As many of you know, the fabulous Vivi (or The Queen of the Gardens as I call her) has become a really close friend of ours over the past year; in fact it's not even a year since she and we met physically for the first time. That was a memorable day, as every hour spent with her since has been. Apart from being a good friend, I also admire her for all the work that she does in her garden, on such a tight budget and with such a clear unambiguous necessity in mind: the requirement to be able to feed herself for a year. And she does it with such grace and tenacity, teaching us lots and learning from us a little, with earnestness and with integrity and most of all with true, honest grit, determination and hard work.
As I was tackling this additional growing space over a few mornings earlier this week, Vivi was a near constant in my mind. This area here, now under cardboard and bricks, is on a fellow plotholder's growing space he is not going to be able to use this year. He's asked if we'll manage it for the time being, and we'll be growing a selection of squash on it. Some of these squash will be distributed, others will go towards various soups and sweet and savoury treats for our Association get-togethers... which hopefully we'll be able to have once again when this lockdown ends!
The soil here is very different to further up at our plot. It is more alluvial. It is closer to what was the Brent River bed many years back. The soil is quite compact, with loose yet tight clay deposits; fertile and robust, whilst being hard to work and tiring. However, two mornings work and the bed is now forked, weeded, Marestail removed, topped with a bag of well rotted manure, watered, covered with cardboard and weighted down with dried branches and heavy old bricks. It will stay this way for at least another month, maybe even six weeks, and then the squash plants will go in... though fingers crossed as I am waiting for them to germinate!
So in my work of these few mornings, I've become even more admiring and understanding of Vivi and the way she tends her soil, the knowledge that she has of her soil and the genuine year's worth of fresh food she grows in her soil. A number of people have suggested she needs to go No Dig, though 'needs' is a very challenging word for many of us; especially when 'needs must' are the words that one needs to live by.
So hats off to you Vivi! My admiration for you is higher than ever!!
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 29
I checked on the Cedrics and Cedricitas earlier and they're all blissfully unaware of what is going on in the world. You see, they're well cocooned (almost!) in their own world. They've survived the winter really well and have been munching away on their breakfasts, lunches and suppers. I know it's not the type of sustenance that I would want, though Hey Ho... they seem to love their nourishments!! They've also now eaten fully through their winter blanket (more commonly known as a hessian sack!) so Richard really does need to get his crochet needles out and sort something for them for the coming winter. The other day I suggesed to Richard that I buy some hessian twine for him to crochet them a blanket... though he didn't seem impressed by the idea... I guess a hessian sack will again have to do...
Whilst knowing we're in the middle of the major worldwide crisis that some predicted though none expected, I have to say I'm rather enjoying the quiet, the tranquility, and the general lack of rush that the world finds itself in. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate there's so much to hate with this worldwide tragedy being played out in real life rather than on a high-definition screen; loss, pain, anguish, exhaustion, anxiety, stress and the lack of a normal day-to-day life,... though, within these extraordinary times there is also some quiet, some balance and some peace for many of us too.
Obviously, it's a deeply sad, busy, exhausting, dispiriting and hopelessly challenging time for those frontline workers in the NHS and all hospitals, hospices and care homes around the world, the delivery drivers, many teachers, police, ambulance drivers, supermarket workers, shopkeepers, careworkers, farmworkers, volunteers, rubbish collectors, charity workers and all the essential 'unskilled' (as our hideous governments like to call them); many are working through this time ensuring we're as safe as possible in our homes, whilst they're out doing their essential jobs and working in so many dangerous places, including in our hero hospitals. These essential workers, who it is now so clear our societies and economies cannot do without, are the real heroes, in both horrendous times of crisis like these and also our 'normal times'.
'Normal times'... I guess there's the rub.
Do I want it to go back to those 'normal times'?
Obviously, I don't want anyone to die in life-threatening situations, though even as this virus goes on evil does not take a pause for calamity. And afterwards I'm sure war will still wage, greed will prevail, we will plunder Mother Nature, and the rich will be heralded and the 'unskilled'... well... they will likely again be forgotten... though I hope and would almost even deign to pray that this is not the case.
We need a new normal, a different and more caring normal. A normal that genuinely appreciates kindness, understanding and thoughtfulness. Many people who are having challenges are not born into their challenges, and the challenges they find themselves in are not of their own doing. For these people, and all people and all of our greater kin of Mother Nature, virus and post-virus, I like to hope that there will be a greater knowledge, a greater appreciation, a greater understanding of the important elements in life; of air, fire, water and earth in balance and nourishing our bodies and sustaining truly sustainable lives, not just for the few but for all: with a greater appreciation and comprehension of how being kind, being thoughful and being understanding is the true greatness we can hold in our minds and in our hearts.
We can no longer accept without thinking. Virtually globally, our governments have continually put economy before society, and that cannot continue. If our governments do not understand we need a 'new normal' it is the duty of each of us to tell them; at the ballot box, in writing, through social media, and through the actions we take. Let's not buy the cheapest without understanding why it is so cheap. Let's not buy simply what we want, but think first and buy what we need. Let's think how a purchase negatively impacts on someone's life, or all of Mother Nature and our one Planet Earth.
Let's not forget the times of Covid-19. Let's learn from them. Let's change the future. If we don't, Covid-whatever is only a small number of years away...
The times they are a changin'... I hope!
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 28
...long term partners.