Wow, where have the first 6 months of the year gone? And what a strange 6 months it has been. I have been on a roller coaster of ups and downs. There was a lot of of driving back and forth to my parents throughout the first 2 months (I won’t go into all the details), and then suddenly–lockdown. Travel plans cancelled, social activities suspended, and a scary time of not really knowing what was going to happen to you, to friends, to family, to the wider world. All of our focus and attention narrowed down to simply staying home, keeping safe, and taking care of our own small circle.
Having the rug pulled from under you, leaving you slightly stunned on the floor, at least gives you a slightly altered perspective on your life, with a sudden gratitude for the important, and equally, the little things in life. Thankfully I, and everyone I know, have so far stayed safe and well. I am grateful for that mercy to begin with. Secondly, I am grateful that I have a freelance career working from home that has continued mostly uninterrupted throughout these last months, so I am without any troubles there. Finally, I am grateful for being a gardener, with a garden (two if you count the allotment), and the skills and resources to be able to garden in them.
I often refer to my allotment as my haven, but this has never been more true than over the past few months. It has become a perfect excuse to escape from the house for a change of scenery, and somewhere to immerse deeply into, to be at one with nature and the task at hand, so as to forget about the craziness happening on the outside of those locked gates. Somewhere to dig and weed and sweat when you can muster up the energy and feel like venting some of it, but then on another day, a place to simply visit and wander and watch the bees in gentle peacefulness.
During lockdown some councils made the decision to shut down their allotment sites, mainly I think due to people not adhering to social distancing rules. This must have been so tough for the holders of those plots. No access to vegetables that were probably still growing in late spring: leeks, brassicas, parsnips, rhubarb. Not being able to tend their plots and stop them becoming an overgrown jungle of weeds. Nor able to start sowing and planting at a crucial time of year, but most importantly, not being able to garden at a time when people are struggling with their mental health. It’s a well known fact now that gardening can help enormously with this. I think it was very cruel and misunderstanding of these councils, and I’m so, so glad that ours remained open.
I’ve been keeping busy all round. In mid January I landed my dream job–an invitation to illustrate a gardening book. Fifty illustrations, ten per month for the past 5 months, have taken up all of my pockets of spare time. I can’t give any more details at the moment as the book won’t be published until early next year, but I have thoroughly enjoyed working on it and can’t wait to see the result. I have also been busy with my usual freelance work and around Easter time my Etsy shop really started to take off with orders, and has pretty much kept me on my toes ever since. All of which means I’ve had no time at all for blogging (apologies) or my illustrated journal that I started last year. I’m hoping to get back into both of these in due course, starting here with the blog.
The allotment–aside from serving as a nature retreat and green gym for the benefit of mind, body and soul–has provided a few vegetables too. We lived mainly on leeks at the start of lockdown, and then had so much rhubarb throughout April and May that I was leaving bunches of it on my front windowsill for passersby, who snapped it up each time within minutes. We’ve had a smattering of asparagus; managed to get a fair few mangetout peas before the pigeons landed their fat feathery bums on them breaking most of the stems; we have a shed full of drying garlic and red onions, filling it with a lovely aroma; and we’ve just started to harvest the first new potatoes, courgettes, and some baby beetroots. The plot is almost full up, I have some spare tomatoes to fill the gap left by the garlic; some extra little chilli plants to fill the onion gap; and some lettuces to fill any other gaps I can find.
I will let my photos do the rest of the talking. I hope to be back with some more constructive posts soon.