Whatever next? – May 2017 update

It seems that much of what I’ve written this month is about the choices we make.

  1.  LISTEN

So much listening to do this month, what with local (mayoral) elections and the General Election next month.  Not to mention the French presidential election.  Many people felt that ‘Brenda from Bristol‘ got it just about right.  (“What, another one?”).

Still, we were honoured to be involved in an initiative led by Brendan Cox, widowed husband of the MP Jo Cox who was murdered almost a year ago during the campaign leading up to the referendum.  He asked for all the political parties to pause their campaigns for an hour on Sunday 21 May, and for candidates from opposing parties to join together and visit a local voluntary project – a real illustration of Jo Cox’s assertion that we have more in common than sets us apart.

‘more in common’ at Bath City Farm (with cake and sunshine)

Our local Bath parliamentary candidates chose to visit Bath City Farm, and some of the trustees were part of the group that welcomed them, gave them a tour around the site, and of course provided tea and home-made cake.  The place was buzzing – a local Mencap group had booked the site for the afternoon for their spring celebration so there were even more families and young people having fun in the sunshine than usual.

It was a moving experience to take ‘time out’ with the candidates and remember a woman who was deeply committed to improving life for her community, but who was killed in her prime.

Choose hope, not hate.

2.  TAKE CONTROL

Like it or not, we must engage with this election.  We must listen and weigh up the options.  Above all, looking at the demographics of who voted in the referendum and who stands to win or lose, we must do all we can to encourage the young (and everyone else) to actually get out there and vote.  However they choose to use their vote.   And that’s something each and every one of us can do, in our own circle of friends and acquaintances.

I can’t let this moment pass without reflecting on the horrific bombing in Manchester.

What has that got to do with taking control? you might ask.  Well, it seems to me that terrorism is all about infecting us so deeply with fear that we change our habits and undermine what we hold dear.  So for me, taking control is about refusing to allow that to happen.  It’s about sticking with your plans to go to that gig in a large stadium; about making that trip to London to see the sights; about going into town when there are crowds around.  It’s about acknowledging the fear, but doing what you were going to do all the same.

Choose hope, not hate.

As for Manchester, well, what an example the Mancunians have given us of just how to respond to a horrible, terrible event with love and with dignity.

No words could say it better than those of the poet Tony Walsh, in his poem ‘This Is The Place’.  His passionate reading of the poem at the vigil the very next day was so utterly right.  So powerful, so full of love and pride for his city, and so very moving.

If you haven’t yet heard that reading, I would urge you to listen to it here.  I promise you that, while it may bring tears to your eyes, it will also fill you with hope and help you to see the way to take control.  Me, I keep going back to it.

As the man says, choose love.

3.  BUILD COMMUNITY

The month since I wrote my April update has been a busy one.

Bath City Farm

We had our Farm AGM, which was a sheer delight.  Have I ever said such a thing before about an AGM?  Nope.  But this was something very different.  It was an opportunity for those of us who are trustees to meet with some of the staff and some of the members – a mix of regular visitors, supporters, neighbours, volunteers.  Including many who use (or have used) our services.

Latest member of the farm team – 3 day old Pygmy goat named Catkin

We did the formal business, and made some good decisions about the future direction of the organisation.  After that it was lovely to have some informal time for chatting together as we were treated to a guided tour of the farm and a delicious home-cooked lunch.

I met some inspiring people and heard some inspiring stories.  I came away feeling even more than before privileged to be part of such a brilliant project.

Blooming Whiteway

This is a local project aiming to change the world one pansy at a time; one front garden at a time.  It can be replicated anywhere.  It doesn’t require much resources.  It has been done lots of times before, and will be done many more again.  You could do it where you live.  A simple idea, with impacts beyond the immediate effect of improving the appearance of the area.

4.  LOOK AFTER THE PLANET

In the context of todays’s global and national politics it is easy to feel overwhelmed with hopelessness at the prospects for the future of our environment and therefore our children and their children.  And yet the paradox is that if we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed in that way, we surrender that future to those who will despoil it.

The big question must therefore be, how can we retain hope, and therefore the strength to act?

