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ship shape

14 Jun

I have been going at the plot a bit gungho of late. Mainly as I know I have several weekends when I will not make an appearance. So this means I have been going there as much as I can manage. This has involved bribing the kids with chocolate, crisps and even a pub supper just to ensure my plot desires (strimming, weeding – I am easily pleased) are fully met.

The result is satisfying to say the least. It’s looking really proper again. It won’t last of course. I am away this weekend and then won’t be around for several more after that. Could anything illuminate the fact that everything is impermanent better than an allotment?

Weeds get controlled. Grass gets cut but turn your back, take your foot off the pedal and they all creep back.

I’m enjoying the proper-ness while it lasts. All too soon the jungle will reappear of that I have no doubt.

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How it was few weeks ago and how it may well look next time I visit!

the Arthur effect: 2017

1 Jun

As mentioned in my last post I have been gifted a whole load of beautiful seedlings from my uncle Arthur. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. I have had little time and not much luck with growing seedlings on my window sill this year – the seeds I got seem to be hit and miss, luckily the one thing Arthur didn’t provide – cucumbers – has thus been the only thing I have managed to successfully grow from seed so far this year.

It was also fortuitous timing because my mum, bless her, delivered them all (how she fitted them into her car I do not know) the week before half term.

I have had a whole week off from the treadmill that is my working life. Time to potter and relax in the garden with the kids. I can’t describe how glorious that has been. During that time both my garden and my allotment have been thoroughly pampered with the arrival of these lovely plants and I can now hold my head up high among the old boys on the plot. One even complimented me today as I arrived with a tray of courgettes and pumpkins to plant out, ‘what beauties!’ he exclaimed. Believe you me there has never been such flattering words about my own spinderly, home grown efforts!

At the plot.

And at home.

low maintenance-ish

25 May

When I took on the plot more than four years ago it required huge amounts of work. I knackered my little finger up whilst being on driven doing mode, pulling up knarly weeds with my bare hands. Everything had to be formed, each part took weeks.

But as well as being hard work it was a labour of love and very satisfying as it all came together. There are still unconquered corners of our plot that somehow always slip down the to-do list but nowadays the plot doesn’t need that much work.

My principle tasks always seem to be weeding or strimming, weeding or strimming. Today I did both as well as covering my gooseberry bush with netting, determined this year I will harvest some berries rather than let the birds have them all. I have not planted hardly anything this year and my attempts to grow seedlings on my window sills at home have had mixed results. It was all looking a bit like I would need to make an emergency trip to a garden centre and buy some ready grown tomato plants when along come Uncle Arthur, to the rescue once more. He kindly donated as many plants as my little outside ledge can hold. Tomato plants, courgettes, pumpkins, beans, lettuce and (a new one for my plot) sweetcorn.

I will plant these out at the weekend and over half term, it will make a nice change to do something other than strim and weed.

On arrival today the plot was rather overgrown and under loved looking but by the time I left two hours later it looked like my reliable little corner of peace and tranquility in a crazy world.

spring growth

16 Mar

The year marches on at an alarming rate, as does my life. In a week’s time it will be another birthday that edges me further away from the last significant birthday (the big four oh), bringing me ever closer to the next significant one (half a century, gulp!). But I guess I have a few years yet before I need worry myself with that one. Young or old I have never been a huge celebrator of birthdays. The passing of time doesn’t thrill me that much and yet it should do, given the alternative.

I do love the beginning of spring though, which is of itself a passing of time. And celebrating the arrival of spring has been so much more marked since taking on an allotment.

I managed a brief visit there today, prompted in part by meeting a friend last night who asked how the plot was to which I shrugged and said I rarely have the time these days. Interestingly she asked about my plot before asking about the kids or the hubby.

Bored of rarely having the time I have been there twice this week. I plan to continue doing that for as long as I can. For the next few weeks at least. Even if I only do forty minutes weeding like I did on Monday or forty minutes strimming like I did today, little and often is the way forward.

Yes I run the gauntlet of the old boys down there who make sly comments such as ‘going home already’ and ‘that was quick’ to which I learn to hold my tongue rather than saying grumpily ‘yes some of us have a life and a job to go to,’ because grumpiness doesn’t get you very far at the end of the day. Instead I smile sweetly and bid them goodbye, pleased i have managed to squeeze in even an hour there. An hour can be such a treat on a sunny spring like day, with the trees covered in buds and new growth in abundance.

On Monday I was greeted by the sight of the shed, battered and bruised by Doris – its plastic window had finally broken free of its frame. By some miracle all of my stuff was still exactly where I had left it. A plot neighbour passed by and said he was planning on fixing it for me. I popped it back in its frame and used gaffa tape to hold it place.

Arrival today saw the window just about hanging by a thread so this time I used some stakes to secure it into its frame. Its a short term solution, at the weekend the hubby has promised to sort it out, secure our shed and return it back to its former glory.

