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Phew! 13/04/13

That’s about the only thing I can say about today.

Loads of volunteers -even given the lousy weather, loads of visitors, and surprisingly, given all the visitors, loads was achieved!

I arrived well before ten to get stuff ready, but mainly to get the first pot of tea on.  I’d run out of tea bags at home, so unsurprisingly, I was pretty desperate!

I’d just got our friend Kelly the Kettle merrily brewing, when we had our first couple of visitors -Julie and her brother, Mick.  We stood chatting up by the top gate until Jon arrived and could let them in -my gate key doesn’t work!

Of course, our Honorary Vice ChairCat, Mitzi was soon on hand to welcome the pair of them, and luckily, they both love cats, so little Mitzi was in her element, bless.

New volunteer, Shaun, arrived pretty soon afterwards, and he quickly changed into his boots and sawed up the masses of holly Ian (no relation) and I had feverishly cut down last Sunday.  The larger branches are now just the right size to feed into the pizza oven, while all the smaller stuff has been safely carted down the the fire pit on the Children’s Plot.  We’ll burn this as soon as we can.  Yes, holly looks great, but that’s at Christmas, and those sharp prickles play havoc with wheelbarrow tires!

Julie and Mick stayed for nearly an hour, as more and more volunteers arrived and got on with their tasks for the day, and were pretty impressed as I showed them around.  They’d been past many times in cars or on buses, but never actually seen The Plots ‘up close’, and were particularly impressed with our bees.  This was just as well, because the weather this morning was pretty warm, so there were loads of them out, bringing in nectar and pollen.

As they were leaving, Jon said that he was leaving early this afternoon, and did we want to inspect the hives and possibly feed them?  Obviously, that was a ‘Yes!’

Our two remaining hives looked in pretty good shape.  The centre one had taken all its feed, and on inspecting the small ‘nuc’, we decided to feed that some syrup as well, as per Charles’ instructions.  Charles will be making a couple of visits this week, hopefully with a couple of new queens, and I’ll remember to charge the camera so I can take plenty of shots.  (Like a chimp, I’d forgotten it today.  Sorry!)

Pretty soon, Sara arrived, then it was time for lunch.  I’d been up to the local supermarket on my way over, and had loads of bread and cheese for everyone to share, of course over a couple of cups of tea, and we were discussing what needed planting in the greenhouse. Sara very kindly volunteered for this job, and we now have an entire packet of broccoli, and entire packet of white cabbage, and four trays of Savoy cabbage, all happily planted and watered in.

In a few weeks, if the weather continues to improve, we should have literally hundreds of seedlings in there, so we’ll have to have the beds ready for them all to go in!

Meanwhile, Gary and new volunteer, Shaun, were busy with the long bed by the metal shed I mentioned a few posts ago.  This is very slow work due to all the bindweed and other perennial weed in there, but they made steady progress.

I tackled a bed on the Children’s Plot, as Carol is thinking we should get some of the many pot-bound herbs in there.  We’ll see, but either way, it certainly needed weeding, and I have the nettle stings to prove it.  I also had to fight a load of dock plants with their massive tap roots, but since working on Area 34 last year, this was familiar work to me.

I was only a few minutes into my weeding when our favourite welder, who lives nearby, came down.  He brought his sister and brother-in-law, so I had to show them round, and as his sister and her husband are keen bee-keepers, they were very interested in our bees and the trauma we had a few days ago losing that hive.  They themselves have thirteen hives, but have lost seven of them over winter, so as I previously said, we’ve been pretty lucky this year only losing the one!

Matt popped in today, but he had stuff to do on his own plot, so didn’t spend much time with us.  Gerry, likewise had stuff to do -he didn’t even stop for a cup of tea!

All too soon, it was gone five o’clock, but luckily I’d finished the bed on the Children’s Plot, so we wearily packed up and made for home.  Not before I’d finished the last of the washing up and tidied up the top shed, though.

Depending on the weather tomorrow, I may just pop over to see how things are, but officially, I’m now ‘off-duty’ while next Wednesday.

Well, I say ‘officially’, but in actual fact, I’ll hopefully be seeing Diane on Monday, and any spare time in between, I’ll be working on iButtons and electric bikes.

