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Half-Baked Blog - The Allotment (2019)

Getting to grips, or losing my grip, on a Midlands allotment.
2020 || 2019 || Website's Guts


Table of Contents

If I'm writing the contents table, I guess 2019 is pretty much over. Use these to skip to any individual posts, and enjoy!

30th July 2019 - A Waiting Game
13th August 2019 - Neither Here Nor There
19th August 2019 - The Boiler House & the Lodger
23rd August 2019 - Wishing Well... Water Pt. 1
25th August 2019 - Lemon Balm!
7th September 2019 - A Quick Update, Water Part 2 and RHUBARB
7th October 2019 - What'cha Been Doing?
19th October 2019 - The Currant Situation
2nd November 2019 - Garden Intruder!
11th November 2019 - Bonfire Night
1st December 2019 - Finding the Corner
2nd December 2019 - Finding the Corner - Part 2
5th December 2019 - Barrowloads of Fun
14th December 2019 - Bricking It
21st December 2019 - To Tree, or Not to Tree
28th December 2019 - Decimating Brambles



28th December 2019 - Decimating Brambles

In the past, the allotment's previous owner has cultivated brambles with a view to having piles of strawberries available. Why wouldn't you? They're tasty, difficult to buy and can produce fruit quite heavily if trained horizontally to a piece of wire. The RHS, as usual, has useful information. However, they've been left to riot in the allotment in conjunction with a scaffold frame, and we've been left with this.

The trick with cutting these blighters down, it seems, is to keep it at manageable lengths - perhaps one or two feet. Anything longer than that, and you seem to be struggling to remove them from where they stand. The canes seem quite predictable in that they fruit one year, then die, then a green shoot will fruit, then die. Therefore, it's relatively easy to work out what dead plant you can remove!

Runners can be pegged down (like strawberries) until they develop their own root system. I've bought a thornless variety as well, which I planted earlier in the year, and I hope that I'll be able to get this to grow enough so that half the frame is the thornless variety, and the other half the thorned. At the moment, dealing with a whole frame of thorned brambles is just a little intense for me. I have considered repurposing the scaffold frame for beans, but that'd mean getting the crowns and roots out, which sounds like a hell of a job.

The RHS and other recommends using long loppers, but I managed to make it work with a pair of snippers. Just be realistic, and realise that you're going to work your way in, rather than getting straight to the centre, and you'll be fine. I did take an "at the start" picture, but the quality was so bad (even for this page) that I left it out. Here it is, all cut down;


We've also got some problems with brambles up on the top bed. These took a fair bit of hacking back as well, and I'm going to attempt to get the crowns of these out to reduce the likelihood of their returning. I still haven't worked out what's going on with the top bed. There's a likelihood of a shed ending up there, I think.. but that's a story for another day.


The year's coming on for it's end now. I'm proud of what we've achieved, but it's going to be a busy winter if we want to get into full production for the next season. Anyway, I'll catch you all soon; I'm writing this on a Sunday morning with a cup of tea and a cat sat with me. Life's not so bad, I think.




21st December 2019 - To Tree, or Not to Tree

This morning, I was unusally ready for the day ahead. My recent flurry of activity has somewhat focused my mind, and I've been keen not to let the momentum slow as we barrel towards one of my lesser-favourite times of the year. With that in mind, I've been keen to solidify our newly-discovered path in the bed under the cob nuts, and stop it from slowly sliding back into obscurity.

Currently, the cob nut tree has a branch that makes the path difficult for all but the smallest of users, so it is time to give the tree a sympathetic trimming, and hopefully improve the light into some of the allotment corner beds. I'm no tree surgeon, but I fancy that removing a few side branches (coppicing, I suppose) can only be helpful for the strong upward growth of what remains, as well as promoting some kind of useful growth around it's base, which currently doesn't exist. It's worth a punt, anyway.

I have learnt a few pieces from a Monty Don TV show recently, and one of those is how to cleanly cut a branch off. Have a look at this; I've done a couple of inches of undercut, before cutting from the top, perhaps an inch closer to the branch end. This gives a beautifully clean cut as the tree breaks away;




The cob nut wood is extremely hard, and takes quite a bit of sawing, but will make for fantastic fuel next year. Time to get it sawn up and in the log store... which is currently a repurposed coal bunker, but what can you do?

