Yesterday I read a lovely post on WellyWoman’s blog which was a Love Letter to her allotment written especially for National Allotment Week. WW’s plot is exactly the same size as mine and like me she has had it for 18 months, there isn’t even that much difference in the amount of rent we pay. WW obviously loves her plot and it has made a real difference to her life. This got me thinking about writing a similar sort of post about my plot.
However, and there is always a however, I think mine would be more of a Dear John letter. Our relationship is definitely not at its best and thoughts of giving the allotment up have drifted into my mind a number of times over the last six months.
Now this isn’t a moan about the weather and slugs making it hard to grow anything it is more a case that we are just not compatible, mis-matched so to speak.
Don’t get me wrong I am proud of what I have achieved and as regular long-term readers will know getting an allotment had a knock on effect of involving my parents which then led to my Mum getting half a plot. This has been such a wonderful thing and has had such a positive effect on her dealing with her grief over losing my sister that no matter what I decide to do I won’t regret the effort we put in. I also wonder if in some way the allotment has helped me with the grief. It was very difficult last year especially when my parents were helping me and we had some fraught times and disagreements but we have worked through them and are stronger and closer for it. Looking back I find myself wondering whether the allotment acted as a catalyst for us resolving these issues. It is amazing how much you can resolve and how difficult a subject you can discuss when you are both head down, bum in the air, digging up couch grass!
I like being at the plot when I am there but that is the problem getting there both time and distance. The site is surrounded by fields and first thing on a Sunday morning when you are the only one there, listening to the bird singing, watching the rabbits frolics (opps they aren’t meant to be ) and admiring the horses in the neighbouring field it is wonderful. But, I work full-time generally a 40 hr week which leaves little time for other things. My weekends are precious and I am spending Sunday mornings at the plot, coming home and wishing I had more time to spend in my garden which is weedy and neglected. The plot is eating up the time I would spend tending the garden. I told myself last year that the first year would be tough as it was a virgin plot but no matter what anyone tells you even when you have cleared the plot you still need to spend the same amount of time there. I’m not afraid of hard work but it’s the logistics. The plot is 15 min drive each way so I have to organise having the time to go there when really what I would rather do is potter outside in the garden when it suits me. I have tried to go on the way home from work. This doesn’t work when the weather is warm as it is just too hot at that time of day to be weeding etc, and I am generally really tired and hungry so clock watching.
Then there are the quantities – it’s all or nothing. I seem to be forever giving crops away or even, heaven forbid, putting them on the compost bin. I find myself questioning the whole thing. I put all this time and physical effort in, as well as some finances, to grow some veg which may or may not result in a harvest only for me to ditch a load of it. I have a constant battle between only growing enough for my needs and filling up the space. I was amused when my neighbouring plot holder told me he was thinking of taking up his paths to maximise the growing space when I was considering covering up more ground. When my youngest is away at University it is only really me that eats the crops and a 20m x 6m plot is a lot for one person!
I have also realised that whilst I like food I’m not a foodie. I have no real interest in growing unusual stuff and spending large amounts of time preserving etc. I’m not that big a potato fan preferring rice and pasta. I enjoy growing salads, rhubarb, black kale, gooseberries, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes but these alone would only fill a third of the plot. I want to be able to wander up the garden when I get home from work and pick a courgette or two, maybe some salad leaves. Not as is the case now fit in a trip to the plot on the way home on a day when I don’t have to rush back to do dinner because I or one of the boys has to get somewhere else.
I think the fact that the photo at the top of this post is my favourite from the photos I took at the allotment this evening says it all. I simply am not an veg/fruit grower, it doesn’t float my boat as they used to say. I don’t get depressed when I lose a whole crop to some bug and I thought this was because I had low expectations in the first place but now I think it’s just because I don’t really care that much – how awful is that. When I raised it a few months ago with Mum she said I should plant more fruit bushes, more perennial veg, maybe lay some turf! But that all still needs maintaining and still takes me away from my first much neglected love – my garden.
So I am pondering what to do. I want to grow some veg and fruit, the things I have listed above but I don’t think I can sustain my relationship to the plot for another year. I don’t think counselling or an intermediary would work or even a trial separation. My eldest and I have discussed a couple of times putting in some raised beds in the garden where I could grow some veg. I want something ornamental, beautiful, on the doorstep and I think we have a plan which he says is achievable. I just need to measure up and see whether the area would work in terms of growing space. It would be something along the square metre idea of growing veg . I’m not rushing into the decision as I don’t have to pay the rent again for a few months and it would be good to time it so I could re-locate some of the fruit bushes in the autumn if I decide to give it up – so we shall see.