Archive for April, 2010

Life is skittles, life is beer

Now that Spring is most definitely here, I’ve abandoned the gym and have been running outside for a few weeks.

It’s nice, especially first thing in the morning. Love that smell of musty, misty air half an hour after sunrise. Shame you have to get up so bloody early to experience it.

Life, in short, feels fairly good – especially now that I’m harvesting fresh asparagus almost every night.

Just a few worries, though. Perhaps somebody out there fitter than me can help answer them:

  • I can now run comfortably for 2.5 miles, but anything above 3m still hurts like hell. Oddly, some days it’s more painful than others. I ran 5.5m once and it felt OK. Other times, it’s crucifying to reach even the 4m mark. Why on earth is this? I watched people running the London Marathon on Saturday and wondered how the hell anyone can ever do it. I mean, I reckon I could run non-stop for 10km if there were a crash cart waiting at the finish line… but 26 miles? Huh?
  • I’m not really speeding up. OK, a bit – I’m up to about 5.5mph from 5.2mph… but that’s hardly significant. I thought after three months of running regularly I’d see a bigger improvement. Or am I being too impatient?

Posted on 27th April 2010
Under: Spring, Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Globe artichokes come through the winter

Globe artichokesThe globe artichokes survived the winter… just. I’m surprised, because they weren’t covered in fleece or protected against frost in any way.

Maybe I just got lucky; I notice that other folks’ plants haven’t fared so well.

I could take this lovely April weather as a sign of things to come, but I made that mistake last year (as did the UK meteorological office). I may even have done it the year before, too.

It’s always a mistake to predict the weather in Britain. This country is a graveyard of meteorologists’ ambitions – just think of poor old Michael Fish. Turns out he didn’t fuck up the hurricane forecast, but it will haunt him to the end of his days.

Best to assume it will all be shit. Usually is.

Posted on 24th April 2010
Under: Globe artichokes | 9 Comments »

Come on, come on, come on!

Asparagus tips poking through the soil surfaceThis is getting ridiculous. April 22nd and still not an asparagus spear big enough to cut.

I’ve been fantasising for weeks about just-cut, fresh asparagus, one of the great rewards of growing your own vegetables.

It’s a taste sensation you literally can’t buy – no shop can get it from plant to plate fast enough to preserve the gorgeous sweetness. The only way to enjoy the true flavour of asparagus, as God intended it, is to grow your own.

Trouble is, you have to wait. And Jeez, is the waiting painful.

Posted on 22nd April 2010
Under: Asparagus | 7 Comments »

Of onions and volcanoes

Onion setsWretched climate. It’s astonishing how it can be so warm (18C yesterday), yet everything look so lifeless. I planted these onion sets three weeks ago; they’re making very slow and feeble growth.

Might have to get used to it, though, if the Icelandic volcano keeps erupting. Being me, I’m ghoulishly attracted to the doomiest predictions – that Eyjafjallajoekull will erupt for years, that north European air traffic will be semi-permanently disrupted, that trade will be decimated etc etc.

From a gardener’s point of a view, a year without a summer would clearly be tedious. But uncharacteristically, I see silver linings everywhere. To wit:

  • Silence. I live not a million miles from Heathrow airport, and to be liberated from the 24/7 whine of jet engines is blissful
  • No tourists. OK, so hotels and attractions will suffer – for which my sympathies. But the rest of us get a break from snap-happy, shuffling, sweating, gormless holidaymakers in London (I would set aside a special sort of Hell for those filthy, dreadlocked backpackers who insist upon using the London Underground during rush hour)
  • A boost for shipping and trains – civilised forms of transport both. Plus it will be delightful seeing companies doing more conference-calling and video link-ups etc to avoid flying. In my own experience, most corporate air travel is strictly unnecessary – more about a company-funded jolly hundreds of miles from the spouse than for any essential business purpose

Posted on 18th April 2010
Under: Alliums | 12 Comments »

Weed suppression

Mypex weed suppressantThis is what I would have finished last weekend if I’d had time: laying weed-suppressing fabric around my shed. A necessary evil; I need a clear area here, and endlessly weeding/digging it isn’t realistic.

