Slow painting

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Heap (or, Ethical Dilemma)

The last real work done at the allotment was way back in mid December, on a day of fog and damp. Then after a month's gap I visited briefly a couple of weekends ago and that will have to do for the next few weeks while other parts of life have to be attended to. But all the while I've been looking forward to working on the next stage of dismantling The Heap, the huge weed pile that we inherited with the plot and have only added to over the years.

Removal of The Heap has been a problem. There is no communal green waste facility at our site, unlike other sites in the city. The large waste container is explicitly NOT for green waste. We don't burn our weeds, as we suffer at home from the acrid smoke blowing from a neighbouring allotment site. Some plotholders seem to regard a smoking bonfire as a necessary part of every visit, even tho the waste is too green ever to produce flame. Contrary to site regulations (oh yes, I know these regulations by heart!) they leave the heaps smouldering when they go home at the end of their stint. It's a real nuisance for those of us who live beside allotment sites. Smouldering bonfires mean having to take in washing hanging on the line, unless of course you like the tang of smoke in all your clothes.

So how to free up the ground occupied by The Heap, which would give us half a bed more of growing space? An appeal to the Council's allotments officer brought the concession that we could relocate green waste to marginal woodland ground at the borders of the site. Great, we thought. We'll do it slowly and spread it well around so that it doesn't impact too much on the existing grass. However, we've not been the only ones with the same problem, and not the only ones offered the same solution. During the autumn we noticed that there was wholescale dumping going on in the woodland ground, not just of green waste (of which there were mini Himalayas building up), but also of unwanted wood, brick and corraugated iron. We could either hold back on our green waste disposal while everyone else piled in, or get a move on. Civic togetherness is not a particular feature of our site, so we didn't hold out much hope for a reasoned, let's work this problem out together approach.

Hence my stint of moving the growing part of The Heap while permission to relocate was still available. Sometimes I feel I should have been a bit more principled, and held off while the issue was sorted out. Mostly I feel that I was doing what I had permission to do, and doing it properly. All the same, I didn't expect to face ethical dilemmas over a compost heap.

The photo at the top of this post shows The Heap after a couple of hours' work. Last April, before we'd done any relocation, it stood tall and proud. Over the course of the summer, before we stopped adding weeds, it began to bulge out from its iron walls.

Here it is once scalped:

A pleasant surprise was the cache of Charlotte potatoes, probably grown from a potato I'd thought too small to be worth taking home.

Now 'all' that remains to be done is to sieve out the residual couch grass roots from the rich, crumbly compost and spread it over the beds. I'm keen to get on with it, and to return this part of the plot to growing something other than weeds and a few rogue potatoes.


Jo said...

Just make sure that you get all the roots of the couch grass out or else you will be adding that problem to your beds. The compost will be lovely now that it's been left so long to rot down though. I understand what you mean about having fires on allotments. I live quite a distance from my site, but I wouldn't have a fire there because houses back onto two sides of the site. Some people are just so inconsiderate.

GretchenJoanna said...

It's amazing, isn't it, all the thought and labor and ethical argument that can go into a little patch of the Earth's crust. And yours is all organic matter--should be easy!
You are to be commended for putting forth the effort to do things right. It all gives more meaning to the term Slow Food.

L. D. Burgus said...

I have seen neighbors grow tomatoes and potatoes out of their heaps. I don't have a solution for you as I don't know your weather conditions. We are so hot that our green disintegrates and can be crumbled, U bet that isn't happening there.Free potatoes is a good deal. Can you bring food scraps to rot with the green to get it to decompose?

donna said...

Linda, nobody can ever accuse you of not being a hard worker. I'm quite sure I'd be overwhelmed with the thought of having to reduce the size of such a heap.

I'm fascinated with the stone/brick foundation in the background of photo #2. Is there a story about it?


Di said...

Linda, it appears you have made great progress on that pile, and the soil has a delightfully rich color. I'd be picking out those last few potatoes too. ;)

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