From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. June 14th, 2012)

June 14, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

Playing at home today! Can't go out to play with my friends because Mam says it's too wet! :(

Actually I WILL have to go out in a minute (between showers) to close my polytunnel doors. I expect they're open, as my good ol' 82 year old ex-paratroop sergeant friend has probably opened them as he went past for his early doggy walk (old habits die hard - parade ground at 6.00 hours sharp and all that)! It was sunny first thing this morning when John would have been around, but dead on 1.00 pm the first shower came - EXACTLY as predicted  by the weatherman this morning - not often does that happen.

In fact we'[ve had a yellow alert warning for heavy rain here over the next few days. Someone said that they've forecast three months rain over three days - if that IS true then it's flood time for us again.

So it's a quick dash to the lottie to close the doors and back again. I could get side-tracked to do some work inside the polytunnel, but I've actually got some kind of tummy bug & feel quite nauseous and out of sorts - Josie seems to be starting with something similar. Under the circumstances the heart is willing but the body has other ideas! Not to worry. I can actually do with the rest and I have stacks of other things to do that have been stuck on the back-burner for a month or so. In fact, if we ARE to have a deluge from now to next week, it might be a good time to think about publishing another edition of the newsletter - hmm that sounds quite a civilised plan . . . .

From My Allotment Diary (Sun. June 10th, 2012)

June 10, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

imageWhat a week (weather-wise). As most of you who live & listen to the news in the UK will know, parts of Ceredigion, in mid-west Wales, got the worst flooding in living memory early yesterday morning. Fortunately my family & I live in the southern half of the county, but the poor souls who live in the northern half - from Aberystwyth up - have had a torrid time of it. Over 1000 people have been evacuated from their homes and nearly 100 had to be rescued by the emergency services during the early hours of the morning - not nice!image

Global warming  is certainly having an effect on us at this time (click on the link if you have a real interest in the subject), but I'm still not convinced that it's all man's fault. Sure we contribute an amount - most creatures do, in varying degrees, but in the overall BIG picture of things, our contribution is a gnat's wee in the ocean. In fact the combined Methane output from all the  herbivores (cows etc. to you and me) of the earth is probably just as big a contributor to the so-called "greenhouse effect". Actually it's a little arrogant & conceited of us as humans to take the accolade for what is nature's natural cycle of things. A bit like those tree-hugging allotmenteers who leave weeds & sprouting broccoli plants to flower - to help the world's ecology to recover and encourage bees! A huge contribution that, when you look at the vegetation that's on the earth! So one flowering broccoli and a clump of nettles is going to do the trick? Yeah - right! HARDLY - even if every human on earth did it - but man is conceited enough to think like that, we have difficulty with proportionality. Do these people actually sit down and think hard about how big the south American rainforests alone really are? Now I wonder what proportion of that mass of vegetation a clump of nettles or 3 broccoli plants in flower actually represents? Even if you multiplied that clump by 7 billion - the current population of the earth. No more so is this fuzzy logic coming to the fore than with the argument against the use of peat in gardens. Suffice to say that I don't think I'm the only one cursing "non peat based composts" when my seedlings fail to appear! I won't even get started on that one!

In only the last 1000 years  we've gone from ice age to a balmy warm period for a few hundred years during the middle ages. It's often called The Medieval Warm Period (MWP)/ Medieval Climate Optimum, or Medieval Climatic Anomaly which was a time of warm climate in the North Atlantic region, it lasted lasted from about AD 950 to 1250. It was followed by a cooler period in the North Atlantic termed the Little Ice Age. So after going back to a mini ice age things are now warming up again . What we are experiencing is the cyclic nature of Mother Earth's climate, that's CONSTANTLY changing, but with such minuscule life spans and the past inability to monitor over a prolonged period (we've only been doing it for a few DECADES), WE run away with the apocryphal notion that we have destroyed our earth! Loony tunes I conclude!. These phenomena were in existence when man's only contribution to C02 emission was smoke from his tiny camp fire and flatulence from eating too much woolly mammoth meat & brassicas like sprouts - as a so called "hunter-gatherer".

