Sunday, 2 August 2009

... grub's up ...

Brilliant time in the garden. All this rain is most welcome so long as it stays warm. We've been eating produce now for almost 2 months, with 2 months to come I reckon. Magicical times.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

... new new spuds ...

It was always going to be too early to harvest them ... and it's been so dry they were never going to be ready ... but it is the Solstice today and we were eager to see what was going on below stairs. So here's the result ... 7 spuds from 1 Pentland Javelin ... out of the ground, washed in new spud gloves (thanks K) and into the pot, boiled, buttered and eaten, all in 30 minutes or so. Fantastic. Thanks to all who came today and took part.

We also managed to plant some toms Liz picked up at the Ella Street festival, and some gourds.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

... is tea ready yet?

One week to go to the summer solstice ... and our firstfruits ... here's an update of pics including Louis' spud patch looking good 2 months to the day he left for Peru.

I think Hull is pretty unique in that we've had hardly any rain all Spring, resulting in us spending far too much time with a hose pipe. But if we hadn't, no crop.


Monday, 13 April 2009

... Louis' Mate's bed ...

Hope I got the apostrophes right in that title.

Well in celebration of Easter and all that is resurrectional and life-affirming, and as a way of enjoying the last few days of Louis' company before the big trip to South America, we planted some more Peruvian spuds in a bed dedicated to Louis and all his mates.

So 30 Pink Fir Apple are sleeeping in a beautifully double dug and well maured plot.

Don't forget ... if you planted ... you can reap (in mid August).

Louis - keep playing the pants of peace.


Sunday, 5 April 2009

... first and seconds ... in and happy ...

Bed A is now jam packed with 60 or so seed potatoes, Pentland Javelin (first early) and Charlotte (second early). So we are on target to be eating our first harvest come early July ... yipee ...

Meanwhile every available window ledge is covered with seeds that are now germinated and above ground. Still such an awe inspiring event, even after all these many years.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

... greater than spuds ...

Having seen how wonderful the double dug and well manured soil now looks and feels we are moving away from our policy of "spuds and only spuds" to a multi-culture of ... peas (Kelvedon Wonder), broad beans (Masterpiece Green Long Pod), spinach beet (Perpetual), sweetcorn (Kelvedon Glory), parsnip (Improved Hollow Crowned), beetroot (Boltardy), cabbage (Ormskirk Late), brussels sprouts (Wellington), pumpkin (Invincible), cougette (Jaguar) and nasturtium (Dwarf Compact). Hopefully not biting ogg more than we can chew in the processs.

So this weekend Matty, Olly and Johnty will be getting busy with making newspaper plant pots and getting this little lot to germinate on windowsills across the whole house.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

... triple diggers equinox ...

A totally wonderful day of housebreaking back breaking work in glorious early Spring sunshine.

Many thanks to all those that turned up to sing, dance, dig, pray, litter pick, cook and crowbar their way into the unopenable outhouse.

We managed to plant 13 Pentland Javelin potatoes (one for every week before we all meet again at the Summer), and all planted, covered, banked up, watered and top dressed in the time it took us to sing all 12 verses of the Diggers' Song, which is quite some time.

We also managed to dig half of another circle. But this time it wasn't double digging but triple digging. Dig 1 = 6 inches of topsoil. Dig 2 = 4 inches of brick and builder's rubble. Dig 3 = very heavy clay. Which could lead one to wonder if it is really all worth it. The answer is a resounding yes. The soil in the bed we planted in was double dug back in November, and now it's wonderfully crumbly, moist and full of worm. Wonderful stuff.

A beautiful day. Some even had time to stand around modelling this season's knitwear.


Sunday, 15 March 2009

... we are almost ready to plant ...

On Saturday 21st March it's the Spring Equinox and time to plant our first crops of the year. At the moment when our journey around the sun and our tilted planet give us 12 hours of night and 12 hours of day we will be entrusting our first 12 potatoes to the soil. 6 Charlottes and 6 Pentland Javelins a few prayers and some singing and dancing and then we wait. In 13 weeks (another quarter of a circuit - and hopefully right on the Summer Solstice) we may be eating our first spud feast.

