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done in the garden now voting's done.

THEY always used to say that you could recognise an MP's house in a street by the 3ft-high grass in the front lawn.

Elections always come along in May.

That's when the grass and the weeds are growing at their fastest.

Long hours of sunlight combined with plenty of rain is a lethal combination this time of year. The vegetable garden is really tough because you should have dug it over during the winter. If you missed that window, now is the best chance of doing if the soil is dry enough.

My key gardening tool is the bull-nosed shovel.

I never owned one until recently, but I would never do without one now. I don't remember my grandfather John Rees ever using one.

Digging over the vegetable patch with a fork was almost as important as his beloved Baptist Chapel to him. Think Protestant Ethic. My grandfather was the Protestant Ethic. When he found in his early 80s that he wasn't strong enough to dig over the garden, he sort of gave up.

His time was coming. Well I use the bull-nosed shovel, though I think of my grandfather with every shovelful.

It's so much easier to get the bull-nose into the heavy soil we have in Michaelston.

All you have to watch is not to bring up too much of the clayey red subsoil. Too much red clay is bad news, too tough for the earthworms.

A retired cowman in the village told me a few months ago about the day the American Prairiebuster plough came to Michaelston during the war.

He was just a young lad of 14 starting work.

The Americans thought they were helping us to produce more of our own food by lending us their biggest and best agricultural kit. If it worked, that would reduce our vulnerability to the U-boats. It turned out to be a very big 'If'.

The Prairiebuster plough dug down about two feet. It was a disaster. It brought up a huge amount of red clay.

"Once that red clay comes up, it's impossible to get it back down into the bungum," the old cowman said. "It ruined the tilth, see!" I love my bullnose shovel, but not if it turns into a Prairiebuster!

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 23, 2015
Words:375
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