For me some hope lies in the fact that across the world there are individuals and groups of individuals willing to take on the difficult stuff at their own local level and just get on with it, often despite what it happening in the bigger scale.

The internet is just a tool, and like any other tool we can use it well or misuse it. One of the really good uses is to connect us with other like-minded people hundreds and thousands of miles away, people we would never otherwise have access to.  And thus we have access to so much experience, expertise, enthusiasm, and learning that would otherwise not be accessible to us.

Here are just a few fascinating and inspiring websites I’ve learnt a lot from that you might also find interesting.  Maybe you could share your favourites back.

Strongtowns.org – this website is for people who want to make their cities and towns more ‘liveable’ places, but it’s about doing it ourselves not waiting till ‘they’ do it for us.  I’ve read some interesting articles there.  Some I agreed with, some I didn’t find relevant to my life, but all stimulating and energising.

frugalwoods.com – this is different from the kind of blog I normally read, but it’s definitely grown on me.  The ‘Frugalwoods’ are a young-ish couple in the US who’ve chosen to live a frugal life to enable themselves to live they want to.  Bear in mind that their starting point was that they were both in reasonably well-paid jobs, they had a home of their own, and there were many choices open to them.  So these are not people coping with poverty and all that brings with it – a whole different kind of frugal.  But given that, I find their choice to live thoughtfully and mindfully about what they’re spending money on both refreshing and empowering.  And the fact is that their frugality has put them on a path to a much lower carbon footprint than most of their peers.  Plenty to think about there.

Down to Earth – Rhonda blogs in Australia about all sorts of things, principally things connected with her and her husband’s choice some years ago to live a simple life reflecting many of the principles and values I share.  I’ve read her blog for many years now, and although mostly I’ve been doing most of the things she does for a very long time, I still find it heartening to read her blog and be reminded that there are many others who share those values and principles.  She writes well, and I find her blog a joy to read, as I know do many others.

resilience.org – I’m not sure how to describe this blog/website.  Maybe the best way to start is to just dip in and see if you find any articles that are of interest to you.  It comes from the same place as the Transition Movement, and is about sharing ideas and theories and examples of the practice of adapting and adjusting how we live to look after the planet.  I find some of the articles fascinating, some boring, and some pretty ‘off the wall’.  You never know what you’re going to find there – just now I had a look for something you might like to start with, and to my surprise came across an article called Homegrown Collective Supper Club – about an initiative I’ d not heard of in nearby Bristol drawing together a number of projects I already knew about.  And now I can feel an idea bubbling away about something we could do locally…..

Inside the Purple Patch polytunnel, St Werburgh’s Bristol

Choose hope not fear.

 

 

 

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Posted in Climate change, Community, Inspirations, Poetry party, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Just playing around (and a request!)

After finishing the last big (crochet) blanket I felt like just playing around a bit.  So I got out all the odds and ends of blanket yarn and started on a small ‘granny stripe’ blanket using Lucy’s online tutorial (Attic24).

I didn’t want to make a full size blanket, so I made a starting chain that I thought about right for a cot blanket / knee rug / small throw.

Then I kept going till I thought it looked about big enough.

And added a border.

(The colours below aren’t very true, but do at least give a flavour).

 

 

 

 

Lucy’s tutorials are so easy to follow.  For this project I learnt how to start and do ‘granny stripes’, and tried out a new-to-me border (though I’m not sure that turned out quite how it’s meant to be). an easy, quick thing to make.  I’m very pleased with it.

I’d like to make some more of these blankets to sell to raise money for the Farm – but to do this I need to ask people to send me their oddments of Stylecraft Special DK.

I wonder if anyone would do it?  I suppose the only way to find out is to ask.  So, here goes: I’m asking!

If you have any bits and pieces of Stylecraft Special DK (anything 10 grams and over), if you could post them to me (Deborah) c/o Bath City Farm, Kelston View, Bath BA2 1NW.  I’ll do the rest!

