Welcome dear readers; before we get started, a warning. Those of you that aren’t interested in the maudlin, or the philosophy of loss, or the pain which accompanies it, look away now, this isn’t going to be pretty. Little had happened since my last missive apart from my long awaited visit to Hexham General Hospital, more of which later. I’d started potting on the chillies and harvesting potatoes, lettuce/salad leaves and even the odd strawberry. It seemed as if the early start was going to pay dividends, the potatoes being especially good, if not maybe as prolific as I’d liked. I’ve just put in my final row of nine seeds, which, if things work out, should see us in potatoes well into August and maybe beyond. Plans to grow potatoes into winter are currently on hold though, for reasons that will become clear. As to other influences, the weather has been very poor, nothing like the May of 2020 and 2021, which may have ultimately distracted me from what was really happening to my little oasis of calm and serenity.
I’m a big fan of this breed of pea (don’t ask me what it is, the seeds are rattling around in the bottom of an old Quality Street tin), it produces uniform pods, all containing, more often than not, eight evenly sized sweet, fresh tasting peas. They’re excellent cooked (if enough ever make it back to the kitchen) and make a tasty and no doubt “healthy” little snack as I sit on the old bench and ruminate over anything but weeding. This was the first pod picked and I obviously had to test for flavour but more (hopefully) are on the way and there should be enough to accompany a bit of lamb this coming Jubilee weekend.
Those of you who read the articles, yet never comment, may remember my relating the little tale of the broad beans, germinating in the compost heap and my deciding to plant them out, although more in hope than expectation. It was a wise and courageous move, even though I say so myself. This is the first little harvest, a dozen pods delivered up fifty nine tasty little beans. So fresh were they that I didn’t even bother removing the outer shell. Steamed for two minutes they sat well with a plate steak pie and roast potatoes. Cooked in the same way, then chilled in iced water to halt the cooking process, I added a similar amount to a bowl of salad on Sunday. A versatile little veg I’m coming to really enjoy.
Pleased to say the vine is (touching wood here) looking extremely healthy, small bunches of grapes are forming so I’ve decided, for the first time, to gently cut back both the foliage which extends two leaves beyond the fruit and also take out any small secondary bunches. I’ve left them in the past, but they’ve never come to much, so I’m working on the theory that, at least where nice juicy grapes are concerned, less is more. Earlier on this year I lowered the vine away from the glass and removed the old wire “hangers”, which were cutting into the vine itself, replacing them with a double loop of new nylon string. I intend, as long as I’m able, to move these strings every year, just a foot or so either way, so as not to disturb too much of the bark. I know next to nothing about vines, but I do know I’d be unhappy if I didn’t get my annual grape harvest. I’ve eaten stuffed vine leaves in Greek Restaurants and I’ve also eaten the odd young vine leaf, fresh from the plant. There’s a lot of tannin in the fresh leaves, but it seems a shame to waste them I might look out a recipe if I can be bothered.
Mrs C popped round to the greenhouse on the Wednesday after the last article (something I expect her to do more often, now she’s joined the club) to weed the onions and the strawberries, whilst I tackled the more open spaces with the push hoe. She made a remark about some of the top leaves on a couple of the tomato plants. I hadn’t really been overly concerned about the lack of progress, given the weather and the fact that I hadn’t yet started feeding, but it piqued my interest. Over the following days I paid a little more attention and before too long I was getting just a tad concerned. It’s well known that the tomato plant is a sensitive soul. It can take time to adjust and it doesn’t like wind. The greenhouse runs north to south and the door faces north. At this time of year it’s mostly closed, unless there’s no wind at all and I have a “yawked up” poly carbonate windshield in place, just inside the door. I’ve been holding water back too, as we haven’t had much sun, although this can also be a problem when the plants aren’t fully established. By the weekend I could see the problem was spreading, rather than receding, I also noticed something similar on the established broad beans and a couple of the potato tops.
