Digging and Weeding

This morning was a total wash out. Really heavy showers and high winds which saw me curl up on the sofa and watch the Olympics until it stopped. After lunch there were signs of a break in the rain so I grabbed my keys and ran down to the plot.

Releasing the Weed Destroyers, I pottered around the two big coops, giving out treats and checking on water and food levels. Fortunately, Dora wasn’t in the nest box so I successfully collected the eggs without risking life and limb! It was still dry and there was a hint of the sun breaking through the clouds. Casting around, I decided it was time to do the dreaded weeding. Every year I promise myself to weed a little each day to ensure the weeds don’t take over. Yet every year, usually by July, the weeds are four foot tall and completely covering the plot.

The upside of all the recent rain is that the ground has softened enough that weeding is possible. Baked clay soil is impossible to weed as it turns to concrete. If you are brave enough to try to hoe it, the hoe bounces over the surface and goes nothing. Weeding by hand isn’t much better as all you end up doing is snapping the tops off, leaving the roots. But today was the sweet spot for weeding, the soil was moist enough to use a hoe, yet not a sodden quagmire. I quickly ran the hoe over the middle beds, pleased at the result. Inspired to continue, I ripped out the borage by the willow arch. It was so big, it had fallen over and looked really untidy. Once it was all out, I used the hoe and although it could do with some more work, it’s clear for now.

Pausing for a drink in the shed, I pondered whether I could dig over the ground where the Omlet coop had been before the looming black clouds came over. Challenge accepted! As I pulled up the pegs that keep the fox proof skirt in place, I noticed that the run had an unexpected visitor in it. It was a young pigeon. No tags on the legs so clearly not a racing pigeon but nonetheless, it shouldn’t be in the run. Trixy appeared and shouted at it but the belligerent bird refused to move. In fact, it only moved when I began wrestling the run to the other side of the plot. Pausing to check on the feathery trio, I found them all sunbathing on the patio in front of the shed.

Within minutes of starting to dig, the sun was fully out and I deposited my jumper on the table. Fifteen minutes of hard work later, it was done. Putting the run back in place was easy enough but attaching it back to the nest box was not so straight forward. After ten minutes of swearing furiously at it, I realised the freshly dug soil wasn’t level. There was the source of the difficulty! Seconds of work with the spade and it was all done. Weirdly, the chickens took themselves into the run. Usually, I have to corral them. But chickens are also extremely nosey and love shoving their beak into anything that interests them. Three happy chickens spent the next half hour digging and dust bathing.

My final job was excavating the crazy paving underneath the willow arch. Initially, I put the paving in to try to limit the flooding on that side of the plot. It didn’t really work but it’s a nice feature especially now the bench and arch are there too. However, the gaps between the slabs were full of weeds and the soil from the front of the beds had spilled over, covering the top four inches. Kicking back the soil, I eventually found the edge of the paving. Now for a different way of removing the weeds. I pulled out as many as I could but it’s hard to get all the roots. My parents have experimented with using white vinegar on their patio with great results. I grabbed my phone and messaged my husband asking him to pick some up after work. Always assuming the rain isn’t back tomorrow, I will give it a thorough soaking. It’ll probably need several treatments but I am hopeful it will not only kill off the weeds but also clean the slabs!

Hilariously, as I sat taking a break, I had a message from a colleague. She brought her two daughter’s down to the allotment to see the chickens and pick some rhubarb on Monday. The girls were absolutely taken with the bantams and on the way home, hounded their mum about getting chickens of their own. Apparently, I was in big trouble with both my colleague and her husband! But who could say no to chickens? Especially gorgeous little bantams like Roxy, Foxy and Trixy? I suggested she bring the girls down next week and they could clean out the Omlet to see the less glamorous side of chicken keeping!

So tomorrow, I plan to treat the crazy paving, get some autumn crops in to the newly weeded beds and do some more weeding (just for a change!).

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