From My Allotment Diary (Tues. July. 30th, 2013)

July 30, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (1)

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This has probably been one of the two best July months that I can remember in 38 years of veggie growing. Sure it's been a bit dry, it's been very hot at times but generally it's been a fabulous month for the crops. There really is no substitute for good ol' UV rays - as long as I can water regularly (that HAS been a chore with over two hours taken up every evening on the lottie to keep down the dust, whilst Josie has been busy doing the same with the flowers at home). Now in the last week of the month we're getting rain mostly as short thundery downpours here on the west coast, with quite long spells of hot sunshine in between. What more can a gardener ask for? It's proper jungle weather and the crops are reflecting it in their growth. All those negative ions from the thunderstorm rains are really perking things up and making everything smell & feel fresh again - LOVE IT! Only one downside, lettuces seem rather keen to bolt at the moment, but on the really bright side (excuse the pun) no sign of blight on the horizon! Who cares about the odd 'panicky' lettuce, besides I have a friend who keeps chickens & they just love bolted lettuce - there were too many to eat anyway, and more will grow very soon.

It's been a hectic month for us 'wrinklies' with over half the month taken up entertaining our grandchildren. Our four year old grandson Cai (he's No. 3 son's little boy) has been to stay on two occasions on his own, & in between we've had our 16 & 17 year old granddaughters here to stay, with our No. 2 son & his wife who live in Birkenhead.

I posted pics of Cai in my previous blog post - here's few of Bethan & Eleanor with our son Damian & his wife Kerry.

imageHere's 'Beth' the oldest cooling her feet in the river not far from our house. She's our oldest grandchild. Quite the young lady by now - it's frightening to think how quickly time has flown by. It seems like only yesterday we were cradling her as a baby!

imageThen there's 'Eli' who's just a year younger at 16.

We get the feeling that we're coming to the end of our time with them as children, but long may it last whilst we can enjoy it!

imageHere's one of them all together (minus me - the camera has an auto function, but I couldn't be bothered to faff around with it, besides with all these beautiful members of our family around who'd want to have the photo spoiled by a 'Shrek' in the middle of it!). The second one in from the left is our No. 4 son - Teifion. The Weimaraner hound is theirs not ours - I couldn't cope with him on a permanent basis - he'd give me a nervous breakdown with his food snaffling antics!

imageHere's one of Josie sandwiched in between sons No. 2 & 4.

The generations seem to get taller & taller - Josie is no dwarf herself, but with our sons around she looks like a midget!

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From the left this is Beth, her 'Mamgu' (my mother), Kerry - our daughter-in-law & little poser Eli!

imageFinally, here's a photo of all four generations of us together (notice what I said about each generation being taller than the previous one?).

'Shrek' did find himself in this one! His wife (princess Fiona) was behind the lens on this occasion.

Following on in the theme of comic movies, Damian reckons that Mamgu looks like a Hobbit extra from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Philosopher's Stone! He'd land up being 4' 10" if she knew what he was on about!!

 


Just for you "tig2dave" here are a few snaps of the produce I picked this week.

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Broad beans

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Courgette

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Spring onions (scallions)

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Lollo Rossa lettuce (they're well behaved & haven't bolted!).

Guess what was on the dinner-time menu yesterday? Yep - SALAD (for a change!!!)

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From My Allotment Diary (Tues. July. 16th, 2013)

July 16, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

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Well here we are in the middle of our heat-wave. They don't come very often to this part of the world. It's a real joy to watch things growing on the lottie right now, without having to wear your Sowesters! Last year some scuba diving garb would have been more appropriate - as we waded through our wettest summer in over a hundred years! However memories are short when you're basking in this year's 30°C + weather with blue skies & a cooling sea breeze from Cardigan Bay. One of the little side benefits of living on the west Wales coast - further east people are melting into pools of lard, without a breath of air to cool them down.

It's been a hectic month, added to by the fact that it's too hot to do much during and after midday. Activity is being limited to Spanish & Oz type systems of effort. Early morning rush-about (or lie-in), hide in the shade during the middle bit and then come back out after the sun starts to drop down in the evening - but it's lovely, and it seems there's no end in sight at the moment. I DID say that I had this déjà vu feeling about 2013. It started off very similar to 1976. So far I've been vindicated in my observations! Perhaps I've missed my vocation as a long-term weather forecaster or clairvoyant or something like that!! I don't think so somehow - being a total unbeliever in mumbo jumbo. However observation is something different, and things do tend to have patterns. Well 1976 went on to September - we'll see how things develop in 20013.

