It’s that time of year again, when I choose to bore the bi-weekly pants off you all by relating my erstwhile greenhouse adventures and, more often than not, misadventures. As always this “diary” will be a couple of weeks behind the live events, but hopefully the constant fight to keep the whole thing standing and getting the ground to grow good wholesome produce, after last years “curates egg” efforts, will keep you all, if not entertained, then at least a little distracted for fifteen minutes or so. Norman passed away two years ago last month and I still haven’t shaken the belief that, whether by artifice or incompetence, the NHS was instrumental in helping him along his way. Some might say they did so (if it is the case) for all the right reasons but I’ll never accept that. Anyway, I don’t suppose we’ll ever truly get to the bottom of it and I only mention it because we’ve finally (hopefully) created the monument to him which I believe he richly deserves. A drinking buddy in the next village has a cobnut tree in his garden, which is much loved by the red squirrels of the parish. The squirrels, eager to take advantage of such bounty, but having very short memories, had been stashing said nuts in one of his neighbours outdoor plant pots, then forgetting where they’d put them. Over time small saplings appeared, eight of which we’ve now planted in Norm’s favourite spot, on his beloved Crags. I only hope they take and I get to see them blossom and fruit, it’ll be a year or two yet.
After last year and all the brouhaha with the “herbicide drift” I’ve moved lots of things about in the hopes of giving myself a “clean slate” to work with. Dave got out the trusty old rotovator, after we’d decided to give the soil both a good airing and a good feed of nitrogen rich “nettle water” and, instead of a return to farmyard muck (which, on reflection I’m not certain was the whole problem) organic chicken manure. It’s a bit of a wrench for a Yorkshireman to have to buy manure, especially in a part of the country where there’s no shortage, but I felt a penance to the soil was due. I suppose the proof of the pudding will be in the growing!
I’m still as committed as I ever was to the principle of “rough gardening”, but there are times when sloth and ennui must be put aside and a proper job of work or two undertaken. We’ve replaced a bit of glass this year, and there are still one or two pieces held together by nowt more than gravity, but the glass needed washing, especially internally, where a green film builds up over time. It’s a bit of a faff setting up the pressure washer, running the electric cables from the bait cabin and trying to keep everything out of the loose soil, but a couple of bits of multi wall polycarb and a bit of patient perseverance saw the job done, satisfactorily if not perfectly, in a couple of hours. I’ll leave the outside, for this year at least, to nature.
After three goes with the rotovator (I’d only have done it twice, but Dave’s in charge of that department) I walked in the main path before raking he manure into the main growing areas and, at the same time, getting the soil something like level. The biggest change is the shift away from the central tomato row, which’s been planted in the same way for years. Some of this ground hasn’t been planted in for a long time, so I’m hoping for big things, but we’ll see. The very “top” end of the house tends to get muddy, due to field run off, so I’ve relocated the cold frame into that area and left the strawberry and salad beds in situ.
I’m laying out the tomatoes a little differently, in a spot where the ground has hardly been turned over for a couple of years, this is where the chili and pepper table top plantation were last year. There’s space for thirty plants, so I may have to look at other areas of the house if I want to plant more (given the current “crisis”). I’ve dug the holes and fertilised them with chicken manure and a little of my own compost, before loosely back filling, which I’m hoping will do the job at least as well as the farmyard manure once did. A fair word of warning, there may be people inquiring if you know the precise location of this little treasure trove, if asked please keep it to yourself, although later in the season I may well set up an intricate warning system, involving trip wires an pebble filled cans, to dissuade the inevitable rise in tomato poachers.
Having read a little bit about strawberries over the winter months it seems one of the reasons for lower cropping may be due to a combination of poor drainage and over enthusiastic watering. To this end I’ve cleared out the two main beds, installed a loose layer of stones into the bottoms of the troughs and covered them with permeable membrane to assist the draining process. Most of the small stones didn’t travel very far, most were brought to the surface by the triple rotovation, two birds, lots of stones, one may say.
Strawberries love to put out roots and, as I’ve discovered, the longer you leave them the more intertwined and straggly they get. I’ve salvaged the healthiest looking plants and a good number of first year “runners” to set new beds, which I’ve used my own compost on for the first time. I’m pleased with it, it’ll be around two years old now in the bottom of the bin and it’s dark, loamy and well broken down. Last year I think I bought around 20 bags (of compost) but given the price this year, especially of “Peat Free”, I’m going to be mining as much of my own as I can. One thing about this rough gardening game is, at least when you can be bothered there are always lessons to be learned.
It hasn’t all been about work though, every morning I take an hour out of my relentlessly busy schedule to drink my nettle tea, do a bit of shit posting and mull over one or more of the pressing issues of the day. This old “trans woman” debate isn’t going away is it? It’s already helped to see off one heavyweight politician, although some would say there’s much more to that little can of worms (the situation, not the politician) and nefarious fiscal misappropriation of both government and party funds may be equally responsible, I couldn’t really say. But I digress, after giving it some thought I have to conclude (which I’m still allowed to do) that it shouldn’t even be up for any form of debate; men are men and women are women, whatever either’s chosen peccadilloes may be. It’s simple really, if a man could become a woman, then he wouldn’t be a “trans woman”. Conversely, if a man calls himself a “trans woman” then he’s admitting, knowingly or unknowingly (although I believe knowingly) that he isn’t a woman at all, because, if he were, why the need for the prefix? So what is this man who contends to be a woman? Is he mentally ill and suffering a delusional state? Is he a misogynist with a point to prove? Is he a narcissistic fetishist/fantasist? Is he an Incel with a (not so) novel way of accessing those places he shouldn’t be accessing for sexual gratification? I’m guessing there’s more than one single reason behind this “latest thing” but one thing is for sure, the whole business debases women and womanhood and plays into a fantasy/parody existence, where men pretending to be women are seen as just that, pretenders. As for those medical “professionals” who experiment on the troubled and gullible for profit or vicarious, perverse pleasure, they abuse what should be the most sacred of oaths “First Do No Harm”, because harm is all they do.
Next time; Seeds, Salad Beds, Spuds, Some Hoopetedoodle
© Colin Cross 2023