Sunday, 8 November 2009

Put a Slammin' Burn Up On It!




It has been all too long since I published a post; all too long since I have been on the allotment proper with my favourite green fingered pals Kt and Jake, aka Parsley and Sir Cakealot. One installment for October! Agh, for shame. I've been far too busy pedaling my new novella : Blood & Rorschach - see http://www.insertspace.org.uk/blood&rorschach.htm for more details. That, and suffering from a three week shit storm that was flu, becoming a Godfather...yadda yadda!

It was great to get back on the scene, albeit hungover and badly prepared for a burn up in Cakealot parlance. It was a late October afternoon, and the allotment had transformed from a warm verdant and yellow haven to a colder, yet subtly more beautiful grey, orange and black one. Leaves everywhere, good for mulching - strewn all about. Cakealot raked some up and made a ramshackle leaf bin to join my even more ramshackle composting bins.

Parsley and Cakealot prepared the fire with a pile of thorny twigs and hay that we had raked off on the great strimmer crusade back in September, whilst I ran back to get my gardening gloves, left behind in excitement / forgetfulness. The conflagration was coming on a treat by the time I got back, with me nearly putting an end to it by swamping it with Glypho-hay. It was smouldering mightily - with great gusts of green and blue smoke which lead me to say 'Satan's Nostrils.' Shortly after the fire burst into life.

By turns we stood and admired the columns of flame or kept throwing on the dead branches & c. It was sweaty work, always a bit of a paradox in cold weather. I think the old spirit of destruction was rife. I did a little Native American Indian dance and a verse to dispel Ian's ghost - time's tide has eroded my memory but I know it ended with a line like : 'No more 1664 this day.'

The fire was a beautiful sight and felt like an organic progression in the growth of our plot. Plus the ash that was left over was raked into the recently forked soil, which should be a immense boon for our potatoes which Jake will be planting very soon.

The resident favourite feline Gigasmethick appeared to say hello, reminding me of the manifold charms of an allotment. It just gets better every time. With the imminence of a proper Winter I'm interested to see the changes that will take place. Already I've worked less on the gardening front than I might like, but my interest hasn't diminished one bit. The good old Bulldog spirit - but in my case a wiry Schnauzer. Stay tuned!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Operation Blackberry or, Destruction of Cat City




The long awaited Operation Blackberry finally went underway last week. Basically, Parsley and I set about drastically cutting back all the brambles that were surrounding the plot. Satan had truly had his way with the berries by this point, as for the most part they were shriveled and inedible.

I went to it with customary brio, yet in the true way of nature vs nurture, I felt divided. All this from someone who was ready to nuke the lot! For the most part I was using my telescopic loppers - yes they are as awesome as they sound, even if it's not the technical term for them. As some of the thorny stems were so thick and buried it took good old Python power to hack them up. Otherwise we were getting in with the secateurs. Make no mistake it's a messy job. Sir Cakealot had forewarned me in a scene that unfolded not entirely unlike this :

Sir Cakealot brings three steaming goblets of tea to his round table where he's holding council with his wife Lady Masters and his aide Sir Edward of Wakefield.

Sir Cakealot : 'Hark, Sir Edward. M'lady tells me you are set to tackle the veritable beast that is the bramble bush on yonder.'

Sir Edward : 'T'is true me Lord, I have about my person the very weapons by which I shall best the beast,' so saying Sir Edward arrays before him an axe, throwing knives & c.

Sir Cakealot : 'Hmmm, you may need more than that, there are wild cats about, the Manx sort as I have heard; the brambles are as steel and will whip and gouge at the merest provocation too. Look,' Sir Cakealot draws back the sleeves of his tunic and displays an impressive array of white scars, small lacerations offset by coiled serpentine wounds.

Sir Edward : 'Ha, t'is but sport sir! Let us see what the day brings.'

Lady Masters : 'Grow up.'

I ignored the pain of getting my arms shredded. Even with a jumper on I was pockmarked by the cat tooth sharpness of some of the thorns. It was like a jungle, a dense canopy of old, dead leather brown stems and the hardy youth of the emerging new ones. The cutting back was addictive though, so we kept going, amassing some three or four giant piles of thorny detritus.

Sir Cakealot brought magnums over at around four o' clock. That gave me some much needed energy and I went ape with a rake, smashing down and pulling up bramble city aka cat city. The felines love it in there, what with frogs, rats and mice. That or they're just being weirdos.

