Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sit-Down Digging




James in a rare vertical moment, and the patch today.

Time for an update on progress at Meadowfield Cottage.

As I hinted in a previous post, one of our chief reasons for moving here was to try and live more sustainably. For us that means growing more of our own food organically, whilst reducing energy consumption and the like.

So one of my first jobs after the chaos of the move had subsided was to begin a fruit and vegetable patch. As you may have gathered, the cottage is old, and had an ancient plot to its side, which had become overgrown in recent years - mostly with grass and creeping buttercup (boo!). We're fortunate, however, to benefit from having the remains of an old orchard at the front, with cooking and eating apple trees and a plum, as well as what I think are some damson trees to the rear.

Sandy and James have put a lot of work in too - as I've tried to explain to James, clearing a plot of this size is one of the hardest jobs in gardening, but will be well worth it in the long run. A legacy of the fact that this is previously worked soil is that it is remarkably free of stones. Nevertheless, it's back-breaking stuff, and trying to pull every last piece of buttercup root out requires a high degree of dedication.

Being a typical teenager, James has developed an entirely novel approach to the task about half-an-hour in on the first morning. It's called "sit-down digging" and involves sitting on a plastic chair whilst wielding the fork to turn the soli over. You can probably imagine how effective this is....

I shouldn't cavil, though, because between the three of us we've managed to clear a plot 17'x17', and we're just starting on a second patch. Thanks to the generosity of our neighbours over the road, we've also managed to dig in 15 barrowloads of well-rotted horse manure - collecting it was an experience I won't forget in a hurry.

Still, with a bit more work, we're well-placed to sow some cabbage before the end of the month, and to begin planting in earnest in the spring.

13 comments:

Blue Peter Gardener. said...

Nick, can't you just get the council lads round as your leader has been known to do, they will have all the taxpayer's power tools at hand to make the job painless for poor James and be done in an hour or so, perhaps even take all that garden waste to the tip for you free.

Anonymous said...

Why should anybody want to hear this drivel ?

Anonymous said...

Hi nick if you want any plants let me know and I will see
what I can sort you out

Anonymous said...

Vote Socialist Worker party.

said.

Don,t worry son. You are going to have to dig your way out of a bigger load of shit than this..........


SWP. Coming to an election near you.

miketually said...

Looks like a good sized plot Nick; I'm very jealous.

We've put a few veggies in this year, but there's not really room for a decent amount while also leaving plenty of space for the kids to play and for the chooks.

We've a very big front garden that's pretty much wasted space at the moment, but once the kids are a bit older they can play on that and we can dig up more of the back garden. That or get an allotment.

Chris Close said...

Well Mike you and the people of Darlington have paid for his good sized plot,

As someone said, this is drivel from a self confessed slander merchant.

miketually said...

My house was bought for by tax payers too. My best friends' house was also part paid for by tax payers (passengers on local trains paid for the rest). Another friends' house is paid for by people who buy Nissan cars. My parents' house was, ultimately, paid for by people buying petrol.

As for whether it's drivel: Nick is now the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Environment and Climate Change*, so it seems entirely reasonable to me that he should write about this. Even if he weren't in this post, I'd still find it interesting just as I find Tom Watson MP's posts about his gardening interesting.

Maybe I just like drivel?

* I still think the title should be Cabinet Member for Sustainable Environment and Against Climate Change :)

Mike Barker said...

Lib Dems do self-sufficiency too:
Jonathan Wallace, Lib Dem Councillor in Gateshead.

http://www.self-sufficientinsuburbia.blogspot.com/


By the way Nick, probably the final batch of my own cut-and-come-again salad seedlings are just ready to be planted out in the 6' by 3' plot in my town centre garden. I'll let you have some spare seedlings.

Darlington Councillor said...

Thanks all.

Anonymous 2# - I may well take you up on your kind offer, although it's advice I need more than anything. When I was a kid, my dad had a large vegetable plot, although I limited my involvement to digging and weeding, and I really regret now not paying more attention to picking up tips and skills from him.

Mike - thanks for your comments, and indeed the reason I'm blogging on this specifically is because a key element of my portfolio is about personal change - what we can do on an individual level to combat climate change and promote sustainability. To be honest, it's no secret that at times I've struggled to practice what I preach, especially when I had the Transport portfolio, principally owing to time pressures.

So I will be blogging about this on an ongoing basis, and sharing our triumphs and disasters.

Mike B - thanks for your offer too, which I'll take you up on - and I can judge early whether I've got green fingers. As I think Sandy shared with you, we're planning to get some chickens soon, and next year (after I've done a course) honey production will begin!

And I'm an avid reader of Joanathan's blog - if for no other reason to marvel at how he fits in being a hard working local councillor with a job that takes him to London and a thriving allotment/jam making exercise. I might put up a link to his self-sufficiency site too.

miketually said...

I'd not seen the self-sufficientinsuburbia.blogspot.com site before, so thanks for linking to it, Mike. Inspired by the blog, I think I might be raiding the crab apple trees at the top of the cut opposite my house and making some crab apple jelly - plus that's less apples for the local ne'erdowells to kick about the street.

We got funny looks last year collecting blackberries down by the river, so we should be well known as the local nutters once we've collected the apples :)

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

It never ceases to amaze me in September each year when I go walking along Green Lane with my dogs and make a point of coming back for the ripe blackberries when I do so they have all gone, the bushes have been stripped bare. I never ever see anyone down there picking the blackberries.

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

It never ceases to amaze me in September each year when I go walking along Green Lane with my dogs and make a point of coming back for the ripe blackberries when I do so they have all gone, the bushes have been stripped bare. I never ever see anyone down there picking the blackberries.

Anonymous said...

Vote Socialist Worker party.

said.

Don,t worry son. You are going to have to dig your way out of a bigger load of shit than this..........


SWP. Coming to an election near you.

This is great news. At last a true Socialist Party. Which election are you standing in? Let me know how I can help you.