Allotment tasks – 20/21 August 2011

22 August 2011

Allotment tasks completed this past weekend:

  • planted out last Brussels sprout plant, stunted little plant nurtured back at the greenhouse after the rests the plants went in last month
  • netted sprout bed
  • weeded sprouts bed
  • fed slugs put out more slug pellets in cabbage and sprout beds
  • picked 4 lbs of runner beans, a few peas and the remaining broad beans
  • pulled up broad beans and part-weeded bed

To do:

  • figure out where to transplant strawberries
  • er, more weeding, everywhere


17 May 2011

Who’s that looking out from a window in Windsor Castle?…

New neighbours

25 April 2011

Our allotments have new neighbours:

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Darracott Moor wind farm

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Fullabrook Down wind farm

Likely to be a more common sight in our parts. We’re in an area designated for wind farm development. It does blow a bit – the wind that is.

Unless we start switching out lights, not buying plasma screen TVs, DAB radios and other gadgets we don’t need, we need more power generation.

In the current climate of skewed economics and lack of a national plan, short of nuclear (too expensive, 20 years in development and, er, Fukushima), tidal (booted into touch), offshore wind (expensive to bring the power onshore), solar (inefficiencies) or biomass (local plant NIMBYed), we’re stuck with wind with all its visual intrusiveness and inefficiencies.

There is a better way: small scale, renewable, community owned and operated generation. All it takes is a bit of thought and the will to live next door to a power station.


17 April 2011

Briefly, today, I sowed:

  • runner beans – Scarlet Emperor and White Emergo
  • peas – Petit Pois and Little Marvel
  • cucumber – Marketmore
  • Common thyme
  • basil – Aroma 4
  • Curly parsley

My “love apples”

3 April 2011

11 04 01_tomatoes_0021

A couple of weeks after sowing, I’ve got several tomato varieties on the go and some yet to germinate. Golden Queen, which strangely produce yellow fruit, were only a few days behind the old standards Moneymaker and Gardeners’ Delight.

11 04 01_tomatoes_0023

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my precious Zuckertraube to kick off. These took some time last year. I recall a strike rate of about 1/4.

Some of these “heirloom” varieties can be a bit finnickety. The fruits are delicious, but what’s the betting I get none?


3 April 2011


Fellow allotment holder Jim, subject of frequent posts here, is currently in North Devon District Hospital.

I’m told Jim is suffering from bleeding ulcers and is under observation for the weekend.

All of us at the allotments wish Jim a speedy recovery and hope to see him back holding court very soon.

Answer me this…

28 March 2011

Third place (second losers)

What was name of the former doctor in the Goodies?

What wheat is traditionally used in pasta?

Yes. Quiz night.

Once every three or so months, anywhere from 50 to 120 colleagues plus spouses, partners and ringers assemble at the Barnstaple rugby club for charity quiz night.

Thanks to quizmaster Dave and everyone who takes part, we’ve raised over £11,000 over the years for local charities, including about £250 the other night for St John’s in Braunton.

Though it occasionally descends into drink-assisted farce, it’s a good nature evening full of banter and Dave’s bad jokes. On this occasion, Dave’s distinctive Black Country twang was a source of merriment.

Dave usually chooses an appropriate fancy dress theme, to go along with the chosen charity. Though there’s been patchy efforts more recently, there was pretty good participation this time. Who could turn down the “doctors and nurses” theme? The Dr Harold Shipman team went down well.

For four years, our team has on and off fought for prominence only to fall just short of top dog. That’s a bitter pill. Without being too big-headed (well, perhaps very big headed), I’m used to winning at work quizzes. As a representative of HMG in foreign parts, my office mates usually cleaned up in social club quizzes much to irritation of our defence forces colleagues.

Well, we fell short again on Friday. Let down in the music round and playing our joker in the wrong round. Third place on a tie break question.

What year was Coca-cola first available in bottles? (Nearest answer wins) We guessed 1901 (1894 is correct).

The Goodies doctor? Graham Garden, of course.

Pasta wheat? Durum, naturally.

Olympic cheat

22 March 2011

I applied for 2012 Olympics tickets yesterday.

On the face of it, this was a “no-brainer”: a decision so logical that it doesn’t require explanation. Yet, it’s also a compromise or even a cop-out: a denial of deep held views.

