Monday, 21 September 2009

All things being equal.....

Waylaid by an 18 hour bug, so stuck at home today (the work colleague I phoned in sick to was ill with the same thing most of yesterday, so at least I know it's a bug and I don't need to decant the fridge).

Not being able to stray too far from the house allowed me some quiet time alone, to sort through papers and fill a bag for recycling. I don't care if it's slower and less efficient, a hand cranked paper shredder is more satisfying.

Our blessed council (or rather the ego otherwise known as Councillor Terry Neville) have decided to once again revise our refuse collection routine. Most houses will be given a wheelie bin, but as we don't have sufficient "frontage", we will be allocated two sacks each for refuse and recycling. Many households are up in arms, complaining that two bags for rubbish are nowhere near enough, whereas we're wondering the same about recycling bags. We struggle to fill one rubbish bag a week, so there may well be a black market earning opportunity here. With the hens due to arrive next week, a great deal of our paper and card recycling will be put to use as a base for their bedding, and as the worms in the wormery are still alive, despite recent neglect (due to things being put in the way for the duration of the raised bed construction), they'll be getting more of the very little food waste we have each week. Be interesting to see how many spare bags we have come year end.

Yes - the chickens are ordered and we'll be collecting them by this time next week. I'm going for reliable but hardy traditional breeds, each laying eggs with a different coloured shell, and will be naming them after singers from their country of origin - the Sussex will be named Dusty, the Barnevelder will be Jerney, the Leghorn Gigliola (suspect that will be shortened in time) and the exotic South American Araucana will be named Rita. On the day we collect, if there's a Wyandotte or Rhode Island Red hen ready to go, I may well be tempted. But this raises a major dilemma - do I name it in honour of Doris Troy , Minnie Ripperton or Evie Sands?

With today being the Autumnal Equinox, from here on in for the next six months, the nights will be longer than the days. This will give the hens chance to settle in and strengthen up before they start laying regularly in the Spring.

My unintentional absence from work has allowed me to take in the last day of Summer - to quietly observe and contemplate. Autumn has come early this year, with many trees already turning in colour. The view from the desk at home, once past the rooftops of the next street, is still mainly a patchwork of green, but golds and bronzes have been added to the pallet over the past three weeks or so. Many of the shrubs I pass by are loaded with berries, including the blackthorn on the approach to the bus stop - must get some sloe picking done, the budget gin awaits!

This turn in the year for me marks the start of the new gardening year. The first 2010 seed catalogue arrived on Saturday (Tamar Organics beating Thompson & Morgan for once). As the hours of daylight decrease in comparison to darkness, the physicality of garden work increases. We've still got digging and clearing to do at the allotment. We were under no illusion that we could tame the wilderness in one year, but even so, the robustness of Couch Grass and Bramble roots is frustrating. We need to rework the Forest Garden bed. Much as I like blackberries, I don't take kindly to them smothering all my other fruit!

Over the past few weeks, we've also been refurbishing the allotment shed, boarding the inside to keep the draughts out, and painting the boarding light blue to reflect more light. Next project is to fix the windows before the worst of the Winter winds. Over the Summer, I bought a 25 litre plastic jerry can. So we now have an albeit limited water supply on tap. Saves dragging a five litre refill over every week - we can now wait until we hire a van and fill the bottle at home.

I've already started off the first garlic for next year, planting 20 cloves of Early Purple garlic in modules at home, ready to plant out once the last of the potatoes are lifted at the allotment. Though it's been a slightly disappointing harvest overall, we'll still have enough potatoes to see us through the next few months. Going to try a different variety of yellow onion next year. I'm not sure why, but this year's crop have been exceedingly strong. Not only do you have to have all doors and windows open when preparing them, even two extractor fans on full blast can't stop your eyes from streaming!

Not harvest exactly, but recent building work opposite our house has proved fruitful.
We now have three clean, intact builders' bags (cubic metre sized) rescued from the skip, ready to be filled with Autumn leaves, council compost and wood chippings at the allotment, and will be useful while we move and rebuild the compost bins. I'm hoping they'll let me have first refusal on the decking offcuts piling up as I write. I have visions of assorted planters and mini raised beds dotted around the back garden, with happy hens scratching and pecking the ground between.

The increased hours of darkness allow me an excuse to overindulge my reading habit. I've got plenty of books I want to study in full, or reacquaint myself with in preparation for the next growing season. Aside of Forest Garden / Permaculture titles, some 1940's Dig For Victory books have been republished recently. More often than not, it's original books from that era that I refer to first, and whilst the originals may be too delicate or precious to carry with me while commuting, a modern facsimile would be perfect distraction for an hour or so twice a day. Much easier to carry than the Earth Care Manual or Complete Book of Self Sufficiency too. Couldn't manage to carry those AND a notebook!

Next year will be a better year - we'll work to make it that way.

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