From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. April 11th, 2013)

April 11, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (1)

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imageA start at last! Although Big Bertha made short change of turning over the plot (twice - bless her - before going off to start on my friend Stephen's plot) The REAL work started this week. It's one thing to walk behind a rotavator, it's entirely a different matter when the hand tools & barrow come out of the shed - along with Bertha's baby sister - Little Tilly - the Mantis!

After hours of digging out six 40' rows (that's just over 12m each - for you post new money readers). I've barrowed 20 loads of manure into those rows, ready for the potato tubers. These pictures were taken on the 9th of this month; since then three rows of earlies have gone in and been imageearthed over, the next three will get the treatment in the next week or two - depending on the weather & the state of my, by now, very fragile carcass!

As you can see I've also started on the beds. this is the first of ten. All my onion & shallot sets are now snugly tucked up in this first bed. The red hue you can see is a sprinkling of blood, fish & bone meal, along with a liberal amount of chicken poo pellets. No nasty inorganic oil based fertilizers here!

imageThis season the potato varieties from the right of this last photo will include Vales Emerald (first early), Salad Blue (second early and a first for me), Charlotte (my favourite second early salad potato), then Pink Fir Apple, followed by Pentland Hawk & Ulster Classic (main crop varieties).

Today the rain came, and not before time really. It's got amazingly dry over the last few weeks with that east wind we've had. Although the soil was just perfect for working right now, but growth is non existent at the moment. In fact everything has dried to a cold crimp. Even the grass has turned brown. So with a good few days rain and a bit of sun things should perk up. Trouble is whoever turned the tap on in spring last year, forgot to turn it off again. Let's hope this year is a bit better, and the "tap turner" remembers to come back! If I have a summer as wet as last year I'm taking up a different hobby.

Right now - I'm pleased as punch. It's mission accomplished as far as what I wanted to do before it rained is concerned, AND I was desperate for a rest by today!

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For anyone who's interested, you can see my 2013 Plot Planting Plan by clicking HERE

From My Allotment Diary (Tues. March. 26th, 2013)

March 26, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

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imageI'm glad I live where I do - especially at this time of the year. Aberaeron, slap bang in the middle of Cardigan Bay, as far west as you can get. Go any further west & you find yourself wading across to Ireland! Sure we get rain from the westerlies that blow in from the Atlantic, BUT - and it's a big but - Aberaeron is also endowed with a micro-climate. Go down the coast a couple of miles from here and you'll find it's colder & wetter, go north by the same distance and you get wetter & colder! Our rainfall levels are much lower than the rest of the west side of Wales (with the exception of the Pembrokeshire peninsula of course, where all the early spuds are grown and frost is unheard of - lucky beggars). It's not only dryer here, but thankfully a lot warmer (all this is relative of course, we do get lots of rain and some cold, but the rest of Wales, up, down & east, gets a lot more of it - and inland the wee freezes in the potties under the beds at the moment!).

Whilst north east Walians, & their poor animals, are currently under snowdrifts of up to 12' deep we haven't had a flake of it here, it's cold & windy but DRY.

On Sunday evening we took our little grandson home. Cai & his Dad - our No3 son Alex - had come to visit us from the Friday night & over the weekend. We took them halfway home on Sunday, to meet Becca (Alex's partner & Cai's mother) who had driven up the other half of the journey, - some twenty miles inland, that's halfway to Llandybie in Carmarthenshire, which is only about 40 miles south east from here and is where they live. In Aberaeron it was +1oC, just twenty miles away there was snow on the mountains and it was -3oC which goes some way to proving what I'm saying about our little micro-climate in Aberaeron. Long may it continue!

As I've said, all these things are relative, even here it's too cold to do anything on the lottie, in fact it's more like the beginning of February, rather than the end of March. Maybe it's a good thing, remember last year? We had a heat-wave in March, with the "ever knowledgeable" weathermen predicting a water supply panic and drought for the summer. I won't forget for a while what we actually got! So employing reverse logic, perhaps we'll have a scorcher this year, either way we'll be told it's the direct effects of man made global warming.

Most of you who read my news-letters from time to time will know that I have strong views on this nonsense. Climate change has ALWAYS been there. As an example; from about AD 950 to 1250 we had what's now officially called The Medieval Warm Period. This (also called) Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) was followed by wetter weather MUCH wetter. Between then and now we've also had the "Mini Ice Age" that started in AD 1550  and we didn't officially come out of it as recently as AD 1850! Not a lot of man made CO2 emissions around in those days - unless you can calculate how much is sent into the atmosphere by candles! Our climate is in constant flux. We now attribute this latest "strange" change to our human influences - how arrogant. Sure we don't help the situation, but we are not the sole cause.

