Friday, 4 April 2008

More progress than expected

A Busy Week

Had things gone as expected this week, I may not have been able to post a blog. But things turned out better than expected, and I’m here, but very tired.

I was due to go into hospital to have an operation to remove a cyst on my head that had been damaged and become infected. This was the second attempt, as I was sent to a clinic a couple of months ago but the doctor managed to put the anaesthetic needle into a nerve in my scalp, so inflicted more pain instead of numbing. To accurately describe him would be an insult to ducks.

Anyway, this time I was left waiting for an hour and a half while an emergency was dealt with, giving me plenty of time to worry about what I was about to go through and to think about discharging myself and hoping for the best. Eventually I was called in and the specialist checked over the bump in question and told me the infection and swelling was gone, the cyst was healing and there was no need for an operation!

This gave us more time to work on the allotment, as I had expected to be out of action from Wednesday onwards. With lovely warm, DRY (!) Spring weather at last, we were able to start breaking up the soil - solid, compacted, mostly sodden pure clay - and start marking out and making raised beds. I can finally announce that our First Early potatoes were planted Wednesday lunchtime (just before I headed to hospital).

When we arrived Thursday morning, a monumental sight greeted us. The allotments had taken delivery of a humungous pile of municipal compost. All the more amusing to me by its remarkable resemblance in shape to Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons, though not shrouded in clouds. We jumped into action, filling the wheelbarrow countless times until the three compost "daleks" were filled with dark, sweet smelling compost, almost warm enough to melt the plastic.

We then added a thick layer to the potato bed and filled as many compost sacks as we could find. Next we marked out spots on the lower half of the plot where fruit trees would be planted, dug holes, filled them with compost and planted the relevant trees.

By lunchtime word had got out, and a good dozen or so plotholders were hurtling up and down the trackway with barrows and trugs filled with compost. On arrival this morning the pile had changed shaped - just as tall, but narrower - more like the Matterhorn. If the snow holds off there will be none left by Sunday afternoon!

Anyway, the plot is now taking shape, the first raised bed is in place, trees have been planted along the edge and the next phase of work is marked out with canes. I don’t think it’s ever possible to be on top of work in a garden, but now I don’t face the prospect of weeks self-consciously hiding away, I’m ready to tackle the work.

While I was waiting for the kettle to boil, I made a list of the birds I’d seen over the past few days. It’s pretty amazing:
Blue tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Mistle Thrush, Wren, Woodpigeon. Chiff Chaff. Magpie, Jay, Carrion Crow, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Black Headed Gull, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Heron, Mallard Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Mandarin Duck and Canada Goose. Heard but not seen were Moorhens and the resident Pheasant.
Peacock butterflies have been very active the past few days, as have various Bumble Bees. The beekeepers at the allotments have been tending their hives this week, and their charges have started to venture out. Ladybirds and hoverflies have just started appearing, as have mosquitoes.

As we were heading home this evening, the first bat of the year looped overhead.

For the past couple of nights, the hedgehog who I suspected was venturing into our garden has been making his presence very evident. The cat has been agitated about her territory being invaded, and at about 11pm hurtled to the back door. I’d left a bag of vegetable trimmings on the doorstep to take down to the compost bin in the morning, and the hedgehog was rooting through it, looking for slugs & snails. I put some Hedgehog food pellets out, but the cat started eating them, asserting her claim to the territory. Fortunately, I found a plant pot that had been damaged in the storms, and realised when turned over it had a neat hedgehog sized hole in the rim. So I our another pile of food out an placed the pot over it. The following night our little visitor (which we have named Russell Grunt) returned, and I was delighted to see found the plant pot and ate all the food.

Spring seems to be here at last. Let’s hope the cold snap expected this weekend is the last for a while.

So, the tasks set out in The Wartime Weekend Gardener are:

Sow more radishes and lettuce
Sow broccoli - purple or the less common white sprouting varieties
Sow more cabbage, such as Red Drumhead.

After the busy week I’ve had, I might hold off on more work until next week.

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