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Ah.  That’ll be snow, then, will it?

Towards the end of March, there’s about a foot of it on the ground, and apparently there’s more to follow!

>sigh<

So, no Plotting for LEAF today, but I’ve been more than busy doing dead fun stuff.

(…well, it is for me, anyway…)

I hope there’ll be more in this column when/if the snow melts!

Well, it may look like our site has been run over repeatedly by a mechanical digger, especially the top Plots, but that’s just Gary.  He’s our very own ‘JCB’, and today he carried on with more clearing and weeding, and now, from the road, the site is starting to look a little more loved.Cleared!

It’s funny, but we’ve had loads of comments, both from passers-by, and from other allotment holders who really can’t believe the difference we’ve made just since the start of the year.

Yes, it may look like it’s all just ‘scorched earth’ at the moment, but in a few weeks when all we’ve planted starts to show itself, we’re hoping it will all be a complete riot of colour and shape.

What you can’t really see from that last photo is the immense difference that taking down the jasmine has made.No jasmine!

Here you can see the remains of it from a different angle, looking out onto the main entrance path.

Just a few days ago, this was all totally overgrown, with a couple of dead roses, a huge bramble, and all other kinds of detritus that was choking the life out of everything.

Now, thanks to Gary, this area in a few days will be ready to plant proper rose bushes, and we may have a small jasmine as well for the scent.  It won’t, however, be allowed to completely swamp everything around.

So today has been fairly quiet down our Plots.  Still, this is not really surprising given the weather being like the middle of January, but those who did turn up to work were rewarded by a hot lunch in the shed (soup), the inevitable Plot Tea, and Classic FM in the background.  I still have to shake my head at just how this has all turned round so quickly, and it’s a big ‘Thank You’ to all the volunteers who got stuck in and made it so.

Of course, no day at The Plots would be complete without a visit from our Honorary Vice ChairCat, Mitzi-Moos.Vice ChairCat, Mitzi

This was her last Thursday -we certainly had no sunshine today!

Today, after being fed, she spent most of the day either watching (…and directing us…) at work, or catching some sleep in ‘her’ greenhouse.  Bless!

…Anyway, there’ll be more ‘Tales From The Plots’ very soon.

Planting and a meeting. 14/03/13

The new gas regulator for the bottled gas heater arrived the other day, and today it was put to good use.

Since Diane has been away poorly, we’ve been having the monthly management meetings at Julie’s house, but this time, Ian suggested we have the meeting down on The Plots.

What a great idea!

So, rather than mess an entire evening up with traveling, we held the meeting after our regular Thursday LEAF session in our ‘new’ wooden shed.

Yes, I know the shed isn’t strictly speaking new, but it’s the first time we’ve been able to properly use it for exactly what it was intended for: A place for having meetings.

Unfortunately, Cyril, our secretary is laid up with a poorly foot, but myself, Ian (no relation), Julie and Sara all sat around the table in the shed and talked ‘LEAF Business’.

And it was brilliant!

Meanwhile, Pam was hard at work planting beans and peas in our greenhouse in little pots for later transplanting out, and we noticed that the sweet peas some of the Plot Kids had planted a couple of weeks ago were just starting to show their first shoots.

Gary and Jon were also hard at work moving a load of soil from by the main entrance into the bottom of one of the new beds, so even while we were all ‘yakking’ away in the shed, hard work was being done.

Anyway, I’m going to be brief tonight (…’Yay for THAT!’ someone shouts…), but there’ll be loads happening on Saturday which I’ll be sure to Blog on my return to Wardian Towers.

Chat with you then!

Oh, we happy, happy few. 09/03/13

Last night, the weather for the next few days was set to be awful, and for today, at least, it really was awful.

BUT, this didn’t bother us!

I mentioned last post that I’d get some photos of the inside of the top wooden shed, and today there was loads happening in it, so I’ve got the photos.Eating in the shed!

But in all the excitement, I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.

This morning, Jon very kindly gave me and the ‘Box’ for TradeBase a lift over to The Plots, and we arrived well before 10.00.  While Jon went down to his own plot, I opened up the sheds and got the trusty Kelly Kettle out for the first brew of many.

I set up the Box and wired up a few lights in the top shed, then Ian arrived, soon to be followed by Gary.