All the proceeds of sale will go directly to Bath City Farm funds, probably towards a major fundraising project in the autumn.  More of which later in the year, I hope.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Community, Craft, Frugal, Retirement, Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gap Year: April

I seem not to have been paying attention – the Gap Year is over, and I didn’t spot it.  Inflation is apparently back with us – a year has inflated to 14 months.  We started in April last year by walking the Capital Ring.  We will finish this May by walking the West Highland Way.

April’s ‘adventure’ was more about catching up with old friends than anything else.  One of our Danish ‘family’ is living in Cambridge, with her family, for a few months, which seemed like the perfect opportunity for a visit.  And it’s not so far from there to Norwich to visit another close friend and her husband.  So I did.

In truth I didn’t want to be away from home for too long – April is one of the busiest and most demanding times of year for any gardener, and this year that has combined with an extraordinary dry spell.  And there was May’s adventure to prepare for (more of which to come).

So we travelled together by train to Cambridge, stayed in a surprisingly lovely chain hotel by the station, and spent a very happy two days exploring Cambridge and renewing old friendships over meals.

We were treated to an excellent ‘alternative’ tour of Cambridge, focussing on two fascinating areas of small terraced houses and an old cemetery-cum-wildlife area.  We stumbled upon beautiful, almost deserted, college gardens.  We spent a whole morning exploring the fascinating Botanic Gardens.  And we reminded ourselves just how stunning England can be, especially on a sunny springtime day.  We visited an award-winning housing development (Accordia), which we liked and which was certainly different for the UK, but which by German or Danish standards would be pretty mainstream and ordinary (and insufficiently ambitious).

Then Malcolm went home to finish a long distance walk he’d started earlier, and I went on to Norwich.

I was taken to visit a National Trust property with the most beautiful double walled garden I’ve ever seen (Felbrigg Hall), set in a lovely wooded and farmed estate..  There was even a medieval church in the grounds, and I was shown the remarkable brasses (hidden under carpets to protect them).  My friend is an expert on medieval churches and church art, and visiting galleries and churches with her is always a treat.

We also walked into Norwich and were able to visit several more medieval churches open specially that weekend for a celebration.  One of these is now the base for a Master Stonemason, and we were able to watch two of the apprentices demonstrate their work.  It was fascinating to talk with them – they are part way through their first year of a seven year apprenticeship that has changed little in centuries.

It was a delight to meet and spend time with our friends old and newer (Malcolm’s infant school friend and his wife; our Danish not-niece and her husband and children; my best friend from college days and her husband, daughter and grand-daughter).

It was lovely to travel by train, seeing towns and areas new to us.

It was good to spend some of the time together, and some apart.

It was a happy reminder (not that one was needed….) of just how much can be crammed into a few short days.

Already we have been reflecting on what we have learnt from the Gap Year experience (about travelling; about ourselves; about each other).  On what we will carry forward into the rest of our life together.

Botanic Gardens, detail by cafe

Botanic Garden – detail from area for schools

Accordia

Accordia – shared courtyard garden with linear orchard

Accordia – flats with playspace

Sculpture, Mill Road Cemetery (with poetry)

Wood carving, Mill Road Cemetery

Sculpture, Mill Road Cemetery

Cambridge doors (and wisteria)

Wall in tree, Cambridge

Pot garden, Cambridge

Knapped flint detail, church, Norfolk

Knapped flint, building in Norwich

Church garden made from upcycled materials, Norwich

Bug hotel, church garden, Norwich

Posted in Community, Gap year, Inspirations, Local, Reflections on life (and death), Retirement, Travels, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Adventures in crochet

Recently I finished yet another blanket – this one a mash-up between Lucy’s Harmony blanket (which I made last year) and my own experiments in playing with colour.  It was a belated ‘new home’ gift for our god-daughter, who last year moved into supported housing with two friends – a major milestone and achievement in her life.  I chose colours I liked together, and then realised that it had to be a blanket for her – a young woman who has always enjoyed colours from this part of the spectrum.

The day we visited her parents and I left the blanket with them to pass on, they took us to the Isabella Plantation in nearby Richmond Park.  It was full to bursting of loud, vibrant colour.  There was nothing delicate about this.

