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Taking stock…..and taking stock

If I had known, last year, what I know now would I have done things differently? Possibly. Probably not. A few tweaks here and there but nothing major. This time last year I was just grateful to be in the garden at all…..with my little broken wings……I had no idea I was on a course for making a huge decision. The fact that I wouldn’t do things differently gives me confidence; over the last couple of years my little patch of soil has shown me it can feed me and nurture me and keep me whole.

This time of year is known as the ‘hungry gap’: the time when last year’s harvests have been eaten and this year’s are yet to grow. I have, by trial and error, over a few years, learned how to keep myself going over winter……with the stored produce and the veggies I can keep going in the ground during the cold months. It is about thiBroad beanss time of year when I go through the cupboards, the freezer, the shed to work out what’s left and what I can make from it……

So……it is this time of year, once more, when I take stock of what’s left, what goodies there are to be turned into meals:……..but I find, as I weigh the beans and count the onions and clock the bottles of toms and eyeball the squash…..that I am quietly crying…….I stop in my tracks. I’m actually really crying and I can’t turn off the tears, the little sobs catch in my throat. ……I realise, I am taking stock not of my veggies….but of my life. I slump on the kitchen chair, nursing my tears and slowly I begin to see it…….. I have been in a ‘hungry gap’ for years…….my belly has been full, but my soul has been depleted…to the point of starvation. I am empty, totally drained….and empty.

I no longer know who I am. The little moments in the kitchen garden have kept a tiny heartbeat going…..but I don’t want a tiny heartbeat…..I want a thump, thump, thumping beat. So I have decided to follow my heart….with it’s quiet little beat. I have decided to feed my soul. I have decided to look after myself for a while. I have decided to let the kitchen garden look after me this year……and walk away from the job I love but which doesn’t love me back.

I don’t know what I will do or what will happen next……but I know whatever it is that I will give it my all and I will find myself again. I know that I will be living true to myself. I know that the sun on my cheeks, the air in my hair, the buzz of insects, the beautiful flashes of colour in the garden…..the company, the tea, the thrill of the harvest, the smell of damp soil, the solitude, the birds that sing to me…….the simplicity of simply being…..will feed my soul and restore me.

The garden has it’s seasons……this is the season of newness, of life, of growth. We all feel it. After many springs my spring has finally come and I will grow once more………I hope your spring is happening for you too and that you find a way to fill your ‘hungry gap’.

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Spring….decisions, decisions.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions….as such. Why would I want to make decisions, change things, shake up my ‘norm’ on a cold, dreary day in the middle of winter? No. My new ‘resolutions’ start with spring.

Spring, like my choices, life decisions, creeps up slowly….and then, one day, BAM!….it’s here. I do not need a calendar or a news report or an ‘app’ to tell me it’s spring….I see it and I feel it. I see it in all the snowdrops and daffodils that shake their pretty heads at my feetalone-2…..the first big dollop of colour in months. I see it in the fattening buds on the trees that I walk past on my way to the garden. I hear it from the birds, brazenly staking their claims to the bud ridden branches. I see it in my soil……I am convinced I even smell it in my soil.

But, most of all, I feel it.

It is unquantifiable….but there is something about spring that stirs me, deep inside. It actually messes with me. This is the time of year (not New Year’s) when I start to wonder about past decisions, begin to make new ones…..when I begin to feel the need to stretch my wings, inhale deeply and take off with possibilities. And soar.

I find it hard to make changes, to make big decisions but, somehow, being on the soil makes it easier. I don’t know why I experience such clarity of thought when I am in the garden…but I do. Perhaps it is the alone time. Perhaps it is the perspective gained by watching nature do its thing…… by watching and trusting in the cycle of life…. Spring is a time of massive change. But it is a positive change…it is a time of new growth, new vigour, new life. It is a time of optimism. Time in the garden rubs off on my soul and makes me more brave…..to embrace newness and change.

Happy springtime to you all. And may your spring gardens inspire clarity for your difficult decisions and for your ‘new year’s resolutions’.

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March in the Kitchen Garden

Last month we were under starter’s orders……this month the tape is finally up and we’re off! But still at a sedately pace.

I love March in the kitchen garden as it’s the month when I finally start sowing seed in earnest and get back onto the soil after what feels like the longest time. It is still far too cold in my garden to be sowing anything outdoors but indoors I will be starting my tomatoes, celery and leeks in the second week and, towards the end of the mosam_0839nth, I’ll start the squash and cucumbers. The window sills will be heaving under trays full of little paper pots…..and I shall bound out of bed each morning to see what, if anything, has germinated and I’ll squeal with delight at every little head that pops up.

The real work, though, will be happening on the soil; a busy month when I’ll be harvesting all the last of the winter crops…..carrots, parsnips and the brasicas…..they’ll come home and be processed for storing (mostly in the freezer). Once the beds are clear of veg I’ll start adding fertiliser, digging trenches, sifting soil and raising mounds. The grass paths will get their first trim of the year. I’ll mark out the beds with sticks to remind myself where to sow according to the plan I made over winter. If I had been able to get the green manure in last autumn it would be getting dug in now too.

It is tradition to get the potatoes in on St. Patrick’s Day, the 17th of March – I’ve never been organised enough to do it on this date until this year – so we’ll see if I get a better yield for getting them in earlier. They have been chitting away for the last four weeks and have lovely, short, sturdy chits on them. Don’t worry if yours aren’t ready – I have sown mine as late as early May and still had good results.

And if we get some decent sunny days the shed will get a lick of top coat….and maybe a tidy.

Happy March soil time and seed sowing.

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February in the Kitchen Garden

Are you managing to contain your excitement? Are you resisting the urge to start too soon? Are you resisting temptation as the garden shops start to fill their shelves again?

I find February one of the toughest months as a kitchen gardener; it’s hard to get on the soil because of the weather, it’s too early (cold) to start the vast majority of the sowings, the seed catalogues have lost their appeal after the 17th reading and, besides, I don’t need any seeds.

It’s also the toughest month for me as a scoffer of fresh hosam_0749me grown veg; apart from a few greens and root veg I’m now relying heavily on stored produce….the bottled toms are serving me well and I’m so glad I put in all that hard work at the end of last summer to get them stored but…..every February is the same……at this time of year I start to long for fresh versions of the summer veg; a fresh tomato, fresh (not frozen) peas, fresh beans, fresh fennel……the list goes on……

So, yes, I find February the toughest month. I will busy myself with jobs away from the soil; the fence still needs building, the pots and trays need cleaning with a solution of tea tree oil for its anti-microbial properties, the paper ‘pots’ need making from discarded, scrounged newspapers….there is much still to be getting on with.

I may even sow just a sprinkling of seeds. This is very early for me – I normally don’t start until mid-March – but I’m trying celariac and sweet peppers this year and they need to go in now. I won’t use artificial light or heat but rather rely on the the light and warmth of a south facing window…..and hope for the best.

Hang in there folks……we’re under starter’s orders!