Get it done!

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I have had my TGA Maximo for a couple of weeks now, I think it’s important that I name drop occasionally one it helps inform you the reader/watcher but secondly and probably more importantly, the more I use her, yes she’s a “her”, it is obvious that its no ordinary “mobility scooter” I think she’s possibly a transformer!

Ok, ok, I will be serious for a second, since I received her the weather has been rubbish, (watch my allotment videos you will see what I mean) we have had so much rain that the ground is sodden and I have been itching to get her down the allotment again but to be honest its not been pleasant being outside, let alone outside on a scooter.

This weekend we had a break in the weather and so I asked my fiancee if she would drop me at the allotment with the scooter. I had a plan in my head and wanted to see if it would work because we had some bark mulch delivered and any allotmenteer will tell you, bark mulch is gold!

I have been around the streets and across some relatively mediocre ground but the wetness of the allotment this week I knew would be a serious test. If she coped today then summer with dry cut grass will be a breeze!

So to the plan… Could I use my Maximon to help me with the bark?
I have always struggled with walking as I have written about before. so taking advantage of the free gold, I mean bark, is very hard for me. I can do one barrow load two at an absolute push then I’m done, for the day! Literally, in so much pain and cramps that I need to go home and sleep, then rest all the following day.

So I borrowed a garden trolly, I hooked it up to the rear of the Maximo and created a machine that Joseph Cyril Bamford would be proud of! I have to say it was an absolute dream, I managed to move 5 barrows of bark today with ease and still had some energy to do a few other small jobs as well as spend time out in the fresh air on the plot and with my chickens.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way… He who dares Rodney, He who dares!
Embrace your disability!

 

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Spring into… Adventure!

March is always a great time to be a gardener, it is when the earth begins to wake from her winter slumber and we get to start on our plans for the season ahead.

So far this march there has been very little sowing. The weather has been more like December and with a frost appearing most weeks most of my early sowings have died in a cold greenhouse or gone leggy on the window sills.

But I have been plodding along and everything is all set for when spring decided it wants to start properly.

What has been far more exciting is I finally have access to a mobility scooter. I have spent some time looking for scooters and as mentioned in a previous blog, I was very embarrassed by my condition

and found very little online aimed at people like me, young people who want to explore a bit more than the average over 60 mobility scooter user. I want to go to the allotment, get to my favorite fishing spots but be able to get the scooter in the car for family days out.

With so little info aimed at people like me, I decided that what better way than to start. So the advertiser in me got thinking…

There are reported to be 11 million disabled people in the UK, with a disposable income estimated to be worth £80bn to the UK economy.  1.7million being young working-age adults and with the way technology is developing I honestly believe there hasn’t been a better time to be a disabled people in terms of aids/adaptations to help improve our lives, don’t get me wrong I would rather not have a disability, but I do, it cant be cured and so I have come to realise that I need to embrace it.

So I wrote to various people and companies with my ideas and aspirations for a Vlog/Blog on my journey into the world of mobility scooters.

Cutting a long story short the lovely people at TGA liked my ideas and have loaned me a scooter. Now I know what you are all thinking. They pay me or control what I can write about. but they don’t. They even said to me they have no interest in any PR type reviews or recommendations, just get out use it and write about your adventures, in your own words. To be honest if any of you follow me on Twitter you can see I am defiantly not a “yes man!”

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The scooter arrived and the engineer taught me all the ins and outs of it and so I went for a spin around my street. I actually went to a park area, about 800m from my front door, that I have never been to before. I have lived here for 4 years and 800m away is unexplored ground, because I just haven’t been able to walk that far.

Now with a new found drive for adventure, I went to the allotment. Was a lovely spring day, cold and brisk, but to be out and about in the sunlight, hearing the birds singing was amazing. Traveling around streets and avenues I haven’t seen from “street level” since I was in my late teens, even scooting past peoples gardens, getting ideas for my own, was amazing. You miss so much detail driving past in a car.

