On The Path To The Allotment ~ Too Hot On The Plot

It was nearly 7 pm last night when I finally thought it might be cool enough to head up the field to the allotment. In places, the nettles and grasses are leaning over the path at ear-height, and the nettle stings can be vicious, even through clothing. At one point the makeshift path alongside the rapeseed crop all but disappears, and it’s a question of remembering to turn left at the opium poppy, which was fine when it was flowering redly, but not so easy to spot now it’s gone to seed. I’m beginning to think I need to go out armed with a machete. Also the ground beneath my feet is so unyielding, it is difficult to walk on; baked into unexpected ridges and contours that are hard to navigate when you can’t see the way ahead. Who would have thought going gardening could be so challenging.

Of course, I had to stop to take this photo, the sun shining through the allotment boundary hedge.

On the plot I have been trying to shelter the plants’ roots with whatever vegetation I can find up there: comfrey, horseradish leaves, even rhubarb leaves. I’m now eyeing up the goat willow tree on the neighbouring abandoned plot, thinking a little prune of its leathery foliage might make some useful shading material.

So far things are surviving – apart from the strawberries that is, and the broad beans which produced a half-hearted crop and then fainted away. The most astonishing success, at least so far, is the sweet corn. It just keeps on growing, and with scarcely any watering, which is very strange for sweet corn. I bought the seedlings by post after the seeds of my own first sowing rotted. They were tiny when I planted them out in May – no more than a hand’s width tall. Now look at them.

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They cost £2 for 20 from Delfland Nurseries which probably works out cheaper than growing them yourself from seed, and certainly cuts out the faff. I also bought some of their Iznik mini cucumber seedlings, which are now producing well in the polytunnel. The fruits are about 4 inches long when ready to pick, and delicious. The best thing is you eat the whole thing at one go, so no more squishy-cucumber-end discoveries in the fridge.

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The Black Russian tomatoes are busy fattening in the next door bed. They are now one of our favourite tomato varieties, under-sown here with dill.

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Outside, the runner beans are struggling to get up their sticks, but we’ve had our first good picking of the climbing Alderman peas. These peas are supposed to continue cropping over the season, but I’m not sure that this will happen with four more weeks of drought and heat promised. I have just planted out another lot, sown for quick germination in lengths of plastic gutter, and I shall definitely grow them again next year.

We’ve been told there is a ‘world shortage’ of lettuce in UK supermarkets. It doesn’t germinate well in heat. I have grown some of my own, but I was also very pleased that I bought a tray of ‘living salad’ lettuce from Waitrose. It was intended for cutting fresh into one’s sandwich, but I planted out the seedlings instead, outside covered with fleece and also in the polytunnel. So far it’s doing well. I reckon there were about 50 seedlings in the tray, several different varieties, so plenty of lettuce to share with neighbours.

Now for some more hot-plot shots.

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One unforeseen circumstance of the hot weather is that my piled-high compost heaps are bone dry, and are therefore doing very little rotting down. While I don’t feel I can help them along by actually watering them, I have heard that the addition of urine is very beneficial, and since most of the allotmenteers are chaps, it has occurred to me to put up ‘please pee here’ signs. All deposits gratefully received.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Coming Home From The Allotment ~ The Priory Ruins At Sunset

Lately heavy labouring on the Farrell allotment plots has been taking precedence over blogging. Tasks have included sowing, weeding, mulching, path mowing, plot edging, erecting pea and bean sticks, planting out the broad bean seedlings (long pod, crimson flowered and the Sutton varieties), beetroot (golden, boltardy and cylindrical), cauliflower, broccoli and pea seedlings.

I have also recycled several builder’s pallets (rescued from the communal bonfire heap) to make two new compost bins, and to extend an existing one into a double-bay effort. And I have been gathering comfrey, grass cuttings, shredded cardboard, household peelings and whatever greenery I can crop from neighbours’ neglected plots to feed the bins. I am aiming for mega-quantities of compost come the autumn so I can give all the raised beds a deep protective layer that will hopefully prevent the soil from turning into concrete over the winter, which is what happened to any exposed surface this year.

In the polytunnel over-wintered lambs lettuce, Chinese mustards,  leeks, Russian and Tuscan kale are being eaten and/or cleared to make way for the tomatoes, peppers and the single cucumber plant that I managed to germinate. All in all, it feels like a gardening marathon, but doubtless it will (mostly) be worth it. And one good thing about being up at the allotment at this time of year is the chance of taking sunset photographs of the town on the way home.