In the meantime, I shall mostly be admiring my own collection of small scars. It's like a tally of how many bramble kills I've made. I'm not violent, honest.

A good days work makes for a bit o' the old two thumbs fresh.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

I ♡ Petrol Strimmers

For Kate, this was the day we achieved the most on the allotment. I coaxed up other examples - the great 1664 shift, building the compost bins, laying down the GLYCO/glypho. But in the end I think she was right. Just look at the progress we've made :


Awesome! At last it feels like we're making some proper headway.

It started late, as we were procrastinating largely, and I had to head to the dreaded Kings Heath Sainsbury's which barely ever seems to be quiet. It fills me with dread, worse than going to the dentist or a Westlife special on ITV. So I was glad to get out of there and down to the allotment, fully tooled up with huge reams of plastic, a fork, the petrol strimmer + cables for chopping. We worked out we hadn't been in three and a bit weeks so we were eager to go.
There was a setback / bonus in that all our rubbish had been shifted from the bottom of the allotment. Trouble was we still had tonnes of carpet and other bits to dump - essentially we were hoping for one giant shift. But it wasn't to be! Maybe if we're really lucky we can get the council to shift the second batch, but it looks like a gruesome prospect. The spirit of Ian is still playing tricks on us it seems.

Nonetheless it was a beautiful day, mellow sun and full wildlife activity, including a stoned out Gigasmethwick. I started out in the stress mode, looking around bewildered at the amount we had given ourselves, but as soon as I started peeling back the carpet and seeing how effective the weedkiller had been, I was 'becalmed'. As ever worry was banished by a bit of the old GET ON WITH IT mentality. As we only had one rake, I went back to get my hideous lime green Wilko one, in the process making an earl grey for Kt (Parsley) and swaddling the cup in cling film to keep it hot on the way back. It's pretty handy living two minutes away from paradise.

Once I'd eaten I managed to apply myself properly. Kt taught me how to start the petrol strimmer - it's not as easy at it sounds haha. Maybe it would've helped if I hadn't been so sarcastic about how to turn the button to on, and then completely forgetting to do so as I was furiously pulling the rip cord to no effect. What a machine. When it was working I felt like Hephaestus yielding one of his creations, ploughing through the grass like a reaper, with dock leaf juice splatting me in the face, or sharp stubs of dried grass whizzing past my ears. Health & Safety would've had a fit as I wasn't wearing goggles, but to be honest it was the pythons I was more worried about. The ache came from the weight of the strimmer and the vibrations passing through my hands. When I stopped - and that was often, my hands were tingling so bad I felt like I'd just been wrestling with an electric eel. I roared with boyish glee. But then ol' Petrol head decided he didn't want to work for two hours, so I went flip mode and raked off surplus grass with a Samson like fury. We built up a healthy sized pile of glypho - hay near the rear end of the plot. As we'd been clearing a lot of the paths that surrounded the plot, we had a much clearer idea of where we could start digging, with the advantageous prospect of not having our ankles buckled by potholes or hidden bumps. It was really starting to come together.

Jake came over for a while and attacked the blackberry bushes to free up our apple trees. I likened him to Sir Cakealot as he was jousting the brambles with a rake and a spade. He made surprising headway. I was perpetually referring to the myth of Satan pissing on the blackberry bushes as a reason for the shriveled berries see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackberry and look under superstition and myths. Sir Cakelot also tried his hand at getting the strimmer started, throwing down the gauntlet when it just wouldn't start.


The Cider apples :) The Crabs :s

We kept going. The bulldog spirit was never more alive! My left shoulder was killing so I figured I'd pulled a muscle. Took it easy for a little while then we decided to give the strimmer one last go. It proved to be a productive decision. That baby roared into life and I did the longest strim of the day! Managed to suppress most of the grass on the top half of the plot, moving slowly down to batter the rest and swell an already huge pile of hay - which I flattened slightly by a couple of massive elbow drops. Sir Cakealot was too knightly and had his best armour on so he looked like he was fainting like a damsel when he attempted said wrestling move.

