Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sunday in the garden - Life on Pig Row - Here on Pig Row we've had a quiet week


Here on Pig Row we’ve had quiet week, it has been a week without paperwork, building work, house work and due to the weather a week without gardening. I draw the line at gardening in rain that comes in sideways; I’m not averse to getting wet or working in the rain. However, when the heavens open in a way that sinks through your skin and down to your bones then it's time to take cover. There are only two times when it is not advisable to garden, when it rains like this and in a thunderstorm; a fork and spade are great conductors for lightning. 



Therefore, I dash for cover, hop over puddles and rivulets for the warmth and cover of the glasshouse. This is even better when this spurt of energy is rewarded with a boiling kettle, the clinking of cups, the pouring of hot water and the taking of tea followed quickly by the popping lid of a tin of assorted biscuits. There is often the discussion of which is the best biscuit as the rain drums on the roof. Is it the digestive or the chocolate digestive? Is it the childhood taste of jammy dodgers or cream custards? My wife brings in the thorny subject of shortbread and a heated debate rages between the empty plant pots, the strawberry nets and the tools we have saved from the rain. The debate is often cut short by Little D, who seeing that biscuits are on the scene and that we have left the tin open helps himself and quickly toddles to a corner laughing and cramming his face with a digestive. We have been saved the arguments on biscuits this week by the rain but Little D has still managed to show up as I write this with a fistful of digestive, still chomping, still laughing and still a mystery where he hides them. I doubt we will ever find out.

Though we have had a week of being indoors there has been a few chances to get outside. I have been trying to keep the birds off our strawberries and have turned to netting them. I worry that one morning I will go outside and find a bird tangled in it or a frog. This happened at our last garden, Drovers. The frog was still alive tangled in the plastic netting, I did save it and it did hop off happily. I would like to avoid netting but home made scarers made from CDs and bottles on canes don’t really cut the mustard with birds at this altitude. Being high on an exposed hillside is like a beacon for the all the birds of the area. You may as well open a restaurant if you don’t net. There have been successful attempts at bird scarers including Little D running up and down the fruit path with a wooden spoon and metal pan. The slap of his feet, the banging of the pan with the spoon worked wonders for a short while though the prevailing racket could be heard in Hull and Liverpool. However on Pig Row we do not advocate the use of child labour as it would be cruel to keep Little D out there in all weathers, plus it didn’t take him long to gnaw through the rope tethering him there.

We have to accept that netting is the best way forward if we want to see any of any of our strawberry harvest which we did tonight after Little D went to bed. I found two perfect strawberries beneath the nets and took them in for me and my wife to share, it was bliss, the fruit unlike anything you can buy in the shops. The best thing was that Little D wasn’t there to steal them though the pan and spoon have yet to reappear.


Andrew Oldham writes about gardening at Pig Row. Pig Row is split into three gardens, the fruit & herb garden, the allotment and the meadow. These gardens are spread over a quarter of an acre on top of the Pennines. Weather is not a problem there, it is a lifestyle. He has received no formal training in gardening. He ignored the gardening wisdom his father told him and opted to eat fresh peas straight from the pod. In his defence he was only six. He has learnt from his experiences of building several gardens from scratch and working an allotment. Andrew is an organic gardener and keeps chickens. His work has featured in The Sunday Times MagazineGrow Your OwnThe Cottage Gardener and on BBC Radio Four. He is an ex-BBC Journalist. He still eats most of the peas before they get to the kitchen but learnt to listen to his father.