About a year ago, in an attempt to start saving money and maybe get a little exercise, we decided to rent an allotment, so that we could start growing our own fruit and vegetables. Now I really have to admit here, my knowledge of growing anything is next to nothing, but I thought that this hurdle would soon be solved by reading of a few books and also by talking to a few neighboring allotment holders.
So off I trot down to the estate office to put my name down for my slice of country living. I was pleasantly surprised by the price, only fifteen quid a year, and being as the first few months of the year had already gone, I could have this year for a tenner. Great stuff, I thought to myself, saving money already. The estate managers secretary, told me to have a look round to find the piece of land that I wanted, as she was not sure which ones were free. Well after a little too and fro-ing, I find that I have to take a piece of land that has never been worked before Half covered in bracken and the other half whats best described as scrub. Not put off by this, thinking to myself a few days hard work digging and I will soon have that lot cleared.
Now to start clearing my little plot of land, trusty fork and spade in hand, I make a start, thinking to myself, (I had still not read any books on the subject) I will try to take off the top layer of grass with the spade pile that up to one side and then turn the soil over with the fork, that way I wont be digging all the grass and weeds back into the ground having to fish them out later. Well here comes my first lesson, ground that has not been worked for god knows how many years is damned hard work to dig with a spade and fork that only cost me a few quid each from the local discount shop and soon enough, the spade was bent and totally unusable, not only that, I had only dug about three rows of thirty foot wide and I seemed to have a pile of turf-sods three-foot high, (I will have to find somewhere else to put those). Okay, time to have a rest, I tried clearing some of the bracken, and to avoid making another massive pile of garden debris, I decided to burn the horrible stuff in an incinerator, realising that it should burn really well as it is all brown and dry at this time of year
Thinking ahead, (Not far enough) for safety reasons, I would use the incinerator, basically this is just a metal dustbin peppered with holes and a funnel sticking out of the lid, perfect I thought, what can go wrong? I have everything gathered together to get the fire started, matches, fire-lighters, a few twigs, nothing else needed. A nice flame is there so I start to pile some gathered bracken into the bin. Now bracken, when it is dry, tends to burn very fast, so to make life easier, I leave the lid off the top of the bin, which makes the piling in of the dead bracken much faster, and I am much less liable to burning myself taking the lid on and off. Things were going fine for about two minutes, then I notice flames coming out of the side of the incinerator, they were dropping to the ground and catching the scrub alight, not much, so I didn’t bother too much, thinking that I would keep my eye on it, just in case. So I turn away to gather some more stuff to throw in there and after picking up a good armful turn back towards the fire and notice that the flames around the base of the incinerator had spread quite a bit, so in an attempt to slow things down I drag the bin over to a less likely place to catch fire, which had an effect of spreading the flames over a wider area. I was now starting to get a little worried, but as yet, not panicking, I shout over to my better half Lisa, to get some water, she was busy raking the meagre three rows that I had dug previously, so fairly smartly, she runs home and fetches a watering can and a bucket, filling them up with water on the way at a tap which is the other end of the allotments, which is about as far away as you can get. On handing me the water, I throw it over the fire, yes it started to douse the flames, but by this time it had spread so far, that I was getting seriously concerned for the shed on the allotment next door, So Lia starts running with one bucket at a time to fill with the water whilst I douse the flames with the other. By the time she returns I am in a blind panic, but I believe hiding it quite well, Lisa, who is not one for hiding how she feels tells me to phone the fire brigade, reluctantly, for fear of looking a right plonker, (Which freely I admit I was for not having adequate safety precautions in place) I phone 999 having to explain the problem and give them my name and address. They tell me to stay clear and leave the fire alone. but thankfully and in this instance I ignored their advice and after hanging up the phone, I attacked the fire with the water that Lisa was running back and forth like a true trooper. My main concern was for the shed next door, with luck the flames had not got that far, but were dangerously close, so I concentrated o that area first, with success I must add, and slowly we worked our way round the flames and mostly put them out apart from smouldering bits in the middle. Just as I had broken the back of the fire, the real firefighters turn up and ensure that it is out properly, calmly going over the whole are with water and beaters, making our little plot of land safe once again. Thefiremenwere extremely good natured about what happened and said that they enjoyed their little jaunt out into the country, and were very helpful in giving us some gardening advice. They also pointed out that we have cleared the land a lot quicker than we expected too.
Lesson learned, Listen to Lisa.