Friday 6 November 2020

Lockdown Toylink

Christmas horses courtesy Wiki
(see entry on Dalecarlian horse)

You do not have to be told that we have just entered the second national Covid Lockdown in England - the press seem to be calling it Lockdown2.0. Nor do you have to be told that to know that it feels very different this time. The fresh optimism of Spring is well behind us as the flowers of autumn begin to fade

So, Codger has been a-thinking: Is their anything we can do? The answer is: YES! Let me tell you about Toylink. This is an annual project that BCM have been running for the past 50 years. But it is needed more now than ever. Quoting BCM directly: 

Every Christmas, Birmingham City Mission gives gifts to thousands of children in our city. Many of these children would otherwise not receive Christmas presents

The Prime Minister announcing Lockdown 2.0
I am sure that we realise that it is the poor who suffer most in difficult times like our own. I, for one, cannot imagine how I would cope without a garden to keep me going. Many of these children will be in high-rise flats or other situations where school is the only change of scene that they experience. Toylink makes a difference!

If you would like to help financially, there are two ways. (1) You can go to the BCM website and give directly. The details are here (2) Alternatively, you can give via Codger. I would really appreciate your help with this. I have already taken initial steps: First, I have raised our target from £1500 to £2500 – as we go to press, £1962.57 has already gone to BCM as a result of what we started with the first lockdown

Second, all donations during this present lockdown (ending 2nd December) will be allocated to Toylink (perhaps I should also remind readers that absolutely no expenses are taken – every penny goes to BCM). Third, I shall try to come up with some timely incentives – the first of which is already under way – please see next item and also please see the STOP PRESS.

To make the donation online you simply click here and follow the on-screen instructions. If that is not convenient, just get in touch with me and we will make the necessary arrangements - no problem. Please think seriously about supporting this second lockdown initiative. You can make a start by viewing this excellent promotional video about Toylink – well worth a couple of minutes of your time …

Spring bulbs for Toylink

Spring bulbs in a good quality planter
- they will look good after Christmas!

In our previous post we told you about our Spring bulb planters. The first few are now ready to go. The photograph looks rather unexciting, I know. You will have to trust me that there are bulbs in the soil - the flowers will come in the Spring, believe me!

Anyone who asks may have one, fully planted up, of course. The bulbs are a mixture of different varieties of muscari, allium, crocus, and sparaxis. Usual conditions: we do not make a charge, so we are not actually selling. We simply ask that you consider making a donation to BCM, preferably through our account here – or by cash direct to me

Getting lit up

Grow lights in the greenhouse
- looking eerie at night
Grow lights are not new but, due to changes in technology, they have become cheaper and more accessible in recent years. We have the ubiquitous LED to thank for this. Do you remember the days when LEDs only came in one colour? Red, of course - then we got green and, suddenly, blue became the big thing. By mixing these colours it is possible to produces lamps that imitate daylight. You need the right wavelength to encourage plant growth

Off-the-shelf products are available. Just search the web for <grow lights> or <grow lamps> and you will encounter a host of products that are ready to plug-in-and-go. However, the more ‘oven-ready’ the product the more it is likely to cost. So, let me take you through Codger’ very own home-brew solution. This cost me £13 – the amount that I laid out for a pair of 5-watt LED lights plus fittings

Codger's grow light contraption Mk II
Although these do not run hot like the type mentioned in the previous episode, I decided to play safe and mount them on metal rather then, say, plywood or plastic sheet. As it turned out, we had a steel tray that was no longer needed in the Codger catering department. This has the advantage of not only being non-flammable but is also highly reflective. The photo shows the finished job in action

As I say, many products are available off the shelf. For example, there are types you can put over a houseplant – just look around on Amazon – there are loads to choose from. If you want more details on my DIY approach, feel free to ask. Having only just made mine I cannot yet speak on lamp-life but, according to the spec, it looks promising. Incidentally, the metal tubing used for the legs is from the remains of a cheap plastic greenhouse. These legs slide in 16mm holes drilled in the wooden frame. I will spare you the other technical details

The bits - cost £13 approx
One other thing. I have set up my contraption with a timer. Since we are getting only seven to eight hours of natural daylight, at the moment, I arranged for my lamps to come on at 4:00pm and turn off 8:00pm. Obviously, I can adjust this. All this in the greenhouse but it could be in a shed with a window. Or, even, without a window if you want to use the lamps as the sole source of light

First frost!

Patio as of today ...
We had our first frost on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning there was ice in the many buckets I have dotted around the garden. But the temperature soon lifted as the sun broke through. However, night frosts are a reminder that certain jobs need to be done

Most of my dahlias are done flowering. Many are in pots so, as a temporary measure these are being given some protection. In due course I shall explain, with photos, how to store them over winter. Meanwhile the chrysanthemums have put on a great show – see the photos at the end of today’s blog

... having had a bit of a tidy up
The little time I have had available this week has been devoted to setting up the patio for the winter. Three stages to this. First, anything needing protection has gone into the greenhouse or shed. The canna is an example. Following Monty’s advice (final Gardeners’ World last Friday) I was intending to cut this right back. But I had not got the heart to do it – looks to me as if it wants to flower gain!