This first journey jump-started my creative side again and made me realise I need to start taking my camera out again. I loved taking photographs of obscure objects, as a student I would photograph everything from pavements to churches, looking for that special shot, so when a friend called to say he was going to RAF Cosford museum and would I like to come I jumped at the chance to get out and take the camera.

 

Being able to explore RAF Cosford in comfort was lovely I packed the rucksack strapped it to the scooter and off I went camera at the ready.

I was obviously enjoying myself as by the time I got to the gift shop I realised id been in the museum for over 4 hours! There is no way I could have spent 4 hours on my feet, walking and taking photos but on the scooter it was fantastic.

 

I have such excitement for the year ahead now I have a scooter, so many things I loved doing and thought were in the past are suddenly accessible again, and going around RAF Cosford I was reminded by Simon that this summer we get presented with our wings at RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) what an amazing adventure this will be. I didn’t get to look around many of the aircraft last year, due to my stubbiness to accept I needed a scooter. But this year I plan on photographing every single one! #AnyoneCanExplore
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Accepting disability, adapting and adventuring!

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For the best part of my life I’ve, pretty much, done anything and everything to try and hide my disability. it hasn’t always worked, to be honest, anyone that spends a good amount of time in my company soon realises something isn’t quite right, but I muddled through my younger years and lived life as best I could without any public declaration.

So as my conditions deteriorated the thought of using any form of aid or appliance was a no go for me. I may have a masters in advertising but I had no interest in promoting my disability, and the thought of a cane, let alone a mobility scooter, just seemed like a flashing neon sign to hang around my neck.

The obvious downside to all this is, I wanted to still do the things I loved, like visiting the National Trust, fishing the lakes and rivers off the beaten track and simply just going outside with the family and dog for a walk, picnic or mini adventure. But instead, my pride held me back so…
I stopped walking the dog with my fiancee,
I stopped going to my favorite fishing spots,
I stopped exploring the National Trust
I stopped country walks and urban exploration in favor of sitting in a cafe or on a bench, watching my family walk off into the distance as I didn’t want them to miss out on the fun just because I couldn’t do the walking anymore. I had stopped living.

Then a few amazing things happened in my life. I got to learn to fly with the charity FSDP, please see my youtube channel for all the details… I digress.

Anyway, as part of my flying adventure, I met an amazing guy called Dan.
Dan your an inspiration! possibly one of the worst thing you can say to a disabled person and something me and Dan would joke about regularly during the 3 weeks we spent with each other.  That’s Dan in the back of the plane.
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Well, Dan could see how much I was struggling some days with just the pain and walking and kept saying to me you need to get a scooter. to which my reply was normally “go away” but less polite version. but eventually, it started to sink in and the more I got to know Dan the more I was realizing that it’s not a bad thing to accept that you need help from time to time. halfway through the 3 weeks, I had to return home for a weekend and while back the weather was great and the family wanted to visit Attingham Park before we got there I said to my Fiancee, I’m hiring a scooter. I almost bottled it in the car a few times but that day was the first time I had ever been on a mobility scooter.

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Driving around that day was amazing, I saw parts of the park I had never been to and when we got to the adventure playground and I had all my energy to play with the children. At one point a little boy 4 or 5 stopped and pointed, my heart sank as his Dad turned to look and I suddenly felt embarrassed until he exclaimed “Wow Dad that’s so cool, can we get one” that just made me smile.

That night I posted the above photo on my Facebook page, Id bit the bullet and wanted to show everyone, this is me. A guy I know from fishing in the local area commented and it stuck with me.

“Mate, never let anything get in the way of doing the things you love” 

I realised then, that all along the only person with prejudice was me and honestly, no one else cares!

Pick your battles and accept small victories when they arrive.

Pick your battles!

One of the downsides to gardening and having a disability isn’t the obvious, most people would think that all the negatives are related to the physical, but alot is mental. The mind is often willing but the body is unable.