Right I've stepped off my soap box now - back to local weather and it's direct effect! On Friday evening I went down to my lottie with Stephen Parry to see how the storm was effecting things. I say "storm" because it was very similar to those Caribbean or Pacific squalls that blow up out of nowhere, uprooting palm trees, flooding islands & causing mud-slides - you probably get the picture!

Anyway it was a sight worse than we expected. There were virtual "rivers" flowing down across the allotment site, my plot was submerged under a lake of water (being the low point of the site). All the beds that I'd worked so hard to prepare over the last month were out of sight. Quivery lip time! Nothing we could do (apart from tie down Phil Harris's fruit cage that he had erected from netting and bamboo canes - it was no match for the storm, so I just tied the structure to a nearby post).

All the plants in trays outside my polytunnel (that were being hardened off ready for planting out) were under water, as the trays they were standing in had filled to the brim! So I quickly took all the plants out , tipped out the water, turned the trays upside down and stuck the plants back on top of them. We then beat a hasty retreat in the dying sunlight and gale force winds - drenched to the skin.

Yesterday morning was quite spooky. We had blue skies with a steaming hot sun. Where I expected a lake with flattened beds, what greeted me was amazingly quite normal! Sure lots of things had blown over - or half blown over (like Phil's fruit cage), the ground was sodden, but the "lake" had miraculously disappeared! By mid afternoon even the drenched soil was starting to change colour in the hot sun! Amazing how resilient things are, and yet one little tiny slip with a hoe - through lack of concentration - and a prized plant is lying on it's side - gone forever. Talking of hoeing, looking on the bright side of things, hoeing will be a pleasure after such a soaking and those weeds will be much easier to pull up as the wet soil loosens it's grip on their roots!

Life could be a lot worse. A great pity I didn't take some pics of our allotment site, but a camera is the last thing on your mind when you're on a lottie rescue mission in a tropical squall!! The following morning was too late.

I'm having a semi day off today - having worked non-stop playing catch-up with nature over the last few weeks. We're going to pick up a clematis from the local nursery (a present for one of Josie's friends who drools over our Dr Ruppel) and then tomorrow morning we're going to visit my mother, who by now thinks she's been abandoned because I've been so busy on the veg. plot. I can't remember such a topsy turvy season. Everyone seems to be doing April jobs in June and with poor germination rates, schizophrenic weather and generally an ultra late start there's constant pressure to get everything done before it's too late. Strangely though, some weeds - like docks - and left over plants from last year (like the lettuce and broccoli on our world saving eco-warrior's plot) are thriving! I've never seen seven foot lettuce before and the average dock height is about six feet!

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From My Allotment Diary (Sun. June 3rd, 2012)

June 3, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (3)

What a month May was! I've lived, worked and slept the lottie for the whole month! NOT because I really wanted to be THAT engrossed and obsessive, but simply because we've had such a rubbish spring I've had to pile March, April & May work into 4 weeks! It's gone from winter to summer (March) back to winter (snow in April) & then FINALLY summer in May - who the hell cancelled the spring? The worst bit in May was that scorching wind again. I really get annoyed at that sting in the tail. Just as you're ready to harden things off they turn brown and shrivel up in the sun and chilly wind. It doesn't help being located by the sea - those scorchers blow in straight off the Atlantic and across Ceredigion Bay then straight across my allotment! Added to the natural problems is the fact that I'm only running on three cylinders, so the work gets done at a much slower rate than in the past. However I get a lot more tired, so I've not had time to do anything meaningful - apart from my allotment for the whole month!

This year has been a total disaster, not just for me, but a lot of the other allotment growers on our site that have experienced the same problems. Seeds refusing to germinate, others dying off after germinating, some growing weakly - just not a very good season I fear!

