The carnival art of the window box

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Yesterday, when I took this photo from the kitchen, looking out over the park, I fully intended to write something about the indelicate art of window boxes. Ours are so grossly over the top they’re positively pink wigs and leopard skin tights but that’s the point.  Window boxes work from a distance and aren’t intended to impress with their subtlety.  They’re also very useful from the inside of the flat because they create an intermediate space between inside and outside.  All very comforting and – even better – they act as a bottom-up blind giving us some privacy from the road.  If you add in the number of visiting pollinators and insects they’re worth every penny (or pound) we spend on them.

So that was it really.  I probably would have waffled on a bit more but it was a busy day with an early visit to our grandchilds nursery for a grandparent’s day – brilliant, we both wanted to go to that school! Then straight up to the allotment and then on to a meeting in the evening.

The allotment has reached one of those states of stasis that happen from time to time.  It never lasts very long, but you just get a breather and time to step back for  moment and see what’s what. What was what in the greenhouse yesterday was the growing feeling that the violent temperature changes that happen in small greenhouses, (ours is 6X4) and can go from 15C to 40C in a couple of hours, is not a good environment even for heat loving chllies. If the greenhouse is in your garden – ie twenty steps away – its possible to control things a bit, but an allotment is necessarily a bit more remote and you can’t spend all day and every day fussing over it. The wet spring and low temperatures kept the automatic vents closed, much to the delight of the whitefly who just loved it.  So the plants were set back and looked a bit sorry for themselves.  But over the last couple of weeks I’ve been moving tender subjects into the open plots and they’ve loved it. Peppers, chillies, aubergines and tomatoes have all done much better outside.  A bit of space and unrestricted root growth has given them a new lease of life. This enabled more space in the greenhouse and even these plants began to look a bit happier.  So over the last two days, and by way of another of my beloved experiments I’ve re-potted some of them and moved some into open ground and some into the cold frames, leaving a small number in the greenhouse but in much larger pots.

IMG_5710Only one variety of chilli has done well in the greenhouse and the label claimed it was an Apachi F1, but we had real trouble with labels this year.  We moved over to wooden labels and within weeks they were illegible.  I think it was almost certainly a Romital.  Anyway I took a ripe one off the plant today and tasted it and it was just lovely – full of flavour, pretty hot and perfect – I’d say – for a curry. Luckily there’s a good crop on the way.  The Hungarian Hot Wax have had a splendid season so far.  They’re mild and warm and again, full of flavour. The Apaches – the real ones – have done well, and the worst looking of the lot are the Habaneros which look terrible.  I hope their new environment suits them better.

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We’ve been living on fresh peas and broad beans, and yesterday we harvested some Pink Fir Apple potatoes which are brilliant for potato salads.  Last year we evolved a recipe that included fresh basil and pink peppercorns – “baises roses” – pink kisses in French. I could eat it three times a day!

So home and then straight out to a meeting  – details below:

Ted Howard, Co-Founder and President of the Democracy Collaborative in the USA and described as ‘one of 25 visionaries changing your world’ has agreed to talk at a Bath Co-operative Alliance public meeting on Community Wealth Building .This is a powerful tool for more inclusive and democratic local economies which is being implemented in places as diverse as the US city of Cleveland, Barcelona, Bologna and Preston (named as the UKs most rapidly improving urban area in 2018).

Introduction by Jules Peck who has a thirty year career working on sustainable development.

It was packed – half a dozen local councillors and some famous faces – Ken Loach, for instance, was one of the sponsors. It was extremely stimulating stuff and and gave us enough to go on talking about it for most of today.  I do hope something will come of it – the Preston (UK) project sounded repeatable.

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Spectacular skies as we walked home after the meeting and so late to bed for the third night on the run, and then up with the seagulls. Today was more of the same.  Produce is coming off the allotment so fast we were forced to examine the stored, dried and pickled food from last year. The pickled cucumbers had not survived.  It wasn’t so much the taste as the slimy texture, and so they went into the bin along with the salted beans which I only did out of curiosity because I read about them in Patience Gray’s biography.  I think the fairest thing you can say about them is that if there was nothing else green on the plate you might eat them.  We really don’t need to! Last year’s raspberry vinegar has been pressed into service to pickle this year’s glut of beetroot.

Today we bumped into the owner of the plot with the collapsing shed.  I took what might well be the last photo before it goes on to a bonfire. Farewell old friend!

 

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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