First though evidence of the labours:

And now we’ve got the gardening done, more early evening shots around town as I head home; views from south through east to north-east:

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Daily Post: Place in the World

Sky Energy up at the Allotment

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This climate change business is most perplexing. There was a time when winter was a time to get the digging done. Not so the last few years. With the autumn comes rain and more rain. By November the ground is sodden, the soil claggy. My wellies become giant boots in seconds if I am unkind enough to the soil to walk upon it. This year the situation looks set to last until March.

Certainly we have intervals of splendid skies like this, but these periods of unrain never last long enough for the soil to dry out. All I can do on my plot is pick a few overwintered vegetables (leeks and greens), add fresh supplies of pony manure to my compost bins (a nice man who keeps horses dumps regular supplies out in the lane), and well, take photographs.

The light was just going when I took this first photo, but the burst of clouds above the bare ash trees made me think of Ailsa’s energy challenge over at Where’s My Backpack. Simply to see them filled me with energy, and made me think that the generally dreary look of allotment gardens in February had its scenic qualities too. And of course there are signs of spring. Lurking inside this nest of purple and green is an emergent winter cauliflower, in real life, little more than an inch across.

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And the marigolds that grow themselves all over my plot, are coming into flower, although they proved a little hard to capture in the biting wind. Perhaps these hopeful signs mean that I will soon be out digging.

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Where’s My Backpack – go here for more responses to Ailsa’s ‘energy’ photo challenge

Polytunnel Vision

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Oh all right, I know. As ambitions go, wanting to own a polytunnel might seem pretty odd. Also it’s not as if I don’t have enough housework in the house without having additional premises to tend elsewhere. But then sometimes in life you get precisely what you wish for, and most unexpectedly at that.

Ever since I took over my plot from Much Wenlock Allotment Society some seven years ago I have increasingly thought that a polytunnel was the very thing I needed. Gardening on the edge of Wenlock Edge can be challenging. The site is exposed, sloping, and often very windy. Much Wenlock is also in a frost pocket, and thus is a degree or so cooler than anywhere else in Shropshire.

Worse still, the soil comprises a decaying fossil volcanic ash that is like wet cement when it rains, and hard baked cement when it doesn’t rain. It has thus taken seven years of digging, mulching, composting, green manuring, horse manuring, hacking and weeding to get the soil looking like something that vegetable plants might want to grow in. The dandelions, however, grow most verdantly, along with the creeping buttercups, sow thistles, docks, bindweed and couch grass. And so despite improvements, small vegetable seeds still find the soil heavy going. If they germinate at all, they struggle, the soil creating a bonsai effect on the roots, and then the slugs quickly finish them off. Most seeds thus need to be germinated under cover, and grown on before they can stand a chance after being planted out.

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And then, of course, there are the pigeons. They sit on the telegraph wires and watch what I’m doing. They especially like to eat cabbages and newly sprouted pea plants down to the roots. The rotters. In consequence I spend a lot of time making defensive systems out of environmesh and bits of wire fencing. This kind of protection also has to be applied to beds of leeks, garlic and onions due to the arrival in our part of the world of the allium beetle that likes to lay its eggs in the fleshy roots. The effect of these assaults on the leeks is especially dramatic: they unfurl in spiral fashion and develop rust-coloured stripes.

So you can see that to be an allotment gardener in Wenlock requires the same kind of pig-headed (idiot) tenacity it takes to be a writer. I have visions of deep, humus-laden beds bursting with lush, green spinach and broccoli, in much the same way I have visions of producing beautiful books that everyone wants to devour, and feel nourished by.

And that’s where the polytunnel comes in. I’m hoping I can crack both objectives in one fell swoop, this on the basis that if I can raise and eat more broccoli and spinach, my brain might produce writing with the requisite added enrichment. We can but hope. I might also say, as I probably have before, the contents of my writer’s brain have much in common with the contents of my compost bin, although at least they don’t smell. (Please note pallet structure installed by the Team Leader aka Graham who endlessly tries to bring order to my chaos).

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Anyway, back in the early spring when I was clearing my plot I noted, with a severe pang of envy, that my neighbours, Bob and Sally, were making preparations to erect a fourteen foot long polytunnel. I could see it was hard work, with foundation trenches to dig (in the aforementioned concrete soil) and the frame to erect. I watched them toil, hanging doors, and making beds. Next, I watched as my other neighbours, Pete and Kate, followed suit. Their installation was even more hard work, being on a slope. It took them weeks to complete. In the meantime I kept the Team Leader posted as to these events, from time to time mooting the possibility of us having a tunnel; perhaps something smaller, I hazarded.

