Thursday, 21 April 2011

Honkjazz The Musical Allotment - Part 24

Right then.

Lots to get through so pay attention, notebooks out, etc.

1) Our lovely plot.

I know that last time I wrote about this the plot had been going through a bit of a rough year. In a nutshell, weather and lethargy meant that it had suffered somewhat. You’ll be happy to hear that things have balanced up a bit. Over the last three months we’ve managed to fill every bed and it’s looking pretty good over there. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good. Here’s a quick (not quick at all) rundown of what’s in where:

At the very top of the plot the awkward bit (‘Mullered Fruit Corner’) has finally started to settle down. In the past Bibs would let it go completely wild to the extent that you couldn’t see the raspberry canes and gooseberry bushes in there at all before spending a few weekends clearing it all back and moving everything around a bit so the whole process could start again. The last time this happened the raspberry canes were shifted about which had the effect of DEATH on them. I decided that something needed to be done. Everything was weeded and a small border was put around the lone surviving gooseberry bush. The rest of this paddock was taken up by some winter onions which really should have gone in when I bought them (October) and not when I found them under the front-passenger seat of my car (February). They were sprouting and had a mouldy look about them but I thought “myeh” and chucked them in the ground. This devil may care approach may result in my releasing a plethora of mould spores into the soil that render all future crops completely and utterly useless. Stay tuned, etc.

We’ve turned the back of this bed into a beautiful rockery.

Sorry, we’ve thrown all of the old bricks and any stones of lumps of wood and other cr*p into this corner and put some plant pots nearby.

Each of the five plant pots contains one twig-sized cutting from the gooseberry bush and they’re taking nicely. The cutting back has also given the gooseberry bush a massive lease of life and we’re going to try and manage it a bit more this year. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a berry to eat. Just one would be an improvement on last year. One berry!

There’s also a rhubarb plant which was put in a couple of years ago and happily sits there doing its own thing. Last year we failed to take any rhubarb from this beautiful creature as it rotted down into itself. Another one for the list of shame. We did learn to snap the seed pods off which was very annoying because we thought that this was a sign of a champion plant, stalk rocketing toward the sky at an alarming rate. But no, Bob/John walked over and with a grunted “you don’t want that” just snapped it off at the base. And now we know to do this ourselves.
Hopefully we'll get some rhubrab stalks to eat this year.
Just one would be an impro........

This bed also has the last few bulbs of garlic which were left over from our bumper crop last year dotted around the mouldy onion bed of poison.

The rest of this garlic overspill has been planted in one of the top beds. It’s going really well and I’ve staggered it by three weeks so we won’t get it all at once like we did last year. This bed also has broad beans which have nearly all sprouted and also houses the bay tree which once belonged to the King Of Devon (or something). I had noticed brown spots starting to develop on the bay leaves so I ripped every dodgy one off and all of a sudden there are loads of new buds all over the plant. This gardening lark is very interesting. More on that later.

The bed opposite contains more of those late onions. These ones weren’t going mouldy but were about three months late. They seem quite happy and some of look ace. Because they’d already started to sprout internally the green shoots were trapped in the skin causing a rather amusing concertina effect. There’s also a flat leaf parsley plant in this bed which is looking really healthy. All of the herbs that we planted last year got lost in the gooseberry/raspberry/weed bed so they’ve all been moved to the corner of a different bed and are all thriving now.


Down one level we have a bed that used to be full of cabbages. Until the frost and the bugs had at them. Six remain. The last survivors. The Dirty (Half) Dozen. Still standing.

And not growing at all beyond their pathetic proportions. They are useless and the new cabbage seeds that went into the ground about a month back have done nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. Niente. Cabbages may well be relegated to the Blue Square South of our gardening world, joining carrots, squashes, cauliflower, tomatoes and sweetcorn in the pantheon of things that I can’t grow yet.

Opposite this bed is another late winter-onion bed, all of which are doing pretty well, which also houses a beautiful sage plant and a robust rosemary bush.

Down and over from this is a bed that has contains some radishes, leeks and more herbs. The leeks were planted last summer (along with a full bed opposite) and have probably reached their zenith. We’ll be crunching our way through these as of next week. The radishes are great and I can’t believe that we’ve not grown them before. They show in a matter of days and are great eaten straight from the ground as a mid-work snack. At the front of this bed sit some more re-housed herbs: dill, coriander and something else which escapes me know. All are healthy and happy.