So, Dear Reader, I’ll leave you for now, tired, but happy!

(P.S.  The other day I was browsing eBay (as you do), and came across ‘Hive Tools’.  A hive tool is a strip of stainless steel you use to crack open a beehive when you need to inspect.  Hives tend to get clogged with propolis, which is tremendously sticky.  Of course, I ordered one -I still can’t find the ‘official’ LEAF hive tool, so I intend to get mine stamped with at least my initials in it -just so we know whose is whose.  Of course, after getting a hive tool, I’ll need a bee-keeper’s smock.  Then a smoker.  Then a ‘nuc’.  Then my own bees.  It’s only a matter of time…)

Bees and trees. 07/04/13

Again today, it dawned bright and comparatively warm.  Well, I say comparatively warm, it’s certainly at least a couple of degrees down on where we should be for this time of year, but given the recent lousy weather, we’re pretty happy with this.

And most of our bees were happy too, today. The centre hive was very busy, while the ‘nuc’ was pretty active, and watching for a while, I noticed quite a few of the foragers coming back with ‘trousers’ full of bright yellow pollen.  As I’ve previously said, this means that both the queens are in there, and they’re both doing their job -laying the next generation of workers.

As I mentioned earlier, the far hive nearest Gary was as dead as a dead thing.  Yes, there were a few bees about, hanging around the entrance, but they looked dazed and sluggish, and there was certainly no foraging happening.  This means we’ve almost certainly lost the queen in that hive, but by all reports, having two out of the three still alive is pretty good for this year, so we can’t complain.Pear tree with a haircut!

Ian (no relation) texted me this morning, suggesting that we come out to ‘play’ for just a couple of hours, and as I needed to check on the bees anyway, it gave me the perfect excuse to get my ‘fun’ clothes on and trot over there.

As I arrived, Ian had started to get the tea makings out of the top shed, so I quickly got the Kelly Kettle lit for the first cuppa.

Ian today decided that he would finish off his work in the orchard, pruning back all the detritus and bad wood from our fruit trees.  This shot to the right shows one of the two plum trees after its haircut, and we agreed that there is a much better chance of actually getting some plums from this tree this year.

Gary soon arrived to tend to his chickens, then Matt, who’d come down to plant mini-pop sweetcorn.

Ian had brought down some apple strudel that wasn’t eaten yesterday, so we ate that, of course, washed down with copious amounts of tea, then carried on with our jobs for the day.

As Ian was about finishing with the orchard, I had a sudden rush of blood to the head and decided that the overgrown, and overhanging, holly that scratched you every time you went from our main plot to the orchard just had to be cut back.

Well, Ian and I attacked this with some gusto!Holly cut back

We cut some pretty hefty branches from the main tree, and as you can see from the shot to the left, while we’ve cut it back considerably, there’s still plenty to grow, and in a few months, it’ll still provide food for the bees nearby.

All too soon it was time to go.  Gary had loads to do on his plot, Matt was busy planting the mini-pops, and Ian and I had other stuff to do back at our respective places.

Anyway, there’ll be more fun and frolics from our Plots on Wednesday, so I’ll chat with you then, Dear Reader!

I’m sorry for the late arrival of this little piece, but last night as I got in, I just had to work on the iButton -so I did that, and blogged about it accordingly.

The weathermen had been promising a fine and bright day for yesterday, and they weren’t wrong.

In truth, it was probably the warmest and brightest day of the year so far, and down at LEAF we were blessed by many volunteers who took the opportunity to get out and get some fresh air in their lungs.

Gary carried on digging over the beds that in a few weeks will have masses of different types of runner beans in, while I tended our ‘best friend’, Kelly the Kettle. Ian (no relation), meanwhile, had plans for the orchard.

Now Ian has been fully trained as a tree surgeon from being a very young lad.  His dad taught him, and in fact he regularly works on quite a few trees belonging to other plot holders down on our site.

Due to various factors though, he’s never worked on our orchard trees.

Until yesterday, that is!The orchard.

As you can see from this hasty photo before he began, it was a bit of a mess, to say the least.

