Firstly, let’s get something out of the way. I never was a violent man. Even in my youth, when a “scrap” was seen as a rite of passage, I did my level best to avoid actual fisticuffs, preferring to try & joke my way out of any given situation. It didn’t always work & I have the scars to prove it, but that’s who I am. There was a short period during the early 70’s, when I was in the regular company of some pretty rough characters, that I fancied myself as a bit of a brawler but it was all a front, backed up by false bravado & the knowledge that these same characters “had my back”. Throughout history men (and women) have willingly given up their lives to fight, often violently and at great risk to themselves, for the things they believe in. Many of these fights, some of them global in scope, have led us to where we now are. Up until comparatively recently we, in what is considered the “First World”, have lived in a perceived state of relative peace & harmony. Yes there is “Radical Islam” and yes there are feral gangs roaming the streets of many of out larger towns & cities, but I did say relatively.
In 1381 a chap called Wat Tyler led an uprising of peasants, armed with sickle and pitchfork, against the crown in an attempt to abolish serfdom and reduce taxation levels on a working (serf) class already on its knees following The Black Death. At the time taxes were levied piecemeal to fund wars and support both the monarchy and the feudal system. As many as 2,000 “ordinary people” died fighting either for their rights as men or by execution once the rebellion had been quashed. Between 1642 and 1651 a Civil War was fought which (conservatively) cost the lives of around 84,000 officers and soldiers and led to the collateral deaths of maybe 100,000 people from “war related diseases”. The vast majority of these deaths were amongst the “ordinary people” of this nation, once again fighting, on both sides, for what they believed (or what they were told they believed) in.
During the late 18th and long into the 19th centuries immigrants into America took it on themselves to virtually eradicate the indigenous peoples of that county, so consumed were they by their greed for land and gold. Heroes stood against them on many occasions often with remarkable, if short lived, success. The story of one has always struck a chord with me. Not Sitting Bull, or Geronimo but Chief Joseph of The Nez Perce. Against what seemed to be insurmountable odds he led the US army a merry dance, before eventually surrendering on the promise of being returned, with his people, to Northern Idaho. The promise was a lie.
During the second world war most of the “free” nations of the world joined forces to defeat the combined threat of German National Socialism, Italian Fascism and Japanese Imperialism. There are many tales of heroism, zealous if futile resistance and barbarism from World War 2; Oradour-Sur-Glane was destroyed and its people massacred on the pretext of resistance activity and the capture of a German officer. The 77th anniversary of this atrocity has recently been acknowledged, the wronged have justifiably long memories. on the 19th of April 1943 the Jewish people, “kettled” in the Warsaw Ghetto rose up against Nazi tyranny, knowing full well that success was a virtual impossibility. Within a month the uprising had been ruthlessly quashed, leaving around 13,000 Jewish people dead, along with 16 German soldiers who were “killed in action”. A pogrom followed during which the vast majority of survivors were sent to their deaths in concentration camps. Those remaining were hunted down and executed. One survivor said (paraphrase) “We knew we would die, we simply decided to choose the manner and timing of our own deaths”.
History has shown us that governments, whether they be absolute monarchies, democracies or dictatorships can rarely be trusted or believed. There’s a common perception that a combination of civilisation and modern democracy will lead us all, eventually, to a “Promised Land” and the need for insurrection, violent or otherwise, has been consigned to history, yet if we look around the world we clearly see this isn’t the case. As recently as 1990 a “riot” took place in London which led to the abolition of the “Poll Tax”, during the day 113 people were injured and 339 arrested, a rare success for direct action, but still one with human cost. The human condition, if we can call it that, teaches us that some people will never be satisfied with their lot. In many cases this disgruntlement is more than justified. If I’d set out to simply list the injustices visited on the human race by their leaders ( fairly elected or otherwise) I’d still be writing this article a year from now. Yesterday (14/06/2012) a further extension to restrictions on our liberty, due to the ongoing “pandemic” was announced. Social media exploded & grandiose claims were made, but I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll mostly all still be armchair revolutionaries (apart from some notable exceptions, who I take my hat off to) when another new variant is announced, complete with attendant MSM scaremongering & political justification for restrictions on our collective civil liberties. I’m not proposing violence in the streets, or the storming of Parliament; I’m simply wondering, when will enough be enough, especially if you believe that we are trapped in a nightmare, not caused by an accident of nature, but by a Globalist plan to cull large numbers of the population and install a One World Government, for the benefit of all mankind? There’s something going on, that’s for certain, just maybe there’ll have to come a time when enough will be enough and hang the consequences.