My pythons were weeping but I ploughed on as Parsley raked for her life. We wound up some time around 5.30, recovering the areas we'd strimmed with a combination of the plastic and carpet. Just like Kate said we need to get the ground HOT AND SMELLY. Haha! Proper little sweat shop going on. With an abundance of bricks we secured the coverings, most of which will be left for over winter. Next week we will cut back the brambles - FINALLY! And maybe start some tentative digging. Today really was an eye opener and progress though slow has never been more steady. G unit for lyf (life).



Thursday, 17 September 2009

Mole Hammer Blend

For the first time since the wedding, Kate and I worked on her lush garden. It started with digging around the wall in Peggerrr's garden. I hadn't been long at it when the tree stump (in the advanced stages of rotting) gave way like an old molar, and beams of prismatic light shone through the heavens! Haha. I'm exaggerating, but only a little bit. I stood there with my foot on the trunk thinking there were a million worse states to be in at 9.45 am. Carried on shifting more dirt until some builders came along (who will be damp-proofing & c.), a genial father and son combo, who told me I should leave the stones in for drainage. You learn something every day.
After a cup of tea, I divided the felled stump with a bow saw, using a grub and mattock to smash the hell out of what remained. All I needed was a white vest and a can of diet coke and my ascension to hunk status would've been assured. Instead I had a rugged barnet, lynx Africa jumper and Howard from Take That jeans. But I was happy.

More teas later and after some 'lish sandwiches we got to forking over the large corner section of the garden that housed the marquee for the marriage. This was to prepare for a turf delivery. She had considered sowing grass seeds but the terrorists (Tinker & Eric, resident loon cats) would've voided their bums and not though twice of ruining a best laid plan.

The soil was a lovely rich guinness colour, and largely devoid of perennial weeds, as we'd done such an A team job of suppressing them the first time round. Kate had demarcated the area she wanted the turf to go up to, allowing space for the chiminea and seats. It's a wicked feeling to sit around with a tartan blanket, supping and talking like hoboes. Cold season coming people.

This took us up to about 5 o' clock, as we'd also had a visit from Kate's parents, Alan and Sandy - their first mention in a while! Both Kate and I agreed it had been a good day's work, and our energy was high. In fact I was buzzing for many hours afterwards, not least because, against the odds, one of my plants had flowered after the stem had been shorn and I had pretty much given it up for dead. Now that's what I'm talking about. When in doubt, stake it!



Here's a recap on some of the G UNIT sayings we've been volleying since February.

  • Piggin' and a diggin' (on a Saturday night).
  • Duncan Hammertime (Duncan Bannatyne)
  • Theo the foetus (Theo Paphitis)
  • T Pain (Peter Jones -> T Bone -> T Pain, naturally)
  • What the f***k are you doing ED?
  • SMETHWICK (nickname for Eric)
  • WINKS (nickname for Tinker)
  • Mo' Hammer Head
  • Mo' Hammer Blend
  • Glyco
  • Insanely false laughter Haaaa
  • 'I don't know what's happening in the rest of the world, but this garden is f*cking wicked.'
  • Tea?
  • Put a donk on it.
  • G UNIIIIIT! (This was even screamed during wedding speeches.)
Plenty more where that came from HAAAAAAAAAA.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

Ian, aka Robert Rojack, one of my best mates from Manchester was visiting me this weekend. As he was due to come down in the evening I had time to plant my daffodil bulbs that I'd acquired. Of course I ended doing a lot more.

It was a beautiful day on Friday. The garden, although nascent when it comes to flowers, was teeming with energy and light. Our
very own wasp central was alive with bees and wasps. I just stood there for a while watching ludicrous numbers of them pollinating, and the odd Red Admiral butterfly alighting and rapidly twitching its wings as if in warning. Had a bit of dubstep by way of Bill Withers playing on my minidisc, so I was walking as if in an underwater mosh pit quite a bit, which probably cemented my place as an English eccentric in my neighbours minds. That, or an idiot.

Started by clearing away some of the ivy roots that remained round the first apple tree, and set to with my trowel, digging holes three times the height of each bulb. It doesn't translate well in this pic but I assure you I took time to do it properly. I think. Haha! I do get really paranoid that I'm doing it wrong. As the result won't be evident for many months to come all I can do is wait...The same principle applied to the apple tree at the bottom of the garden, with somewhere in the region of 50 bulbs planted in total. I even buried some at the front of the house, in a really shady patch behind the wall. I have categorically no idea whether they will grow or not. Either way it will be interesting.

