Today was a sad day for our adventures in sustainable living. One of our biggest missions in self sufficiency has been to try to grow as much of our own food as possible. Unfortunately, after nearly 3 years of struggling against the elements, I’ve finally decided to give up on my little allotment plot.
It certainly wasn’t an easy decision but it had to be done. When we joined the waiting list I had just one child who was at school and quite a lot more free time. By the time we’d waited 3 years for a plot to become available I’d had another (very demanding) baby, was running my own business, and we’d started homeschooling. Although in theory homeschooling and allotments should go hand in hand, I found the reality to be quite different.
The kids love pottering around planting seeds and weeding when they feel like doing it. Dragging them half a mile down the road to battle the ever increasing jungle that was our plot 3 or 4 times a week was a completely different matter. It stopped being fun. In fact, on those frequent occasions when we hadn’t made it down for a few weeks (or even months) the feeling of dread about what we were going to find down there took all the joy out of growing our own.
I do think that if we’d been able to eat everything we grew it may have been different. However a lot of our crops just vanished into thin air. Yes I know that there are plenty of birds, mice and rats on allotments who will help themselves to your raspberries and other soft fruits – not to mention the slugs – but that’s just one of those circle of life kind of things. When you go down on Christmas Eve to pick your abundant harvest of sprouts and find that each and every plant has been stripped bare it’s another matter entirely. And as for the person who decided to help themselves to our asparagus in its second year, killing all of our plants in the process (asparagus needs at least 3 years to establish before it can be picked). Well, I hope they enjoyed it because we certainly couldn’t.
It’s not that I don’t like sharing our food – far from it. In fact in our years of plenty most of our friends have been inundated with various crops (actually, they’ve usually been inundated with lots of courgettes and rhubarb but you know what I mean). However, I can kind of see how the kids lost interest when they weren’t actually getting to eat the things they had invested so much energy into growing.
To be completely honest, despite the occasional thefts and the moaning kids I could have put up with all of it to continue on the plot if it hadn’t been for this year’s TERRIBLE weather. 2012 being the wettest summer on record was the final straw. Nothing grew except the weeds – everything else rotted! We couldn’t get down there at all, and to be honest there wasn’t really much point in even trying to go. The ground was so wet that walking on it would have damaged the soil structure. The DPM which protects our growing soil from the arsenic (our plot was along a disused China Clay train track) ensured that the water couldn’t drain. Even the most seasoned and experienced allotmenteers lost practically everything they grew. It just wasn’t happening.
So today I phoned the council and handed in my notice. Our allotment days are over. Although I was told I could go on the waiting list again for another plot, I really don’t think the allotment lifestyle is for us. There are too many highly specialised pests and diseases, too many chemicals, and too many interfering busybodies to make having an allotment worthwhile.
That doesn’t mean we haven’t had fun over the past few years. There have been some really cool things about having an allotment (the winter of apple wine being one that particularly springs to mind). We’ve got muddy, we’ve had a laugh and we’ve got to enjoy loads of new foods that we’d never have even thought of making had it not been for our various gluts. Courgette bread anyone? How about beetroot and chocolate cake? Omnomnom!
Now my focus is turning to creating a Vegetable Yarden instead. We’ve got a backyard, albeit a small one and we’re not afraid to use it to its fullest. I’ve found this amazing website called Vertical Veg which is full of tips for growing in small spaces. I will beat the slugs that live under the decking and grow as much as I can outside my kitchen door. This might be the end of our allotment but when it comes to growing our own, this is only the beginning…