Having had that little renewed rant, I have to also say that we ARE acting totally irresponsibly when it comes to pollution, and the wanton depletion of our finite resources of coal, gas & oil. Not to mention the fact that we're also poisoning ourselves through the food chain by using fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides & any other "cides" you can think of, that are produced from these natural fossil fuel deposits. As a side issue, we're also destroying key animal & plant life (wait till our crops stop being pollinated because all the bees have been poisoned). It's a nightmare that's heading for disaster - the sacrifice of our planet on the alter of corporate greed and governmental ignorance & mismanagement.

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As it's a time to spend indoors rather than out at the moment (waiting for warmer weather to heat the soil on the lottie), I busied myself thinking about these things over the last few days, whilst resurrecting my knowledge of the great man Nikola Tesla. Have you heard of him? Many haven't - that's an amazing thing in itself, due in no small way to the efforts employed to make him vanish from our science text books by - guess who? The same people who are busy destroying the planet whilst filling their fat pockets & "Piggy" banks - at our expense.

If Nikola Tesla could have had his way we would now all be enjoying the fruits of free, clean, renewable & unlimited energy, and the oil, gas and coal reserves would still be safely tucked away underground, and for those silly enough to believe it, we wouldn't have global warming either!

So in a fit of urgency (and a bit of bad weather cabin fever) I decided to contribute my little ha'penny's worth to the task of resurrecting the buried secrets of Nikola Tesla. So whilst waiting for my lottie to come out of it's winter hibernation, I set about compiling a dedication page to Tesla and his priceless work; for others to see on the Internet.

Click HERE or go to http://sccambria.com/tesla  to view it

- whilst you're having rests from digging yourselves out of the snow - unless you live somewhere like Aberaeron - with it's now famous micro-climate for gardeners!

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From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. March. 7th, 2013)

March 7, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

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The mojo is back good style after this little sunny period - now I KNOW it's spring at last!

I've been busy on the lottie. On the 21st of Feb I finally got "Big Bertha" pressed into service.

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I know it sounds a bit weird & corny but I really love Bertha! She doesn't fail to remind me of how lucky Stephen (my friend & allotment mate) & I were to bump into her at an auction. In fact we've both fallen in love with her - she's just perfect. This is now her second season with us since we eloped with her from a muddy auction field in torrential rain. A bit of TLC and she's been showing her gratitude ever since!

After a whole winter of sleeping in the polytunnel I got her out, turned on the petrol tap, gave her full choke & she burst into life on the first pull - as if she's only stopped the day before, and I hadn't even put fresh juice in - what a beauty! It doesn't get better than that with machinery.

The soil was still a bit sticky, but workable. Together we soon had the whole plot turned over. I didn't time us, but it was two mugs of tea from the flask & a couple of pipefuls of herbs later! That's just for me - I'm not quite loony enough to offer Bertha tea!

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Yesterday (a full thirteen days later) and we both did the same again - this time in the opposite direction. What a difference a couple of weeks of dry weather makes. This time the soil just crumbled into a tilth (sorry no photos - forgot to take any). In between our two adventures Stephen also used her to turn his whole plot over twice. I really don't know how we used to manage before she came into our life!

Yesterday I also managed to finally clear up the pots & benches that had been left over winter. A job usually done in the autumn, but did I ever tell you what the weather was like here last autumn?!

The poly-tunnel borders are also nearly done - digging them over will be a job for Bertha's little sister Miss Mantis, but that's not a priority.

Next on the agenda is some seed sowing, and if the weather permits I'll start getting my beds on the plot ready. I don't want to rush that. Doing it too early gives the weeds a head start before sowing - so it's a question of timing it right.

In between the two digs with bertha I've also dug over my rhubarb bed with a mattock and wheel-barrowed 6 loads of horse manure to mulch the bed. I'm quite pleased with myself! Thankfully, I don't seem to have knackered myself too much either - I'm also pleased about that. Last year was a real uphill struggle with the old health, so far things are a bit better. I put it down to the two bottles of Kombucha I down every week (click on the link under the word "Kombucha). No doubt about it, it definitely makes a BIG difference. A spot of Yoga next . . . .

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From My Allotment Diary (Sun. Feb. 17th, 2013)

February 17, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

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You don’t have to be old to feel the effects of mojo depletion.

