In a week where a nation skidded into “snow chaos”, and even the mighty Stevenage FC declared their frozen ground unplayable, I am proud to report that a quorate Hawkwood crew carried on gardening.
Digging in the Old Kitchen Garden continued apace, leaving a rich black slice set in the driven white, a sight that resembled a giant Christmas cake or megapint of stout, and was equally as cheering. The only patches of land not covered to ankle-level are those under cover, the glasshouse and the garage/ workshop, and here there’s been much brisk activity.
The council concreted most of the half-acre of land under glass: their operation was all about containerised plants, for shipping out to bloom the borough. Two years into our occupation, and it looks like our requirements are the reverse: a relatively small proportion of the glasshouse is used for propagation, even though we raise thousands of plants for sale; whereas any amount of vegetables grown under glass, in the Lea Valley tradition, seem to be well-received by our members, partners and customers. Each winter, we chip away at the cement face, opening up more ground.
Having broken rock, this week we rolled away the last of the boulders standing in the way of this year’s six new veg beds. More milestones. It felt like the right moment to turn to Paco, our Parisian migrant worker, and mutter that fine slogan of the May ’68 Rising “Sous le pave, la plage” [under the pavement, the beach]. Revolutionary spirit dented, but not defeated, by having my pronounciation corrected, I considered the act of returning hard landscape to soil, to plants: an alternative model of regeneration, and a highly symbolic and satisfying one, wherever it is performed. The OrganicLea logo features a boot and garden spade lifting a paving slab. This image was scrumped (with their blessing) from an Adbusters image of the same tool going through a Safeways (remember them?) supermarket. The dream of a return to the land exploding the nighthmare of soullessness.
The natural magic of snow might temporarily mask the cold hardness of our architechture, but in all times and all places there waits, under the concrete, the earth.