In Scotland and Lancashire they had (maybe they still do have) Wakes Week, a time when factories, mines and the like closed for 7 days to allow people to go to Blackpool, get pissed and beat each other up. In South Yorkshire we had Pit Week, a time when the pits went down to skeleton staff and the miners (and their families) went to either Bridlington, Scarborough or Cleethorpes to get pissed, argue with their wives and give their kids a good clip around the ear. In Nottinghamshire, where they mostly made cycles, they had factory fortnight, a time when factory workers went to Mablethorpe and Skegness and did much the same as their Scots & Yorks peers, only for longer. I know of no compatible holiday period in Cumbria, it being a mostly rural agrarian economy which doesn’t lend itself to either wholesale shutdowns or skeleton staffing. What’s all that got do do with the price of fish, you may ask, nothing would be my reply, apart from the very tenuous fact that this last week has been “Muck Week”.
I normally don’t take delivery of my manure this early in the season and the actual acquiring of it, at least in the recent past, has been something of a long and torturous process, the wheels on just about everything in Cumbria turn notoriously slowly, including those on the tractor that has to travel eight miles to deliver my muck. Imagine my pleasant surprise when, after one simple (unacknowledged) text message, I wandered around to the greenhouse to find what would turn out to be exactly the right quantity of decent farmhouse manure tipped in exactly the place I wanted it. No note or anything accompanied this fine gift, but the “quid pro quo” is a given and produce will be travelling in the other direction just as soon as I start cropping. The farmer who supplies me runs his sheep on the fields adjacent to the greenhouse, so I see him or his son most days throughout the spring and summer.
Not being the most well organised of chaps, (I’ve often been accused of making work for myself, a charge I fully accept), I’ve previously barrowed the muck into the greenhouse, piled it up and used it as and when required over March, April and sometimes into May, “handling” it several times. Not this year; Mrs C is quite impressed by my preparations and by the overall tidiness of the house, so much so that she’s agreed to assist with the weeding during the coming months. I know it’ll cost me in the long run, but, believe me, it’s a price well worth paying. Anyway, having dug my five trenches, remembering to make sure I could get the barrow alongside said excavations, I simply set to, filling as I went, starting at the top end of the house and working my way back to the door. I would say I don’t know why I hadn’t considered this approach before, but I’d be lying, I just hadn’t thought it through, rough old gardener that I am.
After a couple of steady hours, thankfully in half decent dry weather, I had the muck in the trenches. All that was left to do was fill each one with water and tamp down the soaked manure, leaving it to “ferment” for a day or two, before soaking again and then back-filling, leaving me with around 160 square feet of well fertilised, hopefully easily managed growing area & no heap of manure next to the bench. I will be planting a couple of things outside of the trenches, but I’ll get a tub of organic chicken manure, which I use as a feed anyway, and improve the soil of these other small plots with it.
Although I mentioned the damage caused by the storm at the end of January in my last epistle I neglected to include this picture, I do so now to illustrate one of the challenges of keeping a 50 year old timber framed greenhouse in a good enough condition to make it both safe and viable to continue using. This is the frame and glass of a vent, which would normally open and close with a manual lever system. It’s unlikely David (it’s beyond my meagre skills) will be able to do anything better with it than replace it with a fixed frame, leaving me with even less ventilation than I currently have, having lost two others over the years. We’ll see. As I type this I’m listening to the tail end of Storm Franklin, which rattled through the village, waking me as it passed, in the early hours of this morning. I haven’t inspected yet, although it’s a lovely though breezy day now. Fingers crossed for minimal disruption and damage.
On the subject of disruption, Friday evening (after being closed for business for a week) just gone marked the end of another era for The Herdwick, after bravely (at first) holding out, the financial reality of being a rent paying pub tenant in The Lake District National Park during the “pandemic” has hit home and the “To Let” sign has appeared on the wall to the front of the pub. Who knows, maybe someone passing on the X5 will take a fancy to it. I do believe the tenant (a chap I like and who had tried very hard to make it work) is now in protracted negotiations with Admiral Taverns, although this may just be a rumour, as it’s also been whispered that he’s rented a pub some 20 miles or so away, from a private owner. A deal, I assume, which means the purely commercial aspect, which corporate landlords put to the fore, will be secondary to keeping that particular pub open for the benefit of the village it’s situated in. I don’t blame the freeholders, per se, they have a business model to follow and, no doubt, a bank to please, all I know is that my local has its door locked and there’s no indication as to when it may, if it ever does, reopen. Sad times, although the innkeeper at Greystoke made us very welcome last Tuesday, it wasn’t really the same, however, the Timothy Taylor’s Landlord Bitter was in prime condition. Evey cloud, and all that.
I’m sure you’ve all noticed the resurgence (did it ever go away) in the “Brexit is a catastrophic disaster of epic proportions” trope. Although I’ve taken the conscious decision to uncouple myself from “main stream” news, fearing for both my health and the electronic equipment in my house, I noticed, over the last week or so, that the EU itself (no doubt finally grasping what a cash cow we were) and the likes of Adonis, O’Brien, Femi, et al continue to pour their scornful and mendacious bile on our prospects outside their beloved union. I suppose they’re hoping against hope for some sort of “Road To Damascus” conversion but I feel it’s a little too late for that to happen, wherever we currently are. Here I have to confess to having reengaged with twitter, something I said I wouldn’t do, but the levels of anti “Brexiteer” feeling continue to be off the scale; it’s interesting to observe and, just occasionally, get involved in some of the continuing (although utterly pointless) arguments. The point I make is this; Any exchange on twitter between one or more Continuity Remain apparatchik(s) and one or more of the more seasoned pro Leave contributors usually, and very quickly, descends into insult and ad hominem name calling, usually, but not always, instigated by said Remainiacs. They love it, even some of the aforementioned seasoned Leavers can’t help themselves and long threads of tit for tat name calling ensue. I’m not entirely sure we’ll ever be fully free of the tentacles of the EU, unless it does eventually disappear up its own backside. I certainly have no faith in this current government to deliver the “Brexit” we (I) voted for; if they were going to do it, they’d have done so by now, but one thing is telling in all this. Once you make it clear that you voted to Leave the EU, based purely on the workings of the political machine of the EU itself, it’s corruption, profligacy and fiscal incontinence Remainiacs almost never respond and, if they do, it’s just to call you a “thick racist” again, before employing the block feature. Talk about hitting a nerve, eh?
As “Freedom Day” approaches it’s always good to see, even in my tiny rural community, the seminal image of this whole sorry mess. Small once very viable businesses have been lost, families have been financially ruined by soulless corporate entities, the mega rich have increased their wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, politicians, their friends and relatives have trousered a nice chunk of change, even without the lucrative PPE contracts, half day directorships paying £1000’s to buy influence and the odd lucrative book deal, so beloved of our friends across the pond. A virus created in a Chinese laboratory, quite possibly with the collusion of western scientists and unleashed (accidentally or otherwise) on an unsuspecting and undeserving world, symbolised by a paper mask, caught in the branches of a bush, in a small Cumbrian village. Not a bio-hazard bin in sight, maybe next time, who knows?
Next time (hopefully); Greenhouse repairs, seeds and germination, the growing plan, more Hooptedoodle
© Colin Cross 2022