This stuff’s called Mypex, and it’s industrial-strength. Much better than the consumer version they flog in garden centres, and highly recommended if you can lay your hands on some.

Although it’s hardly a biodegradable product, it’s better than using carpet – which slowly breaks down and leaches chemicals into your soil.

I’m just wishing now that the weather would pick up. Everything’s so far behind; still no asparagus, though we were eating it this time last year.

Posted on 14th April 2010
Under: Sheds 'n' stuff | 5 Comments »

Sowing in the sunshine

Rows of parsnip, beetroot and carrot seedsWow. What a gorgeous day yesterday was. It was only 17C, but felt like 25C after the long winter we’ve suffered. The feeling of sun on your face after seven months of cloud and rain is a very special one.

As usual, I had a lengthy list of allotment tasks, and got only a fraction done. This is the toughest time of year for the committed gardener, no question. In April and May (especially May) I’m chasing my arse from dawn to dusk.

It’s a bugger when you’ve got a full-time job, because some tasks simply can’t wait. When you get the luxury of a break in the rain (welcome to the UK), you simply have to do them – whatever the day of the week.

So there are many evenings between now and June when I’ll be at the plot at 8.30pm, cutting an effete figure in office attire.

Ostensibly I’ll be there to plant out peas or leeks or cabbages, but my main concern will be keeping horseshit off my tie.

Posted on 11th April 2010
Under: Seed sowing | 13 Comments »


Seen the forecast… eh, eh?

Warm, sunny, windless, gorgeous (er, apparently).

I’m smacking my lips. Can’t wait to get stuck in to my allotment and actually do some work this weekend.

Maybe even cut the first asparagus. Now I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Posted on 9th April 2010
Under: Spring, Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

New Soilman: Fitter, faster… but not leaner

Bit of a breakthrough today. I managed to run non-stop for just under 5 miles. At no blistering pace, admittedly, but still. An hour’s continuous running, just three months ago, would have been a risible notion. I got breathless heaving my arse out of bed.

On the down side, I’ve lost not an ounce of weight. Admittedly, my ‘diet’ has been pretty desultory… but I’d hoped that the exercise alone would do some good. It hasn’t.

Hey ho. You win some, you lose some. I may be fatter than I was at 30, but I’m fitter. I’ll settle for that.

Posted on 5th April 2010
Under: Spring | 7 Comments »

First asparagus tip!

Asparagus tipI’m stunned how early it’s come. After the winter we’ve endured, I didn’t expect to see any asparagus until May.

Did a few hours at the plot today, but without enthusiasm. The piercing wind and grey skies got to me. If it were July, I’d have ignored it. But after five months of winter – and a tough old winter, at that – I’m just sick of it. Enough already.

That’s the thing with winter: like radiation exposure, it’s cumulative. I totally get what happened to Van Gogh. Always a tad unstable, the poor bastard painted one too many wacky clouds from his garret window and thought: “Right, fuck it. That’s it. Can’t take it any more. Where did I put that gun?”

Posted on 4th April 2010
Under: Asparagus | 7 Comments »

When Spring turned to Winter

Apologies for radio silence here. As UK readers will know, this is because it’s IMPOSSIBLE TO GO OUTSIDE. Winter has returned, with a vengeance, and I’ve been forced to chain myself to a radiator with a large box of chocolates (yes, at gunpoint… since you ask).

This is bad enough, but I’m living with a cat who takes news of bad weather even more badly than I do – and who blames me for it. When I let him out in the morning to test the temperature of the patio with his paws, he turns a look of such malevolent hatred on me that I fully expect to be turned to stone.

So it’s with special fervour that I’m praying for a bit of sunshine.


Posted on 2nd April 2010
Under: Winter | 6 Comments »