Thursday, December 08, 2016

A Peculiar Green Path; Cultivation, Cultivation, Cultivation

This is the view from the gate, so that's the SE corner of the plot. I was preparing to excavate an area by the gate, a yard or so square, to lay bricks down, and then lay a path across to the middle path, (another story). But there's already a path there, covered until today in a couple of inches of loamy soil. It's a strange, green, crumbly concrete.

I'd planned another brick path, leaving a foot or so of earth for the hedgerow between path and fence. Instead, I've got this peculiar green edifice, and an inch or two of soil by the fence.

Heigh bloomin' ho. I was going to have pyracantha all the way along the S. boundary. But it looks as if it's going to be ivy, now. Which is fine. As you can see the fence there is an allotment-chic palette construction, constantly leaning towards my side of the boundary because stuff is stacked against it on my neighbour's side. Well, we'll see how the ivy deals with that situation.

The next job is to straighten the path, which had been obliged to wander of to the west because the old shed was off-centre.
And then I want to get that SE bed dug over. Just rough, just to get it levelled and, well, get the ground broken, see what it's like. I don't think it's been cultivated during the Predecessor's time, so that's 30 years. If my theories about the plot's history are right, it hadn't been cultivated for decades before that. It was mostly a midden when I took over, (and it's not much better now, with the debris scrap metal from the bonfire).

But that bloody old shed is gone. I can see where I'm going. And it's dig, riddle, dig, riddle. A whole year of that. Loads to do, but light at the end of it. Paradoxically, I need to do a whole load of digging before I can get to no-dig.

The Final Bonfire

It felt like the end of an allotment era: apart from the few items which I can recycle, like sheets of metal for the new shed, that's all of the useless old stuff gone. And it was a hell of a bonfire. Being missives day, there were plenty of people around, and several of them visited, some bearing beer. The fire was lit at 3.30pm, and I left, a tad unsteadily, to walk home around 7. When I went back this morning, Thursday, I was pleased to see it had burned down really well. Some scrap metal, and a big heap of ash, but very little wood left behind.

With the rubbish and the old shed away, I now have a 5th bed.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Missive Day 2016

If the Allotment Association were a country, Missive Day would be like our national day. It's when we pay our rent and community association dues for the year ahead. And so here we are now with a whole year gone. I've just been looking at this blog's posts from December 2015. Blimey. A year ago we were getting inundated by Storm Desmond, I was just beginning to a get an angle on drainage, and the beds were far from level - there were tons of earth still to move. I like this set of 3 photos which show how the water built up into the earliest incarnation of the pond during that storm.  And here we are in December again, with only Angus so far, and that was confined to southern England, we had heavy frosts the while.

Yesterday I had a blinding couple of hours in terms of tasks done:

  • Built a structure, approximately 7ft long by 3 or 4ft wide and deep, to keep my tools and other bits and pieces in. I used the 2 old doors and a sheet of tin, nailed together with a couple of the least rotten planks from the shed, and propped up by iron rods hammered into the ground,
  • Move everything into said structure.
  • Cleared the area nearest the proposed bonfire of anything flammable.
  • Rolled the barrel full of earth and perennial roots (a failed experiment designed to drown them) near the bonfire, emptied it there, to burn when it gets really going; bloody heavy, a barrel of earth. 
  • Put that empty barrel next to the new structure, to give it more support, because...
  • I emptied the comfrey solution barrel, which had been getting water from the now-demolished shed, and was too close to the bonfire; I did this by means of a handle-less bucket, carrying it to the other barrel about 10yds away; also bloody hard work. 
Finally, I got the fork into the ground which had lain between the southern boundary fence and the shed. Rock hard. Clay and stones and the inevitable bits of glass. I'm still itching to get this SE bed dug over. Usually, of course, one wouldn't bother digging a bed over in Winter, but it's hardly ever been gardened, so it wants an initial ground breaking anyway, get the big stones out, before riddling and manuring next year.

Tomorrow is Missives Day, and the Last Big Bonfire Day. I've got a gallon of diesel to help things along, and I'm prepared to spend the entire evening to make sure it gets properly burned down. And then I'll have a plot cleared of rubbish. At last. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bonfire Dilemmas

Before the old shed was demolished, yielding a lot of rotten timber and tarry-toosh, which cannot be recycled except by burning, there was anyway a heap of broken polystyrene fish-boxes, perennial weeds (mostly dock, nettle and ground elder), and of course scraps of wood.

At the very bottom of that is the remains of the previous bonfire held there: what I learned from that was, if you want to get rid of all your old wood, you need to hang around until it's almost all burned, raking in the fragments from the periphery to the centre. Don't do that, and one ends up with circle of charred bits of wood, stranded when the bonfire retreats to its centre.

On top of all of this I've piled up most of the remains of the old shed.

Really, I should pull the whole structure apart and pile it all up again in a more bonfire-like way. This might also give any hibernating wildlife in there a chance to find another winter home, though in reality they'd probably encounter a fox or an owl as they stumbled sleepily through the plot.

Last year, I finished a series of bonfires at the end of October, so it was unlikely any frogs or hedgehogs had moved in. Now in late November 2016, there's the dilemma: do I get rid of this 7ft heap of inflammable crap now, and risk roasting a frog or two, or wait until Spring and leave the frogs to hop off and make tadpoles?

