Cement, Quail Eggs and Toadlings

Up to the plot this morning. Partly to continue the summer-so-far’s battle against weeds; largely being blamed on the inefficient digestive systems of horses. Should I explain? Perhaps …

The theory goes that anything eaten by a cow is digested at high temperatures – and several times – but that most of what a horse eats, passes through, so any seeds are still viable: nettles, groundsel, chickweed to name but a persistent few.  A lot of us use horse muck/horse manure as it is generally free and, without doubt adds to the structure and nutritional value of the soil. The free weeds may well be a price worth paying. Especially as cattle manure is expensive and carries a greater risk of containing contaminated ingredients (only last year we had cases of amino-pyralids in bought-in manure; handily and properly dealt with by a good committee.

Partly – after digression – to await the delivery of cement and pea gravel for the construction of raised beds (an on-going project that regular visitors may have noticed is a recurring theme).

Yesterday I had emptied one of the two compost bays, dumping the rich, delicious-to-a-worm looking material on a space we have been taking potatoes from. Loaded a couple of barrows of wood chip into the bottom of the  vacant bay, and began to dump weeds on top of that base.

Happy to be disturbed by Jim and put parts of the world straight once again. But while we were talking and sheltering from showers Jonesy appeared with an egg tray (half a dozen size) for Jim. Never one to back down from a good thing I put myself “on the list”. It seems that “Mrs Jonesy” keeps various poultry and ducks and Jonesy is left with the task of eating or distributing the eggs (free of charge – the words that are music to the ears of allotmenteers across the U.K.) and as he said himself:

“I just can’t eat a thousand a day!”

The box contained marvellously patterned quail eggs, lovely to look at, tasty to eat! And Jim was more than happy to pass them on to me: result!

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Alan and his wife commented on the enormous numbers of tiny toads on the site: possibly from this year –or maybe last, they are “swarming” everywhere: climbing, crawling, falling across paths, between pea plants and chrysanthemums and down the valleys between potato rows., over wood-chip, around compost heaps and the tyres of parked cars. I was really pleased to see so many of them, but guess the warmth and showers were the perfect conditions that had fetched them out of hiding, to spread themselves across the face of the hundred plot site – and maybe beyond.

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[ I had a poetic-licence moment linking the beautiful Perseid meteor showers, witches and the (welcome) plague of amphibians. Particularly in medieval times how easy to enhance your reputation (or your risk) as a “wise woman” than by claiming to have turned your enemies into toads a couple of days after the Devil’s firework displays of recent early morning skies eh? (Sorry, this is not meant to be my creative writing blog, but couldn’t help make the connection in a Terry Pratchett kind of way).]

Indeed I collected a handful of the little dragons and released them on our plots. As they grow they will help the fight against slugs and snails. I am assured that birds will not eat toads as they taste repulsive. I am sure that hedgehogs have no such qualms.

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Finally we succumbed and put the kettle on. As soon as the kettle was boiling, wouldn’t you know it? The lorry arrived and we set to; unloading gravel and cement: stored out of the way of the rain until the next stage (somebody will be organising that soon I can only hope).

Before returning home I put a cover over the newly started compost bay, picked some runner and French beans and some parsley, then just by chance scrounged six black sacks of grass cuttings that will be a wonderful addition to the compost.

15/8/2013

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