Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ronksley Brunch again

Pouring down last night
Pouring down again now

but in between..... a window of clear skies and cold sun which enabled six of us to get to a pre-arranged brunch at the shooting cabin just off Ronksley Moor.

It was windy and cold but bacon, eggs, tomatoes, sausages, mushrooms & beans - washed down with coffee & mulled wine - was a good end to the old year and start of the new.

Washing up was a bit al fresco

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The day before the day before Xmas

Yippee. And..... it's a glorious day with bright sunshine and bitter cold frost. Ideal for getting back to the plot and doing some....digging!

So here's the result. Second patch from the top dug over, copiously manured with cute little chicken poop pellets, and lots of ordinary manure around the rhubarb and the plum tree. This year the plum tree produced two plums and both fell off before i could eat them. If it don't do better this year it'll have an appointment with my chopper.

And managed to get some Xmas leeks and Xmas spuds (the taties and the leekies, when they are both full grown, etc etc. make your own rhyme!!)

And finally, in the likely event of nothing posted tomorrow, best wishes to anyone happening by; hope you have a good Xmas and lots of allotment-related presents!

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I've just discovered Freecycle . It's brilliant. Bean Sprouts will love it. Sustainable, low impact, recycling etc. The link to an allotment frame of mind seems pretty clear.

We managed to get rid, in one day, of a settee we'd been trying to sell for ages. And I think I've got a filing cabinet that would cost me £90 new. Neat!! And it keeps it all out of landfill. Apparently Sheffield was the first group in the UK and now has over 6000 members. Downside is that I think I've now had emails from most of them.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Bold Sir Brian Botany (last)

Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on
He went among the villagers and biffed them on the head
On Tuesdays and Saturdays, but mostly on the latterday
He went to their cottages and this is what he said

I am Sir Brian, ting-a-ling
I am Sir Brian, rat-a-tat
I am Sir Brian, bold as a lion
Take that, and that, and that

That's all folks!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bold Sir Brian Botany (7)

Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on
He went among the villagers and biffed them on the head
On Tuesdays and Saturdays, but mostly on the latterday
He went to their cottages and this is what he said

I am Sir Brian, ting-a-ling
I am Sir Brian, rat-a-tat
I am Sir Brian, bold as a lion

Only one to go

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bold Sir Brian Botany (6)

Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on
He went among the villagers and biffed them on the head
On Tuesdays and Saturdays, but mostly on the latterday
He went to their cottages and this is what he said

I am Sir Brian, ting-a-ling
I am Sir Brian, rat-a-tat

Still waiting? Two more

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bold Sir Brian Botany (5)

Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on
He went among the villagers and biffed them on the head
On Tuesdays and Saturdays, but mostly on the latterday
He went to their cottages and this is what he said

I am Sir Brian, ting-a-ling

To be continued. Just wait, more tomorrow

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bold Sir Brian Botany (4)

Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on

He went among the villagers and biffed them on the head

On Tuesdays and Saturdays, but mostly on the latterday

He went to their cottages and this is what he said

To be continued. Just wait. Patience is her own reward & a mighty virtue
Bold Sir Brian Botany (3)

Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on
He went among the villagers and biffed them on the head
On Tuesdays and Saturdays, but mostly on the latterday

To be continued. Just wait. Patience is her own reward

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bold Sir Brian Botany (2)

Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on
He went among the villagers and biffed them on the head

To be continued. No cheating. Just wait

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bold Sir Brian Botany

Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on

To be continued. No cheating. Just wait. Dym Googlio, as they'd say in Wales.

Woody digs again; Dig, Woody, Dig

At last, the coincidence of a decent day and not being at work. I've started digging from the top plot down, taking the opportunity to extend it and put piles of manure in. Here's a 'Before'

and here's an 'After', taken in the almost-dark-at-4-o'clock light.