Many times I wake up and my head wants to get up go outside and potter about but more times than note my body is screaming at me, no! This can and often does lead to the feeling of being very low, after all its a realisation that we cant do what we used to or what others can and its something we are always internally fighting with.

The trick is to pick your battles. On days when you’re not feeling great and you have a list of jobs, don’t pick the hardest. don’t fight the cards that have been delt you that day, just fold and concede. This is not defeat this is a tactical retreat.

Struggling to do something will only be a hindrance in the long-term, it will drag you down probably make you feel physically worse and in my case normally means I lose more time in the garden as it then takes me far longer to recover.

Today I got up and I feel rubbish, I really wanted to go to my physio and then get in the garden and tidy my cold frame. I was going to force myself to do it too but then the rain descended and I conceded today as a rest day. The way my disability affects me seems to be that for every day I do something physical I then need two days to recover. I have nicknamed these my rest days as psychologically it sits better. I take ownership of my disability and tell it today I rest, because I want to, not because you are making me rest.

And when the weather rolls in and the garden is too cold, wet or windy to do anything have a rest day and take a small victory and live to garden another day.

 

Making Gardening more accessible.

Over the years I’ve adapted my gardening methods to suit me, rather than doing what other people think is best. After all, it’s my allotment so the allotment snobs can take a long leap into a hot muck pile!

There are several things that make my gardening experiences much better, no-dig is the one that seems to cause the most controversy on allotments up and down the land.

Many an allotment holder have this notion that in order to get the most from your plot you must double dig and have regimented long rectangular beds with row after row of thinned out vegetables, this is all well and good and it looks very nice, but it is not the only way to garden and it definitely isn’t the way to garden if mobility is an issue.


If like me, you have a disability or you are slowing down due to age or fitness the one thing you will want to do less of is dig. so adopting the no-dig approach will definitely be something to consider. it is not a fad or some “quick fix” its a tried and tested “proper” gardening technique, that is better for soil, plants and most importantly you.

No dig is even being used now by commercial farmers (they call it no plough) as they have seen the benefits it has on plant production irrespective of its health benefits.

There is, however, one problem with no dig. What I hear you cry! Well, the truth is the allotment snobs hate it. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked. When are you digging your beds? why have you covered your beds with straw? or a week later. are you digging that in soon?

They seem obsessed, and year on year they seem more puzzled by how my crops, amongst straw, mulch and few weeds, seem to grow as well, sometimes better, than theirs. I think a few would rather start believing in fairies rather than admit that no dig gardening works!

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Spring is on its way… or is it?

Well, well, well… had lots going on, both on the Allotment and in my life in general. mostly good, some not so good and something really exciting. but I will have to hold off on the exciting stuff for now as it’s not official and so don’t want to count my chickens!

The allotment has been ticking along, the chicken run is 90% finished (as per the plans in my head) and they seem to love it are back laying. the allotment has been tidied up and most of the beds covered read for the coming year, plus my father-in-law repaired my greenhouse and I’ve even got another greenhouse to go up in the future. finger crossed this means I can continue to grow well into autumn and winter this year.

On The subject of winter, two weeks ago winter looked over, temps were hitting 12 even 13 degrees here in Shropshire, and I could have sworn one day that I even caught the sun on my cheeks from a day out with the family, but the “The Beast from The East” hit us.

https://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/tag/beast-from-the-east/  No Ivan Drogo did not punch me!

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For those of you who don’t know, it was a nickname the weather people have given a storm front that’s moved over from Russia (Link above) and the UK is having a week, maybe two weeks over -3 to -8 and with wind chill it feels around -12. All you Scandinavians and Canadians will laugh but we Brits don’t really do snow and ice. in fact anything more than 3 inches of snow and the country falls apart.
On the upside, seeds have been sown indoors and my local Poundland has been raided for spring and summer flower bulbs and all being well after Ivan Drogo has passed us by the Allotment can continue into a normal mild and wet March and April…. but we shall see.

