Saturday, 31 January 2009

How to dig an allotment patch (without realising it)

Those of us who toil the land in pursuit of growing our own food and finding slugs for chickens with a protein deficiency (more on this later) will know how soon one becomes 'connected with' and 'at one' with their patch of garden/ allotment/field/large grow bag. And when I say 'connect' I don't mean wellies connecting with huge great clods of mud which are then distributed over what was once a really nice rug in the front hall. No, I mean the sense that you are somehow working in harmony with the land, that there is an understanding where each party gives and receives in turn in a mutually compatible symbiotic relationship.

Yeah right! Our allotment has got us sussed. The balance has tipped in favour of our nine and a half rods. Our allotment has developed sub-liminal thought powers.

With snow being threatened every half an hour on the local radio news I had the urge to stock up on winter veg so, come the blizzard on Monday, I would be in a position to force feed lost travellers piles of stew and dumplings and hearty winter soups with home-made bread. So I dragged Andy kicking and screaming to the allotment. Andy has this fear that we're going to get to the allotment one day and find it has been taken over by the Amazon jungle as we are BAD AT WEEDING. This has never happened and, as it is winter, the lotty looked remarkable tame (i.e 'dead'). I suggested that as we were there and the sun was shining we could have a bit of a 'tidy up.' Andy pulled a face. I said okay, let's just get the parsnips, swedes and leeks and go. Andy stopped pulling a face.

The leeks were easy to find, mainly because they are green and stick up above the ground. The swede were easy to find, too, despite being the size of tennis balls (don't laugh - they would have been all the rage in the '80's when restaurants were serving up those 'mini-veg' at ridiculous prices. We just missed our market, that's all. By twenty or so years.) But the parsnips? Where were the parsnips?

Having established that no-one would be likely to steal a parsnip we realised our allotment was having a laugh at our expense. We knew the rough vicinity of the parsnips. We knew we had planted three rows next to the blackberries and gooseberries and about two yards from where the potatoes had been before we harvested the last of the late crop in November. But were there any signs of parsnip tops? No. they'd all died back in the cold. And had we put label markers in the end of the parsnip rows? Of course not. That would have been far too simple and then we would never have had the fun of digging over a substantial patch ground in order to find the bleedin' veg.

Once home with our bag of veg I turned my attention to the problem of Mrs Slocombe's protein deficiency. Now, part of her issue is that she tends to turn her beak up at the layers pellets so she misses the protein they provide. And the other part of her problem is that she is very excitable and although she will allow me to carry her around and pat her, she can be very skittish and probably burns up twice as much energy as, say, Mrs Pumphrey who is still chillin' on her sunlounger in the greenhouse. So I have decided to put her on a high protein supplement i.e tuna. Not because I want to pump up her muscles so she can enter the Miss Heniverse competition but just so her comb stops looking so floppy and she desists in feather plucking.

I invite her in for elevenses.
'Have some tuna,' I say, casually shoving a bowl of Sainsbugs tuna in spring water under her beak.
'I'd rather have a slice of that Madiera cake spread with homemade raspberry jam like you and Andy are having,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'No you wouldn't,' I say. 'It's protein you need, not carbs. Now eat the flippin' tuna.'
'I don't want to,' says Slocombe. I decide crafty and underhand tactics are called for.
'None of the others girls are getting tuna,' I say.
'In that case, bring on the fish!' cries Mrs Floppycomb, and wolfs the whole lot in thirty seconds flat.
Job done!

(P.S I would like to apologise to my regular readers for the rather lack lustre feel of today's blog. I would like you to know this error is beyond my control as the moon is in the last throes of waning and us creative types can't possible work effectively under these conditions. Abnormal service will be resumed as soon as I get a good publishing contract. Or tomorrow.)

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