Only a few weeks ago the land around here was parched. We’d barely had any proper rain all winter and you’d be forgiven for thinking we’d moved to Morocco.
The farmers were in particularly sombre mood as nothing seemed to be germinating and the prospects for the harvest looked grim. But nature has an uncanny habit of righting weather anomalies and after some prolonged periods of rain everything seems rosy again – the lawns are green, the cereal fields are looking magnificent and the farmers have stopped grumbling (for now, at least).
Brian, our friend and neighbour, has a very large plot of land on which he grows everything from raspberries to squashes. And right now we’re really enjoying the fruits of his labours. In fact, we won’t have to buy fruit and veg from the supermarket for the next couple of months. It all starts with lettuce grown in the tunnel (late April) and ends with leeks (some time in late winter). In between we get to taste potatoes, tomatoes, all manner of leafy green vegetables (spinach, chard, kale, pak choi), peppers, aubergines, cabbage, raspberries, cherries, apples, rocket, courgettes, pumpkins, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, chicory, beetroot, carrots, green beans, runner beans, onions, shallots, leeks and parsnips. Plus a variety of herbs and assorted other fruits. In return for all this wonderful produce my wife supplies Brian and his boys with an array of baked delights – everything from brownies to Victoria sponge. It’s a kind of feudal bartering system.
Now Brian is passionate about his plot for sure. In fact, it’s his life. Right through the frozen depths of winter he’s down, always adding to or repairing his sheds, reworking the soil etc. He simply loves growing things. But he’s not so passionate about eating it. In fact, much of what he grows he never samples. For him, the satisfaction is in getting something to grow from seed and nurturing it right through to harvest. What a wonderfully rewarding experience that must be.
It’s not just fruit and veg. He also keeps ducks and hens, supplying us with eggs right through the year. Brian has a series of interconnecting sheds, greenhouses and hen houses. He loses himself in there for hours, just pottering away. I reckon we should all potter away a bit more. It’s good for head health and would probably mean millions less Prozac tablets being dispensed. Getting your hands dirty, planting and seeing things grow is a very rewarding and distracting exercise. Give it a go; you don’t need a big plot with an ageing tractor like Brian. A few tubs is a good place to start.