Welcoming Visitors

Cooking and filming at LEAF
Cooking and filming at LEAF

Last  week at LEAF we were visited by a film crew who were making a documentary all about local food production and community approaches to food. It was a good opportunity to show why I in particular enjoy being at LEAF so much when I get the opportunity to be there – it’s not just about the food growing, important though that is, it’s also about being community.

Now being a community, just like being a family isn’t always easy, and there are times when people fall out – sometimes over little things that are easily patched up, and sometimes over things that are much harder to heal and move on from, but the mark of any community (and family) is in how much it is able to forgive each other and move on. Now forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, and it doesn’t mean the hurts will always disappear but it does mean that we learn to understand each others faults and failings and therefore try to find ways of moving on beyond them. In the bible it says “…love each other deeply, because love makes you willing to forgive many sins.” (1 Peter 4.8 ) – obviously this isn’t the slushy romantic love of cinema screens and soaps operas, this is a deep unreserved love for our fellow human beings that has almost limitless powerful opportunities to heal and build.

But back to the film – the crew we there all day doing interviews with people and filming as Kadeja cooked a wonderful Iranian style omlette all made with ingredients from the plots including the eggs from Garys chickens – all in all its about as local as you can get, and delicious too!

You can read more about the film project at: https://www.facebook.com/LocalFoodRoots?fref=ts

In addition to the film crew, PXI also welcomed visitors from the Anglican Diocese of Manchester last week who are currently travelling the country to gather stories about how the governments “austerity” politics is adding to the effects of poverty in communities up and down the nation. They paid a visit first to the “food bank” we run at Mount Tabor and then in turn came to visit LEAF before spending time at St Leonards church in Longley.

Runner Beans on offer at LEAF
Runner Beans on offer at LEAF

This week as the sun continued to bear down on us we opened up two new beds to plant some Yacon and Okra – but before we did it was time to harvest a decent yield of runner beans and offer them to the public. We’d had at least one taker before I left at lunchtime – I do hope they enjoyed them.

After the morning at LEAF, I moved on to the quiet garden at Cross at Yew Lane, where the raspberries this year have done really well. Another two pounds almost today to add to the full tub we’d already picked and shared on Sunday with visitors to “The Gathering” which is a small christian group that meets regularly there.

There were more Raspberries on Plot107 when Angela was up there today – lots of weeds still to cut down but as the site for our main fruit crops its been doing well this year at least as far as the raspberries and gooseberries are concerned. For some reason the rhubarb has not done as well, and the strawberries have largely failed due to us allowing them to get shaded out by other stuff – a new plan will be needed next year for them.

Stories from the Plots

The story of the lost keys
The story of the lost keys

I’ve been in a bit of a reflective mood recently looking at some of the things we do in PXI and why we do them, but as I’ve done that I’ve also learned a number of lessons from life on the allotments.

1. A few weeks ago our plots at Parson Cross Park and at Norwood looked really overgrown – the weeds had grow tall and parts were like a jungle, all because we’d neglected our work there for a month or so – it amazing how quickly neglect can overwhelm a situation.It the same with other things in life it’s amazing how quickly situations worsen, relationships suffer, and problems mount if we neglect dealing with them. I met someone the other week who got themselves into a load of debt (thousands of pounds) just because they’d tried to ignore the situation and so the interest was added on, the debt grew and a problem that had started smaller had grown and grown until it was almost overwhelming. Thankfully this person had now seen a debt advice worker at an advice centre and bit by bit the debt was being brought under control – it will still be a struggle, there are rarely any easy solutions, but at least the problem is being managed again, much like our overgrown plots.

Our relationships with each other and with God can also be a bit like that, in the Bible, Paul tells members of the early Church “do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4.26) – in other words don’t let arguments, disagreements, and fall outs drag on – because the longer they do the more other things grow up around them making it harder to apologise, forgive or rebuild the relationship.

Likewise our relationship with God can also get neglected when we don’t spend time in conversation with “him” – that’s why we pray. Prayer is no more than our ongoing conversation with God, there’s no right way to do it – no special words needed, just an honest recogition of how we feel and where our friendship with God is. Thankfully whatever our relationship with God is like “he” is always ready to listen to us.

2. Story telling is one of the ways we learn truths about life, Jesus used stories a lot when he taught his followers about God.  This week we went to Plot 64 to do some more clearance work and to try and start making space for the first beds we hope to prepare. In the end we had to leave in a bit of a rush because of one of those mini family crisis you get when you’ve got kids – so Angela put on the padlock and we were ready to go. It was only then we realised that we’d lost the keys somewhere so now we were locked out of our allotment and inside the allotment compound, and still we needed to rush home. Thankfully a kind allotmenteer opened the site gates so we could leave and deal with our family crisis – but still we had no idea where the keys were. We searched through the bag we’d taken to the plot – we emptied out our pockets, and every compartment in the car – but no keys! Later we went back to the plot with a ladder so we could climb over the hedge and on to the plot to find the lost keys – we looked all over the site and then we found them – what joy, what relief  the keys were lying there, and all our worries about buying replacements, the cost of a new gate and so on were gone. That same sense of joy that we had in finding those keys, is how Jesus says God feels when someone he hasn’t heard from in ages gets in touch as wants to become friends (You can read the bible story in Luke 15.8-10) ….

Enjoy the sunshine – and may God bless you.

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.

Last days of summer ….