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I have to say the response wasn’t altogether encouraging, even though we were by then falling out at home over whether the small conservatory on the back of the house was my potting shed and greenhouse, or his workshop. Increasingly my bean and sweet corn seedlings were having to compete with saws and wrenches and other man-things whose function I cannot identify. Nor was there the possibility of building either a man-shed to contain his stuff or a woman-greenhouse to contain my stuff since the garden at  home is too narrow.

Back at the allotment I watched the new polytunnels fill with tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers…I thought longingly of gazpacho that simply cannot be made from flavourless supermarket produce. Ho hum.

Then out of the blue in mid-summer, a little bird, otherwise known as ace fellow allotmenteer, Phoebe, told me that Bob and Sally were moving and were looking to sell their tunnel. She thought I should discuss terms with them.  Not long after this I received a small inheritance from my once passionately gardening Aunt Evelyn of whom I have written elsewhere.

And so to cut a long story short, a week last Sunday I became the proud owner of the Auntie Evelyn Memorial Polytunnel, complete with potting bench, garden chairs and an automatic watering system. My aunt would have loved it. Bob and Sally even left me the last of their tomatoes and cucumbers. Not only that, the plot comes with a new shed that does not lean, nor provide roosting space for snails as my old one does. Already the Team Leader has added a shelf and guttering. In short, my water butt runneth over…Or will do very shortly.

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I have started clearing the tunnel’s beds and planted out lettuce and oriental vegetables to extend the salad season. But from now on, it is all new territory on the gardening front. There’s a lot to learn about tunnel cultivation and management. Planning and forethought are required. Better get cracking with that spinach and broccoli then.

Related stories about my aunt:

The Many Faces of Evelyn Mary Ashford

Grand Girl: Great Prospects

The Birds; Who, Where, When?

      copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

Please do visit Flickr Comments  to read more bloggers’ ‘P’ stories, or to add your own.

Still Life at the Allotment

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Mid October and the marigolds are still blooming up at the allotment. I love the way they simply grow themselves amongst my vegetables. In a mild winter they may flower into December.  It was also good to see this bee out and gathering pollen. These days, every bee is precious. Once we have killed them all with agri-chemicals, we can expect to starve. It’s as simple as that. My allotment empire has recently expanded – more of which in the next post – so I’m intending to grow more varieties of late and early flowering plants on my plot. Or maybe I should simply stick to marigolds, and let them grow EVERYWHERE. The flower petals are lovely in salads, and a herbal tea of marigold flowers is good for warding off flu. Simply looking at them makes you feel better. All that orange straight into the brain, lighting up the little grey cells as the days darken.

‘Happy Autumn’ northern dwellers.

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For more vibrant treats visit Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

“Wheat…fields of wheat…” Musings on the path to the allotment

 

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Okay, who knows which film this quote comes from? As an extra clue I give you the line in ‘full’: “Wheat… lots of wheat… fields of wheat… a tremendous amount of wheat…”

For some reason I cannot explain, this particular exhortation is rather popular in the Farrell household.  The Team Leader is wont to deliver it at unexpected  intervals and with some vigour. This habit even predates the time when we actually came to live beside  a field that often has wheat growing in it. So here is it. The field behind our house. And while I admit it might overstep the bounds of propriety to share my washing with the world, here is another view of the wheat field from our garden. I also think the flower shadows on the sheet rather fine: housework turned artwork?

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I have written in earlier posts how our house lies on the edge of Wenlock Edge, a twenty-mile scarp formed from the upthrust bed of a tropical sea – the Silurian Sea in fact. This geological formation is a breath-taking 400  million years old – a place once inhabited by trilobites, and molluscs, and sponges and corals, although it should be made clear that when these creatures lived, the shallow sea in question was not in the northern hemisphere.  No indeed. In its tropical heyday Shropshire lay off equatorial East Africa. We are thus, for all our rustic appearance, a well-travelled county. We also have lots of geology of international importance, but  which I cannot begin to describe because the terminology and chronological expanses confound even me, a prehistorian. The Shropshire Geological Society have  a good site HERE should you wish to know more.

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The reason I’m showing you the wheat field is because my path to the allotment runs along the edge of it. I walk back and forth at least once a day. And so when I’m not writing blog posts or fiddling with my novel, this is one of the places where I’m likely to be. There is always something that catches my eye – thistles, the light, clouds, buzzards, the rooks and jackdaws, a neighbour’s three white ducks that regularly escape from their pen to eat slugs along the path, cats on the prowl, pretending I can’t see them.

