Friday, November 24, 2017

Compost warming up as weather worsens...

Cleo assumed this position at the allotment gate the second we arrived: none of her usual sniffing around. Hates bad weather, that dog. So I didn't hang around. There was a new bag from the florist, approx 10kg of green material. I dumped that by the heap, not taking the time to turn it over and mix in the new stuff. There was also a large amount of kitchen waste - a bag of split peas past their sell-by date, and a bag of frozen peas which had been pressed into service as a cold compress, plus the usual teabags and turnip peelings.

But the headline news is in the photo below: ambient temperature 3C, (on a thermometer nearby) and the compost thermometer showing 15C.

Still a long way to go: I've read that with regular turning a heap can get to 50 or 60C, (though I've never seen that myself), so maybe it's on the way. I was turning it every other day, but this week have left it alone since Tuesday. I'll turn it again with the new material over the weekend.

The ideal situation will be that it warms up to 40C+, and stays that way over winter providing a small local microclimate for various wildlife, (near the pond, incidentally), and breaking down at such a rate that it remains at a manageable size as approximately 10kg of material per week is added. It could be like a volcanic vent in the deep ocean of an allotment winter. Or something.

I say 'approximately... per week', I have only just started keeping a record of when I get bags of florist offcuts and guinea pig litter; and I'm estimating the 10kg too - casual work at a Royal Mail sorting office years ago has made me aware of what a 20lb/10kg mail bag feels like.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

I have to blog about composting because...

...I've noticed people's eyes glaze over when I try telling them about it face-to-face. What's wrong with them? This is fascinating stuff!

To recap, there's been a compost heap in the far NE corner for 18 months or so now, nothing new added to it since the summer. I'm resisting the temptation to tidy that up and put what must now be fully degraded compost onto one of the beds because that corner will be a winter refuge for frogs and invertebrates.

Nearby, I started another heap, between the fence and the pond. The reason for the location was that I'd noticed when I was away in 2016 that that area got heavily weed infested, not to say jungle-y, and one way of scuppering weeds is to make their corner of the plot into a work area, in a "these boots were made for weeding" kind of way.

This heap was made up mostly of the florists offcuts, and guinea pig litter, which seems to have led to a really good C: N ratio because it composted really quickly.  I turned it regularly, and left it alone for a while, too, and was always surprised at how quickly it was breaking down and shrinking away.

I left that heap alone for a while because the florist's offcuts were going to the mulching operation. When that was done, I started using this heap again. The photo above shows the heap, a turned mixture of the existing almost composted material, 3 bags of recent (last couple of weeks) florist offcuts, and 3 (smaller) bags of guinea pig litter. Also household vegetable waste, but that makes up a relatively small amount by volume.

The disk near the top of the heap is the thermometer. I'm turning the heap every other day, and it seems to be beginning to work - it's a couple of degrees warmer than the ambient temperature, (12C versus 10 this morning).

I'm taking the time to blog about this because there's not much else to focus on at the plot until I get around to starting work on the shed, and I want to record it for future reference. The heavy mulching with raw florists offcuts is a good technique, but only really usable on a bed that's been set aside. I want actual compost, and plenty of it, for no dig mulching, for example between rows of growing plants. I have a feeling that one large-ish bag of cutting per week, (which is roughly what I get) is going to be just right. In any event, it's not going to be too much.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Vocative Function Research: preliminary lit rev

 A very, very brief search has given me the refs below for initial reading. I'm starting with the grammar and pragmatics. Haven't even tried to search, yet, for CDA angles.

Aikhenvald, A.Y., 2013. Imperatives and commands (Back Pages; Appendix: Imperatives and commands: how to know more: a checklist for fieldworkers), Oxford: Oxford University. Press.

Anderson, J.M., 2007. The grammar of names. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Davies, E.E., 1986. English vocatives: A look at their function and form. Studia Anglistica Posnaniensia, 19, pp.91-106.
Downing, B.T., 1969. Vocatives and third‐person imperatives in English. Paper in Linguistics, 1(3), pp.570–592. 

Formentelli, M., 2007. The vocative mate in contemporary English: A corpus based study. Language resources and linguistic theory. Milan: Franco Angeli, pp.180-99.

