Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bush Gardener: Three Months Down the Line and Everything's Fine

Emlyn Leisure GardensWell it's been a while hasn't it!

Easter has long been and gone, Wills and Kate tied the knot and Wimbledon fever is a mere three weeks away!!

The 2010/11 football season ended yesterday afternoon with Swansea completing their remarkable rise from bottom of the basement division to the Premiership.  Another team that we used to regularly lock horns with has long since passed us by!

Brentford's season ended almost a month ago with us safely nestled in mid-table.  The improved from under Nicky Forster continued and us Bees fans can look forward to another League One campaign come August.

Emlyn Leisure GardensAll I'm going to say about the JPT final is that it featured another classic Brentford choke.  That's five finals, five defeats for me now!

Away from Griffin Park, the allotment has really started to take shape.  At the start of March it looked as you'd expect a plot that had been untouched for six months to look and there was plenty for me to do to get it into a decent state.

A trip to Hanger Lane Wickes left me a hundred quid lighter but I returned home with all the garden tools any wannabe gardener could ever need!

Less than forty eight hours later, while Brentford were getting spanked 3-0 up at Hartlepool on 5th March, I was digging, hacking and raking my way to a much neater and tidier looking plot.  I met Alexis, my left-hand neighbour, and we had a good chat.  I've only seen him once since then!

Emlyn Leisure GardensThe soundtrack to the afternoon was the QPR v Leicester match and a massive cheer at around 16:45 told me that those pesky Hoops had scored a late winner.  I didn't really expect to be able to hear the crowd so clearly, must have been an easterly wind I suppose, so much for a Saturday refuge!

With the plot cleared it was now just a case of waiting for the weeks to pass until I could start to plant and sow.

During the wait I ordered a small storage shed.  Certainly not an essential purchase but I knew it would save having to cart the tools in the car every time I wanted to head down to the allotment.  Mum gave me a small food waste box for home so that I could start to fill up the composter.

Sarah wasn't too keen on having this in the flat but I've been pretty good at emptying it at least once a week so the fly infestation she insisted would occur hasn't materialised.  In fact she seems to have got into the habit of putting in the fruit and veg peelings.  What a good girl ;)

Mid-April arrived and the plating and seed sowing began.  With Sarah going ooop north for Easter we decided to get everything in the weekend before.  We filled two thirds of the totally empty plot with potatoes and here is a little map of the plot that already had the raspberries and two artichoke plants.

The shed had been delivered a couple of weeks before but I waited until the Easter weekend to put it up.  Mum, dad and little sis came across on Easter Sunday and we built it during the course of the afternoon.  As is the way, it took a bit longer than expected to construct but we got it done and rewarded ourselves with an Easter Sunday BBQ.

Since then there have been a few more additions to the plot.  Sarah brought back a courgette seedling from Bury and my cousin bought me a rhubarb crown.  Earlier in the year I potted up some seeds from a bell pepper and a butternut squash.  These have gone in and so far they are doing OK.

I weatherproofed the shed with wood preserver over the royal wedding/May Day weekend.  The tin says the recommended three coats I gave it should last five years.  I'm not convinced!

Emlyn Leisure Gardens
In the the past month there has been an amazing amount of growth.  The potatoes have really shot up and the onions and peas are also doing well.  In fact the dry weather has meant that everything has had a really good start.  The only down side is of course that it also means the weeds, especially the dreaded bind weed, grow at a ridiculously fast pace.  The recent cooler and wetter weather has been a welcome arrival although I'm not sure anyone wanted last Thursday's hail storm!

Emlyn Leisure GardensLast weekend we went down and I planted a second courgette seedling, it's a TW7 v BL8 courgette-off ;), while Sarah built a cane frame for the peas to grow up.  Three tomato seedlings also went in so that might be the end of the planting for now.

We brought home our first harvest, around 150g of raspberries and the first crop of radishes.  They might not have been Class 1 supermarket quality radishes but they certainly tasted like a radish should.

So that's a potted three month history of plot E4.  I won't leave it three months before my next update.  If only because it's taken bloody ages to write this one!!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Bush Gardener: There's a lot of Work Ahead at the Allotment!

Emlyn Leisure GardensWell over four years ago I joined the waiting list for an allotment in LBHF.  An article on the BBC (it might even have been this one) talking about a surge in allotment popularity sparked my interest and I began looking into where I might find one around Shepherd's Bush.

Being sat in front of a computer all day at work, it didn't take long for me to find out about the W12 based Emlyn Leisure Gardens Association.  One of only two allotment sites in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Based on the site of an old railway line (there'll be another post about that at some point) just west of Askew Road on the Ealing, LBHF and Hounslow borders they were perfectly located for a keen local.

Emlyn Leisure GardensAfter an initial inquiry, I realised that I wasn't going to be growing my own fruit and veg. anytime soon.  With only 86 plots, the waiting list was pretty long with residents without access to a private outdoor space being given priority.  Still, I qualified, so I sent back my application form and waited, and waited, and waited!

Every so often I wondered whether my name was making its way up the waiting list and then out of the blue last Friday I got a call from Catherine, the plot coordinator of the Association, asking me if I was still interested in having one.

