Archive for April, 2011

Another dirty little allotment secret

parsnips gone to seedEnough of the deranged rantings already. You guys may start to suspect I’m some kind of twisted, embittered old bore (Too late – imaginary Ed).

Here, instead, is a confessional photograph – just to warm the hearts of those who may still be under the illusion that I know what I’m doing (Again, too late – imaginary Ed). It’s not in soft focus. There was shit on the lens.

I tell everyone at the plot that I left last year’s parsnips to seed on purpose. This is, of course, bollocks. Truth: I got bored of eating them and ran out of time to pull them out (Translation: too lazy – imaginary Ed). Now they have roots half way to Sydney, Australia.

Hey ho. I WILL get some great seed from them, so every cloud etc etc.

PS Anyone out there a WordPress whizz who can tell me how to get rid of this fucking imaginary Editor?

Posted on 30th April 2011
Under: Roots | 6 Comments »

Triumph of decency over hatred, ignorance and selfishness

first early potatoes "Orla"Got a bit obsessed by the royal wedding first thing this morning. By the time it started, of course, I was bored shitless and wandered off to see how my spuds were doing. Answer: OK. We could do with rain (when couldn’t we?).

Have thought about it since, though, and realised why I do find these formal occasions – despite all my better instincts – rather impressive.

It’s not the pomp. It’s not the pageantry. It’s not the horses, or the dresses, or the (mostly) ghastly royals. It’s certainly not the ‘atmosphere’ – the smell of horse shit at these events is overpowering.

No, what moves me about it all is that state occasions featuring the royal family are the only times when the TV screen isn’t full of tiresome fuckers, pompous shitheads, thought policemen, rabble-rousing demagogues, dotty dictators, take-offence industry spokespersons, Right Honourable liars, thick bigots, moaning inadequates, whingeing chisellers looking for handouts and/or evil cunts threatening to kill everyone they disagree with.

Crowded into the Mall and Horse Guards, today, were countless normal, moderate, fair, thoughtful, put-upon, tax-paying non-fuckwits who still – despite the BBC’s best efforts to convince us otherwise – make up the majority of UK citizens.

Particularly impressive were William’s three RAF colleagues from Search & Rescue. Decent, hard-working, dependable and honourable guys who risk life and limb daily to help others and will spend their time on this earth trying to do the Right Thing. Just because.

When I see and hear folks like that, and think of the many feckless, hate-filled, Entitled, lazy, illiterate morons whose freedoms they’re protecting… well. I run out of words.

Guess I’m just glad that breed still exists, albeit in low numbers. Today they put the wankers in the shade – for once.

Posted on 29th April 2011
Under: Rants | Comments Off

PR or truth?

Many thanks to Paul Bradshaw for posting this piece about PR firms using bloggers to push marketing campaigns on the sly. Calling fellow bloggers: Did you know that you could be required by the Office of Fair Trading to declare whether any of your content is paid-for?

As I mentioned recently, PRs regularly approach me with paid-for link and posting deals. I’m repelled by them, for the same reasons as Paul.

But I know there’s lots of it going on. There are whole sites purporting to be ‘genuine’ blogs written by amateur enthusiasts that are in reality fronts for undeclared PR campaigns, or which have been set up by marketing companies solely to boost SEO rankings for certain keywords.

Further down the ‘corruption’ scale, amateur bloggers are taking money here and there in return for undisclosed content deals. They must be: I wouldn’t be getting these constant offers if nobody ever took them up.

This is blogging’s dirty little not-so-secret… and there’s some of it in gardening.

You may or may not care about this. I don’t – at least as far as the money itself is concerned. Folks have got to live. If you need the money, take it. Good on you.

But please don’t take it without disclosing what you’ve done for it. Every secret paid-for post, link or review erodes trust in ALL bloggers, ALL writers. Every opinion, every ‘recommendation’, every ‘fact’, every SEO-optimised headline, every URL itself becomes suspect.

Hey, it’s obviously too late for such a naïve plea. I realise that. I’m also aware that this post won’t be universally popular. Nobody likes an ivory tower crusader.

But here’s the thing: The world is not a better place if everything you read, everywhere, is bollocks.  In fact, it becomes a better or worse place in direct proportion to every lie that is or isn’t told.

Think about that when PRs dangle baubles before you.

Postscript

PS Right on cue, I got an offer by email today of money in return for ‘guest posts’ and/or ‘bespoke content’ provided by ‘our highly experienced content writers’. It seems unlikely that anyone would make that offer today – of all days – if they actually read these pages.

But just to test, here’s my reply to the offer: Bidding for sole advertiser status on soilman.net hasn’t officially started, Mr P.G, but I would be happy to write you down for an opening bid of $1 million. I’ll accept payment in US dollars, sterling or major human body organs.

PPS You really DON’T want to place your clients’ ads on this site, Mr P.G. I am habitually dark, cynical, moany, curmudgeonly, negative, profane and a prize pain in the arse. This makes my site a lousy vehicle for any brand.

Posted on 26th April 2011
Under: Rants | 14 Comments »

Ready for Summer. Even though it’s Spring…

gay sunglassesForecast is outrageous (27C, unbroken sunshine, buzzing bees, tweeting birdies etc etc), so I’m donning my gayest pair of shades for a day of flouncing about on the plot. By close of play I will be puce red, shit-smeared, sweat-sodden and very, very happy.