As a rule - peas are usually grown by little children in school, with simple success. Me - a supposed veteran vegetable gardener with nearly 40 years experience nearly gave up on them this year! First the mouse (now deceased) dispatched four trays full, with 20 peas in each tray. Only ONE pea got away, it's now quietly growing on it's own by the fence that should be holding up around a hundred of it's brothers & sisters.

imageThe next batch just rotted in the compost on the poly-tunnel staging, as did the third batch! I'm now in the humiliating position of having to make do with other's left overs! Although by now I have put rows in directly into the soil - fingers crossed! Many of the melon, pumpkin, courgette and cucumber seeds have done the same - just rotted in their pots before germinating. I have now purchased more bags of compost  - this time from Aldi (in desperation). Surprise, surprise it's fantastic stuff. It puts the Levington crap that I bought to shame. I say "crap" because a pattern is emerging here. Nearly all the other gardeners that have had bad germination results have used exactly the same compost. It was on offer at our local Farmers Co-operative Country Store (210 Litres for £11.99). To add insult to injury the lovely Aldi stuff (from a firm called "Gardenline" that you wouldn't normally cast a second glance at) works out at £11.94 for 240 Litres - don't you just hate it when that happens?

I've used Levington compost for years but from now on Mr Levington has off-loaded his last bag on to me! He can stuff his compost where the sun doesn't shine! This rubbish has appeared since the big debate about organic/ inorganic material from the anti peat use brigade came to the fore. I notice the Levington bags say the content holds 25% more water and has "organic non-peat" material added to it. What exactly is that supposed to mean?

 

On a brighter note at least I managed to get one little trip in on Saturday the 19th of May - and hugely enjoyable it was too.

Josie & I went to the Smallholders and Allotment Growers Show at Llanelwedd just outside Builth Wells. It's now called the Royal Welsh Spring Festival. Why the name change boggles my mind (probably an idea thought up by a bored twerp in a grey suit with lily white hands I guess). If you click on this URL address link you can see what it's all about: http://www.rwas.co.uk/en/garden-festival/ 

What is a Spring Festival anyway? It's the same as Mr Levington's "organic non-peat" material ! When the show was called by what it represented EVERYONE knew what it was about. Now, they call it The Royal Welsh Spring Festival and then have to add a tag line underneath so that people know what the hell they're on about! Common sense is becoming so rare that it will be extinct in a few years.

Anyway, to get me off my Victor Meldrew soap-box, here are some snap-shots of the event. This is only a taster of what was on show - I'll post some more in an album on the Chat-Shed site as soon as I get a minute (quite a rare thing at the mo.!). I recommend you all try to get to this show at some time - you won't be disappointed I promise. In fact I'll circulate details in good time before next year's event. We hope to get a bus trip together to see next year's - you really need two days to get around everything.

Here are some of the quaint garden furniture that we saw on display & for sale.

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Below, some traditional restored tools for the allotment and garden - at extremely good prices e.g. £5.00 for a hoe!

 

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All kinds of veg & flower plants for sale

 

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A clever design display of a raised bed made out of nothing more than plastic bottles filled with soil.   Definitely one to copy in the corner of the garden - IF I can muster up the patience to fill the bottles!

 

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Flower stands - all plants for sale after display.

 

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They had all kinds of unusual breeds of animals (no - on the left with the horns!)

 

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Some cows!

 

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Pretty girls in period costumes, singing, dancing and playing instruments.

 

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And finally one for "Fergie" to drool over!

 

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Right I'm now off to the lottie to close my polytunnel doors. I know a lovely old gentleman who walks his dog past the allotment site every morning. I supply him with pelleted chicken manure and he opens the polytunnel doors for me.