Gary had been threatening to replant the saddest of all sad pear trees from a horribly tiny little pot into a bed just cleared on the Orchard Plot, and you can see it in its new home here.New home for the pear tree

The light brown ‘dust’ you can see in this photo is the blood and bone meal fertilizer that he spread on the ground after planting.  Of course, he put a good few trowel fulls in the hole he’d dug for the tree.  As this is ‘slow release’ fertilizer, it should give the tree plenty of food for at least a season, possibly longer.

Meanwhile, Ian found a wicked-looking billhook with which to attack the huge honeysuckle that has been threatening to take over one of the top Plots for years.  Gary soon joined him, and the pair of them spent well over an hour carefully hacking away to remove a couple of vast brambles and some well-dead rose bushes.

The result?  Check this out:-Honeysuckle no more!

Don’t worry, though.  Ian and Gary have four or five ‘runners’ that it had sent out, and these are now safely, temporarily healed in in a spare bed nearby.  Yes, I know it looks like this area has been devastated, but give it a couple of months and some sunshine, and this will be back to a much more manageable size, and as I said, we’ve got those runners to plant along some chestnut paling further down near the greenhouse.

As promised, Matt had brought one of his fabled stews today, so we thought we’d all properly eat up in the top shed where we’re meant to eat.  This is rather than shivering out on the benches getting slowly drenched by the ever-present drizzle.

Sara had bought some fresh bread, so as you can see by the first photo, after a hard day’s grafting, we enjoyed a proper meal, all sat round a table, inside whilst listening to Classic FM on the radio.

I’d also moved the gas bottle and regulator over from the metal shed, so for the first time in forever, we had a gentle heat in there to keep us warm.  Just how civilised is that?

Afterwards, over the inevitable cup of Plot Tea, Sara commented that all we really needed were duvets and pillows, and we could have a sleep-over.  Well, we had everything else, even a cat!

All too soon, it was time to call it quits for the day, but not before we’d found every tool we’d used outside, put everything away, and I’ve brought the dishes home to give them all a good washing.

Still, having said that, even after all the tea and drinks we’ve had today, both of the vacuum flasks were still full of piping hot water.

More on Wednesday evening…

No rain! 07/03/13

The BBC weathermen got it wrong today.  No rain, and certainly not as cold as had been forecast.

Still, with the kind of activities happening today, no-one got a chance to get cold!Gary's digging

To the right here is the bed I mentioned last post that Gary has been working on.  You may think that it’s only a bed, and therefore not all that special, but before Gary took to it, it was an utter mess!

Of course, there was masses of bindweed in it, and this was all horribly intertwined with the inevitable strawberries, but there were also some rather sick-looking chives that looked liked they’d seen better days.

Yes, this bed really was in a state, but as you can now see, it’s all been so skilfully cleared.

Over the coming days, Gary will be weeding the paths around this, so we can actually get to it easily, then in a few months, Gary had the idea of planting runner beans here.

Putting this to ‘The Collective’ (…”Resistance is futile*…), we all agree that this would be a great place for the beans.  It’ll be near our bees, and also we think the flowers will be beautiful when they come out.Parsnips

To the left here is the bed that Jon whacked the parsnips in the other day.

Yes, it just looks like a ‘blank’ bed, but in a few weeks time, it’ll all spring to life as the temperature rises and the seeds get the idea to grow.

That small pile of woodchip in front is the pile that Jordan moved over from the pile of wood chippings the other week.  This will all get spread around as more paths and walkways are finished off.Berry bushes

To the right is the bed that Jon planted the other day with the various berries.

Again, this bed was choked full of strawberries, bindweed and goodness knows what else, and I think it was Gary who worked his magic on it, before Jon finally neatened it up before planting.

These bushes will thicken out considerably in the coming months, so much so that it may almost be like a mini hedge.  Difficult to believe, so we’ll take Jon’s word for it!

After making tea this morning, I put yet another coat of ‘One Coat’ on the two new beds, while Ian (no relation) planted some strawberry plants in the end of the bed nearest the shed.New strawberries!

Jon gave us these plants some time ago, and they’d been sat near the kitchen in a tray, getting sadder and sadder as the days went past.

