Sunday, 27 October 2013

Will this wind.....?

So here I am, sitting here on a Sunday night, checking the net, looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow....

The biggest storm for decades is on its way, so we checked the allotment over, covered the chicken house roofs with tarpauline and bricks and put bags of compost on the bottom shelves of the mini greenhouses.  I've found my thermal leggings and a thick jumper ready for tomorrow morning, and have a nice pot of venison chasseur simmering in the kitchen.  The doors and windows are shut, lanterns have tea lights and boxes of matches next to them, and the camping stove and wind up radio have been brought back from the shed.

And all is quiet.

It is more or less 26 years to the day since the legendary hurricane, now demoted to a "Great Storm".  I remember that well.  I was living in a flat in Finchley at the time, and was woken by the sound of ornaments moving on the windowsill.  Next thing I knew, a tree branch had forced open the doors to the balcony in the lounge.  I removed the ornaments to a safe place, closed the balcony doors and taped then shut with parcel tape and went back to bed.

There were no tube trains running in the morning, so I got a 13 bus to work.  At the time I worked in Cavendish Square, so my journey took me past the fancier end of Oxford Street.  The shops were starting to get their Christmas displays up, and I remember most of all John Lewis had a line of trees, which had toppled onto each other, like a line of dominos.  It turned out I had the easiest journey in, as most train lines had been blocked, and power was out for much of the tube network.  What had seemed to me as a bit of a disruption was far more serious.  Much of the south coast was devastated, especially woodland.  But we all dusted ourselves down and got on with things.

Today, we have mass panic, with train companies shutting down before anything has happened.  It's almost as though there's an unspoken permission to get over dramatic.  No "let's see how things pan out" - no shut down and if nothing happens say it was safer that way.  My local service is unlikely to be running until after the rush hour, yet I'll still be expected to get in to work before 9am.  Just hope the Piccadilly line manages to pull out the stops as usual.  Mind you, it could be pretty bad.  The cat has refused to leave the house all day.

The reason I remember 1987 so well was that the night before, I had been to see a band play that I never expected to see in London - The Chesterfield Kings.  Rochester, New York's finest exponents of crazed garage punk played Dingwalls.  This was in the days when even for big name bands at clubs, you just turned up on the night and queued.  I was in the first dozen or so, under the awnings on the ticket booth.  Some of the more dandified Sixties music fans arrived later and joined the queue as it snaked around the open yard.  And then a mighty downpour hit, and all those carefully blow dried Brian Jones bowl cuts got well and truly soaked.  Meanwhile, I made my way indoors and looked to see who was around.  Most of the usual suspects from those days were already propping up the bar, plus the band and their entourage, including someone who to all the world looked like Dee Dee Ramone.  Getting up my nerve and putting my music journo boots on, I introduced myself to the band. They in turn introduced me to Dee Dee Ramone - for it was he.

It was a fantastic, manic gig, with singer Greg Prevost almost bringing the house, or at least the water pipes above the stage, down, and Dee Dee joined them for the encore.  After the show, the band asked me (and a few other long term UK fans) if I'd like to come on the rest of the European tour with them.  Sadly, even then I had a day job that would not allow me to just take my passport and go off on a jolly, but thanks to the same wonders of modern communication that are leading to mass panic about a bit of a downpour, I have discovered from Greg that the night the hurricane hit, they were in the middle of the Channel, on a ferry bound for France.  He said it was the most seasick he'd ever been.

So at least having a boring day job spared me the worst boat trip ever.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

October Evolution

IF it stops raining, I'll get outside and plant some of the garlic I bought at the Malvern Autumn Show at the end of September.  If not, then it will have to be next weekend, along with the onions and broad beans.  I've got the shallots started, and have also got pots of Ramsons and Tree Onions underway, as well as a couple of aquatic baskets of Saffron Crocus.

That's just the productive stuff.  I've managed to be fairly diligent on the floral side too, with a border of dwarf narcissi at the allotment, plus various narcissi, dwarf irises and species tulips in pots, plus some large aquatic baskets planted with camassias and alliums to be dropped in the ground in "drifts".

I have totally revamped the plan for the allotment.  This came about from a realisation that although usually lumped in with root crops, edible alliums have slightly different cultural needs.  On top of that, think of how many onions you would use in the kitchen.  Most meals require an onion or two, and of you multiply that by 365, so to grow a respectable proportion of our annual needs, they deserved a bed to themselves.

Hence the crazy six year rotation has been extended.  Not just to seven, but to eight, with a bed for either annual flowers for cutting, or a grain crop filling the last space.  With the exception of the fruit trees and bushes round the perimeter, the rest of the plot is getting a revamp too.  Now the flood relief works are well underway, there should be less chance of us finding the allotments submerged in bad weather, so I feel it is safe to get these works done.  We may even replace the shed, which is starting to feel its age, and more than that, being sawn in half and rebuilt in a hurry.

This Autumn, there will also be changes to the front and back gardens.  The boarding round the herb bed in the front garden has started to rot, so needs replacing.  This will give us a chance to lift some of the larger plants (especially the Bronze Fennel and Soapwort) and try to get the upper hand over some of the more rampant plants (Tansy, Betony and that Soapwort again).  I want to keep the emphasis on functional plants (not just edible, but cosmetic and aromatic too), but I want it to be more decorative.  There are times when the bed has been home to a selection of green monsters, so a few flowers at different levels need to be added.  I also want to reclaim the gravelled area by the house wall, as it seems to have become a storage area for rubbish.

The back garden remake started last year, with the new mini green houses and pots of fruit bushes along the south facing fence.  That fence needs to have the final few panels replaced, then the new chicken run can finally be made.  Once we've replaced the old chicken coops with one new one, a whole load more space will be freed up.

It's four years since we first got the chickens.  Of those first four, only one - Giggy the Leghorn - survives, but the others are not that far behind in age.  They seem to have spent more of this year moulting than laying, so once the new run is built, I intend to get some additions to the flock.

All of this will get started ONCE it stops raining.