Of mice - and men

With some difficulty, we lifted off the tarpaulin that had been covering a large raised bed which had been dormant for, apparently, years. Suddenly a scurry of tiny wee field mice took us by surprise. We’d disturbed their cosy straw nest beneath the tarp, and they fled in all directions before we knew what was happening - and before I could photograph them. I guess allotments have to put up with mice, and probably foxes too. At least now I know who’s been nibbling the last of the courgettes …

 The last of the (inherited) courgettes seem to have been popular with our scurry of field mice!

The last of the (inherited) courgettes seem to have been popular with our scurry of field mice!

Once we’d got over that little drama, I knuckled down to clear yet more bindweed roots, weeds, turf, rubble, soil and bricks along the long side of the plot (around 50ft). I also had to remove, by spade, part of a large compost heap invading from a neighbouring plot. It took forever but it was necessary to prepare the ground for the installation of a boundary fence before the arrival of Storm Ali the next day. Eight hours later, I was pretty pleased with the results of my hard labour …

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NOT!! Actually, the really hard work was done by three strong men friends (see below). The pre-treated wood arrived a ghastly bright yellow so after the storm was over we set to with the paint brushes with a vengeance. I could not ever have contemplated doing this by myself. As the responsible plotholder I had to be in my helpers’ presence as no strangers are allowed onsite otherwise so, in between showers, I dispensed snakcs and hot coffee from a flask from my tiny shed. Passing female plotholders reminded me how lucky I was to get such able help. Now to Gumtree to source a replacement greenhouse for the once that got blown down in last year’s storms ….

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Weeks 1-3: Getting to the Root of the Problem

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August 21, 2018. After seven years on the waiting list, I'd assumed it was never going to happen. Then, out of the blue, I got the news that my name had gradually worked its way to the top and that I was to be alloted a plot.  Could I please arrange to visit and to pick up the keys (one for the padlock to the allotment itself, and another for the on-site toilet) as soon as possible?

After the shock came apprehension. I've always loved gardening, but surely being a plotholder was going to change everything. Like owning a dog, this was going to thwart my cherished freedom. I'd no longer be able to head to the hills - or, indeed, work! - without worrying about weeds, or being reprimanded by the allotment committee for neglecting my growing space. Chef Andrew Fairlie's tweet in response to my online announcement of the news seemed ominous: "Say goodbye to your spare time," he'd said, half-jokingly. And he would know, being responsible as he is for his own professional kitchen garden.

Then I saw it, and my heart flipped. It was much larger than expected, and it was covered in weeds. But fruit and veg were also growing, thanks to the efforts of the previous holder. There was a cute wee shed (though being a Weegie, I’ve always called it a ‘hut’). I was immediately welcomed by neighbouring plotholders, who offered me potatoes, beans, courgettes and plums from their own harvests. I had apples from my own tree. The first taste of a raspberry freshly plucked from its cane was indescribably exquisite. I remembered why I'd hankered after an allotment for so many years.

Three weeks on, I look forward to every visit. I'm glad to have got it in August because it gives me time to clear up and plan for next spring. There is lots I want to discuss about the laws around allotments, increasing access to land for growing, and so on. But first things first. Weeding.

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Yesterday I filled six large bags of them - many the size of the uprooted dandelion in my photo above. And eradicating the stubborn invasives like Mare's Tail and Bindweed can eat up the day. It took me a long time to chase the root of one particularly elusive bindweed root across and under one of my raised beds. It was over six feet long.

To be continued ...!

 

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