From My Allotment Diary (Mon. Sep. 3rd, 2012)

September 3, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

Today on the allotment it was like a spring day. It was calm, quiet, not too warm and very pleasant. What made it feel even more "springish" was the fact that Phil my plot neighbour had cleared a bed, dug it over & was planting peas! Yes I know it's late, but I guess he'll get something for his effort before Jack Frost visits. Besides the plants were in pots and about six inches high already. I also had a fit of madness and got Big Bertha out to rotovate quite a large area where I'd dug up some potatoes; so with the smell of fresh soil, bare patches of earth & bright green new plants it really DID seem like a spring day. Even the birds seemed confused! They're starting to sing again after their summer moult. Have you noticed how there's hardly any bird-song in August?

So with a spring mentality I thought about how horrid the season has been & how much we all moan about it - so a short term resolution was quietly made to stop moaning about the weather (although I DO hear we're to have more rain tomorrow). Instead I decided to be positive, get out my mobile phone camera and take some pics for the regular readers of my Blog. (Sorry about the quality, it never was a good idea to stick cheap cameras into mobile phones, but it has to be said - it's very convenient)

Right - first stop the polytunnel. Everything in there seems quite happy - despite a painfully slow start. Over the last month everything seems to have perked up and started catching up. In fact the toms are doing very well - unlike last year, when they had a bit of a set-back when they got roasted under the polythene, when - due to a bit of confusion - the doors weren't opened for a few days. They didn't like it! Leaf curl and pouting plants was the result!

This year the cooler weather seems to have suited them better under polythene, and they look exceedingly healthy. A bit slow to ripen, but hey! How often DO tomatoes ripen early in the UK?

Here's a snapshot of a big truss of Sungold cherry toms. Green I know, BUT I have picked quite a few orange ones - honest! (Sungold are meant to be orange by the way!).

THE sweetest cherry toms yet bred I believe. It's a job to stop picking them off and eating them like sweets when I'm pottering around.

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Next up -

Good old reliable Shirley - every wise gardeners' favourite. Forget the watery tasteless Moneymaker (that everyone seems so intent on growing these days). Here's a REAL "proper" tom with a proper tomato taste.

Look how uniform and sizeable the fruits are - beautiful! Despite the moans about the season's weather offerings.

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A new one for me this - it's called Black Cherry (a freebie packet of seeds from the front of a gardening mag. The fruit is actually a dark purple/ chocolate colour. NEVER believe the word "black" when it comes to plants - it usually means purple - as the aubergines called "Black Beauty" will testify! But black sounds good & exotic doesn't it?

I haven't tasted these yet. They look nice, they're very prolific and rather large to be classified as "cherry" toms. Perhaps it's my TLC that's making them bigger than they should be (I don't think!).

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This next one's called Golden Sunset. another freebie packet of seeds off yet another gardening mag! Pure yellow (all original wild toms were yellow by the way - red is a bred colour). These are full sized. very pretty and again a good cropper.

Taste? Untried by moi - as yet. Incidentally, I'll reproduce this Blog entry for the next Newsletter, by then I should have tasted everything! In fact I could have tasted this one before now, but No. 1 son called last week and I threw in some ripe Golden Sunsets for him - but forgot to taste one myself. I'll see him again before the end of this week  so I'll get some feed-back.

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Fed-up of seeing toms yet? Sorry, but I've got a few left to go.

Recognise this one? That's right "Gardeners Delight" & a delight it is too! It crops like crazy with bright red (largish) cherry tomatoes. It's sweet, but not as sweet as Sungold, but it's got that strong old fashioned tomato flavour - a well named variety - "Gardeners Delight"

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At the other end of the scale a "Beefsteak" variety. This is Black Krim. A wonderful heirloom variety with a fantastic taste that dates back to the days of the Crimean war. The perfect sandwich tom. It's often erroneously cited in seed catalogues as being from the "island of Krim" in the Black Sea - that's a load of twaddle! One gets it wrong and they all fall in the trap by copying each other! It actually comes from the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine (in Ukrainian, Крим, pronounced /krîm/, similar to "cream") "Krim". I also have Ailsa Craig - but it was camera shy today!