Now Jon assures me that these things don’t try to spread anything like as badly as the old strawberries, but even so, Ian has put this extra piece of wood in the bed just to make sure.

Any infringement will be met by the ultimate force:  Shears!

In the top shed, Graham was having fun with a Calor gas stove we found as we cleared it all out, and we can now say that should it get really cold and miserable, we can always shelter in there, safe from the rain.

Matt was also busy in the top shed today, moving the huge noticeboard to the end wall, then putting the first of many shelves up in there.

NO!  These will not just be ‘dumping grounds’ for everything we can’t be bothered to put away!

I’ll get some photos of this on Saturday.

…And speaking of which, Matt has taken away the large cooking pot, promising to bring something hot (…and of course, delicious!..) on Saturday for our lunch.

That just leaves me to get the bread, then!

Speak to you Saturday!

 

*Sorry, but I haven’t got a ‘Star Trek’ quote in for months.

Excuse the awful pun, but I just had to get it out of the way.

Jon has been mentioning our geodome over the last few days/weeks and how it looked saggy, and frankly, unloved.

Someone had been swinging on it -despite being expressly forbidden, and it had broken in the centre in the middle.

It needed TLC, and putting back together,  …and properly this time.

I say ‘properly’ because when we’d first built it last year, we’d kind of ‘bodged’ it together, and hadn’t put the correct pins in the ends for a lot of the poles.The pins in correctly.

To the right here is how we should have done it the first time.  Notice how each pole actually has two pins; one for outside the yellow ring, with the other being inside.  This is to correctly ‘tension’ the dome so it forms its own shape; and holds it.

When we’d originally thrown it together, we hadn’t done this properly, and if I’m honest, this is probably why it collapsed on a Plot Kid a few weeks ago.

Well no more!

Today, Gerry, Jon, Matt, Gary, and I worked together as a team, and smartened it up properly.

And the result?

Done!     <—-  See for yourself!

We all agreed that this was a tremendous ‘team effort’, and it certainly took all of us swinging on various lengths of pole to hold it in position while someone else hammered in the split pins.

Notice how the top of the dome now has a ‘peak’.  This is how it should be, and it certainly didn’t have one before.

And what do we do with it now it’s done?  We plant beans and sweat peas up it in a couple of months time!

Oh, and before all this fun, while I was making tea, Jon planted five rows of parsnips in the bed he started a couple of weeks ago, then finished off last Saturday.

If I remember, I’ll get shots of this, plus Jon’s other fine examples of fruit bush planting, as well as Gary’s awesome work on the bed by the kitchen area.

So, a brief entry tonight, but if the weather is any better tomorrow (…which is looking pretty unlikely…), there’ll be a longer one then.

 

 

Splash it on all over. 02/03/13

Maybe not quite Henry Cooper in the ‘Brut 33′ advert, but you get the idea.Beforehand

(…And that’s me really showing my age!..)

While Gary cleared the long bed below the new ones, I made a good start on painting both of the new beds.  As I said a couple of posts ago, even though this stuff is meant to be ‘One Coat’, quite frankly: It’s not.

With the glorious sunshine all day, I soon got my coat off, and got stuck in.

As I’ve said before, painting with this stuff really is great fun.  Whopping great brushes, and no worries about spills or drips; you just whack it on.

An hour or so later, and most of a tin of paint, they both looked like this:-Nearly done!

Okay, I need to paint and plant a number of stobs on the outside of these beds to make them robust, but as you can see, they’re certainly getting there.

Not many volunteers showed up today, but given the weather, we weren’t all that surprised.  After all, most people have their own gardens, and they were no doubt tending to these.

Or….  They could have spent the day traipsing around town, ‘shopping’.

Given the choice Dear Reader, between ‘retail therapy’ and root canal dentistry without anaesthetic, I’d have to sit down and have a little think.

This morning, Jon planted up the long bed above these new ones with Logan berries and Worcester berries, and a fine, neat job he made of it.  Next time I’m down, I’ll get some photos to show.

Matt made another compost bin using old pallets for our growing piles of compost, and Pam re-planted some raspberries that had been sat in the middle of the main thoroughfare for about four years.