When these trees were first planted, the volunteer who advised on them was into ‘permaculture’, that is growing stuff around the bottom of the trees.  Consequently, there were all manner of other ‘things’ growing all around them, and with them being in ‘dwarf’ stock, and therefore very low to the ground, it meant that any fruit was almost buried by the surrounding ‘mess’ of overgrown foliage.  You couldn’t even get to the trees because of all this other stuff around them.  If you did manage to see a nice piece of fruit, odds on it would be riddled with slug holes and have maggots.

Not good.

Soooo, Ian, who has been planning this assault for weeks now, very carefully cut back most of the overgrown and overhanging branches, and in doing so has not only opened the trees up, but has ensured that if not this year, then certainly next year, we’ll have proper fruit trees, bearing proper fruit.

Also, we’re having a policy over the picking of fruit.

In the autumn, after a hopefully long and glorious summer, we’ll be having fruit-picking sessions.  We’ll be asking volunteers to actively pick the fruit from the trees, rather than leaving it all to drop into the ever-open jaws of the slugs and other nasties on the ground below.

I’ll be doing a very short ‘Sunday Sesh’ today, so I’ll get some more photos of this work-in-progress, and you’ll certainly see the difference!

As I mentioned at the top of this piece, we had loads of volunteers yesterday, and they all seemed to bring food.  Gary was in heaven!

Barry and Sairah brought young Adam and even younger Thomas, so Barry wasted no time in lighting a fire and burning a load of rubbish that needed to go.  Meanwhile, Sara, who’d brought some rather yummy cheese and a chocolate cake was alternating between he plot and ours, while Matt, who’d brought some awesome hot cross bun treacle tart was doing the copious amounts of washing up.

I was working on clearing out more of the metal shed, and managed to get one set of shelving out and fully clean, ready to be transferred into our ‘new’ top shed.

Jon arrived, of course armed with his mug, and over a brief cup of tea, we both agreed that we’d get suited up and have a look in the far hive. We were both concerned that while the centre hive and right hand ‘nuc’ were buzzing, there was no activity from the left one.

But, Dear Reader, you’ll have to wait for my next installment, all about our bees, to read about this.

 

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.

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…

Re-making the beds. 21/02/13

“Go and make your bed!”  Possibly the kind of thing you’d tell a teenager, but this was just what we were doing yesterday.

Again, the weather, while not actually snowing, was pretty cold, and again, if you stopped for more than a couple of seconds, you could feel yourself ‘setting’.

I arrived first, and wasted no time in getting the kettle on, obviously fed the cat, then surveyed what needed doing.

Primarily, this was the other long bed on the top Plot, then we had to make new sides for the new beds just below.P1010079

Here is a shot of Ian working on the side while Graham and Jon stand keeping a careful eye on matters.

Meanwhile, Gary was hard at work on that long bed.

Previously, this has had the dreaded strawberries in and not much else.P1010077

Well, this weekend, we plan to plant a load of fruit bushes in a similar manner to Jon & Pam’s work the other week on the top-most bed.  There’ll be no sides on this bed, so it’ll be set at exactly path height.  This is to discourage slugs and other would-be fruit predators.

On Saturday, I’ll get some more shots of this as it takes shape, and I’m sure you’ll agree it’ll look good when it’s done.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…P1010084

…And the first of the two beds was taking shape.

We’ve decided that this bed and the one behind it should be three scaffolding planks high.  This will be for our less able volunteers who want to garden, but don’t want to be bending right over to do so.  When more soil is added in a few days time, you’ll see that these will be the perfect height.

Anyway, this Saturday with hopefully more volunteers, we can crack on and get things moving.

More then!

Our new best ever ‘toy’ certainly earned its place on the LEAF allotments today.

Of course, I’m talking about the new Kelly Kettle, and as soon as I’d arrived, I fed ‘Her Majesty’ (Why, Mitzi, of course!), and got straight on with the most important job of the day which was getting the first brew on.

Again, it was incredibly easy to do, and within minutes, the water was merrily boiling, threatening to spill out of the top.

Gary was already hard at work on his Plot next door, so I shouted him that tea was up.

Ian (no relation) soon arrived, then Matt, then Jon, and so the five of us quickly got the cups and tea-makings out, and were soon enjoying a warming brew.

