Monday, October 02, 2017

Last Planting of 2017: Garlic Carcassonne wight

It's amazing how quickly the weeds appear, even towards the end of the season.

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.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Shed Update: Work Begins

Bit of an unintentional tilt on that photo there, I was probably a bit shaky after moving the shed floor from the Southern boundary where it's been propped against the fence since March, to its intended berth under the ash tree, because it's bloody heavy and awkward to move. I was reminded of the way large sheets of metal, maybe 25mm thick, would wobble as they were hoisted by a crane around a shipyard, appearing deceptively delicate. 

I dragged it on its edge down the path, a few inches at a time, after manoeuvring it out from the fence, perilously close to the still active wasps' nest. It needs levelled up - the rubble base is uneven.  Nontheless, this feels like a significant moment. This area under the tree was a kind-of raised bed for the predecessor, his last crop, onions, were growing there when I took over, and we had them with our Christmas dinner in 2015. 

The soil was awful, full of stones and glass. I removed the mortar-less wall of the bed. I excavated it, riddling the spoil, until I got down to a peculiar set of structures, which, I notice, I was inclined to leave-be back in April 2016. By June of last year, however, I'd clearly decided this was the place for the shed, and began on the work of riddling stony earth and filling the hole I'd dug out with rubble. One way or another, I've been pretty much doing that ever since, and now it's done.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Heavy Hoe: Socket Looking for a Handle - That's Not a Betty Smith Song

Socket: 40x43x32mm

Ordered a new handle.

Essential kit for every permaculturist.  

Operation Jasper: Mission Accomplished: Wasps Have Been Served with a Notice to Quit


Plastic sheet removed at 6.30, without drama. Returned with dogs at lunchtime. It appears that the nest is inside the manure heap, and there are multiple entrances. I know I'm being very subjective, but the wasps have a forlorn aspect to them. I didn't want to take any liberties, though. When I finished taking this video, Cleo joined Sparky on the heap, and they chose that spot, of the entire allotment to have a play-fight. At that moment it began to rain, so it felt like a good time to retreat. Hopefully, the plastic sheet covering gone, any rain will hasten the nest's demise.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Synchronise your watches: Operation Jasper commences at 0600 tomorrow...

Another lovely autumn afternoon, sunny, but thick black clouds intermittently passing overhead, shedding only a few drops of rain, and then the sun again. Here's how the area I was working today looked back in March. That's the manure heap covered in an orange plastic sheet in the background. Since March, it's sunken to half that height, and accumulated a lot of bits and pieces as I've worked: the shed's roof timbers, a lot of bricks dug up during the year of more digging.

I cleared away all of these odds and ends, lastly the bricks holding the plastic sheet down onto the heap. The activity seemed to communicate itself to the wasps, and I was glad to finish and leave.


Maybe it was my imagination, but activity at the entrance to the nest began to increase.  I read somewhere that autumn brings a whole load of crazy shit to a wasps' nest. The queen leaves to hibernate elsewhere, and, leaderless, the wasps turn to fermented fruit and cannibalism to pass the time. They seemed to milling around rather aimlessy. Earlier in the summer, they would shoot in and out of the entrance and whizz away so fast it was impossible to be sure if they were wasps - they were too fast to see, and I just couldn't make an i.d. This morning, there was no doubt, these guys milling around are wasps.

Anyway, Operation Jasper. Tomorrow, in the pre-dawn, about 6am, enter the allotment, and with no further ado, whip the plastic sheet off the manure heap, and then quickly depart. IF the nest lies between the manure and the sheet, they'll be exposed to the elements and done for as soon as it rains. If, however, the nest is in the manure, well, back to drawing board. But at least the plastic sheet is out of way of the dogs and their tug-o-war antics.

I hope it's a chilly morning. Raining preferably.