Cold afternoon at the allotment

Finally, finally, I summoned up the courage to get to the allotment this afternoon. I’ve not been up there for several weeks, and the longer time has gone on, the less appealing the prospect has become. I was frankly dreading the state things would have fallen into over the autumn, and didn’t really want to look.

In my defence, I have been very busy working all autumn thanks to the good weather and a full diary. There have been several weekends when, even if I wasn’t committed to family stuff, the appeal of a sixth day of weeding and cutting-back was decidedly limited. This year has been the worst for time spent at the allotment since we started in 2006 – the too-common irony of being a professional gardener with no time to garden for themselves.

Anyhow, I got myself there, and what do you know? It really wasn’t as grim as I had expected. Last night was really cold, and there was a proper frost this morning. The allotment faces east, and there was still hard frost on the beds this afternoon as the sun had missed them completely. The far side of the allotment site may have been still bathed in late afternoon sunshine, but our side was in shade and had been probably all day. 

Yes, there are weeds aplenty, but not ridiculously so. Yes, the grass needs cutting, but when doesn’t it? But a couple of hours tidying dead Jerusalem Artichoke and Sunflower stalks, and digging out weeds, made a signiificant difference. And there are some beautiful Teasels, frosted and stark just as they are supposed to be at this time of year. 

A job list formed in my mind as I worked: repairs to a couple of the oldest raised beds, thinning out the over-abundant raspberry canes in the fruit cage (and removing those which have emerged outside it), rationalising the compost heaps, having a bonfire to get rid of a backlog of rubbish. All of them achievable.

A robin followed me about, with a friendly – but slightly censorious – look on his face – as if to say ‘where have you been then?’. Happy enough, though, to pick up the worms and grubs I turned up as I weeded.

Most importantly, for me at least, was that my visit didn’t leave me feeling downhearted. As I was packing up, a neighbouring plot-holder made approving noises about my afternoon’s efforts at restoring order, and I made equally positive noises about ‘getting on top of things ready for spring’. At which point he chuckled, and observed wryly that ‘we all say that’ in December. Maybe so, but I do believe I mean it.

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