She also took two wheelbarrow wheels home for her husband to repair their punctures, and I told her that I’d order some more wheels for these barrows that are actually solid, therefore won’t puncture, yet feel like pneumatic ones with the correct ‘bounce’.

So, a fairly quiet day, but we were pretty grateful for that as it meant we weren’t getting interrupted all the time, and it allowed us to get on and do the work.

More on Wednesday!

Bish Bash Bosh. 28/02/13

The weathermen got it completely spot-on today.  Almost unbroken sunshine all day long, and if this keeps up, I may have to bring out the ‘Wardian Shorts’.

Don’t worry, though.  -Before I do, there’ll be plenty of warning to make sure there are no children or small, furry animals nearby.

As is the LEAF way, things started off a little slowly this morning.  Of course, after opening the sheds, the first job was the tea, and this was soon on and about to boil.

Nick from the Parson X Initiative soon arrived with his wife, then Graham and Ricky tipped up.

I then received a call from our friends at Richardson’s DIY over in Firth Park to say they were dropping off the new stobs, so I had to see Anne to get the keys for the trading hut so we could get some scaffolding boards out that she had very kindly agreed to store for us.

Today would be a Bed Making Day!

Nick, Graham and Ricky and I then brought up eight decent lengths of scaffolding, and I showed them all how easy it is to make a bed using the method we’d used last weekend.New Bed!

It didn’t take us long to whack it all together, and you can see it ‘in the raw’ in the shot to the right here.

Today, I was much more conscious of my ‘hammering action’.  Last Saturday, I’d been a little ‘over enthusiastic’ and as I’d had hammered some of the nails in, my forearms were at some pretty odd angles.  While I didn’t notice this at the time, over the next few days, my left thumb (…I’m a ‘south paw’…) swelled up pretty dramatically, leading to a trip to the GP on Monday morning, followed by a five hour wait in the casualty department of the local hospital for x-rays.  Luckily nothing broken, just some stern advice about how to hammer properly.

Well, I took the doctor’s advice, and so far this evening, no twinges like last week.

So, back to the matter in hand, and this bed will need a few external stobs to keep the sides and the ends from bowing.  We’ll get these whacked in on Saturday morning.

At one point, Graham told Gary -who’d just arrived- that we needed to move the bed because the ‘weather station’ was right in the middle of it.  Luckily, he got the joke, because even Gary with all his massive strength would have a hard time moving this bed.  Not only does all the wood weigh a lot, but each corner has about two feet of stob directly into the earth!

One of the first jobs on Saturday will be for eager volunteers to paint this entire bed with ‘our’ green paint, and that should provide a lot of enjoyment for whoever wants to do this.  The bed we finished last Saturday also needs at least another coat or four, so I reckon there’s hours of happy fun to be had slapping it all over.

Unfortunately, I had to go down town this afternoon on far less fun business, so we had to shut up right on time, but you can be sure that come Saturday, we’ll all be back, eager to get this bed finished, then we’ll have the fun task of deciding just what we want to grow in it.

Current popular suggestions are fast-growing salad stuff, but with a line of nice flowers down the centre to break up the lines.  This sounds ideal, but there will be more chats about this on Saturday over one or more of the many cups of tea.

And the weather?  Why, it’s set to be a degree or so hotter than today!

Bring on the Spring!  …And here’s to a cracking Summer!

A slight change of plan. 27/02/13

I said last post that we’d be getting on with the second new bed today, but due to a mix-up (…mea culpa…), we didn’t have the stobs for the corners or side panels in time, but I’m assured they will arrive tomorrow.

So instead, while Ian planted a whole bed of two different types of onions, I got on with giving the bed we’d finished last time its first coat of ‘One Coat*‘ paint.Before painting

As you can see from the photo to the right here, even though all the boards are basically sound, they certainly looked a little on the scabby side.

I found the tins of paint and paintbrushes, and was very soon happily painting away.  I always find that using this paint is very ‘therapeutic’.  It’s water-based, completely non-toxic, and dead good fun to slap on.

The results, while not quite good enough for, say, the Sistine Chapel, are quite good enough for the folks (…and cat…) here at LEAF.Not quite the Sistine Chapel.