Eleven bags of manure 'after' to be precise, although they weren't huge bags. I was going to say that should help with a better crop of garlic next year but have just discovered that garlic needs to be on a long (6 years!!) rotation to ensure build up of eelworm doesn't happen. That may explain this year's poor crop. I tend to think of anything in the same family as leeks being pretty much indestructible. That said, the leeks are pretty feeble ths year too, although that's mostly due to malnutrition.

Problem with having an allotment on a very steep slope, in a wet year like this one, is that all the nutriments go whistling straight down the hill. And I was so dispirited by the poor show, drowning, rotting off etc that I couldn't get round to feeding the beggars again.

Mind you, look at the state of the lettuce plantation (foreground).
Poor show, Woody. Do better next year.

And finally, Number 2 in an Occasional Series of Favourite Tools - The Cornish (aka Irish) spade.

It's a cross between a pointy shovel and a spade. Takes a bit of getting used to - you miss a cross piece at the top of the handle but you do get excellent leverage from that really long handle.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

At last I've.....

..... taught myself to do links. Intuitive it isn't.

Note the nifty clock too.

A photo would be good but may be a bridge too far for today.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The East is Red....

... said Chairman Mao. He's clearly never been to my shed, which is supposed to be Red Cedar (that's what it says on the bucket of jollop I've just slapped all over it) but it looks remarkably like Brown to me.

The Great Leader never said The East is Brown. Except when he fell over carrying a bucket of night soil, thus causing the Cultural Revolution in which others ever after carried the Great Leader's poop bucket for him.

You'll deduce from all this that Woody has been winterising his shed - temperatures in Fairbanks, Alaska reached a high of -9C today. You can't be too careful.

Woody has also been stripping the pestilential Russian Vine off his pergola. Low points included falling off the stepladder while head and shoulders through the structure of the pergola, with an electric hedge trimmer in one hand. In an act worthy of the great Trapezo, who never did this clutching a hedge trimmer, Woody caught the trimmer with his foot & swung one-handed from the pergola, emitting Tarzan cries the while.

Still seem to be in full possession of all digits, limbs etc. And all this while suffering from plague. Oh, all right, a streaming cold.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm gonna walk 500 miles

Woody & Mrs Woody had a good stomp with the Proclaimers last night, on the occasion of Mrs Woody's birthday. We remember them first time round so it was good to see them live. Not the most communicative of individuals, in fact Charlie said (quite literally) not a word the whole time, but when you can have a good stomp to 500 miles, who cares.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Romany Ways

Surprise weekend away for the Wilburys; surprise in that Woody didn't know where he was going - we always knew it was going to be a weekend, and that we'd be away. And look where we ended up.

I always wanted a shack in the garden,
and even better if it has a Romany caravan there too.
and it did, and we slept in both of them, under a goosedown duvet. Just north of Abergavenny.
Abergavenny itself was dreadful. We tried seven pubs, all purporting to sell food, before finding one which actually did. Abergavenny Food Festival struck us as a bit of contradiction in terms!

Much better side trips to Hay on Wye & Hereford but mostly to Gentle Jane's tearoom in Grosmont and the Angel Inn, next door in Grosmont. Fabulous venue in which to watch England thrashing the auld enemy, but Ye Gods those Welsh Dragon sausages were hot.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Plague of Flies

We are surrounded by flies. The house is full of flies. Where are they coming from? Nothing seems to have died and rotted but they are everywhere. Everywhere, I tell you. Aaagh.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Cabbage, or what?

What about this then?
Now that's what I call a cabbage! Sadly it isn't mine. It's in Aberglasney Gardens in West Wales,
where we were last weekend for Granny Wilbury's 80th birthday celebrations. Despite her recent hip op Granny W proved v sprightly in hip-hopping around.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Woody Wilbury

Fans of the Traveling Wilburys will no doubt be familiar with their noms de guerre. Lucky, Otis, Charlie T Jnr, Lefty and Nelson Wilbury played on their first album - Volume 1. By the time of their second album Lefty [aka Roy Orbison] had passed away, leaving only Spike, Muddy, Clayton & Boo Wilbury to entertain us on Volume 3.