And now I’ve set the blue/green blanket aside for a while, to play a bit more with my growing (but now shrinking) stash of leftover bits of colour.  A cot blanket is emerging.  Along the way I was inspired by Gillian’s blanket for Angus, and I learnt a new-to-me stitch (once again, thank you Lucy!).

Posted in Craft, Family, Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Whatever next? – April 2017 update

1. LISTEN

Oh. My. Goodness.

I had already written the rest of this post, but I was struggling with what to write under this heading.  I needn’t have worried.  There is now only one subject worth writing about.  The forthcoming General Election.

I have listened to all sorts of voices in the past 10 months or so, and learned much.

Yesterday I listened in disbelief as the woman who had repeatedly asserted that there would not be an election until the end of the 5 year period of this parliament declared the opposite.  I listened as the woman who supported (albeit quietly) the ‘remain’ camp declared that Brexit must be enabled to proceed without opposition.  I listened as she declared that “at this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is devision.”

Really?  I thought that one of the greatest strengths of a parliamentary democracy is that there is an effective opposition in parliament to test and debate and check Governments.

“In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the deal we reach with the European Union.

“The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standsill.

“The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union.

“And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.

I found this statement chilling – especially following so swiftly on the heels of the (probably fixed) election in Turkey.  Why not go the whole hog as Trump did and phone Erdogan to offer her congratulations.

Because to oppose is precisely what opposition parties are for – including representing the 48% of voters who voted to remain in the EU.

Look away now if you’re not comfortable with reading about politics, because for now, for this brief period of time, there is nothing more important.

This Government has

  • steadily eroded local democracy and local authorities and their services – the ‘new localism’ seems to have quietly morphed into central (national) control and local blame
  • undermined the massive positive progress made by the NHS and education under the Labour government – schools and health services struggling to survive, with money haemorrhaging away to private companies and wealthy individuals; Sure Start centres closing down
  • slashed away at state provision and services, while pouring money towards the richest in our society in the form of tax cuts and other benefits
  • repeatedly given millions and millions of pounds to private companies (hello Capita, Serco, G4S, Atos among others) to carry out Government benefits cuts, imprisonment, deportations, and support to needy individuals – even when some of those companies have been found to be incompetent and duplicitous
  • reduced millions of citizens (the majority of them in work) to poverty and the need to resort to food banks in order to feed themselves and their families, and vastly increased the number of children growing up in poverty
  • been busy quietly deporting thousands of people without due process (see below)

I have been a Labour Party member (twice).  I have voted LibDem.  I am now a Green Party member.  But none of that matters right now.  For now, for this moment, for me, nothing trumps removing this increasingly hard-line right wing doctrinaire government and working towards bringing to power a centre left government.  Trying to secure a future that reflects our best selves and the best of British values.

We can only do this by working together and setting aside our personal party political preferences, and voting for whichever centre/left candidate has the best chance of winning.

So in the coming weeks I will be in touch with all our local candidates (other than the sitting Tory MP) and putting them on the spot about this, and trying to extract a pledge that their parties will listen to those of us arguing for this and for a better future for my children, your children, for you and for me.

I’m hoping that this time, they will listen to me and others like me.

Everything else I have written below was written before yesterday’s surprise announcement.

2. TAKE CONTROL

My goodness this has been a tough month for that.  How to take control when so much horrible stuff  that we can do nothing about is happening all around?  Particularly with powerful politicians posturing and strutting with their bombs of all types (‘mines bigger than yours‘); and individual terrorists attacking ordinary people.  Plus I’m still reeling from feeling in March that the clocks simultaneously went forward an hour and back about five decades.

But.  Life does go on (for those of us fortunate enough), and indeed we have to make sure that it does, and that while it does, we do the things within our power to make sure things are as good as they can be.

