Friday, May 05, 2006

Surprises, and more surprises up the allotment

Thursday 4th May Thanks Lily for pointing that out- you are right, I don't even know what day it is. I looked out the window this morning - 6th - and saw some children on scooters and asked my husband what the time was, when he told me I said, 'Shouldn't they be at school by now!' Blame it on the pills.

I spent most of the day resting - had not option but.............

The apprentice gardener offered to come with me in the evening to tackle some dock weeds in the flower beds that I could not manage.

My wonderful underling - has absolutely no interest at all in gardening, detests weeding, but bless him, will help me dig out the dock weeds - which is one plant that the does recognise...............Love is...

I mowed all the paths down the bottom 100 feet - several times as I had to start on the highest setting and gradually keep lowering the blades until it had a No.2. haircut. It was a hot evening, but lovely up there with just the two of us working.

As I was on my hands and knees weeding the first flower bed, with the Rudbeckia, chrysanthemums, delphiniums, and a dormant dahlia, I couldn’t help but wonder why the heck I was doing it. Flower beds 25 feet long, and ranging from 3 feet deep, to about feet six or seven feet deep. It is rather time consuming and I don’t spend that amount of time doing it at home – I must be mad.

Then I remind myself that this time last year, it was full of dock weeds and hadn’t been cultivated for at least 7 years that I knew of, and many before then. In an effort to tame it and keep the weeds down, I decided to plant any perennial that I divided from my garden, and any that I could propagate or just move!

It was very apparent that it would be a bit of an awesome task, especially with the remainder of the allotment to do, so I subdivided the area and made grassed paths. Not very scientifically and at the wrong time of year – in mid summer. So the paths between vary from two feet wide to four feet wide! They had to fend for themselves without much rain, but now they are lush and green and better than my lawns at home.

I am still not sure whether it would have been better without paths and to rotorvated, but I like the structure and permanency it gives to that end, and makes the task more manageable psychologically as I just think of weeding one bed at a time.

So last night I started on the bottom bed, then put all the grass cuttings on it as a mulch – which only covered one third of the flower bed, but it is a start!

The bottom bed you can just see a bit of it on the right. This is the next bed with cardoon that I grew from a seed now looking as though it will be really majestic. To the right of it the sedum, or ice plants to give them their common name, beyond the flag irises - which survived the dreadful winter much to my delight.

Then I started on the bottom of this bed – I got the surprise of my life – the asparagus had grown. What a shock. I was chuffed to bits.

These I grew from seed and this time last year they were little tiny wisps of fern. Look what a pile of muck can do to them!

My first task was to lift the membrane off it and shake off the horse manure mulch without breaking the asparagus tips – which I did successfully – well I broke one, so I snapped the bottom off and ate the rest – and boy did it taste good.

The above is the 'after' photo once I had removed the membrane and weeded. Don't they look good? Well I think so.

I slowly and methodically weeded the rest of the bed on my hands and knees. Half of this had been dug over when I put in the chrysanthemums earlier in the year, so it wasn’t too bad to do. By then two and a half hours had passed and it was time to go home.

Ginger, Adelaide and Kokko had had a great time playing in the meadow and doing their – pushing heads through the fence routine to peck at any long wisps of grass they could find that I had missed. Three wonderfully large eggs for us too.

My underling did a good job of digging up the dock weeds – not too many of them, but the ground was like concrete on top, so I dare not risk doing it myself. I am left with the other weeds to do. As soon as I am fit enough I will mulch the beds with last years horse manure to lessen the task and keep the annual weeds down.

All the root cuttings I planted of the flag irises seem to have survived the appalling winter. Underling made me laugh as he called me over to look at a weird stone. When I went to see what it was, it was the root of an iris that had been nibbled by a rabbit into very funny shapes, and it still had managed to grow! Those beds are going to look really fantastic and will be well worth all the effort I put into them last year keeping them weeded.

So too the beds with the hostas in which were tiny little bits and have now clumped up – and the other perennials that are just emerging. It is a very exciting time of year.

Look what I discovered when I was on my hands and knees weeding.

Yet another surprise and I could not believe my eyes. This is the actual colour - and photographed in situ where I have left it. It looks just like a rose - a paper rose.

Guess what it is.............It is a rose, a real rose, that has fallen off my little cutting that flowered last year for the first time - just a couple of deep red roses.

One bloom, has somehow fallen off, and dried out and survived the rains, storms, winds, frosts, snow, and the perma frosts. Isn't that a lovely little miracle? It certainly made my day.

I guess you can start to appreciate how I have become 'hooked' on working up my allotment. No matter how I feel, or what the is going on in the world, I can go up there and find peace, and beauty all around me - I just have to look. I know that is sounds dreadfully 'corny' - but you just can't beat that feeling.

Friday 5th April - edited - it is May!

Another very hot and exhausting day – too hot for me to go up the allotment during the day, so I spent all morning in the kitchen.

Underling took on the title of 'Gofer', and went and collected half a dozen table birds, weighing from 6 ½ pounds to 8 pounds each.

These I cut up into wings, thighs, drumsticks, all with lots of meat on them, which I cooked in big trays covered in various sauces that I made last summer and froze. Spicy pepper and tomato sauce, pepper pesto sauce, and a ratatouille with all sorts thrown in.

The carcasses I cut up and put in a big preserving pan with onions and vegetables to make stock for a big chicken curry that I am going to make tomorrow. There was plenty of flesh still on the bones and it looks and smells gorgeous already.