Although I don't yet consider myself to be "old" I felt my mojo cup was pretty low over this last winter. Month after month of rain, floods, cold weather and general awful gardening weather (and that's just the summer!) I wondered if I would ever recover my enthusiasm to put on my boots & allotment body-warmer again. Winter is usually the time you recharge your batteries, and by the time the day starts to lengthen we should all be chomping at the bit to get going again. However this year it was different.

The weather and poor crops, with jobs not completed on the lottie is one thing, add to that not ONE day when you can get out and about over the long winter months (if it hasn't been too wet & horrible the ground has been so waterlogged that you simply can't walk on the paths). Then there's the old unreliable health and to cap it all - allotment wars, involving serious litigation and looming court actions. Little wonder the mojo cup has been down to the dregs.

Now the good news - AT LAST - a glimmer of hope! The days are getting noticeably longer, there's high pressure parked above us, and the weather forecast promises sunny dry weather for at least a week! Talk about being grateful for little mercies!. If they're not lying, it'll soon be time to press Big Bertha into action again at the start of another season! The return of the mojo has begun!

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I've managed to get down the allotment a couple of times over the last week, and things don't look as hopeless as I expected them to be. After a bit of debris tidying (following the gales) and a clear up of what was left at the end of summer, the enthusiasm is welling. So it's time to start in earnest. My seed potatoes have arrived, I've got my seed "wish-list" together and I'm starting to feel as if I'm back in the groove again - thank goodness for that!

To cap it all, I went down in the spring sunshine just after lunch-time today, and went to open my polytunnel. What greeted me made my heart leap - heat! As soon as I opened the door, it felt as if I'd walked into a summer's day. It was bright, sunny and most amazing of all, the thermometer read 30c!

First things first though, I've got to get the plants and garden at home tidied up. The clematis got it's long over due prune this afternoon, and after the perennial bed, paths, lawn & other hanging basket chores get done it'll be time to get my allotment van back on the road (old faithful has the winter off every year with a SORN and then gets put back on the road in spring). "Busy" will be the key word  from here on end! Unless of course the weather decides not to play ball, the jet stream parks itself in the wrong place and my missing mojo returns whilst I look out of the window staring at the rain running down the panes . . . . I'll have to stop these negative thoughts . . . surely we can't have another season like the last one can we?

 

From My Allotment Diary (Sun. feb. 3rd, 2013)

February 3, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

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Went down the lottie this morning - not to do any work - that's out of the question, it's unworkable at the moment! Instead we called whilst on a detour on the way back from the shop (pity her indoors didn't remind us we needed wellies!). the sum total of our efforts was to pluck four leeks from the squelch.

The only glimmer of hope was the rhubarb that's busily fighting the elements and is already about six inches above ground - but it's a start and turns your mind toward the likelihood that it might get better soon. At least the days are getting visibly longer.

I'm still patiently waiting for my seed potatoes to arrive. It's a bit unnerving to go on JBA's site and find EVERYTHING is sold out! Not because there's a huge army of potential potato growers out there, but because the poor potato growers didn't manage to get all of their crops out of the ground last year. It feels very apocalyptic!

Still, my order was in early - so there's hope. Iain Barbour  supplies me with all my seed potatoes every year in return for the ads I have for JBA on my two gardening web-sites. I hope it hasn't slipped his memory. Must make a note to e-mail him, just in case.

Talking of "just in case" Josie went up to Merseyside to visit her sisters & brothers and and our  No2 son, daughter-in-law and granddaughters last week. On the way back she stopped off in Wrexham and phoned me to say that there were Emerald Vale seed potatoes for sale in a shop there. I had hoped to try those last season, but never got round to it. So just in case I get desperate, she brought some back for me - they might turn out to be the only ones I get my hands on at this rate! Still a few Kilos of Pink Fir Apples have been kept back from our winter store, so as a last resort I'll have to use them.

We had a bit of bad news from up north. One of Josie's brothers has been diagnosed with non Hodgkin's lymphoma. He's in hospital and awaiting treatment tomorrow - a big worry all round. Let's hope he'll be OK.

If all goes well Paul will get better by the summer, we'll have a nice summer, with no floods or droughts and I'll have a full compliment of potato haulms growing happily in the spud patch on the allotment.

Apart from the usual depression following a Welsh international rugby loss yesterday - I think I'll allow myself a little smile and a shrug of the shoulders.

 

From My Allotment Diary (Sun. Jan. 20th, 2013)

January 20, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (1)

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This time of the year gives you an insight into what "marching time" & "treading water" means.

