After six years of waiting, we finally got the call in July. The call from the council to tell us an allotment was coming free.
It was ‘rather overgrown’, the woman said, but if we would make a start on it we would be able to take it on permanently from the end of the year.
I could hardly believe it. We had more or less given up hope of ever getting more space to grow food. After resolving to take the garden more seriously back in March, I spent the spring and summer squeezing vegetable plants into every spare corner. We have had more salad than we can eat, armfuls of chard and piles of runner beans and courgettes.
There is not, however, any room to grow much more and like most people who start growing their own food we have been desperate to branch out further. Once you have eaten a few meals where all the veg came from your own plot, you want to do it all the time.
I can barely describe how I felt when we first went to check the allotment out. It was like being three years old and understanding for the first time that I would be getting a birthday. Even the reality of ‘rather overgrown’ wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits:
It’s in a truly beautiful spot, this allotment, on a sun-drenched slope that runs down to my beloved Porter Brook . Opening the gate feels a little like entering a cathedral: there’s that same sense of deep quiet and the mystery of unseen activity.
It’s heavenly for wildlife. All the unkempt edges are alive with bees and butterflies and I hear birdsong there that I don’t recognise from my daily walks in the valley.
Our allotment neighbours also seem to be a lot of fun.What inspired me to take better care of the garden was reading Ellen Davis’ Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture and understanding for the first time the seriousness of honouring whatever land has been entrusted to us.
From that point of view, the allotment is a little daunting. Although it is shared, our portion still seems like a huge expanse of land – roughly four times the size of our (admittedly tiny) garden.
But I get a leap of excitement every time I think of something else we could grow there that would never fit in at home. Artichokes! Asparagus! All our potatoes!
Since our first visit we have, whenever possible, been chopping and clearing, hacking back brambles to reveal compost bins, gooseberry bushes, even an old bath sunk into the ground.
This week there was actual digging.
There’s still a heap of work to be done and I know it won’t always be easy, but for now I’m just happy and grateful to have time and sunshine and a place to dig. Now pass me that seed catalogue …