Maternal Pride


I was leaning over the pond this evening, trying to reach the juicy alpine strawberries, when I spotted a big adult frog eyeballing me from the comfort of the pool.

I was swelled with pride, as this strange beast had accepted lodgings in my pond. Now my eye was in though, I spotted 3 tiny frogs skittering around on the pond weed and even 1 out on the edge of the pond.

What joy.

Not really sure where these ones have come from, the tadpoles I had been watching, don’t appear to have legs let. I wonder if these are an earlier batch that I missed or perhaps they all develop at different rates.

Anyway, I’m happy. It makes it for the disappointment I felt when I discovered all my replacement cauliflowers had been eaten by the slugs.

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Stolen Time

Allotment Shambles

The weekend forecast is pretty dismal again so when I woke this morning to glorious sunshine I thought it was too good to waste and quickly swapped my annual leave arrangements. By 9am I was out on the riverbank, squeezing in another neglected pastime by running to the plot.

Typically, when I arrived the sunshine had disappeared behind a grey cloud but although it was pelting it down about 10 yards to the left of me, I seemed to be able to get on with my digging untouched. Commuters were huddled under brollies on the station platform and probably thought I was nuts not to take shelter but even as the rain cloud moved over and started its symphony on the pond surface, I was left in a little dry patch. Then the sun came out again and I had to strip down to a t-shirt it was so glorious.

New Path and Spuds

I’ve been trying to get onto the plot for days now and in fact the whole month of March has been pretty much a wash out. As a result I was like a wound up spring suddenly released to cause productive mayhem.

All the spuds are in now and I finished off by laying the paving slabs I acquired from freecycle.

Early Spring Progress

The site skip is almost always overflowing with junk but just to make this day extra perfect it was empty – at least it was when I arrived. Skip space is a highly valued commodity and keen not to miss out I finished my morning jog with an interval session. For non-runners this effectively means sprints followed by slow recovery runs. I ran too and fro my plot grabbing the filled sacks of bindweed roots, it was like a rather muddy supermarket sweep. So now the sacks have gone and the huge mountain of perennial weeds sitting slap bang in the middle of my courgette spot have been disposed of.

In the end I didn’t go and kidnap any frogs from the local ponds. I read on an amphibian wildlife site that frogs are currently under threat from a virus that is spreading across the country – red leg virus, and the sharing of spawn is only exacerbating the spread. I just have to sit tight and hope that news of the delightful residence spreads fast. I did however, transfer some wildlife from the water butt adjacent to the pond. It was absolutely teeming with tiny water boatman and I thought they’d be much safer in the pond – less risk of them being tipped onto my tomatoes to dry out slowly in the sun.

I’m happy again now and can go back to work replenished if a little shattered.

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Frost Fear Sparks Insanity

The trouble with early Easter breaks is the tendency of the British weather to thwart any and all gardening plans. You wouldn’t believe how much work I had scheduled for this extended weekend, I was going to turn my plot into a prize winning specimen based on this weekends labour alone. Instead I’ve been forced back to flat to do constructive yet boring work like painting the walls. Not good at all, fortunately, Bean Sprouts informs me that it will be 150 years before we get another Easter quite this early again.

The past few weekends have been washouts but I’ve managed to catch the odd hour or so between showers to do a little pottering. I got a few more rows of spuds in yesterday and I now have 6 rows planted and enough left chitting for another 6. Trouble is I don’t have the land for another 6, at least not if I intend to harvest anything other than spuds. I think I may put the rest of my Kerrs Pink up for adoption, I don’t even like floury spuds so it seems a shame to let them take up all my courgette space.

Water Lily

Spring was welcomed in by the first flowering of my water lily. Quite an odd flower but attractive to a forgiving eye.

I was bemoaning the sparsity of frogs in my pond to a yocal, only to be informed that she had never seen a frog in all her years on the site and in fact hadn’t seen one within a 5 mile radius. This does not bode well for an accidental squatter turning up and making himself at home while gorging on the slugs that I’ve been nurturing. I was directed to Richmond Park with the suggestion to go and kidnap spawn – this is probably a productive job for a wet weekend.

More local chin rubbing advice was received regarding my broad beans. It seems the site secretary is very concerned about my plants and is keeping a close eye on their progress. He tells me that they are flowering and I would like to agree and grin back at him full of pride but I’m warned off by his sharp intake of breath and the look that makes me think a kettle of vultures are circling above my plot. He’s now put it in my head that they will be wiped out by the next frost so I can barely sleep at night, I’m concentrating on sending warm vibes to my patch. It’s too late now to cover them back up with the fleece as they are too big and I have staked them up, so all I can do now is send positive vibes. I’m almost talking to them. If they do manage to fruit I think I will talk to them!

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Month In Pictures – February

Month In Pictures - February 2008

Progress report for February.

The weather was remarkably mild and I enjoyed a good few sunny weekends on the plot.

  • The peach was planted and tentatively pruned to within an inch of it’s life.
  • Paths and a seed bed were constructed in a fashion.
  • The Hellebore flowered beautifully and provided a lovely welcome to all frogs that were considering setting up residence in the pond but none came.
  • The broad beans were exposed to the elements as they were growing too big for their toasty covering.
  • The peas were staked.
  • First row of spuds were planted – Swift.
  • Aubergines and tomatoes were sown and promptly shipped off to Shaktis for nurturing on the window ledge.

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Leaf Feast

Not a great weekend for allotment pottering but I can enjoy a cup of tea in a nice dry shed even on the worst of days.

The ground was too wet to dig which is a bit of nuisance as there is only a smallish patch left to complete. I opted instead to do weed tickling but this was half-hearted, I am not convinced of the usefulness of hoeing weeds when its damp – you just end up transplanting them in clumps.

