Posts tagged ‘allotment gardening’

January 6, 2014

2014 Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! As we’re a week into 2014, I’m firmly closing the door on the Christmas and New Year festivities (which I’ve totally loved this year) and getting back into the swing of everyday life. The start of a new school term always brings about a return to routines and the end of Quality Street being an acceptable breakfast food, just as I’ve got used to the idea…

Traditionally the start of January is resolution time. Usually I like to write a giant list of resolutions for the year, some of which I manage to complete and some I don’t. I wrote recently about needing to be honest with myself about the things that I really wanted to do and forget the things that I think I should want to do. So, no marathon running goals for me, this year or ever. Although I think that if you want to make changes to your life, you should start them today, whenever today is, rather than waiting for January 1st, there is something tidy about making new starts in a new year, so I do find New Year’s Resolutions somewhat seductive.

2014 is going to be a year that contains many changes. My career, my home life, and the way I spend my time are all going to change, and not all of those changes are my decision. So, rather than trying to control everything, I’m going to try and go with the flow a little more. Which is terrifying to me! But, I think that trying to force things to happen is bound to end in failure. It is important for me to recognise what I can control and what I cannot.

Therefore my list is short, and perhaps a little vague. But here goes:

1 – Study for my RHS Level 2 exams.  I’ve written about this before, and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while (and really wanted to do) but life has got in the way of my plans. I’m determined to make it happen this time though. And I’m hopeful it may lead to more opportunity and who knows, perhaps a career shift.

2 – Make time. For my family, my friends, my boyfriend. Much of 2013 was challenging, sometimes it was painful and introspective, and it was a year in which my friends all supported me, but I feel as though I gave back little in return. I want to redress the balance and make time to visit my beloved friends and family and support them in whatever they are doing. My boyfriend has a year of change ahead of him too, and I want to be a supportive partner to him as we embrace our future together. (As an aside, I feel far too old to be saying boyfriend, but what’s the alternative? Partner makes it sound like we’re in business together…hmm)

3 – Say ‘yes’ more. And say ‘no’ more. Contradictory as ever…but by which I mean that I want to be brave enough to say ‘yes’ to the right opportunities that come my way, and say ‘no’ to things that I don’t want, need or feel like the right ‘fit’. And I’m not talking specifically about possessions when I say ‘things’, it’s really just a goal about being authentic and true to myself.

4 – Keep cycling. This is a bit of a vague goal, I appreciate, but I have really been enjoying cycling and I want to carry on improving, at my own pace, and just enjoying the ride. I have no challenges, competitions, sportives in mind at all. It will just be me, my bike and my boyfriend by my side.  Though, if you’re in Leeds and fancy a snail’s pace bike ride with a cafe stop in the middle, I’m your ideal companion!

5 – Visit somewhere new. Doesn’t matter where, I just want to keep exploring and having micro-adventures. And I really, really, want to go to somewhere I’ve never been in Europe in 2014. Fitting adventure into everyday life instead of waiting for a big chunk of time is something I’ve enjoyed in 2013, and I want to do more of it.

6 – Move towards being a ‘zero waste’ home. This is a huge goal and one in which I am going to be moving at an evolutionary pace, not aiming for an overnight revolution! On the back of reducing our reliance on the supermarket, the next step is reducing the amount of waste we create – less packaging, which in turn means less recycling. More composting and home-grown food! Which takes me nicely onto number 7…

7 –  Try my hardest to grow as much of our food as possible. 2013 was a dire year on the allotment for many reasons. I paid it a visit over the Christmas period and made a promise to it that I’d try my hardest to make 2014 a great year. Yup, I talk to my allotment. I appreciate that’s odd.

8 – Try yoga. We have a wonderful looking yoga centre near us and I’d really like to have a go at yoga, to benefit my (still too high) blood pressure and improve my flexibility. This is the year in which I’m finally going to do it, instead of just talking about it!

So, there we have it. Only eight things on my list this year. In addition to this are my usual ‘eat well, read more, learn new things’ goals, but they’re so heavily ingrained into my personality that I don’t need to specifically list them. As long as I’m breathing, I’ll be reading…

What are your goals for 2014? And do you have any advice for me in achieving mine? I’d love to hear from you.

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July 11, 2012

Allotment Gardening: A Fresh Start

I wrote last week about the struggle to keep our allotment going and my decision to ask my Mum to be our partner. This week was our first session on the site together.

The first thing Mum said once she’d agreed to help us was that we had to tidy the shed. Although my inner teenager rolled her eyes and prepared to stomp around about it, my outer adult agreed with her. This photo, taken once we’d got everything out of the shed, proves she was right. Never argue with my mother!

Note the really useful contents: A ride on car, our Christmas tree stand, an England flag and a roll of old carpet…

Clearing out the shed feels like a winter job really, but the weather this year has been so troublesome, and today felt distinctly autumnal anyway. Plus, the after photo shows that it’s actually tidy now and will be much more practical. No more wrestling with a tangle of netting every time I want to take a fork out of the shed! There is also now quite a lot of unused space in it that we can put to good use later on.

Once the shed had been sorted out, we spent a bit of time digging over an empty patch of the plot that should have been my flower cutting patch but has gone horribly wrong and then pulling up the onions. These have been in the ground a bit too long and so are enormous. I just hope they don’t rot.

