We took on our first (and second!) allotment plots last March. Our two plots sit alongside each other at the bottom of the hill. We had a choice of plots throughout the field, but I chose these because they get little passing traffic; I didn't want to become famous in the village for my inability to build a bean wigwam or grow onions in straight lines! Back in wet, gray March, I had visions of the whole family, elbow-deep in soil, munching our way through various heritage varieties of fruit and veg that are normally too expensive for us to buy in the shops. I envisaged row upon row of Kilner jars, full of home-canned produce. Yes. Then I came to my senses and realised I would be happy to just produce something! Somethat that lived and that we could eat.
Well. Call it beginner's luck, but we haven't done too badly so far. We started with the leeks we inherited from the former allotmenteer. We've savoured the sweetest, juiciest, reddest strawberries; picked blackcurrants till our fingernails were permanently stained purple; pulled more radishes than one family could possibly eat; popped pod after pea pod in our mouths and freshened our breath with tickly fronds of fennel (or, as the girls call it, 'children's chewing gum'). In short, we done good.
Taking care of a patch of dirt has proved much harder work than I - who have only ever grown food in boxes, pots and bags on concrete patios - ever imagined. Digging through wet clay for ten inches' worth of dandelion root is not exactly fun. But this little rectangle of earth has also proved to be very good for the soul. I have spiked my anger and hurt into icy mud after a particularly unpleasant conversation. I have wondered at the tenacity of pigeons and spent weeks trying to outsmart the crows, who seemed to beat me to every ripening strawberry in the early days of June. I have observed a four-year-old struggle, heave and eventually conquer the weight and sloshingness of a full watering can. I have chuckled at the suprised delight on the face of my littlest as she pulled her first radish from the dirt. I have sighed, knowing childhood is dancing away before my very eyes, as I watched my eldest daughter carefully plant her own tiny seeds, tucking them into their earthy beds and whispering prayers for growth. I have loved my husband more fully, knowing that as he dug potatoes from the soil, he was recollecting a time when he followed at the heels of his grandfather, himself a potato farmer. I have swelled with the pride of a new mother as I've harvested peas, beans, chard and beets: I made you. I grew you.