It's just over a week since I had my op. A good time to have it, Sod's Law usually means that when you have to have something done that will lay you up for a while, then invariably they ask you to go in just when you don't want to be too far from your allotment plot - like the middle of March or April! This time it may have been timed just right (says he in hope).

The operation went fine, but I did come down with a "flue like" bug as soon as I came out. Quite nasty, I haven't had a bad temperature and felt so crook for a long time, but thankfully it didn't last too long.

I've been revamping my produce recipes section on the Aeron Vale Allotment Society web-site. I came up with one of those "ping" enlightenment moments whilst I was holed up this last week, & realised that the headache of how to index recipes on the web-site needed to be tackled with a bit of lateral thinking. I'd been hogging the traditional method that's used by cookery book authors to index recipes - only to find that what's needed on an allotment produce recipe section of a web-site dedicated to fruit & veg growing is an index of produce that someone needs to find a recipe for.

The process of growing food is a seasonal one, you don't normally come home with apples and spring cabbage. You don't normally think up or look up a good recipe and then toddle off to the allotment to fetch the ingredients. Chances are you wouldn't find what you wanted at all times of the year anyway.

In reality what happens is the allotment grower (someone like moi) turns up in the kitchen - after a hard day's slog on the plot - with a big trug full of what's ready to be harvested and eaten at that specific time (often in gluts). The poor cook/wife/partner (Josie in my case - or her counterpart across the world) is left scratching the head about what do do with all this lovely fresh produce!

Then it dawned! What's needed is a list of recipes for specific produce. So when the grower turns up - whether it's with beetroot or broad beans, what the cook needs is a recipe that can be easily found that uses those ingredients either separately or together.

SO my recipes section is being revamped. Watch this space!

I've also been trawling around making up this year's wish-list when it comes to what's to be grown this coming season. The actual produce doesn't change that much from year to year, but I'm always keen to try new varieties. Some get labelled "never again" others get labelled "must always grow this one"!

The exciting one for me this year is the purple podded "sport" that popped up in the middle of my Polestar runner beans last season. So after trying the beans and finding they were superior to their green podded brothers & sisters I meticulously set them aside and harvested all the beans from that plant at the end of last summer. If they grow true, then I may have inadvertently come up with a new strain - if so they'll be christened as "Aeron Purple Star". If they revert back to green pods so be it, if not, then it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to come up with something new.

Excited at my discovery, I sent Dave 20 of the "new" beans for his birthday present last week - you take good care of them Dave, and don't forget to report back!

Every year I get my seed potatoes from Iain Barbour at JBA up at Annan, in Dumfries and Galloway (originally started by Iain's great granddad & uncles - the Jamieson Brothers Annan - hence JBA). In return I advertise his company on the Aeron Vale Allotments site & here in The Gardener's Chat Shed. Imagine my surprise when I went on JBA's web-site last week & discovered they are completely sold out and have no stock! This I assume is tied up to the disastrous season that seed potato producers encountered in 2012. The aftermath of last season's disaster due to the weather may come to haunt us with shortages this year. I hope he's put a few bags away to one side for me! A bit of a worry there!

Well the snow arrived - at least in most parts of the country. I just chatted to Dave up in King's Norton (who's been slaving with his snow shovel today) and he tells me it's been snowing again for over four hours in the Midlands Thankfully we have a bit of a warm micro climate here in Aberaeron on the west Wales coast, so we never get ravaged too badly when it comes to the white stuff, unlike our neighbours up north, south and just five miles inland of us. Having said that, whilst we tend to have less rain, snow & ice we didn't escape the wet last year - but who did? It's mighty cold here at the moment though, with the central heating boiler munching it's way through my pennies!

My brain is signalling that my caffeine level has reached a critical low level again . . . . . kettle time!

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From My Diary (Thurs. Jan. 10th, 2013)

January 10, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (2)

A day of surprises today. I went to our local hospital today, for a pre operative check-up. They do these things before an operation and you then get tossed back on the waiting list until they're ready for you (that usually means anything up to 3 months around here!).

Anyway, surprise, surprise, whilst I was there they got a cancellation. The nurse nonchalantly asked if I would like a short notice admission. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to get the surgery out of the way before the spring and the next round of seasonal slog on the allotment, I eagerly said "yes". Then came the bombshell she said "OK can you please come in at 7.30 TOMORROW morning"! Well you could have knocked me over with a feather!

So it's been a rush home to clear all the pressing things on my desk and to pack my bag before an early bed ready for the morning.

