Squirrel's Garden

Blogging the highs and lows of my attempts at allotment gardening

Location: Sherwood Forest, United Kingdom

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Little Visitors

I have been so busy at my allotment that my garden at home has been rather neglected. I have only caught fleeting glances of my winter flowering plants. However the large, evergreen, Clematis that climbs my fence can be viewed from the French doors of my living room so this has been one of my few garden delights at home. It has now finished flowering and could do with being pruned to keep its unruly nature under control.

However I doubt that it will be pruned at the 'after flowering' period that is recomended in my gardening books. This is because it is currently home to my visitors. I have had a Blackbird visiting my garden to feed throughout the winter. He has obviously found himself a wife.

I took a rare morning meander around my garden yeasterday as I waited for the kettle to boil. As the garden is so small I can only meander as there is no room to stroll. I was on my way back to the kitchen, ready for my morning coffee, when a bunch of woven twigs caught my eye. As I turned to look I was presented with a wonderful gift. There before me was the Blackbird's nest, complete with chicks. I hurried to get my camera and had to wait until father finished feeding before I could capture the site.

I did not have to move any of the Clematis to capture this shot.

I took two shots when mother Blackbird landed on the fence with a fat, juicy, worm in her beak clearly ready to feed her young. She tilted her head from side to side watching me. I slowly stepped back and she entered the nest area.

I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity for such a wonderful photograph. Not wanting to disturb her any more I left her to tend her young and went indoors.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The March Winds Do Blow

Gales have swept the country this year and the January gales wreaked havoc on our local forests and woodlands. Sherwood Forest had every footpath closed by fallen trees. Seventy five mature trees had to be removed before access was again available to the public. One path has had to be re-routed completely. There is reported to be in excess of another 150 trees, including 4 huge oaks that are being left on the ground to provide new habitat for the woodland flora and fauna.

It’s not been easy to get the jobs done that I had planned as a result of taking over the plot next to me. There has been several times when it was not possible to do anything without causing damage to the soil by walking on it. Now just when it is getting a little drier and workable I have been confined to barracks for a week with a chest infection. Life isn’t fair sometimes is it? ........emoticom ..... I did however manage to get all my fruit trees transplanted into their new permanent positions before the gales hit and I am in the process of erecting a cage over them which can be netted or fleeced according to need. I have kept the path on its original place which was down the edge of my old plot. This serves two purposes. Firstly it will help reduce any disease going from my old plot onto the new and visa versa, secondly it nicely separates my fruit and flower beds from my vegetables.
My purple sprouting broccoli seems to have enjoyed the weather and it is looking very healthy. I do think it helped when I tied them into support stakes. I think they would have met the same fate as the trees if I hadn’t done this. This veg is new to my kitchen but I will certainly be growing it again.

This is the most important piece of equipment down on the farm ... whoops I mean allotment. There is not a single job it doesn’t help with, and it is especially useful when planning or problem solving, or if you want to cultivate good will with other allotment holders on a wet and windy day.

As you can see from this picture, taken a couple of weeks ago, I am slowly getting to grips with preparing the ground. The heap at the front is the remains of my second load of beast manure. The first, 3 ton load, was spread last November and rotavated into the soil. This load, which was a much larger load, is being stockpiled ready for use later in the year. Neither of the plots had received any manure or compost for several years according to the guys on nearby plots. I lost all my brassicas last year, but I was given some replacement plants and several barrow loads of well rotted manure and told to plant again. The purple sprouting is the result of this. There is a vast difference.

I was recently approached by 3 teenagers, 16/17yrs, who are about to embark on their Silver Duke of Edinburgh award. They want to learn the skill of growing fruit and vegetables and we have decided between us what they want to do. They will be loaned an area of my plot for 6 to 12 months during which they will learn how to grow vegetables organically. They will learn about soil management, composting, crop rotation and pest control. The site Chairman and Secretary will subject them to the monthly inspections and sign off their reports. I am looking forward to working with them as I am sure the learning will be a two way process.

Now all I need to do is decide if the soil is warm enough for me to plant this nut seed or not. Perhaps I will just nibble the edge of it whilst I make up my mind.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Taming of the Beast

Today I decided to overcome my fear of the machine that sat lurking in my shed. It had sat leering at me for several weeks like a beast waiting to pounce at the first opportunity. I recalled taking possession of it with pride but then it growled its deep throated growl when its 5hp engine was kicked into life and fear gripped my heart. Questions of doubt swiftly entered my mind; would I be able to control it, would it be to wild a beast for me to tame, how did I start and stop it and would it turn and attack me for daring to try?
It was reluctant to spark into life as if sulking for being left in the cold dark shed. Eventually if coughed and sputtered before gaining it steady pulsating growl. Left hand forward, right hand reverse, I fixed the instructions in my head. Gently squeezing the left hand trigger the tines began to spin and it bounced wildly across the ground causing my heart to pound. I swiftly let go of the handle and it sat motionlessly groaning at me. Slowly but surely we learned to work together. Both hands down and it bit deeply into the soil, both hands slowly raised and it inched forwards ready to till the next few inches of the row. Growing in confidence I tamed the length of my allotment. It was only a narrow strip, but it was tamed. Now I had to work out how to turn it. I squeezed the right trigger, damn that was the throttle, the growl died and the machine sat lifeless with its tines embedded deeply into the earth. This time it started on the first pull as if eager to get on with the job. There was a lot of forward and reverse before I mastered the art of turning the beast but we were at last making our way back down the plot. Up and down we went for several minutes until I eventually turned and looked at our efforts. A sense of pride and achievement filled me with joy. It didn’t seem to matter that the lines looked like they had been drawn by someone in a drunken stupor; I was slowly gaining the art of using a rotavator. When I had finished one half of my plot my arms ached and my hands tingled. I was so weary that it was an effort to wheel the darned thing back to its resting place.
This for me was a real achievement. Not only had I turned more than half of my 750 square yard but I had faced my fear and overcome it. Mind you I still have a great respect for that beast in much the same way as a lion tamer has to maintain respect for the power of the lion.