March Gardening.

March is the beginning of the busy gardening season. It can be a challenging month too, with unpredictable wind and frosts. Now’s the last chance to complete tidying and winter tasks before the growing season really gets underway.
March is also the time to turn your thoughts to summer and your summer planting schemes as many seeds and bulbs should be planted now. Dahlias are low maintenance, but very productive, in a good year they’ll flower from late June to early December (in a sheltered spot). Dahlias are available in many shapes, sizes, and colours. Dahlias are one of my favorite summer plants and March is the perfect time to increase your stock by taking basal cuttings from tubers.
If you have overwintered Dahlia tubers, to bring the dormant tubers (which should feel fleshy and firm) into growth, place them in a generous pot (at least 2ltrs) filled with multipurpose compost. Water well and place in a warm, light spot indoors or in a heated greenhouse. They will quickly form lots of bushy shoots. When the new shoots are about 8cm long use a sharp knife to remove all but five of the shoots sprouting from the tuber. Cut just above the point where the shoot emerges from the tuber, below the lowest pair of leaves. With only five stems allowed to develop you will get strong, vigorous growth that will produce lots of flowers. The removed shoots can be used as cuttings. The five remaining shoots will also require the growing tips to be pinched out. Either squeeze between your thumb and forefinger, and remove the main shoot down to the top pair of leaves.
To prepare the cuttings pinch out the growing tip of the shoot, and then dip the base of the cutting into hormone rooting powder. Insert each cutting into a small pot (9cm is ideal) filled with potting compost. Firm in, top the soil with grit and water thoroughly. Cover each pot with a clear plastic bag and place in a warm, light spot (out of direct sunlight) in a heated greenhouse or kitchen windowsill. Once the cuttings have rooted, remove the bags and continue to grow on. In mid-May, harden off plants by standing them outdoors during the day and bringing them in at night. Plant them in their final positions once all risk of frost has passed.
Bedding Dahlias can also be grown from seed. Fill a seed tray with moist seed compost and lightly firm the surface. Gently push your Dahlia seeds into the compost. Label the tray and cover with a propagator lid. The seedlings will germinate within a couple of weeks. Once ‘true’ leaves have grown the seedlings will be ready to transplant into individual pots. From this point onwards follow the process as for rooted cuttings.
Here are my other top tips for March:
• Plant out chitted early seed potatoes, shallots & onions.
• Protect newly emerging shoots from slugs and snails
• Sew grass seed in any bare patches of the lawn.
• Keep on top of weeds, as they will complete with garden plants for water and nutrients.

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WHAT DOES THE DOCTOR THINK THIS MONTH?

A manufacturing company, feeling it was time for a shake-up, hired a new CEO. The new boss was determined to rid the company of all slackers. On a tour of the facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning on a wall. The room was full of workers and he wanted to let them know that he meant business. He walked up to the guy leaning against the wall and asked, “How much money do you make a week?” A little surprised, the young man looked at him and replied, “I make £200 a week. Why?” The CEO then hands the guy £800 in cash and screams, “Here’s four weeks’ pay, now GET OUT and don’t come back!” Feeling pretty good about himself, the CEO looked around the room and asked, “Does anyone want to tell me what job that slacker did here?” From across the room came a voice: “That was the pizza delivery guy”
Advice for people of my generation:
Do not introduce yourself too vigorously to new people – they may be old friends you have forgotten. Give up the mother-in-law jokes as, nowadays, your wife is the mother-in-law. Don’t be envious of your friends who tell you they are doing it five times a night – they mean going to the loo! When discussing the grandchildrens’ history lessons, don’t let them know that you were there.
Unsolicited telephone sales calls: If, like me, you hate receiving an uninvited sales calls, you probably lie awake at night, dreaming up ways to deal with them. My favourite is to shout to an imaginary grandchild to go and get Grandpa who is in the barn by the fourth meadow down the hill, just behind the lake. I warn the child to be careful rowing across the lake and invite the caller to hold on! There follows an amalgam of my ideas and some I found on the worldwide cobweb. I am particularly irritated if they start out with, “How are you today?”. Try saying, “Why do you want to know?” or “I’m so glad you asked, because no one seems to care these days and I have all these problems, my sciatica is acting up, my eyelashes are sore, my dog just died . . .” When they try to get back to the sales process, just continue on with telling about your problems. If they want to lend you money, tell them you just filed for bankruptcy and you could really use some money. Ask, “How long can I keep it? Do I have to ever pay it back, or is it like the other money I borrowed before my bankruptcy?” If the person says they’re Joe Soap from the XYZ Company, ask them to spell their name, then ask them to spell the company name, then ask where it is located. Continue asking personal questions or questions about the company for as long as necessary.
I am old school and I get really fed up to be called Ian by a stranger on their first contact. The following idea came from my good friend and eminent hotelier Paolo, who was extremely colourful (you may remember a previous article detailing his resistance to contraceptive vending machines being installed in his 5 star hotel, telling the owners and the newspapers that all his guests were perfectly happy using the shower caps provided). His idea for dealing with inappropriate use of his christian name works well with male or female callers. Caller “Is that Ian / Paolo?” Ian / Paolo “Have I slept with you?” Caller “Wot!!!!” Ian / Paolo “Well, I was just wondering why, if not, you were calling me by my christian name”. The most successful result I ever had with this technique was an explosion from the bloke who had called; he told me that I should be locked up in prison and hung up in a huff. A RESULT!
Alternatively, let the person go through their spiel, providing minimal but necessary feedback in the form of an occasional “Uh-huh, really” or, “That’s fascinating.” Finally, when they ask you to buy, ask them to marry you, whether they be male or female. They will get all flustered. Then just tell them you couldn’t give your credit card number to someone who’s a complete stranger. This next one works better if you are male. Reverse it if you are female. Telemarketer: “Hi, my name is Judy and I’m with XYZ window sales. You: “Hang on a second.” (Few seconds pause) “Okay, (in a really husky voice) what are you wearing?” Alternatively, cry out “Judy!! Is this really you? I can’t believe it! Judy, how have you BEEN?” Hopefully, this will give Judy a few brief moments of terror as she tries to figure out where on earth she could know you from. Alternatively, say, “No,” over and over. Be sure to vary the sound of each no, and keep an even tempo even as they’re trying to speak. This is the most fun if you can keep going until they hang up. -or- Tell them you work for the same company they work for. Telemarketer:”This is Bill from ACME Windows” You: Hello, Bill, I work for them too. Where are you calling from?” Bill:”Wolverhampton.”You: “Great, they have a group there too? How’s business/the weather? Too bad the company has a policy against selling to employees. Enjoy your day” -or- Tell the Telemarketer you are busy and if they will give you their phone number you will call them back. When they say they are not allowed to give out their number, then ask them for their home number and tell them you will call them at home . If the person says, “Well, I don’t really want to get a call at home,” say, “Yes, now you know how I feel.”
Best wishes to you all Ian Nisbet