 

The only trouble is John is an ex paratrooper sergeant - although he's well into his eighties now, he still carries out orders to the letter. So I've given him an order to open the doors every morning - so that's exactly what he does with clockwork reliability - REGARDLESS OF THE WEATHER! I don't want to complicate things for him, so I say nothing, instead I sneak down and close them again. He'll then open them the next morning. It's a brilliant arrangement in hot weather. In colder, wetter weather it means a trip down the lottie regardless. Ah well who said life was perfect?

 

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From My Allotment Diary (Mon. May 14th, 2012)

May 14, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

I thought I'd better catch up with my blog - in case some members think I've croaked it!! Thanks for your concern Dave

I've been spending every minute I can get on the lottie - it's that time of the year. Everything else has been taking second place on my priority list. Most evenings I come home and I'm so tired and stiff I can hardly stand, so writing a blog is just too much after days like that. How sweet the memories of the time when I could shift double the work in half the time and not feel tired at the end of it. Sigh!

It's starting to take shape, but again it's a late season this year. For three seasons we've had silly unseasonal warm weather in March, rain and cold through April - so that you can't touch the soil, then in May - when things should be getting into their stride - there's scorching wind and sun in the day and cold nights. A gardener's nightmare. Add to that slow/ non existent germination rates in the polytunnel coupled to mouse problems (peas and larger seeds just disappear) and you have the recipe for a very irate allotmenteer!!!

Saw Ian my best friend today, he tracked me down at the lottie and had a cuppa with me. A bit of good news there, he tells that the old faithful white van (must think of an appropriate name for her) that doubles up as my mobile shed between home and the allotment is nearly ready for her MOT. A few bits 'n pieces needed doing, like a new handbrake cable and new steel brake pipes plus a new brake cylinder that had seized (sorry girls - this is boy talk, bear with me), which should be finished today, and then she should sail through - I miss her terribly!

Anyway, must go our No. 1 son is coming up tonight and he's spending a few days with us. I'm REALLY looking forward to that. Better still he tells me he's going to give me a hand on the lottie on Wednesday WOO-HOO perhaps I'll get all my beds sorted before the weekend after all!

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From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. May 3rd, 2012)

May 3, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

One mouse less in the world but many more left. Six traps, six days of waiting, one dead mouse. If I was a fur trapper I'd starve to death! Still it's one less to scoff my peas. The word must have got around the mouse world that I'm on the war-path because nothing has touched my new batch of sowings - YET!

Had a good day on the lottie yesterday (Wed). Got a whole 40 foot row of potatoes planted. Also filled a row and a half with muck (half a dozen large barrow loads). Ridged the one row, then the rain came. Stephen & Phil got caught in the shower doing the same as me - panicking to get the spuds in as soon as the soil is workable again.

I paid for that flurry of activity. I was almost too stiff to go to bed last night. I anticipated being even stiffer this morning, but strangely I wasn't too bad. BUT I I've been too tired to budge all day.

imageIan, one of my best mates from long, long ago, came to my house today to take away my trusty old van that I use for the lottie - actually it's my mobile shed. It carries EVERYTHING around inside it (it's like the Tardis), from my carpentry tool-box, my Mantis tiller, rope, string, trays, sacks, seeds and gardening tools etc. etc. you've probably got the picture by now. The MOT is up. Ian, who has a workshop and repair garage on his farm for his implements (he does contracting work and employs a diesel plant fitter full time). He  brought his trailer down and carried it away. Hopefully he'll get it through an MOT for another year. I look after his computer equipment and web-site, he takes care of little things like my van. The world of barter and favour banks is a wonderful one. I would quite happily do away with all that horrible money stuff tomorrow. I'm convinced people were a thousand times happier before money was invented. That's when everyone got "independent" and started relying on their money rather than their friends and neighbours network to make their world turn.

