Thursday 29 March 2012

Is It Allotment Architecture or Art-itecture?

I once lived in a posh Cheshire village where every building seemed to have a preservation order.  You weren't allowed UPVC windows or satellite dishes and everybody had to have the same kind of chimney pots.  The council architects and planners ensured everything stayed the same.  I think their favourite rock group must of been Status Quo!

One thing I love about allotments is the unique architecture of the fences, gates and shed buildings.  Everything seems to be a personal autograph or footprint of the allotment tenant.  Some allotments looks immaculate and like the outdoor set of a gardening television programme.  Whilst other allotments resemble shanty towns, The Hobbits house, Stig of the Dumps or even a scrap yard.

The allotment holder seems to have a 'make do and mend' approach to their buildings.  There is no need to go to a garden centre for a brand new cedar wood shed.  Oh no.  Just have a walk and pick up a discarded supermarket trolley (onion dryer) and see if you can fill it with the contents of a builders skip.  It's always better to ask them first though, because a smack in the mouth often offends.  Also the skip contents still technically belong to somebody!

I have seen allotment sheds and greenhouses made from old floor boards, pallets, corrugated iron sheets, baling string and even a bus shelter.  You often see big stones and lumps of concrete to hold down the roof.  I wouldn't recommend them though.  Mind you if you have gone to the trouble of digging up a giant boulder from your carrot bed, why not display it on the roof for all to see?  Nobody can ever say that you have an allotment Sisyphus complex can they?

Saying that.  I really believe that allotments are works of art.  Living, breathing self expression.  I would love to see the countryside full of allotments and dwellings for people to live in.  Do we really need greenbelt?  Who knows perhaps one day vegetable allotments will be preserved like they protect old agricultural labourers cottages.  Why not?  After all they are works of art.  Aren't they?

Any thoughts please!

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Mr Shed Man - The Allotment Castle?

To quote the comic Rob Brydon:

"It's only a bit of fun."

"An Englishman's (change nationality if you wish) home is his castle".

I would change the word castle to SHED.  There comes a time in a man's life when he decides to get himself a shed.  Especially if it's a mile or so away from his dwelling and on an allotment.  The allotment shed is akin to a very popular Northwest English seaside resort.  Who needs the sea if you have got the Golden Mile?  Or who cares about the state of your allotment if you've got an allotment shed?

There is something to be said about the untidiness (nay 'artistic chaos') of the allotment shed.  Mr Shed Man careth not about tidiness (he's not at home with his wife with the lily gilder and 'shake and vac' fanatic) and everything in it's right place.  He can never understand why his wife keeps leaving the toilet seat - 'down?'

Shall we have a look inside Mr Shed Man's allotment shed?  Is it through the round window?  What ever happened to the characters in Play-school?  Moving swiftly on folks.  Mr Shed Man's shed contains a spider called 'Spider' (complete with web) and lots of garden tools (awaiting instructions how to use them), a deck chair, plant pots, wireless (I'm showing my age) and a myriad of bitter and lager tins, old fish and chip papers,  and a bag of lawn seed and a nest of field mice and a few magazines with pictures of scantily dressed ladies and a Tilley lamp and pot belly stove.  Doesn't it sound like Heaven readers?

Shed man thinks nothing of making shelves and cupboards.  Oh no!  Shed man just throws every on the floor in an heap and sits down and relaxes.  Well you don't think he's going to do any digging do you?

The ideal allotment shed would be Tardis like, small on the outside and an enormous interior.  Or perhaps an old railway carriage rather like Uncle Mort's (I Didn't Know You Cared) Lancashire and Yorkshire railway company.  The old girl (carriage) had previously travelled to far flung places like Miles Platting, Oldham Mumps, Halifax and Hebden Bridge.  It was a place to escape from the missus, sup fine ales and somewhere to contemplate the meaning of life.  Uncle Mort even had his own allotment flagpole (complete with Union Jack) to show when he was in residence.

Have I convinced you yet about the joys of being a Shed Man?

Next time folks!

