Slow painting

Sunday 22 February 2009


That's the end of the kale, then. I'd been working at the plot last weekend for some time before I noticed that the kale had been stripped to a skeleton by the pigeons over the past week of icy weather. I think in that moment I gave up on it for this season, just as I'm giving up on the spring cabbage and broccoli that has never come back since their early season stripping. It's my own fault for not protecting it better, but in a way I don't grudge the pigeons their bit of tasty green during such a hard frost. And as the only member of the family who really appreciates kale, I'm flagging somewhat in eating it all myself.

There's also a sense that we've turned a corner in the season and that spring might just be a possibility before too long. For the first time since the robin's autumn song, the air was filled with birdsong while I was at the plot - mostly chaffinches at that time in the middle of the day. At home the blackbird starts an experimental, single voice dawn chorus sometime after 5 a.m. So my thoughts are moving away from winter vegetables and towards sowing and planting. A bit more digging to do first, so I'd better get off the computer, as my daughter has just reminded me, and get along to the plot.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Ice garden

A little oasis of ice from last weekend. Another tap had sprung a leak at the allotment site, and last weekend's below zero temperatures created an ice garden. When we went back this week both taps had at last dried up. I don't like to think how much water has been wasted.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Taking a line

When we inherited our plot from the previous owner it had several quirky features (I daresay we've added some, but they're ours, therefore perfectly normal rather than quirky). A ramshackle shed-cum-greenhouse full of wild raspberry canes, and a typist's chair. A vast if patchy crop of parsnips, which we spent the next year digging out. A huge weed heap (of which more soon). And on either side of the central path, one wide bed and one narrow bed. Over the next few years several of these quirks were tamed, but the lopsided beds have remained, and in fact have got even more lopsided. Now they're at the point where the size of a particular crop will be determined by which side of the plot it's on. Time for action.

So on Sunday I 'took a line' from the front of the plot to the shed door. I had intended to start digging out the grass, but the ground was frozen solid. Looking at it again, my line is perhaps rather squint, so I'll wait until the mathematically-minded males of the family have a look at it.

That's one of our quirks, I've just realised - I sow/plant in lines which veer gradually away from straightness. But why be boring?

Thursday 5 February 2009

Cheating - celeriac

After some swithering (about 2 minutes) I gave in and cheated. Ten plants of Celeriac 'Brilliant' now have my name on them in a Marshalls greenhouse somewhere in England. Or maybe some lucky seed planter is going off out today to sow the seeds with my name on them (lucky because I'd swap jobs with them in an instant).

My craving for Celeriac has got the better of my determination to grow all vegetables on from seed. Three years ago I had a sorry failure of a Celeriac attempt. The seeds took forever to come through, and the plants produced nothing like a root ball. A lot of time and effort for no result. With limited space to bring on seedlings I've opted for the 'garden ready plant' get-out.

Celeriac was one of the many culinary discoveries I made while working as an English language 'assistante' in a French school as part of my degree. It was often on the school lunch menu in various guises. Those lunches were a true delight (apart from the occasional serving of tripe, which apparently the school students loved). A two hour lunch break, a four course lunch with wine, and then a pleasant interlude at a nearby cafe for a little pick-me-up coffee, sitting cosily inside in the winter when the Mistral blew, or lazily outside in the sun the rest of the time.

So I'm determined to recapture a little of that douceur de vie through my Celeriac this summer. Great expectations indeed!

Wednesday 4 February 2009

An iris called Gordon

I bought these iris bulbs back in the autumn because of the name and the cheerful picture in the catalogue. Gordon is a friend's young son, and has the most delightful, sparkling smile you can imagine. This week, despite the snow, Gordon the iris appeared in the pots by my front door. I think this iris lives up to its namesake.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Mister Fox

With no blanket of snow, the grassy paths at our plot have continued to grow this winter. The hard frosts of Christmas and New Year did no more than burn the tips. As the grass gets longer, a path has appeared running the whole length of the plot. It can't be from our footfalls - for one thing we're not there often enough, but it's also too slim.

Last week the mystery was solved when the fox trotted right past me, following the line of the path. Of course - it's his (or her?) route. He crossed over to the next door plot and hung around as I grabbed my camera. Perfect shot after perfect shot went by as the rascal turned his head away every time just as I pressed the button. Here's the best I could get, just catching him as he begins to turn away from the camera again. What a tease!