Another issue: if I rebuilt the bonfire, I could probably get it started with just the heap of Metros herself has been bringing home from her commute on the bus each day. Whereas, to simply torch it where it stands is going to take a gallon of petrol or diesel.

All of which highlights the two-sided nature of the allotmenteer: am I a nice, green, organic, eco-friendly character, or a slightly thuggish redneck? Or maybe as usual there's no need to frame it as a binary characterisation: we are simultaneously green-fingered and red-necked.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Carbuncular Shed: Gone

No wonder it all fell down when I removed that window: the roof was several layers thick, and waterlogged, and therefore very heavy. Had it fallen down on me and the dogs when we were sheltering from a rain shower, injuries would have been likely.

There was a layer of wood planks, all on the road to rottenness. They were covered by 2 sheets of overlapping tin, laid in a way that water was going to percolate through. Then a partial layer of sodden chipboard, so degraded that there were at least a couple of brandling worms living in it - how they got there, I cannot imagine.

Another layer of tin, one single sheet this time, nailed down. Then two layers of roofing felt. "Tarry toosh", my Dad always calls it, I'm uncertain of the spelling: toosh rhymes with whoosh. Googled it just now with no helpful result.

Finally, there was a layer of various sheets of chipboard and what-not, which had likely been put on the roof out of the way, and rotted down, adhering to the felt. The adjoining potting-shed roof was plastic, wood and roofing felt, and a rubbery sheet of some kind.

Every single scrap of wood in the entire shed, bar one old door, is rotten and useless. I can recycle the tin sheets in the new shed, I hope. I now have 2 doors, and plenty of tin sheeting to improvise a rough tool chest. I'll keep a golf umbrella there, too, rainshowers, for use during.

You can see in the photo to the right the corner of a substantial bonfire pile. Which is a whole 'nother blog post

Monday, November 21, 2016


Speaking of France, I was listening to a podcast of Radio 3's record review about Cabaret, the musical. I loved the movie version, when I was still at school a cinema in Newcastle, now long gone, showed it every afternoon for a year or more. I played the wag from school, (that's Geordie for truant) and saw it ten or more times. And then a few months ago we saw it live in a graduation show at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and, wow, it blew the movie out of the water.

Anyways, Radio 3 suggests the best version is actually the French one. But it's not on iTunes, and prices for the CD at ebay and amazon, are ridiculous. So if any of my multitude of French readers can tell me how I can get the CD for, say, €10 or thereabouts, do tell.

Big in France

A screengrab of this blog's viewing stats by country for the last month. Why are the French so attracted here? If you're French, and reading this, do tell me what's so interesting about a Glasgow allotment, or what you were looking for when you accidentally googled your way here.

Farewell Old Shed, Hello Minimalist Allotmenteering

I just thought, I can't stand this old shed anymore. I don't like it. I don't like where it stands. I don't like the way the roof leaks. I don't like the way it's constructed piecemeal and yet manages to have none of the of the allotment charm such improvisation normally brings.

And the last straw, an email from the secretary to say that a fellow allotmenteer's shed was burned down last Sunday. The fire brigade were there for 2 hours, putting the blaze out. Right, I thought, if we're going to have a spate of arson, I don't want all my tools burned.

So I got down for a few hours and emptied it, putting all the tools and other odds and ends under a plastic sheet for now. Anything which can live outdoors, like the fruit netting and gutters for the water barrels I stacked up by the fence.  I took out a large window, being keen to use the double glazed pane in the new shed. As I removed it, the whole structure gave a sigh and collapsed in a single sinking motion, with a great thud. Someone on the allotments shouted "Hey!"

I was running out of time, having things to do at home, so was unable to sort through the heap of wood, sheets of tin and rubber sheeting which now lay in an orderly flat stack at my feet. But I did have a go, and found that the roof was incredibly heavy. I think The Predecessor must've kept adding to the roof, in unsuccessful efforts to keep it from leaking, and it's gotten really top heavy. Had a narrow escape, really, it could have collapsed when I was sheltering there from the rain - it was liable to go at any minute, like a house of cards.

On the way out I spoke to a group of the neighbours, who told me they'd shouted but then realized it was me collapsing the shed, not a group of amphetamine-maddened neds. I told them I was determined that if anyone was going to burn that bloody shed, it was going to be. So they told me the story.

The man whose sheds burned down wasn't a victim of vandals. It was some home grown error, to do with his stove, or something. He'd covered half, at least, of his plot with various structures, so that it became a kind of ramshackle house, and was apparently filled with all kinds of stuff, much of it flammable. I got talking to him last year, and was perplexed to learn that he had a telly and a generator in his hut. He's been there for years, building his sheds, and there they all were, gone, in 2 hours.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Figgin' 'eck IV

The figs, as you can see, are (to use a gardening term), flying away.

The top photo was taken on Sept 12th., the bottom one today. I haven't been feeding them at all, although I am going to start with a general purpose feed this week. There are 40 modules per tray, and 2 trays. All modules are now filled with growing plants, and I've got 5 more together in a pot.

Figs got a mention on Gardeners' Question Time last week. Someone wanted their fig, (singular) to look more tree-like. Ha, I thought. I've got 80 figs, and don't care if they look tree-like or not! The thing I took away from that is, figs are vigorous. BBCGQT didn't mention it, but I have seen photos of coppiced plants, and they grow back like billy-o. Which is good if the hedgerow is to fulfill its wood-for-the-stove role.