Sack o Salad

The 7-year old rocket is beginning to look as though it has run its course, so I took the shears to part of it and came back with this sack load.

Along with an early plucking of onions I think I have the makings of a fine leaf feast.

There are signs of spring approaching around the pond, the primulas have gaudy red buds and the hellebore (planted at Christmas) is already flowering. I wonder when the frogs are going to move in.

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Fungal Foray

For Christmas this year I got a couple of packs of mushroom “seed” or more accurately, packs of wooden dowells impregnated with mushroom mycelium.

mushroom log

I went up to Yorkshire for a few days so I split them with my Dad and we had some fun trying to bash the little plugs into some freshly cut logs. We’ve got two varieties, oyster and shitake, can’t say I’m that fond of shitake but I’m hoping to acquire a dessicator before they crop, they should be pretty useful in soups after I’ve dried them out.

Mushroom Logs

Back home I sunk them in the ground just in front of the shed, where I hope they’ll get sufficient shade to be happy. They apparently crop best in October but I can’t imagine they’ll take that long to issue some fruit.

I can’t remember which is which now.

While I was visiting my parents, I also raided their established pond and nicked some weed, pond water and a water lily. I think the allotment frog population should be jolly happy with the new residence.

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View on the Inside

Well there was no eviction notice tacked to the front of the shed so I may start to relax now. Mind you it was so windy today that any notice would have blown away, I was surprised the shed hadn’t taken off in fact.

Check out the laminate flooring!

Shed Wide View

Spartan Apple Tree

Despite the horrendous weather (Dad take note – your weather forecasting is not to be trusted), I enjoyed a little pottering on the plot. I managed to plant out the new Spartan apple tree, sort the compost and do a bit of hoeing between the onions and garlic.

Of course more time was spent inside the shed, looking out and pondering on the intricacies of life. I need a chair now and perhaps a kettle, you need to be comfortable to ensure high quality philosophising.

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All Quiet on the Allotment Front

Well it hasn’t been all that quiet it’s just been so stressful recently that I’ve kind of gone into blogging hibernation.

I mentioned in my last post that I had been offered a super shed for use on the plot and I’d roped in the help of my mum, dad and brother to help erect it, after I’d dismantled it and delivered it to the plot.

So, full of excitement and enthusiasm I set too on the shed, whipping out screws and nails, or at least I would have done if I hadn’t shredded every screw I touched. The flippin things wouldn’t budge and faced with the enormity of my task I sat down in a little sulky heap and tried to remove all shed dreams from my memory banks.

Shed Foundations

Following a call to the family, I discovered that there are many people way more talented than me on the DIY front. It seems my brother knows special tricks for the removal of stubborn screws and the shed dream was back on. With excitement creeping back, I booked the van (after checking it would take an 8x6ft shed) and then headed to the plot to prepare the site.

Seems a little strange to prepare the soil for planting a shed but I was worried about it becoming a safe haven for bindweed if I left any roots. Now I risk the shed sinking instead but the ricketier it looks, the safer it will be.

Early last Saturday morning the 4 of us headed to my friends to start ripping the shed apart. What a job that was. After getting all the screws undone but before pushing the shed apart like a pack of cards, the question was asked – “should we not just put it back together and leave it well alone?” Clearly there was an inkling of the trouble ahead.

We continued and after about 4 hours had the shed piled up in a heap ready for me to go and fetch the van, parked about 8 miles away in central London. I was a little concerned when I saw the van, VW Transporters aren’t that big really, but I had asked the question and was told it would fit so I drove it back.

So much for asking questions and really I suppose you shouldn’t trust anyone to do trigonometric calculations when you are quite capable of doing them yourself and discovering that the doors are more than a foot too short! Curses! Where do you get a whopping great van without notice at 4pm on a Saturday. No where is the answer.

We carried the shed back into my friends garden. I went back to drop the useless van off and spent the rest of the evening trying to get my dad and brother drunk on vintage port so that they weren’t too concerned about all the wasted effort.

Next morning I managed to hire a massive hi-top transit van and we were back on the job by 9am. Vintage port gives the sort of headache that doesn’t welcome early mornings and hard labour. Still, the shed fitted like a dream and we were off to cause havoc at the allotment site.

Sunday morning is no time for trying to squeeze the biggest damn vehicle ever down the middle of the site. I must have disturbed just about every plot holder there and anxiety levels were sky high. We unloaded it pretty quickly though and I skulked off to dispose of the van. By the time I was back it seemed the shed was almost up! And I promise I didn’t take my time, I was only gone for about 15 mins. My brother is clearly an ace at construction.

Shed Erectors 1

I didn’t really do a lot, I just looked on with gradually declining anxiety and fetched screws. When I finally got to look inside I discovered that my dad and brother had knocked up some fantastic staging and laid a laminate floor! This is definitely going to be a home from home.

With the shed up my brother had to shoot off home (and I didn’t even give him any lunch). My mum and I set too with the organising, finding special spots to hang the tools and finishing off the shelving. As if they hadn’t all done enough by this point they started digging over some of the areas I’ve missed, planting bulbs around the pond and constructing a permanent bench. I had to drag them away eventually so we could get some dinner.

It’s almost a wonderful end to the weekend except for the fact that I seem to have broken some allomenting by-law. The shed is apparently too big for the site. Quite a bit too big. Now I’m living in fear of being issued an eviction notice and having to go through the whole sorry process again. If push comes to shove I may take a chain saw to either end and make it smaller that way, but it would be a terrible shame.

So at the moment I am keeping a low profile, I need to go up to the plot to plant an apple tree and empty my overflowing compost bucket so I think now would be a fine time – tis absolutely belting it down. I bet I won’t see a single soul there. I’ll be able to plant my tree and sit in my dry shed admiring the view and waiting for the bulbs to poke through.

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