October 2012

From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. Oct. 25th, 2012)

October 25, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

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It's only gardeners that can get excited about poo! I'm no exception. Whenever you get a heap dumped on your allotment plot, any gardeners who walk by (and we get quite a few, because we have a lot of holiday-makers here by the sea, and our allotment site is right alongside a public footpath by the river) can't resist stopping in their tracks to drool over the stuff! "Nice bit of manure there" or "that looks like good stuff - how old is it?" Invariably a conversation ensues about how wonderful the stuff is, how we gardeners love the smell/ texture/ colour etc. etc. And if it's steaming on a cold misty autumn morning then some become visibly orgasmic at the sight!!!

Well yesterday was one of those exciting days. Marc a local farmer friend of mine, came & dumped about 10 tons of horse manure on the site (drool)! We have an arrangement, I look after his IT needs & help him out when he panics after his laptop or PC have keeled over - he provides the poo. Computers have become a big part of farming life these days, they have to register animal tag info. on-line, fill in government forms on-line etc. The paradox is, farmers are probably the one group of most disinterested people in the world when it comes to computers. To have a wife or a daughter who's semi computer literate is a big bonus for them, to have a friend who can fix their kit when it breaks is the tops! So we have this arrangement where I'm his techie safety net - he's my manure supplier. It works a treat.


Whilst still excited about my early Christmas and birthday presents from Marc - all rolled into one, I decided that as it wasn't raining (unusual) I'd get stuck into my compost bins - whilst I was still in the groove. I have a bank of three that I've built from old wooden palettes & other scrap wood (the slide off fronts were floorboards my wife eye-balled in a builder's skip). Fresh goes into the end bin, semi composted in the middle and the black rocket fuel lands up in the third. This means a lot of turning over from one bin to the other as the waste decomposes. The trigger is either when the fresh bin is full & can't take anymore, or there's not enough room for the "waste" that comes off the plot at this time of the year - as the end of season clearing-up swings into action.


As can be seen from the stripped off coat - it's hard work. Too hard - I'm as stiff as  a board today and aching all over! Oh to be 25 again!

Some may ask why go to the bother when you have 10 tons of farmyard manure at your disposal? Simple, it's a different animal. This is "compost" i.e. rotted down (decomposed) green waste, with the odd few hundred egg-shells, newspaper, peelings and anything else that can be rotted down from the kitchen or the plot. The posh modernistic term is "recycling". In my day (living out in the country) the word was unknown - it was something you did naturally and assumed everyone else did the same. These days our robotic city society gets green food rubbish from the supermarket, eats a quarter & wastes threequarters of it, and then need lessons from the council to know which convenient bin to put various things in, so that the big green lorry can take it away!

This compost I make is as good as any black stuff you buy in a bag. After about three years of quietly being turned back into it's natural constituents by good bacteria, worms & fungi it comes out all brown, crumbly and totally odourless - we gardeners could literally eat it!!



From My Allotment Diary (Mon. Oct. 22nd, 2012)

October 22, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (11)

Well, we're now just past the autumn equinox by one day. The clocks go back this coming Saturday. That, in a dark little recess in the corner of my subconscious, will be the start of winter. Sid will come visiting soon - no not a relative or friend but SEASONALLY INDUCED DEPRESSION!! SID will get ready to leave again on December the 21st (the winter solstice) and by the new year he'll be gone. I'll be a year older (& stiffer probably) by the 5th of Jan, and then by March the 21st (the spring equinox) I'll have forgotten all about SID and I'll be turning my mind to sowing and planting for another season - bliss! But first the dark side of the year for the coming five months - sorry I'm getting incoherent again - that's the way any mention of SID affects me!

We moan a lot about the weather in this neck of the woods, but in fairness yesterday was a peach of a day. I managed to tidy up a little on the allotment, but there's tons more to do. Full compost bins soon!

I'm getting a bit loaded down with tomatoes at the moment. It's been a horrible season for veg. generally, but the toms in the polytunnel seem to have thrived. They've cropped well, have ripened well (albeit a bit late) and are probably a tad larger & heavier than usual. Amazingly, I think most of them will ripen. Everyone was forecasting tons of green tomato chutney material this year, but the little bits of sun we've had in the later part of the season seems to have done the trick.

Cucumbers have finished - a poor season for them - and there's masses of flowers on the sweet peppers - but in vain I fear;  it's forecast a cold blast from the arctic towards the end of the week, so the few solitary peppers will have to be picked before they give up the ghost. I've also polished off the last of the melons by now. It was lovely while it lasted.

