Sunday, 28 September 2008

Lazy sunday afternoon..........or not so

I'm tired and my back hurts and I'm hungry. Boo.

Monday, 8 September 2008

The first planting......

Whilst 'the man' was gayly picking blackberries I was doing the real work back on our grassy field! As I've mentioned before - we have a current obsession with berries and are keen to establish our own army of productive fruit bushes. The last few trips have been spent carving a suitable bed to transplant our 30 odd stawberry plants into - no easy task with couch grass and bramble roots to weed out (plenty of worms though which can only be good sign that the soil is not a barren wasteland) but finish the task I did!
A great feeling of satisfaction we had this evening (at mos-i happy hour it would appear) as we worked together to put our first little plants in the ground. Some work needs to be done to extend the bed enough to accomodate the last four plants - but essentially we have ourselves a strawberry patch! Very exciting!

It is but a small triumph of an otherwise mammouth task but it is something we can manage - as long as we find a lawnmower soon!

Hey-ho fun picking berri-os!

Yipeee - it's now September and rather than lament the loss of a so called non-existent summer my thoughts turn to berries or more precisely the harvesting of. For the last few weeks I've been watching greedily for ripening elderberries, obsessed with the idea of turning as much free bounty into wine ( a cost cutting exercise on our grocery bill of course....hmmm). A simple enough ponderment it would seem-or is it? First, I realised I would need to find a suitable copse of elderberries - preferably local or at least accessible on my journey home from work, not too close to busy roads or the cocked leg of a hapless dog and definitely not on the edge of some life threatening precipice (not so likely in Suffolk!). I knew I'd seen many clusters of ripening berries along my route but they proved harder to spot when I was actually looking selectively for potential vintage - even more tricksy when also attempting to avoid ridicule of my already branded 'fun' driving. I then considered that if I were to succeed in my berry collecting task I would need a suitable vessel for the juicy delights, maybe some cutting implement and quite possibly a 'helpful elf' with longer legs and arms. Not too much to ask then - as the boot of the car already looks like a garden shed a few extra bits and bobs are negligible.

To cut a long story short, I found what I thought looked a suitable 'berry-mine' but the opportunity has not yet arisen to gather in earnest. Boo hiss!
It would be easy to flay oneself on the failure to manage this simple task, but you know- there is always next year. We may very well miss the elderberries this time around but we found a great source of blackberries!

(I'm currently watching the hedgerows again, for there will be sloes and rosehips and I should not forget that plums are peaking at present. Maybe then, I should also be voyeur for the little stalls and tables you find at the roadside in rural England - encouraging the honest exchange of a reasonable fee for the abundant windfalls!)

Swat or suck?

We've just returned from what will probably be the first of many twilight visits to the allotments, I'll leave it up to Em to let you know exactly we got up to. Whilst I was there playing in the soil my mind wandered as it is won’t to do, although to be fair I’m the kind of man whose mind can wander even when it should be perfectly focussed and at it’s most lucid! As we were hounded by a moderately sized army of mosquitoes I pondered on the best way to deal with them. Swatting them and waving your arms around appears to be fairly futile, albeit hilarious to watch!

I wondered if my stomach acid could render innocuous any bugs these horrid things carry? Based on the fact I’ve spent many years (away from Em’s gaze) consuming some very questionable kebabs whilst gigging with my band I decided a mosquito should pose no great threat to my belly. SUCK! Ah, ignorance and problem solving rolled into one, this allotment must be doing me some good!

Mild discomfort by a thousand cuts!

Last time I spent an afternoon at the allotment it wasn't until the next day that I found out I'd been eaten half alive by horseflies. So I work up this morning following yesterday's adventures thinking that I appeared to have returned from the allotment unscathed, at least that's what I thought until I got in the bath. I guess my jeans were not as tough as I thought, and probably not best suited to leaning into giant brambles to reach far away but tantalisingly juicy blackberries! My legs this morning look like they've been blasted by a blunderbuss full of tiny razors, ouch! I'll spare you the photos on this one!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

From thick brambles, wine will come!

In conversation with my wife a few days ago I went to special efforts to let her know that I’m still very much excited about the allotment project. This show of enthusiasm was made slightly easier (but no less genuine) by watching the first series of ‘The Good Life’ on DVD recently. Something about this 1970’s series that irked me slightly was that seemingly moments after deciding to follow the self sufficiency way of life they had a perfectly cultivated garden and more produce than Covent Garden at 5am on a Monday morning! When we visited the allotment today I glanced over what appears to be the most virulent grass I’ve ever seen in my life and was overwhelmed by the sheer lack of food we had growing. I know we have to put in the ground work, and I am also aware of the fact that being an IT consultant I’m used to things moving a little faster than this. Identify a project, decide on responsibilities then delegate to the most appropriate experts in your contacts list, that’s the way I’m used to doing things. In this case the project is growing food, my wife (Em) is both deciding responsibilities and delegating, although unfortunately for her she has a staff team of one inexperienced pillock to ‘resource allocate’. At times like this and in the light of the lack of edible progress ‘projects’ like ours can take a slight dip in the nose that indicates a (potentially far off) tangible future failure.

