The Carrot Saga Continues

May 18, 2011

The recent rain has made everything spring into growth – everything except my carrots.

Despite all my elaborate precautions these are down to just 4 survivors. One of the victims had apparently been decapitated just moments before I came to check on them, which is a low blow. I’ve got another two dozen waiting to be planted out which suggests that, if the present rate of attrition continues, I’ll be dining on a solitary carrot come September. And that’s even before the carrot fly get going …

Watch this space. There will be updates, I can assure you


Darn Tooting

May 17, 2011

I suppose it’s a sign of how sheltered a life I lead these days that ‘car driver hoots at cyclist’ counts as news. But that’s what happened (and besides, it was this or a post consisting of me moaning about the rain again, and nobody wants that). I had just turned onto Big A Road to get out of Papershop Village and the car coming up behind me – which was towing a caravan, I might add – decided I should get out of his way because I was holding him up. Now he decided to sound the horn just as I came up to the bus stop lay by where I normally pull in a little to let anyone who’s behind pass me, because I’m polite that way and because I prefer to have the imaptient drivers ahead of me instead of breathing fire up my tail. Naturally, once Mr Caravan Tower had let me know that he was there and important and in a hurry, I decided that, perhaps, I wouldn’t pull in after all. In fact, now might be an excellent time to take the primary position, just in case anyone was about to pull out of the side road or emerge unexpectedly from one of the houses. Funnily enough he then discovered that he could overtake me after all without sending me into the gutter, by going over to the other side of the road, and he roared away, sending the postman who (poor sod) has to cross Big A Road twice to deliver Papershop Village’s post, scuttling for the safety of the pavement.

I looked at the postman as I passed and gave him a look that said ‘what was all that about then?’ and he gave me a look that said ‘search me’ and we went on our separate ways reflecting that it takes hypocrisy of a certain monumental scale for a caravan driver to complain about being held up by something slower on the road.

And it is STILL raining.

Hissing Down

May 16, 2011

OK it has now been raining ALL day, despite the Met office site confidently stating that it wouldn’t rain and persistently denying that it had rained, and despite Raintoday also agreeing that it wasn’t raining and hadn’t rained and never would rain when patently, looking out of the window, it was doing nothing but rain. This was especially annoying because I had been spending the time while waiting for it to stop raining reading up about the scientifically proven benefits of cycling (did you know, for instance, that regular cycling, quite apart from making you thinner, healthier, less depressed and 40% less likely to die,* can basically take up to 10 years off your actual age in fitness terms?**) and it was making me want to get out on my bike. I’d arranged to go out for the paper in the morning with a friend but cancelled that and then I spent most of lunchtime staring out the window trying to convince myself that it was easing up a bit. Finally, at around 2:30 it paused for breath and I dashed out, not so much thinking that the rain had stopped as knowing that it was my best chance to fool myself that it would be all right.

I’m slowly, slowly, getting better about cycling – or rather setting off – in the rain. The everything-bar-the-apocalypse-proof jacket helps, and has proved to be entirely waterproof and breathable although that doesn’t help with my bottom half. And I can’t say yet that I actually enjoy it in any meaningful sense of the word. But mainly I have been managing to just grit my teeth and concentrate on my own personal entirely unscientific and supported-only-by-anecdotal-evidence belief that regular drenchings on the bike, preferably accompanied by a chill wind, are what keeps the old immune system going. All the periods of my life when I’ve been cycling regularly, through wind and rain and fog and hail (including sitting around in soaking wet things for hours afterwards) I’ve had almost no colds and never had to take a day off work, whereas at other times I’ve been as sickly as the next person. It goes against everything your granny’s ever told you but that’s what I’ve found. And after this afternoon’s ride, I’ll either have topped up my immune system for another few weeks, or I’m due a nasty bout of hubris-induced double pneumonia. Only time will tell.

* In the short term. Obviously in the long run the probability of dying is 100%; cycling’s good for you but it’s not that good…

**Of course that’s according to Cycling England and cycling didn’t do very much for its longevity did it? No amount of cycling-related fitness will save you if you get hit by a truck marked ‘we simply can’t afford it’. Coalition bastids. But that’s a rant for another day


May 15, 2011

Today was the village plant sale – one of the red letter days in the Nearest Village calendar – and I was determined this year to bring more than just empty seed trays to the party. For the last few weeks I’ve been carefully pricking out and tending my surplus veg seedlings and so had three trays full to take down to add as my offering before the plague of locusts, sorry, keen gardeners descended.

