Late With the Canes

Had a plan last night. Seemed perfect – in the way that plans always will (or should do – or change the damned plan you fool!). Get up, drag the last bags of lawn leaves and the kitchen compost thingy (caddy is the currently fashionable term, but our caddy is a reused margarine container!) into the car, zoom up to the allotment – do some digging, pull up and strip the bean canes and dismantle the fruit cages.

The night happened, as nights will … and with the darkness came the first real frost of the year. Beautiful sight then this morning when I opened the curtains. Tiles and slopes of roofs powdered with the frost. The usual 5 a.m. jackdaws are doing their usual dance on the roof opposite. Are they feeding or drinking ? I am not sure, but it appears to be coordinated and occurs regularly.


 One of the bird feeders in the back garden needed filling and I had to wait for another plotholder to come to the house (it’s an admin thing, connected with the seed order we do as a group).When he got here I decided, on his advice to leave the allotment visit to the afternoon. Set myself to clean the windows (really to get a better view of the bird table).

Great views of the birds and their approach strategies. The wren, so confident comes across the rim of the bird bath, from the left as I am watching. The robin from the ground, where he (she perhaps?) has been feasting on the bits dropped from the feeders. Six bulky starlings, almost certainly from Scandinavia, with gambler’s waistcoat plumage swarm like fighter planes, wheeling on an airborne sixpenny piece, than cannot manage to settle together on the perches, bustle, grab beaks full of pellets and flap away. The coal tit, the first visitor to the table this year is typically fast … lands, picks something up, then scurries to the cover of the pieris and, presumably, eats it. Further down the garden, there’s a cock blackbird, pecking hard at the red windfall apples I left under the Beauty of Bath tree. Suddenly I notice a dark form in the pear tree (festooned with honeysuckle drapes) and focus on the sparrow hawk resting, purposefully there. I know this bird has been a visitor; last year I watched him atop a dead pigeon at the end of next doors garden and there have been feathers strewn across our patio. But I have never noticed the bird so close to the house before this. I guess he is observing the bird table;  building up an appetite.

After a dinner of casserole (home grown carrots, potatoes, parsnip, celery, swede and onion in there) a drive up to the plot. Frost still everywhere.  Hopefully it will do something to naturally reduce the slug and snail population that has devastated crops this year. Tunnels and tents of debris netting, green or blue straddle plots like some kind of science fiction special effect colony,  protecting brassica plants from marauding woodpigeons. A new plotholder has a Harris hawk, apparently and he has promised to fly it over the plots in order to move the “rats with wings” to somewhere else. I am late taking the bean canes up this year and waste no time, getting all three rows up in record time. In the spaces below the triangular tents the weeds have been protected, are still growing and the soil is warm and very friable. In some places the wood chip mulch has piled up and the randomly planted sunflowers have finished and dried.

And I am pleasantly surprised, becoming  aware of the pot marigold flower eyes, still looking at me, from the raised bed with the parsley. I am amazed by how long these sturdy plants have been flowering and the fact that, even today they have bright eyes nodding in the sub-zero gusts.

Talking of wood chip, there has been a delivery and I change another part of the plan to load up ten barrows and mulch up the raspberries we planted in spring. The chips come from holly; there are still complete leaves in all their winter-gloss splendour and the beautiful shock of startlingly pale sapwood of the trunk.

Time to take the fruit cages down another day. Another plan needed.

29th November, 2012



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