left to right from the top: Chaucer students get stuck into Plot18 during the holidays, apples growing at LEAF, the Bee Project at LEAF, blackberry picking.
left to right from the top:
Chaucer students get stuck into Plot108 during the holidays, apples growing at LEAF, the Bee Project at LEAF, blackberry picking.

“Summertime…” says the George Gershwin song “….and the living is easy.” With the summer we’ve been having there have certainly been some days when just sitting down and enjoying the sun and all that’s alive around you has without doubt been the most sensible thing to do. That said there’s still been plenty of work to do on the various plots and allotments PXI is involved in – Plot107 has produced loads of fruit this year, especially rhubarb and gooseberries despite the fact its all got a bit overgrown in places, and now we’ve teamed up with Chaucer school to work on the neighbouring Plot108 we’re hoping to be even more productive next year as we also hope to use it as a base for some out of school youth work.

As well as the work in Parson Cross Park, we’ve been busy down on Herries Road at LEAF and at Plot64. The new plot is still taking time to get into a productive state again, with loads of weeding and digging out still to be done as well as avoiding disturbing wasps nests! Even so it’s gradually beginning to take shape and hopefully by next season we’ll be looking to plant.

At LEAF we’ve been busy with some enthusiasm from some of our younger volunteers over the summer helping to do much needed work harvesting, weeding and replanting. The bees are also doing really well there and continue to busy themselves with storing up and making honey. We’ve also had time for some social time, last Saturday LEAF threw “open house” and invited people round for tea, using food made from stuff grown on our various allotments – in the end about fifteen people came and made their own pizzas in the pizza oven before sampling a range of pies, cakes and crumbles.

Soon we’ll be looking to the apples and pears and other “hard fruits” and hopefully be working once again alongside Abundance (the Sheffield urban harvesting group  ) and starting some more jam and chutney making and cooking sessions at Mount Tabor and at the Cross at Yew Lane. So enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and look forward to the seasons to come.

The “raggedness” of Autumn

Spiders web at LEAF

“If you like things tidy, this may not feel like a good time.” says Ian Adams in his blog

Autumn is a messy time – leaves fall from the trees to cover grass and pavements, the last of the summer flowers drop their petals leaving them looking like someone who’s losing their teeth or a wooly jumper that’s being unpicked and unravelled, and somehow the greens of summer are growing paler as they turn to the reds and browns of Autumn, even in the urban surrounds of Parson Cross the change is visible. Autumn has a kind of “raggedness” to it – like it’s a between place, a time when things unwind or reach their limits, it’s a time when quite frankly things start to look worn out.

That feeling of “raggedness” reminded me of a book I’d read some time ago by Brennan Manning called “The Raggamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggeled, Beat-Up and Burnt Out”. In the book Manning repeatedly cries out for those of us who recognise that we are ragged – that all of us struggle with parts of ourselves that we wish weren’t quite as “messy” as they actually are. Whatever that messiness might be: a real addiction, a raging anger, a bad temper, a broken heart, a constant desire to put off the difficult, a feeling of guilt, or a feeling of guilt for feeling guilty …. so many of us have lives that are messy and ragged. Manning offers a clear picture that through Jesus we can see that Gods love is big enough, powerful enough to love each one of us – as we are, messy-ness and “raggedness” included – to love us and change us through that love, not into mistake free perfect people, but into people who have learned to love and learned to love those who we see are also ragged, also messy – who need that love just as much as we do.

Blackberries in Parson Cross

And so, the messiness of Autumn can also bring us signs of that same hope for change – first we recognise that this is a season and like all seasons it is a part of life and death, a part of creation, a part of God. We can recognise that even amongst the mess and fading summer colour there are still bursts of life: so we can be glad that the blackberries are just coming into their prime with all the deep dark beauty and goodness, that the elderberries are providing food for the birds and the potential of jam and wine and cordials to us, that the apple trees are ready for their rich harvest, and to know that the journey to another Spring is already about to begin. The cycle continues, the seed that falls to the ground now to die will soon be in fact be changed into a plant that next Spring will bring new life …..

….. So with the equinox sun on us we went out blackberrying, there really is something I love about blackberries and blackberrying, quite apart from the thought of them served up in a crumble!