And we certainly needed warming!  Today it was one of those days where if you stop for only a few minutes, you start to feel the chill, so we quickly got down to work on the top Plot, rearranging and planning out new beds and features.P1010067

To the right here are the two remaining beds on the top Plot.  Gary has taken out the one nearest the top shed, and these two will have new sides put on them some time tomorrow.  We already have the ex-scaffolding planks that Diane thoughtfully bought last year and they’re stored in the ‘trading hut’ further down the site.

When the beds are done, they’ll be slightly shorter than before as a standard length scaffolding plank is about 4 inches shorter, and we’re not cutting four inch chunks of wood just for this.  They’ll also be very slightly narrower.  As Matt worked out, we can get three ‘ends’ to one length of board, so that will minimise the amount of wastage created by the cutting.P1010070

Here are those two same beds at a slightly different angle, and if you’re particularly eagle-eyed, you can just make out the large aluminium vacuum flask sat on the table.

We’ve had two of these flasks for a couple of years, and never really used them, apart from large social gatherings, but today we used the pair of them to great effect.

Yes, fresh tea does need freshly boiled water, but instant coffee doesn’t, and neither does the washing up afterwards!

The Kelly Kettle itself is sat out of sight in front of one of the tables on the same stump we used yesterday.

Tomorrow, we’ll hopefully have a few more volunteers, and if we do, we plan to finish off the boarding for those new beds, then we may well plant some more onions, both reds and whites.

In the meantime, there’s sure to always be fresh tea on the go!

Imagine, if you will, a group of five little boys let out by their parents for the afternoon.

(…These ‘little boys’ are myself, Ian (no relation), Gerry, Gary and Matt…)

And it’s a brilliantly sunny late spring early spring day, with hardly a cloud in the sky.  The snow drops are just starting to show their heads, and the daffodils are full of promise.

And these little boys have been ‘given’ a new toy to play with for the afternoon!

They are all tremendously excited, even though a couple aren’t actually showing it yet -they’re trying to ‘stay cool’, but there is definitely something afoot.

And what is this amazing new toy they have to play with?

Why, ’tis a brand-spanking-new ‘Kelly Kettle‘, Dear Reader!

We’ve been threatening to order one for years, but last week, I took the plunge and ordered one from eBay.  Click on the link above, and you’ll be magically taken, by the power of the InterWebs to their page.P1010058

Well, we found some pretty dry wood and a little kindling, and got it lit -ridiculously easily.

As soon as it was barely going, we whacked the top of it on -already filled with 1.5 litres of fresh water.

The water actually goes in the hole at the top left hand side -not the very top.  Put it in there, and you’ll put the fire out!

The idea is that there is a column running from top to bottom for the smoke to escape from.

It also acts as a chimney, meaning it draws air in through the bottom -the ‘chimney effect’.There she blows!

The photo to the left here is just after it was lit, before the smoke properly cleared away as it got up to temperature.

When you pop the top full of water into the base with the fire in, you have to make sure there is a good seal between the two halves -this is to ensure good airflow.

You can then feed sticks and other pieces of wood through the hole in the top where the smoke is coming out.

This picture to the right is it in full flow.  Things to notice are just how little smoke the thing makes -after the initial cloud, but we also were completely flabbergasted by just how quickly this thing boiled two litres of water.There she blows!

Less than five minutes, and it was threatening to boil out and down the sides!

Awesome!

Note also that you should only put enough wood in for a short burn.  If you over fill it with fuel, when you lift the water from the fire pan, the sticks and twigs tend to fall out all over everywhere.

Also, when lifting it from the fire pan, you should use the handle and the chain with the cork to lift it off, as it gets very hot very quickly.

Oh, and the chain and cork are only for when you’re storing it.  If you try to fill it with water, then firmly put the cork in, you are in effect making yourself a steam bomb!

And the end result of all this fun?

In about five minutes, we had more than a teapot’s-worth of boiling hot water to make our tea.P1010062

And the taste of that tea at the end of it all?

Brilliant!

Note only was it full-flavoured and tea-like, but it was free of charge to make!

We’ll certainly be using this very frequently.

In other news, I had a brief ‘wander’ around the top Plot, ostensibly to inspect Gary’s superb digging and weeding, and couldn’t help buy notice that the daffodils and crocii Jon and Pam planted are just starting to shoot.P1010063

A week or so more, and they may be ready to flower.

