A View From (A Castle Near) The Greenhouse; Hobson’s Choice…….Innit?

Northern Pennines From Appleby Castle Ramparts
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2024

Took a little trip out to Appleby Castle last week. It has a well preserved Norman keep and it’s trying very hard (though not, as yet, fully succeeding) to turn itself into an historical visitor attraction, come hotel and wedding venue. The story boards in the keep itself offer a fascinating insight into the long and somewhat chequered history of the castle, its owners and the surrounding area. If you’re up this way and short of something to do on a wet day, or you’re fascinated by British history (as I am), then it’s worth a visit. It’s a member of the “Historic Houses” group, which allows free entry. I though the admission price a little steep, but then, I am a Yorkshireman.

Capsicum Corner; Phase 2 (Pre Deluge)
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2024

Things both inside and outside the greenhouse carry on apace, although not without some unexpected trials and tribulations. The recent day and night of heavy rain not only left my garage under water, ruining mats and cardboard boxes without any prejudice at all, it left the greenhouse and allotment space, if only for a short time, in the same condition. It remains to be seen how the tomatoes (so far so good) and the capsicums will fair. On the plus side, I haven’t watered anything, either inside or outside, for a good few days now and it’s likely to stay that way. The area outside that was left “fallow” got the worst of it, confirming the view that it won’t support any crops that aren’t in raised beds. We’ll (you know who I mean) be building another four and repositioning the existing two sometime over the coming months.

© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2024

Normally, round about this time of year I have a couple of regular “customers” for any spare tomato plants I have. There are forty in the main growing area, although one or two of them don’t appear to be doing as well as hoped, and I have maybe fifteen still in the nursery or in trays. Nobody seems to want them and I’m not about to waste them so I’ll probably put them on the other side of the path in an area by the new vine which I was going to leave fallow. You can bet your bottom dollar the very same people won’t say no to a couple of pound of tomatoes, come July.

Kohl Rabi, An Hardy Crop
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2024

A month or so ago, I genuinely thought I’d gone too early with both the kohl rabi and the beetroot. I’ve been proven right where the beetroot’s concerned, although there are one or two signs of life and I have sown some more seed, but the kohl rabi (thankfully, in part because it lives in one of the raised beds and didn’t end up under water), has rallied and seems to be looking reasonably healthy. I’ve only eaten it a couple of times and it’s a first time crop, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It might get me a prize in the “vegetable with flower” category at the show, where unusual exhibits tend to do well. I doubt anyone else will be growing it, but you never know and it needs to “fill out” a bit yet.

Mine Eyes Smell Onions, I Shall Weep Anon
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2024

Likewise, the red onions and the leeks took the battering very well, although the proliferation of weed in their raised bed has been exacerbated by the heavy rain. I suppose I’m going to have to deal with them, sooner or later. It’s a dirty, time consuming (not in a good way) and thankless task, but somebody has to do it and I don’t see anybody volunteering.

Just Like London Buses!
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2024

As much (if not more) of a concern than the tomatoes are the potatoes, the first five rows are all presenting in various stages of growth, but they too were under water for maybe six or seven hours. There aren’t any signs, as yet, that any damage has been done, but yellow leaf, tuber rot and poor cropping are all consequences of too much water. Thankfully I hadn’t given them a drink for a couple of days before the event, so, once again, we’re at the “fingers crossed” stage, hoping for the best and fearing the worst. It’s too late to put some more earlies in and we’re all looking forward to that first lift of new spuds. Let’s hope we get it!

Tomatoes In Too Soon?
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2024

This picture was taken a week pre-deluge, I’ve set the plants in a little deeper that in previous years, so as to allow me the (somewhat time consuming) luxury of watering and feeding each plant to its individual need (the science is simple, if it doesn’t look damp enough, water it). the whole house, although it is starting to dry out, looks just like the newly turned patch on the right. I could have waited another week or two to put them in and, hindsight being what it is, maybe I should have. The fact that they are so small and have little fruit on them may work in my favour, I’ll just have to wait and see. Too much water can be just as destructive as too little. My fingers (and toes) are crossed.

A Side Project
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2024

Apropos of nowt, really, apart from the fact that it’s nice when a plan comes together and it’s a distraction from the “water-gate” trauma, the youngest asked me if I’d germinate a couple of sunflowers for her. I mean, it isn’t as if I haven’t got anything else to do. Any road up, I took the seeds, set them off in a couple of three inch clay pots and put them in the nursery with the aubergines (more on these next time) and the spare tomatoes. They’ve germinated nicely and I’ve potted them on into containers large enough to support them to full adulthood (all being well). I think they’re for a little inter-department work competition, so my involvement probably needs to be a secret, but if you can’t do one of your kids a plant favour, what’s the world coming too? (She’s 36).

Katastrophic Klimate Krisis…..Innit?
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2024

I don’t know whether or not this short paragraph from one of the storyboards in Appleby Castle is a nod to the zeitgeist, or an actual comment relating to the fact that Earths climate has always changed, with or without the influence of humans, and it’s likely it will continue to do so. If it’s the former, then it isn’t the “gotcha” the creators think it is, if it’s the latter it’s a refreshing, if somewhat rare, acceptance of the realities of human existence. There are a great many of us and it’d be impossible for us not to have an impact on the planet, but, as I’ve opined previously, it’s hubristic to believe it’s all about us. Sadly, the grift pays big bucks, so it isn’t going to end any time soon.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the concept of “Hobson’s Choice”, but if not, allow me to refresh your memories. Put simply, it isn’t a choice at all, because all options are equally unpalatable. In a month or so we’ll have a new government. I don’t have a crystal ball but it looks very likely that it will be led by a fellow called Keir Starmer, the current leader of The Labour Party. Being a man from solid working class roots (not everyone knows this, because he hardly ever mentions it, but his father was a “toolmaker”), who’s had to fight his whole life to get where he is, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we were in for a refreshing change, but you’d be wrong. By every possible metric, and fully taking into account just how dreadfully bad the current government is, nothing (so far as I can see) is likely to improve. Net Zero (the mechanism by which we all get worse off) will continue to be at the forefront of policy. Immigration, a very thorny issue and one which, whatever certain “experts” may tell you about the net benefits of importing over 6 million people in the space of 20 years, costs the country many millions of pounds and is currently running at around (net) 700,000 per year. In the year June 2022 to June 2023, over 50,000 of these immigrants were “undocumented”. The cost of servicing the needs of illegal migrants, which we do with relish, is IRO £3 billion a year. The likelihood is that, whoever’s in government, immigration will continue to outstrip emigration by many thousands and an amnesty for illegals will be declared. I could go on; Both the Tories and Labour are in lockstep with the WHO and the Davos crowds. Starmer doesn’t even try to hide the fact. The Tories may have you believe we’ve fully divorced ourselves from the EU, but they know Labour is likely to seek “even closer links” (with Brussels)  and they’re (mostly) quite comfortable with this fact. To all intents and purposes, outside some single issue irrelevances, the two party system is now a Uni-Party system. A Tory MP crossing the floor and joining Labour barely raises an eyebrow in either party. Reform, sad to say, affords us nothing more than the opportunity for a protest vote and nobody in their right minds would vote Green, Lib-Dem or SNP. So there we have it, spoil the ballot, vote Reform or Independent as a protest, vote Labour for badness or, when it comes to the crunch, hold your nose and vote Tory, based on either “The Tories are bad, but Labour will be worse” or “Better the devil you know”. Like I said, not much of a choice at all.

© Colin Cross 2024