Archive | May, 2015

The resurrection of the beer traps

22 May

It has to be said that when it comes to gardening we often don’t like to consider how much destruction cultivating a few veggies brings in its path. I have written on here before that I have accidentally killed, among other creatures, worms, slow worms and mice while digging or they inadvertently got caught in a beer trap.

And then there is the never ending war against slugs, snails and weeds. Life is constantly being curtailed in the name of growing things. Some super ethical gardeners attempt to be fully vegan by eschewing all animal produce (no manure, or the appealingly named blood, fish and bone for vegan gardeners). Tempting though this is it’s hard enough being a normal gardener who aspires to be vaguely organic without ruling out the use of organic poultry manure (my go to for everything from improving soil structure to slow release plant food).

I was gifted some slug poison last year, I felt uneasy about it but used it anyway as the slugs were eating everything which was not good for morale. My oldest recently had to do some research for homework on hedgehogs and has since started lecturing me on the fact that slug poison can in turn harm hedgehogs when they eat the poisoned carcasses of slugs and snails.

Gardening is full of unintended consequences. When my youngest asked me the other day what’s more important our home grown vegetables or a slug’s life I have to admit I believe our home grown veg is more important but when the eldest makes me think about the same question but replaces slugs with ‘Eco system’ then I know that something that disrupts entire food chains does not sit well with my ethics.

For now I’ve sprinkled my last shake of slug poison and instead this week dug a few holes to put new beer traps down. I bought good old basics beer to fill them with and have started saving egg shells once more in the hope that the beer trap and egg shell approach coupled with casual garroting of slugs found while weeding will keep the population controlled while at the same time not upsetting anyone further up the food chain. Here’s hoping anyway.

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No more blue pellets for now

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Beer traps – a more eco friendly way to cull slugs

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Using any other beer would be a travesty

A brief moment of smugness…..

15 May

Before I start this post let me set out my case clearly – I am not prone to smug moments. I’m sure we all have the capacity to be smug at times but honestly I haven’t had that much occasion to be smug and I’m much more likely to be self deprecating than celebrate my successes. Almost every exam I have taken I have failed and had to retake thanks to undiagnosed dyslexia and a very slacker attitude on my part. Each time I finally passed something I felt exhausted relief rather than the sweetness of smuggery. When I had kids there was no smug moment of look-at-what-I-have-procreated I just felt exhausted relief that everyone came through it intact and wondered what the hell we had done with our nice life (perhaps that was retrospective smugness about a life that had since ended…)

So I know how annoying smuggery is and have spent a life time avoiding it but it’s Friday and I liked the title of this post and you know what, I was feeling just a tiny bit smug when I went to the plot today. I stood there and wondered what to do (that really doesn’t happen very often, normally the to do list overwhelms me).

I finished mowing the grass (admittedly the plot recently has felt like just another place to come and cut grass and if you saw the state, or rather length, of my lawn at home, you’d realise there are many areas of my life I have nothing to feel smug about).

After mowing I uncovered a raised bed, feeling slightly smug I had covered it over a few months ago and so it was all pristine and weed free. I chucked on some more compost, feeling slightly smug that I had got in more sacks of compost recently. I planted carrots, parsnips and beetroots, knowing my track record on growing them has been very poor so far but still I enjoyed that moment. I spotted a slow worm, I picked flowers, I took photos – I enjoyed being there and realised this as I pottered about. It doesn’t matter what grows, or doesn’t, being there with the sun shining is such a joy. Maybe smug people are better at feeling joy, who knows. But for a brief while it felt quite nice feeling proud and a wee bit smug!

Reasons to be cheerful:

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I found a slow worm!

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I planted root veg!

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My grass looks respectable – a first!

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The whole plot looks respectable – ditto!

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I spotted an infant gooseberry!

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My spuds are coming up!

There are some days when only weeding can soothe a tangled mind

8 May

No one likes seeing their ‘team’ lose but when it comes to Labour supporters, waking up to another five years of David Cameron’s Tory Government, it’s about much more than just not wanting to back the losing side. Many of us are now fearful that our beloved NHS will no longer exist in it’s current form by 2020 and for those of us who work in the public sector the prospect of £12 billion of Tory cuts could mean redundancy, homelessness, upheaval and de-skilling. When you consider the part of the public sector I work in (Local Authority Adult Education that serves huge immigrant populations in London – no budget ring fencing for us I can assure you) you can see why for me, the personal is political.