All further signs that the dreadful winter is about done, and we can look forward to a better summer than last year.

More fun and frolics tomorrow evening after a ‘full’ afternoon’s Plotting…

Worst of the snow? 09/02/13

Yes, last post I said; ‘…with hopefully the worst of the snow out of the way.’

Well unfortunately, it looks like it isn’t -we’ve another dollop on the way (…an official meteorological word, that…) in the early hours tonight, and all day tomorrow.

Still, we are soooo LUCKY!  Over in Up-State New York, now they’ve got it baaad!

So, in lieu of the snow, today was billed as a shed-clearing day.  I’d mentioned it at the last Management Meeting, to looks of utter disbelief.

“Clearing the top shed?  Uh-Oh.  No way!”

Well, Dear Reader, today the top shed was completely emptied!P1010039

The shot on the right is as we were just starting.  There’s a bit of stuff out of it, but nothing to write home about.  You certainly couldn’t use it as a ‘proper’ shed -for meetings and sheltering from the rain.  Well, not unless you were a cat.

Over the last few years, our top shed had become something of a joke -to both volunteers and to any visitors, and we’ve all been guilty of just ‘putting stuff in’, more to get it out of the way than to actually store anything useful.  …Or ‘find-able’.

We’ve all been guilty of this.

So today, we’ve made a start on getting it all cleared out and fit for people to use.  As I’ve already said, this could be to get out of the inevitable rain, but it will also be used for indoor activities like potting on, and even candle rolling in autumn ready for the Christmas Candle-fest.

One of our volunteers, Gerry, said we could even hire it out for local groups to use -for things like art and photography classes.

We like these ideas.Mess

Thankfully, we had a good selection of volunteers today to help make this happen.

We kicked off with the inevitable quick cup of tea, then donned our gloves, and got stuck in.

The first job was getting it completely empty, and that must have taken us three hours.

By then it was lunchtime, so we had a very quick lunch, then we all got back to our tasks.

Barry was in charge of the fire today, burning more than I think we’ve ever burned in one session.  Ian (no relation) and I were carting stuff from the shed while Pam and Julie alternated between moving stuff out, or sorting through to see if there was anything worth saving.

We also found massive evidence of rats or mice (…Remind me to ‘have a word’ with Mitzi.  She’s been slacking on the job…), so everything that might have been edible was firmly bin-bagged up and thrown.  By their very nature, mice and other vermin, are incontinent, so anything and everything edible had to be thrown away.Jon & Julie with underlay.

To the right here is about half way through.  Jon and Julie are rolling up underlay to be thrown.  This was after nearly everything had been removed.

As the afternoon wore on and the light faded, we were left to sweeping up then putting stuff back in.

Now, you’re thinking “Aaaah!  Everything went back in!”

No, Dear Reader, it most certainly did not!Room to swing a cat.

As you can see by this shot to the left, yes, some stuff had to go back in, but by far the vast majority stayed firmly out!

Yes, it means that outside the shed, it looks like Steptoe’s Yard, but come next weekend, that will all be gone.

P1010051

Then, the work can really start.

Today Matt made a great job of hammering a piece of heavy tin over the mouse hole right in the middle of the floor.  Next, we have to fix a hole in the roof, then we have to damp-proof it, then insulate it.

I then have to wire up our new low-voltage lighting circuit, so even after dark we’ll be able to see.

Then, we have to get some carpets down and maybe some curtains for the windows, then…

…you get the idea.

I see this, not as an ‘end’, but more as a ‘beginning’.

Keep this frequency clear for more exciting news, as it happens!

Spring is in the air. 07/02/13

Well, possibly not so much in the air (…it’s still freezing cold if you stop for more than a minute…), but there’s certainly a spring in our volunteers’ steps.

Right now, it’s all about clearing and tidying and prepping up.

With hopefully the worst of the snow out of the way, this week has all been about getting the Plots ready for another year of growing, and this year, we really plan to grow!Pruning the roses

As a part of this massive Spring clearance, we’ve been concentrating on the top Plots I mentioned the other day, and if you check out the photos, you’ll certainly see what I mean.

