Reclaiming the day

Tom digging the allotment

It’s been foggy around here for days, complete with fog horns and a chill air that cuts right through optimistic springtime dressing.  But this afternoon, the sun peeped out just a little.  I was out of the office door at 5:01pm and within fifteen minutes Tom and I were Up Allotment.

This wide open space on our doorstep is still a novelty and, with these lengthening days, it’s an inviting post-work destination.  We have the place to ourselves and a big view out to sea, still hazy in the fog.  We make wild speculations about root systems and worm populations and give firm, unfounded opinions on composting and allotment etiquette. Thoughts don’t go far beyond this square of earth; dig and barrow, dig and barrow…  It doesn’t take long to work up a hunger and talk moves to similarly vital debate such as What’s For Dinner.

This is my new favourite way to reclaim a weekday.

Allotment Absentees

Last weekend my neighbour (and fellow allotmenteer) popped his head over the garden wall to to ask the dreaded question:  “How’s the allotment going?”  He informs me that I should be digging up ground, and planting broad beans.  But, with ground like this, we’ve had every reason not to..


It was a beautiful, frosty morning down on the allotment today, but the ground was far too hard to dig.  The fact that we were the only people down there gave us a little hint that today is not the day for allotmenteering.

And with winter walks, homemade projects and bitter cold, we’ve found plenty to distract us from the serious business of vegetables.

Allotment plans on hold, we wandered through Northwood Park, for some serious tree appreciation.  Tom pointed out the London Plane, the Lebanese Cedar, the Turkey Oak, and the Robin Hood Oak.  (The latter name being our own invention.)  The texture of the bark, the way they spread their canopy, the various occupants; trees are pretty inspiring.

Forever Spinach

We were woken up by the fog horn this morning, with bright sunshine shining through it all.  We haven’t been to the allotment in months, but a morning like this (and weeks of procrastinating) finally lured us down.  In August, we left the allotment bare, and cleared of years of endless spinach.  I suppose we expected the odd repeat weed, but we didn’t plan on a full spinach harvest.

We’re trying to clear a space to plant potatoes and onions before it’s too late.  But, with this amount of spinach, I think it’ll be a while before we diversify.

The allotment begins

So sad to hear of the riots happening in London and elsewhere. My brother lives in Ealing and, from what he tells, it all sounds pretty grim. It seems a world away from the allotment, where we have been busy getting stuck in to our new plot of wilderness.

It feels like the key to a secret world; through the locked gate, along the path behind the park, and into a field of gardens, each a different character, all suggesting sweet possibility; reminding you of old favourites (sweet peas, apples, raspberries) and new loves (grapes, sweetcorn and artichokes). But I run ahead if myself, because at the moment our plot looks like this:

For now, we’re just aiming for a clear plot. We’ve had a few days of early starts, with hours spent digging up deep roots of everlasting spinach and thick webs of couch grass. It gets hot quickly, and we’ve needed our breaks of zucchini bread and coffee, in the shade up by the neighbour’s vineyard. We unearthed a wealth of wildlife amidst the tall grass: boldly-striped caterpillars, a slow worm, and even a young dormouse that we rehoused in the strawberry patch. We return home with tired backs and sweaty foreheads. My legs are still tingling from the stinging nettles I attacked. And our bodies aren’t the only thing that suffered for our hard work.


This is just the beginning…

The First Post

I’ve been a hovering appreciator of many a creative blog for some time, enjoying the ideas and inspiration that so many people share across the blogosphere.  After much muttering and procrastination Tom and I are jumping in, to share our small corner of the world with you.

But where to begin?  The lovely Danielle over at Sometimes Sweet set me thinking with this post.  And so..

My First Garden


Tom and I moved to our little home in Cowes four years ago.  We were so excited to finally be setting up a permanent home, after years of long-distance love.  We were slow to unpack boxes.  The beauty of the Isle of Wight pulls you outside and we need little reason to choose a bike ride over a spring clean. But, we soon settled, and we were happy.  The novelty of coming home to each other and talking over the day, without having to reach out across the phone lines, was pleasure enough without bigger plans.  We would go out and sit amongst the tall weedy grass of our postage stamp garden to catch some sunshine, and appreciate the trees and gardens beyond the back wall.  It was enough.  And Tom would talk of how we were encouraging nature by just letting it be.

And yet, I always enjoyed beautiful gardens, and books like Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle got me thinking.  Maybe it would feel good to grow more than dandelions.  And, more importantly, maybe it wasn’t impossible.


It felt weird to push that spade through the grass.  “Do we just dig it right up?  Are you sure this is how we’re meant to do it?”  Total rookies, which was part of the adventure.  It took a long time to realise that it doesn’t take much; just a seed, some soil, some sunshine and rain.  That first summer we had a metre-square plot.  We squeezed in sweetcorn, lettuce, radishes and peas, all with varying success.  I found myself ‘visiting’ the garden so much more, even brushing my teeth out there in the morning before dashing off to work.  New discoveries would abound, mainly in the form of weeds (but was it a weed?  Or was it that pea shoot I kept hoping would appear?)  I discovered our neighbours have chickens.  And bees.  I’d never before had cause to be out there in the stillness of the morning long enough to notice.  Heaven.

This summer is our third vegetable garden.  We still seem to do a better trade in nasturtium than in anything else, but are growing new things every year.  This year I’m excited about the rhubarb plant that is quietly growing to monster proportions in the corner.  It is taking all my willpower to not pull it up right now and plop it in to a crumble.

Every year our plans go a little awry.  Our garden is always a late bloomer, as bike rides and picnics and visits to family and friends distract us.  But a garden is forgiving and, as my Grama is always reminding me, there is always ‘next year’.  Visiting her garden is a rare treat, as she lives over 5000 miles away, but one that is worth the wait.  There is nothing better than snapping asparagus straight from the stem and eating it raw, standing with your bare toes in the dry grass and considering what delicious meal you can prepare from what the ground has offered up.


I’m mindful of all I have learnt from our first garden.  It is ok, maybe even desirable, to be clueless at the beginning.  You will learn, and you will never stop learning.  You will not have constant success, but you will always have some, and that will be a joy.  As to those didn’t-quite-make-its, there is always next time.  Try something new; you may be surprised.  To have a garden is to embark on a lifetime of firsts.  And who would want to miss that?