Monday, 21 July 2008

honkjazz The Allotment - Part 14

From this -

To this -

To this -

Yes, the first produce from the honkjazz allotment has hit our plates in the form of lovely, green baby gem lettuces. Herbert will be having his with lunch today and I tasted some in freshly baked roles with Spanish chorizo in one and Milanese salami in the other. And dear Lord it was a tasty treat. Made all the better because we made it. We made it I say! The start of something that is very good for you.

So this weekend has seen a lot of hard work done on the site. Nothing mad important, just housework. But work all the same. On Saturday Herb and I busied ourselves with the weeding. The beds were starting to become a bit overgrown with a sea of little green invaders covering the floor. The worst hit was the runner bean patch so I got stuck into that whilst H tackled the onion bed. I must say that I found it very, very satisfying indeed. And I got into it too, not letting a single little weed slip past. What a joy a freshly weeded vegetable bed is!
The runner beans are doing well considering how late we planted them out. Herb and I have kind of gotten into the slacker side of garden in some cases, i.e it will do it's own thing so let it do it's own thing. So what if we planted stuff out at the wrong time of year. It's natural instinct is to grow. And if it doesn't grow it dies. That's that. Apart from a short dalliance with Round-Up (which I'm happy to leave alone now - the weeds will always come back!) we haven't used any chemical aids or pesticides or any stuff like that. No nitrogen pellets, no Fish Blood & Bone. Nothing. Just a lot of pigsh*t and digging. I'm cool with that.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, the runners are doing well, climbing steadily with lots of beautiful red flowers around the base of the plants, probably up the first two feet or so. Hopefully the vines will soon mesh and tangle and the flowers will appear all over (like our neighbor Ron's wonderful plants that you can see in the background - a curse on your house Ronald!!). Here they are....

Herbert shuffled off to have fun in the sun on the run and I finished off the bean bed and called it a day for Saturday. After all, it WAS Chudleigh Carnival that evening and there would undoubtedly be live Bare Knuckle Boxing in the streets once the procession had finished. So that was Saturday done. But not before I tried to start some shear-trimming action on the quickly growing grass. But the call of the carnival had it's grip on me. The smell of donut grease hung like a heavy cloak over the village whilst a mustard gas Candy floss aroma searched out open windows and tickled the occupants on the chin, drawing them outside in a daze. Not really sure what they were doing stood in the road, they soon found themselves slowly walking to the town square where they would eat pink sugar and watch Chudleigh's Got Talent on a little stage near the war memorial. Later they would snap back awake as the dying notes of 'Simply The Best' or 'Let Me Entertain You' hung in the air and the male/female duo (called something like Fire & Ice or Mark Two - because his name is Mark and it's his band and there's two of them) packed up their gear. Nobody could quite remember what happened that evening and all across the village people looked at the battery powered flashing deely-boppers and pink, sparkly cowgirl hats that they had somehow acquired and tried to work out what the time was.

So on Sunday I headed back up to the plot and got stuck in. So much work to do and such a beautiful day to do it on. I started by having a bit of a tidy up and finished off the grass cutting for the bottom of the plot and around the fences. I should have done the whole plot but it's a real back killer so I kept procrastinating by finding little jobs that I didn't even know needed doing. I practically emptied the dumpy bag full of weeds into about twenty sacks ready to be deposited at the recycle centre which took a while but was cool because as soon as the bag is empty we can chuck it away and build another compost bin in it's place. And what a joyful and triumphant day that will be for all!

I went through the potato plots and unraveled any pesky bindweed that I found on the spud plants. The potatoes are doing very well and are starting to slowly die back. They're quite crowded in and stretching out at the sides in search of light. I think it's going to be packed with spuds under the ground and can't wait to start digging them out with my grubby little hands.

I finished off the onion bed weeding leaving a load of beautiful onions who, like the spuds, are just starting to pull the goodness from their leaves in one last growth spurt. Not that some of them need it. The biggest of them are about the size of a lawn bowling ball. Lovely. I'm going to attempt to plait them together in a rustic French stylee! I do not have high hopes for that part of the operation.
So er..... good luck with that.

