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.


Today is the feast day of Francis of Assisi, it commemorates the day in 1226 when Francis died. Francis is know for his love of God as demonstrated in the natural created world; the animals, plants, and flowers, the mountains, rivers and seas – for Francis to love God was to love the world God creates.

“…. it is in the world, the physical, the animal, in the natural elements …. that God must be found. Speak of embodiment, physicality, and the world—use whatever words you want—these are the hiding places and the revelation places of God. This is how Christianity was supposed to change everything. Most of us just kept looking up, when God in Jesus had, in fact, come down. ” From an unpublished talk by Richard Rohr in Assisi, Italy, May 2012

The idea that some of us grew up with that God is in some way up there, above us, is still one that some people carry with them today. Just the other week I was asked by a student at Chaucer School if I was a christian to which I answered “Yes” – she looked at me and followed up with a second question and a look of puzzlement: “So you believe in God?” again I replied Yes”, she continued; “So you believe in some man floating around in the sky on a fluffy cloud watching us all?” …. “No…”I answered “…. I believe in God”.

You see many people have sadly allowed God to become exactly the opposite of what Francis was trying to teach about – for many God (if he exists at all – and in some ways to doubt the existence of God could be argued to come directly from the same place) is this all powerful, judgmental super being who sits “up there” watching every move we humans make, passing judgement on us without apparently stepping in to help when it seems most needed.

“Where is God?” people rightly cry out when terrible events like to abduction of little April Jones in Wales this week happen. Well says Francis, God is exactly where he showed himself to be through Jesus: God is there in the pain and the sadness, the tears and the worry, God is there in every person who watches and waits and prays, God is all around us – a part of us, living in and through us, all we need do is let God be a bigger and bigger part of what we are like each and every day.
Meanwhile our thoughts and prayers are with April Jones and all her family and friends.

Taking Time Out

Nasturtiums, Peas and Beetroot on Plot107

Well it looks like summers finally arrived (even if only briefly according the the forecasts) and is was lovely to spend a good portion of my day today on the plot – and it needed it! The recent wet weather had made everything grow and especially the weeds, so despite the heat it was a case of being down on my knees pulling up weeds of all different varieties. Weeding is one of those gardening tasks of course that never seems to end, it’s a bit like painting the proverbial Forth Bridge,but staying on top of them is important to allow growing and breathing space to the plants as a gardener you want to do well – and there was no shortage of those as well today. From the bright and colourful Nasturtiums, to the harvesting of 4llbs of Broad Beans, the reward of tasting lovely wild strawberries, and cutting some chives for tonights tea, this years harvest is well underway – and all because of that space to grow and the nurturing that goes with it.

It being so hot and sunny it was also good to just take some time out from the work and relax and reflect – friends and regular followers of this blog will probably know about my interest in re-discovering “monastic rhythms” and exploring ideas of “new monasticism” for me the plot is as much a part of the monastery garden (alongside Quiet Garden at the Cross at Yew Lane) and as such it is about providing a space where we can be nurtured and grow just like the plants around us. And so it was that I found myself sitting and reading “Cave, Refectory, Road” by Ian Adams late into an the afternoon.

Adams identifies three spaces key to a “spiritual” life;

  • the Cave. This is that place of quiet, often solitary – where we take that essential time out from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, with all its joys and sorrows, its burdens and its rewards, this is the place that we rest, this is the place we try to draw close to the “more” that we sense almost instinctively that we know there is to life – we may each call that “more” something different, for me the “more”is God as shown to us by Jesus.
  • the Refectory. Here we meet with others in community, our friends our family our neighbours – this is where we share hospitality, it is the place that gives us our stability.
  • the Road. The road calls us to live our lives shaped by our contact with others, to become public over private.

…. and so I sit, now showered and home from the plot, to spend more time in solitary reflection and, strangely, I find my mind turning to a scene in Christopher Nolans “Batman Begins”. It’s the scene where Bruce Wayne having returned from a time of personal challenge decides to confront his fear of bats, he does this by venturing into the cave of his boyhood terrors and standing as the bats fly around him – gradually as his fear is overcome – the cave that in the past held only fear and terror, has become not simply a refuge but the place of growth and power. Caves it would seem are not always dark and damp, nor are they simply places to fear, they can be places lit up with insight, where fears and worries can be overcome, and where new insights can be gained. ….. And so back to the cave!

“The journey to knowing God must include the discipline of coming to know yourself, and that risky journey invariably starts in silence” Ian Adams “Cave, Refectory, Road”

“When’s it going to stop!”

“When is it going to stop!” it feels like the British obsession with talking about the weather is being well and truly fuelled by all the rain and wet we’ve had this year -the wettest June on record (that is since 1910) seems to be being followed by a pretty wet start to July as well. While all us gardeners appreciate the value of rain to help the garden grow, once it gets this much it obviously starts to cause its own problems.

It’s a year since we got the keys to Plot107 – and its seen some real changes in the allotments in Parson Cross, of course we’ve had to say goodbye to Fay who helped so much in the early days, but now we’ve set up our own Community Garden Group with Mick as chair of the group, we are already planning various activities to try and improve the site still further such as a big tidy up of what use to be the compost pile in the bays at the top of the site, more work to make the poly tunnel or more useable space, and improvements to the communal area, including using the large containers as a shelter for when the weather is wet. There are still about 40 plots available if people are wanting one, so if your interested contact Ceri Ashton (Allotment Officer with Sheffield Council) on 01142734771.

