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.........

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Honkjazz - The Musical Allotment Huzzah!!

Hello my lovelies. Are you well? Been taking care on that slippy ice? Good.

As you may have seen from the previous post, honkjazz has a new friend. The decision has been taken to sort this dump out a bit! We're planning to slowly move the video player and podcast players over to the new site and hopefully leave this place to handle the allotment side of things. We'll still keep a radio show on a little player here so you can listen to our musical endeavors whilst perusing the gardening stuff at the same time. The links page will change as well in keeping with the overhaul. Festivals (unless they're food ones :D), record shops, record companies, etc will all move over to Chew Bubblegum. Instead we'll link you to farmers markets, fishing hotspots, amazing restaurants, agricultural agencies and excellent farm shops. Kapiche?

Good. We think it will make everything a lot more simple on the eye. We might even use this as a chance to redecorate. Also I've

 changed the name of partner in crime No.1 to keep in line with his super-duper DJ career. His name was never Herbert Westchester, that's just ridiculous! He's called Blunts. Potential confusion averted. Lots of changes eh?

Hopefully it will all coincide with a change in fortunes for the plot itself. The weather has been so awful since October that we've not been able to do anything there at all. Even when it has stopped raining for just one day the soil has been so waterlogged that any efforts are useless. The last batch of onions, garlic and broad beans were planted during one of these brief respites from the pluvial onslaught and consequently all have completely failed to sprout from their waterlogged beginnings except the garlic. Strangely this has flourished so thats at least one victory for team Honkjazz. The rain did stop before Christmas. Just in time for a three week freeze which, coupled with the snow that followed rendered the plot inaccessible. The weather has cleared up a bit (although we did have a slight flutter of snow last night) and the rain isn't a constant factor so I'm really hoping to get to the plot tomorrow. There's not really a lot to do there in truth. The last third of the old broccoli

bed has to be dug over and there's some very light weeding to be done on the other beds. I'd like to get some of H&S' amazing pig poo on top of the beds as well. Feed the earth and you shall be fed in return. Or something.

The last twenty or so swede are distributed across three beds so we should be picking those off over the next month or two as we start to plan the next campaign of growing. The very last of the brussel sprouts need to be hoiked out as well. 

Then we'll have seven empty beds to play with. This year I'd like to plant more peas as they were one of my favorite successes last summer. The harvest would have been much bigger if Bibby and I hadn't snaffled so many straight from the plants. "Like little vegetable sweets!!" is how Bibby gleefully described them and I couldn't agree more. Runner beans should come back as well after last years absence. We didn't plant them out due to losing the crop of seeds taken from the year before. I swore blind that Bibs had put them in a mixed bean vegematarian casserole or some type of dinner that makes you want to wear sandals and make clothes out of hemp and drive a car powered by the gastric emissions of your children Tao, Cloud and Tweed. This was

 when she was still a vegematarian (of fourteen years no less!) and before the magic of living in Devon had sparked the primal urge to kill animals and eat their flesh!!!! (she came home with some delicious black pudding the other day and we celebrated our one year anniversary with bloody rump steaks - result). Anyways, it turned out that I'd put them in the loft out of harms way. So who's the chucklehead now huh? 


The potatoes have served us well the last two years so I'm guessing that we'll work those again. Perhaps this year we can buy a few less as we ended up with a bit of a glut and its an emotional wrench of a crime to throw homegrown food on the compost heap, one which I'd rather not have to repeat. The tomatoes that I collected from a freecycler were a unanimous failure - possibly due to the complete 100% lack of food that we gave them. Like a high maintenance girlfriend or human child they need food to live! Who knew?

Otherwise there's potential in parsnips, hope for herbs and possibilities for pumpkins. That sounded very Hugh Fearnley-Eatsitall didn't it?

And speaking of the River Cottage lifestyle guru, I'd like to touch on another aspect of this food malarky - foraging.

Two books from the River Cottage lot have really given Bibs and I a push in the direction of free food from the hedgerows and the seashores. One is a cookbook that contains more advice on growing vegetables, keeping livestock, foraging for mushrooms and fishing the rivers, coastlines and seas of our land than it does recipes. The other is a book by John Wright, his advisor in all matters relating to foraging. This one sticks to the beaches and harbors of England and has given us a fully fledged desire to start collecting the edible plants and shellfish that populate the coastlines of Devon and Cornwall. The nearest beach is only a fifteen minute drive away and if we can spend an afternoon splashing around the rock-pools and tidelines and come home with a bucket of prawns, mussels and cockles then we'd be daft to ignore the culinary benefits which couple the mighty pull of the ocean which surely affects all of us on some level. A lumpy sentence but one which expresses exactly how I feel. 

So neeer!!

 A couple of visits to nearby Brixham have produced a desperate want to start fishing from the beaches and breakwaters as well. Slapton beach is home to some pretty big fishing competitions so I'm hopeful of that as an indicator of an abundant ocean larder. There are many beautiful coastal towns with a harbor wall that we can park up on and there are plenty of rocky beaches that are perfect for a flask of tea, some sandwiches and a spot of mackrel-bashing. So the next of you to visit our neck of the woods c

ould be treated to a homemade AND self-caught fish pie! We're very excited about this as ever since we stumbled on a carpet of wild garlic in some nearby woods we've being wanting to get out and about with a book and a bag and a roving eye for plants, herbs, fruit and seafood that we can harvest with no damage to the environment or our purse-strings and only positive benefits in terms of taste and freshness.

 We'll also be safe in the knowledge that this food is completely organic and having cut out the middlemen of growers, distribution chains and shops will have had no detrimental effects on the environment. Everyone wins. Especially us.

On another note, some of you may have noticed a distinct lake of puzzle books as of late. This is explained by my employment situation. Having left the puzzle book world in October and spending two months on the sofa (Dr Quinn Medicine Woman is

very addictive and also an excellent barometer of just how long you've been unemployed - following plot lines across more than three episodes? Back to work with you right away!!) I started working for a company called Riverford Organic Vegetables in December. So now you're likely to get some grade-out vegetables instead of puzzle books, although they may not fare too well in transit to Oklahoma or New Orleans.

Working with fruit and vegetables all day long is an absolute joy, both from a sensual and an ethical viewpoint. The smells and sights, tastes and touches of our produce is just too amazing to describe. You've all smelt a fresh leek in your time I'm sure. Try smelling two tonnes of them. The smell hits you like a hammer. A very lovely vegetable hammer. I'm guessing I'll never have to use that sentence ever again.

And the ethics that this company live by are outstanding. Their efforts to reduce carbon footprints, re-use and recycle as much packaging as possible and support co-operatives of growers and farmers in the UK, Europe, Africa and South America are exemplory.

 Admittedly I'm working in a warehouse. It just happens to filled with delicious organic produce instead of nuts and bolts or tupperware or computer components and situated on a beatuful farm in the heart of south Devon's breathtaking countryside.

Which is nice.

So it seems like everything is going pretty swimmingly at the moment.

Whats that? You want some pictures?

Oh all right, here's a couple of highlights from 2009.


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

honkjazz has a friend...

right!!! after a lengthy break from all things blog like to enable a replenishment of our collective minds (little time and it's winter) a brother or sister has appeared where all things musical in the world of honkjazz will appear including mixes, shows off the purple radio and possibly the odd review, poem or interesting link.

There isn't much there yet but you can download the honkjazz office party (on the right hand side) if january really is proving to be that tough...

link - chewbubblegum