Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ploughing and Pumpkins

Another sunny day, what a wonderful treat, and another was awaiting me up the lottie. Here is the photo to prove it! All the rubbish is down the bottom, so a big bonfire will be had no doubt, but I am thrilled that the weeds have gone for this year.

I got my rotorvator out to see if the time spent locked in the shed had done it any good. It was still a bit reluctant to start, and when it did get going, it went on strike when I attempted to flatten out some of the plough grooves in readiness for the grass seed. A chap walking his dog along the public footpath through the farm shouted over the hedge that it sounded like I needed to fill it up with petrol, and was the tank empty. I must look really dopey if he thought that I was trying to run it on an empty tank. Apparently he services gardening machines so knows what he is talking about. Interestingly he never offered to come and help me! The rotorvator was full up with petrol and oil. I just think that there might have been a bit of dirt of something in the carburettor that made it play up. I left it where it was in disgrace and went to check on the caterpillars and removed yet more eggs. It’s amazing at the volume of eggs a little white butterfly can lay from one day to the next.

I decided to give my machine one last chance, and it worked. I shouted at Pat to move the wheel barrow out of the way (he was dumping grass cuttings etc) and I charged through the gap at full pelt – didn’t want to risk it conking out again.

I rotorvated where the onions had been (only about 12ft x 30ft), but it meant that I could cover it up to stop the weeds growing. I will probably remove the plastic when we get the frost, just to add some pig and horse manure, and then cover it up again, to let the worms help me out with the work. The potatoes are going there next year, so I want to make it rich for them.

I saw on John Harrison’s allotment page, (see link) that he uses 4pt milk bottles as weights for fleece. What a good idea. I use them for all sorts of things, collars to keep the birds and rabbits off young plants, as jugs to transport my flowers when flower arranging, and I use them as flower pots – the square bottoms are much better than the round flower pots because they do not fall over and you can fit more in a box or tray.

My husband groaned when I told that I wanted to save still more, but this time with their lids. I am going to fill up lots to see if they will weight down the netting and also big sheets of plastic that I use to cover the soil. Usually I use lumps of wood or old pipes which look rather ugly and are heavy for me to carry around, and then there is the storage of course. But milk bottles, filled with rainwater from my water tanks, will make good weights, and when finished with I can just use the contents to water my plants – excellent!

Our site is very windy all year around as it is an open field, and more so in the winter when there is not the lightest shelter from the hedges or trees. Everything has to be tied down, including the wheel barrows! After my rotorvating success on that plot, I took it down to where the potatoes had been, with the intention of doing that site, which is about 50ft by 30ft, and then I was going to spread some manure and cover that up for the winter – taking advantage of the lovely sunny day. Unfortunately the soil was too soft so I had to abandon that idea.
The new grass paths need mowing for their first time, but as two of the mowers are broken and the other an old electric machine, I have to just wait patiently. I don’t really want to risk using a strimmer on it in case it pulls the grass out by the roots.

It is amazing how quickly two hours pass, so I checked on the Cherokee beans and managed to pick another 2lbs, and Pat picked almost 7lb of tomatoes. I laid out the pumpkins in the sunshine. Not bad from the small patch I had, and considering they were only watered for the first few days they were planted, I think they have done well.
When I looked at John Harrison’s web site yesterday morning to read his diary, there were photos of his produce table on his plot, with pumpkins, butternut squash and lovely marrows. In the evening when I was looking up something on another of his pages, I saw that he had made a late diary entry; a thief had been at work, and had stolen produce, including his harvest on his table. How mean is that. It takes so much time, effort, hard work, and dedication to get the produce to grow from the seed stage and if you are lucky to the harvest stage. Hours of work, I would be gutted if it happened to me.

It made me think back to what was involved to get the pumpkins that I have got – and they are not a patch on John’s.

I bought the compost and packets of seeds, not all of which germinated. I then had to pick out the strongest, and pot them on, keeping them warm and not over watered. They had to be acclimatised for a week or so before they could be planted out, and then I had to cover them with bell cloches as we had a late frost in May. Before all that though the work started last year on the soil. It was dug over several times and the weeds dug out, then it was covered for over nine months. I rotorvated it, dug in manure and all summer kept it mulched and weed free. It would be heart breaking to have them stolen.

Let’s hope that the thief on his site is shamed by his or her actions and does not do it again.

I have spent the afternoon freezing the Cherokee beans, and I have made another batch of spicy tomato sauce. I had run out of ground coriander, so just used cumin and chilli powder but I added some roasted red peppers – improvisation – that’s the fun of cooking. It has had the taste test by Pat and got the thumbs up again, and once it is cooled it will be in the freezer this evening.

Won’t be able to move after I have been pulled about by the physio tomorrow, so I am not expecting to go up the allotment until Thursday – but you never know.

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