The Land Rover Owners Ex Wife

……becoming me again

Shifting, lifting and sifting


With the sun shining and temperatures reaching a heady 8 degrees, yesterday had been a perfect day for gardening and there is nothing more frustrating to a gardener, in my opinion, than having a perfect day and either not having the time to spend on jobs that need doing, or having  nothing that actually needs doing at that time.
To views of the same broad bean seedling

To views of the same broad bean seedling

Luckily for me I have two gardens to manage and although my own requires little doing to it at the moment, the same could not be said of the school patch and so, I gleefully grabbed my trowel and favourite gardening gloves and headed round to the school for some much needed garden therapy.

The first job was to refill the large half barrel planter I had emptied and moved during half-term.

A few years ago, the school had acquired five enormous half barrel planters which, I believe, had been supplied at that time as part of a ‘grow your own potatoes’ scheme. In the years since the barrels had arrived, the local pre-school has taken up residence in the Foundation area of the school. Unfortunately the planters were situated in the play area of the Foundation unit and the top edge of the wooden slats were at toddler head height and so the decision was made – the barrels had to go. This was a bit of a blow, as last season I had used the planters to grow mini sweetcorn, potatoes and tomatoes in.

Half barrel now planted with strawberry plants

Half barrel now planted with strawberry plants

The first two were relatively easy to empty and shift as they only contained a small amount of sand. That said they were incredibly heavy and I ended up borrowing Muds’ trolley to move them off the premises and even then it was a struggle. Also, knowing what to do with these huge planters was a real problem. We didn’t want to burn them (the village bonfire was just around the corner) but we certainly didn’t have room for all five!

Then it dawned on me. Was it only the proximity of the barrels to the tiny toddlers that was the problem? Could I move the other three into the school allotment and use them as additional growing space there? A quick inquiry and, yes, that would be acceptable. Result!

It has taken me a couple of months to move the remaining three as each one has taken 2 hours to empty, barrow the soil to the new location, move each unbelievably heavy barrel  (which had to be rolled on its’ side ) to the new location and then refill them.

Ready for planting, newly dug over raised beds and filled half barrel

Ready for planting, newly dug over raised beds and filled half barrel

Despite the awkwardness of trying to roll a heavy, tapered half barrel (they don’t roll in straight lines), I would have to say that emptying the barrels was by far the worst part of the job. The soil in them was solid, almost clay like and there were huge rocks which my spade kept finding with bone jarring accuracy but a positive is that now that the soil has been ‘out’, it is much looser and I have layered the refilling of the soil, with spent grow bag compost, chicken manure pellets and fish blood and bones. It has then takes me a week or so to recover from the muscle aches, scrapes and bruises resulting from each, individual relocation.

I have already planted the first one up with strawberry plants and the second one is located next to some railings and should prove a good place to grow beans. The final one I have located right in the middle of the raised beds, placing it strategically to cover the large dip that I fell down last summer, spraining my ankle in the process. This one will be home to carrots this year.

Newly thinned out broad beans in triangular raised bed

Newly thinned out broad beans in triangular raised bed

So with the last barrel moved and filled, I was able to turn my attention to the remainder of the raised beds. One still had a few weather beaten leeks in it and these were soon in the composter. Next was a liberal scattering of chicken manure pellets and fish, blood and bones which I then dug in and raked over. Two other beds got the same enrichment treatment.

The smallest of the beds had been planted up in October with broad bean seeds. The plan was for the beans to act as a green manure whilst, hopefully, providing an early spring crop of baby broad beans. The gardening club children had sowed the beans quite close together to allow for pigeon, mice and weather damage but virtually all of them had come through and so I needed to thin the seedlings out. I don’t like thinning out! It’s one of my least favourite job and I invariably thin out and replant the seedlings somewhere. I just can’t bring myself to dispose of perfectly viable plants.

Newly transplanted broad beans

Newly transplanted broad beans

Luckily enough, the broad beans Middle Mudlet and I had sown in one of our raised beds back in November time, hadn’t germinated, probably due to a mixture of mice and bad weather and so I carefully dug out every other seedling, 8 in total, and (with permission) brought them home for replanting into my own vegetable patch.

I always feel revitalised after an hour or two in the garden, especially if I’ve had to do heavy duty jobs such as soil shifting and digging and so tapping into the energy generated by the sunshine and fresh air, I decided to make the girls a little treat for their packed lunches.

Freshly baked  fruit bread

Freshly baked fruit bread

Of course I could have made something relatively simple such as buns or scones but instead opted for yet more hard work and made fruit bread which they both love. I have to say though that the kneading of the bread was very nearly my undoing, using up pretty much the last vestiges of energy and strength in my arms. The result was worth it though (it never pays to skimp on the kneading element of any sort of bread making) and, thankfully, as Mud had promised to make the girls his sweet chicken curry for tea, I had the night off …….. well except for having to wash virtually every pot, pan and dish we own!

2 thoughts on “Shifting, lifting and sifting

  1. You have been busy! I am not sure where about’s you are located, but I am too scared to plant any of our seedlings outdoors yet, we had a very hard frost last night, which did make for a sky full of stars which is amazing here as there is 0% light pollution so we see the lot!
    Funny how you have posted about the barrels as I was only moaning yesterday about the price of them, considering I live in Herefordshire, there should be plenty of them kicking about, but I expect most of them are still in use in old barns and sheds.

    The very first loaf I ever made was around 2 years ago, I added a little Rosemary and it turned out amazing. I was so proud. I had made bread in the bread making machines with the mixture from a bag, but nothing like making one from scratch in a tin in the oven. Never made one quite like that first loaf since.

    • We’re quite a bit further north than you but I wouldn’t generally be putting anything into the ground at this time of the year but these were sown back in October with the dual purpose of over-wintering ready for an early crop of baby beans (also beating the black fly I hope) and acting as a green manure.

      My Mother-in-law bought me a bread maker once – never did get the hang of it. I find bread making from scratch very theraputic.

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