Allotment Adventures: Storm Dennis

I need to start this week’s update on the plot with a tiny rant. On the 23 Jan, I ordered lots of raised beds from Primrose, three for me and seven for Dionne, they had a 2 to 4 days delivery window. On the 11 Feb, after 3 phone calls, on email and two promises of delivery in the next week, I cancelled the order because Primrose could not tell me when they would be delivered, just that they were having problems with the warehouse, caused by a move. They are still accepting orders for goods they know they can’t deliver. The refund will take up to 5 working days. So it may be in my bank account by the time you read this.Ma and I have decided that we will take that money and build the beds ourselves. But it’s really frustrating because I could have done that four weeks ago and then I’d be done with the beds and all I’d have to do was the pond and the compost.However, with this news and a visit on Wednesday, when Ma almost finished the last bit of weeding and I cut some kale, filled up the bird feeders and pulled up some grass (I was only there for an hour before I had to go back to work, Ma spent the afternoon) and the impending arrival of Storm Dennis, Ma and decided that a weekend off was the way forward.We are no further on with the list but it does need some adjustment. I’m still hopeful that I’ll be done with most of this list (we are not going to get around to the compost buying this month) but the end of the month. We have two more working weekends until March!

  • Build two new fruit beds and four new beds.
  • Transplant the roses
  • Move the boysenberry
  • Split the autumn raspberry bed into two.
  • Sow some more broad beans and cover the bed with netting
  • Pull up the chard and cover that bed
  • Set up the cloche
  • Sow sweet peas
  • Sow leeks
  • Buy seed potatoes (we couldn’t get nicola’s so went for charlottes)
  • Paint the shed
  • Split and trim the verbena bonariensis and move the stuff next to the rhubarb
  • Trim the rosemary and sage
  • Sow the first batch of peas
  • Weed everything!
  • Buy compost and start filling some beds
  • Turn the compost bins
  • Have another bonfire
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Soil, God and Lent

Last week the email about Grace Lent activities came around. My Grace attendance has been terrible for the last couple of years for lots of reasons I’m not going into but the Lent activities are all based on the themes of Soul, Soil and Society. I was looking at the list of planned activities and one of them is sowing potatoes and other seeds on an allotment that a couple of Grace members share. I thought looking at the list that I probably have the soil element of the theme covered but it did make me reflect on the way that soil and cultivation of it prepares you for a relationship with God. I have written before about how the plot helped me re-find my sense of relationship with God that went missing for a bit. I think that caring for land or a plot is, in its very nature an act of optimism and that is never more evident than in Lent. There’s a reason that the Church shifted the celebration of Lent and Easter to spring.

Before the plot, I always understood Lent as the preparation for Easter. “Prepare ye the way for the Lord” is a massive part of what we are trying to do during Lent, to make ourselves better Christians, to shape ourselves into the people that God means us to be. Lent’s focus on fasting or as my Grandad would have it ‘self denial’ fits really well into the idea of changing our sinful nature and living in a fallen world, which is still a massive part of much Christian theology. I’m not a huge believer in original sin or a fallen world (I know that I fall short but because I’m as human as God made me not because I’m inherently bad and I can’t believe in a loving God, who would punish us for being who He made us).  But it also made a virtue out of there not being much growing that you can eat, of being towards the end of your winter stores so our idea of Lent is really shaped by Northern European agrarian life, fasting when the body has no other choice.I knew that but what I also understand now is Lent as a season of hope, as a time of preparation for joy. Because this time of year on the plot is rough. Not much is growing and I’ve spent a lot of time on preparation, more so this year with the new half, but this time of year is all about getting the plot ready for growing. It all looks bleak but I’m trying to create the right conditions for growth without any guarantee that anything will work. You can’t harvest in summer, if you don’t plant in spring but the act of planting, guarantees nothing. It could be too dry, or too wet or a cold snap might kill all the newly emerged shoots, or the seeds might be duds, or the birds and might might eat them, or there could be an aphid attack, or the fox could use your plants as cushions, the list of things that could go wrong is long and scary.There is no choice if I want food except to try, to prepare the soil, to sow the seeds, to hope that it works. So during Lent, I can use the plot as mediation for my spiritual life. To see Jesus’ journey to the Cross in the same light. He’s sowing seeds, preparing the way, doing all this work and sacrifice, with no guarantee it’ll work and He’ll change us, that we’ll see more, do better, be God’s hands and help others.Lent makes more sense to me, because I can understand how God feels about me because it’s what I’m trying to do to the plot.

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Monday Miscellany: Wind and Rain

Happy Monday!

Storm Dennis is over but most of Wales seems to be under water, the pictures are grim but please don’t tell me climate change isn’t real…

Eventually the sun came out but the weekend has been pretty grim. The week that came before it was ok, work was busy as everyone geared up for time off because of half term, which means that this week should be less busy and I can start to get some longer term things off my list.

It’s light at 7:30am in the mornings which makes me so happy!

This week I’m all about trying to get enough sleep, my sleep has got really erratic recently. I’m also struggling for motivation to do anything at the moment so I need to sort myself out.

I’m going to the theatre on Thursday afternoon and to the cinema in the evening, and yes I will be working from home on Friday!

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Sunday Music: George Benson – Give Me the Night

This was on the radio yesterday morning because generally, Saturday morning is a 6Music time. It’s impossible not to love this song and if you don’t, we probably won’t be friends…

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Friday Links: Shuffle

Happy Friday! I’ve had another busy week so this is short on news from this week, which has been as absolute clusterfuck of terribleness…

Here are this week’s links…

Experience: I get drunk without drinking. The human body is weird..