Although…

Does anyone else find this weather a little… creepy? I mean, it’s April. FFS. We do not get 27C in April in this country. Most years, we never see 27C ALL YEAR.

I’m enjoying it – believe me, I really am – but at the same time I’m freaked out.

Posted on 23rd April 2011
Under: Summer | 7 Comments »

Disappearing rain

A follow-up to my rain rant…

This Spring is running true to form with last. It’s already three weeks since the last significant rainfall, and the weather forecasts are exactly the same: scattered showers are always predicted for tomorrow or the day after… but on the morning of ‘rain day’ the forecast mysteriously changes. The showers are suddenly nowhere to be seen.

I swear these guys forecast by looking out of the sodding window.

PS Today I was reduced to watering my potatoes. In April.

Posted on 16th April 2011
Under: Spring | 6 Comments »

Now THAT’S asparagus…

thick asparagus spearsI was chuckling over these as I prepared them. Thick? You bet.

Asparagus spears this thick are inedible unless you shave the bottom few inches (a potato peeler does the trick nicely). But when prepared properly, they are utterly delicious and gorgeously edible from the tip of the spear to the thick bottom stem.

Best of all, you really can’t buy ‘em like this in shops. There are millionaires all over the world who – unless they have their own private asparagus beds – can never know what real asparagus is like.

This is because commercial growers grow intensively: beds are planted as close as possible, with the absolute minimum fertiliser/manure input, and spears are harvested ruthlessly from early April until June 21st (or even later).

Consequence: The plants can never produce spears more than a centimetre or so in diameter. If you’re just growing for quality and taste, though, you can lovingly service your asparagus beds. Lots of manure, lots of TLC and a shorter cutting season (I usually stop on June 1st) yields fat, delicious, excellent asparagus.

So kiss my arse, millionaires. I’m eating better than you tonight.

Posted on 15th April 2011
Under: Asparagus | 10 Comments »

Drought: Are you suffering?

I can’t believe I’m already moaning about lack of rain. Jeez, it’s only April.

Reviewing my last few years of posting, I notice that the rain theme runs through my blog like shit through sewers. I whinge about it endlessly. Too much rain, too little rain, wrong sort of rain… you name it, I’m boring for Britain about it.

But the overriding leitmotif is drought. ‘We need rain’ is my nagging, plaintive refrain. There’s never enough.

This has worsened in the last 2-3 years. When I first started my vegetable plot, 6 years ago, drought wasn’t an issue. We had dry weeks, sure. Even the odd fortnight of sunshine. But never months on end without rain.

Nowadays I expect drought. It’s an annual event – usually bad, sometimes serious. Last year, I counted 140 days without rain from early March. This year, the pattern’s repeating.

Two swallows do not a summer make… but obviously I suspect global warming. I live in a dry part of the UK, so I guess we’d see the effects here first. I’m certainly feeling them. They’re making my gardening painful.

The weird thing is that I’m almost alone in noticing this. The folks who surround me every day, with rare exceptions, are urban office workers (as, indeed, am I). They have no connection to gardening, or farming, or anything much that depends upon the weather.

When I moan about lack of rain, they listen politely. Most nod kindly, perhaps offering a ‘Really? Wow, I hadn’t noticed’.

But mostly they just stare at me suspiciously. Their thoughts are clear: “Poor bastard. Spends too much time with his marrows. He’s lost it utterly.”

Please, please reassure me that I’ve not lost it utterly. Obviously if you live in Wales or Scotland, you – like my colleagues – will be wondering what the fuck I’m going on about.

But is anyone else suffering the drought nightmare?

Posted on 12th April 2011
Under: Rants | 12 Comments »

How to plant onion sets

onion setsRight. For all of you folks wanting to know how to plant onion sets…. here it is. The ultimate, definitive ‘how to’.

(For those of you wondering what I’m on about, trust me: there are LOADS of people who want to know how to do this. How do I know? Because I get spectacular numbers coming to the site from a ‘how to plant onion sets’ search in Google).

It’s piss easy. In 3 steps:

  • Dig and rake over your onion bed for a smooth, level surface (I flatten my soil with a plank so I can place the sets perfectly)
  • To plant each set, make a small hole about a inch deep with a finger, put in the set and gently firm soil around it to leave only the top ‘tail’ sticking above soil surface. DO NOT PUSH SETS INTO HARD SOIL – it damages their tiny roots
  • Plant sets at least six inches (15cm) apart (preferably a little more) in rows a foot (30cm) apart

Er, that’s it. Honest – no mystery.

All you have to do now is weed the beds regularly and water in very dry weather (don’t water too often, though – onions tolerate and even prefer a bit of drought).

Posted on 6th April 2011
Under: Alliums | 4 Comments »

First asparagus

asparagusWell, here’s a first: fresh asparagus on April 3rd.

This is my first cut of the year, and the first ever cut from the asparagus bed I put in two years ago.

It’s a bit mad that it’s coming so early. It would normally be mid-April, at the earliest, for the first spears. We’ve had two untypically warm weeks, though, so the soil is warming up already.

Mrs Soilman and I will scoff these tonight with melted butter and perhaps a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan.

Mmmmm… there’s nothing like the simple pleasures.

Posted on 3rd April 2011
Under: Asparagus | 12 Comments »