"Sunshine Girl" (Gail Higgs) was down on her plot yesterday as well - in her bib 'n brace. A rare sight. Gail is like a Livingstone Daisy and only comes out in the sun! To see her in her overalls rather than a bikini is a rare thing. Unfortunately the bikini has been idle for most of the summer so she's had to succumb to autumn wear!


Here she is gathering up her pumpkins yesterday. Gail is a ray of sunshine in her own right - a real hands on person who loves to get up close and personal when it comes to her plot. She can out-work most of the males down there (me for sure these days), and loves nothing better than getting her hands dirty. A real treasure - one of those people who just loves the soil. They broke the mould after they made Gail.

I meant to go down again today, but the day slipped through my fingers. I had to go to town in the morning because No. 1 son's staff had let him down - he has a contract cleaning business & Josie & No. 4 son had to help him out with one of his contracts, as usual I was the resident taxi service. It's been a bit like that over the last few days.

Last Thursday & Friday we had to drop everything to go at short notice to my mother's because she's had a fall. We got a phone call late on Thursday night. We stayed with her over-night and took her to A & E on Friday at Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth.. What a palaver that was! Three and a half hours we were there for - waiting to be seen by a doctor. Thankfully she hasn't broken anything. We stopped with her again on Friday night & finally made it back home late on Saturday. She's getting better, but falls are not good at her age - she's in her eighties now. She's badly bruised, shaken up and has pulled the muscles in her back & side. She'll soon shrug it off though - being a child of the twenties she's small in stature but as tough as they come. Although she did seem to feel a bit sorry for herself this time - a bit of hurt pride perhaps.

So that brings me up to date. Perhaps I'll get a few hours tomorrow to get on with the autumn clear-up. . . . or maybe not. If things go to form I'll probably get something else thrown in my path by then!


From My Allotment Diary (Fri. Oct. 12th, 2012)

October 12, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

I've waited all summer for it and today was the day!

Every time I open my polytunnel door I have a good sniff - waiting for that heavenly smell of a ripe melon. I'd almost given up - although I have about five on the plant, I thought that none would ever ripen. Today I went down to the lottie, because it was lovely and sunny - a big change from yesterday. We've had more floods here and AGAIN my plot was under about eighteen inches of water yesterday evening. By this morning it had all cleared and the sun came out thank goodness.

This afternoon I went down to water & feed my plants (in the tunnel - obviously). My mind was miles away thinking about how much this latest flood had affected my cabbages. I opened the door and instantly nearly got bowled over (well I exaggerate a little) by that "impossible to miss" and "once experienced never forgotten" smell of a ripe melon. It really does fill the whole polytunnel up with it. Amazingly it was 80 degrees F in there today, and the melon must have been happy enough to be plucked!

Strange how odours have memory flags in your head. As soon as I smelt it today my mind flashed back to the first melon I ever grew in that glorious summer of 1976. It was in a similar home-made polythene green house then that I'd built for myself, where I experienced that glorious scent for the first time.

Here's my little 2012 beauty on the polytunnel staging:


 The first one of the season and it's the 12th of October! I'll remember it because it's also my No. 3 son's birthday. He was 30 today.

As you can see it's a cantaloupe variety. Here it is after getting slaughtered back in the kitchen! :



I just can't describe how beautiful it tastes. Think "sweetest cantaloupe melon I've ever tasted from the supermarket" & times it by three!

The cucs are now well and truly exhausted - they look as if they're on their last legs - worn out! What's left is now turning yellow instead of green and the green ones are getting a bit curly and thin tipped. Not a good season for them.

The toms are doing exceedingly well considering the lack of warmth & sunshine this year. They've actually cropped heavier than usual. Some of the Shirleys are actually bending their canes under the strain. A few of the others are bending & snapping their truss branches. If you want to see them go to my latest album in The Shed.  Here's a taster:


And here's the rest of them down one isle:


That's "Big Bertha" parked in the background. She's sheltering until she's called on to start her autumn chores. That's the rotovator that Stephen Parry and I bought between us at a local auction. That's a long story that I've probably related before in my blog. We thought we'd bought a "pig in a poke" but she's come up trumps. We've both fallen totally in love with her! That's why she lives in the polytunnel. A FABULOUS machine that never fails to start on the first tug - regardless of how long she's left idle. She's already paid for herself a few times over. Anyway I digress.

