Look Out Gardeners’ World: Dad’s Polytunnel Revisited

Following the huge popularity over my previous post on the topic of Papa Bennett’s polytunnel/allotment (Dad’s Polytunnel), I decided to drop on by to give an update on how things were progressing as of October 2020.

Papa B was busy at the time I wanted to film this, so I didn’t have his services to help document the changes. But still, it’s only a couple of plants, how hard can it be?

Yeah. I think the cat had a better idea of what was going on (and she’s a cat).

Thankfully, Mumma B showed up to provide from subtle guidance. And you know my Mum, she was incredibly patient and by no means frustrated by my lack of knowledge…

I think we can agree that going forward we’d be better off asking the cat to tend to the plants.

That said, at least the raspberries are coming out alright (Papa B asked me to include this as proof he can grow more than six. Sorry, Dad).

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Dad’s Polytunnel

At the age I am, never did I expect to be contending with a new rival for the love and attention of my father. But then never did I expect to be on my second glass of midweek wine while I wait for my dinner, chicken nuggets and chips, to cook in the oven. We all make surreal life choices.

My dad’s got a new polytunnel out the back. Mum says it’s a monstrosity, I say it’s because we’re on lockdown but dad says it’s something he’s always wanted to do since Autumn (when one of his customer’s mentioned it to him). So that’s all that matters.

One of the agreements dad made with mum was that he’d place the tunnel somewhere out of view from the back garden. After a lot of ‘discussion’ this was the agreed spot, although mum still moaned that you could see it from the Dovecot patio. Mum didn’t get why I was laughing, and then I then took this photo and laughed even more.

Polytunnel in the Field

Quite literally the most middle class, Cotswold, fiasco to happen since…well, ever.

Dad had the tunnel delivered days before the UK lockdown (23rd March 2020) and then two weeks’ later had a further delivery of wood to build up the raised beds inside. He proudly claimed he was doing a good job of self-isolating, whereas I pointed out making other people deliver water irrigation systems and bamboo poles for his new hobby was, once again, another very middle class response to avoiding non-essential travel.

I’ve commented that it looks more like the pop up hospitals they used for Ebola cases back in 2016 and from that mum has decided it’s going to serve as a self-isolation unit if anyone, aka dad, gets sick.

Not like he has a problem with hanging out down there at the moment, he’s gotten very much into planting his seeds and herbs.

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Mum’s justification of the self-isolation polytunnel was further heightened when dad took power and water down to it, making it easier for him to grow produce without having to traipse up and down the length of the garden to utilise the outdoor water tap. The raised borders were completed shortly after that and seed-planting followed swiftly afterwards.

Here is a tour of the polytunnel I made dad do.

The cats have yet to make a formal decision on where they stand with the large tube of plastic in the back field. Given what we know him to be like, I’m convinced Bubble sees the whole thing as a 5-star, deluxe toilet facility. Glastonbury VIP++

Bubble in Polytunnel

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The polytunnel must have been up about a week when mum charged into the dining room to disrupt me in the middle of writing.

‘You have to see what your father is doing with the polytunnel!’

‘What?’

‘You have to go and see!’

I sighed. ‘Right, better go get some shoes on I guess. Not like I was focusing on something else. If I go all the way out there and find it’s nothing…’

‘You have to go and see!’

‘Yes, I got that part. Goodness me.’

So I made my way all the way down to the back field and found dad was digging a trench. The polytunnel wasn’t enough it seemed, he’s now growing raspberry canes as well.

‘Don’t you want to get up and running with all the things you’ve go planted already, dad?’

‘I’ve always wanted raspberries. My father used to grow them when I was a child.’

‘Right. It’s just you’ve already got a lot on the go here, the polytunnel is twice the size mum thought you were buying…’

‘When I have my massive bowl of raspberries I’ll remember you said that!’

‘Well…’

‘Have you seen what your father has done, Alice?!’

‘Hi mum. Well yes, I’m standing by it.’

I took a photo of Squeak sat by the narrow trench and looking in a similar way to how I felt about the whole situation.

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And then the slugs came. Downside of trying to be an ecowarrior (and a little bit too proud) with his compost heap, dad’s version of compost came invested with delightful little balls of slime. Shortly afterwards I found myself making hacking up in my car to the convenience store in the next village to procure a bottle of beer as part of my essential food shop. I was more than willing to help, that was until I found him drinking more of the beer than actually using it to kill slugs.

‘This is surprisingly good stuff for cheap beer! How much was it again?’

‘£1.60.’

‘Oh, you shouldn’t have got it then.’

‘The instruction I got was “please get beer. It’s urgent.”‘

‘No worries, thanks anyway.’

‘…Can you please drink something else?’

