23 April 2014


"You might think that the bigger gaps where soil meets bits of broken crockery would allow more water to filter through. But this turns out not to be the case, some argue. Guy Barter, chief horticultural adviser at the RHS, says a crock is actually likely to worsen drainage by creating a block. It's better to have a layer of sand underneath soil that will allow water to drain into it and later be sucked up by roots if needed. The only minor points in favour of crocks are that they might block drainage in hot weather, and also save money on compost. In most cases, people would be better off omitting them."

Alan Titchmarsh - Crocks

"Broken pieces of clay pot, which are used to cover the holes in the bottom of pots. The crocks help to stop compost blocking the holes and improve drainage. Stones, coarse gravel or large fragments of polystyrene are useful alternatives."

EDIT: from my friend Alexandra: The Myth of Drainage Material in Container Plantings:

It's a horse Cap'n!

Given that the snap Ofsted inspections of the Birmingham schools at the centre of the 'Trojan Horse' Islamic takeover of state education seem to have some credibility, I'm wondering why anyone is really that shocked or surprised. There are verses aplenty in the Qu'ran that direct its adherents explicitly towards achieving domination within any culture within which it finds itself.  The argument that the interpretation of the definite article and substantive pronoun in Arabic confine the meaning of those verses to a particular time or place, I don't find very convincing.

In any case most religions have their own fairly aggressive conversion tactics and stand in logical opposition to one another as purveyors of different 'truths.' Christianity certainly doesn't smell of roses in this respect. They all have a vested interest in brainwashing young minds, (don't tell me they don't - I went through it), so that their religion is promulgated through the generations.

Politicians from all parties seem to be foundering over this because they don't have coherent views on the murky relationship between state and religion.  So we have Jack Straw saying “The parents have to accept… that we also live in the United Kingdom and that alongside values that are religiously based, there has to be a clear understanding that this is the UK, and there are a set of values, that are indeed Christian based, which permeate our sense of citizenship.” 

David Cameron is likewise talking about the christian roots of our culture.  Apart from the fact that our roots pre-date christianity by thousands of years, it seems unhelpful to talk in these terms, as it further sets religions in opposition to one another without getting to grips with a proper solution viz - the decoupling of state education from religion altogether.

Also, there is nothing in Mr Straw's statement that obliges Islam to accept a secular status quo in state education, is there? Or the catholics or protestants or hindus or jews or sikhs or whatever other religion seeks to infiltrate the minds of our children.  It's the job of politicians.  Get a grip on it.

Hint:  The Academies program is not helping.


polychaete or bristle worm.  Been on the planet 200 million years longer than trees.

Ya Boo Sucks Aliens....

21 April 2014

the big baggini challenge

"I think your blog is absolutely brilliant! I’m contacting you from Silver River Productions, a TV company based in London. We are currently in production for a BBC2 primetime gardening show The Big Allotment Challenge’.

The series follows a handful of talented amateur kitchen gardeners as they transform a plot of earth into a patch of beauty....bla bla 

We are looking for contestants to feature in the series, those who have the skill and dedication and who could dig their way to victory and be crowned the winner of The Big Allotment Challenge.......bla bla bla....
 email grow@silverriver.tv for an application form"

My response was a tad blunt perhaps: "Cheers for the compliment. Not that interested in the TV show however: it's a bit like tacking a bit of gardening onto a reality TV show.... plus I've always found any competitive element to gardening a great big joke: a bit like comparing willys."

Julian Baggini has commented in the Guardian....

"It turns the allotment into a site of competition, when in essence they are all about solidarity and co-operation: sharing surplus crops, water troughs, tools and piles of manure. It also turns food cultivation into a kind of social display, reflecting allotments' transformation from symbols of low status to status symbols. They have become an important element in creating a certain identity as a grounded, Earth-loving soul. And in the modern world, whatever identity we seek, people find ways of selling it to us."