Monday 26 March 2012

Is It Time For The Weather Proof Bike?

Greetings.  I came up with this blog in the middle of the night.  Don't worry my other allotment characters (Shed Man)will be along in the next few days for your enjoyment!.

"Roll on the day when we can have family-sized, weatherproof, bikecars powered by pedal power so we do not need to visit the gym.  Quite why no one has produced such a vehicle is one of the great mysteries of the modern age.  Just imagine, downhill performance, would of course, be exceptional with aerodynamic shaping of the bodywork, lightweight disk brakes, on board CD, and rechargeable lightweight batteries taking charge from downhill braking and helping with the uphill sections.  It doesn't hurt to dream!"

JOHN SEYMOUR.  The New complete book of Self Sufficiency.

I bet that's made a few people snigger and spit their coffee over the dining table?  Is it really stupid though?  I have started watching the News again (sadly) and there is the threat of Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz and the Army driving the road tankers and the ever increasing price of road fuel.  It makes me wonder is there any alternative?  Did you know there are 33 million cars on the UK's roads?  Is there a link to the fifty percent rise in cancers?

What are the alternatives?

Electric cars - powered by electricity made in nuclear or coal fired power stations?  There is said to be over 200 years of coal left in the UK.  Scientists even claim they can make a synthetic petrol fuel from coal.

Horse and Cart?  Wouldn't it be wonderful?

Bicycle Power.  Everybody gets fit and saves the Ozone Layer.

Car Sharing?  "I'm not having them in my car.  I'd have to speak to them."

Fuel Rationing?

Public Transport?   That's a good one.  Especially if you live in the countryside.

Shanks Pony?  The price of shoe leather?

In the words of Mrs Merton.

"Let's have an heated debate".

Normal service will be resumed on Wednesday.

PS.  We've got a cat Cumbrian.  He's very happy and official: "Farm Mouser."

Sunday 25 March 2012

Mr Tick Tock.

This is another one of my fictional allotment characters for you to enjoy.  I am sure you know somebody like him?

Mr Tick Tock.  He is retired but hates all this free leisure time.  Tick tock can not adjust and change like the hands on his time pieces.  Did you change your clocks? Tick tock spend forty years of his life working in a factory watching the time. One day he retired and all his colleagues had a whip round and bought him a gold clock or rather wrist watch.  Every time he looks at his watch he can think of WORK!

Mr Tick Tock arises at  seven O'clock every morning.  He makes a Thermos flask and some cheese and tomato sandwiches.  He's been eating the same sandwiches every day for the last forty years.  He can't complain though it's him who makes them!

Mr Tick Tock cycles to his allotment and works on his allotment until it's 10 O'clock and then he looks at his watch and says:

"Is that the time?"

Next time (no pun intended) I will talk about that other allotment creature - Mr Shed Man.

Do you know any allotment characters?

Friday 23 March 2012

A Fictional Allotment Holder?

I write blogs and I write books.   Shall we have a laugh and a joke?  I have invented a fictional allotment tenant called: Mr Immaculate allotment holder.

Mr Immaculate Allotment holder cares only about his allotments appearance.  Every vegetable is sown and planted in a regimental straight lines.  His allotment and his shed (headquarters) is organized and very similar to the control room of an aircraft carrier.  Mr allotment holder and his shed are the same colour as the Royal Navy battleship.  He makes John Major look cool.

Every tool is hung in its place, shining on it's very own nail.  They are cleaned every day and he paints the spade blade with oil to preserve it.  Mr Immaculate allotment holder keeps everything immaculate.  Isn't he dull.  Not like his spade.

Do you know any 'interesting' allotment holders?  I have a few ideas for yours and mine enjoyment.

See you next week!!

Tuesday 20 March 2012

"There's A Car Boot Sale".

Did you used to listen to Steve Wright in the Afternoon back in the 1990's?  There was one song that he used to play that you used to play in my head for hours.  I think I might have even sung it on the way home from the pub late on a Saturday night or was it morning?  Yeah you're right.  It's the title of this weeks blog post.  If you want to be nostalgic just pop over to good old Youtube and type the title - happy listening!

