Tuesday, May 28, 2013

She sits among the cabbages and peas

So it looks like – she said quietly, not wanting to antagonise Ullr, Norse god of winter – that spring has finally sprung. There is more blue in the sky than grey; that patch of weeds in the park turns out to be bluebells; and the bird song sounds slightly less panicky. Pale trembling people are slowly emerging, blinking in the unfamiliar sunlight like post-hibernation hedgehogs. There is tentative talk of Pimm’s, and suncream, and hayfever medication; and I saw someone take off a cardigan the other day (though they put it back on again sharpish). I have even overheard hardy types making plans for barbecues. In short, everything in the garden is rosy.

Or is it? Where there is harmony, may I bring discord. During winter, when everything in the garden is unrosy, I’ll be honest with you: a weight is lifted off my shoulders. The garden in spring and summer can sometimes feel like one great big chore. Weeding, pruning, planting, chucking slugs over the fence – it never ends. Then suddenly in November it all comes to a juddering stop. It’s a bit like the house announcing, ‘Put the hoover away: I’ll not bother gathering dust for a few months.’ It’s marvellous. I lock the back door and forget there’s even anything out there. But just as I’ve got used to all the unexpected free time, the garden wakes up with a Zebedee-like boing, and demands attention.

Last spring I surveyed the muddy Somme that passes for a backyard and did the math. Two small vegetable beds plus two small children equals 26 hours a day. Hmm, think there’s something wrong with my integers there. Then someone told me about Lewes Landshare [http://www.landshare.net/], which ‘connects growers to people with land to share’ (or, had I been in charge of their publicity, ‘connects those with time and energy to those who can’t be arsed’). That’s  just so Lewes, I thought, though in fact it turns out to be a national thing. The Landshare website was slightly tricky to navigate – like some old duffer putting her profile on match.com I inadvertently double-posted – but soon I was getting dates, er I mean replies. The most plausible match was a trained gardener called Horti Culturist (ok but it should be her real name), who lived in a garden-less house in the middle of town. Within days she had ‘turned’ the beds, ploughed in compost, and planted little seedlings that grew up to be beans, chard, beetroot and carrots. It was win-win: she got to grow stuff, one bit of the garden looked nice, and she gave us surplus veg. Somewhere along the way we became friends, and to my relief, she’s coming back this year, with plans for tomatoes and rocket. So I don’t need to demand that Ullr prolong winter any further. Sorry about that, by the way.

Beth Miller. Published in VivaLewes.com and Viva Lewes magazine, June 2013

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