Apparently our allotment is the largest in Ipswich, and the only allotment with many spare plots. Potentially the reason for all these spare plots is that they are all utterly covered with brambles. These aren’t just any brambles; these brambles would put Fangorn forest to shame. On the plus side they are a fantastic source of blackberries, and something ‘The Good Life’ taught me many years ago is that you can turn fruit into free booze. With this in mind I spent this afternoon forcing my way through bramble branches the thickness of my own neck and gathered blackberries I deemed worthy of homebrew. I felt a little like Indiana Jones, and not just because I was wearing a cheap leather hat, these brambles rolled like a prickly tide over many former plots. Occasionally I would stumble across archaeological artefacts like old plant pots and compost bags.
There’s a possibility I may have taken the selection (and archaeological) process a little too seriously as after two or three hours I had only amassed enough fruit for a small tart and had to call in my wife for reinforcements. As it turns out she isn’t quite as picky as me, and after four or five hours we had enough to make five bottles of blackberry wine.

One of the many lessons I learned today is that I really must waterproof my old army surplus jacket. As we don’t yet have the luxury of a shed for shelter today’s persistent rainfall left me more than a little soggy. I remember seeing in the play ‘Neville’s Island’ the best way to stay warm is to engage in frantic activity so when we got home I set about turning the free crop of blackberries into delicious wine. However, as I’m fast learning in this self sufficiently lark, nothing is instant. I ‘m really looking forward to drinking this wine, in six months time!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

I may have spotted a small flaw

We have decided to cultivate younger plants that need more attention in our small garden at home. However, just a few minutes ago I wandered out onto the patio to harvest a tomato for my lunch and found a small furry reminder of the particular challenges we face in this project!

Monday, 1 September 2008

I'm tasty meat

Until yesterday I always thought that camping was the best way to get eaten alive by insects, but turns out doing anything down at the allotment greatly pleases and excites anything blood sucking for miles around! I have some huge lumps from yesterday's work, but being a positive sort I'm oddly pleased, I am tasty meat!

Last night I was also trying to figure out why my legs were do damned itchy. Then I remembered the huge bushes of of stinging nettles I gleefully charged through with the strimmer. What I didn't realise at the time was that the strimmer was not only slaying the nettles but also flinging the bits at high velocity at my bare legs!

I live, I learn, I itch, I love the bite clicker...

Here we go again!

Ah, my first post on our new blog! The last time we had an allotment (some ten years ago probably) I was mostly in it for sitting in the shed drinking Guinness. The fact the shed I built kept blowing over and could barely house a couple of spades, coupled with the fact that I don’t much care for Guinness possibly was a sign of the way things were going to go and in the end it was burnt down by other plot holders in some sort of wicker man type ritual. I imagine. These days the allotment seems a lot less like an old boys club, and more like a ‘have a go horticulturist’ adventure of discovery and excitement! We took on our last plot before Em turned pro with the gardening and all I really remember from that period is lots of back breaking digging. Digging and horseradish roots to be precise, never mind bindweed I’m sure horseradish is far more virulent a pest! Now that my wife is well experienced in organic/ minimum effort gardening she sold the idea of the new plot to me partly by emphasising the ‘no dig’ approach she now takes to horticulture. So far we have done some digging, but to be fair she tends to do the digging while I amble about making piles of rubbish, although slightly artistically, like I’m creating constellations of crud!

So yesterday I had my first go on the strimmer, which is probably the most unpleasant thing I’ve ever done whilst crushingly hung-over. My hands were throbbing, my ears were throbbing, and I found out pretty fast that I didn’t hold Em’s child-size strimmer correctly it could pretty quickly bring discomfort to parts of my body it would be inappropriate for me to name on a polite blog such as this. As I vibrated my way across the plot I initially aimed for the thickest and tallest patches of grass, this sums up my current ‘quick hit, quick satisfaction’ approach to gardening. Just as I was trying to perfect the ballet/ polka type hip swinging motion that Em told me was the way to strim, and just as I was burrrrrrrrrrrring through a particularly thick bit of bramble I noticed she who must be obeyed waving her arms at me and gesticulating wildly. Admittedly the sunglasses, mesh visor and earplugs were dulling my senses somewhat, but I’m pretty sure she was doing some sort of dance to demonstrate her enormous satisfaction with my work. After what seemed like a brief (but horrid) time my work was done, I was especially proud that I had the forethought to close the boot of the car before strimming that area of the plot, unfortunately I had neglected to move the bag of treats that Em used as the proverbial carrot on a stock. However, I was impressed at just how much grass and other assorted crud that I had managed to fill the bag with, Em was not.

So after a couple of hours this Sunday afternoon we had laid a shed base (well Em had really), we had cut out a plot for the Strawberries (we that was Em too actually). Well at least I had strimmed a lot, although it was pretty clear which side of the plot I had attacked, it was clearly the side that looked like it had been grazed by a toothless dinosaur, compared to Em’s side, which looked like it had been daintily and accurately nibbled by the sort of sheep that would live on a holy mountain.

Well at least I had got out and done something even, although spending the previous day at a punk festival had left me feeling less than effervescent! By late evening I had even got the feeling back in my hands!