The next one down from here was a bit of nightmare last year. We filled it up with the plugs from work and it was all very random with squashes, chard, herbs and lettuces fighting for attention. In the end we managed to eat most of the lettuces but the rest failed. Well, the squashes produced nothing and the chard was ignored. So that’s a massive fail on our side as well.

This year we’ve put all of the strawberries that have spawned from the five plants that were donated to us a couple of years ago and have been slowly spreading their tentricles across the Belfast sink area at the top of the plot. We dug about fifty of them out and after trimming the dead leaves and creepers planted them safely in their own bed. The corner of this bed housed a knackered raspberry cane which had sprouted up from the arse of thieving bird and was about to get clobbered by me when the lady who runs the local launderette (amusingly nicknamed Bubbles by us although we’ve never called her this to her face because we both know the weary look which would be cast our way due to it not being funny at all, we know this, we do) wandered over and practically ordered me to save it. So I did. It’s got its own paddock now and the roots are bursting through the ground in several places. As long as we get the security aspect right we might even get to eat one berry this year. You hear that? One berry!!

The last two plots continue our experiment in cultures. There’s a potato bed that has been planted out but not with shop-bought seed potatoes, oh no. Instead we’ve chucked some spuds that were knocking around in the bottom of our kitchen veg’ box, looking a bit rough with eyes up, skins withered. They were starting to rot so I’m hoping that this cavalier attitude doesn’t result in me releasing a dreadful plague of potato disease, rendering the land completely poisoned and desolate. Stay tuned!

This bed also has two of the chard plants which were rescued from last years disaster and they seem to be doing quite well. It’s nice to know we’ve got some plants that will come back year after year. We’ll be picking some leaves from one of these soon and hopefully that will only spur it on more as well as being nice to eat.

The last bed was finished last Sunday on a afternoon of glorious sunshine, tea and egg mayonnaise sandwiches (I mean egg mayonaise sandwiches and tea but you knew that right?).

This was the worst of all the beds. Last year it was a mad mixture of cabbages, squashes, brussel sprouts, more cabbages and cauliflower.

All of which failed with the exception of the sprouts. The bed was in chaos and soon became completely overgrown. So yesterday we completed the reinvigoration of the plot and our attitudes by turning this one into a runner bean bed. We’d used the Belfast sinks as seed beds to bring on our stock of beans from two years back along with some from work and they’d nearly all sprouted. Two bean teepees later (complete with some beautiful pig manure from our friends Harry & Sue in the trenches) and the bed is transformed. Hopefully the fact that the bean seeds had started to go mouldy shouldn’t matter too much. Hopefully this caution to the wind attitude won’t end up with a sea of fungus creeping up, around, over and into everything that isn’t fast enough to run.
Hopefully you'll stay tuned, etc.

So everything is in the ground.

And everything might die.


The plot looks good now. Last weekend saw the strimmer getting its second ever outing which helped fill the compost bin up nicely. It’ll need another bashing in the next few weeks such is the speed at which the grass and weeds are growing. The shed has had a good clean out as well.

It all coincides with a refreshed outlook only touched upon last time I wrote on here. We’ve started going for walks again, studying the hedgerow larder and edible seashore books that we own and our local greengrocer has started selling our chutneys for us. We’re sorting out our affairs both on the plot and off of it. Evidence onsite is in the tidier, planned out approach to mixed beds, the bordering off of the fruit bushes, relocating unhappy plants and finally casting an eye to security. We’ve always had a fairly laided-back approach to protecting our crops, thinking somehow that its OK to plant enough for ourselves and then some over for the bugs and the birds and the mice.

Well f*ck them!!!


Now we plan to cage and net our berries to within an inch of their fruitful lives.

There’s also a plan to make a polytunnel. In fact I type with fingers covered in mud from a huge sheet of plastic that was being unloaded from a van on the farm where I work. Blow me down with a feather (!) if it’s not old plastic sheeting from a giant polytunnel in the fields. I’ve blagged myself a nice big chunk which will help construct our own bespoke tunnel over the next season or two.

I’m sure that there are a lot more things to talk about……………..

Oh yeah, the pub garden garden and music and how sorry we are for being very wasteful last year.