imageSo the lottie had a miss today & I busied myself at home, although I'd got my boots and lottie clothes on this morning I never did manage the enthusiasm for this stiff old carcass to get going with anything more strenuous than making a weeding hand-tool for myself - and I didn't even finish that! However I DID manage to make a sign to stick in my muck heap to remind the dopey hippies on our site that the muck is not a free for all to dip into. I get the muck from Marc a farmer from close by whose computers I also look after - in turn he provides me with all the muck I need, delivered by tractor and trailer to the allotment site. Trouble is some think everything should be shared, the only flaw in their logic is that they think others should always provide for them whilst they NEVER provide anything for anyone. Scroungers. One of them has just finished dipping into my wood-chip pile. He apologised when I tackled him about his thieving habits. He said that he would arrange another delivery for me (hardly the point) however I suspect I'll catch a dinosaur in one of my mouse-traps before that materialises! 

From My Allotment Diary (Sun.. April 29th, 2012)

April 29, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

At last the weathermen got it right! That promised huge low pressure weather front that was moving up from Spain - accompanied by gale force winds for today actually hit us some time last night. I got up this morning to find a water-butt had gone walk-about and other things were in the wrong places or at funny angles! Like my neighbour's bird-table that's taken up a horizontal resting position on his front lawn. Two short scaffold planks that had been propped up against our tool-shed down on the lottie were also horizontal this morning. They hadn't budged all winter, but last night the wind must have been from an unusual direction.

So it's WET & very cold & miserable here this morning. The mice that should have got their sentences executed in the traps in my polytunnel last night must have decided to stay in their warm nests somewhere - very wise - given the weather. So my enthusiasm for revenge never got quenched. All six of the death traps were still gaping at me like little miniature hippos when I went in. Not a stiff mouse in sight. Hmm. This could turn into a real "cat & mouse" game.

I went down hoping to do a bit of sowing etc. in the polytunnel this morning. HOWEVER the disappointment of no mouse-trap victims coupled to a horrible cold & damp feel (as readers of my blog will know - I absolutely hate the cold especially when it's damp, because I go into "shut-down" mode, get VERY miserable and can't motivate myself to do ANYTHING).

So it's back to the house - after taking Josie and her friend Jan down town to get a "couple of things from the shop" (that's code for - "go and sit in the car for an hour & read your book, whilst I exorcise my can't pass a shop addiction"!)

Right central heating back on 'constant' for the afternoon. Write my blog, sit down & read the Sunday papers and have a couple of glasses of sparkling Schloer for me for the rest of the day - the weather can go to hell!

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

April 28, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (0)

I love all little animals - but today I had to turn assassin! Regardless of how fluffy and cute something is, when it decides to fill it's furry little tummy with MY newly sown peas, I have no option but to put the black handkerchief on my head and declare a death sentence.

What am I talking about? MICE. The little sods have dug up and eaten between 80 and a 100 of my newly sown seeds that were in cell trays in the polytunnel. Thank goodness it's only the peas that took their fancy.image

I discovered the deed yesterday - so I've re-sown. Last night I had to go down to Fishguard to pick up our friend Jan who lives in Ireland. She came off the ferry at quarter to one this morning. So following a lie-in I went for a rummage in the garage (well to be more precise Josie did) to find the mouse-traps. I'd forgotten where I'd put them.

So armed with 6 of the latest in mouse-trap technology from Mr Rolson (black plastic ones that look like miniature hippos, with teeth and a bait cage). I headed down to the place of planned instant death. Whilst down there I did some more sowing and the last job was to strategically place the baited traps in what I guessed would be the logical places I'd explore - if I was a mouse.

The deed is done. In the morning I'll go down to inspect the carnage - I just hope the traps will NOT be empty and that the latest batch of sown peas won't have gone AWOL!

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From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. April 26th, 2012)

April 26, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

Another of those "nothing" days again today! Well as far as the lottie is concerned anyway!

