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Where have we been?

Our ambition is to tour Can You Dig It? to every county in the UK.

A bird in the hand…

A while ago my allotment shed was broken into and the doors have been hanging off their hinges ever since and would have probably stayed like that unless my allotment friend Tomato Man hadn’t intervened. He wandered over to my plot today and said: “I’ll do you a deal. I will fix the doors on your shed if you do something for me.” I was a bit apprehensive as Tomato Man can be a bit cheeky and once offered to whip me with a bramble – an offer I declined. “What do you want me to do?” I asked nervously. He explained that there was a dead bird on his plot and could I please remove it because he was scared of it. “I can’t go on my plot with that there and if someone doesn’t take it away I’ll have to go home,” he said. I told him that I didn’t think it was a very good deal from his point of view as I could easily get rid of the dead bird but it would be quite a bit of work to mend the shed but he insisted so I put on some gloves and dealt with the bird, which turned out to be a dead baby bird. I reported that his plot was now free of dead things and repeated that I had definitely done best out of our deal. “You don’t know the service you have done for me,” said Tomato Man. Anyway, my shed is all mended now, which is excellent. “If you find any more dead things you know who to call,” I told TM.

Come on you reds!

Last year all my redcurrants were eaten by evil pigeons but this year they have survived because I remembered to put a net over my redcurrant bush thus thwarting greedy Derrick and his fat friends. Talking of Reds, Dan and I will be playing some songs from the show at the Brent Stop the War Garden Party on Sunday (ha ha ha, that is a joke if anyone from Stop the War is reading this – please don’t kill me). Anyway, we shall be sharing a stage with socialist magician Ian Saville and other exciting acts. It all happens in a lovely garden in Willesden Green from 4pm with the entertainment starting at about 7.30pm. And as a special treat, Dan has promised to play the song that made him famous – The Complete History of the Soviet Union arranged to the melody of Tetris, which will no doubt go down a storm.


Our brilliant Chelsea Fringe show

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A very belated thank you to everyone who came to our SOLD OUT Chelsea Fringe show at Oxford House earlier this month. Here is a live action shot of the show with me pulling one of my many stupid faces – the kind of face that makes people say that I have copied Miranda when I haven’t. I think we are singing Derrick the Evil Pigeon in this photo, which is why I am doing that particularly gormless face. It is the face of a pigeon that has been brainwashed into following an avian dictator. Anyway, we really enjoyed doing the show and were particularly pleased with the set supplied by Spitalfields City Farm, which included lots of lovely veg plants.

After all the excitement, Dan and I are having a bit of  a break over the summer to give us a chance to tend our much-neglected allotments. However, we will be popping up at various events including the exciting Brent Stop the War Garden Party on July 7 when we will be sharing the stage with a socialist magician. More details soon.

Sticky willy juice

stickyThis morning I am feeling particularly chipper and I know the reason. It’s because last night I drank an elixir made from clivers – also know as Sticky Willy. Who would have thought that this annoying weed, which sticks to everything, would have medicinal properties? But according to organic gardener Fiona Hull (pictured) soaking your Sticky Willy in water and then drinking the liquid is good for you. We met Fiona at a Forest Hill Society meeting last night where she was giving a talk on “healing plants” and we were doing some songs – I like to think we were also healing people but with musical comedy.

Unfortunately Dan didn’t get to sample the Sticky Willy juice because he had to dash off to another gig. However, I will be making him some to ensure he is in tip top condition for our Chelsea Fringe show tomorrow. There are still some tickets left for the show at Oxford House in Bethnal Green so hurry up and book here. Alternatively, you can just turn up before the show starts at 7.30pm as tickets will be available on the door.

Green people

stokey 002One of the best things about taking part in the Chelsea Fringe has been meeting fellow gardening and grow-your-own enthusiasts. Today I went on something of a magical mystery tour of garden centres and shops in London to dish out a few more flyers for our show on Saturday.

I started at the brilliant Growing Life shop where they sell all sorts of exciting stuff to help urban gardeners and people who want to grow things indoors then visited the lovely N1 Garden Centre – see photo – and King Henry’s Walk Garden where Dan and I did a performance last year. It’s their annual fete on Saturday from noon to 4pm.

Next was the brilliant Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, which is currently hosting the Dalston Flower Show, a three-week gardening and grow-your-own festival that concludes this weekend. stokey 012

Just down the road from this oasis is the FARM: shop, which is an amazing mix of cafe, allotment and aquaponics farm where they grow fish and salad in the front and have a polytunnel out the back that would be the perfect venue for one of our shows. They even have a room upstairs where they grow mushrooms.

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I also popped to Stoke Newington briefly to visit John’s Garden Centre. Everyone I met today was very helpful and nice, which seems to be the default setting for gardening folk.

