Archive for February, 2012

Ailsa Craig & the Red Baron have finally come to the party

Finally, after weeks of waiting, Ailsa Craig and the Red Baron have stuck their heads above the parapet. Just when we thought they had given up the ghost, they finally appear – hurrah!

Ailsa Craig & Red Baron have finally made it

The sad news is that yesterday we discover we are living in an area of severe drought and could be heading for a ’76 water crisis. Will we now have enough water to stop these lovely onions from shrivelling to their death? I do hope so…or do we have to start making stem cell onions to go with our stem cell burgers? Now, DON’T get me started on that one! The Dutch should stick to what they’re good at – growing tulips – not trying to grow a cow that “feels like and hopefully tastes like meat” (as quoted by Dr Mark Post).

Anyway, on a lighter, less controversial note you’ll be pleased to hear that the sweet peas and peppers have also decided to pop their heads up above the soil – things are starting to happen, spring is on its way at last. I think I will take a walk up to the allotment today and check on the greenhouse. Have a look at all that natural produce growing while it still has water and perhaps ponder over the possibility of having to become a vegetarian! Enjoy your pancakes whatever you choose to put on or in them.

A few onion thoughts for the day…

Life is like an onion and one cries while peeling it ~ French Proverb

An onion will not produce a rose ~ Latin Proverb

He who walks through a field of onions, will smell like an onion ~ Arabian Proverb

Onions, smoke and women bring tears to your eyes ~ Danish Proverb

Life is like an onion. Why is life like an onion? Because you peel away layer after layer and when you come to the end you have nothing ~ Yiddish Proverb

Different men have different opinions; some like apples, some onions ~ Indonesian Proverb

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A Tiller for Hun

For the past two years we’ve been hiring a big old rotavator to break up our new pieces of allotted earth. Although this is a costly exercise, at the time, it seemed the cheapest option as we couldn’t afford to buy a rotavator, let alone know where to store one. However, over the past few months we have talked ourselves into believing that a tiller would be a good investment – especially now that the plot is established.

Hun rotavating in 2011

So, the discussions started along the lines of ,”We’ll look for something cheap and second-hand”, “We don’t need a new one – that’s just a waste of money when it will spend most of the year sat in the shed”, “We just need to have a look around and see what we can find for £150-£200. There’s no point in spending any more than that.” – absolutely right!

Then, thanks to the powers of marketing, all those sensible theories went completely out of the window – all thanks to DT Brown for putting that shiny Mantis tiller flyer in with my seed order.

Since then one of us has become completely obsessed (as he does) with the need for a tiller. The discussions then started to go along the lines of “We really need a tiller and this one does everything”, “It’s no good buying second-hand – it’s bound to keep breaking down”, “We really need the Deluxe model – and we need that plough attachement, it’s essential”, “I know it’s more than we planned to spend but…” “…and…the handles fold down!” Short of making coffee, this thing does everything, and so it should seen as it’s already completely churned the budget upside down.

The Mantis

So, after watching numerous videos about how good this thing is, all that praying for a Mantis has finally paid off. We’ve ordered it – the complete all-singing, all-dancing deluxe model with plough attachment, planter attachment and border edger (It would have been almost as cheap to buy a Massey Ferguson!) It arrives at the end of the month.

A Tiller in 2012 – love those safety specs Hun!

Tilly and her Tiller - look at her go! She'll soon have those 20 acres flattened and dug in ready for replanting

Now all I have to worry about is, that once I’ve brought obsessed man and machine together, how do I stop ‘Tiller the Hun’ from ploughing straight through my strawberry beds, the raspberry canes, the artichokes…? Nothing will be safe. Suddenly I feel the border edger attachment will be a wasted expense – the borders will have disappeared after the first outing!

In the meantime, to stop my precious fruit section from quaking in its roots, I’ll give everything a good prune and a good dose of potash at the weekend and pray that this Mantis comes with a foolproof set of driving instructions!

Beans, berries and bloomin’ snow

Not to be deterred by a little bit of snow (well, quite a lot of snow actually), we pulled on those wellies, filled the flask with coffee and wobbled our way up the hill with the wheelbarrow to the plot. The snow was not going to deter us – especially after having spent £45 in Wilko (oh, how we love Wilko) the day before – we had stuff to do!

Snowy views from the strawberry bed

The snowy allotments

White earth

Some of us were a little optimistic (as always) in thinking they would be able to dig up parsnips for the Sunday roast dinner. Not sure what part of frozen earth and four inches of white stuff on top he was not comprehending, but that’s men for you! (Let’s face it, it was only last Sunday when, after 4 hours of trying to drill drainage holes in a barrel and getting nowhere, he realised that the drill was in reverse!! Sometimes he can be quite…challenging.) So, once realisation had filtered through to those little grey cells he finally saw the sense of shutting the door of the greenhouse from the inside, pouring a hot coffee and setting to with planting the broad beans. All quite simple you would think until reality hit again and we remembered that the bags of compost we needed to plant the beans were outside – and yes, they were frozen solid! With many cups of coffee and a lot of positive thinking (even from me), we managed to thaw enough of the compost to plant them – 96 Aquadulce are now shivering in seed trays. Which seems to be what the onions are still doing as, 4 weeks later, there’s still no sign of anything happening. They need heat.

Not letting the snow stop planting

There is, however, good news. I have now transplanted 18 chillies which are looking strong and healthy, and I’ve also planted some sweet red peppers. These are all happily sitting on a nice warm windowsill. The other good news is that, thanks to My Tiny Plot, I now have four white strawberry plants (courtesy of Wilko, £2.28 for 2 – we love Wilko – have I mentioned that already?). When I first saw these in Wilko I wasn’t that impressed – they just looked like anaemic strawberries to me. It wasn’t until I read My Tiny Plot‘s post that I realised that they had a pineapple taste. Suddenly they became more attractive and an absolute must-have. So, now they are nicely potted up waiting for the weather to improve before going into the strawberry beds.

White strawberries

All we need now is a big thaw so that the compost might actually be ready for the next planting session and those blasted onions might actually start to sprout!