Sunday, 19 August 2012

To Rossendale Council, With Love

 This week I got a letter from someone at Rossendale Council whose job title is "Amenities Officer", whatever that is.  In it he stated that my allotment plots had "not been worked in some time" and that they were being "overgrown with weeds".  Now for those not familiar with this small corner of Lancashire, Rossendale is a little valley which rejoiced in having the official title of "Worst Council in the Country" not too long ago.  It has improved slightly since then, but not much (making national headlines last year for its waste collection proposals which could best be described as "do it yourself").  The council has taken no interest in the allotments apart from collecting our money for some years, and the last time letters like this were sent out was about 8 years ago, by someone who later admitted she knew nothing about gardening.
So if we want to keep our plot, we are required to contact the said "Amenities Officer" and promise to improve, be good, that kind of thing. Being fair incandescent with rage, I did so immediately by telephone (voicemail engaged) and then email only to find the said "Amenities Officer" (who shall remain nameless, I do have some heart, you know) had sent the letters and promptly buggered off on holiday.  That's Rossendale Council for you, if in doubt, don't answer the phone and ideally don't be there at all.

I don't have any faith that the "Amenities Officer" knows one end of a potato plant from the other, so this post is dedicated to Rossendale Council.  Here is a collection of photos, all date stamped to prove a point, from my plot which has apparently "not been worked in some time".  At the top is the harvest of Cosmos potatoes, an early maincrop which does well for us, being fairly blight resistant , the only damage they get is the occasional slug hole.  Directly above is my garlic harvest, not as good as last year but after 3 months of solid rain better than I could expect.

Just as I finished digging this up yesterday (it's now under a cloche on the plot to dry), a group of walkers passed by and peered over the wall.  "That's a busy lady" one said, to which I replied "No I'm not, according to the council my plot isn't being worked".  They tutted, rolled their eyes "What do they know?".  We then had an interesting discussion about artichokes, mine have been very poor this year and have also created havoc by escaping into the next bed.  According to one of the walkers, this was discussed on Gardeners' Question Time recently and apparently everyone's had a bad time with artichokes this year, so it's not just me.
The brassicas got hit by pigeons the day before I was planning to net them, but since doing so they have recovered speedily.  You will notice there are weeds in the photo, now this is a crime according to the Amenities Officer, but I might point out that we have had the wettest June/July in 100 years and given that fact it can be difficult to get out to weed given the short gaps between downpours generally occur when I'm working.  Today, for example, it is currently raining again.
 With all the rain, the pea crop has been poor but I managed to pick these. Also managed to cut the grass and do some weeding (are you reading this, Amenities Officer?) but given that I have a day job and don't have a weed-related OCD condition like some, there are still weeds on my plot.  Tsk, Tsk.
 Although getting off to a slow start, the lettuce has done well this summer.  I weeded this two weeks ago, but with all the rain they come back straight away.  It's a never ending task.
While the first beetroot sowing failed, the second (on the right here) went in under a cloche in early July to keep it drier and warmer and these beetroot are now doing well. Next to them are autumn carrots which are also looking pretty good.
 This is the last crop of rhubarb for this year.  I must split it this winter, I also need to dig up and replant the strawberry bed - some plants are now past it and it's 5 years since I put them in.  Also, there are now a lot of weeds in there which it is impossible to remove without taking the plants up as well, so that's a job for the autumn  if it ever stops raining.  I've never seen weather like it, our soil was last dry in  May 2011, can you believe that?  We've had over a year of constant rain!
My final photo is dedicated to the Amenities Officer.  This is a Weed, a Very Big Weed.  A criminal offence, no less.  I allow one of these to grow on my plot each year, just the one.  Why? Because it provides valuable food for hoverflies (you can see one in the photo) and other insects with its pollen, and then food for cinnabar moth larvae on the leaves.  I have a patch of nettles for the same wildlife-related reason, and weeds around the trees where I cannot cultivate (not fruit trees, these are regular trees which belong to the council).  My plot is sloping and on three levels, it will never be the "perfect plot", it will never be weed or grass free, I have no intention of covering it with paving and gravel and polytunnels like many others on the allotments.  I do, however, have toads and frogs and moths and butterflies bees and lots of other beneficial yet endangered insects, oh and I manage to grow lots of fruit and vegetables as well.

So there you have it, my "not been worked in some time" plot.  I could use some stronger language but  think "Stick that in your pipe and smoke it" does the job nicely.
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