I then dug a few weeds out of the mixed bed. This bed is one of my favorites because it keeps changing and it's lovely and bright. The day we finished it Bob/Jon wandered over and gave us some lettuce sproutlets so we planted those in. Then we filled the rest up with alternating rows of carrots and spring onions. Except they didn't really work. As you can see only half of the carrots took and none of the spring onions (actually out of a packet of 1000 seeds we have five spring onions - hahahahahahaha). So after I'd pulled out the few weeds on show I decided to move the pepper plants from one of the Belfast sinks and into some of the spare ground left by the stupid spring onions. Although there is a theory doing the rounds that we washed the seeds away the first time we even watered them but whatever. Only three out of the nine pepper plants had made it but I still planted the other six brown withered stalks because you never quite know what's going on with that there nature stuff. Feeling very happy with myself I did the same thing for the failed garlic plants. These were going great guns and then just died back into the bulb form. Not sure what happened but the bulbs were just sitting there in the sink-soil so I chucked those into the ground as well and we'll just wait and see what will happen. Probably nothing, maybe something.

This is the one bed that I couldn't really work on. After cutting away the nettles and grass along the back fence I could get to weeding the swedes (sweeding?) but the broccoli is still so small that's it's difficult to weed around it so I thought I'd leave this one until it's obvious exactly what is a broccoli sproutling and what is a weed in disguise!
Hmmm, hasn't my shadow put on weight?

So this is all me putting off finishing the grass-cutting. So I thought, "Mmmmmm, I know, I'll go and eat that lovely, big raspberry that I spotted yesterday on one of our fledgling raspberry bushes. Over I wander only to find SHOCK HORROR that it's missing. Just as I'm about to call an allotment holders emergency meeting in the presence of the village constabulary to solve this crime I spotted the offender. It was a bird flying overhead. I saw the look in it's beady little birdy eye and I could swear that it squawked at me the little sh*t. So I wasted a good hour and a half building the worlds most useless fruit cage.
It's useless on many levels as well. Primarily because it WILL fall apart with the slightest gust of wind. I only had five pieces of bamboo and some string to make the framework so you can imagine how well it's held together. More a stick balanced on some other sticks. If it does actually manage to stay together the birds definitely won't
be able to get at the raspberries. And neither will
we. The entire thing would have to be knocked over
in order to pick one, single fruit. The last completely stupid "design" flaw is the possibility of a bird getting inside through one of the many little holes but not being able to get out. So we'll have no fruit left and a nice collection of birds that have been literally scared to death.
Nice work huh? I bet you've never seen a fruit-cage/bird-trap as well constructed as this one?
At least I got to take part in the Thing That Boys Love To Do No. 16 (no, not that) - building things out of string and sticks and nets. Which is of course ace.

I finished the day with two great pieces of work. I finished off the grass cutting and then weeded Herbert's 2nd carrot/spring onion bed.
This is such a relaxing thing to do - sitting in the dirt gently plucking little weeds from the ground and occasionally crumbling up clods of earth. Getting your hands in the soil (which was wonderfully warm under the surface) can be very soulful experience and one that I can recommend to anyone wanting a bit of stress relief.
So there we are. Barring one plot the entire allotment has been smartened up, had a haircut (styled by Vidal Baboon) and weeded to within an inch of it's little life. Things were replanted (and therefore given another chance to feed our greedy bellies) and protected and I invented a great way to trap birds. And we got to eat some stuff that we made live.
And we are mighty good smug about this.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Back (In Full Effect)

So I came back from holidays to find that Herb had been working away on the defences of our fair scratch of land. And a wonderful job he has done too. We'll spend the weekend weeding and trimming so it's nice and lovely and then do a mahoosive photo update just for you. No, not you, you. And maybe you.
I'm going to resist the temptation to tell you every single little thing that happened on my holiday and instead throw some photographs up for you to glance at for just a second.
The order is random. Deal with it.

