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 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


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

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


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 : 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


* 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,

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!