We've also had a run on family visits this month. imageWe had our little 4 year old grandson Cai come to stay with us for the first time on his own the weekend before last (doesn't time fly? Including the bits in between my blog posts!) It was a big success - it's always a bit touch 'n go when they stay on their own for the first time. On his departure he informed us that he was coming for 6 weeks the next time! Sounds like a firm endorsement that he enjoyed himself to meimage! In fact he's coming in a week or so to stay for a couple of days in the week - as school has broken up for the summer. It's a case of building it up slowly. His Mum & Dad (our No.3 son) are going on holiday to Turkey in August & he's coming to stay with us - so we need to be sure that he's OK to stay for the longer term without tears!

imageHere's a photo of him with his uncle Teifion (our No. 4 son). Teifion's the one with a black eye & thick lip - we go in for a lot of that stuff here in Wales - as many of our rugby & boxing opponents will verify!

imageAnd here's one of him being taught by his Nan how to misbehave when having his photo taken!!

This coming weekend we have our No 2 son & wife coming to stay with their two daughters Bethan & Eleanor our 16 & 17 year old granddaughters are coming down from Birkenhead to stay. That'll be a whole different experience, but hopefully slightly less stressful!

Talking of stress, summer heat-waves bring their own brand of stress on the lottie. Watering has now taken over everyone's attention (at least the ones who are genuinely interested gardeners - which isn't everyone on our allotment site unfortunately).

As watering is most efficiently carried out after the sun goes down, it's been a case of the late shift taking over. To water my polytunnel & lottie properly takes over two hours, and there's still the regular jobs to be done down there. Consequently, I haven't been arriving home until well after 11 o'clock at night. It was even midnight one evening! Mind you I have an admission to make there, having a flask of tea on hand & your mate to gas to & put the world in it's place in the cool of the evening tends to extend your hours out of doors!

imageEverything has suddenly gone up a gear. Plants are now visibly growing on a daily basis, with things like beans adding inches to their growth every day. With plenty of the cool wet stuff and lots of UV rays from the sky we should be able to make a fist of it this year!

imageFinally, I can't resist showing off my fig tree to Dave. remember the photo you posted of the one you saw on holiday in Spain a few weeks ago Dave? Here's a 'local' version that's lived through everything the UK weather can throw at it over the last few years (although it's cropped every year so far) and this year it's repaying me with interest for my patience!

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From My Allotment Diary (Sat. June 22nd, 2013)

June 22, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

It's always a special occasion when you lift your very first new potatoes of the season. That day arrived on the 21st of June this year. I could probably have lifted them a week or so earlier, as they've been in flower for a while, but yesterday I couldn't resist it any longer.

imageSo on the day of the summer solstice two haulms were lifted. VERY impressed! Not just with the size & quantity but the taste was first class.

They're Vales Emerald. I had hoped to plant them last year, but didn't manage to get the seed tubers in time. This year I managed it - thanks to Josie who found them in Wrexham on one of her trips up north to visit her family in Birkenhead.

imageVales Emerald are a cross between Charlotte (my all time favourite early) & Maris Peer. Charlotte along with Pink Fir Apple are the two varieties I grow every year because they're both my favourite potatoes. So logic would have it that a potato with one of those two for a parent should turn out OK. I'm not disappointed. "Her Indoors" asked what they were - after boiling them - and then declared that she wanted ALL Vales Emerald next year! I'm not sure about that.

This is the row the Vale Emeralds were picked from:

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This year I've also got Salad Blue (first time trial for me - they actually have blue coloured tubers - quite a novelty in a salad!).  As for the Charlotte; my guess is the "cook" might be in a quandary when she tastes those again this year - she's probably forgotten how good they are. I wonder if she'll still want ALL Vales Emerald next year when I start on the Charlottes in a few weeks' time? Then there's Pink Fir Apple - as usual - and the two maincrop varieties this year are Pentland Hawk, which I did grow years ago but I've forgotten what they were like & then another new trial for me - Ulster Classic. If that one is as good as Ian Barbour of JBA Seed Potatoes reckons (he says it's the best flavoured spud he's ever tasted and he should know, he's eaten a few tons in his time I guess) then we're in for a treat.

