Friday, 27 June 2008

About a photo......

It's a picture of my grandfather, nicknamed Yanto, defending his garden against anything shorter than himself (which wasn't much). Not sure of the exact date of the photo, but it was taken in the late 1940's, shortly after he was demobbed from the army. It would have been his 99th birthday this coming Tuesday.

He grew up on a farm in the Welsh valleys, and often told stories of his times there - tickling for trout in the streams, rabbitting, and his favourite horse, Nansi. In the 1920's, the landowners reclaimed the land to extend a mine, so the family was forced to move to London.

I seem to have inherited a personality from my maternal grandparents to the exclusion of anyone else - feistiness and a sense of mischief from my Nan, and a love of nature, farming and gardening and horseracing (and a tendency to bet horses each way at small amounts), plus an ability to daydream from Yanto.

When my Nan cleared the house before moving out, my brother asked if there was anything I wanted to remember Yanto by. This photo immediately came to mind.

It's ironic that the person who got me interested in vegetable growing was on active service throughout the 1939-45 war, and as such didn't take part in the Dig for Victory campaign. Much as he was proud to take part, losing his leg hair in pursuit of Rommel across the Sahara and timing his arrival in East Africa to avoid transfer to Malaysia before it fell to Japan, I think he was jealous of those who stayed behind and dug up lawns, parks and golf courses to grow fruit and vegetables to feed the nation. (He never did give a proper explanation for how his part in the Monte Casino campaign resulted in him having a roll of dentist's instruments and a load of peacock feathers.)

Which brings me as neatly as could be expected to this week's extract from the Wartime Weekend Gardener:

Plant a few more cabbages and cauliflower. This is where old open pollinated varieties come to the fore. So many of the modern hybrids have such a set growing period that even a staggered sowing will end up with them all cropping at the same time (as preferred by commercial growers).

Keep earthing up maincrop potatoes. Also, start being on the lookout for signs of blight. Althoug it's a branch of an agricultural chemical company, I find Blightwatch a useful tool. I've signed up, and get emails and even text alerts if blight conditions occur.

So more salad leaves, lettuces and radishes.

Onion sets planted in the Autumn should be starting to mature now. Keep hoeing and as they reach a harvestable size, reduce watering.

Right that's it for another week. I'm off to shout at the BBC's coverage of Glastonbury, and throw old tea bags at the screen every time The Ting Tings are on.

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