Here are some rock formations at St. Agnes
beach. The surf was far too mental to go swimming and the weather was kind of grey anyways so myself, Jake and Mia (nephew and niece) had to be content with that great British past-time of Champions - Rockpooling! And St. Agnes does have some awesome rock-pools.

My folks and I went for a lunch at a beautiful pub somewhere or other. As soon as I sat down in the garden for a smoke this little dog wandered over and said hello. He was followed by his sister and they entertained us by playing such wonderful
games as 'Run Around The Bushes Really, Really Quickly' and 'Woof' and

'Who's Got The Toy - Me! - Give It back! I Want It - Can't Have It! - Give It Back Now! - You'll Have To Catch Me First Slowcoach'. He was so sweet that I came very close to dognapping him. And isn't dognapping the easiest crime to get away with? All you have to do is wave a bit of cheese-rind in front of him and he's all yours! Dognapping - it's safe and easy.

This is the beautiful harbor entrance at Porthleven. I'd not been here before and sadly it was a little too early to have a pint on the quayside (it was a St. Austell brewery pub as well so you know there's Tribute to be had in there) so I had to settle for a pasty. As delicious as Cornish pasties are (very) I can never enjoy them when I'm outside. I'm always too afraid that a seagull will swoop down and try to wrestle it from my grip. As I defend myself the gull pecks at my eyes, breaking my glasses and quickly blinding me. It's claws rake across my arms and face as it screeches it's shrill battle cry. As the mighty wings flap in the air a small boy is knocked over the edge of the harbor wall, mother screaming as father dives in to save the child. Panic everywhere as seagulls descend from the skies attacking any human that they can find. People run to their cars and try to drive away but the gulls are shattering the windscreens with their razor sharp beaks and the cars smash into shop-fronts and plow through the terrified tourists before gracelessly dropping over the harbor edge. The bay runs red with the blood of man....
So I usually just get an iced lolly.
This time I threw the last third in a bird-proof litter-bin just so I could smirk at the idiot gulls who suddenly had to pretend that they weren't following me after all.

Here's me with my wonderful sister and niece.
(photograph taken by nephew)
I like the way my sister gamely tried to hang the wet clothes and towels out to dry. You're in Cornwall woman! Not a chance. Also, see how Mia is holding a little stick? That's a barbecue skewer and she'd been poking them in the hot barbecue coals all evening once the food was cooked. The first day they arrived I was a nervous wreck around the kids, trying to protect them from every potential accident and envisaging broken bones and slashed limbs at every turn. After the second day she could have been juggling flaming knives for all I cared. Parents of the world I salute you! Your bravery, determination to try and enjoy yourselves no matter what and sheer I-Don't-Care-What-You're-Doing-Just-Let-Me-Read-My-Book!ness should be admired by us all. So she's waving a red hot stick around and whatever.

I took this one on my second to last day as I went
on a lovely cliff-top stomp. I started at Godrevy beach and walked along the coast path taking any little turning I fancied. I soon stumbled upon this little gem of a beach and I was desperate to get down there. It was only about 30 meters across (as opposed to Hayle beach which measures about 3 miles in length!). So I tried to walk down the "path" but I just couldn't risk it. I'd had a few beers the night before and my sense of balance wasn't feeling that great. The path was on a steep slope and one slip or misplaced step would send you tumbling down the cliff-side before being dashed to death on the rocks below. So I thought I'd wait until next year when I can set up some sort of rope system or perhaps be air-dropped onto the sand. I will sit on that beach!

(note - isn't "dashed to death" a wonderful phrase. Like extreme sprinting. Stupid sprinters. I hate runners. Oh, sorry, that's racist. Zing!)
(note 2 - I've struggled to raise the nerve to tell that joke for some time now. I'm quite sure that anyone with an ounce of sense would see that it's a play on words, as in "race" sprinting rather than "race" of people but I always worry that some folk won't see that and will think I'm making a bigoted remark about the prevalence of black runners in the athletics world like I'm some kind of assh*le. I mean I am but not that kind. Ok? We cool? Good.)
(note 3 - I'm now more aware than ever that sometimes it's better to just shut your mouth and keep it shut.)