So that was it on the lottie today. Around six Stephen (who'd called in on his way home from work) and I were having a sit down and a natter over a cuppa. That's when the "nice day" ended with the deafening sound of a thunderous shower. Back to the usual. Still I've got one little ray of sunshine with orange flesh to take home & keep me smiling for one more day!


From My Allotment Diary (Wed. Oct. 10th, 2012)

October 10, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (4)

It's been a hectic week! Although not a lot has been done on my lottie, but that's to be expected at this time of the year. Apart from a bit of autumn sowing, and I don't do a lot of that, as in my experience, autumn sowing is not the most successful of activities. Consequently I find there's not that much to do, with the exception of harvesting the last bits, and clearing up areas where crops have been. the only other thing that DOES demand attention is the polytunnel because it doesn't rain in there!

Some gardeners are dedicated autumn planters and will be busy putting in their broad beans, over wintering onion sets and garlic etc. Apart from garlic, (and I don't grow that much garlic, although it seems to be one of the popular crops on the fashion circuit at the moment), I don't overdo the autumn planting thing. It's a gambler's activity. If we get a mild autumn and plants get a good start, and then the autumn is followed by a reasonably dry & mild winter then autumn planting can be a big bonus - with earlier than normal crops in the following year, however it is a gamble. I've also found over the years that winters here in west Wales tend to be WET & sometimes cold with winter gales blowing in from the Atlantic via Cardigan Bay! The result is often stunted growth - if you're lucky - and rotted seeds and bulbs if it gets really bad. I find that things sown and planted at a sensible time in the spring will often start better and will - in most cases - overtake the earlier autumn sown stuff.

I have however been going around like the proverbial headless chicken over this last week. Last weekend Josie & I went up to Birkenhead. As the years go by I find travelling to be a very weary experience. Those from other parts of the world like the US or Australia, who may be reading this blog, will be laughing their heads off at this, as a hundred miles here is like travelling a thousand in those countries!

The main reason for going up to Merseyside - apart from visiting family - was to pick up a war-time evacuee.

Ritchie Singleton and his brother Ron were evacuated from Liverpool, down to the safety of the country here in Wales. That was in 1941. It was to escape the German bombing during the second world war - especially sea port dock cities like Liverpool. Many also came from various other cities, and from as far away as Kent in the south of England.

The poor little things were bundled on trains and sent to far flung areas of safety - neither they nor their parents knew where they would land up. Some were so young that the only identity they had was a badge on their coat with their name written on it. It was a huge cultural shock for them.

Ritchie & Ronnie came to live with a great aunt of mine, who took them in as evacuees. Ron was only five at the time. They were here for four years. Aunty Lisa was a homely spinster who lived a very poor life on a tiny small holding with her elderly uncle - Moses. Moses spoke no English, aunty Lisa only spoke broken English, little Ritchie & Ronnie didn't speak a word of Welsh between them. When I picked Ritchie up (who is now 82) at Moreton (on The Wirral) last Monday - he greeted me in Welsh! He still remembers the old language that he had to learn in order to communicate all those years ago in the 1940s. It's only the second time he's returned since the forties.

All of this is very reminiscent of the story told in the book "Goodnight Mr Tom" that was later adapted as a television screen play and won awards. If anyone reading this blog has never heard of Mr Tom then click HERE.

Ritchie loved his experience of living with aunty Lisa & Moses. He told me on the way back - through tear-filled eyes  that his greatest regret in life was that he never told aunty Lisa how much he loved her before she died forty years later. Poignant stuff! He's been staying with my mother for a few days, and been around his old haunts as a child evacuee. Today Josie has taken him back to Liverpool. I hope he lives long enough and stays healthy enough to come down again soon. He told me that he broke his heart as a child when he was taken away from aunty Lisa and returned home to Liverpool after the war.

In fact he's been putting some of his memories of living as an evacuee down on paper. If you want to you can click HERE to download a copy. It's not particularly well written from a grammatical point of view - after all he's not a professional writer, but reading it will pull at your heart-strings, as you get a clear picture of what life was like, and the thoughts of a small boy who was evacuated to the heart of Wales (and probably one of the poorest rural parts) during the second world war.

Today I'm confined to barracks as we are having new double glazing units fitted. This afternoon - if it stays dry - I'll try and get down to the lottie for an hour. It's Wellington boots weather under foot, but the main chore is to water & feed my toms in the polytunnel.

In the meantime I've just spoken to my mate Phil who is coming to visit to discuss an EGM that's about to be called to discuss the future of our allotment site - better go and put the kettle on!




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