Transplanting a fern (again no idea which family it belongs to or it's proper name) to the bottom of garden neatly offset the two baby hostas I'd picked up at Gardener's Weekend (now replete with an anti slug bed of broken egg shells kindly supplied by Parsley). The lady's mantle was planted near the geraniums and fuschia cuttings that Ma Wakefield brought over a few months ago. Even then the ties to this garden and indeed my future gardening endeavours on a whole were tightening, as I couldn't sleep wondering whether they were going to take to the soil or die a premature death. Jake told me not long ago there's nothing worse than doing everything as you should, only to see that something fail. That applies to so much more than gardening don't you think?

The day was still warm and buzzing by the time I'd tidied up. Just when I thought it was time to tie it all up, Sam our wicked neighbour lent me his hover mower. I'd been meaning to ask but was trepid. So I got an extra hours work out of that which made the overall tally about five and a half hours graft. As Parsley was ribbing me about my attempts at starting work earlier, and doing more, I was fairly pleased at what I'd achieved.

There are bigger jobs coming! Parsley and I have discussed the fine points over earl grey and the occasional scream of G UNIT! Soon you can expect to hear tales of turfing, canopies, Tim Burton (all will be explained), Smethwick, Winks & c. More allotment work on Tuesday potentially. Stay tuned.

A tired and jubilant Oregano signing out - X


LLLLLeeeeeeks!


A week ago, I was here. God I miss it already. Look at those LLLllleeeeeeeks! X

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Roots



Gardener's Weekend 2009! The words were enough to raise the heckles, acting as a call to arms to all amateur and pro gardeners, congregating under a massive tent to ogle at a floral tribute to Matthew Boulton :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Boulton. Little did I know he comprises one third of that toffee wrapper gold statue at the bottom of Broad Street. For shame, Oregano!

Usually I get in the stress mode with large groups of people. You have only to consider the events of Saturday : the English defence league, protesting against Muslim extremists, with 90 arrests, around New Street and Bennetts Hill, which is on my way to the bus. Last time a whole section of New Street from the Odeon down to Waterstone's was cordoned off by riot police. I'm digressing, but my point is built up areas make me get in the stress mode. Slow moving people, screaming kids, the sharp discontinuity exchanged in a glance, to quote Georg Simmel. But coming to King's Heath Park it felt different. I just let myself slide into things and dare I say it - I was a bit excited too.

Moving past the floral tribute, we went straight over to the Vegetable Competition. Morbleu! From dinky raspberries to massive llleeeeks (an in joke, see me for details), you had everything. Some of the prizewinners provoked well earned sneers - 'Those tomatoes are straight from Sainsbury's!' whereas others you just couldn't fault, like onions that were so smooth and spherical they looked sculpted, lettuces like verdant elephants ears, carrots the length of my arm, even a solitary pumpkin which won first prize because it was the only pumpkin there! HAHA! Cruising through I couldn't resist a photo in my Craig David jumper :


Pure social venom (not you Jake!)

God knows what people were thinking, however we weren't the only weirdos about - it was a
veritable swarm of eccentrics. Some of the laughs I heard were hilarious. I thought my laugh was loud; these dudes in their blazers, florid faced and absurdly jolly were veritably bellowing, shaking petals off the flowers, rattling the stalls. Awesome.

We then moved on to the fabled gardens, which only get opened every so often. It's not hard to see why. It was amazing. I won't even attempt to name the plants and flowers we saw, because Kate (Parsley) will call me a dork. All I can give is an impression of how it made me feel.
Peaceful, happy. It's that simple. In the end it's all about reaching
that point, that discovery, no matter how putative that may seem. Along the way we were picking up on structural pointers for our allotment - whether it was the ingenious use of an anderson shelter for growing veg over, frames, or the best angles to grow runner beans at (expounded by a ludicrously enthusiastic hobbit).

Speaking of learning, there was a kiosk advertising vocational courses in Horticulture & Garden Design. I was well made up but too embarrassed to go and ask for details. Kate went up for me which sparked off a running gag about how she was my Mum and Jake my Dad. Dialogue ran along these lines:

Kate: 'Do you think Ed looks young enough to be my son?'
Jake: 'No. [Miniscule pause] Lose the facial hair and about four foot, and maybe.'
Ed : 'Yeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaah' (in a Roland Rat* voice).

