Here’s the reality
– and here’s the plan …
There’s nothing quite like the slimy, viscous quality of re-purposed boards when they’re coated in mud and frozen. You need a tracksuit under your overalls, thick gloves and knee pads when it’s this cold. The promised snow never arrived, possibly because Bath is in a kind of bowl, surrounded by hills and only divided by the valley of the River Avon. So being at river level we get a degree of protection – that’s the upside. The downside is that a mass of polluted air often hangs over us and that’s bad news for asthmatics like me. The City Council have been refusing to deal with the problem ever since the Buchanan Report 50 years ago. We breathe fumes and they see tourist revenue. Every couple of years the set up another committee and kick the whole thing into the long grass.
However, the sun was shining and I really wanted to get on with building the hotbed today so that we can drop the hot horse manure straight into it on Friday. It couldn’t be a simpler concept. I’ve built a rectangular 4’X3′ frame that can drop into any of the raised beds we’ve built. It will hold about 10 bags of manure capped with good quality compost. The picture shows it upside down because it’s not quite finished. In February of each year the frame is filled with the good stuff and then by the end of the season it’s all become well rotted and very rich compost. So we’ll lift the frame off and spread the contents over the bed and move the frame to another place. It occupies just under half a bed and so in 50 years time, when I’m 132 we’ll be back at the beginning. Maybe we need more frames! but you get the general idea. We allotmenteers are among the world’s greatest optimists. We can see into the future, or at least to the end of the next season and we know that with a degree of good fortune and skill most of it will come to pass. What shall we grow in it? We’re discussing that right now but some very early potatoes would be nice. We grew ‘Jazzy’ in bags last season and they were pretty good but too close together.
My robin – well, the robin – is becoming ever more courageous and is beginning to dart very close whenever I’m breaking the soil. The ground is frozen solid down to a couple of inches, so it was easier to walk on it, but I made an interesting discovery when I moved some beetroot plants that were in the way. Underneath the plants the earth was still soft. You can see just how well the earth is protected by growing plants.
We’ve had to remove quite a few crops as the beds were being built so Madame has been making soup almost every day. Today it was parsnip soup – fabulous!
But the plan and the reality are always worlds apart. There’s no sun, no rain and no snow on the plan and yet without them nothing would grow – and that’s why allotmenteering is so much fun. All day the weather forecasters were warning us ancients to stay indoors or face the terrible consequences . Stuff them, I had a great time and I was as warm as toast. With my flask of tea and a stool to perch on – life doesn’t get much better.