I was reading one of Leanne's posts the other day where she mentioned being scared of her allotment. When I read her words I suddenly remembered when I first took on my plot. It was very overgrown, as most allotments are when they're handed over to a new person, and some of the weeds were head-high. I was only given half of the plot; the top half with the fruit - raspberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries - was destined for someone else. My bit was a shed with a storage area and rhubarb patch behind it, an asparagus bed and two areas of about three square metres for growing things. On an early visit to the plot I happened to mention to some long-time allotmenteers that it was a shame the plot had been divided into two. A couple of days later The Lady With The Clipboard rang and offered me the second half. I said yes without hesitation - not only were there the mature fruit bushes, but it also gave me a lot more space for vegetables. That night I hardly slept at all. I was honestly terrified at this vast, scary, out-of-control space. I couldn't really remember the top area clearly, but I did remember it was even weedier than the bottom bit and I remembered thinking that I didn't envy the person who had to clear it. That person was now me and I had no idea how I would do it.
Well, gradually it was cleared, somehow, although the edges have never been neat, and somehow things were planted and thrived, and I got through a whole couple of years without being evicted for gross weediness.
And that brings us up to last Friday. I hadn't been to the plot for maybe five or six days. Not that long right? But it had somehow gone from slightly weedy to absolutely insane. The edges of everything were two foot high seeding grasses. The asparagus had disappeared into a bed of every type of weed imaginable. The weed-proof membrane was about a foot off the ground, being pushed up into the air by grass and goodness knows what else.
And that's before we even get started on the wildlife.
My plot neighbour greeted me with the news that there was a badger hole with a bees' nest at the bottom of it. Que?
He wasn't wrong. The badgers had dug down about two feet, in two places, so that the hole was "U"-shaped and in the bottom of the hole were several dopey-looking bumble bees.
Let's move on. I rushed around randomly seizing handfuls of weeds while the eldest and the littlest squabbled over the hoe. Here's what I found in the compost bin when I went to throw the weeds in.
More ants than you could shake a stick at. Yes, the white patches are ants' eggs. EEK. We found about a dozen more nests dotted about the plot. It seems we have an invasion.
And that's when it suddenly came flooding back. The fear. This huge space, wildly out of control, doing its own thing, growing everything except food. Absolutely everything is rampaging away, there are slugs galloping over everything, at home as well as the plot. The allotment next to mine appears to have been abandoned. It was being tended until the end of the last growing season, but it hasn't been touched this year. The spinach is seven feet tall. Literally.
Other plots on the site have been neglected as well, not many, but a few.
For a moment I felt like throwing in the towel. It just seems so unlikely that it will ever come together. But in the past two years I've learned that this moment will pass. I'll put in some time, do some weeding, replace the cucumbers that I clearly planted out too early and pick my own body weight in blackcurrants and gooseberries, despite the fact that they're surrounded by weeds.
I'm reading this book in the hope that it will inspire me and somehow magically transform my plot in just two and a half hours a week. I'm feeling the fear but doing it anyway.
At home things are only marginally less scary. There are ants and slugs and weeds, and while I was eating breakfast this morning the boys suddenly all started yelling, "THERE'S A MOUSE, THERE'S A MOUSE, THERE IS, THERE'S A MOUSE THERE". There was. Outside fortunately. Jumping all over the pots on the patio. And I nearly put my hand on a huge spider the night before when I was about to open a drawer. All this wildlife stuff is all very well but I'm starting to feel a bit beleaguered. It's everywhere. Top floor flats have a lot going for them, they really do. I used to live in one and there were no mice and hardly any spiders and it was a red letter day when a snail made it all the way up three floors.
Next week I'll try and get my act together and put in some weeding time.
Today I'm simply holding my nerve. Just.