Monday, 6 August 2018

THE ALLOTMENT (ALMOST) RULES OK

Fading blue hydrangea with greenbottle fly on petal.
As everyone knows (cos I keep saying it) Dorset is not like Halifax. It's also obvious that whenever any of us move we bring part of our old lives and interest with us. Equally obvious is that our interests change in response to our new surroundings. As a blog writer I feel a sort of responsibility to readers that I should meet their expectations; that I should continue broadly in line with the common interest already established. And that's a challenge when one's day to day experiences change.

Close up of greenbottle fly on fading blue hydrangea flower.
I knew such a radical change as moving from the South Coast to post-industrial West Yorkshire would mean a change in scenery and plant life so I left Loose and Leafy in Dorset where it was and started up here - Loose and Leafy in Halifax. But I tried to keep within my original bounds - wild plants, street posts, tree following. And it hasn't been working. I mean, I hope you are still enjoying the posts - but I've been having an uncomfortable conflict of interests. Instead of walking up and down looking for things to look at, I'm purposefully digging and planting and watering and looking at all the land I've not dug over; and while there are lots of streets where urban plants grow, and while rough and rocky hills are part of the view from most parts of town . . . there are no hedgerows unless I walk out of town to find them. Certainly there are no beaches or sea-squirts, jelly fish or waves.

I thought of making the new Loose and Leafy into an almost exclusively street plant blog. But I'd end up blandly waffling if I did just that. My other blog, Message in a Milk Bottle, can take care of them. So, where is my countryside sustenance? On my allotment. I'll acknowledge this and make my allotment the basis for my blog rather than an occasional intruder. I feel I have to say this because an allotment blog is different from a hedgerow blog and is different again from a street plant blog - though these will always get a look in. Do you know Patrick Tillet's blog? I first started reading in 2009 when he was writing about his childhood, then his experiences in the USA army. (Gripping and well written, all of it.) Gradually it has morphed into a specialism in desert petroglyphs with absolutely stunning photographs. It's a must. Do find it. This is a part of blogging; that what we write reflects to some degree 'where we are' in our lives as well as location. And the allotment is writ large in mine so I'm announcing the allotment will forthwith be the home-base for my blog.



Runner bean poles with flowers and sky.
Switching to allotmenting is an upheaval in various ways. Yesterday I weeded round the runner beans, leaving a selection of the wild plants I like behind. Then I went round a second time and took them all out too. It was heart aching and unnatural. But the ground is not highly nutritious and I want to eat the beans and it's bad enough keeping them watered during an extended heat-wave without providing meals and glasses of water for the plants who would happily have lived here had I not intruded into their space. (Though most of them are more like pigeons - they like the kinds of landscapes humans create and follow them about. Ground-fellows.)

Apples ripening on espaliered tree.
None the less, along with being chuffed with most results so far (the Allicante tomatoes which are ripening at speed taste of nothing and I have half a greenhouse of them). I'm probably one of the few  who's pleased I can't keep the wild out. I've been taking pictures of worms and roots and 'weeds' that haven't appeared on the blog because I've been confused about its role. Now I'll let them through. Just at present, I can't stop looking at the plants I've inherited and the things I'm starting afresh. And even more distracting, I'm somewhat bewildered how to lay things out in the larger part because it's fully carpeted. I need to do a survey of professional writers who recommend people put carpet on their allotments either to keep down weeds or to make paths. It doesn't work. The roots just go underneath and pop up on the other side and it's a wonderful hiding place for slugs to lay their eggs.  Do these professionals really scar their bit of land with this disintegrating, indestructible rubbish? My hair rises too when I wonder how many chemicals are leaching from it into the soil. Until I had my allotment I wondered where people are supposed to get their 'useful' old carpets from. Now I wonder how to get rid of them. How many years will it take to take it all to the council dump? How much pollution do I cause when I try to burn it?

Right, so, folks, this is now an allotment blog with extras rather than an 'extras' with an occasional allotment post thrown in. You know that line from Iolanthe when the fairy queen defends her love for the captain of the London fire brigade? 'I know it's weakness but the weakness is so strong!'? That's where I'm at.

28 comments:

Laura Bloomsbury said...

