Archive for January, 2010

Of lousy leeks

Crap leeksI’m still bitter about my shitty leeks. Like an Ethiopian airliner, they just failed to take off (can’t believe I typed that. I’m going straight to hell).

Here’s the enigma: I grow leeks for three straight years and they’re brilliant. Fat, healthy, perfect. Then they’re a washout for two years; a total disaster.

And I’ve done everything the same. No variation, no eccentricities.

The old boys at the plot mutter darkly about leek moth, but none of mine have any peculiar colourings, or other symptoms. They just haven’t grown.

I turn these things over in my mind during the long, dark nights. Never any answers, just more questions.

And so the winter passes.

Posted on 26th January 2010
Under: Alliums | 13 Comments »

Seed potatoes: Seeds of Spring

seed potatoesSpring is within view, at last; when the seed potato order arrives, it’s not far off.

I’m being very unadventurous: Desiree, Orla, Kerr’s Pink. The only slightly unusual one is Ratte, a terrific French second early/early maincrop that I’ve become fond of. Utterly delicious salad potato.

Who knows? I may even go to the allotment at some point. After, er, a month’s absence.

Posted on 21st January 2010
Under: Potatoes, Spring | 9 Comments »

And the winner is… gym and hike

Started the exercise regime today. Did a 5-mile speed walk with my sister around Bushey Park. Lovely day, perfect weather… and only one blister. Enjoyed it, and was relieved that it didn’t feel difficult. Not bad for a soft, fat, unfit old git.

It won’t do, of course. I can’t find that kind of time every day, so the gym will unfortunately be reintroduced to the Soilman timetable. But hey, into every life some rain must fall. It’s mostly chocolate that’s been falling into mine of late.

Many thanks to everyone for all the thoughtful and interesting exercise suggestions.

Posted on 17th January 2010
Under: Winter | 5 Comments »

Fit for purpose?

It’s come to my attention that I’m a fat bastard.

I’ve been ignoring the evidence for some time, but it’s no longer possible. When I hauled my flubbery arse on to the scales just before Christmas, they broke. Warnings don’t come much clearer.

So: The new year diet (check) and the exercise regime (oh shit).

I hate exercise. Or rather, I hate the formal, trainers-and-gym-kit kind. Not just because it’s intensely boring and painful (although it is), but because it’s such a waste of time. And so fucking undignified.

There is always something more profitable, useful, helpful or intellectually worthwhile to be done than bobbing up and down on a cross-trainer blowing buckets of sweat and snot over passers-by.

Sadly, though, something has to give; otherwise I’ll be the Michelin man. Here, then, are the options.

The gym

Pros: It’s convenient(-ish). I can do an hour after work most days without buggering up my life too much.

Cons: See above. Plus I fucking hate it.


Pros: Nice scenery, less agonising than running/cross-training etc, less spiritually nihilistic.

Cons: Time-consuming. Requires serious timetable alteration and sacrifice to accommodate.


Pros: Like gym, fairly easy to fit into my timetable.

Cons: I loathe it. And I mean, really loathe it. Leaves me sweaty, dry-skinned and chlorinated. Plus you know you’ve effectively been wallowing in child’s piss (in British public pools, anyway). Just the thought makes me want to heave.


… by which I mean taking up something physical that’s also an entertainment. Dancing, for instance, which I used to be reasonably good at… and quite enjoyed.

Pros: Can be fun. Usually better with a partner or friend, though. Which is hard to arrange.

Cons: It’s difficult (and pricey) to do this sort of thing more than one night a week, which lowers its calorie-burning/exercise potential.

Conclusion: Haven’t reached one. The more I think about it, the longer I’m not doing anything – so it’s tempting to ponder longer.

Any suggestions?

Posted on 15th January 2010
Under: Winter | 24 Comments »

Snow update: No update

So where’s the snow post? The one moaning about the weather? Surely the blog wouldn’t be complete without it?

Sorry. Refuse to do it. Harsh and unforgiving views etc.

“Cold Weather In Winter Shocker”… it’s not a headline, and it’s not a national emergency. Recommend the Norman Tebbit response to such crises: Get over it and get on yer bike. It won’t kill us.

