Clearing out the rubbish

Rubbish to be cleared from Plot 64
Rubbish to be cleared from Plot 64

Well although it’s all gone a bit foggy again over the last couple of days, this weekend felt like Spring really was on its way and it gave us a good opportunity to get stuck into the new plot (Plot64) at Norwood. The new plot has been out of use for sometime and is quite neglected and overgrown, but the major task before we can start growing anything is to clear out all the rubbish – piles of it (as you can see from the picture!)

At the moment we’re in the period we Christians call Lent – the time that we prepare and look ahead to Easter. Traditionally it’s a timing for giving things up (chocolate always seems to be a favourite – maybe in anticipation of the over indulging of Easter eggs in a few weeks time!) and for reflection and prayer. Well all things rubbish got me reflecting on the rubbish we pile up in our lives that maybe we need to get rid of. Some of it, like some of the stuff on the allotment might have been useful once, like the hurt we carry from past and broken relationships or let downs, some of it might never had any use in the first place – but however it got there, and whatever our reason for holding on to it sometimes there comes a moment when we have to make the decision and just get rid.

We’ve still got more clearing to do on the plot but until we do there’s not much point in starting to plant anything new – but in time, clearing a particular spot each time we go, it will be ready and we can start to look ahead to a new season of growth.

Growing across continents

It’s been a slow start to the year on the plots what with the snow and the rain …. and in addition I’ve been away with students from Chaucer School, here’s a bit of a catch up.

Tree Planting at Colley Park
Tree Planting at Colley Park

Three weeks ago I went with a group of students from Chaucer School to plant some oak and silver birch trees in Colley Park – all in preparation for the work of building a football / rugby pitch and planting trees in Port Elizabeth, South Africa that followed.

From 9th to 24th February we were on the expedition of a lifetime working closely with Mboniselo Primary School in Motherwell, Port Elizabeth. Planting and growing there has a completely different set of challenges to the wet, and heavy soils of Sheffield. There the soil is thin and dusty, and the ground is dry and stony – the temperatures even at this time of year were around 80 degrees – the sun burned down on us and the windy blew the dirt dust everywhere. But after all the work, and the help from the local community there, we successfully completed the sports field. Here are some pictures and a short reflective poem I wrote whilst I was at Mboniselo…

Building the Ubunye Project Sports Field at Mboniselo
Building the Ubunye Project Sports Field at Mboniselo

DIRT by Nick Waterfield

The dusty soil gets everywhere – In your boots and socks, your hair, your nose, your eyes, your mouth.
It covers you completely, gathering in the creases and wrinkles of your skin –
Clinging to you, making you feel so tired and so unclean that it almost seems to carry a weight of its own, beyond what you can measure.
Seeming to make aching arms and legs heavier.

The hot sun saps your strength, and calls you siren like to give up on the task that is clearly far too big for someone like you to complete. But carry on – soon you will be clean, soon you will have rest, and then you will see what you have done.  Your aching limbs have brought inspiration and hope – your sweat has foretold the rains that will bring life to this dry soil – and your work will soon be celebrated with songs and shouts of joy.

…. so now with the heat of South Africa already a memory its back to the cold damp of late winter in Sheffield, and preparations for Spring.

Just a few sleeps to go ….

OK … my children and the sign in the supermarket keep reminding me that it is now only 6 sleeps until Christmas day! So I thought it was about time to get all festive on the Space to Grow blog, our friends at LEAF have been busy recently with chutney making and candle making and we’ve got Cake and Carols all lined for Sunday 23rd. In case you didn’t see the details last time,it starts at 6pm on the LEAF plot (Norwood Allotments, Herries Road) and we’ll be gathered round the fire for warmth, there’ll be mince pies and it sounds like Garys Mum may have baked us a cake too.

All this writing about mince pies and Christmas cake has made me hungry, so what will you all be having for Christmas dinner I wonder? Whether its the traditional turkey, or something more exotic or vegetarian, one item on the Christmas plate is always the source of debate and disagreement – the Brussels Sprout! Now I have to admit being a fan, the key for me is them not being overcooked, but they really are one of my favourites. Sad news therefore that (according to the Brassica Growers Association) the crop yield of Brussels this year is 30% down on an average year …. in turn this has driven the supermarket price up.

The Mayan "Stone of the Sun"
The Mayan “Stone of the Sun”

Of course we’ve first got the Winter Solstice on the 21st December when the earth turns to its northern pole furthest from the sun – this year of course the solstice also co-incides with the “end of the world” stories that have somehow become linked with the Mayan calendar – which didn’t really predict such things at all. Of course one day the world will end …. will it be this week, I really don’t don’t know and no-one else does either, as Jesus is reported to say in Matthews Gospel (ch24.36): “No one knows about that day or hour, [of the worlds end] not even the angels in heaven … but only the Father.” So let’s not worry too much about it and just give thanks for the changing of the seasons and the wonders of all the universe.

Meanwhile, wrap up tight to stay warm, and enjoy your sleeps ….. however many there are left.

“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 good days work

We had a great time this Saturday on our “Garden Day” and a big thank you goes out to all our friends who joined us on the day to help out. We managed to get loads done: cleared the “inner garden” of weeds, dug up all the old roses, and filled and planted all four of our new planters – as well as enjoying lots of fun and food together. We thought you like to see some of the pictures from the days.

Earth Abbey Reflections

Jonathan & Chris planting garlic and onions at Yew Lane

This week I was able to welcome a special visitor to the Space to Grow project, Chris Sunderland, who is involved in various community growing projects in and around Bristol including: Sims Hill Shared Harvest, Barton Hill Walled Garden and Earth Abbey.

Chris visited the three sites used by PXI in our Space to Grow project at:

  • LEAF (on Norwood Allotments, Herries Road)
  • Cross at Yew Lane
  • Parson Cross Community Growing Space (Parson Cross Park)

We were able to share ideas’ and Chris was able to provide a useful “outside” view on the work currently undertaken as well as suggest new ideas for taking partnerships between PXI and local growing groups forward.

You can read more about some of the community growing projects that Chris is involved in on these links:

http://simshillsharedharvest.wordpress.com/about/

http://bartonhillwalledgarden.wordpress.com/about/

For those of you who would like to join us for a bit of gardening this weekend, we’re having a garden work day at the Cross at Yew lane on Saturday from 10am until about 3pm (we’ll provide a light lunch for all volunteers) we’re hoping to do more work on developing the front and inner garden spaces at Yew Lane as well as a whole load of “tidying up”. We’re also hoping to plant some Spring bulbs around the area -it would be great to see both old and new friends even for only a short time on the day –

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.