Plot Notes

A personal journal, open for the world to read, recording the progress of a novice allotmenteer on his allotment.

Weed it and reap.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Copper's Surprise.

Throughout the course of the year our village pub does a great job in raising funds for the local air ambulance. One of their fund-raising activities this year has been a contest to see who can grow the longest carrot. Last year they had a pumpkin growing competition. It was leeks the year before last and next year they are having an onion challenge.

I didn't enter the carrot contest but my neighbour, Tony, from Plot 24 has taken part. Tony is one of the keenest gardeners in our allotment association. You might catch glimpses of his immaculately maintained plot in some of my photos. His is the plot to the left of my weed patch. Tony has put some real hard graft into his plot. There isn't a single weed to be found anywhere on his allotment and I'm sure that it is not possible to keep an area of over 200 square metres of fine Lincolnshire soil weed-free without regular dedicated hard work. He has deservedly been rewarded with the Parish Council's trophy for the best kept plot this year.

You might recall that earlier this year I posted a photograph on this blog which showed a seven foot length of drainpipe standing in a bucket. That was where Tony was growing his competition carrot. I think the pipe was filled with his own secret formula of sand, soil and compost. A couple of carrot seeds were sprinkled into the top of the upright pipe and the other end was placed in a bucket of water. The theory was that a monster carrot would grow inside the full length of the drainpipe.

The week before last it was busier than usual in our village pub. Thieves had stolen the copper cables which ran to the village from the telephone exchange which is in the neighbouring village. Apparently there is a lot of this going on at the moment. The thieves park up in a van at a secluded spot on a country lane between villages. They then dig up the copper telephone cable and tie it to the back of their van before driving off with the cable still attached. In doing so they will strip hundreds of metres of cable out of the system. The following night they took the lines connecting another local village. This left over half of the homes in our village without telephone lines or internet connections for about a week.

With only the usual rubbish on television and no access to the internet or telephone lines it was not surprising that people went to the pub for entertainment. The pub had an added attraction in that it had not lost its internet connection and the landlord allowed open access to his wireless network. It was on one of these nights that the judging of the carrot contest was held. Tony had forgotten all about it and was sitting in the back bar minding his own business while his carrot was still growing in the drainpipe on the allotment about a mile away down one of the quiet lanes leading out of the village.

The bar manager offered to drive Tony to the allotments in her transit van to fetch his carrot. So, off they went into the dark night in the van. On arriving at the allotment gates Tony realised that he had not got his key with him and so they parked the van in the verge and then took a couple of torches out of the back of the van before scrambling over the perimeter fence into the allotment site. It was too dark to extract the carrot from the drainpipe on the plot and so they carried the carrot, drainpipe and all, over the fence and into the back of the van.

Not much happens in the village without someone noticing. Naturally the combination of a van in a secluded spot, torch lights, and a long pipe being loaded into the back of the van had made someone suspect that the cable thieves were back. Before the van made it back to the pub they were stopped by a police patrol car.

The police officer, thinking he had nicked the cable thieves, asked what was in the back of the van. I would have loved to have been there to hear Tony tell them that there was nothing there but a five foot long carrot and to see the policeman's face when this turned out to be true.

Tony went on to win the carrot growing contest.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Be careful what you wish for.

I sat in the office meeting room with my head in my hands. Worrying thoughts rushed through my brain at an alarming rate and I had the sensation that I was hurtling downwards, rapidly, uncontrollably, through thin air towards jagged rocks below. I felt sick and cold. I took a deep breath and glanced up. My eye was drawn to a splash of red paint daubed across the large modern-art splatter painting on the wall opposite. "Blood on the walls", I thought, "how appropriate. My blood!" I had just been told that I was to lose my job.

My mind was spinning as I weighed up the enormity of what I had been told. I was thinking, "how can I survive this? How will I pay the mortgage? I'll lose the house. How will I feed the children? Plans for the Summer holidays are in tatters. No one is recruiting at the moment; how will I find another job. I will never survive this? This is so unfair? Don't these head-office suits understand how much work I have been doing for them? I feel Helpless. Hopeless. Falling. Doomed".

An involuntary consolatory thought then popped into my head, "At least I'll now have more time to spend on the allotment". I then remembered that only a few days previously I had been complaining about being short of time and wishing that I had more time to devote to the allotment. I made a mental note that in future I should be more careful about what I wished for because my wishes might just come true.

As things have turned out that wish has not come true. I have not had any extra time on my hands hence the lack of updates to this Blog during the last couple of months. Before losing my full-time job I had been earning some extra income from a self-employed sideline. That sideline has now, by necessity, become my full-time self-employed job. I have thrown everything into building it up and it seems to be taking off. The hours can be long, irregular and unpredictable but at least I have the comfort of knowing that the more work I do the more I will get paid and I am not lining the pockets of a bunch of inconsiderate absentee masters. The downside is, as ever, that I have not really freed up any extra time for the allotment. Also, whereas, as an employee there was a clear demarcation between my time and their time, I am currently struggling to set aside time to work on the allotment without having nagging thoughts that I should really be concentrating on the business. I am going to have to make a conscious effort to set aside time away from the business.

All this is not to say that the allotment has been totally neglected. I have still been harvesting plenty of veg and I have found some time (but not enough) for a bit of weeding. Some crops have exceeded my expectations and one or two others have disappointed or have run to seed. In my next post, which hopefully won't be too far away in the future, I'll give a review of the season and I will also let you know how I got on with my entries in the local horticultural show at the August bank holiday but until then here's a picture of some of my grapes which are one of my success stories for this year.