Friday just gone saw me trawling the interweb, frantically seeing if I could find a clue as to what was causing what I now know to be something called “leaf roll”. It’s a recognised condition, most commonly caused by one or more of the previously mentioned “physiological” conditions, but there are other causes. Occasionally a parasite will bore into the stem of a plant, or chew on a leaf after eating from a diseased plant, thereby spreading a fungal disease and stressing the plant so much that it reacts by curling up and halting growth. One other cause, and the one most likely to have killed off much of this seasons work is something broadly referred to as “herbicide drift”. Selective herbicides containing pyralids, which are applied in close proximity to other (non grass) crops can “drift”, but that isn’t the only way they can affect other crops. Grass, harvested from fields sprayed with pyralids, contains traces of the herbicide, shed cattle eat the grass as both hay and silage, without assimilating it into their bodies or removing the trace toxins, which can remain in the manure produced, without breaking down, for long (quite how long I’ve yet to find out) periods. It seems pretty clear that my genius idea, to work my patch in manured rows has cost me dear. As I type I’ve yet to find out whether or not there’s any real danger to be had from eating the produce (the leaves on the broad beans are starting to curl in on themselves) but it’s clear I’m in a mini disaster, partly of my own making.
I love my greenhouse, as much as it sometimes drives me to distraction. It’s both my “man cave” and my haven and it keeps me in touch with Norman, who inspired me to grow in the first place. Quite what he’d make of this whole situation I don’t know, but I’m truly gutted and honestly deeply saddened by this turn of events. All the tomato plants in this picture, lovingly nurtured over the last several weeks, are a write off. The beans might be lost too, the lack of tubers on the early potatoes now starts to make sense, as does the early rush of strawberries, now all but dried up. The onions and leeks are fine (so far) as are the salad leaves and lettuce, thankfully the chilies were always destined to be grown in pots, although the peas and runner beans are also likely to be adversely affected. I know it sounds melodramatic, but there’s a real sense of loss and pain. When I finally let myself believe what was happening I ended up, paradoxically, in a state of disbelief, wondering what I’d done to so anger the gardening Gods. But me being me and knowing that in the current scheme of things my problems are small beer, I got to thinking about the nature of loss and how it affects us all.
Old Jack was a lifelong bachelor, when he was still reasonably mobile he was great pals with Norman and I’ve known him, on and off, for over forty years. He was a taciturn old chap in later life, set in his ways, although I always considered him a friend of sorts. When I first came across him he could often be found in the local, cracking away with his little crowd of mates, arranging a foreign bachelor holiday or cruise and reminiscing over the last time they’d all gone away together. They’re all dead now, the last of this small “band of brothers”, who’d also become trapped in his home over the last couple of years, as Jack had, passed away a month ago. I know lots of people claim the young have been the most affected by the “Cult Of Covid” but I don’t believe that to be true. One of Jacks’ simple pleasures was to take a drive out in his Fiesta, park up in a lay-by and watch the world go by, but this was denied him when his license was removed on medical grounds, without right of appeal and without a face to face review, due to the “Pandemic”. The last couple of times I went to visit Jack, which I did every now and then, he didn’t ask me in. He was unwashed and his clothes were unkempt and he was, I could tell, frightened to live what was left of his life, so believing was he of the BBC news and the paid “bad actors” who spread fear and panic for money. His little old cottage, where he was found dead by a nephew, stands abandoned now, awaiting I believe the resolution of a bit of a family disagreement. There are so many stories like this, people who were too scared to live, not because they were stupid, but because they were conditioned by the relentless propaganda. All of them footnotes in history and nameless statistics, all of them (probably) with Covid somewhere on their death certificate, whether they were sick with it or not. It isn’t in my gift to understand what’s motivated the last couple of years, theories abound, but those who’ve made money out of the situation, or political capital, or even seen fit to use the “Pandemic” to propose we “Build Back Better” for a “New World Order” would do well to look at themselves in the mirror, long and hard. I hope there’ll be a reckoning, because there should be, and every Lockdown zealot and “vaccine” pusher (Big Pharma aligned or not) gets their just deserts, because they truly deserve it for the loss and pain they’ve visited on so many who sadly couldn’t see the wood for the trees.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference, I always keep a few spare plants, just in case, although I’ve never needed them and usually passed them on to friends and neighbours. I have fifteen this year, which I’ll grow on in these larger pots and I’ve sown eighteen more seeds, of five different varieties which may germinate, mature and produce a crop. Hope, as they say, springs eternal.
Next Time; Who knows, certainly not me, but there’ll be Hooptedoddle, of that we can be certain.
© Colin Cross 2022