I have an undeserved hangover (I drank 1 beer for goodness sake) and I am hugely sleep deprived. I have a to do list so long it makes me shake to contemplate it – new courses starting next week and I am nowhere near prepared for them. And to add to this sense of gloom I accompanied my oldest on a school trip to a church (for an atheist like me, life doesn’t get much worse – facing the church and the tories in one and the same day!)

Yet even though the political picture today has been so utterly depressing and I feel like crap for all of the above reasons I felt I was able to calm my mind by a trip to the plot.

Pulling up some weeds is quite far down my mammoth list of things to do but I felt like my very essence was crying out for some peace and quiet reflection.

Loss comes in waves – there’s denial, disbelief, anger and, the stage I am now at – resignation, sinking over me like a dark black cloud.

Escaping to the plot couldn’t change anything but it reminded me of when I went there after my granny’s funeral nearly two years ago to the day. It seemed crazy then digging in my funeral get up but afterwards I felt closer to her and to acceptance that she was no longer with us. And the same thing happened today – I dug my way out of the anger and the disbelief. Anger at the right wing press and the British public, disbelief that so many voted for more painful austerity and it was a result none of us had contemplated – a Conservative government without the Lib Dems slightly tempering their neo-con desires.

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My broad beans so far have been the only beneficiary of the Tory victory.

I weeded my broad beans. It was a mere drop in the ocean but it gave me a small sense of accomplishment which lifted my spirits a tad. As I weeded I contemplated a few reasons to be cheerful – yes the obvious ones (bye bye Farage and George Galloway, Lynn Featherstone, Danny Alexander and even poor old toxic much hated Ed Balls – Labour can only benefit from that defeat). But there are also less obvious reasons to be cheerful too. We lost the election but something quite amazing happened – people said enough of the status quo, enough of the two party stitch up, let’s try something different. Yes I wish it had happened at any other election than this one but it has happened. The first past the post system is looking more defective and unfair than ever, surely Nick Clegg’s last regret must be not pushing for voting reform while he had the one and only real chance his party will ever have. And the final reason to be cheerful: the old guard of Labour are doing the decent thing, stepping aside and making way for new talent. I have said it before but surely Chukka Umuna can take the party to heights not reached for a generation? Here’s hoping.

Once I had weeded I decided I needed to go home and face the preparation needed to ready myself for next week. I can blame the tories for many sins but letting their election victory derail my next two Mindfulness Courses would be fool hardy.

Off I plodded, not feeling much lighter but glad at least the plot had soothed my head. As I arrived home the redundant and once optimistic Labour sign my hubby removed from our front garden at 7am reminded me there will plenty of time for my existential crisis over the ensuing years of this government but right now I need to sort my stuff out.

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An inspiring flower, no idea what it is but it made me smile.

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My poor redundant sign!

Strawberry Patch – the final chapter (for now)

1 May

Another two visits have passed and in that time I have membraned the youngest one’s much neater strawberry patch and conquered the thick clumps of wild grass that inhabited the oldest one’s strawberry patch. I have even got an off-shoot pot of strawberry plants as some had managed to escape the little plots and gone feral on fruit corner itself.

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D’s patch looking rather more professional

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In case you’ve forgotten – this is what the oldest child’s strawberry patch looked like 10 days ago.

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Drum roll….this is how I left it looking yesterday

While I did all of this rather unnecessary and intensive weeding the grass kept growing. Weeds elsewhere on the plot are taking hold and I have not even planted anything of any note yet. At home my grow-from-seed seedlings are not doing well (mainly as I had to shift them all outdoors after noticing the fibrous pots had gone moldy and the hubby worried about our nut allergic, dust allergic, wheezy son breathing in mold vapors). They are now residing on my patio table, at the mercy of the slugs, snails and the elements. I do expect to have to regrow all my courgettes (like I did last year) but hey at least I have finally emptied one last bucket of weeds from two tiny corners of the plot.