Here's the rest of my potato 'patch':

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The rest of the plot is coming along slowly I say that because it IS slow this year in our part of the world. At a guess I would say we're between 4 & 6 weeks behind.

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The lettuce did well up to a point, but for some reason they suddenly slowed down, why is a mystery.

The spring onions are coming on fine. It seems to be quite a good year for the onions & the rest of the allium family.

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The shallots and onions on the right are thriving. The runner beans in the background are struggling a little. However, the dry weather we've had hasn't helped and before that it was cold. So with a bit more rain & warmth I guess they'll do OK - they usually do, even if it takes a bit longer.

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The peas are now starting to get into their stride, but again very slow, considering we're into our last week of June. The cabbage (in  the background in the green mini net tunnel) are thriving. It's always the same, what some plants struggle with, others thrive on. The cooler weather this year seems to suit the cabbage, onions & spuds.

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Courgettes, pumpkins & cucumbers are starting to move in the tyre towers, but BOY they've been a nightmare to get started this year, fluctuating heat & cold they hate, and guess what? Temperature fluctuations have been the order of the day this spring!

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And finally in the polytunnel, the last dregs of the seedlings are queuing up to go outside. I'll have to make that a priority in the next week or so, in order to get the toms, cucs, melons, capsicums & aubergines into their permanent spots in the polytunnel borders that are still loaded up with plant trays & pots at the moment.

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These are a tray of Sweet peas (not peas) that are waiting to go in a border along the perimeter fence of my lottie. Trouble is it needs digging & preparing. Because it's been so hectic on the veg. front the poor flowers have not been able to climb up the priority list, let alone climb up any fences!

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Mysterious disappearances, court hearing and lunatics in an asylum!

June 11, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

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As many who read my blog will have heard me relate in the past, we have a situation here on our allotment site where

THE LUNATICS HAVE TAKEN OVER THE ASYLUM!

There are 17 plots on our allotments site, seven are occupied by decent gardeners from a variety of backgrounds, who form a very friendly group who help each other and understand what allotment gardening is all about - not least the social & community minded aspect of things. It includes sensible & traditional allotmenteers. Six of the seven have won the annual Aberaeron in Bloom competition or have been runners up in the best vegetable growing plot category over the last few years (myself included). Three of us are the past chair, secretary & treasurer of the association (when things were run properly) until we got turfed off at an AGM in 2011 by the others whose main problem is fuelled by envy, jealousy and a reluctance to put any effort into their plots or be governed by standard plot rules. By removing us they felt that they could have a "do as you please" culture on the site. A few actually just use their plots for picnicking or lazing in the sun - that's fine - as long as you realise that vegetable growing plots are first & foremost a place to grow vegetables. The problem is compounded by the fact that the land, whilst council owned, is only licensed for use to our allotment association, who then rents individual plots to the members & manages the site privately. Consequently the council do not have a say in the day to day running of the site. So there is no one who can mediate or sort problems out when a situation like this arises.

The ruling lunatics in the asylum now include five members of the local Yacht Club plus their partners. This is a "tap room" clique that only have a plot so that they can boast at the bar that they are part of the modern trend. We then have three who are New Age anarchists who abhor rules and spend their time in a tree hugging haze amongst their weeds. Their other trait is that they believe that anything brought on site is communal for them to dip into or "borrow" as they please without asking (strangely they never bring anything to the site themselves). This "communal" policy includes taking other members' tools, manure, top soil, wood chips etc. without asking. Even shared crops that they can forage before anyone else has a chance to share them are gobbled up in an opportunist frenzy - often before things are ripe. The remaining three or four members are fence sitters who haven't a clue about gardening and even less interest in the allotment movement. So this unholy alliance now makes up the majority who run the show.

Last year they tried to unsuccessfully have me evicted from the site (because my presence there made them fel "uncomfortable" they said), I was seen as the main thorn in their side. Only by engaging a solicitor have I been able to hang on to my plot. Now the ploy is to try and harass me off the site. That has triggered involvement of the police who have warned certain individuals about their actions. The latest thing is to award plots to friends and like-minded ones who are not on our waiting list. We're not even sure if these new faces have tenancy agreements, or whether they have paid anything for their plots. At least one is known to have been offered a full plot at half price! It's all a very sad and stressful state of affairs.

