“Within a quiet life passed leisurely and tranquilly according to the cycles of nature lies hidden all the grandeur of the human drama” – Masanobu Fukuoka
Working the land on the London fringe, a beetroot’s toss from the A112, is, I’m not sad to say, a far cry from any rural idyll. Yet there are pockets and moments of leisure and tranquility here, and indeed some intense highs and lows.
Jack Frost made a late, unexpected visit at the start of the month, nipping at all the plants we had put out to harden for our first big weekend of plant stalls, after two months of fussing and tending, along with the squash in the fields. I spent much of the next day on the verge of tears, but a life of riding a bike has taught me two things: firstly, padded inserts are highly advisable on any ride in excess of two hours; and secondly, after a knock, get straight back in the saddle. Fortunately one of those valuable lessons has a wider application in life: the next day I was out planting more squash, and by Friday we had somehow manage to pull together enough plants, more or less ready for market, to stuff the van full. Rarely has a white van seemed such a graceful sight to me
We are in a bit of a frost pocket here, and these shocks are part of finding out what “rules” we should follow to ensure plant protection. Other lessons are more fun to learn: we are starting to know some of the other inhabitants on site: I am seeing more ground beetles and lacewings, and hoping this is a result of our deliberate habitat construction programme.
A lesson you learn and relearn is that of patience. The strawberry plants, since their arrival thirteen months ago, have been such a labour of love from so many people here, that after a long year of weeding, deflowering, managing runners, watering and mulching, I’d come to regard them as beautiful, but not especially useful, members of the Hawkwood family. Then as Nicole and I were weeding last week, we saw the ghostly bawbels begin blushing rouge, and I remembered with a start that these plants were brought in to strew their much-loved berries across Walthamstow. And beyond: for the offspring of these fruiters have been in demand from the nursery, potted runners running as far a Green Lanes, Holborn and Brixton. London’s exploding strawberry fields. I think it’s not too bad.