Potwell Inn gets a lick of paint.

During these difficult times …

I love that phrase – during these difficult times – there’s barely a shopfront in the whole of Bath that hasn’t got those words somewhere on a notice on the door. Yes we get it – billions of pounds worth of investment, unquantifiably valuable lives, dreams and careers have been gambled and lost. Difficult times barely covers it.

However, the dreadful ghost of the spirit of the blitz has been invoked by our glorious leaders and many of us are just getting on with it as best we can; which is what apparently happened during the blitz – which also boasted profiteers, a flourishing black market, food shortages, incompetent administration and people who couldn’t be stuffed to pull their blackout curtains because they were too important. So – we’re just getting on with it; grumbling about the government and the weather (too hot, too cold, too wet) – after all we’re British- and growing lots of things in the allotment which if, (as I’m inclined to believe it does), is thoroughly enjoying the extra attention.

Growing more from small plots

So what would be the correct way to describe the complete opposite of scorched earth? One of the key ways of increasing productivity on the allotment is never to leave a patch of ground empty. Harvest the crop, prep the ground again with some compost or organic fertilizer like fish blood and bone or chicken manure pellets, rake it over and firm it if necessary and replant straight away. For instance, today we harvested just a few potato haulms and replaced them immediately with the last of the runner bean plants – we’re trialling three varieties of both broad and runner beans this year. Of course it makes rotations devilishly challenging, but keeping the ground occupied increases overall productivity and suppresses weeds, and as long as the soil and the plants are healthy, which – in organic systems they usually are – you don’t get the same pest and disease problems as you do in conventional intensive and chemically driven monoculture. Just to give one example, broad spectrum insecticides kill as many friends as they do foes and so repeat infestations tend to do far more damage because the predators have been suppressed.

Anyway, we’ve so much time on our hands at the moment we can remove individual blackfly manually and give each one a state sendoff.

Some long needed repairs.

A friend of ours, a very talented mathematician, got a job at the University trying to repair a huge software system that had been added to and adapted by so many people it had become unusable. I did ask him what it did once – it was something to do with astrophysics – and he lost me after the first sentence, but it sounded useful – to astrophysicists that is. It was such a complex unravelling that he ended his tenure there with a PhD and left the software in rude health once again.

Blogs can get like that too. What seems like a good idea on a slow rainy day can develop very quickly into an unmanageable beast. I make no claim to being a big-time blogger, but I’m touched by the fact that even a handful of people find the blog interesting and I really enjoy writing it. It started life five years ago as a (very) personal journal, and then when I’d been retired for a couple of years I thought it would be good to water down the pain and suffering a bit and go public so I could stay in touch with old friends.

So I was more than surprised to discover that only a handful of people I knew, actually followed and most were from other countries altogether. I would set myself milestones and slowly they were passed and so I kept going. But the original structure of the blog was based on what I imagined I would be writing about and almost all my predictions were wrong. I also randomly added photos to the blog and by now I have 2000 completely uncatalogued photographs and 350,000 very poorly indexed or tagged words. I’ve slowly become aware that not everyone reads the blog sequentially, and some potential readers are almost certainly put off by the sheer difficulty of finding what they want. The blog is no longer a diary, although for me it’s still that, but it’s also a library.

asparagus autumn biodiversity chillies climate change compost compost bins composting coronavirus deep ecology earth ecology environment environmental catastrophe environmental crisis Extinction rebellion field botany foraging garlic global heating growing chillies herbal medicine hotbed intensive farming lockdown lost gardens of heligan marmalade meditation no-dig potatoes preserving raised beds rats recycling rewilding Sourdough species extinctions spring sustainability technology water storage weather weeds wildflower meadows wildflowers

All of which means that the opportunity that the new block editing software (which wasn’t that hard to learn), has given me is to spend some time redesigning some aspects of the site to make them more user friendly, but not being a computer wizard makes it slow; so apart from a few minor design improvements which are part of the block editor, I’m going to rewrite the categories and introduce sub categories based on information from the tag cloud (how many people read each tagged post) and have a big think about how best to grow the site. I shan’t ever be selling T shirts or bespoke advice, but it takes the same amount of time to do the job badly as it does to do it well. Actually

if you’ve ever slowed your laptop to a crawl while you search through 2000 images to find the one on the beach at Aberdaron, it takes infinitely longer to do the job badly.

So you may have noticed some small design changes already and I hope the extra signposting helps a bit. The other changes are under the bonnet for the most part, but they may make life a bit difficult if things go wrong or links are broken – so please forgive me – I apologise in advance. Just to finish, a couple of photos, one of the lockgate on Bath Deep lock which is looking like a bookshelf of wildflowers at the moment. The other is of a front door in Great Pulteney Street which, by virtue of some pretty vigorous machine sanding has become an abstract painting – far nicer than its glossy predecessor.

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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