This will have to be a two-parter.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

New Old Business

It's about time to start rescuing some of our old mixes and chucking them about a bit. You'll be able to download them all from this page. Here's one from the mists of time. It's a look at the wonderful Scottish label Fence Records. Enjoy :D

1) The Pictish Trail - I Don't Know Where To Begin
2) King Creosote - Who Did You Kill On The Way Up?
3) Pip Dylan - Withered Tree
4) HMS Ginafore & King Creosote - No Gesture Is Tender Enough
5) The Earlies - Wayward Song
6) The Pictish Trail - Secret Soundz No.5
7) The Pictish Trail - Connected To Light
8) Jon Hopkins - Wire
9) Pip Dylan - Lazy Boy
10) Rich Amino - You Were Always There
11) Rozi Plain - Cherry Tree
12) Romanhead - Overwintering
13) James Yorkston - Surfsong
14) King Creosote - Locked Together
15) wiQwar - Butterfly Man
16) OLO Worms - I Shot The Shrieff (Down The Tiny Steps remix)
17) FOUND - Let Fidelity Break
18) The Aliens - Rox
19) The Beta Band - Squares
20) Lone Pigeon - Boats
21) Clock feat. King Creosote - Hallelujah My Demise
22) HMS Ginafore & King Creosote - Aurora Boring Alias

Sunday, 6 March 2011

honkjazz goes fm on Soundart Radio

Yes that right... last friday we played our first show on soundart radio.

It's a new frontier for us all and a very positive one at that.

The show is here for you to download and have a listen...

Saturday, 5 March 2011

honkjazz on the purple radio...

Have a look here for part 1 of our latest show on purple radio.

We enjoyed it and hope you will too....

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Honkjazz The Musical Allotment - Part 23

Hello My Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts.

It has been a while since I’ve written anything here and there are a few reasons for that, some pertinent and interesting, others neither.

Gardening is a funny thing and can feed off of your moods and general mental outlook to a huge degree. By this I mean that if you’re in a bit of mental slump because it rains every weekend and you can’t get to your plot then after a while the weeds take over and cycle worsens. The last thing you want to do is tackle your vegetable beds because you can’t see past the weeds and couch grass and thistles. So you stay away and the weeds get higher and the rains keep coming - cyclical slump innit. The crops that you have growing go unnoticed (the greatest crime) and your mood develops in line with nettles and thorns.

So you buy a strimmer.

And then its like Alan Titchmarsh re-making Rambo.

Suddenly you can see everything clearly. Weekend follows weekend, hours and hours of back-breaking work pile up as the weeds hit the compost heap and the earth is turned. A veg' plant scheme at work provides literally hundreds and hundreds of plugs - lettuces, herbs, kale, chard, broccoli, cabbage, moon cauli’, leeks, squashes and pumpkins. Everything is teeming with life and the sun is shining.

And then sun disappears and doesn’t come back. Rain and rain and rain and rain. Any weekend where the weather is favourable coincides with a cold or a bad back and although the weeds are no problem any more you just cannot crack the weather/time combination.

And then its Christmas.

But that’s not quite the whole picture.

As often in life there are hidden sub-plots and character arcs, award nominations for cinematography and on-set romances hitting the front pages of the celebrity gossip magazines that grace every salon and doctors surgery waiting room across the land.

Well, sort of.

Not really.

But there was another distraction and it came in the form of another vegetable garden. An opportunity came our way and we’ve grabbed it. It’s a sensitive situation and I’m not quite sure where it stands at the moment but it’s an interesting development for sure. A friend of ours had taken over a country pub in March and had started a large vegetable garden in the private garden at the back of the pub as soon as he’d moved in. Soon the logistics of balancing the full-time running of a pub/restaurant, looking after two small children and keeping a vegetable plot were made pain and clear. So when we took my folks there for a bite to eat and a pint in springtime the offer was made. We run the garden for a small hourly payment of some pennies and a couple of ales.

And that’s the first way in which Honkjazz branched out this year.

The Dartmoor garden has been a difficult trick to perform because there are politics involved that we don’t have on the homestead. As the boss is a friend of ours we don’t want to take the Michael in terms of payment. Although the garden needed two days of solid hard work to clear the weeds that had sprung up to waist height since the first planting out we couldn’t really do that without causing consternation as our friend probably doesn’t want to be spending a small fortune on hired labour for a veg’ garden that he doesn’t really care that much about. I think that it may have been part of the whole country living ideal thing rather a genuine passion. You know? Just moved into a beautiful thatched pub in the country - we'd better grow our own veg' to complete the picture! So we could only work this land in three or four hour sessions each week and as you all know to break the back of a plot you need to hit it hard for about ten days. Each week we’d wander over and carry on weeding around the potatoes, runner beans, sweet peas, onions, lettuces and cabbages and also try and always leave something new in the ground when we left. We haven’t been there for over a month now and we have a sinking feeling that our friend may have lost interest in paying someone for something that he has to wait a long time for. A self-confessed organic-nihilist (“ I couldn’t care less how my veg is grown”) who is far happier heading to the local Tescoverlord that getting their hands mucky, he’s not responded to my recent texts announcing the arrival of the winter onions. I’m going to turn up there this weekend and see what happens. Gut instinct says its a fail.