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My brazen melons showing off their tights! A pair of cantaloupe melons - can't wait to go in to the tunnel one day and just get bowled over my the aroma of a ripe one!image

Same again from a slightly different angle. I have about four or five coming on the same plant. If I think it's flagging (as the season is going on a bit) I might have to sacrifice one or two to get the others up to size & ripe.

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Meanwhile a little further down the aisle of the tunnel is the Marketmore cucumbers they're busy proliferating - as they always do. We make the same mistake with cucs as we do with their cucurbit cousins the courgette. We all forget how prolific they really are! The word "glut" was invented for this family of plants with runner beans in close pursuit!

Marketmore work fine outside - if the weather is FINE. This year they're having a little treat out of the cold and in the polytunnel.

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And now to the big outdoors! The runner beans are doing exceptionally well at the moment, after a real touch and go start. As usual my favourite variety Armstrong is strutting it's stuff. Closely followed by Polestar this year. I compare at least one variety against Armstrong every year - it's been my supreme champ for years. We'll see how Polestar fares against it this year. More reports on spuds & runners in my next news-letter.

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HOWEVER what Polestar HAS kicked up for me is this "sport"! Runners are famously promiscuous. Would you "Adam & Eve" it? The mother is a green podded Polestar, but this little baby obviously has a different daddy - thanks to a long ranging bee perhaps?. It's purple podded - all the other plants are producing the usual green pods. It tastes better than the other Polestar, and is slightly darker green (not purple) - when boiled. I've taken three pods to try. The rest will be kept to produce seed. Next year I'll sow them well away from the others, in isolation, and hopefully, if they come true I'll have a new variety. It'll be called "Aeron Purple Queen" or maybe "Aeron Black Beauty" - remember what I said about the licence that growers use to name things "black" when they're actually purple?

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Here's a closer view of my little beauty!

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And here's the rest of it's half brothers & sisters!image

Not so good for onions - except for what's left of the Kelsae variety. The seeds for these is expensive & the result should be about three times the size of those in my picture! there's always next year!

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Quite amazingly a lot of gardeners say they have difficulty growing Florence Fennel at the best of times, because of our UK weather (Florence being a tad warmer normally). However, against ALL the odds my Fennel has thrived in this wet summer!! How strange is that? the total opposite to what I expected!

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Here's my late crop of peas. The first 2 or 3 batches were a total disaster - not least because a flaming mouse overnight pinched a whole tray of 80 peas that had started to sprout. It found something a tad deadlier when it came back the following night! This late crop seems to have got it's act together! perhaps they'll be ready to pick for Christmas dinner!

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The good ol' rhubarb ALWAYS comes up trumps - regardless of the weather. That's not such a mystery - it originates in Siberia! It grows wild on the banks of the Volga & here on the banks of the Aeron (joke)!

This one is the variety "Victoria" - an old and popular favourite with gardeners since the days of Queen Vic.!.

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The other (sweeter & more readily forced) variety that I have on the patch is Timperly Early.

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And here is my trinity of French beans growing on wig-wams. The one on the right is a Borlotta, the other two are a yellow "Kansas Wax" and a variety I call "Barry Beans". I'll explain why again (no room here - it's a long story) they're a flat podded French Bean variety.

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So that's a quick tour of my allotment in pictures this September.

Overall, I can't grumble, it could have been a LOT worse - it wasn't as much fun as usual, but we pulled through (eventually). When I consider that I had three floods during the month of June, during which time the lower end of my plot was under 18" of water, with all things considered, the recovery has been nothing short of miraculous! Perhaps the Spirit in the Sky hasn't totally given up on one of hiss sinners after all!!

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From My Allotment Diary (Mon. Aug. 27th, 2012)

August 27, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

Sitting here writing my Blog on a cold & wet August Bank Holiday Monday. Also nursing a tummy upset. That's what comes of gorging on lottie veg. including runner beans and the rhubarb that went into the crumble for last night's dinner. Result? I've been up & down like a yo-yo for most of the night and sitting on the toilet whilst also suffering from nausea! Good isn't it? Got visitors, on a wet Monday Bank Holiday, with gale force winds & lashing rain.

