Slow painting

Friday 31 December 2010


Evidence of repair work to come - measurements on a pane of my Dad's greenhouse. It suffered in the heavy snow of last January, and again with December's snowfall. Because my Dad was in hospital for the first 6 months of the year and we were more concerned with him and house maintenance when we visited, the greenhouse has not been top of the priority list. Since coming home Dad has enlisted the help of a friend - a youngster in his 70s who now looks after the garden for Dad. He puts in a 6 hour day of digging, and then goes off to help build another friend's house. We're really grateful for all the work he does to help Dad.

He had just measured the panes and gaps for replacements and delivered the glass when the latest snowfall put a stop to the work. So here we are in the aftermath with an even more weather-worn greenhouse.

We're hoping that the weather doesn't turn to gales before the panes are replaced - with the missing panes there's great potential for the pressure of high winds inside the greenhouse to blow the rest of the panes out.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

The taps

Our last fall of snow in Edinburgh was so light that it was like beaten egg white. Flakes stuck to every possible surface, clinging on to the rough surface of the rubber insulation round these allotment taps. Ribbons of snow hung from twigs, like the original Christmas garlands.

The allotment taps are good value as photo subjects. Back in 2009 they provided an ice garden.

Now there's a thaw everywhere. Stepping outside this morning I could smell the earth, which made me immediately long for spring and sowing seeds and working outside. We are still up on Speyside, so there is a lot of earth around - fields of it just outside the garden. But even in Edinburgh today the scent of the earth will be there. The sky is mild and blue, and it's hard to think that we have what are usually the two worst months of the winter to get through yet.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Winter solstice

Having finished up at work yesterday I had time for a quick dash to the allotment this afternoon, in between Christmas shopping and preparing for our annual Christmas pilgrimage to Speyside. For the past fortnight I've had a horrible cold-with-a-tinge-of-flu, and keeping plugging away at work has left me drained at weekends and only fit to take to bed so that I'm able to go to work on Monday. So no trips to the allotment at weekends, and on weekdays I leave home in the dark and get home in the dark. But with a fresh fall of snow and hard frost I wanted to see how the broccoli cage was faring.

It was mid afternoon by the time I set out, and I caught the brief glow of the solstice sunset. I was relieved to see that the cage was still standing, but it was suffering from the 'wrong' kind of snow, just as Britain's airports and railways have been suffering in the past weeks.

The snow had a woven effect, a bit like the cellular blankets which we keep in the loft for the very occasional warm summer night when duvets are too much.

All this softness was deceptive. As I knocked the snow off the netting, I dislodged one of the supporting poles, and saw that it was bent by the weight of the snow. At this point I was stuck: the ground was frozen hard, so that even if I managed to pull out the pegs holding the netting in place and get underneath to fix the pole, I wouldn't be able to push them back into the soil. So I jiggled and coaxed the pole back in to the balls at either end, and left it all balancing precariously. I fully expect to come back after New Year and find the whole lot on the ground, with pigeons sitting on top gorging on my baby kale.

The kink in the pole in the photo below shows the effect of all those feather-light snowflakes.

Friday 10 December 2010

Same but different

We took a quick walk round the allotment site on Sunday. Things were disconcertingly the same, but different. The fox's tracks were everywhere, and although paths and borders were hidden, in some places it had stuck to the invisible paths. In others, it had set off across raised beds.

It's been quite a while since we've done a tour of our neighbours. We saw several extremely spick and span plots which have obviously had a change of ownership. I resolved to return once the snow has gone and see exactly what they've done by way of plot improvements - and be shamed into action myself, probably.

One of the impressive features was this picnic table and seats, with the prime view of Calton Hill. A permanent seating area is the height of allotment civilisation. Sometimes I aspire to it, and at other times I think I'd rather keep it natural.

And the sheds had an Alpine chalet look.

It's all melting now. A soft west wind, and the sound of dripping and running water everywhere. City pavements are still treacherous, with a film of water over sheet ice. I'm impatient to see what's happening at the plot, but there's going to have to be some bare pavement showing before I risk the walk there.

Monday 6 December 2010


After seeing the state of Mal's brassica netting at his post here, I was anxious to see how ours had fared. Perhaps we have a different type of snow over here at the other side of the city, but the cage was standing up for itself. The broccoli is pretty much buried, but it wasn't any great height to start with. Another note to self - plant it out earlier next season so that it can grow on faster before autumn sets in.

We enjoyed at allotment sunset at 2.50 p.m.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Snow, with pimples

The strangest thing about our unsually early, heavy snowfall is that the leaves are still falling. We are used to seeing snow on top of leaves, not the other way round. I can't tell you how surprising I find this. At every turn I come across patches of leaves lying on top of the snow. Above, the allotment site this afternoon, with distinction between the roadway and adjacent plot buried under the snow.

At one point on the Water of Leith walkway the leaves under a clump of birch trees by the path light up the snow as if touched by a shaft of summer sun.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Plot in the snow

Since this photo was taken on Sunday it has snowed, and snowed and snowed. Goodness knows what state the brassica cage is in now, even after being tightened up and the snow knocked off.

Perhaps the snow will stop whatever mollusc has been chomping on this broccoli plant.

I'm concerned about the fox in this weather. Last night we parted the living room curtains to look out at the falling snow and saw a fox trotting down the pavement a few yards from us. I don't know if it was 'our' allotment fox, but it certainly looked very thin.