Allotmenting and summerhousing.

I haven’t blogged about the garden or anything for ages. Ironically, this isn’t because nothing has been happening (give me a moment to cast an eye over my back garden where nothing has very definitely been happening for some weeks, judging by the lamentable condition of my lawn, but let’s move on); it’s because something huge happened. I got an allotment.

You may remember me squeaking about this early in the year. Well, the chap called me and I stomped off down there a few weeks ago, and this bit of land and the Anderson shelter on it are mine:

Across the scrubby area again.

It doesn’t look much. You don’t know until you get your fork into it whether you’ve just managed to get yourself a thankless slog of epic proportions, or a thing of beauty. Well, I put a fork into it and the soil is an absolute joy. It’s weedy, fo sho. But at some point somebody has loved it, because even I, feeble as I am, can push the fork into it using only my arms (I don’t, that would be madness, but I tried it to see if I can and hell yes). There’s a good worm population and although there’s one variety of creeping grass in the soil whose white tendrils are everywhere under the soil’s surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything nasty. Anyway, I spent long enough in IT to know how to strip cable. Those white tendrils are no more.

I’ve got a strip about 13m x 5, then another about 2m x 10. At the moment I’m working on the bigger one, and I’ve cleared and dug just over half of it now:

Untitled

What I haven’t photographed yet is that I’ve also dug a path down the centre of it and have designed a layout and everything.

At the same time I got my area, a couple of lovely chaps from ’round the corner got the one next to me. It’s interesting to see how different our approach is to allotmenting. My intention is to use the autumn to get the plot into the shape I want and then plant stuff in spring (I’ll whack some onions and garlic in, mind you). So I’m doing all the back-work and then leaving the land to see what comes up, so I can spot any nasty perennials and deal with them root and branch. The chaps are digging a strip and planting it immediately, and while this means they’re going to get slightly faster results, I can already see they’ve got a problem with that creeping grass, and there’s nothing they can really do about it because the broccoli is already in.

I have to take wood down there to edge the beds, and then membrane for the paths, and then woodchips for the paths. I can carry one plank at a time. Or I can take one bag of woodchips in my biddy trolley. So it’s just as well I have the whole winter to get this sorted because the edging alone is going to take me about 12 trips, and about the same again for the chips. I’m doing everything a funny way, in tiny snatches and ridiculously small increments. I suppose a healthy person would just go there and dig. I don’t have that option. I don’t go there every day, or even every week. I go when my body lets me, with the intention of just digging one square metre. That would be good enough. I could retire honourably after one. Inevitably I end up doing more than I intended to (a great deal more, often), but I’m having to work around M.E., so the very fact I have an allotment is probably pure folly and you know how that fires my deeply perverse determination.

The allotments are about 100 yards from my house. We back onto a river and a decent-sized nature reserve, so although I’m a mere 12 minutes from London Bridge, we have woodpeckers and kingfishers. Most people aren’t doing much on their plots right now, so I’m often completely alone, and when I am, I sing. It’s not really the prospect of fresh veg that I love about this. It’s the opportunity to work. To do something and stand back from it and say: there is a thing I did. It’s measurable. It isn’t about getting the washing up done (which I enjoy, don’t get me wrong); but about creation, and that lovely feeling of having exerted oneself, even if I can hear the cloven hooves of consequence* pounding the drive towards me as I enjoy it.

In the meantime I get to throw on my gardening jumper and a hat, and spend a lot of time looking like this:

Mud

… and I am happiest when I am tired and muddy. I come back too tired to shower, kick off my shoes in the porch and lie on the sofa with a head full of happiness while my body goes wrong around me.

And I don’t mind it, because I photograph what I did, and I can look at those photographs, and see that I exist.

***

I wasn’t up to allotmenting today, which is annoying as the weather is divine, but I did manage to get my summerhouse organised. I bought one of those huge “garden storage boxes” – you know the things, big white plastic thing pretending it’s made of shiplap, with a green lid. They charge a ridiculous amount for them – nearly a hundred quid for a big one! – but I found one on eBay for about £25, and it’s perfectly sturdy. I assembled it last night (whacking the components together with the back of a hatchet – ha!), and then put all the tools from the cellar into it and dragged it outside, pulled everything out of the summerhouse and then reorganised it all. It now looks as if a much nicer person than me owns the summerhouse. Everything is neat – as long as you don’t open the box. Later this year or in the spring I will have the timber-yard deliver me some cut boards and I’ll build a collapsible potting bench in there, and put up some shelves and some more hooks, so I can organise drill bits and screws instead of having them all higgledy-piggledy in the giant box.

But for now, that’ll do.

* Having to spend several days lying down.

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