Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mad - but true! I went up the allotment Friday afternoon

After lunch Pat went bowling again and I mentioned that I was going up the allotment – he said that I was mad!

The sky was dark, snow was forecast, and it was bitterly bitterly cold! But I layered on the clothes - got the spade, and all the composting stuff to go up there and set off full of optimism.

A good start was when the farm gates were open – so I only had one gate to negotiate.

The ground was still frozen so I managed to get the car up the muddy track without a problem.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to be out in the open air and up the allotment again. I opened the shed door – put on my old walking boots as I was digging and they are safer – loaded up the wheel barrow with spade, bag of composting stuff and camera, and set off down to the middle veggie part of my lottie.

The mission – to dig a couple of bean trenches. Boy was I cold, and the wind – well – it must have been straight from Siberia. You can see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos. It doesn’t look much – but the trenches are 25 feet long. The ground was frozen to about 4 inches or so deep then the rest was softer so I was able to cut out bits and they stayed on the spade. It was heavy going though. It was nice to see worms lower down – I never used to see any worms two years ago, so it is rewarding that they have returned – just proves that it is worth putting the manure on isn’t it?

Before photo

I dug out the first trench and then filled it with a layer of horse manure which had a smidgeon of hemp mixed with it, then I put on the sack of chicken litter and kitchen waste. I bent down and went a bit dizzy so thought I had better do something else before I started digging again.

I went for a walk down to Caterpillar Café to check on my broccoli and from what I saw I would be tempted to rename it The Pigeons Pantry in future. The wind had brought the top down of my tented home made cage, and I have been unable to sort it out by myself and Pat hasn’t fancied it – its been too cold on the odd times he has been up there with me when I have been dumping stuff.

Now that the pheasant shooting season is on – there have been an influx of pheasants and it looks like they and the pigeons have been nibbling the tops of some of the plants so there was nothing else for it but to have a go at fixing it on my own.

In the shed I have a sackful of the orange nylon stringy stuff that they use to tie the bales of straw. I save all the bits and tie them together. They are indestructable! I went and got some and started my task. Firstly I tied the side strutts and anchored them to the fence. Not pretty – but worked. Took a bit of tugging as it was heavy! I did the same to the other three – the bad weather had meant that the posts had leaned over and I couldn’t bang them in – hence the improvisation. The next bit was the hard bit. I had to lift a very heavy long length of wood, that anchored the netting which was wrapped around it! Took a bit of doing on my own. Then there was the little matter of wedging up the netting so that I was not trapped inside!

The fallen posts in the middle got redesigned – again I couldn’t bang them in on my own – so pushed or rather pulled on them so they went into the ground and put a milk bottle on the top so that it didn’t tear the netting – and you can see how I repeated the process.

At that point I got sidetracked – and started picking up all the dropped leaves. I filled up a sack full of them and ones that needed pulling off plants also. Some of the plants have started sprouting, a few of them were a bit deformed – so the chooks will have those, and a few weedy ones too. I left it looking tight and taunt and healthy. There is no way that the pheasants and the pigeons are going to rob me of those plants after all the hours spent on my hands and knees for days on end in the summer picking off caterpillars!

Geoff came up at that point and shouted out – you must be mad working up here in this weather! I told him that was exactly what Pat had said! (I didn't take any notice of his either!)

Whilst I was pulling up chickweed – no longer a chore – but a joy as it is a favourite of my chooks – Geoff came walking down my plot and through the gate and up to me – something that he rarely does. He just wanted a chat. He said that all he hears is that my ‘garden’ is the best up there so he came to see what all the fuss was about, and that he could now see that it was! (They call allotments gardens here in Norfolk). He went on to tell me that he and a friend knew of 20 people in the village who had cancer now – (that is 1% of the population.) Why is it elderly people always talk about who has just died or the latest doom and gloom.

I am always so grateful to be able to work my allotment – and it enforces everything I feel – who cares about aching bones, and other things, so long as I can get out and up the allotment - I am so very lucky and make sure that I treasure every moment as you never know what life has in store for you.

I decided to pack up soon after that – I had been up there for two and a half hours and was feeling pretty tired, but that second trench was beckoning me – and so too were the dark clouds and the spit and spots of the cold wet stuff.

En route I dug up some carrots – little ones I had left in too small to harvest – now lovely as you can see. I pulled up some leeks too, and couldn’t resist having a peek under the fleece at the January King cabbages – and look – not bad eh? The first ever cabbages I have grown! I tucked them back up for another day. I will do something better with them than just boil them. They deserve more than that after all they have been growing since early last summer!

The barrow was loaded but that trench still was calling – it was 3.30pm and the light was fading because of the darkening skies. I couldn’t resist it. Snow is forecast and some more bad days. I emptied out all the dead and rotten leaves from the brassica cage along the first trench – they will rot down nicely.

I then got out the spade and started on the trench. It was hard going, but I finished it! I just need to fill it with some horse manure and add the kitchen waste! I felt pretty achey and tired by the time I had finished, but elated at the work I had done. It’s a good feeling when you achieve something isn’t it?

I had to use the flash on the camera and 'lighten' it a bit as it was so dark and gloomy by the time I finished!

And so off I went home – the gates still open as the farmer and his hands were taking the pile of pig muck to the fields – and the slurry was being taken too – now that really did clear the tubes!

I passed the branch on the way home and stopped and managed, with difficulty, the squeeze the branch into the car. I had to break off more than I used, and it is the wrong sort of branch so will end up back up the allotment! C’est la vie!

The girls seem to enjoy it though!


  1. Anonymous11:21 am

    Hi Al,

    Just read/seen your blog for today and the pics.

    I shall be dreaming of chooks and digging( envious 'cos I still have to dig my bean trenches), would not normally be going to bed at this time, but my colleagues' kids are champion swimmers and have some
    'do' on today and another one tomorrow, so doing fri/sat/sun for her plus already done my usual thursday. have mon/tues off so might just get it done...
    Think the girls like their branch, so how could it be 'the wrong sort of branch'? is it the type of wood or the shape/texture, need to know, may get meself some chooks one day,LOL! meanwhile ...just enjoy yours! THANKS!


  2. Well I thought it was the wrong sort because of its shape - when theygot for the cabbage cage thing they can usually all eat at it at the same time.

    The branch really needs to be wide enough for them all to sit side by side.

  3. Well done lottie. I been up the allotment today and yesterday but didn't get a great deal done. The ground was rock hard with frost. Jelous of your trenches... i'm no where near that organised yet!

  4. They are not very straight - but at my age and trench that is not waiting for me - is a bonus LOL LOL LOL

  5. You are making me get itchy feet to be down at the allotment sorting out like you have been doing!!! We've been away at the Yorkshire Dales for the weekend (Youth Hostelling with 48 adults & children!)so I have missed some really good working weather as it has been cold but dry and sunny here - and in Yorkshire, I'm glad to say.
    Watch this space, Mike


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