Last night I did a few songs from the show at the Permaculture Picturehouse where I was the warm-up act for a talk on solar power. I am now determined to get some solar panels on my roof. Tomorrow both Dan and I are popping up at the Forest Hill Society’s Evening of Gardening Fun, which is an excellent name for an event. It’s all go!

Cake day

cake day 027I am truly green with envy having taken part in the Chelsea Fringe Cake Day in the street they call Veg Street where friends, neighbours, homeowners (and tenants, Dan) all got together to grow things in their front gardens and around trees. One of the organisers, Naomi has written a book about it and has an excellent blog called OutOfMyShed.

These beautiful alliums interspersed with veg are just a small sample of the lovely things to look at and admire. There was a gardening-themed disco in this garden – hence the glitter balls – where I performed a short selection of songs from the show.

It was a great event and I got to meet some lovely people including three charming Chelsea pensioners. cake day 023One of them was telling me about meeting Alan Titchmarsh because everyone has met him except me!

There was a competition for the best tree pit, which has inspired me to renew my efforts with the tree pits that I have been guerrilla gardening in MY street and, of course, a topiary demonstration by “the elephant man” aka Topiary Tim. Here he is making an owl to perch next to his elephants, technically a giant owl as big as an elephant, which is quite a scary concept.cake day 020 Dan would like the elephant hedge as it features a baby elephant and also a pile of topiary elephant dung.

Growing concerns

cake day 010Less than a week until our London show. Yesterday I went to fantastic independent garden centre Growing Concerns in East London to hand out a few flyers. The centre started life as a residents’ gardening club and has been on its current site next to the Grand Union Canal since 2000. According to the member of staff I was chatting to, it is built over electricity lines so technically they could be asked to move everything with ten days’ notice. Eek!

They have a lovely selection of plants and, as well as pressing flyers into people’s hands, I got lots of inspiration for my own garden re-design. I am currently attempting to revamp my back garden having recently bought the bottom half. So far I have had some tree surgeons in and taken down some wibbly wobbly trellis that the former owner put up. It was so squint it made me feel seasick. The next phase involves paving a small area to put an arbour on. This means agonising over slabs. Nothing is ever simple.

Oh grow up!

WP_20130531_006I visited the amazing GrowUp Box today where they grow salad and fish using aquaponics. Basically the fish poo in some water and bacteria make that into food for the salad, which eats the nutrients and in turn helps purify the water, which goes back to the fish for them to poo in again. Something like that. Dan will love this because he thinks poo is hilarious and tried to write a song about it for Can You Dig It? which I banned from the show. Anyway, it all happens in a converted shipping container with a greenhouse on top. They’re going to be selling the salad and fish for people to eat when they are big enough and have lots of events planned throughout the summer including a couple hopefully featuring us.  Maybe I will allow Dan to resurrect his horrible poo song. Or maybe not.

Bath buddies

spitalfbathLook! I’m not the only one growing things in old baths. This bath is one of the many original containers in use as planters at the fantastic Spitalfields City Farm, which is kindly lending us some props for our Chelsea Fringe show. The farm is abundant with fruit, veg and herbs, some of which will be adorning the stage at Oxford House for Can You Dig It? on June 8. Just a week to go until the show so don’t forget to book your tickets!

In the meantime I will be popping up at the Chelsea Fringe Cake Sunday this Sunday and to perform a few songs from the show in someone’s front garden. There’s lots of exciting gardening-related stuff going on including a “strawberry pillar box” and the making of “seed bombs”, which sounds a bit alarming, but I am particularly looking forward to the topiary demonstration by the aptly-named Tim Bushe who has turned his hedge into a herd of elephants.

Bunny peculiar

fixed bunnyCan you tell what it is yet? Actually, maybe I shouldn’t use that catchphrase any more but never mind… This is my first attempt at the noble art of topiary. If you haven’t guessed then it is supposed to be a rabbit (this is the good side). I think it is quite cute. I am re-designing my garden at the moment and plan to have a lot more topiary in exciting and interesting shapes. Maybe I could carve a hedge into the shape of Dan and then we would never be apart and when I am annoyed with him – as I frequently am – I could hit the hedge on the head with a spade. I used to live near an amazing hedge, which was in someone’s front garden and was shaped like a giant snail but then the shell bit went brown and got chopped off, turning the snail into a giant nightmare slug from a horror film. Ugh!

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The Daily Telegraph

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Next Shows

6 April 2016
Horniman Museum London SE23 3PQ
11:30, 13:30 & 15:00

Jo Stephenson and Dan Woods are real-life allotment holders and two of the UK's finest comic songwriters.

As well as thinning their lettuces and watering their weeds, they have collaborated on a unique collection of comedy songs about growing your own.

Can You Dig It? is touring the UK.

Read more about the project.

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