The Olympics is no benign sporting movement. That much, I think most people accept. It’s 19th century, Corinthian, amateur ethos was lost somewhere in a succession of games used first for political ends, more recently to extend the global reach of less than benign multi-national corporations. Though I’m sure there is an argument that the Olympic ideal died before Baron de Coubertin’s modern version rekindled the flame in 1896.

2012 Olympics host announcement 6 July 2005

2012 Olympics host announcement 6 July 2005

On an overcast and less than seasonal day, like many thousands of Londoners I crowded into Trafalgar Square on 6 July 2005 around midday. The event: the announcement of the winner of the 2012 bid.

Looking back much has happened in London, in the world, in sport. Less than 24 hours later I was sitting in an office block overlooking Waterloo Bridge listening the wailing sirens, trying to comprehend the carnage across the city.

In Trafalgar Square I was expecting – as were a lot of “pundits” – to hear that Paris had been successful. The UK delegation had, by all accounts, put together a strong bid backed by a united local and national political front. Say what you will about him, but Seb Coe – who I’d never rated much when he was an MP – played a blinder.

Paris though was the strong favourite. I dearly wanted Paris to win.

That “strong bid” had many strands. It played upon Britain’s sporting heritage. The bid focused upon regeneration of East London and the promised legacy. London would be a green games. There were also words about improved transport links.

My view was and remains that no Olympic bid by any city will ever much the hype and propaganda.

There is plenty of evidence (pdf) that points out that building big sporting venues does not generate economic activity other than that directly involved in the construction of the venue. Sporting venues re-direct economic activity. The Olympics happen every four years. That economic activity will happen. The question is just where in the world the games take place.

I’d argue that the games should take place in Athens every four years. Greece spent billions building facilities for the 2004 games. Many of the facilities – baseball and hockey stadiums, for example – never to be used again.

The legacy issue (pdf) is not straightforward. As someone who used to walk the mean streets of Bow, believe me, the area needs improvement. It needs better housing, better transport and a sustainable economy (but then the same could be said of North Devon). However, the regeneration does not need a sporting event. Sure, the Olympics can act as a catalyst. But, regeneration needs investment and planning neither of which require pole vaulters or carbon fibre bikes. Of course, the construction boom in and around the area should be kicking off the economy, but those construction jobs are temporary and many of them not locals either.

The stadium legacy saga has been ludicrous. Tottenham Hotspur’s bid to remodel the Olympic stadium for football and renovate Crystal Palace athletics stadium made much more practical and economic sense. I’m glad the my club are not leaving their long time home. But, this crucial issue should have been hammered out before 6 July 2005.

I don’t know enough about the environmental credentials of these games. I’m sure that it’s about as sustainable as any other concrete laying exercise.

Yes, I have strong reservations about the 2012 games. And, I’ve not even mentioned:

  • security issues
  • forced displacement
  • bypassing the democratic planning process
  • the corporate swill trough

But, I still love sport, the thrill of walking into a vast sporting arena and the roar of the crowd. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope I get tickets. But, I hope we’re not paying for this beyond September 2012.

So, farewell Panasonic SD-253

21 March 2011
11 03 21_bread machine_0006

Extra large, crusty loaf

Our trusty breadmaker has given some 7 years service. Over that time, we’ve enjoyed white, wholemeal and mixed grain bread, spelt rolls, pizza dough, ciabatta and, more recently, pitta and naan.


Multi-grain bread

Sadly, the old dear’s paddle and pan have worn out under the strain of, I estimate, more than 800 loaves and 300 pizzas.


I am pizza dude

Replacing the breadmaker is only £15 to £20 more than the replacement parts.

Reluctantly I’ve agreed to retire the faithful servant. The new model, Panasonic SD-256, arrived this afternoon and has already mixed another batch of pittas.

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Panasonic SD-253: best buy ever?

So long SD-253. Here’s to your lovingly kneaded dough and firm crusts.

…the foreshores of Bideford Bay…

20 March 2011
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Sign at Bucks Mills


…so, we did:

  • enjoy the walk
  • use our rights freely
  • eat sandwiches
  • take artsy photos of rock and seaweed
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Rocks and seaweed and enjoyment of rights hereto



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