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.