In December 2011 I had some chipped softwood delivered to the site for use on my plot paths. We have an area set aside for all deliveries to the site. I intended using the chips in the spring after the weather had got better. In March 2012 all the chippings had been nabbed by a Jon Tuson - the tenant who occupies plot 1. He did not ask who they belonged to and ignored the sign that had been put in the heap showing that they were my property. I'd originally put the sign on there, and on my other deliveries like manure etc. because of the unsavoury habit of dipping into other people's materials that some plot holders had developed. The "tree hugging Glastonbury rejects" who make up the hippy section had started doing this from day one. The current secretary & his partner on their first visit to the site after he got his plot a couple of years back had, as their very first task, "borrowed"  another member's barrow and started wheeling off compost that belonged to me to put on his plot - until someone politely pointed out to them that the compost belonged to someone else!

Jon Tuson the culprit who took my load of wood chips without permission had a track record of similar behaviour. In the past I lost a rake. Two months later I discovered in a chance conversation that Tuson had used it and then took it home with him without telling anyone. On that occasion he returned it to me. Some time afterwards I again mysteriously lost a new stainless steel spade. A few months later I discovered this guy using my spade on his plot. When confronted about it he lamely proclaimed that it was not mine, but a similar spade  that he had been given as a present by his family, It was obvious to me that it was mine (no one on site had a similar one), but not being in a position to prove my ownership (with a receipt or similar documentation) he got away with it and never did return the spade that was worth over thirty pounds - neither has he used it again on his plot (on the rare occasion that he visits his allotment). Finally he took my lorry load of wood chips and spread them all on his own plot. He was told about this and asked to replace what he took. He confirmed that he had taken them (undeniable as the evidence was obviously spread all over the place). He agreed to replace what he took. For months he was periodically asked when he intended to replace what he took, but he just ignored those requests. Finally he turned round, (when asked if he had actually ordered a new load), and simply said he "could not remember"! He was told that unless they were replaced I would bill him for them. He responded that he had no intention of paying any bills. He was then told that if he failed to pay I would take him to the County Court Small Claims section to get my money. Seven months later he was billed, he failed to pay. He was sent a notice that a claim was being lodged in the local County Court.

This brings us up to last Friday the 7th of June 2013, when the hearing took place at the Aberystwyth County Courtroom. Tuson provided a "cock and bull" story in his own defence that everything delivered to the site is for communal use, unless indicated otherwise. He also took three witnesses with him to court (the current chair, the current treasurer & a past chair) to try and validate his defence and in the process to basically lie on his behalf. Suffice to say, the judge was not impressed and although he was prepared to accept the plea that Tuson took the material in ignorance - rather than as a premeditated act of theft - he was not impressed with his account of the matter or those of his cronies in court, who managed to shoot each other in the feet when they gave evidence under questioning. I represented myself with no witnesses with just my wife sitting silently behind me providing a bit of moral support!

The outcome was that J. C. Tuson, the defendant in the case, was found guilty and I was awarded a judgement in the sum of £180.00 with all costs. The defendant now has to pay that sum into the court within 14 days - so that they can pay me. Someone will now have to keep an eye on the association's funds, for fear that someone else with access to those funds may be tempted to make a donation to Mr Tuson's cause. An independant audit of our funds is overdue by eighteen months in any case. perhaps this is the time to ask for it.

A success whichever way you look at it, but more importantly a victory for principle, basic rights and decency. Under the circumstances you would think that a lesson would be learnt and the whole matter should serve as a lesson that legal threats should be taken seriously and in the correct context. HOWEVER, two days later whilst I was tending to my plot, one of the "lunatics that have taken over the asylum" approached me and declared that I should be ashamed of myself for taking that "poor man" to court, and did I realise that he could not now afford birthday presents for his little deprived children! I quietly told her that he should have thought of that a year earlier and that if she had a grievance she should tell it to the District judge not me - as he was the one who passed judgement. I then said that I didn't really want to engage in conversation with her and therefore could she please go away. I heard a shout of "coward" as she walked back to her friends from the Yacht Club - to which I responded with a loud belly laugh!