In the meantime, if you’re frozen to the spot because there is zero gardening going on right now, feel free to watch a few of my rambling on youtube.

January – The time to think.

Shropshire Allotment

Hello there!

Well still very little in the way of growing taking place on my allotment as I’m very cautious of sowing anything to early. Yes we are all eager to get things growing and for many its probably been 4 months since you last popped a seed into compost, but there is nothing that desperately needs to be planted ion January that wont catch up if planted in February. In fact many seeds sown in January and kept on windowsills and in cool greenhouses will only end up being weaker, poor quality plants. so if you don’t have a heated greenhouse or similar, sit on your green fingers and resist the urge to sow, or if you just cant stick to leeks and onion seeds.

In the last of the down time before the growing season really kicks into life its given me plenty of opportunity to think more about my New Years plans and aspirations for the plot. the chickens have moved into there new run and I plan on expanding this for a series of pods and external runs so they can roam and explore. Think chicken adventure playground. That has lead me to think that if the chickens have a nice home on the Allotment then I need one two, so as soon as the weather warms up I plan on sprucing up the shed, painting it and adding a nice area to sit, and maybe even lie down, to give my back some much needed rest when needed.

From this I then decided that I want my allotment to represent my own personality more and as a bit of an “arty farty” id like so have some reproduction Dig for Victory signage around. and give many of my raised beds a bright lick of paint, reds, lime greens and yellows. This isn’t creating more work, I hear you cry, because I will give the paint to my children and they can do it for me! Nothing quite like slave labour, isn’t that what having children is for?

Then, I thought some more… see I told you January was for thinking!
wouldn’t it be nice not to always be down the allotment in my “scruffs” (old clothes)
looking back on the Dig for Victory movement and WW1/WW2 made me realise just how smart our great grandparents were. gardening in a shirt and tie, lovely tweed and wool and a real pride in ones personal appearance. Now I use to love fashion and being dressed well, then at some point I lost my way. Jeans and a hoodie became an easy (and cheap) alternative and jogging bottoms and a T-Shirt became my “scruffs” Fishing, gardening and any mess job, clothes.

“British people have never dressed as badly” – Dame Vivienne Westwood. 2012.

So once we have some better weather and less rain I intend on ditching the over trousers and hoodies, even the wooly hat! brylcreem my hair and smarten up a bit, I’m not suggesting I will be suited and booted but I do intend to get my fashion sense back.
I was an “Indie Kid” at college and University, I rocked the twisted dirty denim, lambretta shirts and retro Goala Trainers. the hair maybe a bit thiner, and the beard developing a few grey hairs but theres no reason I can’y be smarter on my allotment.
Why not have ago your self? We Can Do It!

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Saving Money – Thrifty Compost!

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DIY Compost, how to get a bit more for your money.

As your probably well aware I am not one for spending much money on my allotment, mainly because I don’t have it to spend and in my own mind it would be fruitless (pun intended) to spend more on the plot that it would actually cost me to go and buy veg from the shop, yes I know my allotment is also a hobby but I do get some satisfaction from the frugality and thriftiness growing there.

One of the things you cant really get away from buying is compost, yes you can have a heap and make your own, but this takes time, it’s also very time-consuming. gathering the weeds, leaves, bark, straw and other carbon and nitrogen sources needed. Because trust me, the bucket full of kitchen scraps and the few bags of lawn clippings the average house produces each week soon roots down to nothing more than a few liters.

Now I recycle all my spent compost, as you should all do, by this I mean the compost I use to grow my greenhouse crops, like tomatoes, is the following year used to mulch and top up the raised beds and sometimes even mixed with fresh compost to bulk out containers and plant pots.