After an hour’s worth of work we set off to the garden centre to pick up a few things and make plans for the autumn – although it feels early to be thinking of the next season, the summer has been a bit of a washout. Rather than focus on what has gone wrong, I prefer to look forward to what’s next. This feels like a bit of a fresh start for us all, and I’m more enthusiastic about the promise of the allotment than I have been for ages. Clearing out the shed, although in itself quite a dull job, felt like an announcement that we’re serious about it once again. Working with Mum was really companionable, because we get on so well and it was easy to see how much difference an extra pair of hands working with us regularly will make.

I’m excited to see what we will manage to produce over the next year. Needless to say my plans for the place have expanded in an enthusiastic fashion!

July 2, 2012

Allotment Gardening: A Change of Plans

This year my husband and I have really been struggling with the allotment. Despite best-laid plans and use of the Half Hour Allotment book, the combination of the weather and our other responsibilities has worked against us. The beans and peas have mysteriously disappeared, despite following exactly the same processes as last year (and protecting them in the same way) the apple set has been disappointing because of the rain and half of the plot is wildly out of control.

When we get the time to spend down there, instead of being ruthlessly efficient we stand around aimlessly trying to work out what job will make the most difference in the time we have available. It’s all a bit dispiriting. Instead of being a joyful experience, if I’m honest, it’s just becoming a bit stressful. Not that we haven’t been here before. When Eve was born ten weeks too soon, we spent a whole Winter sitting in a neonatal unit instead of sorting out the soil on the plot. We’ve had two babies, and I’ve had two caesarian sections, loads of other life responsibilities, and through them all, we’ve managed to juggle the allotment alongside everything else.

It feels different now. One of the reasons stress becomes real distress is when you can’t see an end to the situation you’re in and we’re in this situation for a long time. Full time work and small children just don’t leave enough time for it. We need to remember that it’s supposed to be fun. A hobby that might just provide some of the food on our plate. It’s really important to me, but I don’t want it to just become another thing to worry about. After all, the upside of a job is a salary with which we can buy the food we need. It’s more than that though. I want the kids to enjoy being outside. I want to share with them the happiness that growing some of your own food can bring, and the knowledge of where that food comes from. As well as that, they’re also learning about living alongside nature and I love to watch them exploring and playing on the plot, even though their presence reduces the amount of actual work I can get done!

Our feelings of stress about the situation are not helped by the new allotment neighbours. An army of them work the plot and in a few short months, it looks like they’ve been there longer than our six years. It’s making me miserable. I know the competition is only in my head, but we still look like the weakest link on the site and I don’t like it! We talked about giving it up recently. It broke my heart as I know that we’d never be lucky enough to get a plot again given the popularity of allotment gardening these days, but we also need to make sure that our holding onto one is legitimate and not depriving anyone else who would do a better job.

In order to make it work, I’ve taken a leaf out of my neighbours’ book. I’ve resisted this before, because I didn’t want to relinquish control over the plot, but all that  has done is leave me with no time and little food for my hard work. People are stronger as a community.  So, I did what I always do in times of crisis.

I called my mum.

We’re going to share the work in return for sharing the rewards. Even sharing, I’ll end up with more food in the first place because of the extra work being done – and Mum gets to grow the vegetables she cannot grow in her own, often waterlogged, garden. I already know, obviously, that we can work as a team together and our knowledge and skills will complement each other. I’m really excited about it. Of course, she might have said yes because of the payment up front I offered. A share in my one and only fabulous crop of this year. Here it is…

January 18, 2012

Grow what you like…

It’s the time of year when I rarely make it to the allotment and instead spend far too much time planning what I will be growing in the Spring. The mild weather we’ve been having has forced me out of the house on a few occasions this winter, but now it’s colder, the ground has frozen. At the moment, all I have in the ground is some over-wintering onions and garlic, which have started to grow but will now lie dormant until the weather warms up again.

Instead of going outside and freezing, I spend lots of time in the winter looking through seed catalogues and marking the varieties I fancy growing this year. Generally, I get far too carried away and end up with enough seeds for a small farm, but this year I’m going to be more organised about it. The main problem, I’ve realised, is that I’ve been growing the wrong things.

If you look at a ‘traditional’ allotment, you will see rows and row of vegetables, lined up with some kind of precision, unlike mine. Lots of brassicas – cabbages, cauliflowers, brussels sprouts, as well as climbing runner beans. There is a pretty standard crop rotation too, which means you move everything round every year, depending on what group the vegetable belongs to – roots, brassicas, legumes, onions. Potatoes often fall outside of this, and I pretty much put them anywhere, especially in places where the ground needs work, as they do a lovely job of breaking up the soil for me!

What I’ve come to realise is that this crop rotation just doesn’t work for me. I’ve been growing things because I think I should, because they fall into the crop rotation and because, in truth, an allotment just doesn’t look finished without a teepee of beans scrambling up it.

No more – this year I’m only going to grow what I LOVE to eat – loads more French beans and no runner beans. More sweetcorn and fewer cabbages. And if I want a teepee of climbers, they’ll be sweet peas instead of runner beans. I will grow more of the kids favourites too – peas, raspberries, strawberries, carrots. My new crop rotation plan, therefore, goes something along the lines of: if it wasn’t grown there last year, it’ll be fine to grow it there this year. Which might produce some interesting results, but I’m hoping that by concentrating on our favourite foods, we’ll end up eating more of what we grow. Or, in the case of the sweet peas, bringing more of them home to fill the house with scent and colour alongside all the dahlias

So, now all I have to do is choose what varieties to grow! I’ll share them with you once I’ve made up my mind.