So.  This month I want to focus on supporting people at risk of deportation.  This means a lot to me, for a whole range of personal reasons:

  • my family history  – all of my grandparents came here to escape a worse life elsewhere.  If changes to nationality law that happened in the 1980s had been made before I was born, my own situation would be radically different
  • my work history – years ago when I was a solicitor I did a small amount of immigration work, and I will never, ever, forget accompanying a very kind and gentle single father from Jamaica to be deported with his (British) five year old son, having been lied to by Immigration Officers
  • others close to me who have experienced for themselves the fear and insecurity of having escaped violence in their homeland, and not knowing if they would be able to remain here in safety
  • back in the 80s a good friend ran a successful campaign to prevent the deportation of a local woman who had used the service he worked for, and I know the difference those kinds of supportive actions can make
  • last week we celebrated Pesach (Passover), a time when we reflect on the meaning of freedom, oppression, and personal responsibility.  This year was the first time for many years that I have hosted a Seder (the retelling of the story, with the symbolic Pesach foods) – I do hope the Brexiteers and Trumpers appreciate the irony of being the stimulus for me renewing my Jewish practice (to be distinguished from faith, which I don’t have).

So – I have signed petitions in support of people who, having lived here for many many years, contributing to our communities, have suddenly and apparently randomly been singled out for deportation.

Abdul Hassan – an 18 year old who was brought by his parents to London aged 5 and left living with his aunt, where he remained following the death of his father and his mother’s  mental ill health.  He achieved excellent A levels and was offered a professional apprenticeship by KPMG, but instead his application for ‘leave to remain’ has been rejected by the Home Office, and now he is appealing against that refusal.  His appeal will be heard on June 8th, so there’s still time to sign the petition supporting him if you feel moved to do so (click on the link above).  It will mean a lot to him to have many people showing their personal support for him.

Stoly Jankovic – he came here when he fled Yugoslavia in 1991 to escape from the war.  He’s lived in the UK for 26 years.  For the past 15 years he’s worked in a whole food store in London, paying his taxes and NI.  Below is an extract from the Guardian article where I first read about him:

For the past 10 years, he has signed on every month at an immigration reporting centre in London Bridge, Grayson [his employer] told the Guardian. “Last Thursday afternoon, he went down there, and instead of signing a piece of paper, they locked him up and put him in a van, with no warning at all, so he only had the clothes he stood up in,” he said.

“It is a horrible shock. He is a very integral member of the community in Kentish Town, very popular, and very well-liked. It has made a lot of people very, very angry that this could happen so arbitrarily,” he said.

Speaking from the Verne immigration removal centre in Dorset, Jankovic said: “I am mortified about losing my life.”

“I see myself as completely assimilated. I don’t know what more I can do in that respect. This is my neighbourhood, my culture,” he told the Camden New Journal, which first highlighted his case.

Was it a coincidence that, after 10 years of signing on monthly, he was arrested without prior warning the day after Article 50 was triggered?  Maybe, maybe not.  But what does seem to be true is that more and more of these kinds of decisions are being taken – in our name – usually against people expected to be unable to fight back.

Remember, these are the people we’ve heard of.  Many many more have simply disappeared on flights you and I know nothing about.  And this will carry on happening.  In our name.

Each time I read of one of these incidents, I think of how I would feel if it were my son, my mother, my friend.  Me.

And if you’re questioning whether these petitions achieve anything beyond a ‘feel good’ for those of us who sign them, well I think they do.  Because this kind of state behaviour (in our name remember) seems not to stick under the bright light of publicity.

As a result of the publicity around his situation (including strenuous representations by his MP Keir Starmer), Stoly Jankovic has been given two weeks in which to make his case for being allowed to remain here.  The same has happened to others for whom there was publicity.

Does this affect how others are treated in future?  I have no way of knowing.  But what I do know is that it certainly makes a difference for those individuals whose cases are picked up, and that matters.  It matters a lot.

3. BUILD COMMUNITY

I’m going to follow in the footsteps of Plot34 over at Allotment Life and talk about giving stuff away.  I expect you’re familiar with Freecycle and Freegle – if you’re not, they are online local ‘noticeboards’ where you can ask for things you need, or offer things you don’t need.  All free of charge.

