Yesterday, Sunday, I awoke to a grey drizzly day, but I really needed to go up the allotment on my regular caterpillar safari. Missing a day due to the rain had me wondering if they were chomping rampantly through the leaves. The first thing I did when I arrived was a quick walk down to the cage to look through the netting. And to my amazement I could not see many at all. But I was under no illusion that as the leaves were dripping with raindrops, and it was drizzling lightly, the caterpillars might be lurking underneath in the dry.
After loading up my wheelbarrow with all the things I needed, and had to take (one of the first lessons I learnt having got a 330 ft plot, is that if you don’t take everything or as much as you can with you in the wheelbarrow, you soon get tired walking up and down fetching odd things.
First stop the broccoli cage, best to get the worst back breaking job out of the way. It is a bit of a palaver lifting off the heavy plank of wood anchoring the trailing netting, necessary to keep all the birds etc out, but once done, at least I can stand upright in the cage. Not that I get much chance as I am on my hands and knees or bending over, picking the caterpillars off and inspecting the leaves on both sides. But joy oh joy, there really were a lot less, in fact I didn’t even pick off a hundred. I am not going to crack open the champagne just yet, in case the heavy rain the day before had something to do with it. I cleared up all the dead and yellowing leaves and firmed the plants in a bit, the ground was sodden, so I would be limited as to what I could do on the rest of the site.
Having finished that job, and feeling somewhat elated, I went further up to harvest more Cherokee climbing beans – another 8lb. It still amazes me how long it takes to do something like that!
En route I bent to pull up some young thistles, which was quite a novelty. Not the thistle part, but the fact that the soil was so wet that I actually could pull the little ones up root and all. I then decided to see if the carrots would pull up. They and the parsnips had been set like concrete into the ground, and a pick axe would have been needed to shift them sooner. They needed thinning out too.
I started on the carrots, and picked out the largest ones – probably the wrong way to do it, but I decided that the carrots were a good size and did not want them to get too big in case they got tough. I just thinned one row and got a carrier bag full – of them vertically in it with their feather leaves attached. The variety Keratine, are a very deep orange, almost red, in colour, with a lovely long root. When I pulled the first carrot, it slipped out of the ground with a very satisfying sloop noise and the carroty smell was just divine and so very strong.
It gave me the opportunity to do some hand weeding as I went along the rows.
Next I thinned one row of parsnips, and I was pleasantly surprised at the huge size of them. So again I picked out the largest ones leaving the smaller to grow. We have stony ground, so some of them had distorted shapes.
I picked one very large one, only to discover when I washed it that it was two, in a compromising position.
I harvested a carrier bag full to the top of parsnips, it was really heavy to lift. I had two wheel barrow loads of the tops leaves and annual weeds to put into the compost bins. I have threet next to the long horse manure bin I made alongside the fruit cage. I layered the leaves with layers of horse manure to accelerate the decomposing. Now it might seem a weird thing to say, but the horse manure smelt of a summer’s day in a field. A lovely warm and pleasant smell of hay and sunshine; which rather surprised me so that job turned out to be a pleasant one!
By this time the back was complaining – so I decided to finish up for the day. Then I remembered to have a look to see if I had any raspberries, which I did, enough for tea, with yoghurt perhaps.
Just then K my neighbour with the tractor turned up so we had a friendly chat, and I complimented him on his work with the tractor, and he was really pleased with all the photos I took him on it. Then his parents arrived whilst I was picking some runner beans - the crop nearest my shed. So I ended up chatting to them, and gave them a bag of runner beans, half the Cherokee harvest, ditto the carrots and a pile of parsnips, and a cucumber. I hadn’t seen K’s dad for months, when I was harvesting some lettuces and gave him some at the time. He and his wife were very complimentary about my allotment, saying how neat it was etc, and said that I put the others to shame. They asked me questions about all the different things that I was growing, and I was able to gently broach the subject about clearing the weeds alongside my bit. They were very understanding, and he immediately asked K to clear right along the edge, but K said that he couldn’t because of all the junk there, so his dad cleared it, and was going to get K to plough it before they left. Yippee
They explained that their son was not really interested in growing anything, but just playing around on his machines, which I knew, and I said that I understood, that is why I had not nagged him about the weeds. He also said that he was going to get his son to grass the top end, like I had so that he could park his things on his side, and that he would get him to put a path right down alongside mine. I can’t describe how elated I felt to hear that. The lad has always been friendly and pleasant when I have seen him, but he was hardly up there, hence the overgrown plot. But if they do sow the grass, it will make so much difference, and if the lad wants to practice ploughing that is fine by me as it means that there won’t be many weeds.
By this tine I had been up there for almost four hours so headed off home, but before I left, I made sure to thank the parents for encouraging their son to clear the weeds, and I told them that I really appreciated it.
When I got home, I was soaking wet, covered in mud, but beaming with joy. I think that it is always best to be nice to people, you may have to be patient, but it works in the end. I just had time to tell Pat all my news about the produce and the plot next to mine, before he went off to play bowls – the last outdoor match of the season.
After unpacking the car etc., I sat in the conservatory feasting on a huge plate of salad leaves, sweet Tom Thumb tomatoes, herbs, cucumber, and beet all of which I had grown - BLISS