Sadly Spike [aka George Harrison] has also now passed away (confused yet?) but the music lives on and has just been re-released.

Anyway, the relevance of this here is that in 2001 I was awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to follow in the footsteps of my botanist and plant collecting hero David Douglas, 1799-1834. Douglas as in Douglas Fir and countless others. I've followed him across Scotland, the USA & Canada, stood where he died in Hawaii and visited his grave in Honolulu.

To mark the start of this journey my wife (Effie Wilbury) decided my nom de guerre should be Woody Wilbury (I don't have to explain this do I?) and had a T-shirt made up. I still have it!


And I'm still listening to the Wilburys and still following David Douglas

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Allotment 81 has been off air for the last three weeks, due to being on hols in Crete. So this is a good time to announce that it will henceforth be operated by my alter ego, Woody Wilbury.

Profile has been updated. More on Woody tomorrow. In the meantime a couple of photos from Crete.

And one of Woody

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to Basics

Hoe, Hoe, Hoe your plot, gently down the hill
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, that is how you till

Strim, strim, strim your plot, like a man inspired
Shout, shout, shout a bit, as your arms get tired

Merrily, merrily, verily, verily, I'm reet pooped t'neet!

Drastic state of plot :

requires drastic action (see above; sing merry ditty).

Much neater now and actually able to harvest some stuff. Runner and French beans - picked for the first time this year on August Bank Holiday. Never, Ever, Ever have I been so late picking beans...... At All. Mind you I could probably have got some a couple of weeks ago if I hadn't been so generally fed up with the poor state of it all this year.

And some taters, which I confidently expect to follow Gnome's experience of allotment taters. But happier news with the shallots, which I thought I'd picked and lost, cos I couldn't find them anywhere. Turns out I hadn't picked 'em at all and the little chickabiddies were waiting patiently all the time; good-oh, pickled onions after all!! There aren't many
but, as they say In Edinburgh, mony a mickle maks a muckle. Especially when pickled. Pickled muckle. Lovely.

And the Lovage has recovered from it's drenching. This lot ended up in Mrs M's damn fine fish stew tonight. If you haven't tried lovage in a fish stew I recommend it.

Some flowerage on the plot too, including a fine bank of what my mother insisted on calling Nasturtians. Sadly, they ain't mine but are on the adjacent plot of the Gardener formerly known as Inconstant. Who is showing signs of reverting to type; I'm sure there is a plant breeding term for that but can't remember it. Instant fame for anyone who can suggest it.

Anyway, the plot (or at least the top third of it - mony a mickle etc) now looks positively svelte.
Sadly the same cannot be said of the Gardener now known as Tubbso.
In my mind I have this notion that I'm skinny. As a child I was a very picky eater, and I didn't reach 10 stone until I was 40. Since then slumpage seems to have occurred and no amount of red wine seems able to shift it. Might these facts be connected? Do I care? Well, a bit, but not that much!!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Less is more

Beginning to think about planning the allotment for next year, and I think I'm going to let half of it have a fallow year. I can cover it in weed-suppressing fabric and concentrate on the other half. Get it dug properly, get lots of manure dug in and weeds dug out and grow less stuff but grow it better.
Less area to look after = better care of the area being looked after. Less ground worked but more intensively.

How does that sound for a plan? Fitting with the best Schumacher principle of small is beautiful?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Rave On?

Interesting start to the day. Woken at 6.30 (yes, that's 6.30 on a Sunday morning) by pounding dance music. Loud enough to be perfectly audible, loud enough to wake me up. No obvious source, except that it's clearly outside and fairly close. What idiot will play music that loud, that time, that day? March about the house grumpily (Mrs M is away so can be more grumpy on my own) but find no source and retire back to bed to seethe for an hour.

Get up, still grumpy at 7.30, music still on, audible inside house with windows closed. V grumpy now. Why should I have to have my windows closed on a Sunday morning cos some inconsiderate tosser wants to play his music that loud.

