Still Lifes At The November Allotment

It has to be said the November allotment is a pretty dreary place.  The ground is sodden and too many of the plots have run amok. But here and there, if I focus on the particular rather than the whole, a few happenstance artworks catch my eye.

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Russet Apples

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Simon’s Globe Artichokes gone to seed.

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Jenny’s watering can where it has been hanging for the last several years.

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Self-grown Snapdragon in my old runner bean plot. On its second flowering.

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Duckweed and leaves on the allotment pond

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Fallen apples on an abandoned plot

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Quince leaves in the communal orchard

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Rugosa Rosehips.

Six Word Saturday

Crocus Love

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Up at the allotment this morning it was full throttle crocus, and also this year’s first sighting of a honey bee which was paying them a visit. Sadly the bee is missing from this photo due to the malfunctioning state of the camera wielder who was in a bit of a dream due to the astonishing arrival of warm and dazzling sunshine.

In fact the day remained so perfect I returned to the allotment late this afternoon to do some actual work. Nothing like a bit of twilight gardening with only foraging blackbirds for company. The sky over the town was rose pink, and all was quiet on the allotment plots. When I opened up the polytunnel it was pleasantly warm inside. I sowed some spinach seeds in one of the corner beds, broad beans in modular trays (Super Aquadulce, and Masterpiece Green Longpod) and a few handfuls of Early Onward peas in two metre lengths of plastic guttering (a method that makes for speedy transplanting).

And then as the fine weather had done a good job drying up the allotment’s general sogginess, I thought it would be a good moment to fetch some soil from the old compost heap which some of us have been recycling over the last three years. In the last of the daylight I managed two barrow loads of nice crumbly soil, just enough to top dress a raised bed. And then, as it really was growing dark, I put away grandfather’s spade and walked home across Townsend Meadow under a bright half moon, serenaded by blackbirds singing their evening songs.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Love Not War

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

All Bee Hum And Bee Bums In The Raspberries

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I’ve written quite a lot about bees on this blog, and in particular the threat of neonicotinoid pesticides to which, researchers suggest, bees become addicted (see Bee-ing Bee-Minded), so I am hugely pleased to find so many bees feeding on my untainted raspberry flowers. Nothing like the sound of happy, busy bees and the sight of all those raspberries in the making.  Thank you bees.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Of Sunset Over The Rooftops From The Allotment And Much Toiling On The Plot (As In Gardening Not Writing)

All of a sudden we’re having summer here in Shropshire, and it’s a case of catch-up at the allotment – not only with the jobs that could not be done over the cold, wet thrice snowy winter, but also trying to keep up with spring-sown plants that are romping every which way and need to be put somewhere. The ‘somewhere’ inevitably needs more preparation than I’d realised, and more digging than I’d hoped to do, given my no-dig pipe dream objectives. I’m beginning to think our Silurian Clag really needs total soil replacement – as in complete interment by a foot of decent loamy earth. And if that’s down to me, then that means making humungous quantities of compost. It could take years.

Yesterday I did five solid hours of labouring under the sun. The new plot by the polytunnel was alive with bee-hum. The bees were whizzing by with such greedy intent among the raspberry flowers, I could actually feel the air move as they passed me. Bbbzzzzzzzzoom. And then the birds were singing their hearts out – loud, louder, loudest – especially the blackbirds. Which reminded me to put netting over the strawberries. I ate my first sun-warmed strawberry yesterday – the best strawberry of all – that first one.

The five hours slipped away. Gardener’s time is of course quite different from everyone else’s. He Who Waits At The Farrell Establishment never knows when supper is happening. Also when I do decide to head for home the light is usually so diverting that I have to start taking photos. Besides, the raggedy old allotments are a wonderful place to be at sundown – when you have put the spade away and shut up the shed – the wide views over Wenlock; the scents of growing; the quietness of plants.

Much Wenlock from the allotment 2018 sq

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Roof Squares #4

“The Rain It Raineth Every Day”

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Another day, another drenching. But sometimes we get rainbows too. This one was spotted at the allotment, though it’s not the one I saw the day before yesterday, because I didn’t have my camera with me. Pretty dramatic though, looking over the town to Walton Hill.

The quotation is from Shakespeare’s King Lear  Act 3 scene 2

Six Word Saturday Now please pop over to Debbie’s for a very astonishing vista

Spring?

