17 March 2018: Beast from the East 2

So, two weeks away from the allotment and spring has been developing nicely – temperatures rising, daffodils appearing, birds nesting – and then, ‘Beast from the East 2: The Return’. With positively vindictive timing the freezing wind and snow reappeared. Still, undaunted, we headed on down to the allotment.

In fact, in some ways the weather proved to be quite useful. The first thing I did on getting to the plot was to put up my tent. This is not a standard allotment activity you understand, but there were special circumstances. To be specific, I am going on a mountain leader training course in two weeks time, I’ve got a new tent, we don’t have a lawn at home and I don’t want to look a plonker. So, I took the tent to practice putting in up and now, if I have to erect it in a blizzard on the side of a mountain, I’ll be fine.

Sam made a call for early tea but, unfortunately for her, the sun came out and therefore actual work commenced. She managed to defer this for a further ten minutes by wandering around taking photographs ‘for the website’ but eventually ran out of excuses and helped Linda to begin adding a layer of compost to the raised beds in preparation for planting when the weather relents.

Barney, meanwhile was in a hole, albeit one of his own devising. One of the issues with raised beds is that, as you add manure and compost to them over the years they get more, well, raised, to the point where they start to overflow. Clearly, one could deal with this by taking soil from the top and relocating it somewhere (another raised bed, next door’s allotment when they aren’t looking, a big pile in the corner, like a slagheap) but this would be too easy. Instead, therefore, we (well Barney) remove the topsoil till the subsoil is reached, dig out six inches of subsoil, relocate that, and then put the topsoil back. It’s the sort of job they invented during the Great Depression as a public works scheme to keep the unemployed busy.

Meanwhile, yours truly was renewing the woodchip paths between the raised beds by removing the weeds, scraping up the old woodchip (which is bagged and left to rot down for later use as compost) and replacing with new woodchip. This job is the allotment equivalent of painting the Forth Road Bridge (except that they have invented some fancy new paint for that and have thus ruined the metaphor). There are a lot of paths and it feels never-ending. Some of them have got so many weeds (mostly grass) in them that it’s not so much a matter of weeding as rolling up the turf and stacking it. I did suggest we just buy a lawnmower instead but no joy.

Anyway, by 4.15 it was time for tea. This week’s biscuits were Jacob’s Club (on offer reduced to a £1 in Booths that morning). The fruit ones, naturally. I hear some people prefer the orange ones…I guess it takes all sorts. There was also the added bonus of one of Linda’s cakes. Asked to guess what was in it I managed to get Cinnamon and…..nothing else. Turned out it also had Cloves, Ginger, Cardamon and Tea in it, and very nice it was too. It was a Chai Tea cake, according to Linda, or a Tai Chi cake according to Sam when she was trying to remember what it was called later.

After tea it was time to get back to the warmth and watch the rugby. The Beast from the East decided to save its best trick until last, however, and the 15 minute walk home was accompanied by scenes out of Scott of the Antarctic. Great billowing clouds of whirling snow left us looking like snowmen (snowpeople?) by the time we got home, though Sam did get some more photos as a result.

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