Archive for April, 2007

Shrooms and Spuds

DSC00071Plenty of shrooms and spuds on the allotment this week. I’m not sure that the shrooms are edible, but very interesting looking – a bit like a pine cone and fairly small (See pics on album).

DSC00065The spuds however are coming through in the big blue boxes! Huzzah – I was getting worried about them. A few did look like the slugs had had them.

We’ve got a big slug problem at the moment. I’m researching the best way to safely deter them, but they’ve killed my cucumbers so naught shall survive if caught. I tossed out about 20 yesterday from the cloche but I found another 8 today. None big, but big enough to entirly munch several plants. boo hiss slugs!

DSC00069Was ambulancing today – pic shows the 4×4 I wasn’t in (I was in the A&E ambulance behind it) watching show jumping at shopland hall. Turns out horses don’t like getting wet. A good 25% of the horses refused (initially) to go through the water some needing coaxing others plainly giving up. That was the only entertaining part of the day for me – the guys on earlier got to see broken tendons and all sorts. Bah.

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Cars are horrible bits of machinery that have several purposes

1) to provide transport between A and B
2) to cost the earth in pollution from so many different angles
3) to cost my pocket in taxes, repairs, services etc

My girlfriend recently had to have an MOT on her car.  It cost the princely sum of £475 odd because it required a new windscreen, two front tyres, rear brakes replacing, tightening of many different bits including the handbrake, suspension raising, tracking and not forgetting the MOT itself.

Her car cost her £300 last year to buy when she passed her test.

The only real benefit she now has is a working car and the comforting thought the rustbucket is still on the road for yet another year as long as nothing else goes wrong.  It was registered in 1995 so has had 12 years on the road clocking up a massive 51k in mileage.

My car was registered in 2000.  It has had several thousand pounds in repairs since new including brakes, fuel throttle bits and pieces, vandalism & accidents by other road users (both when I was in bed asleep), wishbones (due another one now) and other random small bits and pieces.

Unfortunately after my girlfriends recent spate of problems I felt fairly smug.  My car was quite good, only recently requiring a new exhaust system and a few other bits and bobs (new clutch) costing less than £500…

Then of course someone notices some fluid under the car and on top of that a strange smell inside. No heating and in unrelated matters oil on the driveway.

The power steering motor is shot and the coolant has emptied out of the car – I’ve probably been driving with it for a while like it, so no idea how badly damaged the engine is.  Fortunately it still works with no obvious effects so I’ve done a complete clean and filled it with new fluid and radweld.  Huzzah, it seems fixed.  The power steering motor though will need replacing as it is leaking oil into the alternator, so fingers crossed I can sort that this weekend.

The pluses of this whole piece of theatre is that now:

I understand the whole cooling process of my car and how to fix minor issues.
I understand about the hydralic pressure of brakes and how if you don’t have enough liquid in them, your brakes don’t work
I understand that oil isn’t good for your alternator, what one is and where it is in my car.

Add to that all the other issues I have loving started to fix myself I have a much better idea of what is wrong with my car and how to fix it.  Diagnosing problems is less of an issue and fingers crossed, soon I’ll be able to service it cheaper too.  £130 per service is crippling especially since when the car goes off for a whole day I spend much longer getting to work.  I feel fortunate that the car is not entirely controlled by a computer so I can fix these problems – and that my car is on the road for another year.

My parents are convinced that I should get another car – this one has caused me nothing but problems.  I like to think of my car as an unnecessary necessary.  When I first starting learning computers the thing that got me to learn so much more about them was breaking it and having to fix it before my parents got home.  Similarly I know I have to get to work the next day or after the weekend, so if it ain’t fixed it ain’t going nowhere and guess which mug’ll be getting the train…

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Much room for mushrooms #2

MushroomsFinally sucess for the mushroom box.  So far I’ve had two mushrooms grow out of a box costing £1.99.  Not exactly the best economy but I’ve grown mushrooms which I shall now be eating. mmm, mushrooms.

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April update

It’s about time you saw some of the ‘improvements’ on the allotment.  So check out the ‘ALBUM’ link at the top of the page.  That’ll take you to my flickr album.  Check out the wonderful April album

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Finally, something other than earth, earth, earth!

dog skull and cross bones

It definitely gets very boring when all you’re finding is a) couch grass b) dirt (consisting mainly of clay), c) earthworms.  Occasionally we find grubs, beatles or even ants.  Mainly it’s very dull.  So you can imagine my surprise when my shovel hit something hard. Was it some kind of wooden chest filled with gold?  ancient dinosaur remains? a murder victim? Of course not, but either a fox or small pet dog about fox size call Robert or similar.  Now of course his rotted remains will make wonderful fertiliser for anything grown in that area of the plot, but what to do with the remains?  I have enough problems with foxes as it is – the weed resistant membrane laid down at the weekend last is covered in doggy prints.  So leaving out skeletal remains is an open invite.  So I’ve stuck the majority of bones in a plastic plant pot and stuck it on the compost heap where it is less likely to jump on anything important.

On the other hand the child in me decided to stick the head on a stick, name it robert overseer of the allotment and put him by the water butt.