Of course, one of my first jobs was making the tea, and once again, the Kelly Kettle came into its own, and I can thankfully say that despite having three cups each, we didn’t have to resort to using the expensive gas hob.Tea's up!

Now we’re starting to get familiar with its little ‘foibles’, we find that setting and successfully lighting it is getting easier and easier.

While I was happily painting, Ian (no relation) was busy on a new bed Gary and I had sorted out on the Therapy Plot, planting two different types of onions.  They’d been sat in bags, quietly going rotten for months, but Ian picked out the best ones and planted them.  Okay, some might not come up, but no worries;  -we can always plant something in their place.  We all agree that the main thing is to get stuff planted!

Jon soon arrived, and he dug over and pre-prepared a bed that will hopefully have parsnips in in the not too distant future.Pre-Prepared for Parsnips

This digging may look ‘rough’, but that’s exactly the way it’s meant to look.  We are no doubt due more than a couple more early morning frosts before Spring finally arrives, so digging this way will help the soil break down naturally.

I couldn’t help noticing that this, along with quite a few other beds, needs re-painting at some point in the near future.  Maybe a Saturday job for someone?

So once again, a quiet day down our Plots, but we still got loads done -probably because there were so few interruptions from visitors!

Tomorrow, the weather looks set to be even nicer than today.  The BBC weather service reckon the Sheffield 5 will have virtually unbroken sunshine all day.

We say:  Bring it on!

*Advertised as ‘One Coat’, we find this paint only gets to the right thickness and finish after five, possibly six coats, but there you go.  It’s fun to put on, though!

…is definitely crawling into the shower when you get home, battered, bruised, muddy and so, so coooold!

We didn’t have many volunteers today, what with the weather being so freezing and the frequent snow showers that had been forecast, but the few of us who did tip up certainly made up for the lack of man-power by working hard enough for many.

Today’s main job was the finishing of the first raised bed on the top Plot.  This would be edged with the scaffolding planks that Diane bought many months ago, and for the first time, we decided to build it three planks high.P1010086

On Thursday, we’d cut the planks, but couldn’t seem to get them to fit properly until one of us had a brain-wave.  We’d build the sides up first, then join them with the middles.

But first, we had to dig out most of the soil from inside that we’d mistakenly put there on Thursday.

This only took about a half an hour, and was absolutely back-breaking work, but we didn’t mind as it kept us warm!

With the excess soil out of the way, we took long ‘stobs’ for the corners and laid them underneath the ends of the planks which had been taken out and laid up neatly.

Then, using some nails that Gary happened to have, we nailed the stobs to each end.

Then it was a simple job to gently lift the boards, now joined together at their ends with stobs, get it all correctly positioned, then hammer the stobs into position.

The photo up to the right shows the first side piece in place, and you can see that we are in the middle of hammering the ready-cut ends into position.  With both ends nailed on, we could then make sure it was all square, then simply do the trick with the two stobs and three lengths of planking for the other side.

The result?P1010101

Okay, this is after we’d refilled it with soil, but as you can see, all the ends now match up perfectly

The only slight area of concern is that there are only single outer stobs holding the sides in, and we figure that within a few months, these will start to bow out alarmingly.

Well they won’t, because before then, we’ll put extra supports down the sides and also on the bottom end.

Oh, and it will also need three or four coats of our special non-toxic green paint, but if there are Plot Kids around next weekend, I’m sure they’d love to finish it all off.

Oh, and a Very Special Thanks to Sara today!

She brought down a pan’s worth of beef stew (…with absolutely no horse shoes in!..), and we all mightily enjoyed this!

On such a cold day, it was perfect for keeping us warm and providing ‘fuel’ to keep us going!

And I mustn’t forget to mention Pam.  While we were whacking great lumps of wood about, then shifting tonnes of earth, she was very patiently weeding out the top bed up by the path on the same Plot, and as we left tonight, she was still hard at it, finishing off planting more onions, carefully watched-over by Gary, who’d stayed to see to Jon’s chickens.  Thank you, Pam!

So, all in all, a fairly quiet day, but we had already agreed on what we needed to do, and we did it.

(…Of course, along with feeding Mitzi-Moos and drinking loads of tea from our new Kelly Kettle!..)

Next time?  Ha!  Another three planks high bed of course, right next to this one!


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