Samhain 2022 on monsterinthecorner
for those prepared to get their hands dirty
Samhain 2022 on monsterinthecorner
Thunder & Lightening,,,very very frightening…
Mid October puts on an early Samháin display; darkens the noon sky and sends school children scattering. The Met Eireann weather warnings were accurate and precise. Today’s rainfall will be measured in inches rather than millimetres, the national watertable is now full to overflowing, and the monster’s measure is too sodden to tramp. The last of the Autumn Kings will be lifted as soon as it dries a little, and that will be that: all the beds emptied, all the drills cleared for another year.
We’ve managed to retrieve most of the old postings, but some, alas, could not be debugged. So we’ll move from here, and work on the legacy posts when the nights draw in. The clocks go back an hour Saturday week, and that means the allotment site opens on winter schedule. The last of the sunflowers and lupins have given up the ghost, and we’ve bedded the last of the muscari bulbs. Yellow wind warning and orange rain warnings result in a red flood warning. The monster’s measure though damp is watertight in every other ways…roll on the Samháin.
And for a few short days the meteorological elements seemed to have heeded our wish for by mid February the early spring bulbs had bloomed. Small patches of vibrant yellow trumpets dotted previously drab garden borders, and the muscari’s blind inflorescence began sallying forth from their spindly leaf crowns. In mid February there was still a lot of standing water on the monster’s measure. It still rained almost every day, but, we had hoped that the slowly rising temperatures and early spring crawl towards equinox would dry things out and that we would, at last, begin the annual cycle of sowing and growing on plot 31.
In mid February we had general elections in Ireland, and as a result a new Dáil; we had Irish whiskey on sale at 35,000 euro a bottle; bee populations were at last globally acknowledged as being in drastic decline and 50% of all fish in the oceans we were being told now contained micro-plastics. Mrs Dirtdigger purchased Cosmos and sunflower seeds on one of her garden centre shopping ventures and Dirtdigger himself was getting his hands dirty and looking forward to ‘not looking forward to’ the screening later in the year of Mr. Speilberg’s first foray into the Musicals genre with his particular take on the classic Westside Story. There were Primary contests on one side of the globe, just as there was a daily ding-dong in Hong Kong on the other side.
There was also now, notably more interest being reported in a new bug which was making its way from mainland China and was causing eyebrow-arch in Italy and France. While in China this bug/virus was still considered ‘distant’, or at least somewhat distant as it was still ‘over there’ so to speak, on the other side of the world. But only a few short days later cases were being reported in Europe’s heartland. The number of cases soon became catastrophe, and catastrophe and causality very quickly showed just how small a village modern day planet earth is become.
And before you could shake a stick at it, it was here.
Everything is changed; changed utterly. Old certainties are challenged, and established protocols and covenants rudely awakened. I don’t know what the German words for ‘social-distancing’ are, but until quite recently I dare say most Germans didn’t know either, or at least had little need to consider such a jargon concept. And just as I don’t know the French for ‘flattening the curve’ or the Italian and Portuguese equivalent of ‘r-value’ or ‘lockdown‘, regardless of cultural mother-tongues we all have had to learn a whole new language rapidly. I’ve heard children as young as five speaking of cough-etiquette and hand hygiene, just as I’ve heard other ten year olds explicate the conspiracy theory that this is and was a man-made disaster visited on western democracies by, well, well by someone else. And just yesterday Mr and Mrs. Dirtdigger’s seven and eight year old nephews spoke with almost unnerving erudite insight on the pro’s and con’s of social cocooning.
Everything changed, and is changed: schools and colleges have been closed for 5 months, and every non-essential retail, manufacturing and construction business was closed and many remain closed; anyone who could work from home has had to do just that, and in the first few week of this new aberrant reality every Thomas, Richard and Harold had to adapt to the imposition of a 2km travel restriction limit. Hundreds of thousands of people here in Ireland were suddenly out of work while globally tens of millions were confined to home with little to do with their new found time-on-hands but to listen to the grim reportage-stream and watch live images from Italian and Chinese cities at the epicentre of this global pandemic. Seven months later and little is changed. The only thing that has changed is the focal location. Everything changes, yet everything remains the same.