The problem was getting them there. One would have been easy, two I might have managed to squeeze side-by-side onto my back rack, but three required a bit of lateral thinking. They didn’t weigh much but seedlings are quite delicate and it was hard to think of a way to avoid crushing them, let alone solve the problem of how to fix them to the bike. In the end, a plastic basket made an improvised container and egg boxes provided a suitable stacking mechanism. After all, you don’t get much more delicate than an egg, do you?

It all felt a bit precarious and I haven’t cycled that gingerly since I last had to get to work with a bottle of champagne in my backpack, but I made it down there with the seedlings uncrushed and I think they enjoyed the outing. The main problem was actually getting myself on and off the bike – without a step-through frame, and with it being a good 30 years since my last ballet lesson, I had to tip the bike over at a precarious angle before I could get my leg over. When I arrived at the village hall I had to ask the organisers to unload my bike before I attempted to dismount. Ladylike it wasn’t.

Still, at least it gave me plenty of room to haul my own booty back. Now all we need is some sunshine…

In Which My Life, Momentarily, Resembles an Episode of Glee

May 13, 2011

Our choir sessions have been somewhat irregular of late because we’ve been rehearsing for an unexpected appearance at Intervening Village’s Summer Soiree and it’s been hard to arrange times when everyone can make it and the hall is free. So as we were finishing up last night we had the following exchange

Choirmistress: Right, well that’s it, see you next week – oh no, we have to arrange when we’ll meet again

Choir: *spontaneously and simultaneously bursts into full-throated rendition of We’ll Meet Again*

Choirmistress: *speechless*

The Bunny Wars Continue

May 12, 2011

I came back to a satisfyingly large number of dead slugs in my traps (no photographs, by special request) but a distressingly small number of surviving carrot seedlings, the forces against carrots having evaded most of my elaborate defences to date. But that’s all by the by for we have larger problems on our plate in the garden.

For I also returned to news that the landlord’s son, digging in their part of the walled garden, found his fork suddenly sinking into a large hole which began squeaking frantically. Further excavations revealed a rabbit burrow complete with litter of baby rabbits (Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, presumably). Obviously this could have spelled disaster for the garden (as it is, I’m afraid it rather spelled disaster for F,M & C who probably should have emulated their brother Peter and ventured a little further from the burrow*) but the problem is that despite careful searching there’s still no sign of Mrs Rabbit (or indeed Mr. Rabbit). Which means either she’s still at large somewhere or has a way in and out of the garden. Given the way bunnies multiply, the depredations of the chap who cuts the grass (who got five the other night, by the way) could very quickly be overwhelmed.

I think it might be time to get the dog in again. Or kick the neighbour’s cat off the shed windowsill where she spends all the time watching Swallow TV and get her to work hunting Wabbits.

* The landlord, showing unusual soft-heartedness, only actually evicted them rather than turning them into bunny veal, but I suspect that meant a long lingering death rather than a quick violent one. Still, it was probably a better fate than a previous litter of rabbits which made the mistake of emerging out into the chicken run where the chickens promptly caught and ate every single one.

Slug’s Breakfast

May 8, 2011

It’s amazing what a difference two weeks – and three days of rain – can make

Plot at the end of April

Two weeks (well, 12 days) later...

The rain is making my garden (and the weeds) grow but it’s also bringing out the slugs in vast numbers. I should have got my slug defences going long before but it hadn’t seemed necessary in the bright sunshine and I kept puttingit off. But I’m off down to London this afternoon for a couple of days and I thought I’d better make sure that there were some plants left for me when I got back.

There are many defences against slugs – nematodes, eggshells, copper strips, coffee grounds, slug pellets – and the real answer is probably to do all of them (except maybe the slug pellets – however bird-friendly they supposedly are these days, I just don’t believe they’re worth it). I choose to use slug beer traps mainly because I like the satisfaction of seeing just how many ex-slugs I’ve created, and it gives the chickens a thrill. And no, I don’t waste good beer on the slimy things. A bit of yeast, sugar, flour and warm water is apparently indistiguishable from the real thing, if you’re a slug. I’ve not actually tasted it myself

slug trap in situ

Don't forget a stick so the good guys can escape

I’ll be back from London in a few days to tell you how I scored.