“Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee”

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.

WB Yeats


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.

Allan Jenkins

23 may 2013

The call of the land

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

Another warm spring day…

Another warm spring day, you wait almost a year for one then several come along all at once, bliss. It was a biodynamic fruit day, to which Allan had left some intriguing packets of seeds/beans and sweet corn before flying off to Denmark.


Nancy and Rose made furrows in the soil and practiced their newly learnt knot tying skills on twine (before rose eventually cut her finger on the blade of the pen knife..). Then buried the seed and watered them in.

They included:

Bean – ‘Gold of Bacau’

Bush snap bean – ‘Calos favorit’

Pole bean – ‘Carre de Caen’

Corn – ‘Madam Parching lavender’


The peas planted last weekend are already showing, it seems miraculous that such a hard dried seed can swell, split, germinate and push leaves up through the hard crust of the soil then reach towards the sun in such a short span of time.

The plot was brimming with the new shoots of hope. Seedlings pushing through everywhere: chard, rocket, calendula, kale and mustard, (at home seed trays are sprouting salads, sweet peas, tomatoes, and more chards).


The bareness of just a couple of weeks ago now seems unimaginable. Though I just returned from a trip to Northumberland and Yorkshire where everything was still looking very Februaryish.

The broad beans are in flower but seem particularly diminutive in stature, I’m still hoping they will go through a growth spurt, though it doesn’t seem likely.

The warm of the sun has drained the dark purples from the ‘Red Treviso’ endives that made it through the winter, now reverting to green and readying themselves to make their masts of blue starry flowers (I will make a risotto with one tonight).


Nancy and Rose explored the ponds, discovering to their excitement, that the frogs spawn had already turned into a squirming mass of of jet black tadpoles.


Howard Sooley