Wednesday, 27 April 2011


This unseasonable sunshine and warmth has brought all us fair-weather gardeners out in force up at the allotments. Last year most of us were very late in putting seeds into the ground as it was so wet.

The Under-gardener (my Dad) pulling one of 'last years' parsnips (still good eating!)
In fact, this time last year my attentions were mainly on Claudia and her newly hatched chicks. Right on cue, she's gone broody again so I may leave her on a clutch of eggs again and see how she gets on.

Here's another installment from Chickenopolis. This guy is Louis I (Louis the first) and is king of the big house. My wellies bear the scars of many an attack from this chap who is a very 'full-on' rooster, not at all like Jacques who is much more gentlemanly and friendly.

What you lookin' at?
He's a bit blooded again at the moment as Jacques somehow got over the bloody fence again probably after the daily bickering through the gate escalated into a full blown barny. I'm going to have to sort that out.

It's a pity they can't get along so they could all have the run of the orchard instead of having the Berlin wall running across it.

Finally though I'm getting some stuff done on my plot (the one I've kept) and tackling the little areas like the bit bottom left of the picture above, which never got sorted last year. I think I'll put a clump of sunflowers there.

The plot that is now vacant next to me is rapidly reverting back to jungle. Sure hope someone takes it on soon.

Back to work!

Saturday, 16 April 2011


Despite literally not having two minutes to rub together at the moment, I've decided (in my infinite wisdom) to embark on yet another project! Work has kicked off again, deadlines are looming, the plot needs sorting (urgently) and I've got commissions for some furniture which I've yet to make. On top of that I need to get onto the water more to do some serious fishing and stock up the freezer with lovely fresh fish.
So why not take on more I hear you ask?
At the moment I feel like a pilot, who, on looking out of the cockpit window, sees that both engines are on fire and that the bits of his plane are disintegrating, but still decides to push the stick forward, full throttle into a screaming nose dive!

So what is this new project? After giving it some thought last year I've finally decided that now (!!!) is a good time to start beekeeping. There's enough to occupy this blog with growing, fishing and eating and all the sundry items that go with these topics so I've created another blog devoted entirely to my early apiarist adventures Bees Make Honey so go check it out and see how badly I'm doing.
Seriously though, many of you, particularly those who garden or grow your own veg/fruit etc., will have  concerns about the plight of the bees, especially the Honey bee, which is having a tough time of it at the moment. A third of the bees in the USA have disappeared and CCD (colony collapse disorder) is proving to be a serious problem worldwide (the UK no exception) that will have huge impacts on food production for everyone including you and me.
So if you fancy having a go yourself at keeping bees then take a peek at Bees Make Honey and see how even an idiot like me can (hopefully) keep a couple of hives. Hey, might even get some honey to eat. Faaabbbb!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


Last night was a bit fraught. As I bounced up the allotment track in my little jeep (which is making an horrendous farty noise at the moment by the way) I noticed that the two Copper Black Marans - Marge and Margo, where strolling about in the top part of the orchard. As I got nearer I saw Jacques the Copper Blue cockerel up there too. The dividing gate was wide open!
Needless to say both Jacques and his Copper Black half brother Louis had been scrapping and were both the worse for wear, covered in gashes and oozing blood.
Now the wind had blown up a bit in the day, but when I re-hooked the gate shut and tried to shake it free again like a hurricane had just hit town, I couldn't make the gate jump open.
Conclusion: Either the chickens have learnt how to stand on eachothers backs and open the latch on the gate. Or. Someone has decided it would be a good idea to watch a cock-fight and has opened the gate.
I get upset at the thought of that so I'm trying not to let my paranoia get the better of me.
As I can't be up there all day (it's 2 miles away from my house) I've decided to get one of those trail cameras. Wildlife photographers, army snipers etc., use them to capture animals and such that trigger the camera on movement. They even have IR lights that illuminate the area and are invisible to the human eye. It's either that or getting a steel pallisade fence around the plot which will make the whole allotment experience like visiting someone in prison.
Who knows maybe I'll be posting a pic of a three chicken trapeze act.

Friday, 8 April 2011


After an exasperating week of chasing overdue invoices and treading gingerly over the developing political minefield that litters the allotment, it was nice to take an afternoon out on the river and do some fishing.

 This is a stretch of the River Derwent where I've had a lot of success trotting a float down stream earlier in the year, but yesterday I decided to try the fly and catch a couple of Brown Trout for dinner.

Unfortunately I must have used the fish repellent fly patterns again as they just didn't want to know. Typically, I'd remembered to take my camera this time to take some pics of my hugely successful days fishing but didn't actually catch any fish!

A lovely afternoon though, and did the trick in ridding me of my worries - for a bit.

So on the allotment front, I've now officially only got one for growing and the orchard for the chooks. Hopefully this will mean a pristine garden this year, back to it's former glory of the first year. The Red Beast did its duty again, easily chopping through the soil and clover with its freshly sharpened tines.

Just look at the concentration on that guys face...
What is really getting me excited this season is this years Grow Fish Eat project. As I type this I've got an unopened parcel at my feet. But that's for tomorrow...

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Coup d'├Ętat

Phhhhhh! Well, talk about a bloodless coup. Last night's allotment AGM, attended by 99% of the membership turned out to be textbook regime change - something which the people of Libya would do well to take notes from.
The Chairman resigned, the Treasurer resigned, the Vice-President resigned, and one of the good guys on the committee resigned. This left a power vacuum that was, in a pre-orchestrated and carefully planned pincer movement, eagerly filled by members of the 'Dark Side' of the allotment lunatic asylum inmates.
In the blink of an eye, whilst the 'good guys' reeled with the lightning speed of this blitzkrieg occupation, the future of the allotments now looks very grim indeed.

The 'Dark Side' plan their attack!
I managed to stay on the committee (for what use that's going to be) but as even as I type this, I'll bet what community spirit there was left on the allotments is blowing away like dry soil over the hedgerows.
As I drove down the track after cleaning out my chook houses this morning, I looked in the rear-view mirror. Scurrying back up the track after my departure was one of the resident two-legged rats, already on the lookout for the next opportunity to steal something. I'll keep posting developments.

Monday, 4 April 2011


I grabbed five minutes yesterday to grind an edge on the rotorvator tines. Not my favorite job as I try not to set fire to myself with the sparks of white hot metal flying about like fireworks.

Chopping through the roots of the 'green compost' I put down last year and bits of stone and debris that litter typical allotment soil, blunted the steel blades of the red beast, making it hard going trying to plough the plot. The green compost sown was clover - the idea was to smother the usual supects weed-wise and just rotorvate the stuff in during spring. The nitrates and good stuff would then go back into the soil to feed the proper plants. Good plan? No. This stuff has surface and subsurface roots that are as tough as old fishing net and make hoeing between the plants a real chore.
There's half the plot to do yet but the weather has moved in so rain stopped play. Talking about fireworks, it's the allotment AGM this Wednesday night. Reckon there'll be some real sparks flying this year.