wildly in only the slightest breeze.

We figure that it hasn’t been planted deep enough, so the next best thing will be providing a firm ‘all-direction’ anchor.

Obviously, the tree trunk will expand as it grows, but we’ll keep an eye on it and re-bind it as necessary.

More pictures and words tomorrow, then Monday: Rain!

As our next door neighbour Jim was saying, in the latest weather forecast, it was difficult to see where Yorkshire ended and the North Sea began.

Still, we’re not complaining.  We certainly do need as much rain as possible, and anyway, we’ve got a dry greenhouse and shed to shelter in!

More soon.

Argh! Rain and snow!

Yesterday was a complete write-off.

Rain, high winds, snow…  Miserable!

Still, we certainly needed the water -especially at this time of year- and it meant I could carry on here at Wardian Towers with some programming stuff that would bore a wooden hat stand.

Most of that is now out of the way, and as the sun is now shining, we look set for a full day of Plotting.

The temperature is nowhere near as high as last week, but it will prevent us just sitting around.  We’ll have to work to keep warm!

More news and hopefully some pictures this evening.

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