Housing

I was watching an edition of ‘Look East’ recently and there was an item on homelessness, telling us of the big increase in the numbers of homeless people in Lynn, Norwich and Cambridge. They were mainly young people, some were lucky enough to get a bed in the YMCA but the demand exceeded the number of beds available and these youngsters were sleeping in shop doorways. With the cold weather this winter it must be very difficult for them to keep warm and they are very vulnerable to assault of different kinds.
The next item in the programme was dealing with an appeal for cash to create more bird sanctuary wetlands at Cawston marsh. One million is required and this is to be matched by another million from a charitable trust. They had launched the appeal quite recently and already had reached £300,000. It caused me to wonder what sort of society we are living in that puts so much value on creating more wetlands (surely we have enough in Norfolk) when young people are having to sleep in shop doorways.
Some time ago I wrote a couple of articles on Bad Government, highlighting what I regarded as serious mistakes made by our governments in the last forty years or so. The current housing situation is another result of mistakes and failures by successive governments, starting with Maggie Thatcher’s decision to sell off council houses, a policy pursued by following governments, the consequences of this policy when combined with a ban on councils building replacements were easily predictable. Maggie’s dream was to create a nation of house owners (and never mind those who were unable to achieve that). This policy has been pursued by following governments regardless of the mounting evidence that it was not working. Council houses provided the supply of affordable houses from the beginning of the last century, and even more importantly in the aftermath of the war.
The building of new houses by the private sector has been well short of what is required, the principal reason for that is the high price of land, in turn that is due to the difficulty in obtaining planning consent, largely due to the failure of politicians to deal with nimbyism for fear of being unpopular with those that are sitting comfortably. We now have a serious housing shortage, exacerbated by the inflow of immigrants – another nettle that our politicians have been too slow to tackle. The high price of building land is a crime when the area of land that is not built on is so large in comparison with the area that is built on. The high price of houses has encouraged those with sufficient wealth to invest in property to sell on or to rent resulting in an upward spiral of prices and rents. It is ridiculous verging on criminal for a government to sit on its hands whist this has been going on and we have reached the stage where house prices and rents are getting beyond the point where those on the average wage can afford to pay them. Their housing now represents such a high proportion of their income that they are driven to living in poverty. The whole situation has been worsened further, by financial attacks on the poor such as cuts in housing benefits, bedroom tax, cuts to local councils etc. It is scandalous that at a time of well recognized housing shortage landlords should be permitted to keep squeezing up rents to the point where families with both parents working are barely left with enough to live on after the rent has been paid. We had a very severe housing shortage in the post war period and the government of the day tackled it with drive and determination, they got on with building on a grand scale and clamped down on any profiteering by landlords. Governments in recent years have wrung their hands and claimed that something must be done, then they made their big decision “I know what we will do, we will set a target.” (Their solution to most problems)
At last this government has admitted that the housing market is broken and seem to have realized that they have to do something more than set a target, so far that something is to produce a ‘white paper’. Sadly what is proposed therein is not enough to anywhere near solve the problems. It does not propose a large programme of council house building but talks about building on brown field sites, there are nowhere near enough of these to do more than scratch the surface of the problem, and brown field sites are more expensive than green field sites so they will not provide cheaper housing. It would be better to turn brown sites into green sites and make the towns nicer places to live. They talk of adding more houses to the perimeters of villages and towns, but to add more houses to market towns such as Downham puts strains on the centre of the town that were never intended, the roads, parking, medical services and other services all get strained to breaking point and these towns become less pleasant places. They talk glibly about building more houses but developers will only build houses if they can sell them and with the current prices of building land the house prices will remain too high for many. It seems to me that the only way to solve the problem on the scale that is required is by the government compulsorily purchasing virgin land at a price that is associated with no planning approval and building new towns on a grand scale, similar to that of the 1950s, and, as in the 1950s, the lower price of the land enabled them to fix rents at an affordable level, the option to buy should be there but this should be at the level of the market for the area outside the new town. We lived in Harlow in the 1950s and that was the situation there except that there were some larger detached houses for which the rent was fixed at the market rate. This seemed to work well, we were there for a while, but when we were ready to buy we moved away leaving an opportunity for another family to rent. The government has talked about new towns so for goodness sake – get on with it.
Ron Watts