However the £650 tag for the one year course left me feeling slightly less than enthusiastic. Then the inevitable question of what I would do with the certificate once I had it...Not to be pessimistic, who knows? Just not this year. Onwards G UNIT!

After admiring the carefully tended grass trodden down into a brown mess, considered the finer points of water features, met the Hobbit again and sighed at a greenhouse full of blight ridden tomatoes and potatoes, we went hunting for some bulbs. Following advice from the inimitable Parsley, I picked up a bag of Allium Purple Sensations for my sister and her boyfriend who have recently had a baby. For our garden in Kings Heath I bought a docking 100 bag of Daffodil bulbs, which I shall be planting next week. In addition I picked up a fern, some Alchemilla Mollis aka Lady's Mantle, and two types of Hosta which will look great at the bottom of our garden, as most of it lies in the shade.

Snake legged it to put a chicken in the oven, which gave Kate and I time to look and laugh at appalling garden decorations - skull and crossbones with 'I'm an X factor Winner' chalked underneath may be topical but don't strike me as wow material for discerning garden folk. I was also secretly amused by the ludicrous variety of dogs walking around, including a clown faced Sharpei. Maybe I should write a dog blog...

Nipped over to the Red Lion for a quick drink where we met Denise & Mel, who are fast becoming some of my favourite people in 'Nam**. We headed back to pick up some last minute bargains. I'm glad to say the Matthew Boulton flower display was honourably redistributed to the public at a £1 a pop for a plant or two which gave me a keen sense of completeness.

It was an awesome day. A younger version of Ed would've laughed, taken the piss or got bored and moody like a child-git, but no. This was just what I wanted. I'm emotionally attached now. Roots, yo.



*Kate's fault entirely, playing a 7" of Rat Rappin' by Roland Rat before we left the house was bound to stir up some imitations.

*BirmingNAM as in an abbreviation of Vietnam. Nam. etc

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Pegerrrrrrrrrrrr*

* Imagine saying Peggy in a Biggles voice. Go on, say it loud. Peg-errrr! No, this is not a random exercise in elocution, but the name of Kate's neighbour who we helped on Thursday.

In a diversion from our allotment work, G unit applied itself to the removal of weeds - predominantly nettles and creeping bastards (as you can tell my knowledge of botany is minimal, but I'm learning all the time), just behind the back wall of Kate's garden. This had a dual purpose. One to clear some of Pegerr's garden, secondly to get a better look at the wall as it is decaying and will probably need lime pointing. This is all quoted from the G unit Autumn Newsletter which Kate sent me today. All I know is how to move things in a manly way. The bigger plans are drawn by the mastermind,
Parsley!

With that in mind I shifted a load of bricks, bagged up some nettle and creeping b's in a short burst of work that lasted about an hour. This was after all, a brief preliminary. Ten days away from the allotment because of inclement weather means Oregano needs to feed his pythons!

Took Ma & Pa Wakefield to see the allotment in the evening for five minutes, photos to follow. They are suitably impressed even though we are still in effect in possession of a field! Gardening Show tomorrow! Yes Mum!




Bloody creeping bastards!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Ballad of Pombré the Shivering Rat


What a ridiculous day. I thought we were only going to put down a bit more carpet, drop some glyphosate aka the glyco and nip off before it started to rain. Instead I encountered :

  1. Allotment rage
  2. Python power to match Kaa (see Jungle Book)
  3. Ian's poltergeist strewing more cans of 1664
  4. Pombre* the baby rat
  5. Half naked dancing in the rain
  6. A thumb like Mark King from Level 42
  7. Pig and Peanut sangers
  8. Etc.
* The name Pombre comes from Kate's mishearing of hombre. Quite what I was saying
hombre for in the first place is beyond me.

All was going well till I saw an old dude chopping down our blackberry bushes at the back of the allotment. This coming from someone who wants to napalm them arghhahah! He'd lifted one of his fencing panels and come through. I was really pissed off, but Kate reigned me in - I'm still fuming...pointlessly. Plus it turns out another septuagenerian has been on the case. Yes, the blackberry thief! Turns out he's had a letter from the council for prior misdemeanors and he's still keen on pilfering our apples and blackberries. Feel like it's time to break out the Rotties, searchlights and chain links! Why are people so invasive? Or am I being too precious? On with the ballad.

