It was the end of April, 2007. We had a extraordinaily warm Spring.
Do you see that plant with the purple flowers? I'm almost certain that's Comfrey, or sympbutum bulbosum. Some grow it for it's medicinal purposes, and it is a valuable herb, in some respects. My husband recently had reason to research how to heal a broken bone, and at the same time, my father had a wee mishap which resulted in a break in his forearm. So in his internet searches, my husband discovered that another name for Comfrey is "knit-bone". After some searching, we discovered a store here in London that stocks Comfrey Cream, which you smear on after a break to, well, knit the bone. I believe it can be found on the internet in the US, but I brought some over for my Dad. He's been smearing on it arm ever since, I believe!
But, my goodness, it grows like a weed. I was sure it was a weed, but a weed like I had never seen before. So, so much of it all over the garden (and I'm still weeding it out). It has a root like a Dandelion, one long, single root that needs to be got at with a Dandelion weeder, an instrument with a long shaft and forked end. But at least, in this first instance, we just tried to plow it up!
One of my oldest (in terms of time!) and dearest friends, who was visiting that weekend from the States (well, she was warned) tried to convince me that it was a beautiful plant. Huh. It's a bit prickly, too, and wear gloves if you are trying to pull it out. It seems to be very prevalant around here, for some reason - I've never encountered it before.
photo courtesy of Olivia Lahs-Gonzales
Here's a nice patch of it around the meeting hall just at the corner - they actually dug this all up last September, but here it is back again - I took the photo last weekend.
Now let me tell you about this machine. Do not be fooled into thinking that this is easy work. Much easier, of course, than digging up years of growth with a fork and spade, but this machine is serious.
Husband did most of the work, bless him. If the man upstairs hadn't been away for the weekend, he would have badly wanted a go as well. But no, it fell to my man, to rotovate.
The goggles, gloves and ear defenders are absolutely necessary. The beast makes a powerful noise, and who knows what the machine is going to throw up. So don't even think of skimping on those three things, and HSS at least will hire/sell you that along with the hire of the machine, for a very reasonable price. That's unless you go out and buy them beforehand, not realising that you can get them from HSS! Wear very sturdy shoes, too.
And, oh my. On my couple of goes up and down, the thing is like a bucking bronco in your hands. It takes all of your upper body strength (what strength I have!). That's if you are digging out several decades of stuff - we found rake heads, large chunks of cement, and a very interesting collection of bottles
but I think generally, if you are working with very compacted soil and/or with lots of weeds (we had both), you have a lot to get through and dig up. So be careful, take it slow, don't back up but learn how to turn, and don't freak out if it clogs. Just turn it off, and turn it on again.
(I say 50 years because one of these bottles was a "pomade" which just makes me think of teddy boys and slicked back hair!)
Bear in mind it's not easy to power up because it's not like your normal electric lawnmower (I am speaking to UK readers here). You really have to power it up, with a pull cord, something like a petrol-driven lawnmower, and to be honest I couldn't do it myself. Do not attept this lightly, but if it needs to be done, do it! It is worth all the effort, and the sore arms at the end of the day!