'Gofer' turned into assistance chef and got the job of picking the cooked meat off the bones. The giblets I cooked in a huge casserole again with all sorts of veggies and the stock will be frozen in usable portions. The cooked chicken pieces are now frozen in sealed bags in their sauces, some of which are destined for No.2 son.

Guess what we had for dinner – OH had got them out last night – yes chicken pieces. After seeing all that chicken and with the ovens full of it, I just did our lunch pieces in garlic and herbs and we had a jacket potato.

Suffice to say that in all that heat I needed to sit down and rest a couple of hours this afternoon.

After the heat of the day had worn off, I went up the allotment to see my beloved girls, and let them out into the meadow for a couple of hours whilst I worked.

I set myself a small ‘goal’ for tonight. Just to put up another 15 canes, that OH bought for me – well he got me the 45 I asked for, but I only did 15. You remember the idea I had to push the first 15 through bale twine – primarily it was a flash of inspiration as I had neither knife nor scissors to cut it with. Well, now that I have added the remainder the structure is so solid you would be amazed – even I was.

I pushed the second canes on the opposite side, into the same gap in the twine that the first were in, then I twisted the cane around, as you would turn a hand on a clock. This I did a few times and the result was each one was held so tightly it wouldn’t move. I then pushed it into the soil. By the time I had repeated this 14 more times, the twine was so tight it is like iron – and does not give or move an inch. I am really rather impressed. So simple, quick and easy – I think I should patent it asap!

I dug up a few weeds that had dared to show their faces in the climbing bean bed, then went down to do my set task. On my hands and knees to weed around the shallots. Just annual seedlings mainly. This, one would normally do with a hoe if one didn’t have a bad back – but most if not all of my weeding is on my hands and knees and it is surprising what you notice on that level.

Beside the two 25 feet rows of shallots there is about 25 ft x 6ft of exposed soil – the rest I dug and covered with cardboard and plastic to keep the weeding down until I am ready to plant it.

So I decided to dig the exposed bed over – it had gone hard and clumpy and there were some annual seedlings popping up on it too. This was the bed that I barrowed 10 or more wheelbarrows of well rotted pig muck onto over the winter, dug it in, then dug it over early in the year. I got a real surprise – for less than a ladies fork depth, the soil underneath was really damp. It was all the pig muck that I had incorporated into the soil. You read about doing these things, but seeing is believing. All my hard work is beginning to actually pay off. I didn’t manure the whole plot as some vegetables do not like a rich soil so are to be planted on the bits that were manured last year.

Seeing how lovely and damp retaining this patch is, I have decided that dwarf French beans will grow nicely here – again – no need to worry about watering – which I don’t do – but it does mean that I needn’t worry about a crop – I should get a good one – if I keep the rabbits and birds etc off it!

Soon two and a half hours had passed so my evening ritual of locking up the girls, giving them fresh food and water and a ‘stick’ of a purple sprouting broccoli plant to keep them amused tomorrow before I go up there to let them out.

The 330 feet walk back to the top, is one that I enjoy, when I look at all the things I have growing, and what I have achieved – its the very best medicine in the world.

I didn't take my camera this evening, so will take some more photos next time.

**** Answer to rhubarb question *****
The reason that I forced a rhubarb plant for the Schnapps was that you get really tender, sweet and pale rhubarb. With the rhubarb growing naturally you get thicker stems and it is a dark colour mainly green and deep pink of red, and it needs stringing too usually. This rhubarb, will do the trick, but you might end up with a browner coloured liqueur rather than a pale or lightly tinged with pink one. Once strained, there is of course no problem with whatever colour liqueur you end up with, but I wanted it to be almost clear like the German one.


  1. I think you mean May not April.You have worked so hard you're excused!

  2. Your allotment looks so good so glad your OH is helping you with it. after 3 weeks you should get better but the itching will be with you for 3 or 4 month so buy some of that creme i told you about. the durgest told me when i used the creme not to use a lot he said in this case a little is better. didn't say why but he was 75 years old and probably had the shingles in his life.

  3. What a silly billy I am Lily - it was late last night and I was pretty worn out - but the boss said, 'Hadn't you better update your blog? So I did, but I could hardly see with weariness.

    Good enough excuse do you think?

    Patsy I will see if I can get hold of that cream over here, if not I am sure that there will be something similar. Calamine lotion seems to be the favourite - good old fashioned pink stuff - sure looks feminine on then body - not!! LOL

    After breakfast I hope to be able to go put up a pea frame which I somehow have to make - don't know from what yet, and cover and protect from birds and pheasants and rabbits.

    Wish me luck - and energy and inventiveness - I sure need it.

  4. The pink stuff wont work. the name is hydrocortisone cream .

  5. Thanks Patsy - will get some as soon as the pharmacy opens on Monday

  6. denise t-usa7:21 pm

    i have thought that you were speaking about pat when you used OH...but now i see that who is OH?

    also, here we have both white stemmed and red stemmed rhubarb here...i would think the thinner stemmed white would work for you, and be much easier...unfortunately i left both my white and my red back at my old house when we moved...:o(

  7. OH is 'other half' husband, so is the gofer, the underling, the assistant gardener, the golfer, the bowler, the bit of muscle when I need it up the allotment, the assistant chef, or washer upper or etc.

    He comes in many guises LOL - but mainly TLOML

    I haven't seen the white rhubarb - just white beetroot! Shame that we can't send seeds across the water.

    Have a good weekend and thanks for your comments.

  8. That rose is amazing Lottie, remarkable to think it's made it through the winter.


Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment - it is very much appreciated. Your comment will appear after moderation.