I have a tea tray at home, illustrated with all manner of garden paraphernalia, bearing the legend “A Gardener’s Work Is Never At An End”, repeated around the lip. Some have taken tea with me and flinched at this idea. But unlike “a woman’s work is never done”, that phrase that sums up the endless drudgery of the undervalued housewife, I think positive interpretations can be made.
For one, the tray depicts a room where gardening tools are displayed resplendent on walls, gardening books adorn the shelves, and the tables are brimming with flowers and vegetables. The message is that gardening isn’t work which you drag yourself out to, and come home to recover from: it is something you bring back, to decorate, restore and feed the home and mind environment. Secondly, unlike so much contemporary work and thinking, gardening is essentially cyclical, rather than linear. The gardening day, week, season, year, life, contains cycles within cycles. Under every moon there is something needing sowing or planting, but the where and the when is constantly changing.
This is the time of year when I come closest to feeling that the work is done. Last week I congratulated Elith and Gertraud on completing the last planting of the year – the second spring garlic bed under glass. Yet, in my mind’s eye, the spring garlic has greened and gone to climbing beans: that morning I had unveiled/ dished out the draft planting plans, after a six week process of review, consultation and pondering, alone and with co-op members and our catering partners.
Pondering is a vital part of the gardener’ work. Often it is performed “on the job”, though the importance of giving dedicated time to high intensity pondering should never be underestimated. And we are coming up to slap bang in the middle of the pondering season.
As the verb suggests, liquids can be well employed as pondering aids, notably seasonal fermentations of plant extracts. But they are not the only tools of the job. The gorgeous low light in the pondering season is highly conducive to inner reflection, as are the long nights, the humming fires.
I don’t want to waste them: with the planting plans done, the seed catalogues will be mulled like wine, and Resolutions made to change the substrate recipe, tweak the apprenticeship programme. We will meet up in warmth to chew dreams and schemes for alternative local food systems, and relish the scarce bright hours in which we can get our ponderings out in the open, spade or secateurs in hand, never at an end.