An unintended consequence of our house move is that, after all that moving and sorting, it’s actually the small rectangle of space found beyond the back door that draws me most. From our first days in the house, in dry weather (wooly jumpers overcoming the challenges of temperature) I could be found out there, usually sat with the laptop or a good book, a coffee or glass of wine. The impact this small space has had on my well-being has been pleasantly unexpected.
We both love food, and it pleases me greatly that it not only meets a basic human need, but it also something we can enjoy, savour and create. Our concern about our environmental impact means that we also aspire to eat food that is seasonal and produced locally. The ultimate goal is to grow it ourselves. The phrase “when we have our garden…” has littered our conversation for a long time. I relish the (undoubtedly idealistic) thought of being able to stroll barefoot into the garden, absent-mindedly munch on a strawberry as I collect just what’s needed for the evening meal, brush off the soil before cooking up a plate of food (to be eaten outside of course, where food just tastes better).It was the love of food that drove Mark Diacono to begin the first climate-change farm, growing what is now possible due to longer growing seasons and encouraging a shift towards seasonal, homegrown, local produce (read his story, in his own words here). I read his book ‘A Year at Otter Farm’ like a child reads fairytales – to dream of mystical lands and treasure troves. Instead of princes and dragons, my dreams are filled with orchards, fruitful harvests, the satisfaction of seeing the growth from our labour.
Before the house move we were thwarted by a lack of outside space. With that obstacle removed, we have one other to overcome: my tendency to kill plants. My over-watering habit is born partly out of misdirected care for plants, but also an impatient desire to interact with them. My heart celebrates a little on days when our plants are parched, delighted to have the opportunity to enthusiastically empty my watering can. That done, I hesitate for a moment, wondering how to extend this interaction. I’ve been advised that talking to them is the answer.
The plants themselves are not the only potential victims for my zealousness to get growing. I learnt recently (apparently it did need learning) that 25 litres of compost should not be considered an appropriate ‘impulse purchase’ when travelling by bike. In the end, I was forced to walk home with the compost hanging from the handlebars.Our small collection of beds and pots (mostly from a selection going free on someone’s driveway) afford us the opportunity to try our hand at growing. We are minimising the pressure on ourselves and celebrating the small victories. Never mind any fruit, I am delighted to have nurtured our strawberry plant to flowering. I am learning new routines (watering when the day has cooled so it doesn’t evaporate straight off) and sustainability choices (choosing peat-free compost to preserve peat bogs and their endangered flora and fauna – read why here). I am discovering that our plants have different needs and demands, and in turn each give something different back – beauty, scent, food for our table… I am even learning a little patience, slowly.
As a child, my least favourite weekend activity was to be forcibly dragged around the garden centre. In stark contrast, recently we gladly spent a Saturday afternoon buying plants and the evening positioning them in the flower beds. As soon as we did, we stopped talking about ‘the patio’ and began speaking of ‘our garden’.
Today’s soundtrack: Live @ Wimbledon radio.