Breathing Apparatus ?

And it’s only when I’m getting out of the car to unlock the site gates that I realise I’ve forgotten my boots. That I’m wearing trainers.

But I am on a mission and – just maybe – they won’t get too muddy. If I’m careful.

Then I, typically, forget about being careful and get on with it.

The plot has been tidied. Slowly but surely. Between rain and days at work we have amassed piles that need to be gone. And today (Friday) is the one day in the week when we can burn. So, load up the big oil drum we use as an incinerator and light it up. The fuel is too wet. Needs lighting three times. Then smokes like a sulky Cornish tin miner. Fitfully.

I’m not just watching the fire. Footwear forgotten I am taking the chance to catch up on some long overdue digging. Good exercise, great therapy and makes the plot look so much tidier. Cared for, dare I suggest?

And I’m wearing my Christmas present gardening gloves for the first time. They are really posh and I haven’t dared to wear them until now. Didn’t want to get them dirty sounds a poor reason, but it is the correct one. They are comfortable, warm, waterproof and make it difficult to pick up the brandling worms that I habitually collect and return to the compost heap.DSC03235

Across the Wolverhampton Road; where the building had been demolished the Hi-Viz vested chaps are putting up a fence. To begin with I was thinking it’s be a post and rail fence, but they are going for the full vertically boarded type. Using a nail gun. The explosions are off-putting to begin with, but soon settle into a rhythm. And the fence goes up remarkably quickly. I can see it without looking through the gappy, winter hedge.

The soil I am digging is water-logged heavy. On one plot – the middle one of three – it will become more friable as it dries out (this is the plot we plan to put the potatoes in this year as part of a regular rotation) but the one nearest the hedge is claggy and sucks the blade of the spade relentlessly. This actual ground has only been in proper season by season cultivation for three years and lacks the improvement that regular addition of organic matter produces. Oh and digging. For years it was in the shade of a too-tall –as in twenty-plus feet tall hawthorn and elder hedge. Only tamed when the householder moved on and I laid he beast.

Today the hedge still casts something of a shadow and the soil remains frozen to some degree because the sun hasn’t hit it yet.

ON TV last night was the news that Asda are going to start stocking “wonky veg boxes” with less than uniform shaped produce. It’ll be cheaper. But, of course the vegetables will still be vegetables and it should cut down on waste. How sensible. Or, actually how not sensible is it to have a system which treats vegetables to some kind of un necessary apartheid.

Image result for wonky veg boxes

None of our allotment grown veg would make it past the first censors; but it is tasty and we know how it has been grown.

Allan and his missus have been and had a general chat and Supermarket Dave too. He has some encouraging words: rents are due next couple of weekends, the potato order is in and – oh dear, that fire’s not going to well is it?

It isn’t! he offers some wood to get it going, but I shrug, not really caring and thinking about heading for home. The skies are getting cloudier, there’s snow forecast (actually it has been forecast every day this week, but, like some side plot from 1984 it’ll always be due “tomorrow, just as we predicted”) and I’m a bit fed up.

Then a new resolve kicks in: I said I’d get the stuff burned didn’t I?

I reload the bin, put some extra dry timber in and try again. This time, perhaps the initial attempts had been enough to dry it out sufficiently, it begins to flame healthily. Enough to keep me there. And adding a few extra bits and pieces. Including some shattered remnants of corrugated clear plastic we used last year as cloches. They have degraded, been blown about and smashed … and I don’t know whether they will burn or not.

So I give it a try.

Actually they just ripple, fold and collapse in a very Dr Who kind of fashion. I add some more, just to see.

When I add the third section the whole thing bursts into life.

Flame, yes

And some of the thickest smoke I have ever seen. Something almost volcanic. It seethes over the rim and falls to the floor, obviously heavier than air and squirms across the soil like a Ray Bradbury monster. I am, momentarily enveloped. It stinks! It catches in the throat and makes me choke.  Casting my eyes down I walk to the path, get out of the smoke and breathe. My eyes are bone-dry and hot. I blink. So this is why fire-fighters need breathing apparatus I realize, watching for a good ten minutes as the wall of dark, grey smoke creeps across the site.

Back later, kicking off my inevitably-mud caked shoes and abandoning the extremely smelly clothes by the washing machine I take five to read the local newspaper.

A house in Bloxwich has burned down. The fire was possibly caused by sub-standard equipment used to grow an illegal crop of marijuana/cannabis inside. There is more than one reason fire-fighters need B.A. after all.

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