Monday, 29 July 2013

Veg Out

Not strictly a Yorkshire thing, or a day out, but I've always liked the idea of an allotment.

I don't think it's anything to do with saving cash*, and it's only half to do with my latter-day man love for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I suspect it might hinge on growing up with 'the Good Life' on television the first time round. Living near Surbiton made it one of the first times I 'knew' a place on TV*, which made it quite exciting, i guess.

This weekend saw us take home our first crop of veg from our recently acquired half plot, followed shortly after by a quick Sunday lunch made principally from our own food, it was a great feeling, and one that was a joy to share with the kids. It was a long time coming though.....

Upon moving into our first home of our own, back in Essex, one of the first things i did was apply for a nearby allotment. I think it felt like a coming of age - I have a house, now time for the allotment. up next, slippers and a pipe. In the early noughties, the clamour for grow your own was at a much lower ebb, and I got one pretty much straight away.

The Lottie, Day Zero
Sadly, the plot was in a horrendous state, waste high in bramble, impenetrable, rock strewn earth, and full of knot weed. I half heartedly  prodded at it over a a couple of months, before returning to the more suitable drinking and socialising befitting of those in their early twenties without kids.

Nearly ten years later, and a lot has changed. having switched South to North, it turned out that for family life, the only way was S6. Nestled in between the local school, and no more than 150 yards from our house, a plot became vacant, and having waited for the best part of a year, it was all ours.

After a couple of weeks, lots of progress
I've hopefully learnt a few lessons from my previous attempt at allotmenteering, and with a much changed outlook on life I'm reckoning on making a serious go of things this time round - and not just for my own entertainment*.

It's hardly a new chapter in the beard and sandals parenting handbook to extol the virtues of getting kids involved in gardening and growing their own fruit and veg - but it is so obviously a good thing. Maude has already spent hours down the plot with me, digging, spraying, hitting things with hammers and dibbing seeds into compost, and generally having a jolly good time of it.
Leave them alone, and before you know it, they're all grown up.
We have lucked out to an extent. Although our plot is a overgrown, the previous tenants had made a stab at growing some beans and courgettes, giving us a head start.  - both crops were looking a bit forlorn at first, but sprung into life with a few weeks of TLC since we took over. On Sunday we got to take home our first crop if shockingly, suddenly overgrown courgettes. If that isn't a rights of passage, I don't know what is.

Grand plans abound, with Dad sheds, apple trees, and winter cabbage galore all just on the horizon, just obscured by the mountain of back breaking labour than needs doing before we can really make use of the plot*. Already though, it has been a real boon to family life.
Courgette Fritters - sweetcorn, grated courgette, oats and a couple of eggs, garam massala and curry powder. Mix the ingredients up in a bowl (wrapping the courgettes up in a cloth and squeezing the extra water out of  first) & add some plain flour if the mixture is too sloppy / watery. Fry them until crisp. Mmmmm
In the years since moving the North, i don't think I've really spoken to more than 4-5 of our neighbours on the street. In four weeks of regular trips to the 'lottie, I have already spent hours chit-chatting with my neighbourhood locals. Other families with kids, wise old heads with helpful advice, allotment neighbours advising on spraying milk onto mildew affected crops, it's been an eye opener - and the first hobby I've had outside the house since the kids came along.

Hopefully it can continue to inspire the same enjoyment it has gifted in these first few weeks. But on my experiences so far, I can heartily recommend that you get on your local waiting list asap, and go get grubby.  Its an all round family fun day out for all. it might not ever offer a return in cash value, but you can't put a price on good times with the kids.

*Though it would be nice, i am under no illusions that running an allotment will be anything apart from a new and unusual way to spend money. I'm already eyeing up a shed/greenhouse combo that come with a price tag I'd more readily associate with a car.
Worth £3995 of anyone's money, surely?
*Next time after that was when Hampton Court Palace caught on fire. That seemed very exciting too. Sadly, it wasn't the start of a Republican revolution.

*That said, i believe it to be a human right for all dads to be able to sneak the occasional roll up in the secrecy of his potting shed. i doubt this sentiment will be shared by her indoors.

* So far, i have dug up: half a broken plastic bathtub, a Vauxhal hubcap, a suspension rod of some kind, several bricks and some headlight bulbs. I think the rest of the car is yet to come.

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