Friday, 22 February 2008

From martyr to barter

In June last year, when we had to move at short notice from our old place, I felt that all the work we had put in at the old allotment had come to nothing. I though I would have to turn my back on six years of hard work, planting and studies and just leave things to rot and waste. I felt miserable and angry that my attempts to live a more sustainable life were scuppered by others who were stuck in the lazy, greedy ways of the late 20th century.

Fortunately, I found a new allotment site with a plot to rent within a few weeks of moving, as so far we have been able to lift most of the fruit trees and bushes, as well as a huge amount of Jerusalem Artichokes and I even saved a good number of the precious heirloom variety Cherokee Trail of Tears climbing bean seeds.

Through various forums I belong to, I have sent out about 200 Jerusalem Artichoke tubers and over 400 bean seeds. These have been swapped for various things - other seeds, items I need for craft projects and so forth. Last year I sent a box of tubers to a farmer so he could try growing them for his pigs to have winter forage. In exchange he sent me a selection pack of his farm's meat products, including several packs of excellent sausages, for my freezer!

I have been giving small batches of tubers for new growers to try since my first harvest in 2001. Each time I've asked that they give a few tubers to a few other people to grow. If everyone I've passed them on to did that, by now there will be hundreds of Jerusalem Artichoke patches out there, all descended from the 15 tubers I planted 7 years ago.

Hope the same happens with my bean seeds - next year I hope to add a few more of my favourites to the list.

Which brings me neatly to what I've read in the Wartime Weekend Gardener for this weekend.

This weekend is all about preparation - March is just around the corner and all the frenzy that entails.

Prepare trenches for beans and peas. That is, dig a trench where you plan to grow beans (especially Runners) and peas. Fill the trench with well rotted manure and compost. Mark the trench with canes and replace the soil.

Then continue digging the rest of the plot, adding organic matter (compost or manure) as you go.

In the comfort of the potting shed, sow another tray of Summer Cabbage. Sadly, all the varieties recommended in the book have been lost from cultivation due to the EU seed list cull. The best varieties available now include Derby Day, Greyhound and Primo/Golden Acre.

Must go and re-season my flat griddle ready to make bakestone cakes for next Saturday.

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