Sunday, 11 May 2014

Rules for working an allotment 1 - rotavator etiquette

Every allotment holder (after a day's digging) will start dreaming about owning a rotavator.

Everyone who works an allotment has one (or has a friend who will lend them one) and rotavators are a source of constant interest, amusement (schadenfreude), envy and jealousy.

Here are the basic rules relating to rotavator etiquette:
This chap is way too smartly dressed and his
rotavator looks a bit girly as well!

1. Once you have a rotavator (and you will get one – they are sine qua non) it is important never to admit any shortcomings. If you have a useless rotavator, or have made an unwise buy, you will be the laughing stock of the allotments. See rule 2 for further information:
2. If you buy a new rotavator, you'll be considered a bit of a flash git. Now some people don't mind being considered a flash git (in which case they should buy the biggest. most expensive one they can find), but if you want to be "one of the lads" then the only way to redeem yourself is for the new machine to break down or not do a proper job and for you to perform an act of abject contrition in front of your fellow allotment holders, confessing you made an unwise buy and have wasted hundreds of pounds. This will not restore your reputation, but people will talk to you out of sympathy. The only other course of action is to keep the new machine hidden and use it only at night.
3. Always have a rotavator that rates high in the pecking order. What they admire in Thorney is a good, solid piece of metal; if it doesn't need two people to lift it into your car then it probably isn't up to the job. If you need to buy a bigger car to carry your rotavator, so much the better. It should be a beast, barely tamed, but capable of chewing up solid clay and producing a fine tilth in one pass. You need to have picked it up for next to nothing - a real bargain. Fulfill these criteria and you will have a rotavator that everyone admires.
The ideal machine - old and heavy. If you bought
it for £50 you're a bloody legend.
4. Never buy a machine from Amazon (or if you do, never admit to it). It's a well-known fact that all machines sold on Amazon are made in China; they also come in bits that you have to assemble yourself, contain no instructions and no tools, require filing or drilling to get the parts to fit and once you've started it, the rotavator will shake itself to pieces after an hour's use. There is a certain kudos in managing to assemble one, getting it running and then declaring it unfit for the task, sending it back and getting a full refund. This is what one allotment holder in Thorney did - he’s now something of a legend.
5. Never brag about your machine – this not only fosters jealousy it also tempts fate. Big it up and I guarantee your gearbox will dump all its oil into your subsoil the next time you use it.
6. Never get it professionally maintained or repaired. A man who cannot fix his own rotavator is barely a man. By the way, it’s fine for a mate to fix it – there’s definite kudos in having a mate who can fix things.
7. Never admit to finding it hard to use or too heavy (see 6). Like owning a big dog, a man must be able to control his rotavator. Asking next door to help you turn it around when you’ve reached the end of your row is infra dig.
8. Never lend your rotavator to anyone else. They may break it, of course, but more likely, they’ll find umpteen faults and tell everyone else on the allotments what a pile of poo it is. The best thing is offer your help (it's a bit temperamental, there’s a knack to keeping it running ...). That way, your allotment neighbour is doubly grateful – once for the loan of the machine and twice for your labour.
9. Never borrow another man’s rotavator (unless you’re related). There’s every chance it will break or you won’t be able to get it started/lift it out of the car.
10. Never tell anyone that you're going to plough your allotment with an antique plough you’ve bought and your two Welsh cobs. An unlikely scenario perhaps, but that’s what one “hippy type” announced to her allotment neighbour in Thorney two years ago and (as you can see) they’re still enjoying the joke.

Also see: We have an allotment