Archive | March, 2013

Too cold to dig!

22 Mar

I got my haircut yesterday for the first time in probably ten months. If I can avoid going to the hairdressers for a year at a time I do but I have noticed my hair is changing as I get older. It now goes a bit wild and frizzy and I am left pondering if my old low maintenance hair care ways will carry me through the (hopefully) second half of my life. Hair is not something I have ever thought about or spent a lot of time contemplating, I literally wash and go. I have never possessed straighteners or used products. OK, I admit, I am of a certain age and hail from Essex, so there were the perm years (two in total) in my early teens. This was followed in my students days by a certain indie craving for silly colours that required a layer of peroxide first. These pots of colour were purchased from alternative markets in Camden or Liverpool and were named Pillar Box Red or Lagoon Blue. I remember going to Strawberry Fayre in Cambridge, my hair freshly dyed pillar box red only for it to tip it down with rain leaving me, my clothes and my face streaked pink – not the look I was aiming for.

But since those days I have done very little to my hair bar get it cut once or occasionally twice a year. The reasons for this are mainly cost – when did it become OK to charge 50 quid for a bloody haircut? But also in equal measure I simply hate the whole experience, it drags me so far out of my comfort zone and not in a good way. Being surrounded by twenty year olds from Harlow with immaculate hair and bodies is trying enough but add to this the dreadful music, the inane chat, the endless waiting for it all to be over and you have right there my own version of hell. And I’m bloody paying fifty quid for it!

Yesterday the cut itself took about ten minutes. She then faffed with it for a further hour, the pully thing they do with a brush and a hair dryer wasn’t enough, she then had to get some straighteners and straighten my hair till it steamed.  The whole laborious hour and a half was spent with me staring grimly, slightly hungover at my own starting to go grey head of hair contemplating the future. I enviously saw men come and go as I sat through the whole long ordeal. I was driven by boredom to ask her about getting hair coloured at the hairdressers. I have only ever done DIY kits from Boots or Camden market so knew nothing of the sacrifice those brave women undertake when they get their hair coloured at the hairdressers.  She was selling me for a few seconds until I asked how long does it take and how often do you need to get it done. Her reply of about three hours and every six weeks made me shudder. I don’t want to spend any more of what precious time I have left on this planet sitting in hairdressers. I vowed there and then if I did start dying out the grey I will use henna.

The end result looked nice if very very flat. I still went to the allotment today determined something as girly as a new do would not quell my allotment lust. But once there it was so windy, my hands hurt, my eyes stung. I put a bit more tarpaulin here and there but without covering the entire plot there is only so much time you can spend on tarpaulin based projects so I excused myself for the day and came home to a hot cup of tea a little bit pleased my new hair is still in tact for another day.


Bark chips – my new best friend!

15 Mar

I have a poorly daughter and yesterday she was off school. I lost my precious laptop time but we had a lovely day and she wasn’t that poorly and she makes a much better patient than her brother – when he is ill the whole family suffers. But today – my allotment day – I found myself saying severally ‘Are you sure you want to go to school? Are you really well enough?’ Her answer was an adamant yes, spurred on mainly by the fact her brother was in fancy dress in aid of Comic Relief and if she stayed at home she would miss out on the fun. He had chosen to go to school as a pink zebra (don’t ask – let’s just say I am winning the gender war in my house) and she was determined to go as a builder (see what I mean?) So after temperature taking and looking for other symptom clues and finding none I had to admit she could go.

This is most unlike both of us. She does not often throw away a get-of-school free card and neither do I – horrible hard mother that I am – often hand that card freely to her. But she has been sent home from school not once but twice this week much to my embarrassment with this persistent ear infection so I wanted to be sure she was ready to go back. I also realise lurking in my subconscious was the fact I wouldn’t really mind missing my morning’s dig at the allotment and so really, any excuse would do, including a sick child.

With the kids dropped off, there are no excuses left. I trudged down to my allotment. The weather is milder today but within minutes of being there I couldn’t fully feel my fingers, double gloved or not. With immaculate timing I’d managed to plant my first ever shallot and garlic sets last week three days before another huge frost and a touch of snow. I am no expert on all of this but I am guessing what little chance they had of growing has been obliterated by four days of sub zero temperatures in the ground.

As always I stood and looked at the enormity of this project and took some deep breaths. I had nothing to plant, I didn’t want to start another bed, too much like hard work, not motivating enough for today. I needed some small pottering type tasks and so decide to tackle fruit corner, the part of the plot where our two fruit trees are planted. Trying to avoid digging and mud is a futile exercise, sooner or later I find myself there, digging, putting my back into the task. Thinking about nothing else but the outdoors, the hum of the birds, the hardness of the task, the peace. Time goes slowly and yet two hours fly by.

without bark chips

What ‘fruit corner’ looked like at 9am

So I inevitably dig; a narrow strip that borders the first bed, ridding it of weeds. I replant some of the garlic that now seems intent on popping out before taking root. I cover a strip of land earmarked for the kids’ small bed with tarpaulin which apparently stops weeds taking hold. I am on a roll now. I dig more, pulling up white knotty looking roots and adding them to Tony’s bonfire pile. I attempt to level out fruit corner but soon get bored of this and decide to start emptying bark chips straight on to the undulating clods of earth, hoping it will provide some quick-fix short cut. Sharing an allotment with a botcher like me must be trying for my perfectionist husband. But the way I see it is: I am in a battle with weeds and anything that might stop them spreading and make our plot as low maintenance as possible is my new best friend. We don’t have time for perfection! At the end I compare my usual before and after photos and am surprised how much difference there is for once. I have used all the bark chips in a 120 litre sack but surely it’s worth buying a few more bags for the wow factor alone.

   with bark chips

Spot the difference? After a bit of digging and a lot of bark chip spreading!

Five lessons in allotment keeping

8 Mar

It has been nearly three weeks since I last ventured to my plot. I can blame half term – how much digging can I do with two terror tots yapping at my heels? I just know I would accidentally end up impaling one of them with my newly bought fork, so it’s not an option. Then last week was a week of doctors and health checks – eye appointments, pre-school boosters and no time to dig. Today I was feeling muzzy headed after a lovely book club meeting in which I had inflicted ‘How to be a Woman’ by Caitlin Moran on the group. Personally I am a pragmatic feminist – if someone reads this feminist-lite book and thinks twice about blowing £21k on a princess wedding or does not go and have a Brazilian then job done! But not everyone agreed and so an evening of lively debate ensued and a bit of wine was consumed.

I learnt some life changing lessons today as I dug in the peaceful surrounds of my plot:

1) Weeds grow back, they really do.

weeds return

Return of the weeds!

2) Three weeks is a long time in gardening – there were weeds. Again. Did I mention this already?

3) Spending two hours in the fresh air is perhaps the best cure ever for a hangover – I no longer am that muzzy headed woman I was this morning. That alone surely has to be worth keeping an allotment for?

4) If you are planting things you don’t have to dig a huge trench. A dibber, some compost and a bit of corner cutting never did any harm. (I think – obviously if everything I planted today dies, I may have to change this particular lesson learned.)


My not-100%-sure-they-will-grow shallots

5) Double gloving is the way forward. I wore marigolds under my crap gardening gloves purchased from Wilkinson’s for a fiver and I no longer have to spend 15 minutes scrubbing my hands to get rid of my workman’s thumb (see previous ‘An idiot’s guide to mud’ for photographic evidence of workman’s thumb.)