So much of our lives for the next year, and beyond, is held within this simple, unassuming cardboard box.
It's name is Bertie.
Bertie originally started its travels on the Isle of Arran, coming to London then spending some time in France, before returning to London. A quick visit to Wales then ensued, though for much of last year Bertie was just happy to sit at home... quiet... unpretentious... still. And we're delighted that this was the case, as Bertie holds so many of our growing hopes and dreams.
It is within the packets... within the monthly sections... within Bertie that much of our growing year is held. The seeds in each packet, and each monthly section, will barely ever see the light of day. As they sit in the darkness of their packaging they're really just waiting for the dappled darkness of soil... or compost... and moisture... and sunlight. You see, it's these seeds that will germinate and grow and produce food for our table. Some will need to burst into flower before giving up their taste-filled offerings; others will just be resplendent in their luscious, leafy green goodness; the rest we'll know little about until they're pulled from the ground and their lengthy tap root or bulbous tubers are revealed to the sun or rain drenched world.
Bertie is a spit of a thing and doesn't really weigh much, though this meek little box carries the full weight of bountiful growing seasons and harvests... harvests that we hope will sustain and nourish.
We certainly have much to thank Bertie for, and can only hope that our growing hopes and dreams for this year are fulfilled... weather and pests permitting!
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 24
Even though these planters look a bit ragged and rugged at the moment, they still bring me that little uplift that one needs when starting a long day of work.
Yesterday was a day at For Earth's Sake, and it was longer than usual. We had an additional meeting in the early evening - a Business Improvement District meeting - so my train back would be late. It's rarely a chore to travel down and visit Vanessa and the team, however multi-sequenced my trek... They're all working so hard to try and do good for the planet, its wildlife, flora and fauna and its people. Nothing to not enjoy being part of, though it is a trek; albeit giving one time to think, as public transport often does.... though more on this another time...
... going back to these planters!
It's early morning and the middle of winter and they're looking a little forlorn. In a few months' time some of this grouping will be flowering and giving up their yellow buds to commuters already weary and worn on their morning commute... I'm sure they are even more of a blessing during their evening trudge back to home! These planters, or rather the plants, are also adding a little fresh air, doing their carbon dioxide and oxygen thing that they do so well. These little green growing places, these oases that we often walk past without a care do lift the spirit, if you let them. I'm forever grateful that there are those willing to care for them; as part of their job or on a voluntary basis of one sort or another.
We had some planters at the top of our road which had "seen better days", sullen palms in them. Not really the ideal plant for this place at the outskirts of London, in my humble opinion... I suppose the council thought "plant a palm and you won't have to worry about it", though the rest of the human detritus that gathers in these planters is the main problem. You see, the issue isn't the palms... it's the people. At one time I thought about taking up the cudgel with these top-of-the-road travesties and doing some guerrilla gardening, though there's already a lot going on in our life and maybe that would've just been a step too far... Anyhow, now they are gone, and the space is more barren... ...
... going back to these planters!!
As I continued my journey to Cranleigh, I had a little outward smile and inward warmth at this little oasis of greenery; positioned awkwardly amidst the rolled steel tracks of railway lines, harsh steelwork hoardings, softening wooden fences, vibrant caution stickers, and the hard concrete, tarmac and slabs of the platforms.
Returning late last night, and passing through the station at a little past 11pm, I glanced over my shoulder at these planters again; through the cinematic little lit pods of travellers of the train as it trundled out of the station.
There they were... unsurprisingly... across on the other platform, in darkness yet lit up by the neon glow on the station. All quiet, and gentle, and resting...
One bus ride home and I would be doing the same.
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 23
The natural world. Forever amazing and inspirational.
For us, at this time of year, a trough of our strawberry plants is hardly a thing of beauty, though like all real beauty the truth is never just skin deep. At the moment the silent joy is in a few green leaves, protected by their waxy cuticle layer. The plants are keeping themselves tucked up under a blanket of last season's dead leaves; the ones that worked hard photosynthesising to ensure the plant grew, fruited and gave berries of paradise. They do need tidying up; but not at this moment.