Karen Pierce appointed first female British ambassador to US This is a very interesting appointment

Number of workers living in poverty rises for third straight year. We are heading straight back to the Victorian era. You see it with the sectioning off of the deserving and undeserving poor and this.

Mary Lou McDonald: Sinn Féin leader who may play Dublin kingmaker

Angel Lane Chippie, Penrith: ‘It doesn’t need changing’ – restaurant review. Where I live, the best place is The Golden Chipin Hanwell, but is a long walk from my house. Walking distance from my house is Andy’s, which used to be great but is merely ok nowadays (and really expensive). Nowadays, I mostly confine my fish and chip cravings and save them for Amble, we go to Harbour Fish Bar and it’s great but The Old Boat House is really lovely for a proper restaurant experience. But I am a Londoner and curry sauce and mushy peas are rank…

Flip flop: why is the first pancake always a dud? Use the Delia Smith recipe and get the pan really hot. You have about two weeks to practice!

America’s elite is plotting revenge. This is interesting but the truth is that if it happens, Trump and the Republican party still did it. The constitution is there to balance each side. The GOP and Trump are stomping over every norm, every process, they’ve rigged it so that they win every time. And reasonableness at some point snaps. So yes if this happens then America will have changed for the worst because at some point you can’t compromise without being walked over. Obama was reasonable, the GOP was not. Trump is not reasonable and neither are the 43% of American voters that voted for him. They don’t want compromise, they want capitulation and you can’t work with that.

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Allotment Adventures: Calm Before the Storm

We are so close. Last Wednesday, Ma did a good three hours of weeding and then did another three hours on Saturday. The area that has no beds on it, is now weed free, it’s pretty impressive.On Wednesday, I trimmed the verbena and Ma and I finally sowed the broad beans and netted them, we also had to remove and encroaching raspberry runner. I love raspberries but they are little buggers, look at the size of that root!Anyway the broad bean netting is a thing of allotment beauty!On Saturday, while Ma was taming the weeds, I got on with other stuff. First I weeded the little bed that we’d put down next to one of the squash beds. Then I took up two of the flower circles at the top of the plot. They contained verbena and carnations and dianthus. The compost from the beds, went into the little bed and the plants when into the edge of the rose bed (verbena) and the flower bed (carnations and dianthus).Then I moved a self seeded oregano and two lavenders into the rose bed and moved one of the verbenas in the middle of the old plot. We have narcissi flowering right now, when they are done, we’ll move that last circle bed and but the narcissi in the big bed at the top. The chard did really badly in there and we decided it will be a flower bed in future. (I did buy a lot of seeds in Wilko last week)That done Ma and I had a discussion about the long beds, so the three we ordered haven’t arrived but I really wanted to split the autumn raspberries, so we decided to move what had been the boysenberry bed until last week to where one of the new beds was going to go and split the autumn raspberries into that. We also decided that the space left would be where our blueberries could go and that we’d only have three square beds instead of four.

I still wasn’t done. I sowed the sweet peas, I decided with Storm Ciara due on Sunday that I wouldn’t put the cloche up. I did try to burn the rubbish heap but failed (I am not a twisted firestarter!). Then I decided to build the last bed we’d planned to build. It’s not even close to lined up but I’m beyond caring about straight. Ma was nearly finished so I started to tidy up. I was worried about the impending storm and the rubbish pile (it’s all weeds and cuttings, not actual rubbish) when I hit on the genius idea of using the currently empty compost bin we found in the hedgerow. We put it at the back and loaded the pile into it, it can sit there forever and rot down and be tidy! I also spent a couple of minutes at the back of the plot, picking up rubbish, this is the area where the shed and other assorted rubbish was and people throw stuff over the fence, so I just want to pick stuff up every time we go to start to clean it up a bit. This rubbish got taken home! Finally we filled up the bird feeders…

So here’s where we’re at with the February list, we are six more beds and a pond away from having all the structure in place for spring…

  • Install the first three long beds next to the fruit beds
  • Transplant the roses
  • Move the boysenberry
  • Split the autumn raspberry bed into two.
  • Sow some more broad beans and cover the bed with netting
  • Pull up the chard and cover that bed
  • Set up the cloche
  • Sow sweet peas
  • Sow leeks
  • Buy seed potatoes (we couldn’t get nicola’s so went for charlottes)
  • Paint the shed
  • Split and trim the verbena bonariensis and move the stuff next to the rhubarb
  • Trim the rosemary and sage
  • Sow the first batch of peas
  • Weed everything!
  • Buy compost and start filling some beds
  • Turn the compost bins
  • Have another bonfire

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Monday Miscellany: Cosy

Happy Monday!

Last week was fun, it felt busy but manageable. On Tuesday, Ma and I went to see David Copperfield which was a lovely, joyous film. On Wednesday, I worked from home, I spent lunch time on the plot and very reluctantly went back to work but left Ma on the plot. I failed to have a haircut because Jane wasn’t well so I have fringe issues….

Yesterday, I spent all day indoors and did nothing useful except reading which is I suppose, useful but not in a directly tangible way. It’s given me a new favourite quote and a motto for the next few months, “Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts”.

Despite the time off at Christmas, I’ve hit a wall, I need time and rest and daylight. Basically, I need a holiday, roll on April!

This week my plan is to see the doctor to talk about my ‘inexplicable fevers’ and to have a smear (I’m not going to be coy about it, I don’t like them but if you have a vagina, make sure you’re up to date with your smear test).

Medical joys aside, I have a busy work week and no other plans.

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