Archive for February, 2014

Old Swedes and Drying Winds

So the Sochi Winter Olympics is over and I am somehow unaccountably proud of the medals we won – and wondering in what kind of Alf-Tupper way the athletes trained, but bless ‘em any road up. Jenny Jones has my respect and Lizzie Yarnold too; she looks and sounds so normal… how does that work?


By the digression way: is there anybody else out there thinking that curling is similar to old-school marbles on ice with big smooth chunks of granite ?

And the heavy, persistent rain is giving way to warmer days, the sun staying in our skies for a few minutes longer each day, and noticeably so too.

Fees are paid for the new year on the allotments, so there are fewer credible excuses and every reason to get up there and, er,  well work I suppose. In my case: moving various manures onto the compost heap (warming up nicely now thank you), cutting back a hedge and laying an –almost – straight slab path and digging over a patch of ground that had swedes (or maybe turnips?), beetroot and shallots growing in it. A week ago the ground was truly water-logged, but today it is dry, workable and friable. The spade shines in the sunlight and cuts the trenches easily. Fairly new spade with an old fashioned grip; comfortable to work with – and that’s important! The shed door, repairs to which are on the to-do list, swings in the wind. So does my put-off shirt – horizontally.


I enjoy the routine of digging, the rhythm and exercise, but break off every now and then to gather handfuls of compost worms that have found succour beneath the big globes of swedes. They are dropped under the compost bin covers. Meanwhile a robin can be heard singing in the hedgerow, but does not venture out to take worms and exposed leatherjackets from my labours. The potatoes that are chitting up into the downstairs loo at the moment will be going in this stretch of ground eventually.

I stop turning soil once I reach the wood chip mulch around the edges of the fruit cage that is leaning a la Cirque de Soleil but the  digging is  a job well done and I come away as the sun starts to sink feeling pleased and thinking about planting seeds.

Image: Lizzie Yarnold


To Boldly Go …

The twin moons of the world Allot-Men-Tia.

(“Heard about,” as my grandfather was wont to say, “but seldom seen.”)


Raised Beds: The Sequel.

Been a tricky season of dodging in and out of wet windy weather to get things done and check other things haven’t blown away.

And to crack on with the raised bed that was featured in my post

and I didn’t realise until I just looked for the link that I had taken -and posted so many photos!

But I can now report that with all due diligence and string that bends to accommodate what I am inclined to call my carpentry (but have no wish to

offend real carpenters) the project is now ready for planting. Which may be just as well as it has given me backache that means I may not be able to reach ordinary

ground level for some months.


And the slabbed path that was an autumn-2013 project is also well under way now down between the plot and the hedgerow-and-fence

that separated us from the house next-door. Unfortunately the strong winds have taken out some of their fence panels which caused some minor damage to our

fruit trees.

It’s also been unseasonably warm. Other regions of our country (some very close in Shropshire and Worcestershire) have been inundated for weeks and sewage

is mixed in with the river and ground waters.

Here we are looking at honeysuckle buds breaking open, dandelions flowering, and hazel and alder catkins opening up and spilling pollen.

Birds are also starting to collect nesting material. And, as always most noticeable to me are the pairs of blue tits that seem so energetic as they flit at cursor speeds between

floor and perch and next box, one on the front wall of the house outside our window. A second pair (I think) using the ox on the shed in the garden. It always brings to mind

my maternal grandfather telling me that birds “paired up” on Valentine’s Day.


Another shower and a rainbow is building in the pink-lit sky as they work.

Not sure where you are, but – if you don’t have cats I would recommend putting up a nest box for many reasons: not least the entertainment value and the satisfaction you get from

helping out wildlife. Go to for some fine instructions.

Images of blue tits:

Beautiful and Sad …

“If you are alone in the mountains for some time – many days at minimum, and it helps if you are fasting – the forest grows tired of its wariness towards you. It resumes its inner life and allows you to see it. Near dusk, the faces in tree bark cease hiding and stare out at you, the welcoming ones and the malevolent, open in their curiosity. In your camp at night, you are able to pick out a distinct word now and then from the muddied voices in creek water, sometimes an entire sentence of deep import. The ghosts of animals reveal themselves to you without prejudice toward your humanity. You will see them receding before you as you walk the trail, their shapes beautiful and sad…”

Charles Frazier:  Thirteen Moons



“Are you mad?”

It’s been raining since early December. Harsh gales and high tides have flooded regions of the country and he’s standing there with a wheelbarrow at eight thirty one February morning. Moving manure in a low-pressure tyred wheelbarrow rescued from a building site skip.


It’s a fair question, the madness one. His hands are cold and one of his knuckles is blooded. But the passionate guy last night had stressed the importance of getting animal manure into your compost. And top soil for the bacteria and microbial input. That and listening to the worms … Continue reading

Raising Beds – Little By Little

January – and unseasonably warm. Where’s my re-chargeable drill when I need it? The one I treated myself to just after we took on the allotment and scrounged a shed from my moving-house sister. Bought the drill to help put the shed back together. We actually dismantled the shed and moved it while we were white-vanning the rest of the contents of the house; going back for the slabs later.
I could do with that drill now to help me put the planned raised bed together … and while I was thinking about exactly how to jig-saw the umpteen pieces of differently sized pieces of timber together ( pictured above) another thought dropped in. Why not use the pallets that were left over from the compost delivery. That had been taken down to my mother’s for her fire –as local dealers would not buy them from us. My mother won’t burn the wood because she says it spits! The pieces would be of a more uniform size, which would make getting the levels easier (though I always struggle with levels!)
Out came the trusty saw, the GT 85 spray and the hand axe – because you never know do you? Then, cutting the pieces into what-I-hope will be shapes and sizes that work – I am no fool I had paced out the measurements of the existing raised bed – twelve boots by five … if you must know, I laid out the pieces on the lawn. At times it looked like some maybe-wing assembly phase from The Flight of the Phoenix. But when all pieces were there it looked as if it would work. Looked untidy of course; partly I will admit because of my poor saw skills and partly because this is not a bespoke off-the shelf Knightsbridge solution. Partly because it will look so much better/different when it is filled with soil and plants; hiding all the untidy innards.


The pieces that broke off, the extras not needed in the plan will be enough to keep the fire going – weather willing – for people to eat their bacon sandwiches round in a couple of weeks when fees are due to be paid… and now they are cut up into roughly the right sizes. If the fire spits, well it’ll be something to talk about and keep people on their toes. 


I am what Americans might call a sucker for what Americans call re-purposing and began to consider using the lethal looking nails that punctuated the timbers: taking them out, straightening them and re-using them, but soon realised that new screws would be a better prospect. But, remembering that our daughter has borrowed it … and being impatient I decided to go for it. It can always be tweaked with screws at a later date.
Not finished: but so far, so good:


Watch this space: it’ll be a raised bed soon!

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