Monday, September 5, 2011

My Big Old Annual Moan About the Council

Rabbit! rabbit! rabbit! But this time I have an excuse. There's been a massacre. The victims were butchered in their beds. The main suspect - let's call him Peter, Brer or Bugs - has just wiped out three plantings of juvenile cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower plants, about ninety in all. Yes I'm blaming a rabbit. Or a whole rabbitude of them. Proof? (a) Little roundy pellets in the vicinity (b) Buck toothed incisor patterns left in the deceased and critically wounded brassicas (c) I nearly caught one of the fat little gets a few weeks ago. He was so full he seemed to be having trouble hoppiting off and if the grab I’d made had been a successful one, he’d have ended up in a stew - one way at least of getting those filched nutrients back into my account.

No use hiding behind that stick!
Meantime, down the hill, raiding sheep long ago caused one harassed grower to turn his beloved plot into a chicken wire origami of Fort Appache. Think "Troubles" era RUC station. My rabbited plants might have recovered somewhat in this fantastic growing weather had I actually been able to water them. But on my last visit - perhaps the hottest of the year so far, the water was turned off - yet again and always in the heat.

Despite the recent rains, our windswept hillside site was bone dry and the bunny stripped plants would have fluffed up with a bit of water.The lack of water for me is the for-all-for-the-want-of-a horse-shoe-nail difference between thirty cabbages and none, thirty heads of broccoli and none, thirty heads of cauliflower and none. And I’m looking at bare blackcurrant bushes whose failure is also directly linked to the taps being dry during the hot period just before easter when these bushes went thirsty and raggedy because the water was also turned off. Meantime my competitive relations are boasting about blackcurrants the size of their heads.

Then there’s the bull with a face like Jordan's ex. I'd caught him hoovering my raspberry plant stems backwards through the fence on which they were supported, extricating the berries from the thorny branches with the oral finesse of a Jim Rose Circus veteran. However its attitude was more pre deregulation Dublin taximan. As it slewed off the last of my ripening raspberries and spat the bare stems right back through the fence, it looked at me as if to ask: "Alright bud?" Unlike the rabbit, I didn't attempt a wrestle.The infernal thing continued to hoover my raspberries even despite me ranting my tonsils raw and throwing half a pebble path at it whilst simulaneously holding back as many raspberry stems from the supporting fence as my tally of remaining fingers would permit.

Bad moos around an allotment. And it's no use hiding behind that stick!

I didn't have a bigger-than-the- bull, bull-barred jeep with the huge wheels and a great big blaring bull-horn which the farmer blares as he reverses and thrusts about in a motorised bull fight every evening in order to get Butthead and his accompanying herd of bovine raspberry blowers back to base - after they’ve chowed on our permimeter crops.

So the thing is this: Myself and a goodly number of my comrades in farms at our complex have now had quite enough of the bull. And the rabbits, and the sheep and the feral accountants. Because we pay the council handsomely (they increased our rents from E44 to E120 this year - 172% up that is) to keep the water on the land and to keep the local farm fauna from treating our complex like the salad snack counter at Fresh.

Because rabbit and livestock proof perimeter fencing is part of the deal on an allotment complex.Neglectful mother council has also banned us from having sheds to shelter in when it rains (we have dark shipping containers in the car park), and it seems to cut off our water when the rain stops. For more than a hundred people we have been provided with the single toilet bowl from Trainspotting located in the outhouse from the Texas Chainswaw Massacre. Previously used by thirty years of Dublin binmen (ours is a former tip head site) and without a window or electric light last time I was there - we have had to find the seatless and stained bowl in the dark with outstretched hands.

A gang of short shrifts yesterday.
The same council gives our representative - the one appointed to speak for hundreds of paid up allotment holders, short shrift each time we raise views on these issues. Their attitude: “we've a massive waiting list of people just dying to take over your plots. And did you know private plots cost E350?” Already some of us are murmuring about clubbing together to buy our own land.Based on figures they provide on their web site, it seems that our council earns roughly E17,000 per annum from our five acre site.

According to a recent survey by the Farmer’s journal, the average price of agricultural land in Ireland has fallen by 57% in four years. In Dublin the average is now E13,000 per acre.Thus our council earns E3,400 per acre per annum in rents - enough for them to reap the entire value of their land within four years. This is not providing an “amenity” - this a business.On the other hand it would take 32 of us paying E416 each to buy an acre of our own land which would allow us an average allotment each (120 square metres) and common land for parking and other facilities. Of course we’d have to pay for fencing, wc facilities, insurance and the sinking of a few wells. But a one of payment of E1,000 each would likely take care of the lot.

The alternative is that increasing council allotment fees combined with an increase in the cost of the hobby as compost and seed prices increase, are now turning allotment keeping into a paid-for fashion hobby akin to golf.In the same week as my robbing rabbit, a hardy old grower who disappeared from our complex some time back was finally replaced with one one who blocked off vehicle access to perhaps 20 allotments with a brand new sixty grand car. Wearing brand new designer wellies of the sort normally found at the backstage area in Glastonbury, he unloaded expensive trays of garden centre grown lettuces.

Soon it’ll be hired help to do the digging fchrissakes!!

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