The streets of Kentish Town are paved with gold.
It was curious weather today, not excessively warm but very humid. Clammy.
Sun, then dark with thick cloud, then sun again. Blustery wind, then no wind, then wind again, all punctuated with scurrying showers.
I pulled out the beans and poles, the last of the sweet peas, and mopped up the mess of tomato plants we let run riot in the centre of the plot. In their unchecked exuberance they produced very little. I hoed the ground and picked up the damp rotting leaves.
I collected some salad leaves for supper, dropping in a bag for Allan (at home with a broken leg) on the way home.
I’ve been traveling a lot lately, not managing to get to the plot. I’ve been missing it.
I made some time today to walk up there and see how things are doing / growing and get some salad for supper. After a morning in front of a computer screen I was instantly soothed by the sea of green, the hands of the clock of time softened and began to slumber like in one of Dali’s paintings. After a couple of weeks of warmth things are finally starting to grow.
Peas and beans are making their ways up hazel poles, the salads are thick and green. I didn’t stay long. Restored, I picked some salad and walked back to my studio over the heath.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Sunday morning, 6.30am, before the sun hits the plot. Just me, the hedgebirds, the waking beans and the waddling ducks (one female and her two comical followers). We are away for a week soon and I need to weed. I have always admired the feral ability of the “bad herbs” – as the French call them – to quickly establish themselves (bittercress is everywhere on the plot today, growing, flowering and expressing seed in what can seem like moments).
I have “fruit” seed to sow and a wigwam to populate. But I am also here for the feeling it brings, Yeats’s “peace” (see above) perhaps. After a lifetime, though, of sowing seed I am still almost surprised by their ability to waken, unfurl, put down root and search for sun, their powerful need to reproduce.
I sow a row of Peace Seedlings True Gold corn to go with the tiny shoots showing from Howard, Nancy and Rose’s rills. I push in a Golden Nectar bean to the base of each pole on the wigwams and add transplanted seedlings from the nursery bed. We don’t know the new seed but we are long admirers of Alan “Mushroom” Kapuler’s work.
As the sun hits the site, I immerse myself in the special place, packed as it is with apple blossom and excited birds. The light catches a fairy flight of bird cherry fluff as it blows over the site, the blackbirds serenade from the tops of trees, the first wild calendula is flowering. Early summer is set. As I water in the early morning’s work, I soak in the Innisfree-form feeling.
Good gardening everyone.
23 may 2013
A light mizzle turning to insistent rain, an hour spent hand-stirring cow manure, building a second hazel teepee: another day in the spring life of our allotment. Never quite sure what to say when someone asks about biodynamics. Leave it to qualified gardening gurus such as Jane Scotter at Fern Verrow farm in Herefordshire or Bernard Jarman at BDA in Stroud. So when Howard’s daughter Nancy asks what is in the murky water we are spinning in a bucket, we tell her it’s magic cow poo – that we are working with the fairies that help us farm the plot. For kids it is often explanation enough: Nancy later enthusiastically joins in.
Biodynamics is instinctive rather than philosophical for us, a non-invasive ultra organics that has always ‘felt’ right. Preparation 500 – the cow manure prep buried in a horn over winter – is one of the building blocks of our growing: food for the soil and nourishing for us. But first, the new teepee. They are handsome, rugged, robust, the hazel poles and after changing our minds about where the ‘want to go’, they are soon standing proud on the plot.
It is a key time when the allotment starts to stand tall instead of hugging the ground. The nursery rows of beans are breaking through (we will move them to the teepee next week). The rills of salad seed are also up, showing broad-leaf mizuna, wild and salad rocket and a Wild Garden spring mix. But the big surprise is a patch of self-seeded mustardy winter leaves (red-frilled and green) that has appeared among the chicory.
Calendula, too, is scattered though and the Basque ‘tear’ peas are four or five inches tall, almost the same as the broad beans which are already flowering at half-height. There is a lot yet to sow and we are already running out of space. I love this time.
But quickly back to the biodynamics. An hour spent stirring (we tend to take 20-minute turns) and we are also energised, Nancy poses as a scarecrow and then helps spray the mix around.
The visits are becoming more urgent now as the days open up. The call of the land is louder. Soon enough we will go home laden with food but first a few precious weeks to remember how lucky we are, to remind us that what we give to the plot is as important as what we take away. It is so good to be back. Happy growing!
words – Allan Jenkins
photographs – Howard Sooley