How long I'll be out of circulation for I don't know yet - I hope it's shorter rather than longer. So it's bye bye Chat-Shed for a little while. I'm leaving you all in the capable hands of the deputy (Dave) whilst the sheriff is out of town

Catch you all when I'm well enough to tap keys on my keyboard again!

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From My Diary (Sat. Jan. 5th, 2013)

January 5, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (3)

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Here we are - the twelfth day of Christmas & it's my birthday. My Dad always said I was born on this day because my mother had a jippy tummy and finished off the dregs of a bottle of Gin from Christmas to ease it, and I arrived! They didn't have  a very PC view of alcohol & tobacco in those days. My mother - love her - only had a sip at Christmas, and then it was very limited, so perhaps my Dad had a point, seeing as she wasn't used to the stuff! She didn't smoke either.

A few cards dropped through the letter-box this morning, Dave & Samantha's amongst them. They win this year's prize for the nicest card. My mother wins the prize for the nicest surprise - a crispy £10.00 note cellotaped to the inside of her card.

Two of my sons are coming to visit me today (No. 3 & No. 4 - Nos 1 & 2 seem to have had a dose of collective amnesia). Never mind, I'm not immune to forgetting birthdays myself. No.4 who's now living in his own flat, phoned me this morning, to ask if I could transfer £10.00 into his account on line, so that he could catch a bus home to give me a present he's bought for me! Doesn't that take the biscuit?! So there goes my mother's tenner c'est la vie! I'm also looking forward to seeing our 4 year old grandson Cai. He's a bit like a London bus - you wait for ages for it to appear and then it turns up twice in quick succession!

"Her indoors" took off this morning for the south - to pick up a new TV for our bedroom. She doesn't send birthday cards - it's to do with her religion. It IS a pagan tradition by all accounts (tied up with astrology), so she's technically correct - if you're religious that is, so I don't moan about it. Mind you, her timing for the telly is spot-on. I'll quietly pretend it's my birthday present & who can argue as it's arriving today? I don't think she saw that coming - or did she I wonder? Perhaps she's cunningly out-manoeuvred me here without losing face! I'll have to remember to refer to it as OUR telly and not mine in front of her.

A bit of high pressure is hovering over us at last, but only for a few days apparently. It'll take weeks to start drying up, but perhaps with high calf wellies I might get down the lottie in the next day or so, I've got leeks and parsnips that are begging to be dug up - before normal service is resumed once more!

 

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2013 by BigGee   Comments (4)

As an old (wet) one ends (here in the UK), another new one STARTS!

I hope it's a thoroughly happy one for you all with barrowfulls of produce!

 

From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. Dec. 20th, 2012)

December 20, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

Will the sun ever shine again? It's flood time again here. I'm almost as sick of moaning about the weather as I am of the weather!

I actually managed to get down on the lottie last week - not a totally pleasurable experience. I got my bamboo canes rounded up and they're know tucked up in the polytunnel.

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Josie also managed to lift some beetroot, parsnips & swedes as well, I bet they were glad to get out of the waterlogged soil!

The cabbages, sprouts and other greens have been a failure - mainly due to the fact that they've been under water for almost as long as they've been above it! Ah well, it'll just have to be put down to experience. The one thing you quickly learn when you grow veg. is that you have to take the rough with the smooth. This season has been mega rough, but totally unavoidable, but hey! That's the joy of it. If everything grew perfect every year with perfect weather it would soon start to become predictably boring wouldn't it?

It's been pretty uneventful for the last few weeks, my mate Stephen calls in on me for a chat once a week - on his way home from work. It's nice to plan what we hope to do next season on the allotment site. At this time of the year we seem to miss each other down there so a weekly chat is most welcome!

As some who read this blog know I've actually been given an eviction order to get off my plot by the 6th of this month, well I'm still here and planning for the coming year. There have been developments on that front, I can't go into details for fear of who reads my blog, but it's very encouraging. I'll report back on that situation later on.

So, I've cleared my desk in time for the "mad" break. The latest news-letter got mailed out this week (a big job to find anything to write about at this time of the year), I hope you all enjoyed it just the same. The Chat-Shed is very quiet. Most of the contributors are being dragged around the shops or being Shanghai'd to put the decorations up I guess!

I hope everyone has a nice time over the holidays. Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year. You know what that means don't you? The days will start to get longer on Saturday! I know it's a bit premature to start thinking about lighter nights but I feel a glimmer of hope after the 21st!

 

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