Had an appointment at the doctor's surgery this morning - there went the morning. My Dr 's surgery is fifteen miles north in Aberystwyth (he's a friend as well as my doc - so I travel). Then followed an afternoon of the drudge - our weekly grocery shopping - ugh! Still, mustn't grumble too much - I treated myself to a few goodies from our local gardening goodies shop called Charlie's. Two more gravel trays for my potting adventures in the polytunnel, also I bought some other trays with 40 x 3" pots in, some capillary matting and a catch for one of my p/tunnel doors. Also of course, if I don't put up with the weekly shopping drudge I'll eventually starve - not a nice thought!

I've used carpet underlay as capillary matting in the past. It works great - BUT - being made of wool, it's prone to smell when it gets wet. By the end of the potting frenzy my p/tunnel smells embarrassingly horrible! At the beginning - before I discovered where the stink was coming from -  I went looking for a dead rodent under the staging last year, that's the level of potency of the pong!! So I had to hold my nose again today to stop the horrible smell of having to spend money on capillary matting! Ah well - it doesn't eat or drink.

Tomorrow I'm going down to get stuck into those potato rows that need planting before we get phase 2 of the wind & rain storm that's been promised over the weekend. Low pressure heading our way from Spain apparently. I've also got to get the remainder of my other seeds sown in the p/tunnel - hence the reason for the goodies bought today.

Tomorrow night I've got to go down to Fishguard (40 miles south of here) to meet the ferry coming over from Ireland at 12.30a.m. Jan - a friend of ours (well Josie's old chum from Birkenhead) who lives over there, is coming over to stay for a few days. Pity about the weather. In fact Stenner stopped the sailings yesterday, so they may do the same again tomorrow. That WILL be a disappointment. I think I'm turning into a Job's Comforter!

From My Allotment Diary (Tues. April 24th, 2012)

April 24, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

It's been another ten days since I wrote in my Blog - that's amazing - NEARLY HALF A MONTH. Time is flying by at a frightening rate!

Anyway, I'm actually getting on top of my seed sowing regime in the polytunnel. There's now hundreds of little pots, trays, cells and toilet rolls standing to attention. Lets hope they all sprout! Everything has been buried in the black stuff, from runner beans to melons and everything in between. Mind you the daunting task of doing the same outside is still haunting my sleeping hours! I say that because last night I sadly dreamt about my seed sowing - that is serious overload. Perhaps I do take this allotment thing too seriously!! Having now quickly dismissed that horrible thought I can look forward to getting on with one of the greatest joys of life - getting away from everything and everyone and enjoying my own company on my lottie or in my polytunnel.

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I LOVE my home built polytunnel. No more so was that brought home to me than today, when we had a torrential shower at about six o'clock this evening. I merrily carried on until Stephen (one of my plot neighbour friends) popped in on the way home from work. We had a cuppa together (very civilised two chairs and a table) whilst putting the world to rights in the deafening sound of a thunderstorm and BIG rain on the polythene - it doesn't get much better than that!

For the first time this year I felt quite good working hard today. That hasn't always been the case with lots of fatigue, breathlessness and general weakness when I get really stuck in. Today was a bit more like old times. I wheel-barrowed five loads of manure the 50 yards from the heap to the potato rows (not at normal speed, but respectable). Spread it out and got one 40 foot row finished before the rain AND I still had a little bit left in the tank to do a bit of pottering inside the polytunnel when the rain came. I hope I don't suffer tomorrow, experience dictates that after a day like today it's often a case of the rest of the week off!! Lets hope not.

So my first row of spuds are in - the Winstons. Look out Dave, they're starting to sprout and swell already, and they haven't been in the ground 12 hours yet!! I think I'd better go and look for some bigger scales tomorrow - in readiness. Do you still want to go ahead with this challenge? Now would be a good time for you to back down before ;)we get to the business end of the season!!

 It looks as if it's going to be a colouring book day tomorrow! Remember our mothers used to bring the colouring book out when it rained on a caravan holiday! Not that we had holidays - but I've been told by my wife that is how it was!!! Well perhaps not a colouring book day, but a day to catch up with my web-site work & some correspondence. Perhaps it'll stop me dreaming about seed sowing!

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