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  • Penny Cooke

Me and My Allotment

A few years ago, my husband and I were able to take on an allotment. It was like most allotments very weedy with the obligatory rhubarb plant. We became very busy digging out the weeds and planning how the allotment would look, very busy doing things.

An allotment can be helpful in many ways for people. It can help feed a family and teach grandchildren where their food comes from. For many it is a place to escape and enjoy some quiet time from busy lives and problems. For others a place to find companionship, enjoy a joke, to escape from loneliness and to keep fit. I guess if I am honest for most of us it is a bit of all that.

It has for me become a place, over the years, to come to and slow down, really tune in to what is happening, nurture the plants as best I can and discover how connected everything is and learn about myself! I find it wonderful to plant a seed and watch it push its way up through the soil and appear as a small green spec. To water, feed it, watch it grow, harvest, and eat it. However, I began to realise that no matter how much I planned and nurtured the fruit, vegetables, and flowers I didn’t really have any control on the outcome. Plants that look good and strong and look as if you are going to get your best harvest ever can be blown down, hit with a blight of some sort or eaten by a passing badger who likes the look of your peas (that you were going to pick the next day) oh and the gooseberries are just the thing for its pudding! I gradually became aware that each year some things will go really well, and others will produce a very limited harvest or not at all. Often the weather impacts the results too much rain, too cold or hot, this year a poor asparagus crop but bumper strawberries. I started to become aware of the way I reacted to the highs and lows, noticing how the old timers on the allotment just accept that something goes wrong every year, and some things go really well. I became aware I would have to adapt to what is going on and try and work with what each season brought. Working with nature to get the best results. There is a cycle to life on the allotment, sometimes smooth, sometimes bumpy; just as in life and this has helped me to understand, accept and comfort me in sad times of my life.

One day when I was picking some raspberries, with my mind busy elsewhere, I was brought back to the here and now by a friendly plot holder congratulating me on the crop. When I turned back to picking, I noticed a lovely big raspberry with a leaf wrapped around it as if for protection, on picking it I found it was the biggest, juiciest raspberry I had picked all day and started to wonder if there were more hidden like this! I then started to really pay attention to what I was doing and came out of autopilot and yes there were quite a few there to be picked! I started to wonder what else I had missed!

During the pandemic the allotment was a wonderful place to enjoy the peace around me just listening to the sounds, the insects, birds and in the distance the sounds of people working on their allotments. The feel of the sun, breeze and sometimes rain on the skin. The smell of cut grass, the flowers, vegetables, and herbs and looking at all the different plants growing in plots around me. The pleasure in harvesting the plants and sharing them with friends and family. How grateful I am to have an allotment. Who would have thought a big juicy raspberry could have taught me how much I might be missing in life if I continued to spend so much time in autopilot!!

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