After the cliff-top stomp I went for a drive around, just getting happily lost and mooching about. I had to park up and investigate these old ruins. The National Trust or Heritage Association or some other excellent bunch had put up these wonderfully presented and endlessly informative metal plaques with photograghs, diagrams and a detailed history of the mines, pressing plants, equipment used and the significance of the tin-mining industry to the local and national economies. I think this ruin was something to do with metal stamps. I don't know, I couldn't be bothered to read it. What am, back at school again? Great place for a party though.

And here is my palace of comfort. I must say I was very impressed with how it stood up to some of the worst weather I've witnessed in my life. Of course you expect a bit of tastyness being half a mile from the West Cornish beaches but seriously! Gale-force winds and constant rain, often for two days non-stop. My sister's tent didn't fare so well and was really buckling under the strain. Other tents on-site were simply destroyed by the weather, poles snapped and tents flung about like rag-dolls. My little one was fine though. Bone dry, tight ropes, nice and warm. And a super-comfy bed as well. Lovely.
(Yeah, we Brits know about surviving harsh weather! "My tent poles were completely snapped and the tent was just flapping around in the wind. I had to rent a smaller tent and stay at the completely opposite end of the campsite for TWO WHOLE NIGHTS before I could get another tent sorted out." Crybaby! I met a drunk idiot in the pub over the road who hadn't checked his new tent and after getting hammered before setting it up realised there were no tent-pegs. He had to sleep with it wrapped it around himself like a poncho and we all know how stupid those are. He spent the afternoon calling me dude, buying me pints of beer and trying to persuade me to travel by bus to party in Newquay. Only one of these things is good.)

Talking of good, it's Isambard Kingdom Brunel everybody! I love the Tamar Bridge because I always think, just for a second, that we're allowed to drive over the enormous archway pipe bit that you can see here.
That would be awesome.
And yes, taking photographs whilst driving is very dangerous and I will never do it again. Likewise, using a mobile telephone, fixing a stupid, broken mobile telephone, drumming 'Telegraph Road' by Dire Straits on the steering wheel, making a sandwich, playing the guitar and practicing origami. Sorry mum.

So this is me after I'd spent two hours setting up camp on the first day. NOT having just woken up (as suggested by some), rather full of energy and enthusiasm for the exciting times ahead.
And full of beers from the case in the back of the tent.
On the right you can just about see the end of my Farnborough Town FC 2003 FA Cup Tour scarf which was proudly strung between my tent and the flagpole.
Flagpole? I hear me pretend you ask?

Yes, flagpole. (clever that huh?)
It's the flag of the Philippine Islands (in a state of peace, red on top is war - that would come later...........) which I bought of that internet a few days before I left. It's a very public private joke which worked a treat. And it also looked beautiful blowing in the wind. Funny thing about the flag is that whenever I took it down during the really strong storms it would look utterly depressed, all wet and dirty on the floor, lonely and useless. But the very second you put it up it's all joy and happiness.
What made me laugh especially was the reaction of the other campers. Quite a few people would stop and ask me what the flag was and when I told them they'd all go "Ahhh! Of course, the Philippines, of course!" and slap their foreheads, etc. Like that was on the tip of your tongue Mr Vexillogist. Stroll on.

And if you're going for a stroll you might like to go for a wander on the mighty Hayle beach. (is this like some awful 80s travel show?, all cheesy links and idiotic presenters? is it?) It's massive right? I did have a bit of time on this beach but was driven away by a small child who was walking around issuing a high-pitched scream every thirty seconds. So I left the beach because it annoyed me. Can you imagine? Three miles of sand and I have to go to a completely different beach because of one child? But it was the whole experience that did it. I mean he was just wandering around screeching. Not in distress or pain, just for something to do. Little f*cker. Anyway, you'd be surprised how many strange looks a man with a beard and a backpack gets just by staring in hateful anger at a screeching child on a public beach. It's not like I had a hunting knife in my backpack.*

* it was in my tent with the night-vision goggles

Anyways, this beach was kind of too big for me. Perfect for practitioners of surfing, paragliding and any other sport where you strap a parachute to your back or a piece of wood to your feet and let the elements do what they will with you. Not for me. Parachutes are for escaping and pieces of wood are for hitting screeching children.