I'm supposed to pick up my runner-up prize at the local carnival, for the best vegetable patch. I can't go with them to pick it up (now a job for my mate Stephen who got 1st prize or Josie - if she hasn't got soaked through and escaped home before the presentation!) And to cap it all - I've got a jippy tummy. What a disaster! Best laid plans of men & mice etc.!

The visitors we have this weekend are Josie's brother Bryan, and his wife Sue who have braved the elements to come down from Birkenhead. The poor things have gone to Aberaeron Carnival today - minus moi!

imageTheir son Garry is my favourite nephew! Not least because he shares my hobby - veg. gardening! Here's a photo of some of his produce for this year on the left.

I don't actually see him that often, and I'm desperate for him to call for a natter about his new allotment plot.

He waited FIVE YEARS for it! He got it last winter and the poor lad (I say "lad" but he's actually 41!) has witnessed the worst growing season since he was born over forty years ago! Having said that, he's done extremely well. In fact if he can stick out a season like this with some success, he'll manage the rest. He sends me photies of his efforts and I'm extremely proud of him - at least the veg. will get grown for one more generation!

He sent some apple and blackberry jam down with his Mum & Dad for us - that he had made a few days earlier. I don't say it because he's my nephew, but it's gorgeous! It's probably one of the best I've tasted. In fact he could win prizes for it if he entered it in a local show. If he can do that with rain hammered blackberries in 2012, he should sweep the board at any show in a better season.imageimage

To help him along, I'm sending him some rooted cuttings of my Loch Ness variety blackberries. If they take he'll be able to open a jam shop next year!!


Right I'm off to put the kettle on - whilst I take another visit to the "Little Boy's Room" to contemplate the wonders of the universe & to read a book I picked up the other week in a second hand book shop.

It's called A New Holistic Herbal, by David Hoffman. I'm sure there must be a chapter in there on stomach cures for over zealous cooks and their gluttonous husbands!

From My Allotment Diary (Fri. Aug. 17th, 2012)

August 17, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

Another week has quietly slipped into history!

I'm scratching my head to remember what I've done this last week. I know I was "home alone" from last Thursday until yesterday. Josie had gone visiting up in Birkenhead. So my usual schedule goes to pot when I have to care for the cooking, dish-washing and bottle opening on my Tod!

Lottie-wise, the biggest job was cutting the remainder of the haulms off my blight ridden spuds. It came early this year. It's caught everyone at an awkward time. It's usually a problem that we get between the time the earlies have been harvested and before the main-crop gets dug up. The problem with early blight is that if it comes visiting before the earlies are out, then it's a race to get the haulms off and the tubers out of the ground. Trouble is, earlies are not meant to be stored, so it's a problem having loads of early spuds and not enough mouths to dissipate them.

imageMy mate Stephen off Plot 14 won our annual "Aberaeron in Bloom" competition for the best allotment plot, I came second. He thoroughly deserves it though, because he has REALLY put in some hard work. Plus the fact that his crops definitely have the edge on others on the site. His cabbage, runners and peas are doing really well. 

My cabbage patch god flooded out in June and my peas have been sulking all summer! So it's little wonder Stephen got the bragging rights this year. He almost got the better of Dave Amphlett up in King's Norton as well, with his Winston spuds - but the Midlander pipped him with a 1lb 8½ oz whilst our man's biggest was 1lb 8 and one eighth ounce. A close thing!

He tells me he loves Winstons for their size, but won't be growing them next year as his teenage children have been moaning that they don't like the chips they make! Kids.

I also had some Winstons, I have grown them before - many years ago - and I now remember why I left them alone for so long. they're a bit watery - fine for baking, but when it comes to boiling or chipping they're not top of the pops in the taste league. I prefer a waxy or even a floury spud, I don't like watery spuds. Being watery, they also seem to be very blight prone. The Winstons were the worst hit on my plot.