We sat down for lunch, Kate trying the old Pig & Peanut sandwich combo for the first and last time in her adult life. I've got to admit it's time to drop the sacred recipe. We both felt ill, just for different reasons. How brave!

It started raining so I moved our seats under the trees to stay covered. That's when I discovered if I moved my thumb, it wrecked. Kate told me to man up, but she wasn't the one with a digit that could stop an NY taxi in heavy traffic or double up as a meat mallet. So, there I was flexing my purple thumb, feeling sorry for myself, with allotment rage boiling in my cranium, whilst Kate suffered the effect of a concussion (I'll let her tell the tale). I was patently being a wimp. HOWEVER! We carried on! Started pulling back all the old multi-layered carpet that was near the compost bins, picking up a seemingly limitless trail of bottles and cans. It took us ages. We were alternately bagging up the trash or moving the decrepified carpet to the dumping ground at the foot of the plot. Enough was enough, and once it started raining again I went ape, took my top off and started dancing to this little classic : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsQo_cXouuc. Kate did a brave rendition, but she was laughing too much as you can see.

Kate shouted for me to come over after discovering Pombre. It sounded
pretty urgent so I made my way with all haste. Hark! Mini Pombre the bald rat! He was a tiny little thing, shivering and defenceless and to all appearances blind. Like an idiot I took a photo and the flash went off which probably scared / blinded him even more. We went to some pretty crazy lengths to cover him up again - with corrugated metal and carpet. I did a Dolittle again, as Gigasmethwick was on the prowl licking his lips. Kate was shouting at me because it was time to leave 'It's just a rat, Ed,' I just couldn't leave him alone.

I can say a few things in confidence : I have a bright future in slap bass if my thumb stays at it is, Pig & Peanut is a better name for a Gastro pub than it is a sandwich combo, and we still have tonnes to do - but we're doing it. Every day we're there the earth opens a new pandora's box, a new set of challenges in and around itself - be it errant white haired twerps, verbal battles, potholes, rain, toxic rats, stressed out cats, ubiquitous bloody weeds. Is that all you've got? Hope Pombre makes it through the night...


video

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Dandies & Blackberries

Pre-Chicago, pre - rain, pre illness, David and I paid a visit to the allotment yesterday. He picked blackberries whilst I shifted scrap metal, tubing and mildewed wood from the back of the plot. The weather couldn't make up its mind - alternating between grizzled drizzle and full beams of sunlight.

The bottom of the plot looks like a royal tip now, heaped bin bags and corrugated tin looking like a floe of junk. What purpose did this rubbish serve to Ian? I'm eager to shed this skin and to let loose the full potential of the space we have been given. However, if there's one thing I've learned in the past month, purely from the allotment and our garden, it's the value of patience, the understanding that it's alright to S.L.O.W down - that it's a necessity even. Kate and Jake know this better than me, as in my haste I would napalm all the blackberry bushes just because they're so meaty and encroaching. In their own way they have a prickly, ramshackle beauty. I just want to cut them back as they're weighing down a burgeoning apple tree. All in good time.

Once the junk had been shifted, and David had left with a tub full of rubus fruticosus, I felt a bit listless. Started raking back some more of the dead grass, bagging up errant cans and pulling up carpet / tarpaulin. That was one of the only good things Ian had done - left a layer down to stop grass and weed growth - albeit in small patches. This will stand us in better stead once it comes to digging over the ground, post glyphosate and what not.

Back on the allotment on Tuesday, when I will hopefully feel better. Fresh air's supposed to be good for you, not make you feel like a bag of meal. (Convalescent) Oregano signing out.







Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Fat Pigeons, Hedgehogs and Howard from Take That











As you can see, the likeness is truly remarkable.



Parsley : 'Haha! You look like Howard from Take That in your crap blue jeans!'
Oregano : 'Shut up, Gary.'
Parsley : 'Have you not got a belt for those jeans Howard? Your arse is hanging out.'
Oregano : 'I'm gonna take a running kick at your faff in a minute.'
Parsley : 'Sing a Take That song, Howard - COULD IT BE MAGIC NOW! Hang on, stop saying faff please.'

So started another day of allotment hilarity. We went down with a wheelbarrow load of glyphosate, carpet from Thinktank, petrol strimmer, boots, minging sandwiches (mine at least - consider the combination of processed honey roast ham and peanut butter....on cold toast), secateurs, water and bin bags. We were all set for a long day's work.