The old Cockney saying jumped to my mind "where it ain't you can't put it". So true, people like this just never learn - that's why it's the sane ones in white coats that usually run asylums and not the inmates!

 

From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. June 6th, 2013)

June 8, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

 

A busy little period on the lottie this week. Having leapt from early spring to midsummer weather in one leap, it's a bit strange looking at the plot. You feel it's the middle of a nice summer (all the soil looks dry & desert-like, you look hot & sweaty!!). But the plants & seedlings look as if they're stuck in the end of April! NOT WORRIED - I remember a similar scenario back in 1976 when I had my first season in my very own garden (where has the time flown to?). Anyway, in 1976 the weather turned nice & sunny at the end of May/ beginning of June. Everyone expected the rain, and it sometimes got promised in the weather forecasts - but it never came! It was the most memorable summer that I've ever experienced. It just went on and on until September - the whole landscape started looking distinctly Mediterranean - brown - but nobody complained. In fact as long as you could water, and that became a REAL chore with hose-pipe bans & the water being turned off by the supplier for hours to conserve the levels in the dams. However the crops thrived & the melons in my greenhouse just grew & grew in that first year - little wonder my gardening bug bit me in that year. 2013, to me seems to be following a similar pattern. I may be TOTALLY wrong and it may turn into a spectacularly miserable summer - but a little voice inside says that it might, just might, be earmarked as a special one. We'll see, for now I'm watering every night and it's only the first week in June. Bring it on I say!

Last year I had ONE apple on my apple tree & that rotted in the rain before I could eat it. Here's a picture of what's developed so far this year - the whole tree is covered in embryo fruit. Makes you glow doesn't it?

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The plum tree is following suite, it's also pinging with embryonic fruit. It's called 'Jubilee' an improved Victoria with earlier cropping and sweeter fruit - although I was a bit sceptical about that at first. But having tasted THREE plums last year (that's all it produced) I can vouch for the taste, it really does beat the famous Victoria and that really takes some doing. A funny one this, I actually missed it flowering! I was talking with Tig (Brenda) one of the other plot holders who has a Victoria plum tree, & she was proudly showing off the tiny fruit she had on her tree. I miserably commented that I didn't think I'd get any fruit on mine this year, because my tree hadn't flowered. When we went over to check the Jubilee tree on my plot, imagine my surprise when I was confronted with hundreds of little fruit. I swear it must have flowered at night! Or I'm losing it!

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The tyre towers are filled with 3 year old kitchen waste compost. The bottom tyre is full of farm yard manure (horse s_ _ _ to commoners like us!). These are the homes of the pumpkins, courgettes & squashes. In fact at the time of writing they've been planted. The big one is home to a pumpkin called Atlantic Giant. A real biggie - we'll have to judge the success of that one in the autumn. if you don't see any more pics of it in my blog, you'll know the reason!

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The three sister sisters! The pyramid supports are for the French beans. Blue Lake (a green climbing pencil pod variety), Kentucky Waxhorn (a yellow pencil pod type) & the old favourite the Borlotti bean. There should be another for my flat-podded "Barry" beans - so named because the whole stock of those flat podded French beans on our allotment site have come from a handful of a dozen or so beans from a passing visitor who hailed from Barry Island. He'd been growing them for years but didn't know the variety name. I therefore christened them "Barry" beans when I got them off him - an excellent strain whatever their written pedigree! It matters not - they live on under an adopted name. Sadly I've not seen the kind gentleman since. Perhaps he's been holidaying in better climes these last couple of years.

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It's never ending. the weeds are fighting for survival & the spuds need earthing up, that's before the concentration focuses on what will grow in the polytunnel this year. Thoughts of the heavenly aroma of ripe melons as you open the doors of the tunnel in the morning & the taste of cold home grown melon on a summer evening during a long summer . . . . does it get any better?

 

From My Allotment Diary (Tues. June. 4th, 2013)

June 4, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (3)

There's something that feels decidedly natural when you get the right weather in it's proper season. It's supposed to have been the coldest spring since the 70s - I'd agree with that, but although it's been cold, the weather has generally been in the right place at the right time & in the right proportions! Now that it's June it's turned sunny, warm & dry, that's exactly how it should be in June. The plants are actually reacting by starting to show signs of proper growth at last.