It didn't take me long to deliver a resounding 'yes' and we arranged to meet last Saturday at 11:00.  I was chuffed.

Emlyn Leisure GardensTypically the weather was pretty miserable as I made my way west along Uxbridge Road.  Something I'm going to get rather used to over the next few months, years, etc. I expect!  I arrived just after 11:00, Catherine was easy to spot in her bright yellow coat, and after the standard introductions I had an induction of sorts.

I was shown how to lock/unlock the gate and had to demonstrate that I was up to the task.  Having safely negotiated this first hurdle I was briefed about some general rules and regulations (always lock the gate, wheel barrow storage, blah, blah, blah) and then I was taken to the first available plot.

I was quite surprised at how big it was but then Catherine said it was about a quarter of a standard allotment plot!  I started to wonder how Carolyn, the girl who sits behind me at work, copes with three full sized plots at Duke's Meadow.  It's no wonder her courgettes turn into marrows with all the work she must have to put in!  I was also shown a smaller plot but thought I might as well plump for the larger one. 

Emlyn Leisure GardensHaving made my choice I was taken to the lovely little pavilion where I filled in the necessary forms, received a 17 page (A5 thankfully) rule book and was handed a brand new key for the front gate padlock.

We had a nice chat about the history of the allotments and I was able to unleash my inner geek to talk about the old railway line (called the North & South Western Junction Railway if you're interested!) that used to occupy the site and also the subterranean Stamford Brook which was culverted many years ago and runs underneath the allotments.  Esther (the chairwoman, eeek!) mentioned that there is a blowhole on one of the plots that sometimes erupts when the amount of water entering the old Brook gets too much for it to handle.  It's a very rare occurrence but I so want to see that happen!  The sight of some an unsuspecting chap or chapess getting an absolute soaking would be priceless.

There are BBQ facilities which Sarah was very happy about and various events that are open to friends and family so hopefully I'll be able to entice a few people down to help me with the growing and, fingers crossed, harvesting of whatever I decide to grow.

With Brentford being away at Hartlepool this weekend I'm going to make a start on clearing the ground and measuring up for the raised beds I'm hoping to put in.  I can already see that there is going to be a lot of work ahead.

For now I'll leave you with a few more photos of the little haven that will be keeping me busy over the long summer nights...I'm so excited!!

Looking south from my plot:

Emlyn Leisure Gardens

Looking north from the pavilion:

Emlyn Leisure Gardens

Looking south from the pavilion

Emlyn Leisure Gardens

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blue Monday, Grey Brentford

I really didn't feel like going to watch Brentford last night but I still hopped on the 237 for the 25 minute journey from W12 to TW8.  I could have taken the car but naively I though we might have a decent crowd and didn't fancy hunting out a parking space in the tight back streets around Griffin Park.

As it turns out just over 3,000 were in the ground to witness the second 1-1 draw against Exeter City in 72 hours.  Monday night, a wet wet night and game on Sky, three contributing factors to a pitiful attendance but I think it also shows that at the moment there is real apathy between fans and the club.  Ok it's 'only' the JPT but we are in the area final, a two legged affair that sees the winners play at Wembley so surely we can do better than a crowd of 3,093!!

The GPG is always a good barometer to how Bees fans are feeling and there are plenty of people on there calling for a change in manager.e  I'm not one of them but I can se why people are frustrated and believe the only way we can move forward is with a new man at the helm.

Performances, especially at GP haven't been very good.  We lost just two league games at home last season whereas we've already lost four this time round.  We haven't got going on our own patch this season and, truth be told, if it wasn'tfor the remarkable run of five straight away wins across October/November/December we'd still be in trouble around the foot of the table.

Personally my appetite for football has been on the wane for a while but this season I'm even even more disaffected than usual.  Some of it stems from the World Cup and England's dismal showing but I'm a club before country man anyway so that really can't have had much on an impact.

As I'm sure Sarah will atest I do get upset, frustrated, pissed-off (often all three at the same time) when Brentford loose but what I am able to do is shrug it off a lot quicker than in years gone by.  Nobody wants their team to loose but with age comes maturity (apparently!) and a realisation that a Brentford defeat isn't as big an event as it once was.  There's always another game around the corner so the boys are back out on the pitch a few days later which brings with it opportunity to get back on track.  In any case we loose so many games that if I did let each defeat get to me I'd be in a state of constant despair!!

Of course as you get older priorities change but I've still got a season ticket so am as committed to watching Brentford as ever but over the years going to games has become less about the football and more about catching up with mates over a few beers.

In recent years the lads who used to be regulars with me at GP have got married and had kids so we don't get to see each other as often as before.  This means that a typical Brentford matchday involves turning up at five to three for 90 minutes of often uninspiring football and then heading straight home.  Still, it not as depressing as 2007/08 when I really was the last man standing of my lot for most of the season.

I want going to Griffin Park to be a an exciting and uplifting experience like it was a five or six years ago.  Maybe it will take a change of manager to make this happen, maybe it won't but I'll be a regular on the 237 for a long time to come.

Perhaps I'm suffering from a hangover of Blue Monday but whatever it is I hope it doesn't last too long.  A win at Oldham on Saturday would be the perfect tonic.