January can be a cold and unforgiving month full of dark mornings and darker nights. The little slice of time I spend up at the allotment is as much about finding space and distraction as it is growing things.
Of course I do want to grow things. I want to grow potatoes and carrots and leeks and other stuff too. It is part about sustainability. Providing for my family, not buying as much pre packaged food and perhaps reducing the strain on the environment.
These are all high ideals, as we are bombarded with news of global catastrophe, climate change, plastic polution. We are told to make a change, to change our ideals and our behaviours… “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change…”
So before my ideals, before saving the planet, it starts with a fork in the soil. Theres not much to do in January on an allotment. The hours are short and the ground is wet, sludge and mud and weeds. Yet there is a satisfaction in that slice of time I carved out on a Saturday afternoon to dig over a row that I plan to grow potatoes in was somewhat satisfying. It hurt my back and i’m sure I’ll feel it later, but the moment I put the fork in the soil, broke ground, I started to make a difference to me.
By giving myself permission to do do something for me, to spend time by myself and connect with something else, the earth. A sometimes uncompromising unyeilding foe, I found myself digging up the mud and seperating out the more aggressive weeds.
However this is part of the challenge, beginning to work this little piece of land with my little piece of time will require effort, and patience. There will be mistakes and small successes. These I am sure of. However anything worthwhile, even my my high ideals require a beginning and an understanding that it won’t be easy. It will be difficult and frustrating at times.
However now it’s started, the ground is broke, the works begun. I could stop, change my mind. Just spend time in the shed admiring the seeds I’ve bought and the tools I have at my disposal as the days grow gradually longer and the land starts to warm as the seasons move towards the anticipated summer. I could sit there and while away my slices of time watching my life, my allotment without actively taking part. However all I will have to show for it at the end will be a piece of land with some turned soil, and clean wellies.
So the ground is broke and the works begin. What I do next determines whether those potatoes will sprout, those carrots will germinate or whether those leeks will find their way into a soup for next winter.
“Given the right conditions, everything has the capacity to grow”
Maybe this growth, this little slice of time will be demonstrated here over the next few months. The foundations are there. The shed is equipped with chair and swedish stove for hot drinks. The seeds are stored, the seeded potatoes are chitted and the compost bin is starting to create apparently wonderful fertiliser for the future.
Any work we begin takes times and doesn’t always go according to plan. I have little control over what happens on my allotment if I don’t take a firm fork and work the ground in order to exert what little control I have. The rest is out of my hands.
A Thirsk Counsellor