Posts Tagged ‘Arran Pilot’

A Bit of Spring, A Bit of a Walk.

A couple of days ago we took a drive over to Carding Mill Valley, near to Church Stretton. It is one of the places we like to walk. This being the Easter holidays the lower portions of the valley were crowded with families for it is an ideal place for children to do the things that children do in fast flowing streams: paddle, build dams, “fish”, fill buckets, get their clothes wet and just relax. The water is very clear and the flat areas beside it crowded with parents and grandparents. Some enterprising youngsters have brought cardboard and a re “sledging” down the steep valley sides on pieces of it. But we took a walk upwards, out past the Townbrook Lake where there were fewer people. It was hot in the valleys sheltered from the spring wind, the sun powerfully beating down. Slopes are steep and terrain demanding; we went a little bit wrong after crossing the Burway road, but followed a sheep path down to Lightspout and around onto Mott’s Road. Deserved a cup of tea at the national Trust café after the exertions, but at least a little annoyed to hear some people (who should know better) moaning about having to pay to park their cars. The charges go towards the upkeep of this beautiful piece of scenery, keeping it clean and accessible. We are members of the National Trust and feel it is worth every penny!

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Facebook postings from our daughters (Swithland, Leicestershire) and my sister (Wiltshire) tell of the first swallows arriving to begin nesting. Here I believe I have seen high flying martins (but, honestly they might have been starlings!)

I look out of this morning window (a mile and a bit from our allotment) to a watery blue sky. It rained overnight after a week of unseasonably warm weather (highs of 19 Celsius). Yesterday there was TV talk (in the news and weather forecasts) of high levels of air pollution: Saharan sand mixed with poor quality air from Europe and our very own traffic fumes conglomerating mainly over the south east.

While it was fine we planted our early potatoes (Arran Pilot) in the “thin plot” as well as our “Charlotte” salad potatoes.  “Thin plot”? You need to be aware that although almost certainly all plot started life as roughly the same size over the years – and on our site that is more than a hundred and twenty – boundaries drift and alter. Is that a universal thing? You tell me. So this plot is, quite literally, thinner than most. In the “hedge plot” (a.k.a. the shed plot) we can get eight potatoes in a row, we only manage six in this plot. To make  a full row I try something my grandfather (“Grandy” to me) would do. Cut the largest tuber in half, dipped the cut end in soot and planted the two halves. It will be interesting to see if it works; I am fairly certain it used to work for Grandy. The ground has been dug over during the winter, weathered and forked over again just before planting. We take out a spit of earth for each potato, add some proprietary fertiliser and some pelleted chicken manure, then place the tuber in the hole and hoe the soil back around each one. It is satisfying work and by the time we have finished we have filled up a fair portion of the land available. I really enjoy the planting side of allotment life. It feels like something has been achieved in a way that simple digging over ground doesn’t. Is that just me?

In the greenhouse I have planted leeks, cauliflower, two varieties of cabbage and parsley. Also I have tried to germinate tomato seeds from a couple of freebie packets of out-of-date seeds. Watch this space.  It was while inspecting these now germinating seeds that I came across my first wasp of the year. Almost certainly a just-awoken hibernating queen, she sounded like an old BSA motorbike as she bumped off first one glass pane then another. There are peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies on the wing, ladybirds creeping over forget-me-nots and both cowslips and snakes-head fritillaries are unfolding in our back garden. The cowslips indeed are spreading wonderfully albeit into the lawn.

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There are peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies on the wing, ladybirds creeping over forget-me-nots and both cowslips and snakes-head fritillaries are unfolding in our back garden.

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We are heading to Suffolk for a couple of days break and, although I sat out on the back lawn yesterday looking at planting instructions on the countless packets of seeds that are still unopened – and though I feel that tugging impatience – it seemed best not to sow them until we get back.

The allotment hedgerow has had a bit of a trim, the blackberries sending out quite vicious streamers, the thornless blackberry is tied in and pruned and rhubarb is doing its thing next to the path. Blossom is starting to appear on the fruit trees.

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“Some I Prepared Earlier…”

   I have been away for a week.

Nothing has changed here, nothing has stayed the same.

I wander, almost aimlessly into the downstairs loo – the potatoes are in there, quietly chitting away,

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minding their own businesses. I had quite forgotten them. Arran Pilot, Desiree and Picasso in various boxes to promote good growth

(well that’s the plan right?).

My mission is to clear the land – my winter digging really is very rough and the ground is nowhere near level: it’s my usual style. If I had to explain – please don’t make him,

the nurses don’t like it when he gets upset so – I would say it is to let the weather get at a larger surface area, do more good, kill more weed seeds. Actually it’s simply a habit.

So today I take some seed potatoes up to the plot and head to the plots (we have three between us).

I am surprised again: I had forgotten that I had laid the slab paths, and, yes they are still there. I feel quite proud of myself and stand and admire my handiwork.

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Then there’s the chatter … did you have a good time … where … how much schnapps … never heard of it … no I don’t … blah blah and the soil isn’t being raked and the potatoes

roll their chit filled eyes to heaven (in my imagination anyways).

Eventually I crack on. Back into the work. Trench, potato fertiliser, chicken muck pellets, potato. Move the line, repeat. Again and again.

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In levelling and planting I am also tidying up the plot. the pile of riddled soil goes back into the “carrot barrel”, scattered sticks are sorted 9the good ones for row-markers, the

unsound ones into the brazier.

And by the time I have finished cabbages have been up-rooted and distributes, weeds pulled up (onto the compost heap), big stones put aside, and the ground looks like a vegetable plot again.

Back at home last year’s harvest looks like this:

 

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But, come on, we did our best.

 

Spring? Really ?

  

What a fine warm start to the day. I am in the bathroom, the window is open and I can hear the frogs (or maybe toads grunting rather than croaking) down below in the small back-garden pond. A small honey bee, the first I have seen out this year crashes a couple of times into the back bedroom window.

Seed potatoes (early Arran Pilot and later Desiree and Picasso) are chitting in the downstairs loo (where else?) and the greenhouse is cleaned out and seeds sown in seed trays and pots; the onion sets started off too in the greenhouse.

Later, up on the allotment I am soon down to T-shirt. An old one to be frank that needs getting rid of but “will do for the allotment”. It was orange once, but is now truly wash-faded: still not my best colour however.

Ladybirds appear, crawling sleepily out of wherever they over-wintered. Onto the parsley, the wooden sides of the raised bed, the lid of the compost heap (still hot to the touch). One heap is ready to be emptied, used as top dressing  and the sequence re-starting. There’s a riding stables not far away where they leave the stable clearings on the car park out front in plastic bags; very allotment friendly behaviour, thanks guys.

Laying more of the going-on-forever slab path (a little more confident in my own skills now, so possibly faster) I catch sight of buzzards, blue tits, a robin, hedge and house sparrows and, closer to hand, a slow-winged peacock butterfly.

          

A neighbour comes over to chat and he spots the spawn and the frogs in the wildlife ponds up there, close to the shed. Three frogs together, then the surface heaves as a fourth makes his (or her) presence known. The noises they make are clearly mating calls and carry long distances. Big volumes for such a small, usually unassuming critter.

 

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I am pleased they are back, that they found the ponds.

There are lots of people up working – or chatting – today. Brought out, no doubt by the good weather. Spring is making itself known. Hedges and fruit trees budding up. Early flowers blooming.

Elsewhere it seems the behaviour of the frogs may be contagious.

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