(note - I do not endorse hitting children with pieces of wood. A bit of hosepipe, that's what you want. Nah, I'm kidding. Hitting children is wrong. You want to kick them, that's what you want to do. No, no I'm just joking. Any form of physical torture towards children is a terrible thing and certainly no laughing matter. Mental torture, on the other hand, now that's........ )

Found this on the first night as I went for a stroll across the sand dunes to find the ocean. The perspective is funny here because to my eye it could be any size you imagine. I think it looks like you could step from one bit to the other. Of course they're flipping massive and I was stood on the edge of a big cliff.
Note-to-self: You are boring me now.

Ah, this is a railway line thingy that ran behind the garden of a pub in Angarrack. It was one of those pubs that's just full of crap. I mean good crap. Like on the walls there was a pair of bagpipes next to a gas-mask next to some old-fashioned skis next to a trombone, etc, etc. The theme seemed to be 'Can We Attach It To The Wall?" and I kind of liked it.
The landlord was a huge, bearded man who never
seemed to stop racing around the pub talking and laughing with his customers and whenever I went to the bar he'd call me "my boy" "my friend" - simple customer service stuff really but I liked it. I felt very comfortable there. So go to the Angarrack Inn in erm.........Angarrack for great food and lovely company. I can especially recommend the lambs liver with creamy mash and vegetables.

For my birthday my niece and nephew gave me a kite (along with some gemstones and a bottle of wine - how did they know?!). My first kite in about 22 years. We tried to get it going over on the sand dunes but I just couldn't seem to figure it out. I kept tying and retying the string to different parts of the kite and changing the way it was put together but still it wouldn't work. I felt like a failure as an uncle. So later on when the Karate Kids weren't taking up all of the space in the play-field practicing their sets (idiots! Shut up Karate Kids. Ow. Ow. Stop kicking me Karate Kids. Your a girl!! You can't punch m...ow... ) we simply held the kite out, jumped it into the air and it was off. It stayed up there for about forty-five minutes and after a while I realised that my six year old niece was a better kite-flier than I'll ever be so I left them to it. Smart-Alec kids! She's not even looking at it. Before long she was doing basketball tricks, threading it under her feet and doing spins and stuff. Hmph. Stupid kite.

So this is my very camp barbecue and deckchair. Might go some way to explaining those funny looks I mentioned. People just seem to think that a lone man with a beard, a deckchair and a turquoise barbecue who is humming 'Cheek To Cheek' by Fred Astaire has some sort of agenda.

Another pub stop that me and the folks made was at a place called The Watermill which is situated somewhere between St. Ives and Hayle.

I can't remember. I had a lovely pint of Sharps Doom Bar and we sat in the garden. Suddenly the waterwheel started up and soon a guy came out and poured cooking oil over the gears or cogs or something. Amazing thing to watch was the wheel. It kind of made you feel happy, thirsty, seasick, tranquil and like you needed a wee all at the same time. Some kind of magic I'll wager. Menu looked good as well so I'll try to get back to this one.

This is Hells Mouth.
A rather ominous title wouldn't you say?
I believe that it's a favorite spot for suicide jumpers to end their days as death is bankable on the craggy rocks below. I must say that I couldn't go too close to the edge of the cliff here. There seemed to be some ethereal voices around me, swooping and diving with the gulls, forces like unseen magnets drawing you in the desired direction. Years worth of sorrow and contemplation filled the air like a tangible, weighted mass as I stared, hypnotized at the small patch of grass at the cliffs edge where those poor souls felt the answer lay one step ahead. And as the very land and sea called out to me in it's haunted song I felt strangely pulled toward the.................. Hells Mouth Cafe & Gift Shop!
Get in!
Who needs all that phony-baloney, anguished self-analysis when you get a Fab lolly for under 80p!?!?!?! Not me my friend, not me. I'm more than comfortable with my own OCD based neurosis, nihilistic disrespect for humanity and subconscious fear of rejection thank you very much. Mmmmm mmmmm Fab lollies are ace.