Anyway, it's time to get back to the job in hand. I'll catch you all soon, and leave you with this photo of the result from this morning.





14th December 2019 - Bricking It

Just a few quick notes about the day. I had help today, with M out there with me.

With it being winter and all, we've been able to deal with some of the trees rooted in the hedge having shed their leaves and become much more accessible. We hit them hard with the snippers, which wasn't possible in summer. They'll be back, but, for now, they're diminished in the hedge. Later in the autumn, I'll saw them off as close to the ground as I possibly can to slow them a little further and let the hedge thrive without interference for a while.

For now, the lack of foliage has meant the base of the hedge is exposed, and the true extent of the bricks has been exposed. They are everywhere. Some of them match the black stone path in the ruined greenhouse, but the majority are just standard house-building bricks. Whatever their provenance, M and I have decided that we need them; she habours dreams of a Victorian-style lean-to greenhouse, whilst my dreams are more shed-based. Either way, the principle cost is probably bricks, so the more we can save, the more cash we will save in the long run.

I have finally managed to clear the yard in front of the boiler house, and it's there that we've began to make stacks of bricks. Some of them still have lime mortar, but this is easily sorted by tapping them with a hammer until the mortar falls off, which it does quite readily. Originally, I was trying to do this with a a brick bolster, but this, despite seeming a sophisticated way of doing things, really didn't work so well.

In parallel, M & I have started to clear the Southern most (top) bed of the allotment, which we've never really been able to get close to. I'd already burnt a pair of garage doors, as well as piles of wood that had been pulled from this bed, but it's the gift (perhaps) that keeps on giving. At some point, somebody has demolished what I think was a wooden-framed chicken coop, and just stacked it up there, where grass, brambles and more of those stupid little trees have grown through it rapidly, making it a nightmare to move. However, today, we were inspired, and began feverishly snipping away to try and free the wooden/chicken wire frames that just wouldn't let go. Bit by bit, we freed a panel at a time, which have gone on the bonfire that I am building for New Year's Eve. There's quite a lot of metal in there, but the aim is to burn away the wooden frames and simply be left with scrap metal when the fire is over.

Anyway, we removed a large pile of wood, a decomposed chicken coop, a plastic bin, numerous plastic cat toys and a couple of saplings that were holding it all together. What we're left with is some very wet, very decomposed wood at the back that I've pushed up against the boundaries. It's not taking up much space, but seems to be hosting a whole insect biosphere. If we need anything, we need insects, so I've left the really rotten wood where it was in the shaded spot. When the grass begins to grow again, the lawnmower will deal with any other brambles, saplings, nettles and other things that have been pushing their way up through the chicken coop for all that time.

After all this, M and I have started to deal with the huge amount of glass that's lying around the allotment. Using the old dustbin we rescued from the pile, we've started consolidating broken panes into the dustbin whilst we work out what the hell to do with them, whilst salvaging any good panes for the greenhouse I hope to build at a later date. Waste not, want not and all that. But what do you do with broken glass?




5th December 2019 - Barrowloads of Fun

My new wheelbarrow arrived!

My excitement is perhaps overwhelming, and, with hindsight, a little OTT. It is, after all, a wheelbarrow. I decided to treat myself to a new one, and found something on eBay for less than £30 delivered. Perhaps that was a warning sign that I should have heeded, but I wasn't feeling cynical on the day. Usually, I will buy stuff secondhand if I can, but a surprising lack of secondhand wheelbarrows that weren't totally rusted out prompted me to make what is, for me, and unusual decision.

Let's start with the positives. It took me about 20 minutes to put together once I had sussed the German instructions, and looks pretty nice. Here's a picture;

The first warning sign was a tag saying "For domestic use only". What does that even mean? What constitutes domestic use for a wheelbarrow? I found out pretty quickly. M and I have started to sort bricks that are lying around the allotment. I originally thought there might be a couple of hundred of them. I'm now of the opinion that there's perhaps 600 kicking around, hiding in places where you wouldn't normally expect to find them. They're half buried, hidden in the hedges and stuffed in old barrels. But anyway, I'm digressing here. I filled my beautiful new wheelbarrow up with with bricks, and headed to the recently-cleared "yard" down in the boiler house corner. However, I thought the tyre needed pumping up almost immediatedly, and the wheelbarrow flexed worryingly under the load of perhaps a dozen bricks.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the tyre can't be pumped up, the frame flexes and apparently moving bricks is something it's just not really capable of. I've bent the frame a bit, on day one, and have relegated it to moving wood and earth, which it seems happy enough doing. It'll have a long and useful life on the allotment, but, if I were starting again, I'd just buy a secondhand builder's barrow. Lesson learnt. But what did I expect for £30 delivered? I'm a fool.




