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!

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