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.

Making the most of it

Beetroots, Onion, Potatoes and Chives fresh from Plot107

With all the produce coming off the plot at the moment I thought it was about time to try and make the most of it – so today I decided to make my first soup from scratch!

Taking four beetroot, I began to peel them after removing the roots and the leaves – do you know, every time I use them it amazes me just how much beetroots stain your hands, by the end of the process both my hands were a bright pink.

Next I peeled one large onion – the onions on the plot seem to have done really well this year, I think all the rain must have really helped them – after cutting them finely I added them into the pot with the beetroots. Next I added the potatoes, no need to peel them a simple wash was plenty sufficient before chopping these in turn and adding to the pan. Once in the pan all the ingredients were lightly fried for a short time just to soften them up before adding the chives and putting them all in the blender with some vegetable stock, after just a couple of minutes of mechanical mashing the resulting soup was ready ….. and very tasty.  All that is needed now is some nice bread to go with it !

All in the pan and softening up

This week we had another meeting of the community allotment group, a bit unusual in that we had it outside as the council key holder never arrived to open up the pavillion. There was a lot of discussion about all the things that people feel the council need to do on the plots at the moment and also about the red tape rulings that seem to stop volunteers from doing some of the work themselves. Still I’m sure we’ll battle on and eventually we’ll get things sorted, key things to be tackled are:

  • Overgrown / unallocated plots
  • Water supply
  • Poly tunnel & container
  • Communal areas

In order to get some of these jobs done there’s going to be a work day on the plots on 29th September – so put the date in your diary, pop along to lend a hand and lets make the most of it!

Use & Beauty

Borage and Chives being harvested by the bees.

This week I went to the plot a day later than normal to actually garden, when I got there I finally managed to put in a final crop of potatoes (King Edwards this time) in all it took eight rows in the area recently cleared by friends from Sheffield University Chaplaincy project – the weather being fine and sunny makes it all much more pleasant to spend a few hours working, as long as the graft isn’t too hard. I wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the good weather, as well as others on their own allotments the butterflies and bees were hard at work too. All this hard work could mean we don’t spend any time actually enjoying the beauty of what is around on the allotments and that would be sad, in some it would only let us enjoy half the story The balance between use and beauty was one that monastery gardens in particular worked hard to achieve, with food (fruits and vegetables) regularly being grown alongside medical herbs and plants such as roses.

We often (those less often now as “austerity” becomes the new watchword of the rich and powerful) hear about the desire for people to strike a balance in their lives as well; the ‘work-life balance’ a ‘balanced diet’ and even the need to ‘balanced budgets’ – it seems that we are well aware as humans that too much of something, anything ends up not being a ‘good thing’. And just as eating and drinking the rights things, and doing regular exercise will keep us physically fit and well balanced, so too we can keep ourselves in better spiritual balance by spending time out from the pressures of everyday life. That’s why Jesus regularly took himself off to a “quiet place” away from the crowds, away from his friends, away from all the demands and pressures that were put on him, and in that place; often a garden, or hillside, he would sit and meditate and talk with God. In my mind it wouldn’t surprise me if he spent some of that quiet time with God also taking in the beauty that surrounded him, the insects, and birds, the trees, plants and flowers – and there among all the beauty that is part of creation he would come close to God and feel transformed and renewed. That gift of a balanced spiritual life is possible for all of us ….. if you haven’t already, try it – maybe you’ll feel transformed and renewed too.

Rows of King Edwards

Puddling, Pizzas and Plants

My footprint in the “puddled” clay

Yesterday was the Space to Grow session at LEAF on Herries Road, I always enjoy going there – partly because you never quite know what to expect, and this time was no exception. I’d only been there a short time before I was invited to take off my shoes and socks, roll up my trackie bottoms and start “puddling”. Now we often complain (especially in Parson Cross park that the soil and ground is to clay – but on this occasion it really came into its own as we set about making a further batch of home grown clay to complete the dome on the pizza oven that has been built at LEAF.

Now this was the first time I’d even used my feet to make clay from the raw material dug from the ground, and I was quite sure how it would go. First reaction was a bit like that first toe dip into the sea, it felt way too cold, but after only a few seconds of tramping the clay I soon got used to the temperature and started to find it quite rewarded. There’s is something quite rewarding, and dare I say “spiritual” about taking some rough, dirty, freshly dug lump of clay from the ground and slowly transforming it into a wonderfully smooth and completely usable clay mix.

Nick gets to work on the clay (left) & Matt uses it to finish the pizza oven (right) Photos courtesy of LEAF.