Well that's about it I guess. I mean there are another 143 photographs but I figured you've probably got the gist of it. The last picture is of the beautiful Godrevy lighthouse. This building typifies my childhood memories of Cornwall. My Grandfather used to paint pictures of it. I'd always wonder what type of people would give up their shore-lives to live on a rocky outcrop, whether the goal of averting shipwrecks and saving lives was the primary reason for living there or whether they just wanted to get away from the rest of us, what it was like inside, how lonely an existence would it be and whether or not you could focus the light to lazer-burn planes out of the sky.
And it's just as mystifying and secretive to me now.
Except it's solar powered.
And unmanned.
And who cares.
And no, lights can't lazer-burn planes out of the sky. For a start the light is probably on a fixed level and even if it is adjustable I doubt if it can be moved up to a high enough angle. Also, it's never going to be powerful enough. The best you'd be able to manage would be to dazzle a hang-glider. Lights and lazers are probably different things anyway. I just don't know alright?

So at the very least I've made you all aware of just how interesting our vegetable patch is in comparison with my holiday photos.


Sunday, 13 July 2008

Honkjazz The Allotment - Part 13 (Time for An Update)

So much has happened since we last spoke....

Here is a summary to kick things off:
1) The last bed has been finished!! Huzzah and double huzzah! It was decided there and then that more carrots and spring onions would be the order of the day.
2) Each crop baring the first lot of spring onions is going crackers (there growing well) as opposed to mental (running round in circles talking to themselves) which is a completely different ailment entirely.
3) There is no blight on the spuds. However the lettuces have been devoured by an unknown evil (slugs) (or possibly mice as was pointed out yesterday by a fellow plot holder)
4) We are coming towards our first harvest but also nearer the potential for ultimate crop failure...... we must be vigilant!!!!

Here's a more indepth analysis of the last few weeks:
1) I would show you a pciture of the last bed to be completed but i don't have one which is a shame. But, to set the scene there are spring onions and carrots. The spring onions are already showing the early signs of breaking through the soil and showing themselves whereas the carrots are a thouroughly more cowardly bunch by staying out of sight. Also one side of the bed is made up of a headboard that has been cut in two (you get the picture or not). In the future i'll just take photo's, it's a damn sight easier.
2) Here actually is some pictures of stuff going crackers in a purely vertical out of the ground towards the sky type move....

I would at this point like to raise a point which has been a mystery ever since yesterday when i came across it..... The runner beans that you can see above are in the same bed as the one's below........

So why? on god's green earth are the ones above doing so much better than the ones' below. Answers on a postcard please..

3) Thank god we don't have blight but i am aware that the dreaded "B" can strike at anytime so fingers are remaining crossed even at the risk of severe arthritis in old age. The lettuces however have fallen foul to the variety of demons that are just waiting for an opportunity to weild there axe of doom (like i said slugs or maybe mice). Here is an illustration of the carnage but please make sure you are of strong stomach as the facts are frankly disgusting......

But we will not be beaten and lettuces with flourish one day down old honkjazz way (i hope as i really like lettuce and they are getting really expensive along with other well known food type's that is being well documented....... sorry i digress)

4) and now we are bang up to date and you can rest assured that the good fight is being fought. Netting has been put over the latest carrots and onions to give them a fighting chance and the runner beans who are showing some signs of under hand tactics by mother nature have been installed with the latest in anti pest control. (poor i know but cd's do work and it's recycling to boot!!)

So the way forward is clear. Harvest time is upon us but there is still opportunity for "old MN" to right royaly kick us in the arse. The next few weeks will be key to ensuring that the honkjazz massive have plates a plenty of loverly home grown produce.
Also in other news BB has been camping in what can be described as the wettest two weeks this summer (i'm sure we'll more about this in the not too distant future)
And Herb was diddled on a shed via the mother of all time wasting shed botherers

Roger and out...