Ate lunch and talked for about an hour in the sun, on our kudos Pavilion (refer to Allotment Toimes for a photo). Thereafter Kate picked blackberries from our burgeoning little jungle. I bagged up yet more bottles from an overgrown crate next to wasp central. Once it was emptied, I moved the crate to the back fence where it became our fourth composting bin. Hacking back at the tangle of snakes (not Pythons) that was nettle, bramble and weed, I moved about three / four barrow loads to be composted. As the plot is
still thickly overgrown, I was traversing ankle - breaker holes and paving slabs. Muchas gracias to Jake aka Snakeob for uncovering a few of the paths that were laid down by Ian the wraith.

Work was very gradual. However the banter was thick and fast - I'd say 70% Take That reference, 15% inadequate belt and jeans complaints, 10% mockery of my accent 3% apple theft references and 2% Dr Dolittle, as will shortly be explained.

Amidst the verbal warfare we had battles of another kind. Cats perpetually chasing frogs in the dense undergrowth, Gigasmethwick playing basketball with tin foil, blunt machete chops and a dying hedgehog. We were just starting on the glyco treatment when Kate found Terry (as she named him) Sonic, as I less imaginatively added, hobbling about near the water tap. Poor sod, he was suffering in the heat, and looked like he was going to die. I was enraged when I saw two Blow Flies laying eggs right on his eyelid. Mother nature is a cruel bitch sometimes.

We got him some water but he barely touched it. Kate picked him up and carried him over to the shade at the back of the plot, around the compost bins. We found some slugs for him to eat : at first he barely even touched them. His breathing was stertorous, as he limped along or just slumped on the ground. I picked off the eggs with a combination of twigs and shoots, they were really impacted around his eye, it was gutting. However when his claw extended and he pulled that slug into his skanky little chops and chewed away, it was something else. Procured some water and let him get on his way. Good luck little buddy!

I neglect to mention Snakeob had brought some beers and red wine, which went everywhere as my Pythons went to work on the cork...with a fork. I'm a poet, and boy don't I show it. Kate and I stayed a little while longer, as it grew cold. Talk of the ancients. Had a proper belly laugh when a fat pigeon flew into a tree just behind us and immediately snapped the branch it landed on, flying in the opposite direction as if to say 'Yeah, well I meant to do that! Haha!' A bit like falling over then making it look like you're tying your shoelaces. Pigeons are dorks.

Watch this space for more Parsley and Howard...I mean Parsley and Oregano adventures!


oooooh GLYCO!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Glyphosate & Compost Bins


Our plan of action is now taking proper shape. Over the next few weeks we will be spreading / sprinkling the glyphosate in gradual sections, starting from the middle of the plot, then laying down carpet to prevent the rain washing it all away. The first bit of the plot we're combatting naturally, just laying down carpet and avoiding chemicals to see how effective a measure this can be to surpress the weed and grass growth.
As I spent ages banging together a huge compost
bin from old palettes, Kate started strimming back the grass. The trouble lay in the fact that we had at least three years worth of uncut grass to contend with. The older, yellowing dead grass was covering the emergent green stuff, making it hard for Kate to get right down and cut it all down to a manageable level. We had to rake off the top layers of strimmed grass and bung it in the compost bins, along with brambles that seemed determined to tear the hell out of my pythons.

Kate mixed the glyphosate shortly after as the sky was looking like a grumpy Patriarch - all silver and black. We covered a relatively small section as we didn't have the full rolls of carpet to hand. That's for next week. Already the plot looks massively improved, as noted by our kindly neighbours who gave us some courgettes.

The more we work the land the more we realize what we're up against - prehistoric weeds, seeds of pernicious plants that can survive for 40 years, flooding, mare's tail... I think we all have our worries and concerns, but when it boils down to it - nothing compares with sitting there and taking things in. For that feeling alone I will lend any amount of python power.

Right I'm off to wash my jumper and jeans which haven't been cleansed since February...08. The smell of sweat and 'Lynx Africa' doth hardly a gentleman make.

Glyco down...looking good!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Peckersmith




Work started late on the Tuesday afternoon, sometime after two o' clock. It was a blazing hot day, stirring up wasp central at the foot of the allotment; wearing us out quickly. As ever though we started in earnest, trying hard to ignore the massively annoying tree surgeons jousting in the trees with chainsaws. I gave them the Churchill as you can see.