I've started picking my Sungold toms in the poly-tunnel. I get all excited by the Sungolds every year. I honestly think they are the sweetest and most flavoursome cherry toms around. Pity they're F1 hybrids, whose seeds are ridiculously priced. Ah well, you can't have it all ways I suppose. The other varieties that look good are Shirley (an old favourite) and one I haven't tried before called golden Sunrise. They're a medium sized yellow variety (got them free on the cover of a magazine). If they taste as nice as they look they may become a permanent fixture.

The Armstrong runners are not totally out-performing the Polestar. I grow two varieties every year and compare them - it's my little annual  personal trial. Armstrong have earned their keep against all comers for many years. This year though, Polestar is giving them a real run for their money. in fact it's hard to tell one from the other. I have grown Polestar in the past, but not side by side with Armstrong for comparison. Watch this space!

Wonder of wonders, Florence fennel can be iffy in our climate - after all, as their name implies, they originally came from warmer climes. However, I have a little forest of them! Why on earth are they doing so well in such an abysmal season? A real mystery.

From My Allotment Diary (Sun. Aug. 5th, 2012)

August 5, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (4)

imageIt's either the Met Office having a giggle, God feeling sorry for me & deciding I've had enough rain or something is radically wrong with modern technology! I've had about six Met Office Yellow Alerts for rain across our part of the world for this weekend. Basically that usually means batten down the hatches it's more than just a shower, and if you're prone to it you might get a bit of flooding.

So in abeyance I've made arrangements to busy myself doing something other than getting wet on the lottie this weekend - as Josie has - instead of putting washing out. And the weather? IT'S BEEN GLORIOUS SUNSHINE & HOT!! Sure we've had the odd sharp shower, but nothing more than 15 minutes and it instantly dries up when the sun comes back out. I give up. I know you can't trust weathermen 100% but this is silly.

imageIsn't it funny? Some years one gardener gets awful results whilst another has the opposite. Last year your potatoes were fantastic Dave, but your onions had the kiss of death from white onion rot. Last year my root crops were "OK" but not fantastic however my onions (and all other alliums) were brilliant.

imageThis year it seems you have a problem in the legume department (not unusual across the country apparently), whilst my beans (runner & broad) are as good as anything in recent years - especially the broad beans. Mind you most of the beans on our our site are abysmal, with the exception of my mate Stephen Parry on Plot 14 & myself.

imageI don't wish to appear as if I'm having a gloat - I'm not - but here are a few pics I took yesterday of the beans (sorry about the quality - taken on an impulse with my phone camera & not my proper camera - I don't like Micky Mouse phone cameras - especially when they're set on lower resolutions!)

I've also included one of my lettuce & Florence fennel (other rare "growers" this season) and my sunflowers, who are sulking because of too much water and lack of sun! So they've decided to flower early and have stopped growing high just for spite!

imageFrench beans are not so good - yet, but that's expected they're a tad more delicate & fussy than the old runners. Peas a total disaster - I'm still sowing in the hope of getting SOMETHING before autumn. Courgettes and pumpkins more disasters (couldn't get anything to germinate). Tomatoes inside are slowly perking up - but WAY behind as are the cucs & the solitary melon (all the others failed to germinate). I won't even mention outdoor toms! And my cabbage are months behind because the area allocated for my cabbage patch this year has been under eighteen inches of flood water three or four times last month!! Docks & Co. seem to be having a whale of a time though - as you can probably see from some of these pics!!!

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From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. Aug. 2nd, 2012)

August 2, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

Back to April weather today, (sunshine and showers I mean), and Boy has it rained when those showers appear! We actually had a few peals of thunder here today - not surprised - because when the rain came it was THUNDERY! Followed by intense heat - I'm not sure how the plants liked it, very confusing for a poor gardener who's in and out of his polytunnel like a demented cuckoo in a clock! Tonight I got yet another severe weather warning for our area via e-mail from the Met Office. A yellow alert for between midnight on Saturday to eleven PM on the same day! Could someone please tell the Spirit in The Sky that the joke is not funny anymore!

imageI picked my first runners this week. Lovely! I'd picked my first broad beans a couple of days ago - forgot to take pics. I got reminded about that when I saw Dave's Blog on here. How does Homer Simpson go again? Oh yes - DOH! They'd disappeared into a broad bean risotto before I could salvage them for the camera!

