We’re Jammin

How quickly the seasons come and go – it’s a while since I last updated the Space to Grow blog and in that time, summer has changed into autumn. Its been a busy few weeks, which is an excuse rather than a reason for not updating you all as much as I’d hoped, with various harvest festivals in the local churches I’m part of – but also with the actual task of harvesting and deciding what to do with the produce that is now gathered in.

Food for the Share meal fresh from the community allotments at LEAF
Food for the Share meal fresh from the community allotments at LEAF

As part of the whole emergency food parcel / food bank provision that PXI offers from Mount Tabor we’ve been able over the past few weeks to offer some fresh food alongside the usual tinned and dried products – and today we’ll be holding our second monthly community meal out of “Share” the Friday drop In that we run.

Now our minds have turned to preserving some of the last fruit and parts of the harvest and so we are starting to look at jam and chutney recipes. We’ve been blessed with a small grant from Community Development Foundation to work with local artist Charlie Hill and other local partners including LEAF and Yewlands School to do a series of seasonal events from walking and creative writing to willow weaving and jam making. So next week on Thursday (24th October) and on 7th November we’ll be doing jams and chutneys at The Cross at Yew Lane. Sadly much of the soft fruit has gone over now so they’ll be no local blackberry jams this year – but instead we’re trying our hands at Quince Jelly and variations of apple chutneys all using locally harvested produce.

For those interested here’s a page all about quince: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/quince_jelly/

Meanwhile we’re expanding the “green” stuff we are doing in PXI with Peter our Community Youth Worker now helping with gardening groups in a number of local schools including Yewlands and St Thomas More schools, as well as celebrating harvest with new friends at Wooley Wood school. In the past week we’ve also been chatting to other growers in other parts of Sheffield including a project at the Methodist Church in Hollinshead – its good to see more and more people reconnecting with growing food, and with the spiritual dimensions of relating to seasonal changes, and becoming re- grounded in the earth and creation.

Special & Spiritual Spaces

special & spiritualIn the past few weeks with the weather improving we’ve been able to get out again into the various different growing spaces that PXI is part of in and around the area. At the Cross at Yew Lane we planted new fruit apple trees, and added new whips into our blackberry hedge to strengthen it and add to the diversity with;

  • Cherry Plum,
  • Hawthorn,
  • Hazel,
  • Blackthorn,
  • Bird Cherry and
  • Crab Apple.

In addition to the trees and hedging we planted up a number of new planters in the front and inner garden areas, and erected a new seating area, and began work on attracting more wildlife into the garden. Meanwhile at LEAF we hosted a prayer event called Prayer 8 for the Methodist Church in Sheffield – this led some of us into a conversation about the “Special & Spiritual Spaces” at LEAF. Now this conversation was in response to something I’d read and shared some years ago, an article by George Lings called “The Seven Sacred Spaces of Monastery” http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/news/encounters43 in the article George outlines seven spaces common to monastic spaces, these are:

Chapel – place of public worship & celebration
Chapter – place of decision making and ordering of community life
Refectory – place of eating and hospitality, community and service.
Cell – place of private prayer, reflection & meditation
Cloister –  an ‘in between’ space which allows for informal interaction with the world beyond
Garden – place of manual work
Scriptorum – place of study.

The more I think about these spaces the more I think they speak about the things each of us needs in our lives, we may not all see these from a Christian or faith perspective but together they can help us in achieving something of a balance in our life. The “sacredness” of these spaces comes not from the space itself but to how and if we meet with something of God there, as Margaret sine puts it: “Sacred is where the soul goes ….. A place is sacred, ground is holy because we encounter God there.” 

Those special, spiritual spaces where we find it easier to meet with God, the divine, are sometimes called “thin places” (especially in Celtic Christian spirituality) but this weekend I was also challenge by Rev John Vincent who spoke about the importance of “thick places”. By “thick places” John was arguing the need to find God not just in the beauty, awe and wonder of creation, but also down amongst the dirt – the hurt and pain of life, the struggle (sometimes just to survive another day), amongst the broken hearts and broken dreams, to find God in the very places that seem to be missing God.

Plot64 feels a bit like a “thick place” in allotment terms – as well as all the rubbish we’ve been trying to clear off in the last few months, the current weather has made everything suddenly resume life. The site is so overgrown it seems at times like there’s nowhere to start and it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed by it all, and admittedly this weekend Angela and I were tempted by what seemed an opportunity to swap plots for one that was ready to go as it were. Well it doesn’t always work like you hope and the other plot has now been let out – so we’re just going to have to knuckle down to some hard and heavy graft to clear away all the rubbish, dig out all the weeds and bring new life on to Plot64 – it will take time but it will be worth it.

Prayers and Potatoes

Well it’s not been the best start to spring as far as the garden is concerned, its been very wet, cold and with more late snow than I can remember – though I recall my Dad, now 92 years old, telling me he remembered snow as late as May!

All that said, I’m late putting in the potatoes this year – traditionally they’d be in around Easter but this year I’ve not even thought about it properly yet. On Plot 64 there’s still a whole load of clearing to do before we can realistically start to plant and plan, on Plot 107 in Parson Cross park the heavy clay soil makes drainage issues the highest priority, whilst at Cross at Yew Lane we’ve now got a “Gardening day” planned for 27th April when we’re planning to re-lay the hedge with some additional whips with hazel, blackberry and the like as well as plant a couple of new fruit trees at the back, if you want to join us you can come anytime from 10am (we’re doing soup about 12.30pm) and stay for as long as you choose.

