Sunday, 28 June 2009

Dragging out old news

I found this article linked from the front page of the BBC news website. It is written by someone who had an allotment in the 1970s and who gave it up within the first year.
Whilst I know that a proportion of people are unable to maintain the commitment to their allotments for a a variety of reasons, and that they will normally last less than a year, I found it amusing that they couldn't find someone with a more recent experience to write about it!
Having taken over a very neglected plot I know that feeling in your stomach when you haven't been for a couple of days and you have to spend half an hour or so digging up bindweed and mares tail before you can even think about doing anything with the planting.
However, the best tip I can give is to divide the plot into manageable chunks and not expect to be able to do everything all at once. I still have two beds covered with black plastic and that is how they will stay now until next year.
I have planted strong, ground covering plants which will hopefully block out some weed growth. The courgette leaves are now covering most of bed one, and the nasturtiums I planted are also sprawling well.
If you have an allotment, don't lose heart. Hang on to the reasons why you took it on in the first place, and balance the small time commitment against the ability to produce fresh, organic and very, very local food for you and your family.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Penny's leeks

Thanks Penny! The leek and potato soup will be on us this winter.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Ready for first harvest!


I planted some more purple sprouting this morning and have left some space for the curly kale that I have got coming on in the greenhouse. I then built a net cage over the brassica space.
In bed three I planted butternut squash and pumpkins.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

CSI Ipswich

I feel like the Sarah Sidell of the allotment (I am not glamorous enough to be the Catherine Willows). I am reopening cold cases, redigging areas that have already been dug, and removing the evidence of pernicious weeds.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


I hate airplanes. I dislike their pollution. I dislike their noise. I particularly dislike military aircraft with their role in war and destruction. Airplanes scare me. I have never flown and never want to.
How then did I end up on the allotment this morning gazing up at the sky in awe as the flypast for the Queen's birthday (why does she have two?) went overhead. I almost felt excitement as the Red Arrows went past. Perhaps I am turning into a boy?!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

The Diggers song

Never forget the roots (no pun intended) of allotmenting. I often sing the Diggers' Song to remind me of the great tradition I'm following. These are the lyrics used by the great Chumbawamba from the album English rebel Songs.

You noble diggers all stand up now, stand up now 
You noble diggers all stand up now 
The wasteland to maintain sin (?) cavaliers by name 
Your digging does maintain and persons all defame 
Stand up now, stand up now 
Your houses they pull down stand up now, stand up now 
Your houses they pull down, stand up now 
Your houses they pull down to fright your men in town 
But the gentry must come down and the poor shall wear the crown 
Stand up now diggers all 
With spades and hoes and plows stand up now, stand up now 
With spades and hoes and plows, stand up now 
Your freedom to uphold sin (?) cavaliers are bold 
To kill you if they could and rights from you to hold 
Stand up now diggers all 
The gentry are all round stand up now, stand up now 
The gentry are all round stand up now 
The gentry are all round on each side the are found 
Their wisdom so profound to cheat us of our ground 
Stand up now stand up now 
The lawyers they conjoin stand up now stand up now 
The lawyers they conjoin stand up now 
To rescue they advise, such fury they devise, the devil in them lies 
And hath blinded both their eyes 
Stand up now, stand up now 
The clergy they come in stand up now, stand up now 
The clergy they come in stand up now 
The clergy they come in and say it is a sin 
That we should now begin our freedom for to win 
Stand up now diggers all 
'Gainst lawyers and 'gainst priests stand up now stand up now 
'Gainst lawyers and 'gainst priests stand up now 
For tyrants they are both, even flat against their oath 
To grant us they are loathe free meat and drink and cloth 
Stand up now diggers all 
The club is all their law, stand up now stand up now 
The club is all their law, stand up now 
The club is all their law, to keep all men in awe 
That they no vision saw to maintain such a law 
Stand up now diggers all 

Last (wo)man standing

I got to the allotment this morning just as it was starting to rain and Ali, my neighbour was trying to decide whether or not to use the hose on her plot as the ground was so dry. The rain didn't seem to be having much effect at that stage. After about half an hour Andy from 'across the way' turned up with his two kids and very white dog.
I got on with clearing bindweed, watered my sweetcorn and, having released some bricks from bed three, finally got down to covering bed five with black plastic. As all this was going on the rain was getting harder and harder. Ali left, quickly followed by Andy and his brood and all the other allotmenteers, leaving me with the rain running into my pants, digging away.
After I realised that every inch of me was soaked to the skin, I also gave up and went home. I stood on the doorstep dripping and called to Nigel to help me get out of my clothes. His retort was "On a Sunday? What would the vicar say"! 
A hot shower and hot breakfast (pictured on Nigel's blog) later I felt back to normal.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Anniversaries, good byes and badgers

On Friday night Nigel and I went on a badger watch. It was a great experience. My previous sightings of live badgers (rather than those lying dead at the side of the road) have been few and at a great distance.
Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and we sprinkled Stoofer's ashes at Shingle Street. He was our "best dog" at our wedding so we thought that this was an appropriate time to perform the ritual farewell to him. It was a beautiful day and we carried him across the stones for one last time and scattered him on the beach where he loved to bumble around. It felt right.
In the evening we danced to "our song" as the sun went down - we're such a corny couple - The Ship Song by Nick Cave and the Badseeds.
I love my husband very much and he makes me feel complete - he' s also about the only person that ever reads my blog!


I can not under estimate the therapeutic value of sticking your hands into the earth, planting things and watching them grow. However stiff and sore I end up after a digging session, the actual act of digging stretches out long underused muscles and provides an all round good workout for body and mind.
If I am at the allotment on my own I can get in to an almost meditative state or use the time to mull over those things that have been niggling at me - I can take out any aggression that arises on those stubborn lumps of couch grass.
The last few weeks I have been really troubled by some significant pain in my left foot and my lumbar spine, but I have made myself continue with the work on the allotment. I am really glad that I have done so. It would be all too easy to stay at home wilting on the sofa with a "woe is me, I can't do that" attitude, but getting out there and getting lost in the myriad of tasks facing me makes me forget the pain and it is not until I start hobbling back home that I notice it again.
I honestly believe that getting the allotment is the best thing I have done in ages. It touches me on practical, political and spiritual levels.