Last night I watered the plot for the first time this season, well the seedlings & newly planted out stuff anyway. It's surprising how it's dried up.

At last It's starting to take shape. All the beds are now prepared and either have things growing in them or are waiting for things to be planted in them.

imageThe first batch of 38 runner beans, (the ones that got 'cooked' in the polytunnel one day whilst my back was turned & the doors were closed,) are in the ground, but after nearly two weeks in the ground outside, their perk up rate is too slow, so with a heavy heart, imageI'm going to dig them back up and put in a new fresh batch. The old ones, after meticulous nurture and one slip of attention are now compost fodder. Alas that's gardening! You have to take the rough with the smooth dry your eyes and move on.

imageThe summer cabbage are now planted out. They have a new home in the mini green mesh tunnel that I always use for brassicas. It seems to do the trick. Not too much heat, protection from wind and more importantly full protection from cabbage white butterflies & the dreaded cabbage root fly. imageThe mesh is discarded scaffolding net that builders use for the public's protection. they have to renew it - regardless of it's condition - after every job (I know it's silly Health & Safety law madness, but it suits me fine!). It's identical stuff to that used in commercial horticultural net tunnels. There's another one to go by the side of the one above for the cauliflowers, sprouts and winter cabbage. That's a job in the next week or two. A simple construction made with 25mm alkathene water pipe off-cuts, a few bamboo canes for a ridge and some spring clips and a handful of tent pegs. Simples!

This morning I went down to my lottie to open the doors on both ends of the polytunnel. When I got there the temperature had already reached 105ºF that's just over 40ºC & it felt like a Turkish Bath. As usual, not being content with one job and away, I started to water a few seedlings that looked thirsty in the toilet roll inserts & then started weeding. When I got uncomfortably hot I left it all to go home & come back this evening when it's cooler. Before leaving I glanced at the thermometer in the polytunnel & it showed 32ºC even with the doors open. I wonder how I'd cope if I lived in Oz?!!

 

From My Allotment Diary (Sun. May 19th, 2013)

May 19, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (4)

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An almighty clear-out of the seedling plants in the polytunnel this weekend. imageThe poor runner beans, who were desperate to escape the environment, have moved to new lodgings out side. They've suffered badly because it's been too hot for them inside but too cold outside. Damned if you do and damned if you don't has been the story so far. Outside - over the last week or two - the temperatures have plummeted in the nights, and in the daytime the vicious north west winds would have scorched them (I've experienced that in the past by putting them out too early in May). This year it's been scorching inside the polytunnel - crimping and cooking the plants that don't like heat, but not 'summerish' enough to put them outside.

imageThis week they'll be transplanted to their permanent home, now that I've got my bean frame up, I hope they'll like their neighbours the Pea family one side, with the Onions & Shallot families on the other side! I really must stop personalising my plants this way - I might get labelled 'odd'!

imageSo the ol' polytunnel is now looking decidedly spacious, with many of it's occupants now outside. just in time to get the borders cleared for the permanent residents for the summer. Next out will be the sweetcorn, pumpkins, courgettes, outdoor cucumbers & French beans. It never ends!

My time on the lottie this afternoon will be otherwise deployed visiting Mam who lives 15 miles away. Que sera, sera - we have to get our priorities right I suppose. Left to my own devices I'd live on the lottie. In fact I was threatened by Josie last night  that she would move my bed down there if I didn't come home! Mind you, it was nearly 10.30 in the evening (aren't the nights getting so much lighter?!).

I'd left my mobile in the house, she'd rung to see where I was - because it was so late, got no answer, then started to panic because she couldn't get hold of me (images of me lying face down between my seed beds - you get the picture).

So, she rang Stephen my mate - guessing that if I was OK I'd be with him. In fact, he & I were putting the world to rights leaning over the gate, as we were leaving (as one does) and like two little boys (you know the saying "men are only boys with more expensive toys") we'd lost track of time while nattering - hence the lateness. In fact it was all Stephen's fault (that's my story & I'm sticking to it) because he came down to the site late, after visiting his wife in hospital - she's had an operation this week but should be out today. He ate his 'chippy' meal from the paper in my polytunnel (he's been in bachelor mode for nearly a week now). Anyway, afterwards - as it was such a lovely evening, he suddenly decided at about 9 o'clock that he was going to earth up his spuds. So not wanting to see him down there till the early hours of the morning I went to help him - isn't that what friends are for? I ran my 'Little Tilly' between the rows, whilst he followed with a shovel. Moral of the story? DON'T start earthing up potatoes at 9.00pm! It takes longer than 15 minutes!