I hate those conversations that people have when they go on and on about some meal or other they had - don't you? It's almost as bad as the way the media's gone on about England winning the World Cup in '66 - it just goes on endlessly, after everyone else has finished listening! Thank goodness the UK won't top the medal table in the Olympics- if we did I'd have to emigrate out of earshot. HOWEVER getting back to the beans, (before I digress too far), the broad bean risotto recipe that Josie has is something else - it's gorgeous. I'll leave it there now - for fear of being labelled a hypocrite. When I have a minute I'll post the recipe on-line.

If the broad beans were nice the runner beans were something else. We had them this evening. There's nothing quite like the first of the season, by the end of the month we'll be starting to get sick of the sight of them. They are the Daddy of all veg. when it comes to gluts, with the possible exception of courgettes.

The beginning of August for the first runner beans of the season is unheard of. It typifies this odd season we've had. Normally, by now, the picking would be every other day and becoming a chore, but not this year. We're STILL about six weeks behind by my calculations. Eerie! Even the way the weather is acting on the soil is eerie. First unprecedented floods for about six weeks, so you'd think the ground would be sodden for weeks - not so. When the sun came out it baked everything until it was bone dry within a day or two. In fact it was such a drastic drying process that some of us had to water some vulnerable crops! THEN it starts to rain again and even after days of heavy downpours - guess what? The soil is still dry a couple of inches down. Very strange indeed.

I also lifted some more Charlotte & a few Pink Fir Apples tonight. They're "haulmless" now - because of the blight (talk about the plagues of Egypt - we've got our very own small catalogue of plagues going on in this little neck of the woods on the west coast).

Right that's it for tonight - got to go to Aberystwyth in the morning. If it brightens up in the afternoon I might show my face down on the lottie. Trouble is I'm running out of little jobs in the polytunnel, outside there's a myriad of things to do, not least the weeding. It seems that they don't care what the weather throws at them - they just thrive! As do the slugs in this wet summer weather.

From My Allotment Diary (Sat. Jul. 28th, 2012)

July 28, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

 

I moaned in my last Blog of over a week ago about not writing - because of a lack of material to write about - due to the non-stop rain. No such excuse this time around! It's been a glorious week - albeit that it seems to have slipped through the fingers. When the sun comes out there's a big competition for what to do (in case we don't see it again for the summer!).

So the old lottie had to give up some of it's allocated time to family commitments, like taking grandchildren to the beach.

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Last Saturday we decided to trek the 60 odd miles to Swansea to see our No. 3 son Alex & our little Grandson Cai. We had a lovely time on the beach, an impressive beach that stretches all the way down from Swansea Bay to Mumbles & beyond to the Gower.  Here's a taste.

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Building Sand-castles with Dad!

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Nanna & Grandson Cai.

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Nan doing her Ursula Andress (coming out of the water in the 1962 James Bond film Dr No) impression. I know she hasn't got a bikini on, but she didn't get a part in the film either!

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Gotcha!

I may be old and a tad overweight but I can still just about catch a 3 year old!

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And then it was time to go home

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This weekend we've had our No. 1 son Brett staying with us for a couple of days - so again the lottie has had to go on hold. At least until tomorrow. In the meantime it's just been the necessary chores - like WATERING!

Yes watering! What strange weather. Just over a week ago we were up to our ankles in mud after the floods. Just TWO days later & the ground was caked hard, due to the intense sunshine & a drying wind off the sea. Within four days there was a need to water some plants that were starting to look the worse for wear. Absolutely amazing, if someone had told me what was going to happen I wouldn't have believed it. I've been watering the hanging baskets around the outside of our bungalow twice a day for a few days now. STRANGE!!

Anyway, after Brett went home this evening I went down the plot to close my polytunnel doors. My mate Stephen was down there lifting some spuds on Plot 14. The poor fellow has had to chop the haulms off all of his potato plants due to blight - which hit us this last week. He had a lovely show before then, and had been rewarded with the first prize for the best veg. plot in town (moi was runner-up!). Not really a feather in my cap when you realise how poor the crops are on everyone's allotment plots this season. In fact neither Stephen nor I had any intentions of entering, but Tig (Plot 11) mischieviously put our names forward - along with a few others.