I use our local Freegle group a lot.  I’ve been the happy recipient of some beautiful primroses, snowdrops in the green, two very healthy rhubarb crowns, a good-as-new compost bin, and a top-of-the-range worm bin for youngest son’s tiny garden.  Over the years we’ve given away all sorts of things.  Just this week this included the shed my allotment neighbour had given me that I decided not to use after all – it’s gone to someone who is using it to make a sturdy hen house; my tiny tool shed has gone to someone who wanted exactly that; and the tractor tyre we inherited 25 years ago from our childminder has gone to a local infants school for their ‘wild outdoor space’.

And through it all you do kind of ‘get to know’ local people you might not otherwise have come across.  Building community indeed.  And of course at the same time saving more ‘stuff’ from landfill, and therefore helping to …….

4, LOOK AFTER THE PLANET

Well I suppose this month the biggest thing I’ve done under this heading is all the work on my allotment and garden.  Improving them, weeding, tidying, and generally making them ready for another growing year.  And quite a lot of how I’ve done it could equally come under the ‘build community’ heading, because when we improve how places around us look, that does have a knock-on effect on how people feel about the place when they walk by or through.

Along the way I have sorted through a lot of ‘stuff’ on my allotment, to sort the genuinely useful (or decorative) from the rotten, outgrown, or simply no longer useful to me.  I am determined that my allotment and garden should look good as well as be productive.

And we are making good progress on improving our front garden.  It will take a while to be how I want it to be, but it has come on a long way since I first wrote about it.  I have planted some edibles (Chilean Guavas – delicious!, Japanese Quince – to be used for quince jelly, an aromatic shrub).  I’ve grown hollyhocks from seeds I collected around my neighbourhood.  I’ve taken split plants in the back garden and saved self-seeded plantlets.  I’ve planted two roses, wallflowers, and tulips.  It is starting to look good.  It will look much better by this time next year.  Most important of all, I’ve begun feeding and improving the soil, which was poor thin stuff after years of neglect.

Phew, that was heavy going!  to soothe your brow and lighten the load, and reward you for reading down this far, I hope you enjoy there photos from a recent visit to Heale Gardens in Wiltshire.

Posted in Community, Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The allotment: autumn, winter, and into spring!

My goodness, I had no idea it was so long since I last wrote an allotment post (October last year, I see).

In part that reflects that not much was happening there, but in fact there was a lot of thinking and planning happening.  All in my head – much to some people’s frustration (hello Malcolm!) I’m not a great ‘put it down on paper’ planner when it comes to gardening, but planning does happen.  It evolves, develops, and consolidates in my mind’s eye.

As a result of the learning from last year and thinking during the autumn, winter and spring so far, change has happened, and there is more to come.

The biggest change of all is that I did indeed give up my fruit plot, and much effort was expended (by me) moving all my fruit bushes that I had carefully taken up there back to my main allotment – but to different places.  And I had to remove all the posts and fencing left from when the hens lived up there.

Instead of 12 beds for rotating vegetable crops, I now have 4 mainly soft fruit beds, and just 8 rotation vegetable beds.  But my plan is to use all the space I have much more intensively than I have ever managed before, and so to produce just as much as before, or perhaps even more.

Youngest son and Malcolm spent a long morning creating my badger defences – a fence all along one side of the plot made from pallets gleaned from skips and posts reclaimed from my former hens’ enclosure.  I’m very, very pleased with it.  I’m equally pleased with the ‘gate’ Malcolm fashioned for me from an old bedhead, part of a bed base, a couple of sturdy wooden posts and some cable ties.

 

Now I can easily partition off part of my plot and let the hens free range outside their enclosure without them spoiling any crops.

Sometimes change happens through pure chance.  When an allotment neighbour took down his (tired looking) shed recently to make way for a brand new beauty and he offered the old one to me, I jumped at the chance – a 3’x6′ shed to replace my tiny 3’x2′ one.

Then youngest son and Malcolm suggested I’d be better with a new shed myself.  At first resistant, I soon became excited at the prospect, and began planning not just a new shed but a lovely sunny veranda outside it to sit on and just be sometimes.  With a bed on two sides so I can grow things up it.

