The day before I was to leave on holiday my allotment neighbour, Carol, called and left a message asking if I knew my shed had burnt down.
And this is what greeted me when I drove down next morning.
Immediately I could think of all sorts of gross and heinous punishments for those that did it. First beat them to an inch of their lives, then a public disemboweling with blunt secateurs, maybe some boarding in comfrey tea to make them see the error of their ways followed by a light spot of weeding clearing the entire allotment site of stinging neetles using their teeth by way of redemptive community service.
No doubt I was reacting in the usual way of all victims - a sense of violation, followed by anger and the desire for revenge.
Anyway I reported it to the police (I didn't expect much but was very impressed with their response and an officer came to visit the site later that day) and a fire service investigator came also, both interested in logging the incident to see if there is any pattern in the area.
What I did learn is it's very unlikely, almost impossible, that the lawn mower stored in the shed would have self combusted. Even filled with petrol there wouldn't have been enough oxygen in the tank and the heat would have had to have been intense and 'just right' to set it off.
Ignition by persons unknown is what's going down in the official report and I'm now the proud owner of a 'C' number on which my insurance company will pay up - er, that's if I had any insurance.
The Pilgrim Rose climbing up the shed side is charred but I'll see if it grows back - perhaps the roots weren't fried. The lawn mower is a burnt out shell and all the tools are gone, including my father's, which though I seldom used were always a reminder.
The good thing is that the growing area, protected by netting and a wooden cage escaped unharmed. So we've had a set back and the allotment for the time being doesn't seem the bucolic place it was, but we are still growing.
Still, keep the right attitude. Cup of tea anyone?
Just as we're going away for nearly two weeks this rose, Rambling Rector, which covers a shabby garage and is set to take over the world, starts its one off bloom.
It's as if there really is never a good time to leave the garden.
We've been frantically trying to get everything in shape, mowing, weeding, tying in the sweet pea, cutting more pea sticks - the Alderman are heading for the heavens. Lettuce cut and given to neighbours before it bolts, rocket sown so it'll be up and away when we get back, tomatoes staked and more put out (Ildi and Gardeners' Delight) even before they're properly hardened off. They'll never survive the glass lean too and our dog sitter who stays over is no gardener.
Cut and come again lettuces given a hair cut for picking later. More mixed leaves broadcast sown (for a bit of a change from lines) in a spare square foot near Mr Bethells Purple Podded pea.
The allotment mowed and planted up 30 foot of leeks, 20 celeriac (new to me). Started off more plugs of parsley and coriander and sowed 5o small pots sown of sweetcorn - Lark for the garden and Sweet Nugget for the allotment. Seed beds seem fine and have perked up with the rain so hopefully the kales, Brussels and cabbages will come through for transplanting in June. Harvested the mother load of broad beans from the Aquadulce and expect the Windsor to pod up by the end of the month.
Germination of the parsnips, Tender & True and Hollow Crown (from Patrick at Bifurcated Carrots) has been erratic and if they're not up by June I'll sow up those bed with turnips I think. I've not had great success with parsnip for the last few years.
Beans sown directly in the ground as I've given up sowing them in pots first. I'm not looking to get an earlier crop and so far I'm lucky that snails,slugs and mice haven't bothered the seed that much. Trying Kew Blue for the first time - a bean given to me by Rebsie (Daughter of the Soil) and repeating Rapide (long, flat and yellow) and the reliable Blauhilde.
All potatoes are up now, the last to appear were Lumpers got from Eiler in Norway and I'm really looking forward to harvesting Red Duke of York soonish. Boiled so there is still a bit of bite in them and lightly dressed with chive,mint, honey, grain mustard and olive oil dressing, they're delicious.
Butternut squashes are growing away under cover quite happily and I'll be planting some of these at the back of the allotment near the brambles - this never get mown so as an experiment I'll see if they happily trail away. I'll dig a hole, fill with manure and see what happens. Sowed another five in pots and these will go in front of the sweet peas where there is unused space.
The three courgette (zucchini) plants in the ground are looking a bit peeky at the moment but as long as we don't get prolonged cold they'll be fine. Still haven't used up last years courgette pasta sauce that's in the freezer but the temptation of courgette and basil soup always makes me plant more than we'll need.
Dropped by the Friary garden to check on the planting and mulch, pull bindweed and hoe some weeds.
Blight is the bane of potato growers (and tomato growers) but The British Potato Council's Fight Against Blight and Blight Watch are two websites, aimed at commercial growers, that report outbreaks and near misses by post code, alerting growers by email or phone text message.
Volunteer local 'blight scouts' monitor humidity and temperature data passing on warnings of conditions that favour the spread of blight spores.
OK. So you've got to register as a grower (though there is a category 'other' on the drop down list)but the site does have a useful factsheet (click here) for gardeners from Garden Organic on how to deal with blight.
It's been a busy evening sowing - 60 plug pots of sweetcorn; 30 Sweet Nugget for the allotment and 30 Lark for the garden (said to be super sweet and early). It seems a lot but I'll only get about two cobs a plant and we can easily put away six at a sitting!
20 plugs of Italian Flat Leaf parsely - I've already got ten plants in the ground, one batch in semi- shade the other in fuller sun so I can compare how they do. I'm hoping this year to harvest and freeze enough to have pesto to hand year round. Likewise 20 plugs of coriander. This is hardier than people think but I'll give it a head start in the pots and plan to freeze lots in ice cube trays; it really lifts a fish or curry dish.
Five butternut squash sown so I'm now up to ten plants and if I get two or three decent sized fruits per plant I'll be happy.
Next job is to pot on the Ildi and Gardeners' Delight tomatoes.
But it's this job I've put off - scrapping away the aphids on the Windsor broad beans. There are several ladybirds at work but I'll have to run a thumb and forefinger along the stem.
It's a messy job and a reminder of one of the reasons I tend to alternate the years I grow them - but I so miss the taste of the earliest crop in the years I don't sow them.
By contrast the Aquadulce Claudia on the allotment which were sown last autumn haven't been touched - and fingers crossed should be ready to harvest this weekend.