Sometimes though it’s not always essential to use “good” compost if you have a 50 litre pot, putting a full 50Lt of brand new top brand compost can be wasteful, especially if like me you will be feeding your plants regularly with comfrey/nettle tea, blood, fish and bone or Chicken manure pellets. (all my favorites)

Obviously, you can mix your old compost with new but if you haven’t got any old compost and you have a few large pots, containers and beds to fill there are a few things you can do.

Firstly, if the beds are deep (2ft or more) at least half of this volume can be taken up with general green waste, lawn, and hedge clippings mixed with some hay or straw then the rest filled up with standard compost. grow shallow rooting veg in the first year and as the level sinks top it up and you will have a large raised bed filled and ready to grow for at least half the cost of filling one with straight compost.

If the pots/beds you have to fill are smaller or if you just want to top up existing containers then you can try mixing your own compost using cheaper items and free sources. one of the easiest things to get hold of is horse manure, (ideally well rotted, you’ll find this at the bottom of the muck heap) In the UK go to any stables or horse owners with a few bags and a shovel and I will almost guarantee they will let you take as much as you like. (OK maybe ring first!) but many have vast heaps they are struggling to get rid of. Now if you’re lucky the next one can also be FREE and from the same source. Woodshavings, you can buy these from a farm store, they are cheaper the more you buy. DONT buy them from the supermarket, they are 5 times the price! but again any stables maybe glad of a had mucking out in which case you can probably again get bags full for free.

Next, you need a trip to your local builder’s merchant for a bag of sand, if you have to buy all the ingredients then this will be one of the cheapest, then to finish good quality compost. my favorite is actually Wyvale as they often do a deal of 4 x 75lt bags for £20 and you get reward points. Woohoo!

Now my recipe is simple (it’s not exact, so please trial and make one your happy with) and I use it for growing just about anything. but obviously not starting seeds, as you will want a much finer seed compost.

Just a guide
100Lt Compost
50Lt Manure
50Lt Sand
50Lt Wood shavings
Then add a good feed of blood, fish and bone and/or chicken manure pellets.

So, get out there, get your fingers dirty and try and make some for yourself.
Its all about trial and error until you find a mix you are happy with after all gardening is all about confidence and you need to have confidence in your compost.
Start buy using your mix you grow a few potatoes in, maybe in barrels or pots and I guarantee next year you will be making more.

New year, new growing season.

Shropshire Allotment
Looking back on 2017…

2017 was a really successful year for me on the plot, noting of huge importance to the gardening world happened, but for the first time in a long time i felt i used the site to its potential.  We had a bumble bee nest, hopefully thanks to all the wild flowers, the plot looked lovely and colourful for most of the year with everything from poppies to sunflowers and a wealth of cosmos illuminating the beds.

I had good success with veg too, Greens and beans did very well as did cucumber, tomatoes and chilli. my butternut squash were huge and had a good number of pumkins as well as the always reliable courgette, radish, salad leaves and beet root.

i faired ok with root crops, grew some really good sized parsnips and beetroot but although my carrots tasted good there wasn’t more than a few meals.  Potatoes were poor, but they always seem to be poor on my site as the sheer number of small slugs just love to make them their edible home. So in 2018 I will be moving all my potato growing into pots with fresh sterilised compost from the garden centre plus i think i will use a nematode on the soil late spring to help reduce slug numbers. the site is on a natural wet spot and so its perfect slug habitat.

One crop that was wonderful was my onions I didn’t use the winter (Japanese) variety this year as i find they tend to bolt to often and always lose half or more. but using centurion set planted in spring i had a great crop of cricket ball sized tasty onion. so this year I will be planting more sets and also growing a few more english onions as seeds.

Plans for 2018…

As well as trying to achieve similar if not better results as last year, well to be honest i want a lot better results. now my site is “set up” in a way in which I like it id like to be more self sufficient if possible. i don’t intend to be full  self sufficient as to be honest it its practical on the size of land i have and with my condition. some things are just to easy and to cheap to buy from others.
Example, I live in Shropshire its a big potato growing county, farms around me supply all the major crisp and chip firms in the UK. so all the grade A spuds get sent to Walkers and all the others too big and too small are bagged up and sold by farmers, farm shops etc
I can buy a 25kg (55lb) bag of potatoes for £5. ($7) and there is nothing wrong with them other than they don’t fit the processing machines for the big factories.
So why bother with main crop id have to put aside a quater of my plot all my time and effort and buy the seed potatoes for less than £5 ($7)?