Any road.  Have you ever been to a carboot sale?  They don't sell em do they?  Car boots that is!  In my book (have you wrote a book Dave?  This is starting to sound like a chat show) My baling string expert and alter-ego makes the above observation that never you can't get a carboot.  You can see the old book on Amazon.  Just type: Baling String Books.

Perhaps one merry morn I will walk along a line of pasteboard tables in the middle of some farmer's field and my eye will notice a well leafed (dog eared - why they never say rabbit?) copy of Archie's tips...?

Where was I?  Yes that's right.  I used to get up at six every Sunday morning and head off to some GIANT car-boot sale.  Car-boot sales are great places to get yourself a bargain or even something THAT DOESN'T work!  Hands up all those people who have handed over twenty pounds of their cheished beer tokens for a vacuum cleaner, to some Spiv with a Errol Flynn moustache, who normally spends his time selling seagulls to tourists off Southend Pier:

"Psst.  Want buy a seagull mate?  Just a pound thanks.  That's yours up in the air."

 (The old one's are always the best).  You take home your new 'Hoover' and plug it in and you notice you have more sparks than a NASA rocket launcher.

Another no, no tip for car boot shoppers!  Never, never (did I say never) take small children with you.  Charlatan car-boot sales sellers will have got up at five and strategically placed TOYS on the ground.  Just at the right height for little Billy or Jill to grab with a octopus grip.

There you are perusing through a wonderful gardening book and your beloved child suddenly turns into a Fascist dictator and starts screaming:

"I want that!"

You shake your weary head and hear yourself say:

"Don't be silly sweetheart.  You don't need ANOTHER Action Man tank!"

Small child is not impressed.  It looks at it's RADA card and decides to show everybody it's Thespian skills, the one it normally plays in the supermarket, at the check-outs, where they keep the TOFFEE'S!

The world and his wife seem to be looking at the side-show and you find yourself looking in a car wing mirror ("You're so vain") and you notice that there your hair in the reflection is now completely grey and you have aged twelve months in the last five minutes.

Well dear reader.  There is only one thing to do in the situation.  Just hand over the rest of your beer tokens and attempt to walk through the biblical multitudes carrying a Barbie doll, Wendy House (why wasn't there a Peter Pan House?) Space Hopper, half a box of Cluedo and a Chopper bike.  Forget about those 'great' gardening books you wanted.  Somebody bought them when 'small child' went ballistic.

Anybody got any Car-Boot tales?

Friday 16 March 2012

Farming Like They Did In The Old Days.

These are a few pictures we took when we visit Muckross Traditional farm in Killarney, County Kerry, last year.  It's a farm that's been constructed to show how people used to farm in the 1930's.  There is a  small farm, a Labourer's Cottage, a Medium size farm and the Large farm.  You can walk about the farms and farm building and meet the farmer's and their wives going about their everyday tasks.  I walked into one farm and there was a woman dress in old fashioned aprons (a bit Hilda Ogden me thinks) and she was making Soda bread.  It took me back to my grandparents farm in West Cork in the late 1960's.  They also grow potatoes and make hay and keep pigs and hens and ducks and good old moo cows.
Milking the Cows by hand.
Waiting to go to work or maybe the bar to open?
The Threshing Machine.

Monday 12 March 2012

Some More Of My Vegetable Growing Musings...

"Welcome back to the show that never ends."

Gosh I'm showing my age.  Thought I would start with a Emerson Lake and Palmer track?  I once saw those rock giants at Manchester Apollo.  What a band.  Anybody like classic rock music?

I have been struggling with a bad chest this week.  I think it's the change in the weather and moving lots of farmyard manure around my beloved vegetable patch.  Bad back - bad cough?  Then they (who ever they are?) say it's good for you.  I reckon a few pints and a couple of hot whiskies sat on on a high bar stool would do me far more good.