2nd December 2019 - Finding the Corner - Part 2

Hi!

Perhaps it's not been as long as I initially thought, but it feels like it's been a long time since I wrote anything on here, despite being plenty busy enough. Christmas, and the excess that goes with it, has taken a hold and we have had another couple of wet weeks that have slowed progress down a bit.

On the other hand, M and I have had some pretty productive times and we've actually started to move forwards in some areas, which is pretty exciting. I spoke last time about the "discovered" bed, and we've made loads of progress in that area. I've been clearing it back, bit by bit, which is painfully slow progress. The various brambles from the ground have needle-like barbs that my builder's gloves aren't really a match for, so they have to be treated with the highest of reverence as you pull them out, chop them up and add them to the rapidly-growing bonfire pile. We are winning the battle, but it's quite the battle, and the bonfire pile is quite large now. We may have to look at another bonfire...

Anyway, I've yet to get to the most exciting part. Clearing at the back of the bed, my spade hit something solid. Moving across a little more, it still hid a solid mass. A lightbulb went on in my head, and I began to shuffle slowly towards the main path on an adjacent trajectory.

Surely enough, there's a secret path. Picture time!

What does this mean for me? Not a lot, really; it's just awesome to uncover things that have been hidden for so long. I haven't worked out yet if this path joins the lawn on the South side of the allotment, but it doesn't really matter; I can lay a new path to that effect when I need to. The cob nut tree, obviously only a sapling when the path was laid, now dominates what I assume would originally have been one of a pair of two beds with a path running up the centre of it. It's great to see some order, rather than just the overgrown end of the lawn that I was expecting. M has also requested that we lose the central bed on the lawn, so I'm quite excited to have gained a bed that's properly laid out, and that will compensate for the loss of the soon-to-be-turfed section. It remains to be seen whether or not the fruit bushes will recover that I've uncovered, or whether they're cooked by years of being overrun by brambles. Either way, I feel like we've got an awesome new part to the allmotment, and I'm excited by it.




1st December 2019 - Finding the Corner

It's been a fairly productive day in the allotment, for a change. For a change, we've had a clear, sunny day, although hovering around the freezing mark. Perfect for some manual work!

This week, I've been busy trying to get rid of a pile of rubbish from the house, and slowly filling up a skip by hand, which has been something of a pain. It's been enough to convince me that I need to sort my life out; or, at least; that I need a wheelbarrow. So, I'm going to buy one this week; an early Christmas present to myself!

Today, armed with snippers, I began to wade into the corner of the allotment that's so far been inaccessible. Vince reckoned there were currant bushes back there, in keeping with much of the rest of the allotment, and after a while I did find these, but they're looking very sorry for themselves. I pruned them back, heavily; nothing ventured, nothing gained, I suppose.

The corner is dominated by two trees. One is a cob nut tree, similar to a hazelnut tree, which needs some sorting itself with the lower branches bringing under control. I managed to cut some of the stragglers off from eye level, but will need to go back with the saw to make a proper go of it. The bulk of the overgrowth, however, is brambles. Cutting them back was kind of hard, but I managed to beat them up a bit with a piece of metal pole before cutting a lot of them from the base. Win!

I haven't dug anything out. At some point, these brambles must have been for fruiting puposes. Cutting them back and putting in some sort of frame will allow me to start these from scratch, and make some proper fruiting brambles from the mess that's there at the moment.

I think the biggest surprise is that there's proper, defined beds below all the mess, and they're big; ready for crops. I need to do some raking to sort out years and years of mulch and dead wood, then we'll see what we're dealing with for sure.



11th November 2019 - Bonfire Night

I'm writing this quite a while after the event, but wanted to write a few words, and perhaps splurge on a colour photograph.