Our last full day on our plot prior to lockdown was March 15th .
We had only just begun with the season’s undertakings when on Sunday 15th we were informed that the allotment site was being locked down to comply with emergency statutory regulations. The St Patrick’s Day festivities were cancelled, the pubs were closing, and quite unthinkably even the churches were closing, so it came as no surprise that our allotment site would also be closed. The stark fact of a natural social distance with this pastime and hobby did little to persuade otherwise. On Sunday 22nd we were allowed access for 2 hours to put things in order, and that, as they say was that until the end of May. We could not access the monster’s measure for 10 weeks, that same 10 week period which turned out to be the brightest and driest spring and early summer period since 1837; the brightest driest period in 187 years.
The country may have been in enforced lockdown, but there was a silver lining in that while everyone was confined to their own backyards at least the sun shone brightly. By April 6theveryone bore unseasonably early summer tans, and had learned to settle for socially distanced garden bingo and karaoke sessions, while every slowly stretching April and May evening invited cold Peroni and pizza sessions al fresco.
When we returned to our plot on May 18th we were, not surprisingly, greeted with a scorched earth scenario: our kale was non-existent; our peas and beans had disappeared, and our onion sets were still, relatively sets. The beetroot and turnip seedlings were miniscule but at least we had seedlings, just as with the parsnip seedlings; sometimes there can be a benefit to notoriously slow germination rates. Our rhubarb stand was decimated. There is a reason why gooseberries and rhubarb are synonymous with Irish summers of yore, the reason being that they both thrive in generally cool and damp conditions, and this by and large is the general Irish summer experience. But this year they never stood a chance, and at May’s end they were practically invisible. Having spent an hour assessing and bemoaning the sad scene we rolled the sleeves.
Six weeks later and the monster’s measure is greened once more. Mrs Dirtdigger’s wildflower patch is way behind, but it is starting to colour up. The onions have bulbed-up, but given the early stresses during the lockdown-drought well over half of them are already bolted. We’ve had some strawberries, some raspberries and we’ve certainly had a very good blackcurrant crop from the Ben Lomands with our Ben Tirrians also bearing a reasonable crop for early August.
We have courgettes aplenty and cabbages of a latterly re-designated cultivar, Lazarus- the hint being in their name. There is also a potentially good crop of cucumbers and tomatoes, but still green and immature at present due to the fact that since 12th June we’ve had little or no sunshine. By mid June Irish summer weather had returned to normal. The daily temperatures have held at or above average but it has been quite dull and wet most of the last 5 weeks, and just this week we’ve sown next year’s lupin, foxglove and chive seed. Today being August 6th we are into the first days of autumn, and restrictions are being re-imposed. And that was that…the locked-down plotted and spiked allotment experience…
If ever we needed reminding that there really and truly are things more important than golf, or rugby or parades or foreign holidays or the local boozer or allotmenteering for that matter, well this year has helped put many things into a much needed perspective, and whilst stomping the monster’s measure is a much cherished pastime, we have another string to our bow which pays the annual con-acre ground rent, and that has afforded a frontline experience which the monster’s space helps balance. We are not out of the woods yet; not by a long, long way; and rather sadly a lot of people have already begun to ignore the trees.
We’ve made our jams and we’re planning our pickles.
As any crow or raven could tell you reality roosts easy when the trees are taken for granted. Our hope is that the only second wave we’ll experience is a late second flush in the monster’s autumn blush.
it has finally, finally dried out, and we’ve been able to get onto the monster’s measure. So we’ll be updating over the weekend, in the meantime a few pictures taken over the last number of days…
We’ve managed to build our replacement beds, and get our broad beans, parsnip seed and onions sown, so suddenly we don’t seem so far behind schedule. We’ll be updating the sowing diary also to reflect what we have sown to date. And so after have lying water on our plot for almost 10 weeks we once again have terra firma to work and cultivate…