Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Welcome to the first page of the Bresnen family's allotment blog. This is intended to be a record of our adventures into the world of grow-your-own, self-sufficient, welly wearing allotment good life.

The Bresnen Family
Let me begin by introducing the Bresnen Family. I am Rob. I am considered the gardener in the family, because I grew some flowers in pots and I once grew potatoes quite successfully. I have lots of enthusiasm, but not much experience. My beautiful wife is Corinne. Her experience of gardening extends to cutting the grass and occasionally watering the pots. It's reasonable to say she is a fair weather gardener. Charlie is our son. He is eight, and is quite excited about the allotment. He wants to be involved in everything. How long this enthusiasm will last remains to be seen, but is highly commendable at the moment. Eleanor is four and is a very lively girl with Downs Syndrome. She doesn't like getting cold or getting her hands dirty. Or wearing a coat and gloves. I think its fair to say she takes after her mother in her preference for the 'nicer' aspects of gardening. She does, however, like vegetables and fruit. A lot.
Why do we want an allotment? Well there are a number of reasons: Firstly, it will get me out of the house. I work shifts and am often off in the week. I tend to spend my spare time messing about on the computer, you know, blogging and stuff (The irony of what I have just wrote was not lost on me). I often look back at the end of the day and think 'I wish I had done something constructive'; Secondly, it will give us something nice to do as a family that won't cost the earth; Thirdly, we want the children to know where their fruit and vegetables come from. So many children nowadays have become so detached from the source of their food that they think potatoes come in bags and have no idea if carrots grow under ground or on trees; Fourthly, it would be nice for us to know that our food had been grown with minimal chemicals and locally, to reduce the impact environmentally; Finally, it will hopefully save us a bit of money when it comes to harvest time.
Our Plot

We began our adventure six months ago, when, almost entirely on a whim, I put my name down for an allotment near our home. I promptly rushed out and bought some books on the topic then, as I didn't really expect to hear anything from the allotment's council for a year or so, as I was number thirteen on the list, I put said books on my book shelf in my garage to gather dust. Then I more or less forgot about it, except for when I was throwing potato peelings in the dustbin while thinking 'I wish I had an allotment so I could compost this!'

Then, a few weeks ago I got a call from Kevin, who is chairman of the Allotment's council, to see if we were still interested. Of course I replied that we were and sent my wife off to pick a plot (because I was at work). Then I dusted off the books.

The plot we have got is, in fact, a half plot, due to the demand for allotments locally. It is 22 foot by 39 foot, and positioned on a slight slope. The ground looks quite well drained compared to some of the plots further down the hill. It is thigh high with weeds, and hasn't been cultivated for some time.
The First Morning at the Allotment

We went down to the allotment at the week end. There were a lot of the allotment folk down there getting busy, and they were all very friendly. Some stopped to chat and give advice, which I was very grateful for, being such a complete novice.

We took a rake, with the intentions of raking of the dead weeds so that we could get a better idea of where we were starting from. I also took a hammer to break up some pallets to use the timber in a later project. Charlie took over raking off the weeds, remarking that it was "our allotment, not just yours." He was enthusiastic, but not very effective. I attacked the pallets, which despite being rotten, failed to come apart. Meanwhile Corinne and Eleanor wandered off to look at the bullocks in the field next door. By the time they came back I had removed three planks from the pallets and Charlie had cleared a section about a yard square. Then Eleanor fell over, had a moan about getting her new pink coat dirty and about being cold. Then we went home.
It wasn't the most successful start, but it was a start, and we leaned a few important lessons.
  1. Dress Eleanor in old clothes, not her best, brand new coat.
  2. Make sure we take snacks and things to keep Eleanor busy while we work.
  3. Make sure we take enough tools for everyone to get involved. Don't underestimate Charlie's enthusiasm.
  4. Don't use a hammer to dismantle pallets. Use a saw.
  5. We have got a lot of work ahead of us.

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