February is a month of confusion and uncertainty. I have found myself looking out of the kitchen window, increasingly frustrated at the lack of opportunity to get to my allotment. Although there have been bright sunny days, they have tended to be during the week, when unfotunately i’m at work, often wishing I was at the allotment.
Another delay to getting on the allotment has been the recent storms. The last two weeks , the UK has been battered by stom Ciara and then shortly followed by storm Dennis. These storms have wreaked havoc across the country and on the allotment. Whilst driving past one morning I looked over one morning to find at least 10 of the sheds blown over and smashed against the back of another shed. My heart sank, thinking mine too would be face down in the mud like a child pushed over by the playground bully.
Not so the case. My early enthusiasm of filling my shed with tools, a chair and some shelving had provided some much needed ballast. Also, the location of mine (top far right corner) meant that the shed behind me, although had blown over, had provided a windbreak from further risk of damage by these most unwelcome of visitors, Ciara and Dennis.
So the opportunites to go out this month are limited. I also tried digging it over. Ive found that its become so compacted, that its going to take a little more than a spade and fork to break this down. I managed to get a pickaxe after finding out that another tennant who has dug two foot down (into what I thought was concrete and hardcore) had used one. So I guess i’m going to have to chance the weather to break this ground.
And so as I swung the pickaxe, I felt the earth break and crack, I knew this was going to be a challenge, I managed to dig for about an hour before I was able to survey this miniscule hole I’d carved out. My arms ached with each swing, each shovel of wet soil (I would not recommend the shifting of wet soil). I felt my arms and shoulder in a way that I’d never felt before. As the mound of dirt slowly grew, i’ll be honest, I felt a little pride. A little sense of “A job well done!” Unaccustomed as I am to physical labour, I enjoyed this feeling of tilling the ground, making ready. It has a sense of clearing away the past.
There is something therapeutic being out in the outdoors, gardening etc, this is not news. And this project I’ve taken on is about lifting my wellbeing, and like therapy requires work, and weeding and planting seeds hoping to take root and blossom and flourish. So this work is hard. As I dug into the soil and heaved chunks of compacted dirt, I realise now there is the obvious analogy that I’m digging into the past, The soil has been beaten and battered by life. The weight of the soil like life and built up pressure and compacted it into a solid mass. Breaking into the ground with tools, with pickaxe and spade requires effort, and pain. That’s the only way to get to something worthwhile. So work begins, and needs to continue. In the moments of time I alot to myself. Snatched moments in time like the hours spent on the pond, seldom and few and far in-between. I use this time to open up the ground and fill it with something new.
As much as we want to connect to this world, to this earth, inevitably we find ourselves trying to control it, then along comes storm Ciara and Dennis to remind us that we are at it’s whim. Nature can give and take away so we need to be respectful of this land.
So I remain in a state of preparation in February. Seeds are purchased and wait in the shed. I’m scavenging and collecting bits of wood and pallets so that when this cold spell breaks, I can begin to build. I take note when driving, or recently, on a train to Edinburgh, established allotments, great constructions that look like shanty towns made out of old doors and bits of wood. It’s a call back to something old. A time when when poverty created what is now bought as standard and thats what I want to create on my allotment.
I watch the seed potatoes, quietly chitting on the cupboard. In my head i’ve already placed where they’ll grow, all part of the plan, the allotment map ready and waiting to come to fruition. So as February draws to it’s inevitable close, like those seeded potatoes, readying themselves, I need to practice patience.
A Thirsk Counsellor