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...

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


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.