Laid Out At The Allotment: Flat-Pack Cat

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There are two long-abandoned plots next to mine at the Wenlock allotments. On recent late-day visits to my polytunnel, the sun still hot, I’ve found this allotment cat (one of several feral felines who haunt the place) stretched out between two dismantled shed panels. The pose says it all: absolute bliss.

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Here’s its sibling. Both cats seem to make a living on the allotment. In fact I think they were born here and don’t seem to belong to anyone. I dare say there are plenty of rodents to hunt. And now I think about it, there are certainly fewer birds foraging on the plots. In the winter, one or other sleeps in my polytunnel.

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And here’s another regular prowler, doing a good little leopard imitation:

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The Changing Seasons: May 2022

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Poppy time on  my allotment plot, the oriental perennials I grew from seed last year. I’d been hoping for a range of colours, but it looks as though they are all turning out to be tomato soup red. I should not complain. This bunch are brightening the spot in front of my shed.

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Otherwise at the allotment, the globe artichokes are going bonkers, arriving far earlier than expected. We’ve already polished off several. By contrast, the early potatoes are making a slow start, their green tops only beginning to sprout last week. Parsnips, on the other hand, have germinated well, this time sown in a large builders’ tub, and the onion sets are making their first green shoots. Beetroot, cauli and cabbage seedlings have been successfully planted out and the broad bean plants are flowering magnificently.

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In the home garden all is alliums and aquilegias, valerian and catmint. The apple blossom is long gone, quickly dispersed by May’s repeated rounds of wind and rain, but a few days ago I noticed there were lots of tiny apples forming – on the Coxes and the crab apple trees.

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Meanwhile around the town, all is lush in the fields beside the Cutlins path – shaggy sheep on one side, young MacMoos on the other, up to their knees and noses in buttercups. And oh yes, don’t forget to watch the sky. Looks like there’s another downpour coming:

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Nearby, on the Linden Field all is bursting green. The cricket season is upon us, the pitch well fettled, and lads in the nets  honing batting skills.  As ever, the Linden Walk is the favoured resort of walkers and runners and lately been proving a welcome resort out of the persistent chilling wind.

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But as you can see, the spring growth hasn’t in the least minded the ongoing coolness, and it’s certainly made the most of May’s sudden spate of unseasonal downpours. He who has given up binding books for the making of small and interesting occasional tables tells me it’s supposed to be getting warmer now June’s arrived. And yes, I think at last I can believe him. Today the sun is out, and best of all, the wind has dropped. In the greenhouse the French beans are surging out of their pots and the sweet corn seeds have germinated, and up in the upstairs garden, rose Teasing Georgia is strutting her stuff. Happy days.

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The Changing Seasons: May 2022  Brian at Bushboy  and Ju-Lyn at Touring My Backyard are the kind hosts of this monthly challenge. Please go and see what they have been doing during May.

Every Little Thing

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Out on the line – an unexpectedly good drying day in February

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This week at Lens-Artists, Amy asks us to show her things that make us smile. So here are some of the happenstance little-big things that, at various times, have caught my eye or otherwise brightened my day:

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A neat little cloud traversing Townsend Meadow

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Finding I’d grown a rather good cauliflower at the allotment

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Spotted in the garden sage bush

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Spring sun-catchers: crab apple flowers…

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…that in autumn become perfect tiny apples

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The Linden Walk in full summer leafiness

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Lens-Artists: Every Little Thing

Spring Curves

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Alder catkins catch the sun in the Linden Field

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Spring came to Wenlock this week, both time-wise and weather-wise. We’ve had lunch in the garden three days running. Astonishing for March! Full-on sun and a general bursting of buds and blooms in every quarter. Even the moss on the garden steps has switched to hyper-green mode.

Over the road in the Linden Field there are prairies of wild garlic leaves just begging to be plucked for sauces and soups. In fact such  is the vegetative imperative of this particular plant, it’s to be found sprouting from the lime tree hollows on the Linden Walk. At the top of the field, under the oaks, the daffodils are at peak perfection. Also growing there are wood anemones, dog’s mercury, violets and primroses. Then beside the Cutlins path the horse chestnut trees are now a mass of sticky buds. And at home in the garden the white japonica is looking its serene best.

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This week Ann-Christine at Lens-Artists asks us to show her curves.

Lens-Artists: Curves

After The Rain Some Garden Magic

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Here on Wenlock Edge it seems as if we’ve gone from winter to summer with not much spring in between. These last ten days have been warm and sun-filled, a great a time for encouraging squash and French bean seeds to sprout and planting out sweet corn. Of course along with heat and sun come worries about watering newly planted crops: the water butts were growing perilously low, and then quite unexpectedly (because it wasn’t intelligibly forecast except by the Norwegian weather site YR Weather) came a couple of nights of gently soaking summer rain. The barley in the field over the fence shot up another six inches and the home borders turned into jungles. Out in the guerrilla garden the invading Queen Anne’s Lace was bowed down with raindrops. I can’t think when I have seen anything quite so pretty. Who needs diamonds.