Zanuttini, R., Pak, M. and Portner, P., 2012. A syntactic analysis of interpretive restrictions on imperative, promissive, and exhortative subjects. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, 30(4), pp.1231-1274.
Zwicky, A. 1974. Hey, Whatsyourname!. CLS 10, 787-800.

Monday, November 13, 2017

I visit the allotment most days, with the dogs. I take down the tattie peelings, tea bags and eggshells for compost. And deal with any bags of florist's off-cuts - I've been laying them on to the SE quarter of the bed as a mulch, together with the guinea pig bedding:

You can see it on the left of the photo, with the riddled area, sown with WFBs, to the right. As a method of weed control, it seems to be working, in as much as raking a section clear reveals good loamy earth beneath. That whole area is thickly mulched now, down away to the left, (north), past the area of old greenhouse foundations.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Old Shed - Before & After

Maybe I should call it, now, the Old Shed Bed? Above, a photo taken in May 2016, when I decided it really had to go. Since then, I have learned to my cost that it was sited there probably because one of my plot-holding predecessors decided the ground there, being full of clinker from a coke fire or blast-furnace was ungardenable.

Well, look on my works, ye predecessors, and despair. It took the entire 2017 growing season, the plots' 100th birthday, but it was done: from ungardenable to a marvellous tilth, now sown with winter field beans and over-layered with a thick coating of oomska. Even as I type this, anecic and endogeic earthworms are packing their bags and heading for this delightful new location to hob-nob with their epigeic cousins, the bloodworms, who have themselves recently arrived with the oomska. Like most new migrants, they'll work hard and procreate prodigiously.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

5th bed, riddlng, reinstatement, whatever - almost there!

Another hour or so today, and here we are, almost done. Probably 5-6 barrows full left in the heap of riddled earth (see photo below) to go back in, and that should be just about right. I know it has no structure, but the tilth, man, the tilth! It's absolutely lovely clay loam. Which is marvellous: it means the whole plot will be good clay loam in due course - in fact most of it is now, if a little heavy on rubble and glass, and there are also areas with more clay, for example where there's spoil from the excavated path and pond.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Glasgowfication of Carcassonne wight hardneck garlic

The Picardy wight got finished off quite quickly, I gave a lot of it away to colleagues and family. The Carcassonne got harvested a little later. And that's how much we've got left. Watching BBC Gardeners' World I got a good tip, (like all the best ones, bleedin' obvious, when you stop to think...) plant only the biggest fattest cloves, and natural selection would suggest you get big fat bulbs next year. We shall see.

I notice that ALL of the retailers of this variety refer to it as having "pink covered cloves" but, as you can see, that is not the case. Hardneck varieties like this are said to store less well than softnecks, but this has kept well on a sunny windowsill in the study since harvesting in early July. In the photo you can see 70-odd fat cloves ready to be planted in the next few days. At the back, a dish full of the smaller bulbs and cloves, which should keep us going into the winter.

This is the last bit of planting this year. Once done, I can concentrate on the shed. That's another story.

A kind of bastard trenching gives way to permaculture: a revolution in 16sq yards...

This last week I've been mostly re-filling the bastard trench. The earth was stacked up high at the end, so there's also been quite a lot of raking to level it. I've been infilling it with earth I got from the "old greenhouse area", also riddled, (a lot of it hand riddled, really fine). It's, technically, I know, not true bastard trenching, and I could use a stronger adverbial, given how much work it's been.

16sq yards or so of ground - less than a 10th of the plot's growing space. I've given over almost an entire bloody growing season to it. Which, objectively, is excessive, and has meant other jobs have been left to one side. All that time has produced those spit-deep 16 yards, and I must say, it looks and feels beautiful as I rake it: lovely clay loam, where before there was a rotten auld shed standing on a bed of clinker, stones and glass, with compacted ground and weeds.

Maybe I didn't need to dig down and riddle to a whole spit's depth. Maybe. But it's done now. It would take years, several years, a decade maybe, to systematically work through the whole plot like this. So bugger that for a game of soldiers. I clear 6ins deep every time I clear a square metre for planting, and will get down deeper with spuds. This riddling is the antithesis of no-dig, involving intensive digging to the total (if temporary) destruction of soil structure, but it was done to get the glass out and make it safe for the dogs. Ironically, I've now found a way to achieve the same object by uber-no-dig permaculture, laying on a thick layer of mulch in the form of florist off-cuts and guinea pig bedding.