In other news we’ve planted the F1 ‘extra early extra sweet’ sweetcorn kernals so hopefully I can start my three sisters bed soon. I’ve dug a hole for the beans (two of them) to make a lovely arch between my big blue boxes and filled the water butt so I have less far to run in the evenings when I’m trying to water them extra quickly.  Helen split up some of the herbs she is growing in the hope that in a few months she can sell some at the hawkwell horticultural show.

I made the overly conscious decision to temporarily convert the watering can into a mini fridge and cooled my beer, sat in a chair and surveyed my land.  As well as chatting to patrick the neighbouring allotment who has planted out an impressive array of spuds – about ten varieties and about 40 in each row. He’s going to be eating spuds morning noon and night.

I’ve made a better growing cone for the sweet peas. I swear the blighters have grown about an inch since I planted them out on Wednesday.  I’m sure I’ll be back in a week and the cone will be groaning under the weight.

Tomorrow is definitely a weeding day.  And perhaps some proper photos using a decent camera rather than my mobile phone.

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I made a particularly big impulse buy – a cloche for the plot.  This is a fairly large affair, costing £24.99 and has so far stood up to some fairly hardcore winds.  In it we have two tomato plants which are growing at a rate of knots, melons, squashes and some assorted seeds!  I’ve already made my neighbours jealous and rumour has it they are now scouring the shops to buy one.

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Crisis Management

Some people ask how I manage to live my life, and usually the reply is ‘crisis management.  For those not in the know I do many things in my life:

1.) Main job (working full time for a certain large company – 35hrs a week)
2.) St John Ambulance – I do shifts for Essex and London Ambulance services, mainly attending urgent calls in an A&E ambulance.  The training also takes up my time, especially on a Tuesday, though I’ve been neglecting it of late due to my buying of a house.  I also have to do duties at sports events (local matches, marathon) among other stuff.
3.) Scouts – Whilst not officially a leader, I do spend a couple of hours on a Wednesday trying to expand young kids minds by lighting fires, pulling down trees and sending them on freezing cold expeditions.
4.) Allotment work – maintaing what is going to be a large source of my food in the new flat.
5.) Sales for a south Korean company (called WIPS) which I spend a large amount of time writing letters, email, calling and supporting clients
6.) Photography – this has suffered recently after completing a course in it, but I’ll be back on track now most of the hassle is gone.
7.) PC repairs & software engineering for charities and friends/neighbours.
6.) Last but not least, a social life.  Yes I do have one.  No, it’s not all glitz and glamour – it’s generally having friends over for beers, the odd bit of dominos, computer games or dare I say it, going outside of the manor and seeing the inside of pubs and clubs.

I’m also working on a number of projects such as my low impact initiative in a flat, inventing things and sleeping.  I get on average 8 hours of sleep a night and here I shall impart my words of wisdom who wants to pack as much into your day as possible:  Get up early – I can’t remember the last time I slept in later than 9…

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Busy weekend…

Handprints in the compost




Got down the allotment about 10:30 and dug in the mushroom log. To counteract the heat of the sun and the current lack of tyres I covered it over with an empty compost bin and wet it.

I also dug a trench for the mangetout and prepared a cane climbing frame. Unfortunately I made the mistake of digging and seeding the wrong way (into the wind) which of course when the plants are growing will be like a fence. We shall soon see the strength of my scout lashings and beanpole construction.

The neighbours who skimmed their topsoil to remove the couch grass made huge stacks on the corners of their plot. Last thing on sat they told me I could take as much as I liked. Whilst the soil is very very dry and very fibrous due to the amount of dead couch etc I needed soil to fill my final raised bed for my three sisters planting. I transported almost half of their giant stacks across and dumped it in my box with a car load of manure and covered over with weed suppressant membrane. I know some of that couch is likely to spring back to life, but with the manure and membrane we ought to be able to fight it off till it _finally_ dies!

Planting out




I planted up some butternut squashes and the girlfriend planted up a lot of seeds into the veg bed shes been preparing. We’ve got a few root veggies, plenty of rocket (no, enough to feed the five thousand _easily_) and some sprouts which I personally detest. I’ve got my money on the slugs destroying them!





Finally met the last neighbour adjoining my plot – nice guy whos wife is a horticulturalist. We discussed why my rubarb leaves are now red – it’s probably the frost we’ve had but it may have been over manure (seeing as it is in a pure manure bed it’s always a possbility!

I decided to plant a few sunflower seeds up and around the spare poles – always best to keep the birds happy as they can pick off the slugs I’m going to leave out for them – it reminds me to create a slug table for them.

I stuck down a few more sheets of the weed membrane in the hope of killing more couch grass so digging is easier for next year, but I hold little hope it’ll actually work. I’ll probably manure on top this weekend so the worms do most of the work for me.

Just as I was leaving the plot I met an old lady who burdened me with a few sweet potatoes. these particular tubers were grown from a Waitrose pack some five years previously and she’d been passing them off to each and every allotment holder since. I’ve not had sweet potato but since I don’t like swede or similar I suspect these may be for the girlfriend rather than me. They did however have a large number of holes through them, so I’m a little worried by this – perhaps it’s disease?

Spent about 10 hours total, photos to come.

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