Thankfully, most of our tubers appear to be relatively unscathed, apart from the odd one here or there - so far at least! But who can tell with blight.

Anyway, although they're a bit premature here's a few pics of one tuber Stephen lifted this evening. One eighth of an ounce smaller than the biggest recorded so far from Tig2dave over in King's Norton, England! Perhaps it's still "game on" regardless of our pitfalls here Dave! We'll see as time goes by. They used to say that the show was never over 'til the fat lady sings!

Here are the photos. Notice my beloved's hand shown further down to give a sense of scale. Don't be fooled she has the hands of a Liverpool Docker! image

First photo in modern Grams! 655g.

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That equals One Pound Seven and One Eighth Ounces in "old currency".

Suffice to say Mr Walker could probably get a bucketful of crisps from this one spud!

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Cue the "Docker's Hand" (which will probably find it's way to my lug-hole when she reads this)!

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OK that's it for tonight. it's been a long one again and it's time for some ZZZ's

From My Allotment Diary (Mon. Jul. 16th, 2012)

July 16, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

It's been over a week since I wrote my last Blog. My problem is finding new topics to write about when it comes to the allotment. Blog readers soon get fed up of reading "it's another wet day - can't get on my plot" or "another rainy day - if it stops for a week and starts to dry perhaps I'll be able to do some planting" , followed by, "it still hasn't stopped". "Had another flood today"! Not the stuff excitement is built on! No one gets riveted talking about how wet the weather is.

However, SOME excitement happens - even in the rain! One of our allotment members has taken it upon herself to enter certain plots in the annual "Aberaeron in Bloom" competition (they have a section for vegetable plots). In fact the judges are coming around this evening, (in wellies I presume)!

With the season we've had I find it's an embarrassment to be associated with any plot - even the best ones. So I'm keeping well away.

imageMy mate Stephen Parry (Plot 14) has had a brush with the Police. Not for armed robbery or anything exciting like that, but for strimming weeds!!! It may sound odd, but I kid you not!

Plot 4 - which was shared by two women has been virtually abandoned for about a year. One of them was the plot tenancy holder, the other was a "helper". The "helper" disappeared off the scene last autumn (husband problems the gossip vine informs us - i.e. he buggered off). She hadn't actually DONE anything throughout last summer leading up to the autumn. The official plot holder had come on site and scratched around in a little corner of the plot occupied by some overgrown raised beds earlier this spring, but then disappeared altogether - not to be seen again.

This season, as usual, the membership fee and plot rents were due on May the first. The tenancy agreement stipulates that anyone who is more than 40 days in arrears is no longer the plot tenant and their allotment plot should be offered to the next person on the waiting list.

By the end of June, nothing had been paid for Plot 4, and the plot holder was about 50 days in arrears and not making any appearances on site. The plot - as you can imagine - was infested with overgrown weeds (6' high docks etc.) and it was totally uncultivated, although again, the tenancy agreement stipulates that one of the conditions of let is that plots should be at least threequarters cultivated and relatively weed free. So she was in breach of her agreement on three counts.

In the absence of a General Management Committee that could not be mistaken for three zombies, Stephen decided that he would do us all a favour and Strim the plot in readiness for it to be let out to someone else. ALL the SANE inmates were pleased at this development.

Next day he was contacted by the local Plod Force. Our local Bobby had received a complaint that Stephen had attacked a plot without permission and in the process, damaged some plants (weeds one presumes, because it was impossible to see anything else!). He explained the situation to the guardian of peace and order in our frontier town, and escaped deportation to Australia!

The moral of the story? NEVER allow the lunatics to take over your asylum. ALWAYS engage serious gardeners and not psychotics to tend the plots at your asylum!

From My Allotment Diary (Fri. Jul. 6th, 2012)

July 6, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (0)

I'm seriously wondering whether I'm suffering from Narcolepsy! A whole week has gone by and I must have been asleep and missed it! At least that's how it feels.

My friend and yours (a founder member and one of the assistant administrators in our Gardeners Chat-Shed) - Dave Amphlett came to visit Josie & I last weekend, with his partner Samantha (in a flash, we're on the doorstep of ANOTHER weekend before I have had time to record it all on my blog!).