At this moment this crispy brown veil is a blanket, a home and a refuge for tiny insects hibernating and microbial life; life that we don't fully understand and that we can't even see with the naked eye. It is often when our world's in winter's embrace that we take stock and think of what's to come. With some tender care, judicious pruning, and a little liquid fertiliser from reconstituted organic chicken manure pellets, these now quiet strawberry plants will soon start shouting and give us an abundance of fat red berries... only about five months to wait! Of course, the flowers will come first, then bees, butterlies and insects will pay a visit... or two... or three. They'll leave some magic dust, and then fruit will start growing... and swelling... and ripening.
I look forward to the days of strawberries, and now know our summer is not too distant... bringing the bliss of heated rays of sunshine... and seemingly endless watering!
But first... now... at this very moment.. we are in winter's embrace.
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 22
As I've been pottering at the allotment today, two well-known sayings have come to mind. The first is "It's never too late to do some good" and the second is "Don't put off until tomorrow what can be done today".
It's the 1st of January and obviously the start of a brand new calendar year. Our growing year is gently moving forward and getting in to gear, and this morning it's been about tidying the beds on our top plot.
Where we had our completely unproductive Butternut Waltham squash and quite productive climbing beans I've set to and weeded the bed; taking out any perennial weeds that were starting to take hold and covering all with a single layer of cardboard. A single layer here will do for the moment, and if it needs another that will have to wait for a few weeks as the rest of our cardboard hoard is needed for sorting out our newly acquired half plot next door.
Another bed, where our autumn harvesting broad beans were - the Luz de Otono that I vainly had much hope for - has been weeded thoroughly: some couch grass was coming through and it had to come out. I made sure I followed the root back as far as I could and pulled it from as deep as possible. We'll try the Luz de Otono again next year, this time sowing from seed. With such an unusually wet autumn this year the plug plants grew well but got black spot quickly and needed to come out. So today was just about tidying that bed. The soil is quite high in this edged bed, as we had added compost to hill the potatoes, so some of it will soo go onto a new bed at the plot next door.
Mr Robin - I'm sure not the one from home - is keeping me company and fluttering nearby; taking in the view of what's been done. Sitting next to me on the left arm of our blue bench, every now and again he flits off to the ground, digs around, rustles something out and has another nibble of lunch. Now he's off in the buddleja, which I'm glad I haven't yet cut back; clearly he doesn't like it all too neat.
It's completely silent down here today... almost. Even though the sky may be grey, the stillness is quite golden. There are a few people at the pub so occasionally there's a background murmur from the beer garden. Others are walking along the canal path and the river path, so every so often the shouting of a child screeches across the allotment. Barring this though it's mainly birds twittering, an occasional car door being slammed shut, and a very slight rumble of planes at Heathrow as their occupants jet off to who knows where.
Earlier I left Richard with his Shark vacuum cleaner. It arrived yesterday. He immediately unpacked it, checked it all over and gave it a quick try out. This morning he's been doing the two upstairs floors... and complaining that I was getting in the way in the bedroom when I wanted to get changed to come down here. After a brief break for us both and a soya milk coffee, I left him to his hoovering and came down here to do some tidying. All of that is now done and three beds are tucked away under cardboard, and another bed is thoroughly weeded. I could have done this weeks ago, and it's only taken me a couple of hours. Though for whatever reason I didn't get round to it then. And I have now. Which is good. That is how life is after all.
So, coming back to those two sayings. Sometimes you do need to put something off because you know you just don't have the energy to do it today. And sometimes things are too late as you missed a deadline, and whatever you do after missing that deadline will never take you back to it. For what I needed to get done here for some illogical reason these two sayings sprang to mind, though I have no idea really why they did. I guess somewhere in my mind they just wanted to. Certainly it's not been too late, and certainly I haven't put off until tomorrow what I could do today. Clearly, the time was just right.
For some it may seem like an odd thing to be spending a few hours on New Year's Day down at an allotment, though for me it seems the perfect way to start another calendar year. And a great way to start my third month of my blog, 'A Guernsey Gardener in London'.
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 21
...long term partners.