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.

…. 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