Any road.  The top picture is my Jack Russell and me working on my little piece of Eden.  She also sits next to me when I'm tapping the computer keys in my study ("Front room").  We even have conversations about ratting and ratting, sleeping and ratting again.  I think Jack Russell's live to rat!

In the second picture.  You can my Japanese onions growing in the bath.  I will plant (sow) some carrots in between the onions in a few weeks time.  You get a good depth of soil and the smell of the alliums (posh word for onions) is said to deter the old onion fly.  Also I am told ( not my dog this time) that old Mr and Mrs onion fly don't fly above thirty centimetres (that's twelve inches in old gas meters) and they leave your onions alone.

In my book (did I tell you about my booky wook?), my baling string guru: Archie Sparrow.  Keeps coal in his bath.  Dear old Archie Sparrow.  He's on Amazon if you want to have a look at a rather silly and daft smallholder.

You will also notice a corrugated sheet and some old wool carpet (nylon carpets are full of chemicals and flame retardants) covering my proposed swede bed.  I also use cardboard boxes to mulch covered in fym.  Anybody remember Jasper Carrotts': Dave the cardboard box sketch?  What's your favourite Jasper Carrott tale?  Mine's the 'Nutter on the Bus:

"Eek as anybody seen my camel?"

See you next week.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

When the Countryside Used To Be Full of Vegetables And Little Farmers.

How do you know that a farmer is really good at their job?  They are always 'outstanding' in their field.  The old jokes are always the best aren't they?

To those of you who are new to this blog.  I am a smallholder farmer and a writer.  Yes I toil with the soil and I toil with the pen - even computer keyboard.  Any road.  In my funny book about - BALING STRING!  Yes that's right.  There is a bit at the end of my book entitled: A note from the Author.

....The journey (talking about visiting West Cork on my holidays) was always tiresome and seemed never ending to me as a small child of five.  We travelled from Heuston train station in Dublin down to Cork City.  The train hurtled through fields full of cattle, sheep, vegetables and hay.  Farmers stayed at home tending their mist encircled, apple shaped hills.  Ireland seemed a rural paradise back then and everybody seemed happy...

Well folks.  That's how it seemed to me anyway.  Every farmer (I mean every) grew a field of vegetables; Mangels (for the horse) giant Cow Cabbages (for the ----?)  Yes you are right.  "Moo", rows of Swedes, "The Turnip"), Carrots, Sugar-beet and rows and rows of Potatoes.  The farmyard manure was used for fertilizer along with the gathered seaweed, and it was all spread by hand with a pike (pitch-fork) and a horse and cart.

Those rural times spent on my grandparents little farm in Ireland in the late 1960's and early 1970's.  Instilled in me a longing to follow in their footsteps.  I just feel so privileged that I actually saw how rural Ireland used to be.  Perhaps when the oil runs out or we can no longer afford to pay for it, we will return to those times?

What do you think readers?

Saturday 3 March 2012

A View From The 'Author's' Vegetable Plot and Smallholding.

"Oh ye have got a garden!"

That's a greeting I often get when somebody notices yours truly working on my beloved vegetable garden.  In west Cork a 'garden' means somewhere you grow vegetables.  In England a garden means somewhere that you    hang out your washing, grow pretty flowers and VEGETABLES, drink beer on the patio or even play good old football or cricket on.

Have you got a vegetable allotment?  If not, why not?  I believe in faraway places like China, the powers that be allot you a piece of land and tell you to grow food for yourselves.  There is something incredibly satisfying about growing one's own vegetables.

 No artificial chemicals are used in my vegetable cultivation.  I do however use lots of swear words and I tend to drink copious amounts of alcohol after a few hours tending my little piece of Eden.

The picture at top is me holding two leeks.  The picture underneath me is me, myself and I (Joan Armatrading song) this morning toiling and looking jolly pleased with all my efforts.

Do you have an allotment or a smallholding?  Do you write books?  Go on leave a comment or ten and tell us all about them!

Carboot Sale Plants Selling.

We drove over to nearby West Cork  town to a carboot sale on Sunday morning. The online info said we could set up from nine.  I am one of th...