Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gardenblog- battered veg!

Flattened, originally uploaded by mike1727.

The veg project was going well until the inevitable bank holiday downpour wreaked havoc. Beans were the main victims- broads flattened to the ground, runners and French were battered by the rain and hail, lost leaves and had a couple of broken growing tips. A bit of time with string and cane should've saved the broads, and with luck the runners and French will re-grow some more stems. I need to plant up a tepee of runner/s French for a second crop anyway The outdoor tomatoes took a hit too, but tied in they seem OK.

Elsewhere in the veg project, the lettuce is going well and is producing enough leaves for tasty salads. Spring onions are just about OK but not really growing as strongly as I'd hoped. There's another gutterfull germinating in the greenhouse waiting for planting out in a sunnier location, assuming I can find some space. The first sowing of spinach has been similarly disappointing so there's another gutter of that under way.

The courgette plants are in, and I planted a couple of spare cucumber plants in the bed to see how they fare- better than chucking them on the compost. Also crowding into the second bed are a couple of butternut squashes which I'm hoping to grow up stakes: the idea is to have courgettes and cucumbers rambling at ground level to block out weeds while the beans, squashes and tomatoes work vertically. I've a feeling this bed is too crowded, but only summer will tell.

In the greenhouse, I'm beginning to regret planting so many tomatoes..I've planted up the ones I want to grow and the remaining dozen or so plants are either being given away tomorrow or going on the compost. Chillis and aubergines are growing well and will be in growbags soon.

Spuds seem to be doing well, though I'm not sure they are meant to have such rampant foliage- possibly a result of growing them in compost?

Sowed recently: in the greenhouse; spring onion, spinach and cabbage in gutters. Outdoors- country cottage mixed flowers in gaps in the beds, (which have germinated OK) and cornflower (which haven't).

Planted out: 2 courgettes, 2 butternut squash, black Geranium, Cosmos, a Day Lilly-like plant which I can't remember the name of, loads of Nasturtiums.

Friday, May 04, 2007

St Albans local election results 2007

I did my bit for local democracy yesterday, along with just under half of the eligible voters in the ward- one of the higher turnouts in the city. ID verification at elections always bothers me- I turned up on my bike on the way to work, only to find that I'd brought my wife's voting card instead of mine. 'No problem' they said, looked me up on the list and gave me my ballot paper- no id checks at all, even though I was wearing a bike helmet and wraparound mirrored sunglasses....

Anyway, the result was predictable- hardworking sitting LibDem retained his seat, followed by Conservatives, Green and Labour in last place. The Green vote was 1% higher than Labour, which is encouraging, and in the end the local LibDems are fairly green-tinted these days. Full results here, I must learn how to do tables in HTML.

Votes cast, % Votes cast, % electorate


Votes cast 2259
Electorate: 4818
Turnout 47%

Thursday, May 03, 2007

If you don't fall off you're not trying hard enough

Ouch, originally uploaded by JasonRogers.

Jason and me went for a ride last night. I'd planned for an easy loop round St Albans, pootling round singletrack in Batchwood, Symondsyde and points between. We had a quick look at Beech Bottom Dyke on the way to Batchwood, me scaring myself silly at the size (30 feet approx) of the drop from the trail into the earthwork. Onwards and just about upwards to the woods at Batchwood for a quick blast on the singletrack before heading off towards Harpenden and the rest of the loop. As we headed though Childwickbury we were caught up by a group of 8ish riders from one of the local shops, so we tagged along for a while, finding a couple of new linking trails through Sandridge to Symondshyde. At Symondshyde the main group was heading up towards Codicote; feeling tired I made my excuses and we headed back through the woods. Pretty much the last stretch was down a track leading onto House Lane. It's fairly smooth (apart from the collapsed badger sett half way down) and I ride it at least twice a week on the way home, so I shouldn't have had any problems..not so. Approaching the junction with the road and braking fairly hard I had an earth/sky/earth/sky moment, ending up braking with my chin as the bike flew over me and landed three or four yards further down the hill. Winded, but bike OK and no bones broken I picked myself up and we headed back to my place via the off-licence.. Woke up this morning with a few random achy bits and bruising, no big deal.

So...what did I learn?

  • Commuting 20-30 mins each way every day does not give you the fitness required to keep up with the shop riders. More lard-burning miles required!
  • I brake far too much in corners and need to trust the bike and flow round more.
  • Don't touch the front brake on dusty fast bits!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

We are traffic.

Good article in yeasterday's Independent, pointing out the lack of coverage of cycling of any type- sports, untiliy, you name it on TV, and trying to equate this with UK society's attitude to cycling. The article makes some good points, but the argument would be stronger if it referenced similar studies from abroad.

It's high time television started to take cycling seriously... - Independent Online Edition > Features:

Pity the research team at Cycling England, the charity set up to promote
the activity. They've just spent four weeks watching Britain's leading soaps, in
an effort to track the way cycling is portrayed as part of normal life on television - or if it is portrayed at all. Their conclusions won't come as a great surprise to anyone who cycles regularly, since riders are used to being thought of as misfits who have taken up some weird obsession.

In four weeks of watching EastEnders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks, the Cycling England researchers identified 95 lead characters. Only two of them were shown to own bikes (Mickey from EastEnders and Amy from Coronation Street). Of the four times lead characters were shown with bikes, viewers were hardly given the most positive image of cycling - the most noticeable way in which a bike featured was when poor old Stacey from EastEnders was mowed down by a rogue rider.

Given that three of the four shows are set in city locations, where all the figures suggest that cycling is booming, the lack of two wheels on the streets of the shows seems odd. Emmerdale characters, given the hilly location of the show, might be forgiven for being less inclined to ride regularly.

Does the lack of cycling on television in general and the soaps in particular matter? Well, yes, if you believe that what people watch on television influences how they behave in their own lives. Soap operas are meant to feature characters with whom viewers can identify - if the characters never ride a bike, it's less likely people will think about this form of transport.

Phillip Darnton, chairman of Cycling England, certainly takes this view. It's no coincidence, he suggests, that 50 per cent fewer children cycle regularly compared with a generation ago - or that the UK has one of the lowest levels of cycle use in the European Union, in terms of the average mileage covered by bike by each citizen."The more cycling is portrayed as an everyday activity for normal people - on television and throughout the media - the more likely it is that the rest of us will feel more comfortable riding. If driving is always shown to be the default mode of ransport for Britons, it will continue to be so."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What to do when the shop only has thin canes...

Bean supports, originally uploaded by mike1727.

Runner beans are heavy when they're fully grown- last year's bean teepee partially collapsed under the weight. The plan had been to use 1" poles this pear, but in the end all I had was these thin and whippy 6' poles. Delving into memories of long-past engineering lectures I made the joints out of wire for extra rigidity and added diagonal cross braces, resulting in a structure that is a lot stiffer than its components suggest. Time will tell if it's up to the job.