All's well that ends well. Now today, when sensible people do their allotment gardening in the sunshine, he & I have to go on visiting chores. Feels like a bit of deserved punishment really! Maybe an hour this evening . . . . . ?

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From My Allotment Diary (Fri. April 17th, 2013)

May 17, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (1)

A disjointed couple of weeks if ever there was. Josie's brother passed away on the first of this month, which put a big damper on things. Bank Holiday Saturday then followed with a badly timed nasty little showdown with one of the younger lunatics (he wears a secretary badge) that now run our allotment site. I won't go into details, but as some of you know, our allotment site is split into two gangs. We have 17 plots,  seven are occupied by decent gardeners who get on well and do things as they should be done in peace and harmony, helping each other and enjoying each other's company. Then there's nine who are a mixture of Glastonbury rejects (hippies & tree-huggers) a couple of no hopers who sit on the fence, and the rest are made up of a clique of Yacht Club boozers who only really want a plot so that they can tell their cronies at the bar that they have one (it's a status symbol to say that they are into the latest trend). Then there's one who has just been parachuted in from nowhere onto a plot. He was not even on the waiting list, but it seems he has some connection with the secretary. He's strimmed the plot, put down a black sheet and tells us he's going to leave it till next spring before he starts! It beggars belief.

Anyway, as the true allotmenteers are in the minority, the other lot have voted their own into office (hence why I say the lunatics are in charge of the asylum) and since then things have gone to the dogs - badly. It's basically turned into a do as you please anarchy down there. Along with two others, I officially complained by letter to the committee last September and for my trouble I was given a letter to evict me off my plot in October for daring to do such a thing. Well I won't go into details, but suffice to say the whole thing has gone to litigation. However, they have ignored my solicitor and decided instead to try and harass me off the site instead. As I have a legally binding tenancy agreement that rolls over from one year to the next; my plot is probably the best kept on the site and I have not breached any of my tenancy rules AND paid all my dues on time, there's a gnashing of teeth amongst the other lot, not to mention a large dollop of jealousy & envy. So, having run out of ideas on how to get rid of the thorn in their side (as they see me as the ring leader of the good guys) they are now trying to harangue me into submission.

This came to a head the other Saturday when the 'secretary' confronted me asking what I was doing down there, when was I leaving, demanding that I leave immediately & telling me I was trespassing! This was not done in a very subtle way, he followed me & Josie around for a good quarter of an hour ranting and raving. Others had done the same in the preceding weeks. Enough being enough I telephoned the police. On turning up the police officer put him in his place and insisted that if the committee had a good enough reason to evict me, then they had to do it properly (as I had already said many times to them & my solicitor had also told them by letter), The PC also cautioned him about harassment under Section 7 of the Harassment Act  and told him that he was to tell all members that I was to be left alone and that the only option for them is to take the legal route. I rest my case! This is the very thing you don't want in a place where you go to relax and unwind from the everyday stresses of life. Talk about "allotment wars"! We'll see how things develop from here on. Enough about the negative things.

The potatoes are out and one row should be ready for earthing up in the next week or so. The other 5 rows are also starting to show signs of life. They've been a bit slow to peek through, but I guess that's because I didn't chit them this year. I also buried them a bit deep due to the cold nights. I'm sure they'll appreciate my kind loving care & consideration for their creature comforts!

The pea netting is up outside & waiting for 'tenants', the peas themselves are still in pots in the polytunnel - they've been extremely slow to germinate, I'll sow the rest directly into the soil.

The runner beans are begging to be released into the big wide world outside the polytunnel, they're starting to look a bit sorry for themselves inside in their little toilet roll pots - they're probably feeling the 'squeeze'. The French beans are also coming along, they don't mind being holed up in the heat - being a tad more delicate.