Even the wheat is quite interesting. It amazes me how it manages to force its way up through a cloddy layer of grey clay that bakes to concrete after a few days with no rain. This soil, too, is a product of a geological event – a deluge of  volcanic ash from aeons ago and that has now broken down into bentonite clay.  It is the same soil in the allotment. Soft fruits seem to thrive on it. Everything else is a challenge. Wheat, though, has apparently been grown along the slopes above the town for generations, hence the name The Wheatlands for some of our now built-upon areas.

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And talking of building, a couple of years ago when the Local Authority called for landowners to put forward development land, our local landowner proposed  this and most of the fields on the Edge side of the town, including the allotments too, gardens  that have been there since the 1940s.  Development on this scale is something that most town residents fervently  hope will not happen. We have already been threatened with up to 500 houses over the next 11 years. This in a town with antiquated drainage, severe traffic congestion, few jobs, poor public transport, and inflated house prices, and one that has seen several new developments of upmarket houses in the last few years.  More crucially, the town sits in a bowl below the Edge and has recently been designated a rapid response flood risk area by the Environment Agency.

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More tarmac, roofs and roads that speed up run off from the hills above our homes are the last thing we need.  Some of the newest developments in the town are themselves subject to flooding.

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All right, I admit it. The landscape behind our house is perhaps not particularly noteworthy of itself, but the light and sky above it are. The uptilted scarp of Wenlock Edge forms a false horizon, so there is always much weather to watch. It changes every second. One day we saw a fire rainbow which we gather is quite rare.

Ironically, it it perhaps because this view from our house is ever under threat, that makes us look at it and appreciate it all the more. But it makes me angry too. I am not opposed to development, but it should be well planned, and enhance the locality, not cause problems for other people’s homes. There appears to be no mechanism in English planning that can ensure the provision of good quality housing at prices people can afford. Density seems to be the only planning criterion, not  homes with green spaces around them, and places for community orchards and gardens, footpaths and cycle tracks and areas where people of all ages can play. All things that boost wellbeing. You would wonder why it is so hard to do.

It is true that  Much Wenlock people have recently voted to have the Local Authority  accept their Neighbourhood Plan, a community compiled document that reflects our aspirations and plans for the foreseeable future. Our Conservative Party MP, Philip Dunne, tells us the Plan will deliver localism to our door, that is, we will have a say in the kind and scale of development that is proposed for our town and parish, development that will protect landscapes, open spaces and heritage while improving the quality of life for everyone. Whether it will, or not remains to be seen, particularly under a government whose recently sacked Secretary for the Environment apparently allowed for the destruction of ancient woodland as long as developers replanted elsewhere.  Bio-diversity anyone?

Which I suppose brings me back to the quote; “Wheat…fields of wheat…” You can’t get more of a monoculture than that. Hey ho. So many things to unpick. Think I’ll trundle up the path to the allotment and pick raspberries.

copyright 2014 Tish Farrell

Related:

…of Silurian Shores

Old Stones of Wenlock: repurposing the Silurian Sea

In Much Wenlock an Inspector Calls

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P.S. The quote is from Woody Allen’s Love and Death

 

Rooti-toot-toot, it’s spring at the allotment: up close and vegetal

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Well the old shed has made it through another year. A couple of bits have fallen off, but last year’s application of internal bracing by the Team Leader, aka Graham, has kept its tendency to list in an easterly direction in check. Would that we all had such a bracing. Over the winter it housed a poor mummified mouse, and snails still go to roost in there. I’m not showing you the inside, though. You definitely do  not want to see in there.

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Instead, here is the ancient greengage tree with its delicate blossom. Already I’m wondering if it will give us some fruit this year. Greengages are notoriously temperamental, and after the magnificent crop in my first year of allotmenting that had us, and all our friends and relations, dribbling with delight over bucket loads of luscious harvest, it has borne very little. That was seven years ago. Maybe this year is the year then.

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There are loads of jobs to do, not least digging. The endlessly wet autumn and winter meant that winter digging was impossible, so there has been much to catch up on. Meanwhile the weeds are literally having a field day, which makes this the the season of dandelion beheading. (Sorry, dandelions). They are sprouting up all along the paths between everyone’s plots, and I’m afraid I find great satisfaction in slicing off these cheery faces with my strimmer. Their replacements are anyway there the next day, beaming vigorously.