On bonfire night, we finally got off our asses and dealt with the piles of rotten wood in the allotment. We've got the works; remains of collapsed roof, old doors, old fence posts and many other wooden joys. I've been stacking this up by the old boiler house over the summer, and it's turned into something of a mountain. On bonfire night, we decided to actually do something about it. On the morning, I set a pallet down on the ground and built the rotten wood into a pile. Building the bonfire on the day ensured that nothing had set up camp in it, such as a hedgehog. In the evening, we cracked open a few beers, had some friends around and finally set fire to the pile, which burned through the night until the next morning. Sometimes, you don't realise how much wood was lying around until it's gone.



2nd November 2019 - Garden Intruder!

I know it's the middle of the night, but I just had to write a couple of lines. Last night, M and I were attempting to sort out the long, delapidated room at the back of the house. It's something we've been putting off for a long time, and it's never really been unpacked since we moved here.

Just before we went to bed, I popped in to check the cat was OK. As I flicked the light on, I saw movement beyond the patio doors in the garden. What was it? Moving closer, I saw it was a hedgehog shuffling across the lawn, heading parallel to the ditch that runs at the side. I shouted to M to come and have a look. In hindsight, I think I panicked her, but neither of us had ever seen a hedgehog in the garden before!

Anyway, time to sleep. But, as you can tell, it's exciting :)



19th October 2019 - The Currant Situation

Let's face it; we all love a cheap pun, and they don't come much cheaper than that.

Weather-wise, we appear to have turned a corner. All of a sudden, temperatures have dropped, rain has returned to normal levels and the fruits have come to a stop suddenly. Autumn has arrived with a bang. All of a sudden, the growth of everything seems paused.

True to the word of our nearby gardener friend, whilst I was away ten-odd redcurrant bushes appeared over the hedge in the allotment, and whilst the rain beat down last Saturday I dug them in. There's a bed at the back that is nearly entirely comfrey, and I've dug most of this out and put in red currant bushes in a bed that really benefits from the beating sun in spring and summer. Comfrey, however, is a resilient plant and will probabably re-sprout. My thought, however, is to keep harvesting the comfrey for plant feed and keep it low; below a foot in height whilst the fruit bushes remain taller. It remains to be seen if this will work, but it's worth a punt!

One downside of all this activity is that, with the leaves now falling as well, there's a lot of mud around in the alloment and it's making the paths slippery and I've nearly come a cropper a couple of times now. This weekend, if it can stay dry, I'm hoping to get out there and get the paths brushed and cleared so they're no longer quite so lethal!

Otherwise, the cultivated blackberries are due to be cut back to the ground shortly after finishing fruiting. I've also got another variety planted that's supposed to be thornless, which came from Morrisons. I'm not sure if it will take or not; it looked pretty rough when planted; but I guess we'll find out. I'm not looking forward to cutting the massive brambles back...

Anyway, another update soon!



7th October 2019 - What'cha Been Doing?

Well, time’s been flying by. Sorry for being so quiet.

The past couple of months have been absolutely mental. M and I have been working our metaphorical arses to get the house up to scratch for the approaching winter, and satisfy our own self-imposed (and perhaps foolish) goal of refurbishing two rooms by the time Christmas arrives. That’s been going alright, but it’s very much at the expense of my beloved allotment.

Only in the last week have I really been able to get out there, and so far the month has been characterised by heavy rain that has made a lot of garden work nigh on impossible. Last week, we had over 20mm of rain in one night, which is about a third of the county’s average rainfall for October in one afternoon. Add in the heavy rain that we’ve had (and is still continuing) this week, and more than half the month’s rain has fallen in the first week of October. It’s a bit sodden out there.

It’s not all bad though. We’re continuing to harvest raspberries and blackberries that are piling up in the freezer to be consumed (most likely) with porridge or as part of a crumble. With the rain now hammering everything, the fruit seems to be slowing down and should be finished this week.

There’s a few things on the horizon that will be a little more exciting to write about. M’s Dad has been here for the last couple of days, and has been working on convincing us that we should put a polytunnel on the base of the old Anderson shelter, which hides at the back behind the compost bin. At present, it’s overrun with raspberries, which aren’t doing particularly well. There are tall hedges on three sides which obscures the sun at all times except the early morning. For a polytunnel, however, it would be the perfect spot; shaded from excessive UV, away from the wind and hemmed in by brick structures on both sides which will hold the heat. All that and it’s pretty close to the brick compost heaps, which will make it easy to wheel in compost and mulch. There’s even a path down the middle of it as well from it’s days of sheltering people from air raids. All this, and a neighbour says that he knows somebody who will buy excess home-grown tomatoes from allotment owners, so we may even be able to make a few quid next year if we play our cards right!

So, that’s exciting. What else is exciting?

There’s a very friendly gardener from across the lane. In times gone by he kept our allotment in check for the previous owner and now he takes an interest in what we’re getting up to in there as well. On Sunday, I was pottering around in the back lane in the early morning when he shouted at me to come over. He’s be asked to take a load of red currant bushes out of a neighbouring garden, so rather than skip them (what a shame) they will now be ours instead :) hopefully they’ll appear on the driveway soon.

On the more digital side of life, the website went down in early September when I tried to migrate from a Raspberry Pi Zero to an older Raspberry Pi 2, and I haven’t been able to get it going since. Clearly, I’ve been working on the offline version of the site, but that doesn’t really matter if it’s not accessible externally!

The hope is that, if we continue to make progress with the house inside, I will be able to find enough time next weekend to re-image the Pi 2 and get the site back up on the intarwebs where absolutely nobody will continue to read it. The idea of switching to a Pi 2 was to improve reliability with a cabled internet connection, but perhaps I should have just left well alone in this case.

I’ll be back soon - and I promise more pictures.



7th September 2019 - A Quick Update, Water Part 2 and RHUBARB.

Heyoooo!

It's been a quiet couple of weeks from me on the blog front, as I've continued battling away with the refurbishment of the house. We've been putting ceilings up, since you asked; they're looking beautiful now but there's still a fair bit of work to do with removing 30's wallpaper and painting.

Things have been a little quieter on the allotment front, but I've still managed to make a little progress out there in minutes snatched between doing other things.

Firstly, I've killed the rhubarb, by the look of it. There are some fantastic resources out there that advise on transplanting and relocating rhubarb (such as this link at rhubarb central) but, in my wisdom, I didn't read up at all, dug up my plants and moved them in with some unidentified compost in a different section of the garden. Predictably, they're now wilting and looking quite upset. There's a lesson here for sure; read up before trying to move your plants :( The plan for now is to just keep them well hydrated and hope that it does the trick. I'll keep you update on how that goes...

It's not all been doom and gloom. There has been a bit of progress on the water front! In the week, I was able to hook the drill pump (previously discussed) up and, for the first time, pump a little water up from the well. I've got an old green water butt that has been kicking around the allotment which I have fitted a new tap to. The jubilation of pumping up my first water, however, was short lived as I realised that the water butt has a crack in the base that slowly leaks. In hindsight, that's probably why it was discarded in the undergrowth to the side of the allotment... However, all is far from lost. I think it can be repaired with a bit of glue or brush-on fibreglass, and I'll report back as soon as this is done. I'm not one to waste a barrel that easily...

I don't think that my courgettes or tomatoes, transplanted to one of the main beds far too late in the year, are going to bear any vegetables. It's far too cold now, and I planted them out far too late. Why I didn't have them planted in the garden whilst we had the summer heat, I will never really understand. It's an opportunity missed, this year.

Anyway, it's time to make a cup of tea and work out what I'm going to get done this weekend. Broad beans are looking like a distinct possibility...



25th August 2019 - Lemon Balm!

It's been quite an eventful week in terms of the allotment and a couple of posts preceeding this one have yet to be drafted, but I'm working on it. Finding the time to write these (I tend to do them first thing in the morning, whilst M has a lie-in) can be tricky sometimes.

Anyway, let's talk about the plant "lemon balm". There's quite a bit of this in the allotment, spreading quite aggressively through the corner of the herb bed with a large amount of fennel. The herbs need sorting out a little, as we have lots of a couple of herbs, but others have been crowded out somewhat. A good, agressive prune at the end of the season and an actual plan as to what we want will probably help the situation!

We were both drawn to the lemon balm when M pulled a few leaves off and sniffed them, thinking they were a standard mint. However, the smell from the leaves is gorgeous; kind of lemon-like, very fresh and morish. If you don't know what it looks like, have a quick peek at the Wikipedia article for the plant. There's a number of pretty wild claims on the internet, which are clearly unsubstantiated, but there seems to be a concensus on it's positive effects on the digestive tract and possible calming properties. There's a little information here. Take it with a pinch of salt... the information, that is; not the tea. With regards to it's calming effects, I don't find that hard to believe; when I was a student I was an avid drinker of green tea, believing it improved my focus and relaxed me a little when revising for exams.

Anyway, making tea from it seems pretty easy. Go out and grab a handful of leaves. Bring them back, wash them, chuck them on a chopping board and mess them up a bit with a knife to release the oil. Chuck your leaves in a cafetière, top up with water that's just off the boil and leave for about 10 minutes before bringing the press down. Pour yourself a cup of tea. If you're a stinge like I am, keep a flask to hand and top the flash up with any leftover tea for a second round later!

Anyway, I've made myself thirsty now. I know it's just a novelty, but there's something cool about drinking stuff from your own allotment as well as eating the goodies. Now, what else can I make into tea...?



23rd August 2019 - Wishing Well... Water Pt. 1

The allotment has a well in the corner. When I first realised this, I was quite excited; after all, a well conjours up images of the classic wishing well, with a little roof, a circular built wall and perhaps a bucket that you wind up and down for water.

The reality, however, is somewhat different. The well is something of a horrendous hole in the ground, hidden away in the corner with an old concrete slab concealing it's existence to the world. If you're brave enough to lever up the slab, it's a brick-built pit to ground level that descends into the depths at about 6 foot in radius, down to some murky, muddy water. M and I once tested the depth with some rope and a brick, and there's about 5ft of water down there. However, if you went down, there's no way you'd come back up. With that in mind, I've always been happy to pull the slab back into place and forget it's there, until now.

There's no avoiding the fact that we'll need water. There's not much planted at the moment so I've been bringing a full watering can over, and that's been doing the job. However, when we've got beds full of veg, we'll probably have a more pressing need. There's currently no outhouses standing, so there's no guttering that I can harvest rainwater from, although that would be the ideal solution.

So, the need is clear. We have to get water from the well for watering. How to do this?A bit of research on the web suggests most people are using electric pumps, but we don't currently have electric over here, so that's out. Hand pumps are available on eBay, but they're £60 and I don't have that. It seems overkill to put a hand pump on, as well as being unnecessarily backwards. Surely there's a better solution in the modern day?

Enter the drill pump. Designed to be clamped onto by a cordless drill, these convert rotary motion to pumping water in a relatively cheap, compact fashion. It seems that this is a cheap, effective way to pump some water!

However, I don't want to bring the drill up to the allotment every time I want to water plants, although I don't mind doing it every so often. It seems, therefore, that some sort of tank solution is in order. We have a couple of options in the tank department. I've squirrelled away a couple of the blue plastic barrels that you can usually pick up from hand car washes for a pittance, but, in this case, I think I spied a better option. Hidden away in the hedge, overgrown and full of rancid water, was some sort of metal tank.

It took some pretty serious effort to remove, being full of 25% water and 75% mud. After emptying it using a bucket, I was eventually able to move it a little with a scaffold pole, some bricks and a very long lever angle. To illustrate, I've drawn a beautiful picture;

Anyway, it was freed at last. If I had to guess, I'd say this is an old water tank from somebody's loft; the gravity-fed type that's made out of galvanised steel. For our purposes, however, it's great; it will hold a huge amount of water, allow a tap to be fitted to the front for filling watering cans and a hose inlet to be fitted to the side. With a hose inlet fitted, I can then connect it up to the other end of the hose that runs to first the drill pump, then the well, allowing me to occasionally run the drill pump for a few minutes to top up the massive tank... but not too often.

I'm fortunate; I found a tank in the allotment hedge, a long length of hose was also found and I have a well. All in all, the system has cost about £20; with most of the cost going on water butt taps and the £10 drill pump. Next on the list is to drill the tank out, fit the taps and build a block plinth with mortar for it to sit on. It'd probably be a good idea for me to pop a lid on as well to protect the legions of cats that patrol the local area.

There will be a part 2 of the completed system, but I'll wait until it's properly connected. Until next time!



19th August 2019 - The Boiler House & the Lodger

At the end of the allotment stands the boiler house.

picture of a ruined outbuilding

Once upon a time, it had a noble purpose; there was a stove in here that heated water that was then pumped under the path to heat the (now long-gone) greenhouse. In the greenhouse, something exotic would have been growing; perhaps oranges or the like.

However, those heady days are now long gone. Now the only outbuilding left (sort of) standing, it’s fallen in on itself years ago and now lies destitute in the corner. Brambles are happily growing up through it, bearing some pretty good black berries and a tree winds through the pile of rotten corrugated iron.

