Archive for August, 2014

Weeds and Wine


After several hard days weeding and pruning and A couple of Fridays burning the plot is looking a bit more orderly now. It is never my intention to have it regimented and barren-but-for-crops – there are two wildlife ponds, headlands, hedges on two sides and a wildflower section after all – but it did need some sorting out.

Have got in most of the potatoes now: blight on site had me trim off the tops earlier to stop infection reaching and spoiling the tubers. Onions ready for taking up before stringing and hanging. A row of peas (Hurst Green Shaft) has been providing us with delicious portions but has now gone over. Very successful, our peas this year (said Yoda). We planted them a lot more thickly and they have responded with heavy, clean crops.

Runner beans, planted late are just starting to set and courgettes are becoming pumpkins faster than I can say pumpkin (they are also swelling incidentally).

Surprised by the masses of jostaberries hanging hidden in the side border: poor soil and neglect has been their lot, but picked seven pounds of the blighters yesterday. Searched the internet for a jam recipe for them, but they were very tasty with a meringue nest and some vanilla ice-cream. Meanwhile at home we also had record crops of blueberries. One of the guys up on site needs to show me how to take cuttings which, predictably he says are easy to strike


While tidying up the border that has these, some gooseberry and blackberry plants in it came across this year’s version of the “monster” that had me thinking I had discovered a new species last year (see Either I missed some last year, they do degrade and disappear amazingly quickly! – or there actually are more this year, still looking like invaders from another world, even when you’re (half) expecting them!

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The redcurrant wine we set off in a bucket last week has been strained and moved into a demi-john. We also bottled one of the wines that has been sat in a demi-john on the spare bedroom window ledge. Problem is we couldn’t remember: is it strawberry or redcurrant?

Note to self: label the jars this time, you fool!


It was also necessary (believe me please) to sample a couple of the other wines. They will need bottling in the next week. And, having given away so many bottles to friends and family, we now feel the need to ask for empty bottle donations (how weird it is admit that to myself: what I want empty wine bottles ?).


I am reminded while typing this that our local M.P. mentioned during an informal visit to the site a couple of weeks ago that he believed wine making was intricately complicated and difficult. He was bombarded instantly with recipes and anecdotes about how simple it actually can be. Splendid article about wine making here 

Outside the “supermoon” is brightly rising in a sky now clear of clouds after a day of cool and heavy rain. We are experiencing the edge and aftermath of Hurricane Bertha apparently and the effects have been dramatic and forceful in other parts of the country. Here we may well just get away with wind fallen apples and plums.


“The Great War”

Unsurprisingly morning TV is all about this day being one hundred years on from the beginning of Britain’s involvement (so therefore the British Empire/Commonwealth’s) in the Great War (later to be known – how sad is that? -as World War One). Coincidentally (perhaps) there is a service at Glasgow (the Commonwealth games finished there yesterday) Cathedral to mark this momentous day.

Talking to a parish councillor at our allotment Open Day on Saturday about the “war memorial” in Cheslyn Hay.

(I have to say, that, sitting alone later I had to think that, once upon a time, the very allotments “sent” people to the conflict, were affected by the goings on in a very real fashion.)*

The plaques with the names of those who had been killed was going to be re-dedicated the next day (Sunday, 3rd August) in a special ceremony. But I also learned something new. Something maybe that I should have known, but had never stopped to think about.

A further plaque (also refurbished) was previously affixed to the house next to the Cheslyn Hay war memorial and it had the names on it of Cheslyn Hay people who went away to war and survived the conflict.

Having never really thought of this before, when I was told I realised what a truly remarkable and valuable thing this was to have done. The First World war, then known by most simply as the Great War changed the world: politics, nations, cultures, and social economics both locally and globally. The role of women (here in the U.K. – no right to vote before 1914, equal rights after 1918 is one easy, small example).

And all of the people involved played a part in this change; not just those that were injured or lost their lives. Every family went through suddenly different, unimaginable times during the absence of those who enlisted. Needless to say, of course, this was more so for those whose loved ones (fathers, husbands, boyfriends, brothers) didn’t return or who returned badly injured.

But I simply had never considered this before. Almost as if life was briefly interrupted for a short while and when they got back everything carried on as before in some impossibly fairy tale fashion.

But the places they lived, the lives they left (work practices, hierarchies, employment prospects, expectations, family dynamics) must have been so very different – no doubt difficult to deal with in some cases – from what they came back to.

Well done to the parish council back in the day for this forward thinking. And to this particular parish councillor for opening my eyes.

Note to self: stop making assumptions.

Note to others: was it only Cheslyn Hay that did this?


Air Power

Somebody should have said this, long before me:

“There’s no fool like an allotment fool!”

Certainly applies to me.

I’m part of the team preparing for what we hope will be a big Open Day on Saturday. I’m still trying to get on top of dealing with the plague-proportion tides of weeds without resorting to chemicals and harvest crops that need gathering in (peas, onions, blackberries, potatoes (some blight on site), lettuce – and sustain those still growing on, especially the orchard fruit.

… and what do I do on the drive in?

Spot some contractors cutting down trees and chipping up the “small stuff”. Not content to take note and pass on I’m on the scrounge. They’re quite happy to oblige and we arrange a “drop off” time (we are a secure, locked site).

Little did I realise what a big load they would actually deliver!

Right where we need space for Saturday – naturally!


I quickly start to let others know that they can help themselves and soon there is a steady stream of barrows (different types and states of repair) and the enormous load begins to disappear. But … it’s a big load and …

Between barrows I have to take a breather.

That’s when I notice a single butterfly sitting basking in the sun on the leaf of one of the borlotti bean plants. Glancing around I suddenly notice another, sunning itself, gorgeous wings outspread, on a plank of wood (that’s eventually going to be the edge of a raised bed – honest …) And I sat and relaxed in their company for five, maybe ten  minutes. Human minutes that is.

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Back at the diminishing – but not by much – stack we are slowly overflown by a Chinook helicopter. We must look like ants from up there, lines of people carrying material to our plots. Possibly this chopper is out on a training exercises from nearby R.A.F. training base, Shawbury, it takes a long slow pass over the site, that distinctive “thwocka thwocka” thunder filling the warm air. I have seen these machines pull some amazing feats of flight at the annual air show at Cosford and had the unusual counter-rotating technology of the rotors explained but still just stand in awe of the skill needed to pilot the thing … and the imagination needed to get to this, bit by bit from no-such-thing-as-a-helicopter to today’s machines.



Clever engineering, marvellous invention, but give me the butterfly any day. Please note that on another day, being reasonably fickle I might well choose the helicopter instead.

The following day I get up relatively late, shoulders aching from the clippers, pulling weeds and wrestling with barrows (whose fault is that ? did I hear you thinking ?) to spend some time shifting whatever is left. The contractors are still on the job felling The contractors are still on the job, one of them harnessed and roped in the top of one of the trees, felling and chipping  … but the remainder of the pile on the allotment is gone.

Chips with everything ?

Not today, thank you!















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