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Dutchbike_01So, here’s my Den Haag bike looking surprisingly chic and smart considering it was pulled of a rubbish tip and all I’d done was replace the lights. Unfortunately this is a historical view as on day two several zips on the panniers gave way rendering them useless, and meaning I’m back to Sweaty Back Syndrome until I can figure out some kind of replacement.

It is the way of the world that this happened three minutes before I was supposed to leave and catch the tram.

On the other hand, I’m now set up for transport, and this bike is sitting in a garden near the farm ready for me to pick it up when I get off the tram later this morning. At least I hope it is, as I managed to lose my spoke lock key yesterday. Thankfully, being a farm we had a set of heavy-duty bolt croppers, but all that is stopping the criminal fraternity from sloping off with the bike is a hedge hiding it from the street and a piece of chain and a padlock borrowed from one of the barns.

I hope the local bike thieves are not so well equipped…

One of the joys of having an allotment the other side of town is the summer morning commute to water the plants in the hope of actually successfully growing something this year. This has to be done fairly early at the moment before the sun begins to come over the hills and I have to stop playing and pretend to be a grown up by looking for college courses and doing translations.

Yesterday the report promised rain. The view out of the window said otherwise, so I got the Xtracycle out and rode up the hill to the centre of the village and down the other side, down a bit more on the much steeper gravel track to the allotments.

I unlocked our allotment gate, locked it behind me: one of the neighbours has a large Rottweiler: soft as a warm marshmallow but possessed of an enormous amount of poo and an urgent need to distribute it as widely as possible.

I climbed down the steps, hung up my jacket and took the lid off the water barrel, whereupon the first raindrops fell.

Ah, well, I suppose I asked for it.

And how was your weekend?

Down in the veg beds, something stirs…

Beans, pumpkins, and some seeds that I couldn’t identify but decided I’d bury and see what happened.

newplants

According to the instructions on the package, I’m sowing the beans at the correct time. This is not something I can explain to the other gardeners though: no matter what I say the response is much tutting, shaking of heads, and gleeful comments of how I’m far too late, or too early, and they wouldn’t have done it like that, and the seed beds are the wrong shape, and…

mysteryleaf

After three years of scything away at the brambles, the garden is sprouting trees now they can see sunlight, including this specimen that is rapidly growing near the water tap which I can’t identify*. I don’t want to allow space to some invasive species but I’m loathe to just cut it down. Can some friendly botanist identify the species from this rather blurry picture?

*My tree recognition, I’m ashamed to say, is limited to species considered potential furniture…

firststrawberries

The strawberry plants on the balcony are going slightly beserk and keep trying to plant themselves in neighbouring plots: I suspect Triffid ancestry.

Youngest Son went on a foraging raid this morning and came back with the first strawberries of the season.

 

In an effort to get my posting rates and hopefully my reading numbers* back up, I’m going to try and make an entry every day for the week, even a short comment or observation. I think I spend too much time fretting about writing and not enough time doing it.

Todays observation: A good sign that you may have been neglecting the garden, is that you consider using a scythe to do the weeding. On the Patio…

*Sad, but true…

I don’t have to plant everything in the garden just yet, as I’m waiting a bit this year in an attempt to time the narrow window between ‘not ready for harvest’ and ‘bolting out of control’ so I’m actually around to harvest something. Nonetheless I’ve been digging the garden as fast as I can: my parents are coming this Easter and my mum, who is a keen gardner, will want to know how I’m doing. It would be preferable if the garden is not a bramble strewn wasteland when this happens.

Garden_2015_03_29

Apart from digging out the beds, I also cleared the grass off the parking space at the top of the hill (top tip: don’t leave the remains of the pile of potting compost and cow poo out on paving over winter) and filled the pots for our apartment from the compost bin. I was feeling rather virtuous today when I arrived to find that the warm weather has set the grass off again and the paths are starting to look decidedly shaggy.

At least there’s a visible difference between ‘paths’ and ‘vegetable bed’. For the next week, any way.

Things normal people carry by bike: Books, laptops, shopping, small children…

 

Swedesaw

Things I end up carrying by bike: swede saws.

 There is a good reason for this, honest.