Guarding Boughton’s Bottle

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Following the terrible experience of the Bottle being kidnapped
we realised we had to change our approach to security. The safety of this very valuable asset could no longer be taken for granted. Christmas and New Year celebrations would introduce a period of considerable vulnerability.
Consultation with some of our countries top security experts, New Scotland Yard, Westminster and a group of people based in Hereford provided us with a robust strategy.
MI6 & MI5 were particularly helpful. They secretly surveyed Boughton and it’s surrounds, All saints Church, and where in the Church the bottle was kept. Contrary to their initial advice, we stated that we refuse to put the bottle under lock & Key; it has to be on open display to encourage vital contribution to our funds.
In addition a high level favour was called in.
“It’s payback time Mr President! Our bottle helped you raise dollars during your Whitehouse charity functions and we also let your Astronaughts take it to the moon. Now Boughton needs your help. Can we borrow a group of your Navy Seals as back up for our MI6 Black ops team?”
President (at the time Elect) Trump also supported our operations, now
that he knows where Boughton is. He is however still having trouble with
the location of Norfolk, there being one in Virginia, causing him some considerable confusion.
All our requests were granted. A number of field agents were positioned
around the village. The US Navy Seals were concealed in the stand of reeds at the Mill Hill road side of the pond.
Geoff’s piglets were charged with forward observations, providing our crack units with vital information regarding the approach of any known villains or suspicious activity.
We are very pleased to report that our covert operations were entirely successful; the bottle was safe all through the festive season.
We wish to thank Father Christmas, MI6, MI5, US Navy Seals, and Geoff’s piglets for keeping the Bottle safe over Christmas and the New Year. We were denied permission to take photographs of the covert operatives, but they did send us a picture of them training with the bottle.
Perhaps our Parish Council will consider granting Geoff’s Piglets
the freedom of Boughton.? They pretty much go where they like anyway.
If any of our readers has any information please call
Whitehall 1212.

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COUNTRYSIDE NOTES MORE SAYINGS March 2017

 

Continuing with the theme of where sayings originate it is hardly surprising that many are connected with horses. After all they were the sole means of transport on land for centuries.
Unbridled means uncontrollable but keeping a tight rein and holding the reins means being in control. Reining in means dampening enthusiasm and hold your horses means keeping calm. When the driver of a team of horses has them under control he has them in hand. The word curb may well have derived from a type of bit called a curb designed for greater control over the animal. A horse would be spurred into action with spurs attached to the rider’s boots. Excitable horses champ at the bit and one wishing to gain control will get the bit between its teeth.
Horses often had their front legs loosely tied together with rope to prevent them running away although they could still move in a restricted way. This was known as hobbling giving rise to the word describing someone who is unable to walk properly. A horse’s teeth continually grow and the age can be estimated by this. Being long in the tooth shows it is elderly. You shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth as it’s rude to appear to be checking its age and therefore its value. Straight from the horse’s mouth indicating inside knowledge arose from those who cared for horses daily and knew their charges well. A dark horse stems from the horse racing industry when very little is known about a certain animal.
When riders received assistance in mounting a horse they are given a leg up. Only soldiers and royalty would ride big horses from which they looked down on the peasants. They were on their high horse.
If you’re burdened by something you are saddled with it. Being on shank’s pony means being on foot- the shank being the part of the leg between the ankle and knee.
Horses are playful, big and rough – hence horseplay. But working horses are intelligent so if you are sensible then you are gifted with horse sense. A horse consumes a large quantity of food hence the term eats like a horse. Donkeys can live to a great age, maybe 50 years giving rise to donkey’s years.
Working and war horses had nails fixed into their shoes to give them a better grip on slippery surfaces from which the term riding rough shod over someone originates.
A few sayings are self explanatory. Shutting the door after the horse has bolted means it’s too late. Put the cart before the horse getting things the wrong way round. Flogging a dead horse will get you nowhere and horses don’t build nests so you’d never find a mare’s nest. And we all know about leading a horse to water but not being able to make him drink!
Two familiar words not connected with horses are ‘nightmare’ and ‘bridegroom’. Their origins trace back to 15th century Old English words