They'd travelled all the way from King's Norton in the Midlands to sunny (not) west Wales. Pity about the weather, BUT a good time was had by all! We thoroughly enjoyed each other's company and contrary to what some of the readers of this blog might think, the weekend was NOT all about talk of veg growing and allotment life! Strangely enough, apart from Dave & Sam's tour of my plot, most of our time was taken up talking about everything BUT allotment veg. growing. Being keen hikers they also had long periods of walking around the local attractions, including our coastal walks in this part of the world.

imageHere's a little memorabilia snap for the album:

It's been a "touch 'n go" week on the plot (more touch than go!). Although I have managed a few hours down there. Yesterday was a good one. I managed to do a lot of weeding (that never ending chore at this time of the year). I was musing to myself what a wonderful tool a very sharp Dutch hoe is. The emphasis is on the sharp, because apart from things like a sickle or a pen-knife (for obvious reasons) the next most important tool to keep sharp, I think, is a Dutch hoe. I have a Wilko ash handled and stainless steel headed one that's a favourite. It wasn't very expensive, as new tools go. Most of my gardening tools are second-hand. Old, well designed, properly crafted tools are far superior to new cheap and nasty offerings, plus the fact that many of the very practical tools of  yore are becoming scarce, giving way to limited modern "midget's tools" that break your back. Why modern gardeners use those short handled spades & forks is a total mystery to me! I've now managed to convert quite a large swathe of my fellow allotmenteers to the joys of long handled mattocks, hoes & azadas. In fact the ONLY tools in many new gardeners kit is a short handled digging fork, the same kind of spade and occasionally a rake - as if there are no other tools for the garden! I'm digressing again here & I can feel myself feeling around for my soap box!

! Another well used tool on my garage work-bench is a little electric grindstone.  It's pressed into service on a regular basis to keep the stainless steel hoe in sharpness, because it's just too hard to sharpen it with a stone or even a file, which is, of course, a good thing. Sharp hoe - dead weeds, with such a small amount of energy that you can keep it up for hours. It can be a different story if you go out and use a blunt hoe, and surprisingly when bought new hoes never are sharp enough to do the job properly.

I've also (at last) got my swede, kohl rabi & turnip seeds in. It's late, but not too late for those winterish crops, especially the turnips - I expect them to fly out of the blocks at this time of the year - assuming they don't get drowned! Judging by the way the wet stuff is coming down again today, it could well be a case of another flood on my plot. I'm so pleased I worked late last night to get as much done as I could before the rain that was forecast again for today came. Is there no end to it?

At least the ploy-tunnel is looking the apart, now that the cucurbits have stopped sulking! It's been a nightmare to get things going this year, not only is there a distinct lack of sunlight to provide food for the plants, it's been cold, miserable & wet. PLUS a very bad experience with a low peat compost that should have gone into a land-fill site rather than into a Levington compost bag, has meant an almost disaster when it comes to germination. I've just about scraped enough plants to do the job. In other years you have so many young plants on your hands that you're always giving stuff away to others. Ironically this year, when I've had nothing much spare to give away, everyone else is LOOKING for stuff, because everyone seem to have the same problem.

The one BIG problem that remains for me is when and how to put my brassica plants in. The patch earmarked for the cabbage family this year has been under well over 18" of water for long periods over the last month or so. Consequently the plants are starting to get very root-bound in their pots and look extremely sorry for themselves. If this weather keeps up I'm going to have to give up on them - that'll be a first in forty years - to have absolutely no brassicas on my veg. patch. Not surprising though. Mike, a friend who comes up from south Wales to stay in his static caravan here in Aberaeron and then frequently pops around for a chat over the allotment fence, tells me he has actually failed to get his runners sorted this year - again for the first time in forty years. 

