Week one of the allotment: Paperwork and a dilemma

allotmentThis is it. A narrow of strip of newly ploughed field that now has my name on it. This view is from its end looking over towards to immaculately kept and long-established allotments which neighbour this little patch of virgin earth in the rather unpleasantly named Coffin Field. (I have been assured that, despite its relatively near promixity to the cemetery, the name comes from the field’s unusual shape rather than any earlier plantings.)

This being week one, the main achievement has been signing the tenancy agreement and handing over the first year’s rent – £10. In the paperless age, you may think this a task of minutes but no, it required a visit to the town hall, hand written forms and the issuing of a receipt along with a witnessed three page contract. They don’t just hand these things out like sweeties you know!

As you can see, there’s rather a lot of work to be done. On the right of the picture the neighbouring allotment holder has marked out the border between us so today, armed with some twine and some rather flimsy stakes I did similarly – and discovered that keeping straight lines with pieces of string is a skill I’ve never had the need to master before.

I also went up to my local garden centre and, now have a bag of seed potatoes just itching to get grown, and started investigating costs for a wooden edgings for beds. The need to portion off little, manageable bits of plot has also thrown up the first dilemma of allotment etiquette.

In a piece of the field which appears to be no-man’s land ie. no little stake to mark out a plot, there’s a small number of tatty planks, sort of sleeper size – ideal in fact for edging a bed. Are they unwanted? Can I just help myself? When I had an allotment in Fallowfield some years ago, planks like that were like golddust and there, all manner of oddities – from bits of roadworks to street signs – become veg patch edgings but I don’t know how it works here so atm, they remain in the mud for another day.

So far I’ve seen a couple of fellow newbies starting work – and it all looks pretty serious. From the chap with the tractor and trailer delivering a storage container to the fellows with a 4X4 and a trailer full of manure, they all look like they know their onions. And leeks of course.

After a flurry of hail saw me off the plot this afternoon, I’m returning to my current reading of Paul Waddington’s 21st Century Smallholder and Caroline Foley’s Practical Allotment Gardening around doing some online research of a suitable shed or container so that I can get started proper – one which falls within the permitted 6 x 4 space allowed for structures of course.

Why chefs should eat out

Quite simply so that they don’t serve this up.

Tempura vegetables. Not
Tempura vegetables. Not

I’ve never met the person responsible for producing this, but I’m pretty sure they don’t eat out much.

Anyone who has ever had tempura vegetables surely couldn’t send this out to a customer.

Battered veg with lashings of bottled sweet chili sauce would have been more accurate!

This lunchtime special from The Kings Head Hotel in Richmond is a world away from the Japanese delicacy where a light and lacy batter kisses and whispers across a flash-fried ingredient.

“Tempura embodies qualities Japanese cooks hold dear: fresh ingredients, precision cooking and beautiful presentation” as they say in Australia.

Sadly this dish of chunks of overcooked veg in a thick and greasy batter left me remembering a similar offering back in the days of the staff canteen of the Press & Journal where the cook treated me to a vegetarian kebab – complete with deep-fried battered Brussels sprout!

links for 2009-05-22