Darrel, Jonathan & Blake

Well with the august Bank Holiday out of the way and the kids almost ready to go back to school, we can really say that we are beginning to see the last days of summer. This summer I’ve been fortunate to be joined by various different people at Plot107 – and over the last few weeks in particular by Darrel, Jonathan & Blake, these young men all live locally and have been a real help with the weeding, planting and harvesting this summer. Jonathan will be going to Hillsborough college next week to continue his Horticulture course there, so a big thank you lads for all your help ….hopefully all be sharing more days on the allotment together.

Space to Grow  is all about spending time together, and growing together, not just the plants, the fruit and vegetables but about growing as people. As we spend time with others, its strange how we learn more about ourselves as well as about each other – we learn about our own assumptions, our own cares and concerns, our own strengths and weaknesses. We’re always happy to be joined by new people on Plot107 and at our other sites at LEAF (Thursday mornings) and Cross at Yew Lane (Thursday afternoons) so if you’re interested just come along, or ring Nick on 07432 092683 to find out more about the sessions.

Greece is the word

With the sunshine and heat, and dare I say it with the Governments message of “austerity” for all but the richest, we could be forgiven recently for thinking we live somewhere like Greece – so it is that I saw this report from BBC News and thought it might be of interest to Plot107 blog readers.

BBC report on allotments in Greece

The story shows how in Greece, ravaged by government cuts, and political crisis, allotments have become an important place not just for family food but for providing support to those greatest in need.Click on the link to see the story in full.  Allotments in Greece Katya Adler reports from Athens.

I’m not wanting to be overly political here, but it ties into my other recent post about “jubilee” and the need for us to become aware more and more about the importance of fairness, social justice and even community owned land, and our ability to grow food on it…. and sadly although the sunshine won’t ever match that of Greece there’s no promise that we won’t find families being in similar need…. after in the last twelve months at least six new Food Banks have been opened by churches in North Sheffield alone to meet the needs  of people and families in crisis. Makes you think – and pray!

Chatting and chitting

Blake on Plot107

With the sun finally out it was good to get back on the allotments today, it was good to have company in the shape of my son Blake and Mr A and Mr W from Chaucer school on the neighbouring plot. We spent time doing some weeding, planting some more onions and broad beans, and putting in the strawberries that our friends Harry and Wendy brought over at the weekend.

Sadly it looks like the frost over the weekend has killed off the early shoots from my potatoes – so it’s a good job I’ve got some more already chitting at home to be put in over this next week or so.

Blake being the talkative type that he is we also spent a lot of time chatting – to each other and to our neighbours. In fact Blake spent a lot more time talking than he did digging – but it left me thinking that  that’s all part of the joy of allotment life.The fact that we all need to find places where we can be together and learn about and from each other, as well as places where we can be quiet and alone with our own thoughts and feelings. At different times our allotment plots can offer both of these spaces and perhaps that’s one of the things that makes them so special.

 Discovering that there is a time and a place for all things is something that the author of Ecclesiastes was also aware of:  “There is a right time for everything, and everything on earth will happen at the right time. ….There is a time to plant  and a time to pull up plants…. So I saw that the best thing people can do is to enjoy what they do…” Ecclesiastes 3 . 1-2 and 22


A thriving plot

This week I’ve seen a couple of new stories that I thought readers of this blog might find interesting, the first from the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17857858 about some allotments in Coventry which appear to be threatened by the building of a new electric sub station. It reminded me of a great film I’d seen called “Grow Your Own” (Directed by Richard Laxton 2007) – at a simple level, the film tells the story of how faced with a mobile phone company who want to get rid of some plots to build a new phone mast, the people on the allotments grow together to create a more welcoming place, filled with friendship and community.

The second story I came across this week was about our local MP David Blunkett, who has  recently become a patron for a gardening charity called Thrive. In an interview for the Thrive website David Blunkett talks about the therapeutic power of gardening: http://www.thrive.org.uk/david-blunkett-mp-thrive-patron.aspx Thrive is a small national charity, founded in 1978, that uses gardening to change the lives of disabled people.

In the interview, he explained how; At school he was told to work in the garden as a punishment, a detention if you like. In defiance, he dug up the headmasters’ prized geraniums. “Gardens are positive, pleasurable and creative places,” he tells me. “To tell someone to go there as a punishment is quite wrong.” 
He goes on, saying: “I learnt a lot about vegetable growing from my father, and that is what I like. I get pleasure from productive gardens, although my fruit trees planted about six years ago are not doing very well. … I enjoy growing herbs and we use them in our cooking, something I wouldn’t have done 10 or 15 years ago,” he jokes. “And the fruit we do get from our old plum tree goes into pies, we don’t make jam.
He adds: “….when I retire I do plan to spend more time in the garden – that’s not to say that will be any day soon though,”
David, who was born blind as a result of a rare genetic disorder, hopes to use his new role as Patron to help raise the profile of Thrive nationwide. “Thrive is filling a niche,” he says. “It is doing something that you would not automatically have thought about. People with disabilities want to be helped and supported and Thrive offers this practical help in a way that is sensitive to people’s needs. Thrive [and similar charities like them] helps with confidence, motor skills, socialisation and helps people come out rather than re-trench and go into their shell. Gardening can bring good mental health and help people avoid this feeling that life has ceased.”
David also supports Thrive in its belief that the National Health Service should harness the power of gardening. “When GPs start controlling their own budget they could easily say to some patients ‘why not give gardening a try’ and point them in the direction of a six week course of gardening, either with Thrive or at other projects in the UK. ….. It would help in so many ways. The money from the medication could be given to fund a garden project. This could offer a real opportunity for Thrive and other projects in the UK.”