South Park character: allotment humour

Hoisted aloft

When it comes to keeping pests off veggies, a mixture of sense and superstition prevails at our allotments.

On one plot, a stuffed character from the cartoon South Park has been hoisted aloft by a long pole up his jacksie.

But the pole is very sturdy, so nothing moves when the wind blows.

It’s hard to see why it would scare birds (though it did scare Mr Mandy Sutter).

His and my favourite scarecrow is the one who looks like a Rastafarian. He doesn’t move much, just stands ‘taking the breeze’ all day, though his fingers, made of plastic bags, do stir occasionally.

Mr MS finds much in him to admire.

It’s a lot of trouble to go to though, when the key seems to be simply to have something that moves.

Rasta scarecrow on our Yorkshire allotment

Taking the breeze

I love the cat weathervane, but I’ve never seen it pointing in any direction other than West. Less glamorous things probably do the job just as well.

The deterrents most in evidence allotment-wide are things that rattle on sticks, like inverted plastic bottles and yogurt cartons. And a phenomenal number of Benecol, Actimel and Yakult pots. I’ve often wondered who buys that stuff.

And there are plenty of old CDs and DVDs strung between poles. Paul McKenna’s ‘Overcome Emotional Spending’ and the first series of  ‘Coast’ swing between broad beans on one plot and further down, light glances off the rim of David Attenborough’s ‘The Life of Mammals: Meat Eaters.’

David Attenborough's Meat Eater's DVD: allotment humour

Meat Eaters

These bugaboos are all on the established allotments, though, rather than in our new bit. I don’t know why: we have the same pests. We also have two extra ones: rabbits and tiny beetles that turn turnip and radish leaves into doilies.

The beetles, apparently, were disturbed by the earthworks when the land was converted to allotments. Word is that they will ‘settle down’ next year. Do they know this, though? And I do wish the council would talk to the rabbits, maybe put up one of their strongly worded notices. Because the rabbits used to live where we are now and as far as they’re concerned, it’s still their patch. On a fine evening they flock back onto our plots to bask in the sun, looking suspiciously well fed and pleased with themselves.

So in the new bit, intimidation is done with nothing more flamboyant than posts and mesh. The rabbit proof fences are still going up. We’ve even got one ourselves.

When a neighbour asked Dad for £30 towards the £240 she was being charged to put up her  fence, Dad was happy to pay up, but couldn’t get over her total fee.

‘£240?’ he kept saying. ‘It’s a ludicrous amount! I reckon I could do it for £50.’

And the gauntlet was down. He drove round Yorkshire in his red Peugeot until he found a place that actually manufactured the wire netting supplied to B&Q et al. He decided to use thinner posts than most. He decided not to set the fence in a trench. He decided against a gate: we would just step over the wire. And in the blink of an eye, our fence was up.

‘Thirty-eight quid, all in,’ he said. ‘You can’t beat it, can you?’

It is flimsy compared to all the other fences. They have posts set in concrete and gates with latches.  And our back fence (council built) still has a gap of six inches at the bottom. Other allotment holders have filled theirs with wire mesh dug into the soil. But Dad believes the crops he’s planted at the back will keep the rabbits out, forming an olfactory barrier.

Weather vane pointing out our prevailing Yorkshire wind

Pointing west

‘They don’t like potatoes,’ he says.

I’m not sure a few spuds planted a foot apart are going to be enough to keep out a determined buck. Some of them are enormous.

But Dad has something else up his sleeve: he’s read that rabbits dislike human hair, so every time he has a trim, he takes the sparse snow white clippings and sprinkles them about.

Poking twigs into the ground close to crops is another trick, to be brought out later perhaps, like the big guns.

‘And how much does it cost us?’ he asks, triumphant. ‘Nothing, that’s what.’

I’m coming round to these home remedies of his.  Perhaps they will work. And so what if they don’t? I don’t want our allotment to be a pristine, efficient, vegetable producing machine, even if it could be.

Anyway, I’ve thought of something else that would cost us nothing: a scarecrow. And who cares whether any pests are scared off or not? The point is, she’ll look fantastic.