I don't think Julian watched Allotment Wars somehow.  While I agree with some of what he's saying, in my time on allotments I have seen petty disagreements turn into long standing feuds; power trips you would not believe; favoritism in allotment allocation; vindictive ganging up on plotholders; police being called to arrest a plotholder; theft; vandalism; racism: the list could go on and on. Yes, I have also seen, and increasingly do, thank goodness, co-operation, sharing, more transparency in governance and a better atmosphere all round.  But when he presumes to tell us what allotments are 'in essence', methinks he doth project overmuch, (which he is wont to do in his philosophical writings too I think.) Also, there is a certain irony in that Julian is part of the media 'click bait' culture that acts as a conduit for vast advertising revenues by deliberately farming out 'opinion' on an industrial scale for people to identify with, to be outraged by, to nod in agreement with, to be 'disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' about. 

He ends with, "The story of allotments could be seen as the story of western society in microcosm. First, we did what we needed to survive. Second, we acquired for the sake of acquisition, mindlessly consuming. Third, we turned to non-material goods but still bought them like good customers. Finally, perhaps we will come to enjoy what is good for its own sake. That would be a victory worth digging for."

I think it's a tad more complicated than that.

What does it mean..."we turned to non-material goods but still bought them like good customers?" 

Never mind eh, Julian.....a cheque will be arriving in the post shortly.

edgy stuff

 Replaced all the path edging in the greenhouse as the old stuff was rotten and fell apart.

Sometimes I get told off for not labeling things well enough.  It's true.  This year I hit on a cunning plan for when I run out of labels.  I get any old damaged plant pot and with the aid of a pair of scissors it turns into a useful pile of labels.

Do not buy B&Q own brand cheapo staple gun. They fall apart very quickly.  Mine did anyway so I took it back to B&Q and loaded a trolly with two bags of compost, took it to checkout and asked him to mark the staple gun off against the price of the compost.  'Ok, that'll be 2p,' he said. 'Only got a £20 note,' sais I. 'Get out of here,' sais he.  If you do that often enough you could get rich....but you would have an awful lot of compost.  

The Hanging Gardens of Bowerham......          

18 April 2014

Quercus at Kinnersley Castle

After patching up some very old cloth, looks like we will be playing the Monday night bal at the Kinnersley Spring Festival this May.  Maybe something on the Tuesday too, not sure yet. The full program of artists/events will appear here before too long I expect.

Party on dudes.

Here is Alio from mini Quercus (me Cathy & Jonathan) to be going on with.


The canal is silky smooth this morning and a misty moon hovers on the horizon.  No sign of Mr Blackbird.  Taking my guitar to work today as can't annoy anyone but me.  Boss is taking the piss this year: already worked Xmas and New Year and now Good Friday and Easter Monday too. Someone gonna have to pay.  Should be on the plot on a luvverly day like this.  Gnnn.

17 April 2014

state of play

I'm suddenly hearing stuff about the 'social contract' in the meedya again.  I never signed one, did you?  Nobody does.  You get born into a state.  Does that mean you signed a contract with it by default?  Plato thought so, and Socrates even died because of that.

I got lucky and got born in a time and into a state, (apart from the gooey stuff), that has been, relatively speaking, peaceful: one where social relations are, in a very broad sense, mostly just and fair.  I said broad and mostly, right? 

Plato reckoned people sign up to a social contract with their states by default. Unless they deliberately opt out, their agreement is taken as given.  Most stay within - even if they disagree with the bits, or lots, of their state that they don't like very much. they tacitly accept reciprocal responsibilities in the social arrangements for the supposed mutual benefit of all, for stability, for security and for whatever else. 

But it's not like you've got a lot of choice have you, or access to enough resources, to be in any position to get out of it and go it alone?  And it sort of begs the question: what stability, and is there good reason to endorse stability because it IS stable, or a status quo because it is 'traditional', or something? 

