Don’t know who this tree belongs to – it’s on the allotment site and it looks as if they’re all going to waste. There’s an unspoken rule that you don’t pick anything off anyone else’s allotment without their specific permission and so the fruit is gradually dropping off – much to the gratitude of the wildlife. Meanwhile I thought it looked absolutely beautiful today, standing against the blue of the sky. Nature produces such wonderful colours (and smells).
In our previous existence we had a small orchard and most autumns a passing flock of redwing would clear up some of the windfalls, and one year we even got a group of six roe deer to join the party. Our hens absolutely loved them too, so not many were ever wasted. On the allotments now we’ve got foxes and badgers. I haven’t seen a redwing in ages but the more unwelcome visitors are rats. A couple of times I’ve disturbed a rat in the compost heap – I don’t know which of us was most startled – but they are a nuisance because they carry a number of diseases. Our son found them on his allotment in Bristol and he’s trying out bokashi on his. It’s a Japanese method for fermenting kitchen waste before it goes on to the compost heap and by all accounts the rats don’t like the smell and stay away.
The only problem is that it’s quite a large outlay for a couple of fermenting bins with taps and a starter supply of molasses soaked bran which is inoculated with several fermenting yeasts and fungi. On the other hand we do produce a great deal of kitchen waste when we prep our vegetables and so if it works it could be worth the investment in the long term. Today’s visitor had half eaten a lump of raw cauliflower and made a comfortable nest for itself. I turned the heap immediately and brought some thoroughly rotted material (with hundreds of worms) to the top, to create a less attractive layer at the top of the heap. But it does raise the question of whether to cover heaps. I’m not sure there’s a correct answer – if you keep them covered they make more attractive nest sites for rats, but if you leave them open, every time it rains the heap cools down again – yet another dilemma for us allotmenteers! However if the bokashi trick works we can cover the heap, water it if it gets too dry, and not worry about the rats.
But it was Christmas day on the allotment this morning. Being Monday, the weekend allotmenteers had gone to work and when we arrived there was another big delivery of both leaves and wood-chip from the Council. Even better, the leaves had obviously been stacked for some time and were already decomposing. Three big loads saw the storage bin topped up and when that was done I turned to the wood chip pile. All our paths are made with wood chip which breaks down surprisingly quickly, so it needs topping up every autumn. It’s important to maintain the paths, not just because they look nicer but also because they enable us to work the beds in any weather.
While I was doing that Madame was pricking out winter lettuces, planting wallflowers under the apple tree and digging up a very large parnip for tomorrow. We were both delighted to see such a whopping vegetable – last year’s crop was pretty miserable – but we won’t know until tomorrow whether it’s so big it’s got a woody core. After yesterday’s introspective ruminations about slavery it was lovely to chill out with some hard physical work – it gives such a sense of achievement, and after 10 minutes we completely forgot the cold wind.