Sunday, 11 September 2011

Stripped of my strimmer, I ask, why bother?

Partially fanged but still fabulous, my first
 parsnips this year
Someone said to me recently that they went to my blog because I write about social enterprise and yet many of my contributions seemed to be about an allotment.

She said, "How can anyone write so much about gardening?" Clearly, she was not impressed. I do wonder what folk make of my rather eclectic mix of social commentary, horticulture and family life, but in writing about my passions, there does appear to be three themes. I hope they don't jar too much and the almost weekly gardening slot at the moment isn't too dull. My hope is based on the fact that I get as many comments about the gardening as other posts, so I know at least a few of you share my interest in the sod.

The seed bed in full production
Having dinner last night with a dear friend, she asked why I blog. I couldn't really answer except to say that when writing about what fascinates me, I do it to organise my thoughts, which I really enjoy, as much as a desire to inform the reader. Clearly, you may say, and I have had comments posted to the effect that my pieces sometimes miss the desired mark. But 28,000 unique visits to the blog this year proves something I suppose.

All of this is by way of introducing another gardening post. I must report that there have been a spate of thefts at the allotment and I have been relieved of my strimmer. It was a trusty friend, which, like its owner, needed careful handling. Good luck getting it started thief: without the usual three nods to the east and prayer to the gardening god, you haven't got a hope. Fellow tweeters have shared their allotment losses with me and theft on allotment sites does appear to be widespread.

The problem for me is not just the lost strimmer or the empty beer bottles left in our picnic area, it is of course, the violation. The allotment is my haven, where I go to feel good and at one with the world. For therapy, spiritual rejuvenation and veg. My children often go there alone either to fish or pick produce for supper, and I cannot bear the idea that on the same land, in the same space, greed and contempt sometimes stalk. So even though I had a great haul again yesterday and put another 3 kilos of raspberries and blackberries in the freezer, I worked on the site imagining someone looking at the fruits of my labour and finding it twee, smug and irritating. Or maybe I'm just over-reacting. It is after all only a bloody strimmer.

So a couple of things to tell you. The first is that I observed the Cavolo Nero I have under netting to protect it from the birds is being eaten by something, in dramatic contrast to the rest of the Cavolo Nero that has not been netted, see above, which is looking marvellous and well on course to provide us with some winter greens. I love this Italian brassica, which is as versatile as any cabbage but a stunning blue/black/green colour with a strong, distinctive flavour. Like all brassicas, it is hardy and one of the few things I managed to crop right the way through last winter.

I also pulled my first parsnips of the year, some of which are 'fanged' – a technical term for shapes like fat legs doing one half of a star jump, but still they looked glorious to me. Also, I started picking my pears, which we had with stilton last night and, like my apples, they are absolutely delicious.

So all in all a productive day and one that demands I move on. I would buy a new strimmer today, but that would break my, never-shop-on-a-Sunday rule, which has remained unbroken for 15 years. So the grass will have to wait until next weekend. That and today is really the day to remember 9/11 and a fellow allotmenter who unimaginably lost her daughter that day. All thoughts must go to her and her family, and therefore I shall worry less about unwanted two-legged visitors on plot 31.

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