The irises on the plot came up just in time for my grandmother’s birthday.
Iris Lillian Bright was (I’m told) named Iris because they were blooming in her father’s garden when she was born (and she would probably have been born at home). She was by all accounts lovely and I’m sure I would have loved her but she was only a year older than I am now when she died. My grandparents marriage wasn’t a great success, it may have gotten smoother if they’d had more time, it may have got worse. We can’t know, I’ve always thought that not having Iris around probably gave Grandad a chance to shine with his grandchildren. Although, if Iris had lived longer Ma would probably have gone onto A levels and University and I wouldn’t have existed.
I will always have irises in my garden mostly because they are pretty and also because they are a part of my childhood, Grandad used to bring irises in May, and because they link me to all the people that are a part of who I am even though I never met them!
Back to the music that you inherit, this one is from Ma. There is a story. She heard it on the radio and then went to the record shop and sang it because she didn’t catch what it was called. Not something I ever had to do because I heard it a lot growing up. And not something anyone would be able to do now!
I am all for civility, of course I am. Here’s the thing though: civil rights have never been won by grovelling at the feet of people who hate you and saying, ‘Please sir, can I have a few more rights?’
A fresh approach: cut food bills by growing your own fruit and veg. Some of this advice is pretty good. I love growing both carrots and potatoes but far more cost effective are things like salad and soft fruit (this is why have I eight blueberry bushes, two blackcurrant bushes, a boysenberry bush, two beds of raspberries, and the reason for adding strawberries last year and small blackberries this year) but if you’re thinking about this, think about space and what you like to eat. I remember at the height of the lockdown, explaining to a lovely couple that while a square meter bed, can provide quite a lot of food it wouldn’t feed them and the lead time for salad is five to six weeks. Also if you have nothing set up, the savings to your food bill have to be set against the cost of set up. Ma and I budget £100 a month for the plot and that’s not just for growing, it also helps with the cost of processing. We make pesto and while it’s marginally cheaper than buying it, I do need to buy the other ingredients and pay for the energy to store it. So it may just be more cost effective to pay for one jar, than having to spend the equivalent cost of 10 or 20 jars in one hit. Having said that, growing, processing, cooking and eventually eating food from your garden, is beneficial for more than just your budget, but if you’re really pushed for cash, it’s probably not a solution.
We’re coming up to halfway through the month and I haven’t planted anything outside.
I’ve got most of the tomatoes into the polytunnel and we’ve sown celeriac, peas, carrots and beetroot outside but aside from tomatoes, I’ve only sown a couple of butternut squash and some basil. I’m not struggling, I’m just determined not to worry too much about it, things will catch up.
This weekend we topped up the Red Duke of York potatoes and I planted the sweet potatoes that arrived last week. I’ve put them in the polytunnel this year to see if they will do better in there, I just put them into the bed that has the salad in it, but the time the sweet potatoes start to grow, the salad and radishes will be done, and if they aren’t then they can all fight it out. That bed also has a rogue potato plant in it, which is obviously one left behind by Joe, so I know it’ll be a Charlotte, we’ll see if being in the ground since 2019, is good for production! We also had a bit of a clear out and started to fill the second bed as it’s time to think about planting that one up, My working plan is melons and a cucumber, I don’t know what’s too much for these beds, so it’ll either be over or under planted, just right is not a state I excel at.
It’s also path tidying time, I strimmed one side and Ma and I embarked on a tidy/weed of the paths and beds. Next week we’ll work on the more over grown side and probably do it twice.
We pulled up the last of the spring greens so we can start to prep those beds for squash and beans and I moved the arch constructed the week before last to the long beds. Lastly, I had a tantrum-y clear up of the shed.
It’s looking pretty right now, the poppies, cornflowers, irises and knautia are starting to flower. My favourite yellow rose is flowering and my peony has produced one perfect bloom, which is a result because I moved them and wasn’t expecting anything from it this year. The borage, orache, pot marigold, and other assorted annuals are coming up. The perennial cornflowers are blooming too and the freesia bulbs that I planted up a couple of weeks ago are pushing up through the soil.
In the food garden we have our first embryo berries (blueberries, blackcurrant and raspberries) and plums, and the strawberries (alpine and ordinary) and boysenberries are in full bloom. I also succumbed to the lure of a special offer and we now have three patio blackberries (cascade) to plant up. Fruit is expensive and it doesn’t need the care that tomatoes do so even though I’ll never be entirely self-sufficient, it’s a very cost effective thing to grow.
The garlic and onions are looking strong and the chives are flowering, although it’ll be a while there are pea, carrot and beetroot seedlings (we are still waiting on the parsnips!), it’s all pretty exciting
My aim is to have all of the summer crops in their final beds by the next bank holiday weekend, which is about three and a half weeks. So this is my worklist from now until then:
Build arches for squash and bean beds
Top up the beds that haven’t had compost yet
Plant blackberries in new pots
Sow climbing beans next to the arches (giantes/purple and green french beans)
Sow bush beans in beds (yellow french beans/Jacobs cattle beans)
Sow cucumber bed
Sow melons and cucumber in polytunnel
Sort the boysenberry/strawberry/gooseberry area next to polytunnel
Sow winter squash/summer squash for planting out (if it hasn’t already been done by the time this post goes out)
It’s been a ride. Six years ago, it was a half plot. It had a plum tree, two rhubarb crowns, some raspberries, lots of metal pipes and weeds, lots and lots of weeds.
We dug most of it over and by the end of May, we had some beds. That tiny bed behind the courgettes is the herb bed, it’s still there, but much bigger!
Since that first month, the plot has completely changed, we’ve built raised beds, grown food and flowers, learned about soil health, gained a shed, the other half of the plot, a polytunnel, I dug a pond!
I’ve learned to love tomatoes, Ma has learned to love butternut squash and sweet potatoes. We’ve become gardeners, accidentally no dig and sort of organic (I do use tomato feed but we don’t use weed or insect killers). I have a gardening style that drives Ma nuts, it’s letting plants I like seed where they want in the paths and Ma would like to kill everything in the paths!
It’s changed how we eat, how we feel about agriculture and food policy and poverty, it’s not always perfect or easy and it’s not cheap. I once said that an allotment will take all your time and all your money and I stand by that. Sometimes things don’t work and we have to pivot.
Overall, it has improved my mental health, that could be because of dirt, or being outside or having something to care for (some people have pets, I have a plot!). It could be the massive amount of achievement I feel when I look at this space. From what it was to what it is.
Of course, like everything in life, I didn’t do this alone. Ma has discovered a love of gardening, she didn’t know she had, which she must have got from her Grandad George, he was a market gardener and the man who named two of his daughters after what what blooming in his garden when they were born (Iris and Violet). She’s been amazing, even if she sometimes confuses plants for weeds.
The shed went up with the help of Adam and Mike and Christelle. The polytunnel thanks to Sue and Richard. Jonny gave me plants, Kathy bought me tools, the herb garden was thanks to Christelle. The first tomatoes I grew were a gift.
So it wasn’t all me. I’m still really proud of what we turned this into. Six years ago, didn’t know what I was doing. Today, I’m a gardener and this is my garden.
We’ve had the election results and the overall feeling is that Labour could have done better and the Tories didn’t do as badly as expected. The greased piglet lives to fight another day and the Daily Mail managed a campaign to smear Kier Starmer, which has been successful enough to get the Durham police to reopen an investigation. I don’t think he broke lockdown rules, I think Johnson did, fragrantly. However, the DM wants to keep Boris in power so to hell with fairness and the polity of the nation, they are going to convince us that all politicians are the same and none should be trusted. Thus reducing the amount of people that can be bothered to vote. That’s the plan and so far it appears to be working.
I did vote because as I have said many times (like a broken record) democracy only works if we vote and people died so I could. I don’t take it for granted. It can do amazing things, look at Northern Ireland! I sort of think, we’re looking at the break up of the Union in the next 50 years, or maybe everyone will start getting serious about government and it’ll just be a massive change in the constitution (I’m for proper federalisation of the England, Scotland and Wales and returning NI to Ireland) but there are lots of other options that we should be discussing.
My week at work was actually fun, I’m currently trying to organise my work so that I can go on holiday next week with a clear conscience, which means I’m dealing with all the things I’ve been procrastinating about. It’s been a really good week. It’s been four years at the end of the month since I started working here and honestly, it feels like forever and five minutes, in the best possible way. This week, I’ll be doing more of the same and covering another PA while she recovers from an op. It’ll be a busy week and I quite like them that way, more so at this time of year.
I also managed to give 12 tomato plants away to work people and rhubarb and I baked, I’m living up to all my stereotypes…
It was Mother’s Day in the rest of the world yesterday. Cue the social media about thinking of people who might find the day difficult. I think I’ve said before but I don’t, I’m lucky of have a mother who raised me well and loved me lots and manages to be a good and a bad influence. Any regret about children or the my thereof doesn’t make me sad or angry or lonely on Mother’s Day. I’ve been trying to work out what it is that make me so uncomfortable and cross with the social media messages about finding it hard, have I been protesting too much that it doesn’t bother me?
