Monday, August 29, 2005

Bank Holiday Weekend Musings

Over the last 10 days, I have been up the allotment all but two days. In that time apart from the usual maintenance jobs, I have sown three grass paths between the flower borders; I think that it would be easier to mow than weed. I have spread 15 wheelbarrow loads of pig manure. Every other day I have been harvesting runner beans, courgettes, salads, cucumbers and tomatoes.

I planted another bed of asparagus and sowed perpetual spinach along the border in front of it.

A week ago I went to the allotment planning to hoe around the broccoli in the cage – but I was soon to learn that it is no use going there with a definite plan or time scale. Once inside I noticed that they were infested with caterpillars. Green ones, yellow ones with black spots and tiny black ones. Yuk. I went and made a cocktail of water and washing up liquid and filled up a hand atomiser spray. It took me four hours to spray each side of each leaf and I had to refill the bottle 6 times, I was absolutely exhausted when I had finished and my back ached like crazy – it was a really hot day. I never did get to hoe - but I'll have arms like Popeye's.

I spent the next few days doing my usual harvesting, sowing lettuce and weeding.

Today, Bank Holiday Monday, Pat was off to golf, I whizzed over to my friend Sheila’s who lives in Rocklands a village about 20 minutes from my village. She invited me to pick some autumn fruiting raspberries. She has a glut and is sick of them and has invited different friends and relatives to harvest them. On the journey there through country lanes, the only other traffic on the road was a horse and trap, and they waved me by. Heavenly huh?

I was back and up my allotment by 11am and there was not a soul up there. I decided to finish the job that I had started a week ago. Loaded up the wheel barrow with everything I needed including this. Do you know what it is? It is made primarily of wood,with a metal wheel and Geoff says that it is about 100 years old but I am not sure about that. It certainly looks ancient. It had been in his family for years. He has a metal one, which has also been passed down through the family. I have photographed it in front of my shed. This was used for years for housing pigs, with a concrete pen in front. It was quite normal to have pigs, chickens, and rabbits for eating,almost, if not all of them had livestock as well as vegetables. But I won’t digress into the history yet, that is for another time.

The machine is a hoe. The wheel wobbles like crazy and the cutters need fixing a bit, but I decided to give it a go.

When I got inside the cage and started using it, I happened to notice caterpillars on the broccoli. Deja vu. So I spent another three and a half hours doing exactly what I did last week – but this time I picked off all the caterpillars that were big enough to handle – yuk – and put them in a trug with some cabbage leaves that I picked off and dumped the lot in the bin right at the end of the lottie. I should have burnt them or squashed them,so that they don't turn into butterflies, but I am a bit of a softie.

Lessons I have learnt today

1. Wear a hat when kneeling and picking caterpillars off tall broccoli plants – if you knock a leaf the caterpillars fall off onto your head. – Cringe
2. Don’t assume that once you have removed the caterpillars and put them in the trug that they will stay there – watch where you are putting your knees, and don’t ever wear shorts again when undertaking the above job. – Squelch
3. Hoe and weed around plants before you spray the leaves – soaked or drowned caterpillars raining down on your head and neck is not nice! -Yuk
4. Check to see if spraying with soapy water (a) just gives the caterpillars a wash and blow dry. (b) Washes their food so they can eat more of it (c) makes the slightest difference.
5. Read something completely different before you go to bed so that you do not have Hitchcock type nightmares!

I still never got to finish the hoeing, and I still have to hand weed on my hands and knees because the weeds are perrennials worse luck and I need to get the roots out. And there were still caterpillars marching along the soil. Urgh!

Pat phoned to say that he was back from golf, and I was so pleased to be summoned home for a change. I cheered myself up by quickly picking lunch – vegetarian only, not caterpillars.

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