Hello Lucy - I am glad to hear you have settled on how to pitch your blog after the uprooting from Dorset - this gives a completely fresh perspective and as an armchair allotmenteerer (?!) I will follow with green eyes and avid interest.
Those apples look very delicious and have filled out nicely despite the lack of rain - do you know the name?
p.s. I have just refreshed my blog(s) in a combination

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Laura. Your new blog looks very flash and crisp and sets your photographs off wonderfully. (I've added it to the blogs I follow.) Did it take long to set up?

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Though in the process I seem to have deleted someone else's inadvertently and I don't know whose.

David Gascoigne said...

I know what an allotment is and how they came to be a feature of British life, but I suspect that many North Americans and people from other parts of the world might not. It might be a good idea, and interesting too, to explain the origins and modern use of allotment gardens.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Good idea David. I'll turn one of the tabs into an explanation.

Flighty said...

I look forward to your plotting posts, and occasional off-plot ones.
Most councils ban carpets on allotments nowadays because of the problems they create, especially if they're left to disintegrate. xx

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Flighty. I don't know how long the carpets have been down or if they were put there through the years but they are five layers deep and they truly flumox me. They pull apart longways but not sideways. Sideways not even a stanley knife can cope with. While the weather is dry I can roll carpet reasonably easily - but then, where do I put it? If I do it in bits (which is what I've done so far) I risk leaving it to get heavy and sodden in the rain. (Which is what it was like before.)

Sue Garrett said...

When we took on our allotment we inherited a carpeted area. It was horrendous to get rid of as the woolly bit had rotted leaving the nylony bits behind. Everything fell apart when we tried to move it and it was also so heavy. Lots of allotment sites now ban use of carpet as it is consider toxic waste.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

I think the line on my allotment site is 'that the committee does not encourage it' - something like that. But what's there is there - and some people do like it. I expect they will be laughing like mad when the rain comes and I slip and slide on the mud where I've removed it. (A long way to go!) One of the troubles is that it's a large plot and the beds are long and very narrow with these carpet paths between them. I want to square up the beds and get rid of a lot of the regimentation and, if I can make a hose follow the route so I can water reasonably easily, perhaps make some softer meanders.

Diana Studer said...

Five layers of old carpet - how awful. (Don't burn it, please) But one day when it is gone, and you have your chosen paths - will be lovely.

Phil Slade said...

You startled me a little with your description of Halifax as in the North West. Take care young lady, you will be upsetting those dour Yorkshire folk by putting Halifax over here in Lancashire. Other than that, I hear there's a keen allotmenteer in Islington who tends a pretty mixed bunch of cabbages.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Diana - lovely is the aim but will take a lot of time.

Caro said...

I agree that blogs naturally evolve, if only because people and their circumstances change - children get older, communities drift away, jobs change, etc. You'll never lose your love of the countryside, whether it's on the allotment or further afield and I love to read your posts whatever the focus of your writing. With a surge of interest in grow-your-own, I'm guessing that taking on a new allotment will definitely be of interest to a lot of people. My gosh - five layers of carpet - what were they thinking!! We had a large skip bin at the allotment where I helped; it was specifically for non-recyclable or non-compostable rubbish. Is there something like that you could make use of? Or maybe the council could be persuaded to collect the carpets if they were left by the allotment gates? Once the carpet has gone, try the no-dig method championed by Charles Dowding. You'll need lots of compost (and maybe cardboard) but it works brilliantly for weed suppressing and healthy veg! I look forward to reading more about your exploits!

Marleen said...

Allotments are very common here too for a lot of people, some spots even know a waiting list.
I like your photos, you have a good eye for details Lucy.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Phil. What should we call it? Officially it's West Yorkshire - but that doesn't say anything about where it is in England. Not that 'the north west' means much geographically either. Halifax is part of 'the north' (wouldn't you say?) even though there's another hundred miles before you get to Carlisle . . . and although Hull is immediately to the east of us neither Hull nor York are in the 'north east' cos that's Newcastle etc. - which is parallel with Carlisle and thus way north of the north west. Except I've just looked it up and Cumbria counts as the north west too. Had never thought of it that way. Just thought of it as something of its own.

When first considering moving out of Dorset I looked in the Manchester orbit, working from there to Todmorden (Lancashire borderish) and from there out to Halifax so it's a continuum in my mind. Though I suppose the continuum has ultimately stretched rather a long way from Manchester! (Which I now think of as a bit 'south'.)