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Then there is the comfrey forest to manage. This plant I crop and cherish. You cannot have too much of it, and it obligingly grows  itself in a huge clump beside the shed. If you cut it down after flowering, it will grow again and again during the summer.

Comfrey, as I have mentioned before, is the organic gardener’s dream plant. It comes in other shades, pink to purple through blue. Its ability to mine otherwise inaccessible  nutrients from the soil (dynamic accumulation I believe this is called) and repurpose them in its foliage make it an endless source of cost-free fertilizer. It is one of the reasons why you can’t look in my shed. I do my brewing in there. And no. It’s not what you think.

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For those who missed an earlier post on this, I stuff old compost bags with the comfrey’s  top growth, seal them with clothes pegs, cut a hole in the corner of each bag, and prop it over a bucket and wait. In the warmth of the shed the vegetation soon rots down, giving out a dark and evil looking liquid that collects in the buckets.  This stuff is pretty smelly, although nowhere near as pungent as the slimy residue left in the bag, which then ends up on the compost heap. The liquid I  decant  into old plastic bottles, and use as a feed through the growing season. It is 3 times richer in potassium that farmyard manure, but it must be diluted 1 part comfrey essence to 15 parts water.

The blurry bee above would not stay still for the shot, but that’s another good thing about comfrey. Bees like it. As I took this, I spotted at least 4 different kinds: a honey bee and three bumbles of varying liveries and sizes. Having written of the dire things that are happening to bees, it’s heartening to see so many at the allotment doing their work. Thank you, bees.

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The mild winter has meant that many crops simply kept going without dying back. Yesterday I noticed that my globe artichokes have already made globes almost big enough to eat. In May? What is going on?  But thank  you, artichokes.

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The Swiss Chard has been magnificent too and kept us going through the winter with fresh new leaves. It is only now going to seed. Nor did I sow it in the first place. It seeded itself around my plot from my neighbours’ plot. Thank you,  Pete and Kate.

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And now you can look at my Red Duke of York spuds, their foliage just pushing through the soil. I love the purple flush on the new growth.

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And next are my over-wintered field beans (rather like broad beans I am told, but smaller and tastier). This is the first year I have tried them. The metre tall stems are covered in blossom from tip to root, and the scent is glorious. The bees are busy here too.

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And last but not least, the strawberries are flowering like crazy…

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And the Welsh Onions are bursting into bloom beside the Lemon Balm, although I’m not sure whether I should be stopping them from doing this. On the other hand they will look rather splendid as the flowers open, and of course make lots more seed.

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And finally, the brightest face of all at the allotment, other than mine after too much digging. This is yet another lovely plant that grows itself up there with no help from me, and flowers into the winter. Its petals are lovely in salads, and it makes a good herbal tea that is said to improve pretty much any condition. I can believe it. Simply looking at this flower does you good: the orange goes right through your eyes and into your immune system. A big hand then, for the marigold. TARRAAAAH!

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© 2014 Tish Farrell

Please go to all these places for lots more brilliant stories:

Frizztext’s tagged ‘R’

Ailsa’s Travel Challenge ~ Close-up

DP Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Spring

Errant Muse? But there’s still life at the allotment

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I’ve posted this photo of my last summer’s allotment produce to prove something. I thought it might be a good antidote to my dreary state of writing stuckness. (And may be yours too). For one thing it shows conclusively that if I can’t get to grips with the several novels now backed up in brain and filing cabinets, then I can at least produce beautiful vegetation. (In season of course). Most of it is edible too, although I would not recommend the zinnias. Marigolds are fine however – in salads and as herbal tea. Excellent for the immune system, or so a herbalist friend tells me.

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I sometimes think my allotment life is a metaphor for my writer’s life. Sometimes I think  it’s the other way around. This reminds me of the great Welsh poet, R S Thomas. In my post about him the film link shows him, in his elder years, out bird watching on the Welsh coast. Speaking to camera, and with a wry smile, the Nobel nominee says he is supposed to be a poet, but that when the poem is going badly, then he is a birdwatcher. Likewise for me, when the writing stalls, then I am a gardener. I am mostly a gardener.

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The common ground between growing and creating is obvious: seasons of  productivity followed by dead times when the creative flow seems to be, well, DEAD. This is the natural order of things. I know it. And so I am forgiving when it comes to the garden. I do not expect it to grow things in December and February (or at least not much). But when it comes to writing, I fret, fume and grow ever more despondent with myself because the ideas in my head cannot be rendered, as I would like them, to word, to screen, to finished work.  And I do not forgive this. I consider it a grave fault.