It’s about 8 feet square, which is a nice size for a little potting shed, possibly even with a stove for warming up between working in winter. There may even still be a stove in there; it’s impossible to tell at the moment. I think that M has a vision, which I’m hoping she’ll draw and share with me soon! But a chair, a tiny stove (for tea), some shelves for pots and a rack for gardening tools would be ideal. I’m quite creative with solar panels and batteries, so lights and perhaps a radio wouldn’t go amiss either.

So, I’ve started clearing out. The rotten wood is being piled up behind the brick compost bin ready for bonfire night, and I’ve started separating out metal, felt roofing and glass for taking to the recycling centre. However, when removing one piece of old roof, I was stopped in my tracks;

picture of a ruined outbuilding

Sleeping peacefully beneath it all, there is a snoozing hedgehog. There may well be more behind; I can’t tell. But he or she has found a nice patch, amongst the rubbish, to curl up and stay safe. Therefore, shed rebuilding is paused for now whilst I research building a new home for the ‘hog, and build up a new hedgehog house over winter.

The Woodland Trust seems to have some pretty good resources on making up hedgehog houses. I’ll report back in “The Boiler House – Part 2”.



13th August 2019 - Neither Here Nor There

Well, so much for "we're nearly there" in my last post. Each day has dragged as we head towards the new lease, whilst I've tried to adopt a hands-off approach and not to chase it too much.

I still walk down the road and around the corner on most days; down the rocky lane and to the bottom, where the ramshackle entrance to the allotment is. Once upon a time, a garage stood here, but now there is just a plinth and the hint of where it once stood. A gate is lashed in place that then leads through, though your progress is immediately impeded by the overgrowth on the path. You can squirm out into the grassy area instead from here.

Perhaps it's worth writing a couple of words about why these are here. The allotments were divvied up in about 1900, at the same time as a long row of sophisticated houses were being built on the next street along. The big houses, built on the roadside, each had a thousand-yard garden leading to a lane. Across the lane, each was assigned an allotment for the home gardener. The houses still stand; they're enormous places.

As the years went by, another row of houses leading to a new street was built behind the allotments. Over the years, these more modest households have slowly bought most of the allotments up, to give themselves long gardens with access from that service lane. A couple lie abandoned; pockets of forest in suburbia with ruined outbuildings split open like sprouting potatoes. I find these mysteriously beautiful, but, after all, I am very easily pleased.

So, this eclectic collection of allotments is now split. Some remains the playthings of the big houses, some are abandoned and some are now garden extensions of the more modest street on the other side. Ours is one of the only ones to retain the allotment form; split into well-defined beds, with double compost heaps and a couple of ruined outbuildings.

Anyway, it's raining and I've read my allotment books to death as well as watching Youtube videos. Perhaps it's time to take a break and do something else... like research garlics!

Thanks for stopping by!



30th July 2019 - A Waiting Game

We’re nearly there.

As far as we know, it’s only a week or two now until we can start work; there’s nothing slower than paperwork. Every day, I walk around the block to the allotment, sticking my head over the rickety gate that’s propped in place. Not much is going on besides the grass getting cut occasionally between the higher vegetable beds.

It’s getting quite overgrown in there. The old boiler house is pretty much lost amongst an ash tree and a buddleia that’s swamping that corner, and the other end is suffering from some over-enthusiastic holly bushes that are pushing in over the paths.

Paperwork’s a sod. We’re itching to get to work. Before anything else, we need to have a cut back and a few trips to the recycling centre. The large central path is unnavigable due to shrubbish weeds pushing across it and a bed of fennel that is now about four metres high.

Each evening, M and I make excited plans; reading books, drawing out plans for the beds and trying to get our heads around what we can grow. It’s at times like these that you seem to call on the wisdom of your parents; my Mum is a gardening guru, and M’s Dad runs a garden centre. Between them, they’re quite the mine of information.

But, for now, the selection of rusty old tools in our garage waits quietly. So far, the book that’s helped us the most is probably John Seymour’s “Complete Book of Self Sufficiency”. I had it as a child, when I dreamed about the concept of self-sufficiency and religiously watched “The Good Life” on repeat. The book is great, and aimed at just the right level for the allotment holder.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. Time ticks on, and paperwork continues to be… paperwork.

Catch up soon.