Life in Colour: white/silver This month at Travel Words Jude asks for white and silver sightings.

Purple on the plot: bean flowers

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Aren’t they amazing! I was astonished this week when I saw the colour of this year’s field bean blossom. They’ve never turned out like this before.

The beans were sown back in October and the plants were around six inches (15cm) tall when winter struck. I was surprised how well they survived the recurring frosts.

Once they start flowering, they often put on a growth spur which means staking may soon be required. One year they grew nearly as tall as me. But in any event, by early summer each plant will produce a mass of small pods with miniature broad (fava) beans inside.

They are usually grown by farmers for animal feed. They also make good winter cover to protect the soil, dug in the following season as green manure. This is done before flowering. Which means NO BEANS. Which would be a shame. They are delicious (if you like broad beans) and make a very tasty version of humus. Also good for the Tex-Mex refried beans approach. But for now we can just admire the extraordinary flowers. I’m only sorry I can’t pass on their wonderful scent.

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Life in Colour: Purple

Six Word Saturday

“Apple of my eye”

IMG_3426Every gardener has their treasures season to season. The Evereste crab apple tree probably tops my favourites list because she covers all of them. Here she is, caught this week in the evening sun after a day of buffet and bluster, hail, wind and downpour. Already much of the blossom is ‘blown’, and whether any fruit has set, we’ll have to wait and see. The apples that come in the autumn are small and russet-blushed, an inch or two centimetres at most, but each one image perfect; doll’s house apples in other words. And after we have admired them for many weeks, the winter weather then softens them enough to make them a valuable food store for the blackbirds and pigeons. We watch them from the kitchen door.

A tree of many pleasures then. Here she is a couple of weeks ago, the blossom just opening:

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And this was last September (in the midst of an early autumn gale), the apples freshly formed:

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Evereste is also queen of that unruly quarter, the-garden-over-the-fence aka the guerrilla garden, caught here early one summer’s morning. Its content changes every year:

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And in winter there are many new scenes:

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And so yes, the apple of my eye:

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Lens-Artists: Gardens  Please visit Amy’s very lovely gardens. She is hosting this week’s theme.

There’s A Storm Coming…

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This week the icy currents have retreated. Instead we have storms. I was at the allotment yesterday when this one crept up on me. I was planting out some pea seedlings, the skies ahead sunshiny blue, and all well with the world, but when I turned round:

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Heavens! A swift retreat looked called for. Lately the rain has come in sudden deluges of tropical ferocity, the sort of downpours that leave you soaked no matter how water-proofed you think you are. I’ve been caught out before between allotment and home. For sure it’s only a five minute hike across Townsend Meadow, but it’s amazing how much wetter than wet you can get in that short space.

So home it was, the storm on my heels.

But it was only a tease. Almost home and scarcely a drop, I stopped to take the header photo and watched the storm slip over the Edge.

It came back later though: hail, thunder, downpour. During an early evening lull I went out into the garden. The birds were singing. It was almost warm; the sky looked amazing: so many shades of grey. And then it started to rain again.

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Bright Glade

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Yesterday morning I set off across the Linden Field on one of my periodic scavenging missions. I’d found the stash back in the winter when it was frozen into a craggy hummock: too hard to prise open the constituent parts. We’re talking about wood chips here. Last year one of the oaks at the top of the field where it meets the foot of Windmill Hill had shed a large branch. The brash was duly shredded and left in a heap by the boundary fence. And what a sight to gladden this gardener’s heart, though I had to wait for it to dry out, first after the thaw, and then after weeks of rain.

It is amazingly useful stuff. Firstly it’s good to add to the garden and kitchen waste that goes into our hot compost bin. Secondly it makes an excellent mulch for the home flower borders. Thirdly, and mostly, I use it at the allotment where I pile it on layers of cardboard set between the raised beds; this in a bid to maintain weed-free paths. When, after a year or two, when the cardboard has melted and the chippings begun to break down, the whole lot can be added to the allotment compost bins, and the cardboard laying and scavenging begins again.

And so that was my mission – out in the brilliant sunshine and still frosty, frosty air to collect fresh path makings. Of course I always take the camera too, which meant that when I reached the heap, I was at once distracted by bluebells. There they shimmered on the flanks of Windmill Hill, proper native bluebells:

through the light/they came in falls of sky-colour washing the brows and slacks of the ground with vein-blue…

Gerard Manley Hopkins Journal May 1871

Bright Square #27