If you'd like to join us on Saturday, and are prepared to get your hands dirty, email me

Monday, 23 February 2009

... walled garden ...

Someone asked for an update on how the wall planner was looking so here it is, wonderfully adorned with garden bird sketches by various visitors.

Then curvy beds now have letters! If anyone can think of curvy names instead please do. So that we have a record of what the soil is like I'm afraid I'm going to get technical.

Beds a and b were the first to be double dug (double diggers all). Bed a has a very thick orange clay subsoil and was a horrible dig. Bed a also has a very thick concrete path 8 inches down and on the extreme left of the bed. This path clips the extreme right of bed c. Beds a and b are fully double dug and maured.

Bed c is a bed of 2 halves. The right hand half dug relatively easily, even the clay broke up fairly well as it appears to be fairly sandy as well! The left hand half was a much more difficult and blistering experience as household and garden refuse formed the first 6 inches of the soil. Bricks, old tools, wire etc. Bed c has finished its double digging today and now needs manuring.

Beds d and e share an alignment with what looks like and old ditch which shows up very clearly after rainfall. The soggy line of standing water that appears lines up perfectly with the hedged boundary beyond and is presumably the remnant of an old field boundary. These beds are not dug as yet and should be interesting digging once we get to them.

Bed f is a figment of our imagination at the moment and only exists on the wall. The plan was to make herb bed, but it looks like it might just be too soggy, re: old ditch.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

... faeries in the blurry snowdrops...

Thanks to Matty's amazing ability to abuse my camera we have these telling photos of the beauty of late winter (or is it an eerily early spring?) and of how double digging can lead to aches and pains later in the day. Avoided by a trip to the pool and 40 lengths of unwinding. Click the pic and squint hard and you may see one of the little people.

Friday, 20 February 2009

... chitting beginning ...

So what we're only half way through double digging our clay ... we're showing our faith by buying one 2.5kg bag of Pentland Javelin, a guaranteed first early winner ... and they are merrily chitting away in the utility room as we speak - in fact if I listen carefully I can just about hear them.

So there it is - the first green shoots of recovery.

Also bought 7.5kg tub of pelleted chicken manure and some massively reduced herbs. Total cost to date of all our gardening adventuring is £18.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

... created equal ...

When Adam Delved and Eve Span
Who was then the Gentleman?

A phrase from a sermon by "Hedgerow Preacher" John Ball which loosely translated reads ...

When God made the first people to be gardeners, did he set an authority hierarchy over them?

William Morris' utopian view of a classless world was fuelled by an understanding of the Peasant's Revolt and the life of the martyr John Ball.

Click the image to read Morris' novel A Dream of John Ball.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

... common thief ...

The law will hang the man or the woman
who steals the goose from off the common
but lets the greater thief go loose
who steals the common from the goose.

If you like the anti-establishment sentiment then you will love Chris Wood's album Tresspasser.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

... Harry Hill pays a flying visit to open new composting facility ...

Today we were very honoured to received a visit from the "burpmeister" Harry Hill. Harry said, "It gives me great pleasure to open these bins in the name of all that is pathogenic, may your compost be always black and crumbly." The only difficult part of the ceremony was the forced eviction of a family of brown mice from under the old compost heap, no doubt they will be taking up residence in a roofsapce near you sometime soon. Harry praised the work of the Rotting Department of Hull City Council who supplied a compost bin for free (so long as you buy a second one!) For further details click the compost bin below. The Macbutton teaches us all a lesson about decomposition in another way altogether.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

... 2 beds double dug ... 4 to go ...

Cold, bright and windy, perfect double digging weather. Our clay soil is looking better and better. It's much easier to dig as the winter progresses and gives much hope and promise for mountains of spuds in the summer and autumn. We have dug the topsoil, dug the clay sub-soil and dug in wood chippings, dug the topsoil again and top dressed with horse manure. We deserve a rest before we tackle the other 4 beds!

Time to nip off to a nursery or two and make some seed potato purchases for first early planting in late March.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

... double diggers alll ...