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Yet I know, too, that good growing and writing, require a fertile medium, one that is well turned and appropriately nourished. You need plans and timetables, while remaining open to alternative courses of action. You also need the right medium for the job in hand. All this takes time: years of learning, of preparation, and the application of improving strategies. You have to understand your ground from the inside out. And that brings me to another essential condition – good drainage. And  in my home town poor drainage is a problem; both brain and allotment, then, are equally afflicted. They are not free-draining. But at least I know how to improve the soil. Grit is good.

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In the absence of creative flow, ungoverned gathering of new material can start filling the gap. This in hopes of finding a  spark, some fresh inspiration to jump start the writing. The activity can of course have its good points. You may indeed find the very thing you need. Besides which, well rotted down and aerated compost improves content and structure for any future cultivation. On the other hand, ever growing stagnant piles of poorly decomposing matter simply overwhelm and add to the stalled flow problem. In other words, there comes a time when you simply have to give your brain a rest, leave the compost heap to rot down, and allow the period of dormancy to run its course. The hard thing is to keep faith during this process of seeming inactivity; to believe that you WILL recover and complete the works you began.

That wonderful woman, poet and Jungian psychoanalyst, Clarissa Pinkola Estés has some very heartening things to say about this. In her autobiographical exploration of the nature of story, The Faithful Gardener, she says that new seed is faithful, and that it roots most deeply where the ground is the most empty. In The Creative Fire she also says that everyone is an artist even if they have not lifted a brush to the canvass or opened a new Word file (I paraphrase). Finally she tells us that the only thing you need to create is to get out of the way.

And so in a bid to get out of the way, I leave you with some summer marigolds. Before your eyes they are passing through their natural cycle from bud, to falling flower to newly forming seed head. Perhaps if we stare at them long enough, absorbing all that very creative orangeness, we stalled creators will ‘hear’ what they are telling us.

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© 2014 Tish Farrell

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Frizz’s Tagged E  Go here for more ‘E’ stories

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Related:

Bright Fields on Llyn: windows in time, mind and space and other stories from Cymru

Onwards and upwards…the big New Year ‘do-over’

Weekly Photo Challenge: saturated – Baked Bramleys and Autumn Bliss

Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturated

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The fat Bramley apples came from the Women’s Institute market, held in Much Wenlock every Thursday morning. The trestle tables are set out in the old Corn Exchange outside the library and are invariably laden with home-baked cakes – Lemon Drizzle, Rich Fruit, Iced Ginger, Millionaire’s Shortbread. Then there are the jams and marmalade.

But in recent weeks – this being the season of over-laden fruit trees – there has also been garden produce, and in particular bags of Bramley cooking apples. And what better thing to do with a Bramley than to bake it, stuffed with the last of the allotment raspberries?

The raspberries are called Autumn Bliss, and deliciously live up to their name; and especially so when added to apple. The synergy of hot, fruity flavours hits every taste bud with a satisfying zing.

This is how I cooked them.

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Baked Apples

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Per person: one apple, a handful of fruit, a good teaspoon of honey, a sliver of butter

Set oven to 200 C, 190 C for fan versions

With a corer or sharp knife carefully remove the apple middles, making sure all  tough core bits are excised. 

Remove the peel from the upper half of the fruit, then place in a greased oven-proof dish.

Stuff the apple centres with raspberries, adding a good teaspoon of runny honey to each apple. I used fair trade wild Zambian honey, which is cold-pressed, and has a rich, slightly smoky flavour.

Scatter any spare raspberries over the top.

Slather a small nugget of  farmhouse butter over each apple.

Add half a cup of water to the dish.

Bake for around 30 minutes, basting with the juices half way through. Bramleys have a habit of exploding, as mine were about to do, so keep an eye on them.

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Desert apples can also be baked, though they need longer, slower cooking and must be well basted. The result is not as ‘fluffy’ as a Bramley, and it’s better to remove all the peel. But desert apples often have a more distinctive flavour. Dip them first in in  water with a squeeze of lemon to stop them discolouring. 

Of course there are endless variations when it comes to stuffing apples. A good old English version is to use sultanas and raisins with a dollop of Golden Syrup.  You could make my version more sophisticated with a drizzle of an appropriate liqueur. Armagnac springs to mind. Or Creme de Cassis. And serve with some toasted almond flakes. But however you make them, they always go well with Greek yoghurt. (Or thick farmhouse cream…)

© 2013 Tish Farrell