This is a project that I really want to work for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s such a beautiful pub in a stunning Dartmoor village location and it’s always such a joy to work on. Secondly, there’s an awful lot of land to use and we’ve been promised half of it for our own use (although I suspect that he may be thinking of that as a form of payment rather than the cash which has been forthcoming so far). The third reason involves the kernel of a business idea which would be based around this garden acting as a portfolio piece.

So its all a bit confusing at the moment. Our own plot has suffered a bit because of this new garden but the balance has been impossible to correct this autumn as the weather has been so dreadful round our way. This weekend should see me get the winter onions in both plots and I’ll also be able to gauge his interest properly.

I’ll be writing our annual appraisal at the weekend so they’ll be photographs included in that but at least you know the whole story now.

Or do you?..........................

Honkjazz has branched out again but in a musical form. We now play records as a trio with the addition of our good friend and excellent purveyor of soulful electronica and downbeat lovelies, Sondek. Get stuck in.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

for your latest fix of honkjazz radio shizzle....

go here right now

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Honkjazz The Musical Allotment - Part 22

Well hello now. Inspired by the insightful and witty comments the last post generated I thought it about time to say hello again and fill you in on some of the news.

A lot has been happening what with it being spring and all. It was very hard to resist the lure of the early planting frenzy that some gardeners may give in to but we know what the weather is like in Devon so we waited it out. Just as well as there were a couple of very late frosts here which would have done us no favors. 
I'm struggling to remember what went in first (it is very early o a Sunday morning). Let's see - oh yes, well the garlic and winter onions were (and still are) going mad, especially the garlic. We didn't lose that many in the torrential rain at the end of last year so that was lovely. Unlike the broad beans which suffered heavy casualties. Still, we've got about nine pants left and Blunts has planted some more now to give a good staggered crop. I'm not sure that the ones who survived are anywhere near as big as they should be but we'll take what we get and be thankful.
Or else!!!
Nothing really, or else nothing. 

So that was that. Bibby's fruit mullered corner had completely over grown and was a disaster. Except for the strawberry plants that we put in the ground. Although we didn't get a single fruit (no netting = fat animals) the plants went fortheth  and multiplied. From the original four or fiver plants we got about forty new ones. So we've given away twenty odd and planted the rest into the Belfast sinks. Once we covered them with some of the old window panes they have thrived. Excellet.
The strawberry rescue operation was part of a campaign to reclaim the fruit corner and Bibs has done brilliantly. It's all be dug over and fenced off and once the rubbish fruit plants (raspberry and gooseberry) have been rescued from their battle with the weeds at the fence we'll plant them in the newly transmogrified bed. We've also got some lettuce plants along the fence here. They were being thrown away on the farm where I work so I rescued lots of them and we now have loads of green and red battavia, some Russian red kale, green kale, coriander plants and some other lettuce plants of unknown origin. These have been planted in all of the areas where things had died in the cold and rain so all of the available space is now taken up.
Which is nice.

Talking of herbs there was another freebie going at work in the shape of a box of mixed herb plantlets. I had those as quick as a flash and they now line the inside of the fence in the fruit corner. I can't wait to take some pictures because it's really lovely there now.

Over the last couple of months I've also dug the beds over and filled a couple with pig manure ahead of the potatoes going in (this week). Bibs and I set up a bed for the peas, using the chicken wire fencing from last year. Improvements mean we'll be planting on both sides of the fence instead of just one this time. Blunts has also planted peas on the first fence only. We'll do the second fence in a week or so and the third fence a few weeks after that.

See? A completely different type of staggering is going on at the allotment this year.

We've got to clear the old swede/brussel sprout bed and we'll be putting some cabbages in there. The brussel plants are still in the ground as everyone else seems to have left theirs so we'll follow suit and see what happens.

Lastly would be the runner beans which went in a couple of weeks ago. They've nearly all shot up (helped by a buried trench of pig manure under each row) and are looking lovely. We'll get the cane supports up this week so they've got a frame to hoist themselves around on. They've each been allocated a sponsor so I'll keep you posted on who's bean plant is growing fastest and which one gives the best prizes.

The icing on the muddy cake was a trip to the dump to sling out all of the rubbish and knackered window frames and stuff. That made me very happy indeed!

I'll take some photos once Big Al' has popped over in the week with his petrol strimmer and tidied the place up a bit.

Until then.........