I've changed it to post industrial West Yorkshire (do you reckon that will do?) .. . though there are in fact lots of industries here, just not the big old kinds with smoking chimneys.

It's all a bit confusing!

Apologies if I've offended Lancashire sensibilities. Or Yorkshire ones.

Getting further and further from the point I've looked up London post codes and Islington is N. Which probably means the cabbages you mention are in Halifax too, not in the NW which is simultaneously Camden Town, Gospel Oak and Manchester.

Incidentally I never think of myself as 'British' and haven't the faintest idea what the UK means as an identity so get cross and mumble to myself when there's no box for England on check lists.

Upshot - I don't know who I am nor where I live!

liz said...

Decision made. Halifax allotment. I look forward to reading about your efforts. Allotments are called “community gardens” in the U.S. They are not as prevalent here as allotments are ever-present in the UK. The carpeting sounds horrific, but the beans are doing well and those apples! Onward!

bill burke said...

We have allotments here too. Once a month we have a master gardener come and talk and answer any questions we might have.
My wife has two blogs and she just combined them and when she posts she just writes what's happening in her day or whatever. It works fine for her and I'm sure yours will too. Have a wonderful week!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Liz. Glad you are looking forward to new posts with a new emphasis. Runner beans are one of my top favourite foods. They are fine at present and I'm hoping they don't suffer too much in the drought and heat.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Thanks Bill.
How interesting that you have people come to give talks at your allotments. Where I used to live there was was a horticultural society where there were talks, a shop and even a cafe on Saturday morning. It was used by allotmenteers from several allotments in the area but also by people who have their own gardens. I suppose people didn't even need to have any ground to grow things in. The first talk I went to was how to grow bulbs for showing. I would never do that but I did win a daffodil to put in a pot!

Countryside Tales said...

I think it’s your writing that matters most, Lucy, your thoughts and observations. I’ll happily read about the allotment. The carpet sounds horrendous- think of the relief when it’s all gone and your land can breathe again. Chortling about the North debate. Being on the south coast anywhere past the midlands counts as north to us! I guess it’s all relative :o).

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Countryside Tales. Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. I must say I feel more relaxed now I have settled into the new direction for the blog.

Pat Tillett said...

First off, thanks so much for the mention. You've certainly hit the nail on the head relative to what we blog and why. My blog has morphed so far away from where it was, now I'm very reluctant to post any stories at all. It's not because I've stopped writing things, but rather because I no longer have anywhere to put them (blog-wise).

Blog-wise, you and I go back a long ways. You are one of the very first people who followed my blog, and I truly appreciate your support over the years (no matter how much it changed).

By the way, these photos are beautiful! Hope you're having a great week.
We are pretty much on fire out here in California.

aberdeen gardening said...

Hello Lucy, I like the idea of your allotment blog that kind of isn't. I have been blogging about ornamental gardening for twelve years. Although it is my main interest it would be so satisfying to head in another direction also. Two blogs for me is just too time-consuming.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucy, I’ll read anything you write because you always make me pause and think. I’m currently trying Charles Dowding’s no dig techniques which use cardboard followed by 6” of compost. I’ve recently visited his set up and it was impressive. I’m struggling to make enough compost though. That’s the only downside to this idea. My plot is totally surrounded by “weeds’` which I find as beautiful as the crops. Today I was watching finches on the teasels behind the sweet pea frame. They sort of hopped between the teasels and the greenfly on the flowers. It made me very happy. I keep pondering on the fact that such things - as small as they seem- make me happy. It’s at odds to the rest of the world where everyone seem to need more and more “stuff.”

Anonymous said...

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Sue Garrett said...

Hi Lucy - as a Yorkshire girl I never noticed your NW reference but the guy who called us dour better watch out :-)

Anna said...

Oh a new home for your blog will be fun Lucy both for you and your readers. Don't mention the word carpets to me. We peeled away layers and layers and layers on our plot :( I would hope that it's not a still recommended technique. I hope that you can find some way of removing it from the site. I think that I've more or less got to grips with where the north west of England begins and ends after having lived in the area for some forty years :) Halifax is somewhere over the border but what region it fits into exactly I wouldn't like to say.

Down by the sea said...

I will enjoy reading about your adventures on the allotment. We used to have one in Rylands Lane for a few years althugh it was tempting to keep stopping and admiring the distant sea views! The carpet mulch does sound excessive! Sarah x