Well, I have started 2010 feeling guilty for having abandoned the allotment for so many weeks. I miss being there, but the continuous rain for over a month and now the snow and ice, made it impossible to do anything meaningful. Especially as my wrist injury is STILL ongoing. Just as I think it's better, I feel that tearing pain and have to get on the strapping again. My latest resolution is to try and wear it most of the day, although it makes it difficult to hold anything properly. Drat!
Here's the allotment just before the rain really set in and I had to abandon it to its fate. Looks quite nice and sunny - I was looking forward to burning off all the wiry stems and setting up the rest to compost. Goodness knows what the next shot will be like!
Despite new, deeply unglamorous thermal underwear the cold has really been getting to me. Maybe it's age? I never used to feel so worried about the cold.
I still miss my best friend, but have resolved to join some local groups to make myself more active. I'd like to do some drawing and silversmithing, as soon as I've paid off the Christmas bills! Maybe there will be a film appreciation group, too; I miss our regular visits to the cinema and it's much harder to make the effort on my own. My partner has quite different tastes, so we rarely see a film together, alas.
What makes someone a good friend, rather than an acquaintance?
I've been thinking about this a lot recently, ever since my best friend died in September. I keep examining our relationship, remembering how we first met and trying to form an image of her in happier times. We were colleagues who realised one day after a casual conversation, that we both had partners who were not interested in the sort of films we both liked. Our first cinema visit was to Starship Troopers in Stoneleigh and we were amazed to find that we were the only people in the cinema for the early showing. Most of the films we saw were rather less mainstream and we revelled in the foreign language seasons and rarities shown on the Director's Chair selection at our two local cinemas.
We'd chat before and after the films and occasionally managed to grab a lunch break at the same time, but rarely spent more than a couple of hours together as we lived a few miles apart and her life revolved around her family, voluntary work, home and garden, while I was busy with my partner, work, animals and pastimes.
Over the years it doesn't amount to a lot of shared time, so why is there this gaping hole in my life? For the first few weeks after she died, I had a constant pain in my forehead, as if all my grief was gathered there. Now the pain has faded, but I still feel such a tightness in my throat when I look at her photograph or remember a particular funny moment. A great comfort is my friendship with her husband and sons, so we are able to recall her in our memories.
When she died I was stunned, transfixed. Where had she gone? Was she still here, somewhere in the ether, or gone, totally vanished? How could she have left us all so suddenly? But thinking about it now, I think she chose her time to go. I only wish I could believe that we will meet again one day.
First: Insects. Tonight I found yet more caterpillars in the poly tunnel. I thought I'd got the lot a couple of days ago, but found another 6 lurking around. Some were doing me a favour, eating a bramble shoot that came up through the earth floor, the others were having a hard time trying to nibble cucumber leaves and two really brave ones had been at the chillies. I think they were pleased to be relocated to some outdoor bramble! Here's a side view of one of the little blighters. It's a Tussock moth caterpillar, but I'm not sure if it's the brown or yellow tailed variety. They are both pretty voracious - I wonder if I can get them to eat all the bramble for me? Next: Amphibians! When I was watering the outside grow bags with the tired-looking courgette plants, out popped this froglet from one of the watering holes!
I'd seen a larger frog next to the bag a couple of days before but hadn't a camera to hand, so was very pleased to capture a photo of this little chap.
It must be one of the bathtub froglets that hatched out earlier this year. I need to be rather careful when I do my clearing up and leave them some grow bags for them to use as shelters and as hibernation sites.
I love being on the allotment. Sometimes I'm there for hours being really busy weeding, digging and planting. Other times I'm there for a quick visit to pick up some spinach or salad greens and to water the plants in the poly tunnel. Now I've got a water butt inside the tunnel (Thank you Doug, for that suggestion!) life is somewhat easier! I still need to visit every 2-3 days, though, depending on the weather and temperature, to check on things.
My time at the allotment is precious. It's a time out of the usual routines; time for myself and to enjoy the plants, the wildlife and the company of the other gardeners. I love seeing the results of my work but know I have a lot more to learn and a lot more work to do before the plot is the way I want it to be.
Oh, it's impossible to find time for everything I need to do.
I must weed the plot properly soon and put down black plastic to stop weed seeds germinating. However, I estimate it will take about four full days of hard work and unfortunately, I can't manage more than a 4 hour stint at a time. This means it's going to be a battle royal between me and the massed ranks of bramble, fat hen and spiny lettuce for the next couple of weeks. Some of my time has been spent making a wedding present - a bride and groom (cockerel and hen) set of egg cosies, complete with presentation hen house. It was like being back at art school again, designing a portable hutch!
I could almost hear my tutor's disparaging comments! Still, it did the job and didn't look too terrible, thankfully.
It's hot and humid again. I think I can hear the weeds growing wild in the allotment; a quiet, persistent rustling as they burst forth and overcome my seedlings.
Weeds grow so much faster than my beans, lettuce and stuff that I'm tempted to give in and start growing Fat Hen as a crop. Inside the polytunnel I'm able to keep things under control as my plants are in grow bags so relatively few brambles and convolvulus shoots manage to get through the beaten earth floor and grow to a decent size.
Today I battled the heat and damp to do some weeding, water the grow bags and take photos of the plot and some of my egg cosies as the light quality was really good.
I scanned the skies with binoculars but once again, there were no signs of swifts over Carshalton or Walligton. This means my last 4 youngsters have probably moved South since I last saw them on Tuesday 4th August. I suppose they might still be somewhere over Surrey; the skies have been rather horrible for the last part of the week, lacking thermals and banks of low cloud to keep the insects relatively low. There are still flying ants waiting to launch - maybe they will come back for a final feast before migrating South. It would be nice to see them again after spending so much time as a foster carer, but I am happy believing they are acting on instinct and doing whatever is best for them. I just wish them good luck on their long, hard journey to Africa.