Archive for March, 2016

Whims and Worms

Confession time: it’s been a long time since we’ve seen sections of our garage floor. There’s hoardable stuff that’ll be useful one day piled and just about balancing on top of other really-useful articles: timber that’s reclaimed from skips, the broken handles of a couple of forks, some metal paint, half a hundred paper sacks, baker’s trays, a wheel without a barrow and buckets galore.

But we have to have the gas boiler replaced. So, apparently it needs some degree of sorting out. Or, at least that’s what the Plantation Owners Wife is using to get me started. Now I’m not good at clearing stuff out. I look at it, move it about with my foot, remember it when it was actually functioning, then find somewhere else to hide it/keep it safe … er store it until it is actually either useful or binned by the good lady I share a life with.

O.K. the shed down the garden is now functioning; having been re-clad. And some of the stuff finds a new home down there.

But buried in there somewhere is a wormery that I got off Freecycle (always useful to get stuff or to get rid of it). I was interested, at the time in setting one up: a source of free compost and a way to recycle organic matter from the kitchen easily. I never actually got past the thinking stage on that one, so, some years later I donate it to a local primary school.

Image result for school gardening club

They have a thriving gardening club and this might be just the sort of thing to further encourage them. I remember going to a talk by naturalist/photographer Chris Packham who said that one of the most important things to do was fire up the enthusiasm, experience and imaginations of youngsters. This seemed like a good chance, even when I was asked to go and help set it up. Amazing kids: they began, not surprisingly as somewhat squeamish but were soon tucking in, handling the worms (kindly donated by a local angling shop) with squeals of that kind of delight that is part horror and part overcoming fear. Others also decided to take up the challenge and their task is now to keep the waste coming. Maybe, just maybe one or two of them will, with pester-power persuade their parents to set up their own wormeries … and the ripples spread. Well one can but hope …

But back at home – and some days later – I actually find a second wormery: this one brand stinking new and still in the box. A gift from a well-wisher somewhere down the years: stored and to-be-useful one day soon. And setting up that first one has whetted my appetite …

Now I could write all I actually know about wormeries on one half of a small sized, second class postage stamp. But there are instructions … and I can read (although am famous for not paying attention to pieces of paper with numbered lines on them). And we’ve been saving kitchen waste for more years than I care to remember and adding it to the allotment compost heap (there are two each about two metres by two and getting deeper) once a week or so; the populations of tiger worms in the heaps regenerating at a considerable rate.

… and, of course other people manage it. So I decide to have a bash. The worst that is going to happen is that it fails, I tip the contents onto the heap at the allotments and put the wormery on Freecycle.

The instructions are actually well written. Add water to the coir compost (I add a little extra compost from a used-up Growbag and some shredded newspaper and crushed eggshell). I put the plastic trays together, add the tap that will be used to drain off the leachate (which will be diluted to feed pot plants around the house if all goes to plan). Usefully one of the sections has legs that will hold it off the ground and, while the temperature is rather too low outside at the moment (worms operate more slowly, the sheet says at less than ten degrees Celsius) it can set on the newly uncovered garage floor until conditions are better outside.

Up to the allotment on Saturday. On the agenda is getting a trench dug. This will be filled with compost from the “ready heap”; the one that has had six months to rot down. The trench takes eight barrows full, gets me warmed up under clear warm skies – and I pick a bucketful of energetic worms that wriggle and twist in the spring sunlight. These are the first of the wormery colonists and, if conditions are good will provide the generations to come and ready to use concentrated compost.

When I add them the bottom compartment is pretty full … and I feel satisfied.

Another thing on the go: watch this space (it’ll soon be crawlin’ with worms I hope!)


Long Days, Spring Days

Thursday was a long day: The end of an enjoyable contract that just kept, wonderfully, extending itself.

Driving home I felt relieved at feeling I have achieved a lot. But also noticing how the world is turning to spring.

Thrush-egg blue skies, still a little fragile, but lighter until much later. It happened – almost – without me noticing. The earth is doing that season-turning thing: as it must and we are now past the equinox (when like some Druidic charm-spell, both light and darkness are, like it says on the can, equal. Half in the shadow, half not.

Now, having read the latest truth in Mark Thompson’s A Spacer Traveller’s Guide to the Universe I realise that what I had believed about the earth taking twenty four hours to spin once on its axis was incorrect. One rotation, I now, rather smugly know, actually takes 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds. This has, essentially been “fudged” by those-in-the-know and the calendar adjusted to accommodate the facts.

(I remind myself gently that change is always going on; that what I believe is fact today may actually change tomorrow … but also remind myself that this is exactly what a fool would be telling himself, and that in this direction lies madness.)