And to those who’ve been panic buying in supermarkets, I can only sigh and say this: You’re a bunch of spineless, dimwitted tossers. I hope you choke on your stocks of unnecessary food.

Shit. I did the snow post after all.

Posted on 11th January 2010
Under: Rants, Winter | 10 Comments »

Being Soilman: The honest insight

Said my piece about the RHS on the Guardian today… for those who’ve not read the uncensored version already.

I was perhaps a little disappointed that the responses come, by and large, from the gardening industry; those who work in horticulture or earn a living writing about it (or work/volunteer for the RHS itself). They are influential, to be sure, but they’re not punters. Their coin is green-tinged. They must comment delicately on one of the biggest, richest and most influential players in their industry… if they intend to make a career in it.

That’s partly why I volunteered: I’m an outsider. No such worries for me.

It’s got me thinking, though, about my outsider status… which I wear as a badge of pride. Regular readers (you need psychiatric help, but thanks anyway) will know that I miss no opportunity to be vulgar, shocking and boorish. Rejoice in it, even. Kicking down folks’ expectations of the middle-class, educated, 40-something suburban gardener is an unspoken mission statement of this blog.

In case you hadn’t figured that out.

Most of the time, this suits me fine. I’m used to the outsider role. I’ve played it all my life. Like Groucho, I never want to belong to any club that would actually have me. The kicking, screaming inner child couldn’t bear it. And somebody has to throw bottles from the back.

But now and then, like today, I’m forcibly reminded of the main consequence of taking that role: Namely, that you influence nobody that matters… ever. Your views are too vulgar, too weird, or just too ‘unhelpful’ (the dread adjective that invokes, in three syllables, the full lexicon of British patrician hauteur and contempt).

Perhaps the reminder is good for my humility (there is some, honest). At the very least, it helps me with the midlife crisis problem: I suddenly remembered, today, my favourite childhood book: ‘The Outside Cat’ by Jane Thayer (scroll down a little to read it). And that’s been worth a fortune to me.

Posted on 8th January 2010
Under: Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

UK food security – betrayed by morons

I’m a day or two behind with reaction to the government’s food security announcement. That’s because it’s taken me a day or two to stop choking and issue a coherent sentence in response. So here, at last, is my reaction:

What a load of utter bollocks.

The state of food production in this country has got precisely FUCK ALL to do with farmers, fishermen, allotmenteers or anyone else mentioned in this crazy announcement. On the contrary, it’s all down to the organisations never mentioned once: supermarkets and a succession of greedy, ignorant, fuckwitted UK Governments building over our countryside and wrapping red tape in ever tighter circles around the country’s actual food producers.

I’ve wittered on and on about this on this blog (and to any poor bastard luckless enough to share a room with me). If you don’t know anything about farming in Britain (and chances are, you don’t – 80% of Brits are townees, and one third live in the 10 most populous cities), you just can’t imagine how difficult farming in Britain has become… or how old, penurious, put upon and pissed off UK farmers are.

And these people are growing/rearing the food you eat.

I’d love to say I’m pleased that at least the Government appears to have recognised the problem… even if its ‘solutions’ are barmy. But I can’t, because it’s not true. That they can spout this deluded crap serves only to show how disconnected they are from reality.

Posted on 7th January 2010
Under: Rants | 3 Comments »

Too late for raspberries?

The view this time last year The view as it is today

Apologies for lack of service of late. I was having so much Yuletide ‘fun’ that doing anything productive became impossible. Harrumph.

Thought I’d look back, as one does in early January, and think about what I’ve achieved – in allotment terms – over the last 12 months. The startling, but not unexpected answer: not a lot.

One thing, I guess, that IS different: the patch of new land I acquired in Jan 2009 has finally been brought fully under cultivation. Got a row of asparagus planted in it (just visible here towards the back), plus the new globe artichokes. Also dug it all over during the Christmas break so it can be properly planted in April.

Just one question: Planted with what? I had planned to bung in some raspberries, but I’m guessing it’s too late for that now… or is it?

Posted on 4th January 2010
Under: Fruit | 8 Comments »