Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Allotment! (with postscript)

For some time Chris has been hankering after an allotment plot and a few weeks ago she had her name put on Daventry's waiting list. 'I'll do it all,' she said. Recently she heard that one was available and so on 9 February we went to have a look. Neither the site nor the sight gave encouragment and our first though was that it would be too much to take on but we could face a longish wait for an alternative.
Ouch! The plot when we first viewed it. 11 February, 2017
A closer look confirmed that there were no pernicious weeds but rather a tangle of coarse annuals and we are minded to take it on. If it turns out to be too big an undertaking we can always hand it back to DDC. I suspect that yours truly will end up doing the bulk of the digging. Perhaps a few interesting creepy-crawlies will turn up.
There's no question of planting or sowing at the moment as the soil is cold and wet; nothing is to be gained by trying to rush things, but the warmer conditions of the last couple of days have been helpful. In the meanwhile I'll start sowing a few crops at home.
There is a small hut which, oddly enough, is half-filled with hay. I have no plans for this material and although I suppose it might compost I decided to get rid of it, first checking it for mini-beasts. Once cleared the hut could be very handy.

The hut - after I had cleared out seven large bags of hay.
15 February, 2017
Amongst these mini-beasts were quite a few spiders and I managed to secure a decent sample. For the record they were: 

Amaurobius similis, Linyphia hortensis and Eratigena atrica  (some very big females of this large spider, one of Europe's biggest, once known as Tegenaria gigantea.) There was also a single harvestman - Platybunus triangularis. All disappointingly common species but I live in hope.

I remained uneasy about the allotment. We have yet to sign a contract or pay any rent so Chris and I decided to have a second look. As I approached the hut it dawned on me that a huge pile of cans, plastic bottles and so on, which I presumed was on the neighbouring plot, was in fact on ours. I re-entered the hut for a further check on its remaining contents - and the floor promptly gave way! It would be a straightforward job to put a sheet of plywood or mdf in place but the rubbish was a different matter. Chris rang Daventry District Council and explained that we would be prepared to take on the plot if the rubbish was cleared first. We were told that we would have to deal with that ourselves so the upshot was that we said no. We remain on the waiting list.
Not  wishing to miss an opportunity I gathered a few more mini-beasts and was both pleased and surprised to find that I had captured a pirate spider, so-called because under the microscope it can be seen to have a wooden leg and a patch over one eye. [Ed. You do talk rubbish at times!] Three species are known from Britain and my specimen turned out to be a female Ero cambridgei. Pirate spiders seem to prey exclusively on other spiders. They invade the web of the victim and bite it on a leg. The venom must be very powerful as the prey is paralysed and the pirate spider then sucks it dry, usually through the legs. I also took a far commoner spider, Diplostyla concolor, and a millipede, the equally common White-legged Snake Millipede, Tachypodoiulus niger. So, not a totally wasted journey.
Tony White:

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