Alec, who is smart, calculated that the single crop circle we double dug today was 27m2. It took 4 grown men and one little girl 2 and a half hours to double did the circle. The topsoil was about 6 inches deep then that lovely orange clay stuff! We managed to dig through the clay to a spade's depth (1 spit) and dug in bark chippings. Then the topsoil went back on and the manure goes on sometime soon. An exhausting and backbreaking afternoon, made all the better by lots of tea and homemade soup and baked spuds and a solstice liturgy and the now obligatory singing of the Diggers' Song.

Many thanks to the Diggers All, Liz, Andy, Bex, Alec, Johnty, Silvester, Juliette, Rosie, Lydia, Freya, Ferdy, Felix and Fiona.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

... holy s**t!

After weeks of longing and hoping and praying we have finally managed to source a very large pile of 1 year old horse manure! Sooooooooooo exciting.

Just thought I'd let you all know... but I'm not letting you know where it is...

Monday, 8 December 2008

... diggers all, stand up now, stand up now ...

We are going to embark on some study and discussion sessions led by Jonathan on the thoughts of a radical 17th century bunch called The Diggers (True Levellers) who had the crazy notion that unused land could be lived on and cultivated so that they could feed their children. They asked root and branch questions (sorry!) like;

"Who does the Earth belong to?"
"What is property, ownership and theft?"
"Can we claim ownership of the Earth?"
"The Earth, a Common Treasury for all?"

We aim to think, sing and dig our way through to some contemporary conclusions under the banner of the title Common People (people of the common).

If you would like a set of study notes that will guide our thinking then please mail

Dates 5 Feb (intro & background), 12 Feb (models of land tenure from the stone-age onwards, from worship to ownwership), 26 Feb ("Mad" John Clare and a poetic response to enclosure) and 5 March (so what?) ... and possibly beyond.

Here's the full Digger's song that we have sung recently in our own inimitable rusticated beer-fuelled way.

You noble Diggers all, stand up now, stand up now,
You noble Diggers all, stand up now,
The wast land to maintain, seeing Cavaliers by name
Your digging does maintain, and persons all defame
Stand up now, stand up now.

Your houses they pull down, stand up now, stand up now,
Your houses they pull down, stand up now.
Your houses they pull down to fright your men in town,
But the gentry must come down, and the poor shall wear the crown.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

With spades and hoes and plowes, stand up now, stand up now,
With spades and hoes and plowes stand up now,
Your freedom to uphold, seeing Cavaliers are bold
To kill you if they could, and rights from you to hold.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

Theire self-will is theire law, stand up now, stand up now
Theire self-will is theire law, stand up now.
Since tyranny came in they count it now no sin
To make a gaole a gin, to serve poor men therein.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The gentrye are all round, stand up now, stand up now,
The gentrye are all round, stand up now.
The gentrye are all round, on each side they are found,
Theire wisdom's so profound, to cheat us of our ground.
Stand up now, stand up now.

The lawyers they conjoyne, stand up now, stand up now,
The lawyers they conjoyne, stand up now,
To arrest you they advise, such fury they devise,
The devill in them lies, and hath blinded both their eyes.
Stand up now, stand up now.

The clergy they come in, stand up now, stand up now,
The clergy they come in, stand up now.
The clergy they come in, and say it is a sin
That we should now begin, our freedom for to win.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The tithe they yet will have, stand up now,stand up now,
The tithes they yet will have, stand up now.
The tithes they yet will have, and lawyers their fees crave,
And this they say is brave, to make the poor their slave.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

'Gainst lawyers and gainst Priests, stand up now,stand up now,
'Gainst lawyers and gainst Priests stand up now.
For tyrants they are both even flatt against their oath,
To grant us they are loath free meat and drink and cloth.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The club is all their law, stand up now, stand up now,
The club is all their law, stand up now.
The club is all their law to keep men in awe,
Buth they no vision saw to maintain such a law.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The Cavaleers are foes, stand up now, stand up now,
The Cavaleers are foes, stand up now;
The Cavaleers are foes, themselves they do disclose
By verses not in prose to please the singing boyes.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

To conquer them by love, come in now, come in now,
To conquer them by love, come in now;
To conquer them by love, as it does you behove,
For he is King above, noe power is like to love,
Glory heere, Diggers all.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

... why curves? ...