Eventually set off to find source of music and have it out with them. Much peregrinating later, conclude it clearly isn't local and decide to go for walk on moors to ease grumpiness. Naturally, find music. On moors, easily two miles away as crow flies.

Illegal rave in woods behind Ringinglow village. Music at ear-bleeding volume and bridle track over moors blocked with crusties and dilapidated vans. Have "red mist" moment.

Actually, have many red mist moments. Am invited to take stick out of arse and join rave. Threaten to wrap stick round pineapple and shove up ....

Spit particularly venomous epithet at one languid crustie. Couple of minutes later hear plaintive "did you call me a #*#*? Here, he called me a #*#*!!" suspect it would take him best part of 10 mins to formulate thought that he would want to thump me. Pah.

Find one crustie fast asleep in passenger seat of old panel van. Observe closely to be sure is fast asleep. Slap side of panel van hard as poss with palm of hand. Almighty bang. Wakes up so fast bangs head on windscreen. Laugh? Lay on the ground!

For the record, no objection to crusties per se. Also no objection to loud music, festivals etc. But have vigorous objection to being woken at 6.30 on Sunday morning by inconsiderate tossers.

Going for a kip now, have more or less calmed down.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Brincliffe revisited

First visit to the plot to actually do something, as opposed to standing around being depressed about it, for ages. Altho the doing amounted to cutting some hedge. Privet? God's curse on gardeners. What is the purpose of privet? Anyone who says it forms a cheap, quick-growing and effective boundary had better not leave an address or they'll find all mine on their doorstep. I loathe it. But at least you can "see where you've been".

Met my old mates Jenny & Janet (next plot but two to the right). They've had a "Dirty Plot" notice from the council and are mighty embarrassed about it. Mind you, if I don't get the hedge down soon I'll be getting one myself.

Also met Ivan, my immediate neighbour to the left (over the hedge) who has the great joy of a fabulous potting shed newly built on his plot but the great lament of an infestation of mare's tail on his other plot. Two plots? Blimey. I take my hat off to Ivan cos one is quite enough for me.

And even the Gardener formerly known as Inconstant (who shares my gate and path) is putting me to shame. His sweet peas are doing really well; spuds & onions likewise. I doff my cap.

Finally, of the zillions of courgette plants I put out (in the face of great scepticism from one reader of this blog), precisely two weedy little runts have survived the deluge. The others have "gorn dahn the plughole; not lorst, just gorn before" as the song has it. But, brave soldiers that they are (courgette soldiers? Now there's a thought. Not sure I'd want to dip them in my boiled egg) they're trying hard and may yet produce a courgette each.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Death in the afternoon, overflowing reservoirs and strimming thru the bayou

We had a sparrowhawk this afternoon, and it had a sparrow for lunch off the pergola (or buffet as it is known in "Talk Sparrowhawk"). No pictures; it happened too fast, especially for the sparrow. Could I train it to take out next-door-but-one's doves? Albino Fat Alberts if you ask me.

And the reservoirs are overflowing. Now I know that isn't very significant in the grand scheme of things or to people with flooding problems but we normally look at these in March, after a wet winter, and observe sagely "Ee lad, there'll not be a hosepipe ban this yeear, unless Yorkshire water lose it all again". And this is July with all three reservoirs in the Derwent valley full and overflowing. By 'eck.

And finally, some before and afters of the allotment, which is in a sorry state. Tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, beetroot, spinach - all just gone or pathetic. Beans have barely moved in a month. Garlic is in danger of rotting and needs sun to dry it out. Onions ditto. Leeks seem OK. Spuds are OK too.
But basically the thing is ruined for this year. And still it rains; Hey Ho. Think I'm going to have to learn Swamp Gardening. Anyone for mangrove?

The jungle before strimming.