Second, I have removed summer bedding – that is now on the compost. Was mainly begonias and petunias – lobelia still seems happy. Thirdly, where appropriate, the bedding has been replaced by violas and the odd pansy – I find that violas do best for me. I have found that those I bought online are better quality than those bought at the supermarket. Next year I am hoping to grow my own from seed – and hope to have plenty available for readers

We are still picking tomatoes
I have to admit that I am a bit behind with jobs. This is, in part, because the greenhouse is proving to be something of a bottleneck. We are now into November and I am still picking tomatoes! Not that I am complaining. Mrs Codger has not been too well this week, so we need the vitamins – nothing like growing your own fruit and veg for that

The fried egg

With the threat of another national lockdown I was more determined than ever to be in church on Sunday morning. But for the reason just mentioned, we were at home. Left to my own devices for lunch, I decided to settle for a fried egg (not that far distant from roast chicken, when you think about it). Perhaps I was influenced in my dietary choice by an odd memory that had somehow been triggered. It goes back to 1960, or thereabouts – let me tell you the story …

Old Rotterdam
A friend and I had a cycling holiday in Holland, staying in youth hostels. The return leg found us in Rotterdam, exploring the old port (even then the modern one was vast and not available to tourists). In our roaming, we encountered a rather dilapidated chapel with a sign outside bearing the legend, Engelse Kerk, and giving the time of the Sunday service - the following day. The cracked and faded paint should have been a give-away, but we turned up at ten o’clock to find that we were alone, and the building closed. Obviously, the days of salty English seafarers eagerly attending Divine Service on foreign shores had passed. As we stood wondering what to do, we noticed a couple in the uniform of the Salvation Army walking along. We decided to follow them

I cannot track down any image of the church mentioned
- this one is far too smart
By the time we had reached their meeting place we had made ourselves known and given a warm welcome. So much so that we were asked to participate in their evening meeting. We had no Dutch and their English was limited but we worked out that lunch was part of the deal. We had been cycling for 10 days in wet and windy conditions, so the prospect was inviting. Our hosts had several children and the room was small. It was a squash at the table – which had a loaf of bread set out. The lady came in from the kitchen with a large frying pan and served us each a fried egg, although I am not sure that there was one for her

Thinking back, I feel very humbled to remember a poor family sharing the little they had. Today, we are accustomed to think of the Dutch as well-heeled and well-fed – but remember, this was only 15 years after the war. Perhaps we had cake with our coffee, but my outstanding recollection is the fried egg. I can never eat one without thinking of Rotterdam in 1960

We only had a tiny band - not at all like this one!
After a while the corps officer called and asked us to join in their afternoon open-air meeting, which we did. All of this was in Dutch, of course. I picture him now, not that much older than we were: uniform, Bible and red beard. From his soapbox he called out, “Kom naar Jezus!” which in any language is good advice. Obviously, a tinge of nostalgia creeps in but I think I can say, with confidence, that was one of the best Sundays I can remember. It helped me learn to serve the Lord with gladness

Just remembered

Toad Lily - Tricyrtis formosana Dark Beauty!
Last time I showed you a photo of a mystery flower. Actually, not a mystery to me as I had planted it. But I had not seen the flower before and was pleased that the plant – Toad Lily – was settling in. It occupies a little space in a corner that I have developed for plants that like dappled shade. I have also planted some bulbs that I hope will produce a sprinkling of Dog Tooth Violets – I shall let you know when (if!) they appear

Toylink again

Let me finish off by again suggesting that you look at the video above about BCM’s splendid Toylink. Two recent news items come to mind that I think are pertinent. Not long before the new lockdown was announced, charities were reporting a huge drop in income. For example, medical research charities fear a £7.8 billion shortfall due to coronavirus. Then, just this morning, an awful report of an increase in harm being done to babies during the first lockdown. You can get the details here. Sorry to finish on that very sad reality. Let’s do what good we can, while we can …

… my very best wishes – the old Garden Codger


Whilst doing the final edit on today’s post, I had a brainwave - yes, I know, that doesn’t amount to much. However, I think it might be of value. The Spring bulb planters on offer have a slight drawback – by definition, you need to wait until Spring for the flowers. So, I have come up with an instant alternative. Fancy the same but planters with an instant display? Well, that is now possible as I have sourced some nice cyclamens and hellebores. I just need a breathing space to do the planting up. I shall do that as soon as I can and put up a couple of photos - look out for Toylink Extra. In the meantime, here are a few shots from the garden this week

No comments:

Post a Comment