A neighbour asked me, "Why circles and curves?" and I was stuck for an answer.

They just suggested themselves and feel right (sheesh!). Why does the world have to be constructed around straight lines, lines of least resistance, lines of greatest efficiency? Maybe curves are inefficient, wasteful even, but they do something to me something "Mother Earthy". Maybe they are reminders of the pre-Classical influence in Britian, bronze-age potato plots. Maybe it's something to do with the cyclical nature of nature, of times and seasons, of orbits, of rhythm of day and night, life and death. I could arty-fartify these plots of ground, but I won't, they just sort of look good.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

... crop circle No 4 ... bark chippings and a blob ...

What a baeautiful day. Bright and frosty start, perfectly still, blue skies and damp ground. Started digging the biggest circle to date - 6 paces in diameter - at 10am and completed it by 12pm. Then used the bark chippings from the felled black poplars to create pathways between the beds. By 1:30pm the paths were complete and I was ready for a meal with the fry-up boys, Matty & Olly.

Handy conversation with Frank who was tidying up the chrchyard nextdoor. He remembers this land when it was farmland and has useful hints on what we can reasonably expect.

By 3:30pm the sun was below the roof-top skyline and frost was re-setting itself. By then I had outlined and dug the first turf layer of a blobby shaped bed - it just seemed to suggest itself!

Finished the day by using spare turf to fill in a dip in the ground that fills with water when it rains.

Next will be a bed near to the kitchen for herbs.

Total cost to date £0. Bring on more days like this.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

... another crop circle ...

2 hours of turf stripping and turf laying and we have another crop circle - this one the biggest yet at about 6m in diameter (actually it's 6 paces - they are easier to do than fiddle about with a tape measure).

So we have 3 circles awaiting digging and manuring and de-rooting. The ground was, until recently, in the shadow of a very large black poplar and its roots are a spider's web beneath the turf layer. Mercifully they have begun to shrink and are easily snapped and disposed of.

The plan for the rest of the year is to focus our energies on 4 celebrations a year, the solstices and equinoxes. On 21st December we will be getting as many friends together as possible to bless, dig and manure our plot.

... circular beds ...

Of course it sounds silly, after all the world has used straight lines and right angles since the Romans became obsessed with them ... but ... we thought curvy things look better ... and anyhow they are easier to mark out and measure.

Eventually we aim to have about 10 of these. The entrance is 2 logs from some black poplars that were on their last legs ... wide enough for a wheelbarrow - comfy enough for a bum and a cup of tea.

After Vegetable Heaven (aka Flummery) suggested that our circles reminded her of Lesotho key-hole gardens I did some research ... click the pic for more.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

.. here we go again ...

Having been buoyed up by gardening success at the school I work at, and Hull City's amazing rise up the Premier League, my spirit's are high and we (Liz, Fiona, Andy, Ella, Johnty & Olly) are about to embark upon another plot from a first scratch.

This time it's a huge space. A section of a lawned garden big enough for 4 tennis courts (there used to be one in one corner) - that's lawn over boulder clay though. Still it responds well to a spade and a fork. Have decided with other housemates to dig a series of circular beds (no particular reason). Stripped turf on Sunday last and made turf walls around the beds. Looks really cool. Have Community Service type restorative-justice help coming this week! The pic shows about half the space.

The garden is part of a vicarage on the Bransolme Estate in Hull. Vicarage has been empty for a long while and the church agreed to allow us in and look after the place and do our community thing. Since we've been here only 1 break-in. The property doesn't have a gate so security could be an issue!

The plan for this year is tons of spuds to encourage virgin gardeners to keep at it by providing them with a mountain of Inca gold to fry into chips.

Really great pics to follow soon (I'm tending to go to work in the dark and return in the dark at the mo).