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Throw away the books and the packets!

We have entered the planning zone. The time when we find excuses not to tend our kitchen gardens because of the rather nasty weather and because – hey! – another 1000 catalogues have come through the post. Wintershed 001We drool over our catalogues and dream of the year to come……oh! if only our veg would look like those in the pictures, if only our plots looked like those at the show grounds of Chelsea etc. We go to the library and browse the ‘natural history’ section and the ‘hobby’ section in the hope that we will find the Holy Grail of answers…..

Our seed packets arrive, our books arrive…….and then the confusion begins……what type of soil to grow in, what type of weather, what type of compost to use, what type of fertiliser…….aghhhh……..the list is endless. If you follow the books and the seed packets you’ll be stuffed! The only way to grow veggies is to stick some seeds in the ground and see what happens…..year after year…. We have to be optimists but we also have to be realists… Your seed packet may say ‘sow from Feb until June’…….what the heck (!) that’s a big time scale………only by experimenting in your kitchen garden will you know if February is better than June…….. and you have to be prepared for failure. Failure on a scale that will break your little heart. You will have a veggie that you try to grow but, no matter what you do, it fails. Miserably. Year after year. But. One day it will work.

We learn a lot from each other, from the ‘old hands’ on our sites, but we learn most when we are optimistic. We learn that though it may not have worked this year it just might next year. We learn to throw away the books and watch our own little patch and what it will give us…….we learn that the seed packets and their sowing times are aimed at people like us but also people far away from us….they are just a clue…..a little, maybe, insight into the mysterious world of growing your own food……

Read your books, watch your videos……they will all help…..but, above all, tune into your instincts, into your soil, into nature…………and go with the flow that your patch offers you.

I cannot wait for next year and more disasters……and more amazing moments! Happy planning.

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If full of care….

“What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stop and stare…..”Veggies 003

…..the words have been going around in my mind and nagging me for weeks. I know that I should ‘stop and stare’ but somehow the to-do lists win more times than not. The autumn is always such a busy time in the kitchen garden….gathering harvests, digging, sowing, dismantling structures, cleaning, storing……and copious hours spent in the kitchen ‘processing’ all the bounty….all this combined with work, family etc ad infinitum and it can feel like I am forever chasing my own worn out tail.

…..but then a moment comes, unplanned, when I find myself sitting still for a second outside my shed…..doing nothing, staring, without a thought, out over my veggies. It is a wonderful feeling and as I become conscious of it I allow it to grow. I allow my senses to breathe and come back to life.

My eyes are the first to engage; with the colours all around me, with the changing light, in noticing the birds chancing their luck for worms in the freshly turned soil. As I watch and look my ears, too, tune in; there are squirrels chattering in the elderberry tree behind the shed, the gas is gently hissing on the stove…..somewhere, a little further away, someone is playing piano. I close my eyes and let my ears do the seeing….I can feel the weak autumn sun on my cheeks, the faintest of breezes catches a few whisps of hair that have escaped their grips….

….and then the smells come. Damp leaves, damp soil…rich, dark brown smells. A whiff of wood smoke  and with it myriad memories of my grandparent’s place. I am transported and my to-do lists are a million miles away.

These moments on the plot are as precious to me as any of the veg I grow. I should make more time for them…..

Let us all put away our lists…..just for a moment……and stare.