Guilt trip

Early Sunday afternoon and I am in a rush, not so much to do anything as such, but a flying visit just to say hello before running back for the boy’s birthday tea. The day is light and bright, a steady stream of gold and russet leaves float off the trees. The low sun is shining, though there is frost where it doesn’t reach in the hollow and heavy dew elsewhere. The site holds onto moisture in winter as though almost afraid to let it go.

The fox has returned to digging a shallow hole on the border of where the broad beans and onions sets are sown. Last time, we had to place a paving slab over it to break the pattern. We don’t want to make her feel unwelcome but do need to give the broad beans a chance. I reset the half-dozen or so onions which have either been pulled by pigeons or somehow pushed free.

Rust and damp is tightening its hold on the plot and it will soon need savage trimming back but not while the mustards are flowering and we can forage through the side leaves. Fear the tired chards and last beets will need brutal attention, too.

There is something about keeping up our visits in winter, almost as an act of faith, fidelity if you will. It feels important to be there as often as we can. It isn’t so much about husbandry  – although that has its place – but the plots with regular visitors are the allotments that thrive. Feel there may be more to it than hoeing and sowing. Just the seed of an idea, like talking to trees.

Within an hour, it is time to leave. I grab winter salads and run, rescuing a couple of beautiful chicories from the onslaught of slugs and frost. I am away next weekend and feel guilty by the time I get to the gate. I turn for a last look back, to say sorry. Hope Howard can come…

19_11_2012

Allan Jenkins

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