When I first took on the plot losing that shed was the thing that worried me most but now I don’t find myself thinking worst case scenarios anymore and adopting an attitude of acceptance for whatever may be.So perhaps there are plenty of good reasons to celebrate the passing of time after all.

it’s feeling a lot like springtime

20 Feb

I may be getting ahead of myself here but over the last weekend the heating has hardly come on, I have uncovered the washing line from it’s winter covering and I have been to a local snowdrop Sunday – which to me always symbolizes that spring is on its merry way.

So today as we walked to the plot on the last day of half day (an extra day tagged on in fact courtesy of an inset day) I felt a spring in my step.

At the weekend I had seen my brother who has also taken on a plot and he asked me how the plot was and I felt slightly shamed and sad – the truth is I haven’t been there for months. I don’t have much time these days and I worried as we talked that I could end up losing the plot if I continue to ignore it.

So returning today was much needed. The kids are now that bit older so they can actually play nicely on a nearby rope swing without a major fall out and I don’t have to keep worrying that they might stagger onto someone’s prize geraniums by mistake. (Disclaimer moment – that has never actually happened but it has been a distinct possibility!)

And I needn’t have worried about the plot – it is ticking over nicely. No sign of the broad beans or garlic I put in months ago but the rest of the plot is under cover, weed resistant and hence very low maintenance. Come spring proper I will only need to peel back the membrane, do a light dig/weed and get planting.

A far cry from all that back breaking toil I did four years ago, but for now the plot is on maintenance mode so I don’t think my fears of losing it will come to pass just yet.

The kids played so nicely I was able to strim all the paths, mow fruit corner and feed and water all the fruit bushes and trees. There isn’t much else to do apart from sort out some rubbish and de-clutter the shed so after an hour or two and a cheeky flask of tea we headed back, happy in the knowledge that spring is just round the corner and with a bit of luck it shouldn’t be two months before our next visit.

a frosty trip to the plot

30 Dec

Often described as a dead-week, the week between Christmas and New Year is actually perhaps the closest many of us get to an extended period of real genuine non-doing. A time to disconnect from work and just be with your nearest and dearest. This of course can come with its own challenges but as the week is nearly over it’s also worth reflecting how precious a week of non-doing is these days.

If my kids read this they would perhaps laugh at the idea of me ever having a non-doing week as there have been chilly picnics at nearby Audley End and several frosty walks through a nearby forest. Yesterday they were promised a lazy day and both declared they would not leave the house, even to venture into the garden.

They kept their word but by today my youngest, a spirited seven year old boy, was asking when that promised trip to the allotment would be. For want of better plan I said how about now and left the hubby in charge of lunch. We walked down to the plot in the fog and enjoyed getting some fresh air whilst aware we were the only people out and about bar a couple of dog walkers. I often make the comparison that having young kids is akin to having a dog, they really do need to get out at least once a day which makes non-doing a challenge to navigate.

Once at the allotment we planted out garlic, dug up some frozen onions and weeded a frosty patch of earth where we then planted out broad beans. No idea if this is the right time to do it, we found the broad bean seeds and went for it. My son enjoyed moving worms out of harms way and breaking a frozen pond in an abandoned plot next door. His hands got soaked and frozen and he shivered all they way home but we both enjoyed a brief bit of purpose amidst the non-doing along with a well-earned flask.

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Now I have been out of the house I feel settled enough to enjoy non-doing for the rest of the day! I predict by tomorrow my feet will start itching for action and adventure once more though and I might think of another excuse to escape to the plot.

Never Ending Harvest

26 Sep

Since taking on our scrubby corner of paradise 4 years ago the constant questions from friends, family and anyone vaguely interested has always been ‘Have you noticed your food bills have gone down since taking on an allotment.’ The answer has always been a resolute no, not in the slightest. The cost of buying equipment, seeds, manure, compost and other allotment kit has always far outweighed the occasional £2 shaved off a shop because I don’t need to buy any spuds that week.

However this year had anyone asked me (no one did this year, perhaps they me too brash in previous years) my answer would have been do you know what, yes I think I have probably saved about a tenner each shop since July, so plentiful has the harvest been this year.

This in itself led to more spending – so often the way – my slightly lower food bills fooled me into thinking I could now afford an organic veg box to supplement my harvest and now I am signed up to the veg box scheme I’m confident that will go on long after any savings can be felt.

I made some raised beds at home this year and from them I have had a constant supply of courgettes, cherry toms and lettuce, loads of lettuce. I haven’t bought any bagged lettuce all summer. This has become so ingrained that even my husband remembers to go out to the garden with scissors rather than buy more lettuce when there’s none in the fridge.

At the plot itself I have had a constant supply of cucumbers, potatoes, more tomatoes and now our apple tree is finally giving us our first harvest, three years after we planted it.

The cherry tree, blueberry bush and gooseberry bush were all rather disappointing but still I am pleasantly surprised that it’s been such a good year given that I have hardly been there – something else always crops up. Something else I enjoy a lot less, like reading work emails, or keeping up with governor related stuff or having a driving lesson.

The crops are all done now, alas there is no such thing as a never ending harvest but it’s been a good summer on the plot and growing veg at home was good for ensuring things got harvested regularly while I am so busy. I spent 2 hours at my plot this morning and, just as the weather gets cold and winter draws in, I realised I really should go there more often. Perhaps next year.