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Dare one say it – suddenly spring seems more intentional, as if it’s meaning to stay for more than five minutes? These lesser celandines were blooming hell for leather yesterday when I was delivering stuff to the allotment. Even the spider seems to be having a bit of a sun bathe (apologies arachnophobes) rather than being sneekily on the hunt.

Things being transported to the plot included three black bin bags of leaves gathered from mother-in-law’s lawn (they will take a couple of years to turn into very useful leaf mould) and twenty new seven-foot canes. These last are not for this year’s runner beans, but for peas. After seeing last summer’s mega-pea-crop success of fellow allotmenteer, Dave, I thought I would give climbing pea Alderman a go. This is a heritage variety, apparently favoured by ‘good old boys on their allotments’, and not much to be found elsewhere.

You need to treat them like runner beans using plenty of tall supports because they may end up growing six to eight feet tall i.e. heading for around 2 metres. The beauty of this variety is that it crops without surplus production over several months. Whereas modern pea varieties tend to produce all at once, which is why you need to sow the seed successionally e.g. every couple of weeks, which can be a faff if you lose track of time.

At the moment the pea seeds are just germinating  (I sow in trays due to allotment mice), and yesterday I moved the first batch into the cold frame, so I truly am hoping that winter has gone. I will report back in a few months time on how this good old girl is getting on with the Alderman.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Magic In The Web Of It

I don’t think I’ve every thought about what spiders do in winter – apart from their sneaking into our house and lurking there for the duration. So I was mightily surprised on my way over the field to the allotment yesterday to find lots of webs like these among the tussocks of flattened, snow-emerged grass. I was also surprised to feel the sun warm on my head as I bent down to take this photo.

Up at the allotment, and despite the sudden warmth, all was in a state of post-snow-shock. The aged damson tree had lost a branch. The green manure mustard that I’d grown on several plots was sprawled about the place, and my pigeon defence system over the kale completely collapsed. It mostly looked damp and dreary everywhere.

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But I did spy some field beans sprouting, and the self-seeded marigolds were flowering heroically. I plucked a few leeks, and leaves of perpetual spinach, chard and kale.

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Then I wandered around other people’s plots, looking at what was what. At first I thought my only company was a wren, flitting like a little moth in the greengage tree.  But when I reached the big conifer on the allotment boundary, I spotted a Goldcrest foraging in its branches – our tiniest British bird (I think) apart from its cousin the Firecrest. And then there were the blackbirds feasting on a hoard of fallen apples. None of them stayed around to be photographed though.

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And that included the kestrel who was using the summit of an ash tree as a look-out post. It flew off as I drew near.  And it was then I noticed a very strange mist creeping across the farm fields towards the town. Some shape-shifting solstice invader masquerading as miasma…?

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P.S. “there’s magic in the web of it” is from Shakespeare’s Othello

Six Word Saturday  Please pop over to Debbie’s for more 6SW offerings.

A Little Bit Of Earth Magic While Out Foraging For Leeks And Parsnips

Well one thing was certain, when I waded through the snow to the allotment yesterday afternoon – no-one else would be daft enough to be there. A hundred or so yards from the house, I almost turned back. The snow was coming in over my wellies, and it truly was hard work tramping through the low drifts. My well trodden path along the field edge was no longer familiar. The world was iced blue-white with only a passing buzzard to break the stillness.

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You might wonder what had induced me to go up there at all – with all the garden plots buried under a foot of snow. But I needed parsnips, and I needed leeks, and parsley and Tuscan kale from the polytunnel. And once I was there, I thought I’d better shift some of the snow from the polytunnel roof, since we’d been promised all-day snow on Sunday, which has indeed come to pass.

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It took a while to find and extract the parsnips. The soil wasn’t frozen under the snow-blanket, but was very, very sticky – doing a good impression of stuff stuck in quicksand. But mission accomplished, veggie-wise, I noticed a change in the light and started taking photos instead.

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As I was heading home, I realised I could hear the whoops and cries of happy sledders. You can just make them out on the hillside north-east of the church tower. But for the power-lines (that intrude on most views of Wenlock) it might be a traditional Victorian winter scene.

Which reminds me. While I’m here, I’d like to thank all the local farmers who have been out on their tractors clearing roads and spreading grit. My entranced-by-snow moments are all very well, but some people need to drive places. Multiple gold stars to the farmers then.

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

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