Again we set to clearing away more cans and bottles. The last resident was a lazy git! Sometimes I can see where he was coming from. The huge plot....sitting there soporific with heat or resigned in the colder seasons, drinking. How miserable. I even had verbals with his ghost yesterday.

Worse than nettles or brambles the thickness of a baby's arm is an empty can of Kronenberg or the ping of a dilated cider bottle under the sun. Changes are coming, Mr Ghost.

On a much more positive note we found a new friend : PECKERSMITH! aka Gigasmethwick, aka Gigasmeth, aka Gilgamesh etc. According to Sue, everyone calls him Felix. Friendly to a fault, photogenic and hilarious! He is one of three felines I have seen prowling the allotments.

After a few breaks, we waded into the jungle of brambles and nettles. We're lucky in that we have copious blackberries, redcurrants and an apple tree. But on the whole it is still a jungle out there. Cutting our way through the denser parts flocking the left side of the allotment, Kate collected enough blackberries to make a fair few pots of Jake's fabled jam. Snake Jam no less! Speaking of snakes my pythons were stung to high hell by the nettles. Hoping that I'm building an immunity.

We wrapped things up some time between six or seven. Jake brought some of the old Cold & Gold - I couldn't have been more appreciative even if it echoed the bad habits of the aforementioned ghoul. Unlike Mr Poltergeist we didn't throw our cans into the grass.


***

Yesterday I did some more nettle pulling and blackberry pruning, sweating my cobs off all the while. Today we're strimming and dropping Glyphosate...Watch this space for more Parsley and Oregano adventures!


Radio Times!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

'Allotment Toimes'





Once upon a time there was a Mancunian with bad teeth, a loud laugh and a massive barnet. He made friends with a wicked girl called Kate who worked at Thinktank, with many years worth of gardening experience. Having no idea what he was doing at least 100% of the time, the Mancunian needed a direction in his wayward life. This was to happen in a fortuitous meeting at Sainsbury's with her and Jacob. Slippery footed, the Mancunian was lead to their secret garden. Looking out as it snowed, brew in hand, the vision crystallized - months of toil to make what was already a beautiful garden (latent) into something really special. Little did Kate know how much the barnet would put into it. Looking back, I don't think anyone did. Adopting the moniker of Parsley and Oregano aka G Unit (Gardening Unit not 50 cent and his crew) - they worked from February to July on the secret garden in preparation for her and Jake's wedding .

Kate was really lucky to snag an allotment deal just before the honeymoon. Once she came back, we could start work in earnest. I was excited by the prospect of an allotment and the kudos of owning one - yet it was curious for me for two reasons. One : I barely eat vegetables. Two : I have the most minimal knowledge of landscape gardening and horticulture possible. This blog will hopefully remedy that. I am an utter greenhorn. But my heart is invested, as are my Pythons (arms).

The first day of work was Friday, just gone. Kate and her parents, Jake and I tooled up and headed out. As the photos I have attached will attest, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Kate's mum's face says it all. Nonetheless we got to it. Alan's petrol strimmer gave out after snagging a stump, so we were left with the prospect of using a scythe, which presses my buttons in an oblique way.

Instead, we used secateurs and good old fashioned Python power (see above). The previous owner had used the space as a dumping ground for countless cans and bottles of cider, which made me sad and angry by turns. The stink of old alcohol, combined with slop, mud, worms, beetles, etc was abject, but in a way it made me more determined to work. After all, nothing could top my days at Lancashire Dairies, shovelling the most Godawful mess into a skip, but that dear reader, is another story altogether.

We sat on our salvaged plastic chairs on the 'Pavillion' to have lunch and discuss just what the hell we were doing. It was, no it still is daunting. I have no doubt it will take years and years to attain greatness. But I look forward to it. Already made friends with a really sound guy called John who warned us of the wasps nest which lies in a huge clump of nettles. John has been on the allotment for four years, and has two burgeoning, beautiful plots. In fact the whole place is beautiful, serene and apart from the world I grow ever more chary of.
We pushed on, constructing a rudimentary compost bin from old palettes, stuffing it with evil nettles. I went nuts on a length of wire, pulling a tangle of it from some bushes. Kate came out with a classic : 'Have you got a license for those pythons?' Haha. Happy Allotment times. Watch this space for more Parsley and Oregano adventures.