Summertime

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 http://growsheffield.com/abundance/  ) 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.

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.

“Many hands make light work”

Weeding on Plot107

With all the rain, and the sunshine in between the last few weeks have been good for the weeds on all the plots in Parson Cross, so we were very grateful on Plot107 for the offer of help from a group of students from Sheffield University Chaplaincy when they offered to spend a day working with us on the plot. Thankfully the weather stayed fine and we were able to clear the remainder of the overgrown part of our plot as well as building three new beds ans planting them with onions, peas and beetroot.

At the start of the day one quarter of the plot was up to shoulder high with a variety of weeds including thistles, docks and others – but after only a few hours of work not only was the area completely cleared but we’d also built three new small beds and planted them up. We also spent a bit of time slashing back the weeds from some of the unallocated plots that were starting to block the path down to Plot107. If anyone is wanting a plot they really should contact the Sheffield Council allotment office and ask about Parson Cross park – although the plots aren’t full allotment size, most are big enough and as far as I’m aware taking a plot here wouldn’t mean your name coming off the Councils main allotment list. To be honest those of us already growing there are really keen to see the other plots taken as soon as possible – so even if you don’t want a plot for yourself but know someone who does, why not get in touch. As well as families, the plots can also be taken on by local groups, there is already a couple of under fives nursery plots, and one cared for by Chaucer School, as well as our PXI plot – so maybe your youth group, tenants association or similar want to take on a plot?

Lunchtime on Plot107

Of course the great thing about plot life is that it is never all about work, and yesterday was no different there was plenty of opportunity for conversation and joking around, as well as the opportunity to share lunch together. There’s something about eating together that helps to build friendships, perhaps that’s why feasts and suppers feature so often at different places and times in the Gospel stories about Jesus – whether it’s wedding feasts in Cana, loaves and fish near Galilee, or the Last Supper in the Upper Room in Jerusalem – and so perhaps as we sat and ate and joked together in the middle of Parson Cross yesterday we also were a small part of that tradition.

I also can’t finish this blog without a thank you to Claire and everyone who sponsored her in the Sheffield half marathon – together they raised a wonderful £115 to support the work of PXI in Parson Cross – thank you and may God bless you.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

“… new things have arrived!”

New rhubarb stalks growing on Plot107

Despite all the wind and rain of the past few weeks, we’ve actually been blessed (so far at least) with a relatively mild winter: no major frosts, no lasting ice, and definitely none of the snow we’ve seen at this time for past couple of years. It’s meant some of the plants have felt brave enough to put their heads up and make the first steps in a new season of growth, as I visited Plot107 today I particularly noticed that the rhubarb we planted last autumn was already showing new bright red stalks to offer the joy of some real winter colour.

I also spent some time today at the community allotments at LEAF (on Herries Road) and there it was great to see so much still growing, some ready for harvest like the chard, and others like the garlic and leeks showing the first signs of new growth

 All this reminds me of the way that Paul describes the new life that followers of Jesus are called to live, as they abandon old habits, and and take on a new attitude to life, it’s a call not to be perfect overnight but just like those plants – to set out on a new season of growth:

The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!”

2 Corinthians 5.17 (CEB – Common English Bible)