Maybe it is? The human cost of instability is huge.... think Ukraine, think Sudan, think of a zillion other places now, or in recent history.  And it always seems to come back to the question of 'what's the justification?'  I sort of agree with what John Rawls might mean by.... 

"The nature of a person's duty to abide by the law or social rules is a matter of a morality as it pertains to individuals, while the design and justification of political and social institutions is a question of public or social morality." (John Rawls - 1999).  

Except that I don't really know what all that means in practice.

Sometimes, a lot of times, I want to opt out of all this, because it's a freakin mess.  On the t'other hand, and despite all the fuck ups and my constant bitching about it, I quite like dentists and surgeons and anaesthetics and firemen and nurses (especially nurses), and roads and schools and teachers and allotments (love them), and very rarely, lawyers, and diminishingly less, hardly ever really, government, and all that shit. 

So sure, I could opt out a bit because I think I owe the state diddly squat.  But then the state owes me diddly squat in return.  And if I opt out with enough people to make up a viable going concern, well, bless my soul, pretty soon we've got ourselves a state, haven't we?  And for sure some bugger will want to opt out, sooner or later.  

shell game

Half a blackbird egg shell is lying on the path this morning.  Mr Blackbird is making a racket in the plum tree.  I hope this means that the chicks have hatched and the parents have been cleaning the nest out.

Mum and dad are often to be seen in the plum tree with tasty morsels dangling from their beaks watching that the coast is clear before flying up to the nest.

Forgot to take my breakfast to work.....:-(

16 April 2014

hug a chikkin day this sunday

cheery cherry

The cherry tree doesn't look too happy this spring.  The area around it has been grubbed up by the chooks and they might have annoyed its roots.  I've repaired the ground around it, filling in some of the holes, putting some more topsoil and compost down and re sowed the area around with grass and wildflower seeds, hopefully to attract some bees and butterflys and generally make a non cheery cherry cheery again.  Looks like I need to do quite a bit of that sort of repair work this year.

15 April 2014

ladybird therefore ?

She went along the branch, first this way, then that, like a novelist wondering where her story should go next. I watched her for a long time in the bright sun.

When you watch the natural world it's better to switch off your mind so it doesn't interfere with the experiencing of it too much.  That way you can really observe what is going on.  I don't think I would have made a good naturalist though: too impatient.

If law isn't based on evidence and fact and able to eliminate bias and preconceptions, it's not fit for purpose, is it?  It ought to be good enough to negate tricks like defendants spinning a situation to make them seem like a victim of everything and anything except their own self determined actions and choices.  Sadly, we are all prone to bias in our perceptions: only human it is.  I was thinking of the Pastorius trial and why the hell is it on our tv news every night?  Isn't it a little bit odd?  How does media/internet coverage influence the jury?  Does it?  Are they sheltered from it somehow?

14 April 2014

barrel blue

As well as the blue sky I put the blue barrel on stilts and put a tap and a hosepipe on it.  You can't do that with the sky.

Why would I do that?  Well, the allotment rooolz say I am not allowed to water the greenhouse with a hosepipe because it is against the rooolz and probably because we haven't had nearly enough rain this winter, and rooolz is rooolz, or something.  But I am allowed to fill the barrel with a hospipe.  So I put the barrel on stilts and attached a hosepipe and now I can fill the barrel with a hosepipe while simultaneously watering the greenhouse with a hosepipe that comes out the bottom of the barrel.  Cunning, neh?  One only needs to do this when we have a longish dry spell and when the hell does that ever happen round here?

I haven't found a flaw in this plan yet but I expect the committee will when they watch me put this deviousness into action.  I don't have a plan B.  It's good that rain doesn't come from the sky in hosepipes isn't it?  That would look awful.

blue sky

Had a lot to say about
The blue sky this morning.
Now I have nothing to say about it.
Anything I had to say about the blue sky
Became unimportant
The moment
That lovely bird
Soared across it.