And after (at least it's tidy! ish)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Oh Dear

First visit to the plot since before the Great Rains. Oh dear, oh dear. Lots of stuff has failed - tomatoes are v sorry for themselves, cucumbers likewise. In practice, they've drowned. Just overwhelmed with water, so wet has it been. Other stuff, which was healthy, looks pale and spindly and generally 'behind'. It's been just too cool and wet and all the nutrients have been washed away. Curiously the weeds seem still to be thriving.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Sodden, just sodden

Everywhere is sodden. I've had a day off and had planned to run amuck with my petrol strimmer to get rid of load of excess grassage & weedage. But it was too wet to set foot anywhere so it'll have to wait until things dry up (heroic assumption there!). In the meantime, here are a couple of week-old photos from before the monsoon.

And this monster is on the neighbouring plot. It rustles malevolently and looks at me in a funny way.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'm with Whittingstall

The only good pigeon is a roast pigeon.

Why this burst of carnivorous spleen, you may ask?

Simple. The Fat Alberts have taken to eating my bean plants, necessitating a Colditz-style construction of chicken wire, bakery crates and a dead oak sapling to fend the b*st*rds off. Picture next time, if it (and the beans) survive. I'm not growing any brassicas this year cos the Fat Alberts just go for them too much; they've never gone for my beans before. Is it just spite?

*Fat Albert is services slang for the Hercules transport plane, to which pigeons show considerable resemblance as they swoop in for the attack on my beans. B*st*rds!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Filling Up

Everything is filling up on the plot. Emptied the big bath of foul sludge and filled with clean water, topped up the other three water butts and installed the world's smallest wildlife pond (aka recycled sink from the old kitchen).
Bean canes up (beans doing well at home), Transplanted 10 cucumber plants (ten!! Yes, ten; we like cucumbers!), a sub-plot of tomatoes and a lettuce plantation. What's the plural of lettuce? Lettuces sounds a bit like sheeps but Lettuce as a plural sounds a bit limp and unthinking. Letti?

And I've been Shirtless in Sheffield for three hours this morning so my back is a fetching shade of just-pink, not red, this evening. Attaboy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Busy planting

Tomatoes in (23 - mix of MoneyMaker, Tamina & Gardener's Delight). Another 12 in reserve in case i manage to find room for them!
Courgettes in (5) and Lovage in (3). Lovage is a real favourite here. It's really tasty and once established just keeps coming back in vast quantities every year. With three plants I could feed a lot of people who like lovage!

And there's a cracking great 'thing' on next door's plot. Any ideas what it is? It's probably really obvious and I should know having once been a botanist but I haven't a clue. Looks like an Arum lily but seems too big - it's a good 12 inches high.

Suggestions welcome

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Spud [earth] upping and Swan upping

The spuds are all up and suitably earthed up. Relic leeks removed and garlic patch weeded. New leeks in (Musselburgh). Seem to be having an Alliaceae theme!

Weather has been very changeable - lots of heavy showers, but at least I remembered to take the stove (no Kelly Kettle yet) so plenty of opportunity for tea breaks.

Meanwhile, back on the Chesterfield Canal, some swans are still nesting but others have got well past that stage.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Free as a Bird

No gardening this weekend - I've been gliding instead!!!

This was the Spring meeting of the East Pennine Association of Churchill Fellows, of which I'm currently Chairman. We usually go walking but fancied something more dyamnic, and one of the committee is a member of York Gliding Club, so off we went to Rufforth Airfield, just outside York.

Despite a weather forecast which promised heavy showers (and delivered them in Sheffield), gliding in York was excellent! Rufforth airfield is an old WW2 airfield, still in reasonable shape and used by the gliding club and various small-scale aviation outfits. Quite a lot of conventional gliders, a couple of powered gliders and an autogyro (which looked great fun).

Got a tow up to 2000 ft, behind a fairly basic plane,

then cast off. We found a thermal which took us up to 2500 ft and were up for about 25 mins. I flew it for a bit; managed not to pull the wings off or anything. Tremendous fun and would love to do it again.