So now the inherited shed has been freegled (our local version of freecycle) to someone who will cut off all the rotten bits at the bottom and use what remains to make a very sturdy hen house.  The small toolshed/sentry box shed has been freegled to someone needing somewhere to keep her tools.  Someone from a local primary school will come later today to take the tractor tyre we inherited and used first as a sand pit, then as a surround-seat for a plum tree, and more recently as a climbing frame for the hens – the school will use it as a sand pit.

Here yesterday, gone today

Soon, in a few weeks time, I will have the shed of my dreams, and in front of it will be a terrace made out of a pallet Malcolm spotted yesterday in a skip covered with some leftover decking from youngest son’s garden.

In addition I had a farm trailer load of muck delivered, and I have forked and barrowed most of it into my 2 pallet bins, onto the potato beds, and around some of the fruit.  Who needs a gym when there’s an allotment to work ?  (Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘no dig’ cultivation means ‘no hard physical labour’ – it certainly does not).

In the meantime,  growing now on the allotment (but mostly not yet ready to eat) are: potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, various brassicas (just about hanging on in there, against all the odds), broad beans, beetroot, spring onions, swiss chard (from last year, still producing well), more swiss chard (baby plants just planted out), globe artichokes, chives, asparagus, rhubarb, redcurrants, blackcurrants, strawberries, gooseberries, horseradish, lovage.  

So far there are only two three spears of asparagus – we’ll wait to see how many of the crowns I planted last year have survived the badgers’ attentions.

For beauty, there are roses, marigolds, primroses, daffodils (mostly finished now), crocuses (no flowers left there either), and Sweet William.  I hope to have poppies, zinnias, dahlias, and some other flowers this year.

The plan includes planting some apple trees but I think I’ll leave that till the autumn.

There are lots more baby plants to go out in due course, and lots more seeds to sow.  This must be one of the busiest times of year for any gardener, and what lovelier way could there be to spend time outside in weather such as this?

(Once it’s all finished and tidied I’ll give you a proper guided tour.  At the moment it all looks a bit ‘work in progress’.  Because that’s what it is.)

(and à propos of nothing at all, by chance I’ve just discovered where to find letters not part of the English alphabet – as in Fanø and Hélène; and how to change font colour – what fun!) ♥  

Posted in Allotment, Food, Frugal, Growing, Local food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Gap Year: March adventure

This is getting to be a habit – an ‘adventure’ that to the outside world looks like nothing of the sort.  But maybe that’s just the point – to do things that are meaningful and different for us, regardless of what anyone else thinks of it.

In March we went to Rye, on the Sussex coast.  We had planned a longer expedition in the autumn, but postponed because other things came up.  We planned our March trip to be longer than it ended up being, but cut it down because other things intervened (not least of all my wish not to be away from home for too long, to reduce the impact on the already dire sleep problem).

We wanted to visit a friend in Hastings, we also wanted to visit Dungeness, Rye, and possibly other bits of the coast.  Rye seemed like the perfect place to stay, and indeed it was.  All the more so because we found a delightful B and B run by a lovely couple who were a fount of local knowledge and information, and were warm and welcoming without overwhelming us (and the breakfasts were both delicious and very beautiful).

Window in Appledore church showing Fairfield Church, the next place we visited

An afternoon exploring Rye; a day visiting Dungeness, Appledore and an extraordinary church in a field (appropriately called Fairfield Church); a day visiting our friend in Hastings; a stop to explore Winchelsea, and its church with some very striking stained glass windows (early C20, by Douglas Strachan); another morning exploring Rye.

Hardly any time at all, and yet by the time we got back home we felt as though we’d had a long holiday.

Definitely somewhere to revisit, and we hope to do so this autumn.  Preferably before the garden at nearby Great Dixter closes for the season (we dropped by on the way home, but it wasn’t yet open for this year).

We’re almost at the end of this Gap Year experiment.  We’ve already learned a lot about what works for us, both together and separately.  We will certainly be carrying that learning forward once we get to the end.

At Dungeness we watched (and spoke with) two groups (teams) of men from Dagenham, all of Pakistani origin.  They had come there for the day to ‘kite fight’.  Beautiful.  I never knew that was a thing.

No more words, the images speak for themselves.

Posted in Gap year, Reflections on life (and death), Retirement, Seeing differently, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments