Monday, 25 July 2011

Today's haul

Blackberries, beetroot, lettuce, carrots and peas. The beetroot have now been pickled (the third or fourth batch I've made so far this summer - I've already eaten one batch, plus last summer's). The peas - Onward - are splendid. They are 99.9 percent free of pea-and-bean weevil, since I poured a dilution of nicotine over the roots early on. Apparently, this is now discouraged by our Government, but I find it works a treat. I by the smallest packet of tobacco and boil it outside over my camping stove in an old tin can for about ten or fifteen minutes, then dilute it with cold water, and take it down the allotment to murder the weevils.


I made some tunnels for my brassicas. The blue stuff is water piping bought from B&Q. It is slotted on to bamboo sticks about two foot high, which keeps it in place. At the moment, it's only covered with netting, which won't keep out the butterflies. I have been looking for some finer netting which will keep both the butterflies out and the whitefly, but so far it has proved very expensive (anything from £30 to £48 for both tunnels, which measure 5 metres in length and need 2 and a half metres to cover them widthwise). Don't be fooled by the fleece on the other tunnel - it is absolutely useless and blows all over the place like a sail in the wind, and is full of gaps, plus you can't see through it and it channels rain over the sides. The only thing it's good for is warming up the space underneath it, which in temperatures of 25 C is hardly necessary.


These are my onions drying. I have harvested them already, though it seems ridiculously early. I was going to leave them in a bit longer, but Joe 2 told me to take them up or they would split (that was after Joe #1 had told me the same thing, only Joe #2 said it more persuasively and in better English). Joe #2 is the one with the gammy leg. I thought he had polio, but someone told me he damaged it in a motorbike accident.

I want to put some onions in the show this year, and learnt from last year that you have to peel off the outer layers so that the top layer is unbroken, and you must do this before they dry. But I think I may have gone too far with the peeling, as they all look very bald and white.

I also didn't know where to dry them. I put them on the path at home to start with, then in my mini-greenhouse, but was afraid someone might steal them. Then I came across these two racks at the car boot sale yesterday, and they seem to be ideal. Last year's onions (of which I still have a few left) dried out very nicely in that corner, in a hessian bag inside a wooden box. But this time I am trying to make sure that at least three come out near-perfect for the show. I wish I had a book on how to present things for the show, because I'm making it up as I go along.


On a whim last winter I ordered some packets of mixed flower seeds, and threw them in with gay abandon early in the year in a patch up the top that I'd just cleared. They grew like wildfire, the cornflowers drowning everything else out, including the hollyhocks I'd grown from seed and planted out there last year. But one magnificent velvet red hollyhock has shot up through all the cornflowers and tall poppies and is reigning supreme over the lot of them at the moment, utterly stunning.

This was meant to be my attempt at a herbaceous border. I will try to be more restrained next year.


Joe's son, Domenico, came up to fill his dad's water butts from the trough at about 4 pm. He came down my path with a carrier bag full of these snacks that he said his friend had made. It was like deep-fried pasta. It tasted okay, but was very greasy, and wrecked my diet for the day. He said he wanted to start a business selling them in shops, but I told him about having to get your kitchen checked by the Health Inspector, etc. I'm drinking some of the blackberry and apple syrup I made last year, diluted and carried to the allotment in a thermos with ice in it.


This is Joe just about to go home. He works mornings, and I get there just after lunch when he's just about to go. Then, when he arrives back after his siesta at 4 pm, I go home for my dinner. He has no hard feelings about this.

He'd just spent the morning pruning his tomatoes for the nth time (he said the next time will be the last), and was complaining that he had to look after Angelo's allotment as well as his two.


The blackberries on my allotment are already ripening beautifully.

I have picked several lots already to stew with apples and freeze for crumbles or pies later in the year. Notice the ladder of my friend, the neighbour from hell, leaning ominously against the privet bush. I was lucky enough to be there when he started cutting the hedge (why is it that ignorant men always cut hedges at the first sight of a sunny day, just when the blossom is about to burst, and when the bees need it most?). I told him he could trim the top but he wasn't to cut anything on my side. No doubt he thinks I'm mad, but I was thinking of the bees and the blackberries, so not so mad after all.

Further down the allotments, by the gate, some imbecile has trimmed the hedge so that a burgeoning crop of blackberries was cut off in its prime. Where do these idiots get their brains?

Why I have been away so long

I had a long gap before deciding to restart publishing. I was so busy, I just grew tired of uploading my camera photos every night and then writing an entry, and finding no-one but the odd couch potato critic was reading it. Then when I came back to it, I found I couldn't publish: when I clicke the button, nothing happened. I finally found the answer through Help: I have changed to Internet Explorer 9 and you have to switch on Compatibility View through Tools. So now I want to start publishing again, even though I'm no less busy, but because looking back over my blog, it's as much value to me as a diary as anything else. Otherwise, I would have deleted it by now.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Au revoir, Angelo!

Angelo has gone to Italy until September. Yesterday, he stood at the top of my allotment on his way home, waiting to say goodbye. He said he would be back in September "...if God allows". His health is so poor that as I watched him walk away, I wondered if I would ever see him again.

He is fed up with the weather here, even though it's been nice and sunny: it's too dry. Most gardeners will complain whatever the weather: it's always too something - wet, dry, hot, cold. But when he described the weather in Calabria, you can understand his point. He said they can grow two crops a year down there: two crops of beans a year, and they are already taking off the first crop already.

He has kept up with the work on his allotment this year - just - despite a very slow start. Now I expect his brother, Joe, will do the minimum to keep it going, while keeping his own two allotments up to scratch too.