LEAF of course has its own long standing cycle of work and a ready and committed band of volunteers to carry it out and it has seen lots of work done even in the past few months. New beds have been built, structures renewed, and the banking has had new paths made and planting completed with bulbs and other plants. On May 8th, I’m looking forward to holding a special “Prayer Trail” on the LEAF site as part of Sheffield Methodists Prayer 8 series – the trail will use the site to provide opportunities to sit, think, reflect and pray about issues such as; food and fairness, our environment, and our place and role in our communities, the event is an open one and anyone is welcome to join us between 2-3pm at LEAF on Herries Road.

“Cake & Carols” and a whole new plot

Space to Grow has taken on a new plot at Norwood Allotments, Herries Road. We hope that the new plot will also help us to work more in partnership with our friends at LEAF. There’s a lot of clearing work to be done on the plot before we start to invite visitors, but once we’ve got the keys we can start work so that hopefully by early in the new year we’ll be ready for further announcements.

Meanwhile, with December just a few days away we’ve now arranged a date for what is rapidly becoming an annual event the PXI “Cake & Carols” at LEAF – this year it will take place on 23rd December from 6pm. As well as the usual seasonal carolling, they’ll once again be a roaring open fire, mince pies and hot mulled fruit drinks. You’d me most welcome to join us.

Just to get you in the mood, here’s some pictures from previous years:

PXI “Cake & Carols” at LEAF 2010 & 2011

A time for everthing

with thanks to http://www.facebook.com/themorningbell

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
 a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
  a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
  a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
  a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

These words from Ecclesiastes remind us that in nature, and in life, things change. This can be with the big things in life but also with the small, from Presidential elections to planting onions, it talks about seasons of change all too familiar to those who garden. With this in mind PXI has refocussed its Space to Grow sessions onto the morning and afternoon sessions on a Thursday at LEAF and at Yew Lane, we’ll still be continuing with Plot107 but this will now for a time be a secondary focus. LEAF and Yew Lane offer us spaces that have a real potential to offer those who come far more than a simple opportunity to grow food – with kitchen and rest facilities at Yew Lane we hope to include food preserving and cooking opportunities, and at the community space at LEAF we have the wide range of activities from gardening to beekeeping and related skills. So now is “….a time to build” as we look forward to a new season of focus on these two sites to develop the Space to Grow project.

At Yew Lane the building process is entering an exciting new phase – as well as significant work in the front garden, we hope in the next year to also refurbish the kitchen and begin work on developing a second and completely new activity room. But as well as this physical building work we’re also looking at new activities and new sessions to take us forward into 2013, these include:

  • Thursday afternoon Space to Grow gardening and cooking sessions.
  • “Movement Medicine” dance for women
  • Songs for the Soul singing sessions

In  all this we are looking to build a “family” – not of course one built on birth relationships and genetics, but one based on people wanting to be together, grow with each other; share, care, love and support for each other. We don’t imagine that all our family will be Christians, we simply want to offer the opportunity to be part of it everyone who wants it ….. so if that’s you we’ll look forward to seeing you.

Space2Grow Sessions

Here’s the new Winter 2012-13 Space2Grow poster ….. as well as the Thursday afternoon sessions, we’ve got a garden “Working Day” on Saturday 17th November at Yew Lane – everyone is welcome to come and have a look around and help with planting the new raised beds. We’ll even provide snacks for lunch and plenty of drinks!

Tricky Treats

It’s that time of year again – pumpkins, costumes and bags of sweets fill the shops as they look to make more and more money out of a seasonal celebration – youngsters will be soon knocking on doors all over the estate “trick or treating” and hoping for a bucketful of chocolate and the like.

With a recent survey showing that most people celebrating Halloween this year in the UK aren’t even sure what its is all about maybe it’s time to take a little look.

There is still debate about the exact origins, but it is likely that Halloween (All Hallows Eve) has a number of separate origins:

1. The Celtic / Pagan tradition: Samhain (or Sawin) marks the end of harvest and the move into winter time. It is also regarded as a time to remember and celebrate the lives of our ancestors who have gone before us. Sometimes costumes were worn to help put off any evil spirits that tried to hang around the celebrations.

2. The Catholic / Christian tradition. In 835AD the then pope set 1st November as All Saints Day, although it was probably being celebrated by Christians who had come from the Celtic traditions long before that. Again, All Saints was a festival to remember all those faithful Christians who had died – All Hallows Eve (Halloween) marked to begin those celebrations.

For anyone interested, here is  an interesting blog page about Halloween: http://www.mysticchrist.co.uk/blog/post/putting_the_horror_into_halloween

Whatever the origins – its now clear that the date is one where many young people (and some older ones) enjoy taking the opportunity to get into fancy dress and enjoy eating loads of sweets – at our house we’ve  got our bowl full ready to greet any visitors, so if you’re out this year trick or treating with friends and family just remember: Be safe …. Show Respect …. and may God who brings light to all places be in our hearts.