Yesterday, Matt and Jon did a superb job cutting back the roses that were lurking in the centre bed of the top Plot.  Now these roses, although beautiful for a couple of weeks of the year have been a constant pain for volunteers.  They’ve been allowed to spread and spread, such that even trying to get past the bed on a path was impossible without coming out terribly scratched.

Well no more!No roses!

This view to the left is looking across the rose bed towards the shed in the background, and twenty four hours ago, this wouldn’t have been possible!

Yes, roses are beautiful, their fragrance is divine, and the bees love them when they’re in flower, but we figure by cutting them back, we’ll gain at least another bed -for flowers, possibly two.

Also on the top Plot, today Jon, Pam, Graham and Ricky were planting bulbs.  These bulbs are crocii and daffodils, kindly gifted by Sheffield City Council last year.  They’d been sat in our top shed, and I think to be honest, they’d been forgotten about.  Well today, virtually all of them were planted!  In just a few weeks, we’ll have daffodils everywhere, and crocii likewise.Daffodils

To the right here are Pam and Jon about a third of the way through planting a whole bed of daffodils.  We figure that this bed has been largely unused for years and the bulbs would have rotted had they not been planted.  When they’ve finished in a few weeks time, we can always lift them for storage, or planting somewhere else.  But in the meantime, passersby on the road above will be treated with a whole bed full of yellow.

Then again, knowing our local youths, it looks like there’ll be a lot of local mothers getting hand-picked daffodils for Mother’s Day!  …I guess it’s the thought that counts?

Not content with merely planting bulbs, Jon and Pam then went one step further and planted a long line of fruit bushes on the long top bed.P1010030  If you look carefully on the photo on the left, you can just see a line of gooseberry, black and red currants and we think a loganberry or two.

All around the bushes and in long lines down the bed, Pam planted crocii and daffodils, so just like the others, in a few weeks time, this will be a riot of colour and greenery.  The bees will love them too!

Meanwhile, on the ‘Therapy Plot’, Matt and I were combining two beds into one, weeding it, then prepping it up for onions on Saturday.Matt Digging

And no, this shot hasn’t been ‘Photoshopped’.  This really is Matt digging, and a superb job he made of it!

All we’ve done is take out a path between two narrow beds.  I had scraped the woodchip off it to compost, then we both set about making it into one bed.  The far one where Matt is had a load of leaf mold put on last year, so he spread it over the entire bed.  The worms seemed to like it, because I found loads where I was weeding.

Ian (no relation) had found a job for Gary today.

“Here mate,” he said. “Just whip this tree out, would you?”  (Thinking this would take Gary all morning.)Tree? What tree?

Gary, being Gary, got it out and sorted in about 10 minutes.  No messing.

This was in the same area as the partially rotted privet cuttings we used in the path on the banking last week.  There were piles of it, and also builders’ bags full of hawthorn cuttings too.

Well, now they’re gone, and with this tree out of the way, Gary plans to make some raised beds in this area.  We all agree with him: the space has been ‘dead’ for longer than anyone can remember, and now we have all the scaffolding planks to make the sides with, we all think it’s an ideal time to start on it.

In other news, we heard this week that we’ve been awarded a small grant with which to repair our pizza oven.

Now, we could just use the money to patch it up and hope for the best when next winter comes, or we could build a ‘structure’ over the top of it to protect it from the worst of the elements, and patch it up in the meantime.

Given that most of our volunteers are men (…well, Big Boys…), which do you think we’ve chosen, Dear Reader?!

Men/Boys like building things -it all starts with Lego- so we’re designing and building something to fully cover the oven, and to provide some shelter from the rain or…  …Sunshine?  (Haven’t written that word in months!)

Of course, it will involve whopping great lumps of reclaimed timber, and a roof of corrugated steel -to cope with the heat from the oven below.  I’ll be sure to keep you updated on this exciting venture!

All too soon it was time to knock off, but as we left, I looked back on our Plots as a walked along the path by the road.  Everything was looking, well, different, but this was good.

This Saturday we plan to carry on, and there’ll have to be a fire lit to burn all the rose cuttings and other brush we’ve unearthed.  This could mean baked potatoes and possibly a soup.

Mmmmmm.  My mouth is already watering!


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