Anyway, enough about that, back to the main point of this rambling, angst filled article. I’ve always grown cucumbers and, apart from the odd one, they’ve always gone to waste. Last year I cut down to one plant but all too often the fruit wasn’t picked at its best and the effort required in tending & watering the plant didn’t seem worth the bother. Hence the “cunning plan” to grow a dwarf cucumber and pickle some of the fruit. A classic case of not thinking something through here, as with all cucumbers, the fruits appear sporadically and ripen at different times, meaning I have to either pickle them individually or go back to eating them. At least they aren’t too big and they do have a little bit of flavour. Back to the drawing board with this one, methinks.
Side shooting, as previously mentioned, is a job that never gets finished, for two reasons. Firstly, no matter how many one removes, there’s always another one sprouting somewhere and secondly, because I’m a bit of a lazy, slovenly gardener I always miss one or two. Sometimes I miss them for so long that they start to produce flowers which would, if left, eventually produce fruit. I remove them all when I find them, I believe they sap the strength of the plant and produce less and smaller fruits, overall.
The new pea regime seems to be paying off, with nice healthy plants growing more freely up single canes with a little added string supporting them. I had wondered in the past if the metal mesh was retaining too much heat and “burning” the stems a little, leading to the whole plant rapidly dying back. Maybe I’ve got something right for a change. I haven’t got so many in, simply because I wasn’t sure how it’d work out, although I have staggered the planting a little. Hopefully this’ll be the way forward in the future.
There’s a job that needs doing every year that, until now, someone else (not Dave) has undertaken for me. The wonderful old vine has to be pruned twice. The first time in early June and the second time later in the season when the fruits start to fully develop and the smaller bunches of grapes require thinning out. Most shoots produce fruit, but first pruning removes those that haven’t along with cutting back fruit bearing shoots two leaves past the last emerging bunch (if that makes sense). I took a morning over it and hopefully I’ve got it right. I did consider trying stuffing some of the leaves, a dish my eldest daughter particularly enjoys but I didn’t bother in the end, there’s time yet, I suppose, there’s no shortage of leaf on the vine. I’ve eaten a raw vine leaf or two, they taste vaguely of grape, but they’re very “tannic”. Hardly surprising really.
Not the greatest picture, but this is the vine, post pruning. Most likely I’ll remove the smaller bunch once I’m certain the fruit is set. The vine needs plenty of water, consequently I’ve built a small mud dyke around the root system which I trickle feed when I’m in there. Maddeningly this encourages the weed growth, but nowt’s perfect, is it?
Weeding, as I’ve alluded to in previous articles, is the devils work. I hate it with a passion, but when I get my head around it I tackle it with gusto, notwithstanding the pain incurred from a spell of vigorous “hoeing” (stop sniggering at the back). Hoeing doesn’t get the roots, apart from on the paths where the earth is very dry and it’s not easy getting in between plants without having an accident or two. There’s nothing worse, gardening wise, than knocking the top off a healthy plant, just because one’s too lazy to get down on hands and knees and dig the weed up root and all. One of the reasons I’m growing more above ground this year is the dreaded weeds. Spraying with chemicals isn’t something I like to do, I’m not fully 100% organic, but I like the idea of using minimal chemicals for weed and pest control.
It’s always nice to see a patch of ground that’s been almost cleared of chickweed, thistley things, deep rooted clovers, self seeded rocket and a host of other indeterminate foliage that, for a short time at least, are the bane of my life. All grist to the mill though, and all part of the rich tapestry that is the life of a rough gardener.
© Colin Cross 2021
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