I have spent most of the last two days eating and boozing. Between feasts I have been nodding-off in an armchair catching up with the sleep I have lost in late night sessions following The Ashes cricket downunder. Today I managed to break the cycle of behaviour which had consisted of an afternoon nap with a glass in one hand and a tin of toffees in the other while the kids played on the wii or a film played to itself on the telly. It took considerable effort but I managed to get off my backside and make the short journey to the allotment site.
The ground is still frozen hard and a thin layer of snow lingers on. More snow is forecast for tonight. The ground has been frozen solid since the end of November. There is no possibility of doing any digging unless you have a pneumatic drill. The ground was well and truly frozen when I paid a short visit to the plot on Christmas Eve to pick sprouts for Christmas dinner, which were delicious by the way. There were some other plot-holders struggling with pick-axes and metal spikes to break up the ground so that they could extract their parsnips from the tundra. I hope they were worth the effort.
In theory, I still have some potatoes in the ground. In reality, I don't know if there will be anything still there. I should have harvested them weeks ago but didn't get round to it and when I have had chance to get onto the plot the ground has been so hard that my garden-fork has rung like a tuning-fork when I have tried to prise the ground open with it. I must wait for the thaw before I will find what has become of the remaining spuds. I suspect they will be mush.
The purpose of my visit today was to prune the vines. By the end of the Summer most of the vines had reached the top support wire, about 6 feet high. I have now cut them all back to about 2 feet to where the stems are about as thick as a pencil. All the advice I have received is to do this task when the vines are dormant. In view of some of the temperatures we have suffered over the past few weeks I have no doubt that that the vines are dormant; my concern is that they may be permanently dormant. After pruning I spread a mulch layer of well rotted horse-manure around the vines. I still don't expect much of a crop of grapes next year but hopefully by this time in 2012 I'll have a few demi-johns of home-grown home-brew bubbling away in the spare bedroom.