Yesterday I worked it out. Someone posted a message that said “Happy Mothers Day for those that celebrate”. It was lovely and I didn’t feel cross seeing it, I thought it was nice and moved on. The other ‘we’re thinking of you’ message, feels like it’s trying to be empathetic but it’s actually othering. Not having a good relationship with your mum, or having a dead one, or not being a mother when you want to can be hugely painful and it could be painful on Mothers Day but the ways these posts acknowledge that is “of course we are thinking about you because you are going to be sad because you don’t have this thing that is fundamental to womanhood”. Which it problematic anyway but particularly at this moment in history. Anyway, I’m glad to have worked that out…
This week, is all about work and holiday prep, I will be making sure that by the time I leave next week, work will be squared away, the house will be tidy, the fridge will be empty and all the baby plants will be in the polytunnel.
They are small goals but they’re mine. Have a good week!
I’m spending this one in the office, so this was complied yesterday. It feels like the news is moving pretty fast and I have no idea of outcome of the local elections so who knows if any of these will be current (except for the one about Crossrail)…
Boris Johnson has lost the Tories’ respect – so why has he not lost their support? There’s something missing in all of this. It’s the concern for the country. I grew up under a Tory govt and a Thatcherite one to boot, but I have never seen so many politicians, mostly Tory but somae on the left, so invested in themselves, rather than their constituents or the country. Boris Johnson is objectively bad for the country and for the body politic, but they don’t actually care because it’s not awful for them. I feel especially in light of the legislation they have managed to push through that they are actively working to return us to the 1800’s when it didn’t matter if people that weren’t them starved. I said a couple of years ago that I hadn’t been this despairing of state of the country since 1992 but it’s actually got worse in the interim.
The case against SCOTUS. I feel that the US and the UK, I don’t know enough about other Western democracies. The slide into autocracy feels like it could be like Hemingway’s description of bankruptcy, ‘Gradually, then suddenly’
Crossrail: much-delayed Elizabeth line to open on 24 May. But you still have to change at Paddington and Bond Street won’t be open. So sort of open and 3 and a half year overdue. And Ealing Broadway Station still isn’t finished, there are stairs fenced of and it looks like a building site. It’ll be interesting to see how many people who currently change on to the Central Line at Ealing Broadway, decide to go into Paddington and thus make my Central Line commute less crowded.
In the UK, we have yet another Bank Holiday, I’m not complaining, they come thick and fast in Spring and we have two at the beginning of June.
I will either spend today being super productive or lying on the sofa reading a book, I haven’t decided yet!
Last week was strange, I was set for a super productive week but by Wednesday, I was feeling a little bit like someone had smacked me, repeatedly and I had a headache. I think that it’s mostly due to having stopped and having to restart my HRT, it wasn’t COVID, but I did the sensible things, (early nights, lots of water etc) and rallied for Saturday when Ma and I went to see the rest of the family.
It was lovely, we sat in the garden and had lunch and it was just a nice time.
I have two weeks at work until I’m on leave for a week and then back for a week and then on leave for four days and then it’s June. So I’m going to be busy making sure that everything is as sorted as I can make it. I also need to deliver some training, which to be totally honest, is not my skill set but I want to make a start on that. So that’s going to be my focus this week. Socially, it’s the usual, hopefully a walk with Sue later on in the week and allotment, followed by Grace is on Saturday.
That absolutely works for me, it’s Spring and I feel like everything is about to kick off but I just need to make sure that all the basics are in place before it does!
‘We’re not all terrible’: the landlords who keep rents low. I know good landlords exist but as a tenant, I feel vulnerable all the time. This article was obviously a response to this one ‘Can that be legal?’ UK tenants forced from their homes by soaring rents and I can’t help but feel that this is missing the point. I have a good landlord, he’s been great but I have a kitchen that is falling apart and no date for when it will be fixed, although it will be this year. I know there are reasons, but I don’t feel I can ask for a definite date, because in July the contract gets renewed and I’m already worried that some of the things he wants to do are because he wants to sell it, which is what happened to my mum. I’ve done the legwork of getting a design which should be a good sign that he wants me to have a kitchen I’m happy with. But moving would cost a fortune, buying anywhere even via shared ownership is pretty impossible and I have no security of tenure. I’m always worried about it even though I’ve lived there 13 years. Rent controls, minimum standards, an end to no fault evictions should be the minimum renters should expect.