Sweet corn has been a massive success - germination wise - with a 99% germination rate. that's good, they were suicidal last year & didn't even want to sprout.

Toms are slowly coming along, but they are slower than usual, why is a mystery. You'd think they'd enjoy the same environment as the sweet corn. Who knows the strange mysteries behind these things.

The cucurbits are also slow, but getting there. Big fluctuations in imagetemperature are their biggest enemy. Some fly off others seem reluctant to get going. Why should one spaghetti squash burst into life and fly off to a height of 4 inches when it's 5 brothers & sisters are just struggling to make daylight? Strangely, in the polytunnel, the melon seedlings seem to be racing ahead of the courgettes - another strange anomaly. It's a head scratch!

The famous "V" (or inverted "A") frame bean support is up and 20 of the 40 canes in place. Finishing the task will be the first job on my list today. I'll post some pics later.

WEEDS - I think it's going to be a bumper season for them this year. They've just burst into life over the last two weeks millions of them!! So it's time for the Dutch hoe. Chick-weed has become a pandemic in certain parts of my plot, forming a carpet of tiny plants overnight. Where the hell all the seeds have come from I don't know - mind you having overgrown weed infested plots around you doesn't help the cause.

Right I'm off to pack my bag & fill my flask. I'm home alone today as Josie's gone out for the day to Carmarthen with her friend - so as it's nice & sunny I'm off down the allotment.

 

A Sad Blog - May 1st 2013

May 1, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

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It's May day today, and it's certainly good weather for catching up with all the sowing and planting on the lottie. Lots of things in, lots more to go. It's very slow though, the soil hasn't really warmed up fully, because of the cold nights. In the polytunnel it gets very hot in the day (too warm at times) but then with plunging temperatures at night the germination rate is not constant, but rather erratic.

I was down there yesterday & had a good day - work wise, although my heart wasn't really in it. My brother-in-law Paul (Josie's younger brother) - who's had lymphoma - had deteriorated. Josie went up to Merseyside to see him yesterday by public transport - quite a journey from here by bus & rail. The news wasn't good. Then I had a phone call early this morning from her, to say he'd passed away a few minutes earlier. I'm so glad she went up yesterday, because had she left it till today, as she had originally planned, then she'd have been too late. It all happened so quickly, he went downhill in about a week, and from the news that was filtering through over the last few days we suspected that it may have been a bit touch & go. He was only 58.

What's actually killed him is neutropenic sepsis, a condition brought on by a critical depletion of his white blood cells (through a destroyed immune system) following a course of intensive chemotherapy. Ironic really, having a fatal complication following treatment to treat a life threatening cancer condition.

We've made big advances, but we're not quite there yet, when it comes to cancer. I had an uncle die when he was 19, also of non Hodgkin's lymphoma. That was in 1947 - in those days it was just a case of going home to wait to die, with no treatment at all available. At least Paul had treatment, unfortunately on this occasion the still crude methods used, where you destroy most of a patient's immune system to halt the cancer growth can also be fatal. It's all very sad.

I'm not sure what to do today. I've got loads to do, and perhaps it would take my mind off things if I went down the lottie, but I haven't really got the stomach for it. To be perfectly honest I feel a bit guilty just getting on with things, especially things you enjoy as a hobby at this early stage of things. I'll have to see how the day pans out. There's another complication in going down the lottie, my mate Stephen will probably be down there later - when he comes home from work. These things are a bit delicate for him, his 22 year old daughter died just over a year ago and that's still a bit fresh.

I personally hate this sort of thing. I've had my fair share of death experiences, being a past widower left with two young children after my first wife died. I dread the funeral. Whenever I can, I try not to go to the things, unless I really have to. On this occasion I obviously will have to go it would be indecent not to - given how close a relative he was. So it looks like I'll be heading north to Birkenhead in the next few days. not looking forward to it.

 

From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. April 18th, 2013)

April 17, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (9)

As it's blowing a gale outside, and I have nothing much to report from my allotment diary, so I thought I'd treat readers of my Blog to a little video of my home town Aberaeron.

Naturally filmed in the summer (well May 2010 actually - almost summer) it makes you feel nice and summery whilst listening to a winter gale  tonight (in the middle of April in 2013). A little creature comfort - whilst waiting for the sun to return & the lottie to turn green again! Sigh!

 


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