I grow a few new and mid season potatoes as these taste fantastic and are a real treat fresh from the earth but for now i’ll leave main crop to my local farmers.

As for YouTube…

Well, obviously you have probably seen I YouTube more than I blog. (see previous posts)
The plan is to continue with this and progress over the coming season, but maybe expand on what is just my weekly ramblings to be a bit more informative.
I have said all along that there are better gardeners, youtubers and “how to” experts than me, but what I have noticed is there isn’t many, or even any that show how to garden with a disability.  Maybe i have a bot of a niche? I’m sure we will see!

I also plan on looking into the cost of running and keeping an allotment on a budget.
I’m a huge recycle/freecycle and upcycle nerd, we (humans in the west) waste far to much through lazyness (me included, i’m not being preachy, we can all do more) and i was thinking about just how much I have spent. over the last few years.

My Shed was £40 ($55) Greenhouse was free £0 (from ebay) search under “free to collect” many people buy houses with them already in the garden and just want to get rid, it cost £80 for a skip so its better for them to give it away. granted it takes a few hours, its a two person job, and you will break the odd bit of glass but its free.
I have some good tools but they come home with me so not to be pinched if we get a break in on site, so i wanted a spare set to keep on site, i got a rake, spade, digging fork, hay fork and a mattock from ebay for £25 ($33) total the mattock alone is £30 new, so there are bargin’s to be had. then i picked up some smaller items trowel, fork and hoe for £5 ($7) from facebook.

Everything else was free. Compost bins x 4 freecycle. 2 huge raised beds in decking free from freecycle. scrap wood to make more raised beds also from freecycle and ive even an old chicken house i’ve turned into a cold frame plus hundereds of plant pots all from facebook, freecycle and ebay for free.

Now I know this isn’t everything you need for an allotment but the rest are what id consider “disposables” and all hobbies will have these things, the trick is to keep the cost low and try alternatives until you fine one that works. £1 for 100 plastic plant lables or make your own from sticks just shave a flat space and a pointy end with a knife and bobs your uncle.

Compost, to start with you may need a few bags from the garden centre, but if you mix this with well rotted manure, which you will find most horse owners are only too happy for you to take, a little goes a long way and you can suddenly turn a 50lt bag into 100lts

Bird netting is expensive, but go to a building site and they will give you offcuts of scaffold netting for free and in my opinion, although its green its better, its a finer weave and you wont find a butterfly that can get through it!

So I wont give to much away now, other wise you wont watch the videos, but hopefull over the next year i’m hoping the channel will develop into a nice little recourse for people to drop in and out of on their own journey in gardening.

Until next time, Speak soon.

Summer, Autumn& Winter on the Plot.

As I’m sure you are well aware from reading this blog, I really struggle some what with the physical aspect of just getting words down on paper. I am dyslexic, so it honestly takes me hours to to compose the words in my head down on paper.

So this year I started to make short videos of my time on my allotment, mainly as a visual diary. what I have planted and where. one thing I can do is talk… yep! I can talk for England. so Youtube is the perfect format for me and my ramblings.

What I have discovered is thats making the videos hasn’t impacted on my time on the plot, in fact the opposite has happened, it makes me do more. I feel the need to do odd jobs just so I have some footage for the channel. In fact its been the driving force behind my plot this year.

So apologies for not updating this blog on a monthly basis, but honestly its just not my style. I will thought put up block videos every few months. So until the next entry, have fun, speak soon!

Please check out some of the videos bellow.

Just a Shropshire Lad & his adventures.