Mum once made the fatal mistake of telling him that Tesco used to stock a four-pack of canned beer for £1.00, but now can’t been found on shelves for love or money. Dad occasionally laments the fact that Covid-19 has stripped him of his supply of slug trap booze, making him in a unique position of being able to relate to the average park bench boozer.

Slug traps are still ongoing, with more surreal contraptions coming in the post everyday courteously of eBay. If this economy has any chance of survival then it’s through my dad’s endless purchase history of online shops (in comparison, my grand total of spend equates to a set of new books and a couple of reusable face masks).

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Mum has given dad a strict two year lease on the polytunnel, if after that time the venture has been a complete failure or dad stops taking an interest in looking after his produce then the whole thing has to go.

It sounds tough, but given my sister and I have fond childhood memories of trying to salvage his dead salad plants from growbags you wouldn’t blame us for being a bit sceptical of his latest venture. He also once bought a rotisserie from a late night shopping channel which never got used. We love him dearly but he’s the biggest impulse buyer in a household containing three women.

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I personally feel that this is very much linked to him being forced to stay at home and needing a hobby to keep him busy. I’ve told mum she shouldn’t complain as much, as him doing this outside means less time of him around the house. I told her it worked for Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice, after all.

Course, whether dad would be as equally understanding if I’d announced I was spending hundreds of pounds on creating an allotment at this very moment in time, I’m less sure. But heck, if nothing else if gives him something to do and countless hours of laughter from me as it winds mum up.

Long term I guess we will all just have to wait and see…

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Mess With My Garden, Mess With Me. 

It’s a gloriously sunny day in the fair town of Swindon, Britain. The temperatures are scorching, children are playing about on the lush green communal lawns and there are men walking around topless who really shouldn’t be. So why do I find myself ripping my hands to shreds as I tug away at weeds and vines in my garden?

Crawling under my front hedge to pick up pieces of rogue rubbish, putting together an outdoor table and realising at the finish line I’d screwed one part upside down and thereby having to start all over again. When I bought a house they did no tell me this is how I would spend my finite time on Earth. My government sold me a lie! Damn you Teresa May!

As I look at my patio garden, now with correctly assembled three piece dining set, I acknowledge that to some the small outdoor space would hardly pass as acceptable. The fact that despite the owner’s hard efforts, vine and weed sprouts are already starting to poke through the wicker fence would be inexcusable. There is no water feature or decorative sculpture, no plants and excluding the weeds there isn’t a speck of green. Not a single blade of grass can compete with the paving stones which stretch from the back door to the boarder of my territory. In fact it could be said that the only characteristic feature of the plot is the clothes horse proudly plonked in the centre to catch as much light as possible. As I type my floral duvet in ruffling ever so slightly in the near still breeze. Foliage will make an appearance eventually, as soon as I have the money to buy pots, soil and greenery which requires zero attention to look fabulous. (As I reread that I realise that basically I’m asking to plant a tub of weeds…)

And yet do I care? Pfft, of course not! Because although it’s not perfect and it’s not a 20 acre meadow, it’s mine. Who wants perfect? Who wants to battle a wild meadow on their weekends just to use it as a five minute conversation piece at dinner parties? Not me. You can keep all that, I’ll take my perfectly small, perfectly improve-able garden. It’s not ugly but a work in progress.

It may not be full of colour, bees and landscaped features but it’s mine and that makes it more attractive than any one blossom in your garden. You mess with my garden, you mess with me and my poorly constructed table.

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Written in response to Daily Prompt Blossom

Five Minute Review: The Garden In The Clouds by Antony Woodward

Five minutes, one book, one review.

The Garden in the Clouds by Antony Woodward is an autobiographical novel depicting the author’s move from London to the Welsh borders. Woodward’s narration of events takes the reader down the rocky journey he personally experienced in his attempts to get his five-acre plot into the famous National Gardens Scheme (alias ‘the Yellow Book’).

Whilst this book is humorous and light hearted, you get a strong feeling of the inner frustration, difficultly and financial resources ploughed into what I personally thought was a rather unattractive house and garden to start with. I felt the author’s London background resulted in a writing style that overly romanticised country life to a point where it sounded like all rural folk are cheery, friendly people, happy to assist with demolished walls caused by clumsy urban folk wanting a taste of ‘the good life’. I’ll save you the trouble of finding out for yourself, we’re not.

This was a nice little read when sat in the bleakness of January, but I wouldn’t view The Garden in the Clouds as a particularly inspiring tale. It paints a sickly, unrealistic, image of rural life that has not existed for fifty years. Woodward’s need to become ‘at one’ with the landscape seemed so stereotypical you’d think he’d Googled ‘country life’ and adopted all the hobbies that came up on the listing. The National Garden’s Scheme, using a vintage tractor to make hay, keeping bees, in fact all that was missing was sheep farming (unfortunately his neighbour beat him to that one). If I was him I’d have saved myself the time, money and stress and bought myself somewhere in the South of France.