But meanwhile, the rain continues to pour – hosepipe bans have turned into flood warnings, drainage from the plots has become a bigger issue for some more than getting water onto them, “When’s it going to stop!” is what many people affected by this very wet spell are already crying out. Life can be like that too I guess, we can seem to overwhelmed by event after event, difficulty after difficulty – at times it feels like our lives are just being flooded with problems, at times like those it’s hard to look for the glimpses of sunshine behind the clouds – at times like those the most honest thing to do is to cry out to God “When is it going to stop!” There is something of this in the bible story of Job. In the story Job goes from having everything to having nothing, in fact almost worse than nothing – so much that at one stage he says to God that he would rather be dead – certainly someone at a low point…. despite this Job keeps his faith in God, and its in those difficult and dark days that we need to keep faith, it is perhaps when we need God the most.

…. Sunshine after the rain

I think it was Elke Brooks who sang: “I want to see the sunshine after the rain…” well at least on Monday after what seems now like weeks of rainy days we did see a bit of sunshine, but sure enough come Tuesday and the supposed time for Space to Grow to be on the plot it started to rain yet again – obviously this is all great for refilling the reservoirs, and will provide the plants with plenty to drink – but it would be quite nice to see a few dry days again soon so that we can get on with planting more crops.

Amazingly (with all this rain) we’re close to the time that in Celtic times was widely know as “Beltane” which usually falls around 5th to 7th May. It marks” … the beginning of the pastoral summer season when the herds of livestock were driven out to the summer pastures and mountain grazing lands.”  It was also a time marking a time of purification and transition, heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year.

Hopefully all this spring rain might mean a relatively decent summer – we can hope anyway. With dreams of sunny days in mind, PXI is joining with others in local church to organise a “Big Picnic in the Park” on 3rd June – it will start at 12noon and go on into the afternoon, people are invited to bring along some food or drink (no alcohol please) and share together – later we’ll hopefully play some games together: cricket, football, rounders kind of thing. If you want to come along and join us that would be great.

Meanwhile back to this month. It says in my gardening book that : “May is one of the busiest months in the kitchen garden.”

The books also suggest there’s is a lot to sow this month and with many crops you can sow one set and then a few weeks later re-sow to give you a succession of fresh vegetables at the peak of perfection.

  • French Beans
  • Runner Beans
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage and Cauliflowers
  • Peas
  • Turnips and Swedes
  • Your salad crops should be sown in succession
  • Lettuce and Leaves such as Rocket
  • Radishes
  • Spring Onions

So – as we start to look ahead to summer, whatever it might bring, here’s a short prayer to mark the changes in season:

God of winter’s cold, of clear sky and frozen river.
We praise your Holy Name

God of spring’s warmth, April showers, waking life.
We praise your Holy Name

God of summer sun, warming earth, sprouting seed.
We praise your Holy Name

God of summer pasture and mountain stream
We praise your Holy Name

God of root and shoot, of harvest to come
We praise your Holy Name

Signs of New Life

Raspberries and Rhubarb on Plot107

Well it was nice to get out on the plot in sunshine and relative warmth this week, and also to get some planting for the new season done. At the weekend we managed to get the raspberry canes that we’d bought from Loxley Valley community Farm, who by the way have a really excellent set up and are really well organised – so much so that alongside the usual fruit and vegetables you’d expect, the volunteers there are able to look after chickens, sheep and pigs!

As well the raspberries, it was good to see the rhubarb doing well still, and signs of new life on the gooseberry bushes.The herb bed was also showing signs of growth with the chives, and rosemary both doing well.

We also managed to set down some more bark chippings to mark out the paths between the various beds, and so now the whole of one half of the plot is laid out and ready for planting.

Rosemary & Chives on Plot107


This last Sunday a small group of us started to meet at our house as church, for us, church is a community of people not a building and so we choose to meet together in each others homes, sharing bread (and a meal), praying together, worshipping together, loving and caring for each other, and sharing each others faith journey. The idea is not a new one and dates back to the earliest ideas of church as described in the book of Acts and elsewhere in the New Testament. As part of our time together this Sunday some of us (me and the children, Imogen, Blake and Dora) planted up some of the broad bean seeds into peat pots ready to go out this week (we’ve used an early variety Imperial Green Longpod) and Angela finished the task of planting them on the plot this morning – so now we will wait and see and watch for those first signs of new life.

Planting Imperial Green Longpod (Broad Beans) on Plot107


Over the next few weeks there’s much more work to be done on the plot, we’ve got lots of potatoes that will need planting and even more to start chitting, and digging over the other half of the plot to get that into full use this year for the first time. We also got a letter this week telling us about a “Tenants Meeting” at 1pm on 14th March at Parson Cross Pavillion – this meeting will be looking at ways of continuing to develop the allotments in Parson Cross Park, and in particular at setting up a new allotment society all of which is very exciting. It’s also a bit sad as the same letter has confirmed that Fay who’s been a big help to many of us, and has been part of the Parson Cross Allotments from the start will be losing her job as “Growing Together Project Ranger” at the end of March – I just want to say, we will miss you fay and want to thank you for all the help you’ve been over the last year – God bless you.



Hello world!

Hello everyone and welcome to the new PXI-Plot107 blog. We hope that this new blog space will be a place you can keep in touch with whats happening on PXI-Plot107 and in Parson Cross Family Growing Space Allotments generally, it’s also a place where I hope we’ll be able to share news and reflect on things that matter to us on the allotments and in our own lives.

PXI-Plot107 is a project run by the Methodist Church in Parson Cross as a way of “being Church in our community”. I’m Nick and many of you might have already seen me and some my family around the allotments, if you haven’t yet, then I hope we’ll get chance to meet soon. I’m employed as a community worker by the local church to work on local projects like this and the other Space to Grow projects at The Cross at Yew Lane, LEAF and in local schools. Keep watching this space for more news and thoughts.

God bless – Nick