From My Allotment Diary (Sun. June 24th, 2012)

June 24, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

I'm home alone this weekend. No 4 son who's still at home has gone to London for a week to stay with his Thai friend Kriss' family. Kriss' mother's partner Paul has a gardening & landscaping business. Teifion & Kriss are supposed to be working with him over the summer. Kriss is in a Military Academy - during term time- in North Carolina. Apparently Paul does gardening for a few of the stars down there in the London area - including Jonathan Ross apparently (not that I'd consider Jonathan Ross to be a star - he's definitely NOT my cup of tea - but that's another story).

Josie is over in County Wicklow in the Irish Republic. She's been over there since last Wednesday, helping Jan, an old friend of hers, to move house & decorate. She's coming home tomorrow. Woo-Hoo - I'm glad - can't stand housework or cooking! And if the truth be known I DO miss her

 

As for me, I've done NOTHING on the lottie today, even though the weather has been quite kind. I seem to have a nasty muscle strain that's like a cross between a bad stitch and a cracked rib! It's hard to breathe without pain so any physical work was out of the question today. I hope it will have eased off by tomorrow, because according to the weather forecast it's supposed to be a nice sunny day. Just my luck to go "crook" (as they say in Oz) when the weather changes!

So I went to visit my mother today, and whilst I was there I popped in on Ian - an old friend of mine who lives down the road from my mother. He'd done a little job of drilling holes in an old stainless steel hoe that I've adapted as a hand hoe for weeding onions etc. It's a little tool I cooked up that is about 18" long with a half width sharpened hoe at the one end and a 4" wide rake on the other. I used to have a similar tool but somehow I lost it - the funny thing is I never found it. Having given up looking for a new one to buy, I decided to make my own. Here's the result:

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So if I feel up to it, some weeds in my onion beds might meet their maker tomorrow!

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From My Allotment Diary (Fri. June 22nd, 2012)

June 22, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

What a week this has been. Rain, rain & then when you thought there was no more left in the sky we had MORE rain!

It's very serious here because we haven't fully recovered from the first two floods, this is now our third major flood in a fortnight. So we're supposed to be preparing for sub tropical weather with annual water shortages and the ability to grow coconuts in Wales? Yeah right! (These apocalyptical global warming freaks have to be humoured, otherwise they'll join up with the posh empty-heads in the Government and convince them that they have to legislate to stop us doing this or that for our own good!)

Sure, the weather is a bit muddled, but I'm sure it's been more muddled over the billions of years our earth has been in existence and WAY before man appeared. My theory is, there's only so much water on earth and as matter cannot be created or destroyed (by man at least) then roughly the same amount is permanently in circulation and will turn up sooner or later - the H2O that didn't appear last winter has turned up - a bit late, but better late than never eh?

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There ARE changing weather patterns across the globe (as there always has been) with an expanding desert here, or a shrinking ice cap there. It's NATURE folks! Live with it!

I'm being philosophical because otherwise I'd be crying! I went down to close my poly-tunnel doors yesterday evening at around 8.30. As some of you know, John, the 82 year old ex Paratrooper Sergeant, opens my poly-tunnel doors for me every morning. I give him bits for his garden at home - like pelleted chicken manure, plants, runner beans for sowing etc. Now he takes his dog for a walk past my allotment at the crack of dawn (50+ years ago he would have been drilling his men on the parade ground every morning at 6.00 a.m. Old habits die hard and he now gets his dog up for exercise at the crack of dawn!) Anyway John, being a stickler for carrying out orders, opens my doors EVERY morning - regardless of the weather! So I have to go down to close them every day - whether I intended going down there or not, hence the reason I was down yesterday evening in my weather-proofs! But I don't mind, I don't want to confuse the old gent by making things too complicated for him! As it happens, yesterday I also had my camera in the van so I took some pics. This is what greeted me on my lottie:

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Today I'm tempted not to leave my desk - I've got loads to do, including putting the finishing touches to the latest news-letter, but the lottie (as usual) is always beckoning. I've actually got a really nasty pain from what I think is a pulled muscle in my side & chest - it feels like a cross between a bad stitch and a cracked rib! On the other hand I have plenty I could get on with in the p/tunnel. We'll see how it goes. It's not particularly inviting out there. It's stopped raining now but the wind has picked up. It's a woolly jumper day. If I didn't have a calendar in front of me I could swear it was autumn! It really IS that cold here on the west coast.

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