Walking on the clay to make it useable is where my skills end, but thankfully there are others like Matt whose skills lie in other areas, and so with effort from all the volunteers the pizza oven has now been completed. If you fancy trying the efforts out and tasting home made pizza at LEAF you can do on 30th May (7-9pm) as part of Sheffield Environment Week when they are inviting people to an open evening to see the site and meet the volunteers, if you’ve got chance it would be worth a visit. http://www.leafsheffield.org.uk/wordpress/phew-170512

Meanwhile back on Plot107 there are now real signs of the new season coming into full swing with flowers beginning to open and display from the wonderful cowslip (always one of my favourites) to the purple heads of the chives, alongside the flowers the first signs of this years fruit harvest are developing. The rhubarb of course is coming into its own, but also very early (and very small) signs of gooseberries are appearing. In a few weeks, I’m hopefully getting some help from friends from Sheffield University Chaplaincy team to help clear and prepare the “other side” of Plot107. Here we’re hoping to plant even more fruit in particular alongside a couple of new beds for the

(going clockwise) Cowslip, Lambs Lettuce, Mizuna & Chives
Gooseberries & Rhubarb

veggies – speaking of which; the potatoes I’d thought we lost due to that late sharp dose of frost the other week, are bouncing back, so there’s hope there yet. Also the garlic I planted is looking well, as are the early broad bean plants, and onions that went in a couple of months back. All in all it’s looking quite productive on the plot  at the minute – so lets hope the weather stays fine, with just enough water to keep us going, and the we can have a good harvest this year.

A Space to Grow

New regular PXI - Space to Grow sessions.

This is the new poster to advertise our regular Space to Grow sessions – if you or anyone you know is interested just give me a ring or leave a message on this page.

Meanwhile on Plot107 Spring continues to show itself – the rhubarb is doing well, though not as well as the high intensity of the famous “Rhubarb Triangle” growers: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-17203328 Next week I’m hoping we’ll get the first of this year potatoes in, and maybe some more onions sets – I’m also hoping to get some Raspberry canes from Loxley Community farm this weekend so planning to get those in as well soon.

Swaps & Sales

It’s that time in and around allotments and elsewhere when we’re all looking at what we’re going be planting for next year – already I’ve got my potatoes chitting at home, and have put the first of this years onion sets and broad beans in. But this week I’ve also been offered various swaps and sales from other allotments and community farms, so here’s a list in case you want to take advantage too:

Loxley Valley Community Farm volunteers hard at work

Loxley Valley Community Farm: Which is at the junction of Rodney Hill and Woodstock Road, near Wisewood are offering raspberry canes at £1 each (to raise money for the Community farm) and strawberry runners for a donation. If you’re interested you can go this Saturday and ask for Wendy. http://www.loxleyvalleycommunityfarm.org.uk/

At LEAF on Herries Road on 3rd March the Norwood allotment Society are hosting a seed swap day when you’ll be able to share your surplus seeds from last year (or if you’ve ordered too many this year) for other varieties. You’ll also have chance to join the allotment society there at the time. http://www.leafsheffield.org.uk/wordpress/

Tradebase Community Allotment Project are holding a Spring Fayre  on Saturday 3rd March from 11am until 2pm  in the Pavilion (next to the Bowling Green in the Park)  in Firth Park. There will be refreshments available, and I’d be surprised if you couldn’t pick up the odd plant or two as well.

If you know of any other places that are offering opportunities to swap or sell let me know by commenting on this site – or by e mail. Happy planting.

The waiting is over ….

Potatoes fresh from Plot107

We’ve been really busy recently and alongside the wet weather, which makes our clay soil really hard work, it’s meant we haven’t been up to the plot as much as we wanted to, but today we managed to get up there early and do a few jobs.

We planted some new Rhubarb crowns (thanks Carol) gave the compost heap a bit of a stir up, and lifted some of our potatoes.

Now, sometimes we wonder if somethings are worth waiting for or not – the latest series of “X factor” or “I’m a celebrity…”, a new video game we’ve been saving up for, the next bus when the one we’d hoped for has just gone and there’s maybe half an hour to wait (surely I could walk it in that time?) – but sometimes, with somethings, we just know the wait will be worth it! So it is with our first potatoes from Plot107. We’d planted the Maris Peer and Carlingfords varieties back in late August and now they are ready – and they are beauties, even as we were lifting them, Angela and I could hardly wait until we could cook and eat them ….. so now the waiting is over, let the feast begin.

The idea of waiting and preparation is what Advent (which starts this Sunday) is all about as well.  Advent signals the final countdown to Christmas – and the celebration of Jesus birth, and it’s a time when Christians focus on what Jesus birth really means for the world today. For us Christians, Christmas is not about a commercialised, money guzzling excuse to over indulge – for us Christmas is a time to reflect on our understanding that; in Jesus, God showed himself to the world – and showed his love for the world and everyone in it. That’s the reason we celebrate – that’s the reason for Christmas – and it really is worth waiting for.