But the hedgerows, most of them cut correctly with regard to providing advantage for nesting birds are battered and tight cut, also have long bright patches of sparkling fresh-leaf hawthorn green: the buds breaking and the tight curled treasures breaking out to begin harvesting all of that extra sunlight. That near-magical mechanism that goes on within deciduous plants is little less than marvellous: biological programming at it most basic and most effective.

In one familiar, often passed by field a fresh cut hedge today looks for all the world like a submarine in one of those Cold War films making an emergency surfacing manoeuvre, to charge batteries, rescue the admiral or release death and destruction – but frozen in mid frame. I had never seen the hedge in this way before though I have walked past it, driven past it, even cut it myself. Strange that new things can occur to us when we least expect them – or don’t expect them at all!

Image result for submarine emergency surface

Beyond the hedges are the latest generation of lambs, or pregnant ewes.. And other fields have been turned over. On this journey, heading north from Tamworth the soil is a characteristic reddish orange, sand based and flat. Nearer to home a field has the whole array of machinery: tractors, plough, harrow, drill and Land Rover. They are processing across the field in a regimented fashion. Agriculture is, and always has been, industry though, usually, this fact is over-looked. In this field it is more than obvious. Big machines, big fields … big business.

Image result for agricultural spring planting


Back at home, when I sit in the back garden with a cup of tea, snacking on leaving present Maltesers (other chocolate snacks are, believe me, available, but will have to wait) I notice the crocuses, wood anemones and timely as ever the snake headed pasque flowers.

Tonight the clocks will – artificially – spring forward.

Then the intensive allotment toil is all to be enjoyed: bean trenches, watering seedlings, planting out chitted potatoes, weeding …

Looking forward to each and every bit of it!

Not An Eavesdropper?

Now, you have to trust me; to take my word for it …

But I am no kind of eavesdropper, right?

But, standing, a little awkwardly, by the mantelpiece at this guy’s party when I heard this woman …

“They’re going to start charging us for our green bin collections …”

Now, being interested in what I’m going to loosely call “sustainability” (though it has been monickered “eco”, “green revolution”, “weird”, “The Good Life” and simply good common sense while I have been aware of it), something made me tune in. I just had to listen in. Green bins, the local authority’s collection of garden waste being charged for? Our own local council collect ours, usually full of semi-pernicious weeds and bits we cannot burn (Fridays is the only legitimate burning day on our site), every two weeks. Then, I believe sell it on to a local entrepreneur who has acres of land on which it is efficiently composted. Then sold on – for a small fortune – to gullible gardeners. OK, forgive me for that bit of green-snobbery.

Image result for garden waste collection

She goes on – and I’m definitely listening in now (just so you know):

“I told my husband; cheaper than loading up your car with smelly stuff and taking it to the tip: there’s the petrol, the journey, the time it takes. Well, stands to reason. I mean we put all sorts in it, stuff you wouldn’t want on your compost heap. Grass cuttings for a start. I mean we cut the lawns once a week and you don’t want all that grass making a mess of your compost do you?”

Me? I’ve been known to beg lawn mowings off my family and my neighbours. Because in my book, they are very genuine activators: bring some heat to the heap and get things off to a roaring start, decomposition wise.

And I’m thinking the recycling of such waste can only be a good thing. Most people are too lazy, innocently ignorant or too busy (though its always possible to be too busy isn’t it?) to do it – and being aware of composting is not generally common these days. And most people do not have allotments or the allotment mentality of course. I’ll use something again if I can – in any way I can. But the trick is to get people to pay for what they were getting used to – and getting for free.

Once people start paying the trick is complete. After that it is not so hard to get them to pay more. But to transition from a free service to a charged for one: there’s the rub.

Mind you, once upon a time the trick was to get people to actually separate out their waste: some to be recycled, some to be garden waste – and the rest as “household” garbage.

She hasn’t stopped yet though:

“ Yeah, lovely people up at our allotment …”

(Somebody had suggested, as light relief, that having an allotment must be like the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Revenant).

Image result for the revenant

“There’s one plot holder just got this wonderful shed. Front porch section, painted properly: sage green, skylight, leaded window, little pot-bellied stove, chimney. All the trimmings. Little table, couple of armchairs, a rocking chair for the outside bit; little stove to boil …”

Image result for allotment sheds

“Got it free. Yes truly amazing. Seems she knew this woman who’d just finished with her husband. He was doing that man-thing, had found a younger pneumatic dolly-bird woman. Going through the divorce thingummyjig. She decided to get rid of everything that was his: clothes, CDs, camera, mountain bike . The shed was his little den. In the garden.”

“So the shed: free to collector. All arranged very quickly; even had some slabs thrown in. It looks great. She has put a biscuit tin in; with biscuits in, well, of course, you would, why not?”

“but it seems somebody’s taken to spending the night in there. Snacking on the digestives, filling up the ash tray, helping themselves to tea.”

Now I’m no detective, but I’m wondering whether it’s that woman’s husband.

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