I was given a large piece of lime wood (D: Lindenholz) to hopefully convert into carved spoons and other items. The wood has to be split or it will be damaged as it dries, which meant hauling it to the garden and attacking it with an axe and heavy hammer, and hauling it back to the workshop to cut into smaller pieces for carving.

The problem with this plan was that it required your truly not to leave the swede saw in the garden. Which I promptly did, and had to collect it with the Xtracycle.

Mind you, I noticed that drivers gave me plenty of space…

(I’m still open to suggestions for garden planting…)

Suddenly it is March and almost too late to deal with the greatest challenge of the year. I’m not referring to the whole complex business of registering as unemployed, or even sorting out our tax returns, but of course the challenge of getting the garden ready for spring and deciding what to plant.

In the first season in the garden I planted out a variety of seeds directly into the ground, which considering the ground is basically solid clay and infested with slugs, worked remarkably well. The second year I read lots of instructions, prepared seedlings, manured the beds, et c, and achieved mixed success. I decided this was because I was trying too many things at once and went for simple last year: potatoes and onions with a few other random seeds that I found lurking about.

We put more spuddies into the ground than we got out and I think I managed to harvest one onion before they were chomped by slugs/mice/birds/trolls.

It didn’t help that I’m still pretty clueless and that I planted everything at about the same time, so the surviving plants reached maturity while we were in the UK, bolted, fell over and got eaten.

This year, I’ve decided on a different tack. I’m going to concentrate on three ‘bulk’ crops in the garden: a root crop, a bean variety, and… something else, possibly onions or leeks, or kale. With only three varieties to worry about, I can hopefully be a bit more certain of what needs doing and when, maybe even get to them before the Mice.

Being about as clueless as four years ago, I’m passing the question to the real gardeners out there: What three varieties would you recommend?* The garden is west-facing, so it gets very warm. Is there any way of avoiding a massive growth/bolt in August/September? Or, with the clay being the solidity it is, should I just give up and open a pottery instead?

*Let us discount Rhubarb, Celery, and Cauliflower: these are not vegetables but abominations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the height of apple season I found one of the trees about to break under the weight of fruit. Not wanting to be the one to tell our landlord that we’d killed one of his beloved apple trees, I improvised this temporary support with extra padding so the wood wasn’t damaged.

As the late Douglas Adams said, you should always know where your towel is.

The next day I came back wit the cyclists solution to all things broken: used inner tubes.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomeone visiting our garden recently may have commented on my presence half way up a sycamore tree, and wonder what possessed me to climb up there.

The reason was an urgent need to make some candlesticks.

Obviously.

Being a carpenter, it turns out, makes you first port of call for anyone wanting anything vaguely creative to do with wood. I’m very happy with this as I really like giving people a hand made gift that will last them a good long time. On this occasion someone asked me to make candlesticks for the tables at her wedding reception.

Unfortunately she asked me the day after I ‘tidied up’ all the suitable branches that had fallen over winter.

After much searching I found a sycamore tree lurking at the bottom of the garden. In the distant past someone obviously took offence to this tree and cut it down, whereupon it went feral, fired off branches in half a dozen directions and ate the fence. In a blatant disregard for the boundaries set by civilised society, it was now growing through the fence, partly in our garden and partly in the overgrown pathway between our garden and the one down the hill.

Therefore it is our tree. sort of.

The first attempt to remove one of the more accessible branches resulted in it falling into the neighbours garden. Fortunately no-one was in, and no damage was done so I dragged the remains into our garden and dismembered it.

For attempt two I cleared a way to the branches over our garden and went to work with my swede saw. This made it about a third of the way into the branch, and promptly got stuck. Being pessimistic, I’d prepared for this and brought a rope. Of course I hadn’t actually tied it to the tree  but that was a minor detail and easily rectified.

Thus I was now to be found halfway up a tree.

Getting down was easy enough, Getting down without landing on my backside in a bed of nettles less so but I managed it with minimal stings. I went and pulled the rope. The saw fell out of the tree. I went and cut a bit deeper until the saw jammed again and repeated the exercise a couple of times until there was a creaking noise and the whole fell down.

It was at this point that I realised it is always to good to have a rope longer than the branch you are cutting, or an escape route.

The bruises will have gone down by the wedding…

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