I dig therefore I am

There’s a fresher air in Dublin this week as late summer breezes by and autumn blows in. My summer of discontent has been and gone and much like the changing of the seasons, my life has shifted in to a brand new phase.

It’s been an arduous summer here at Fiona Grows Food, plagued with health issues and some upheavals in my personal life, my garden has taken a back seat to the pursuit of health and happiness.

At times, the garden hasn’t been quite as productive as I’d have liked and I’ve spent a significant amount of time lately attempting to juggle the real world with my dream world. The dream world in this case being the ability to garden and write for a living.

Dream office alert!

Now that autumn is upon us, I am in the heart of harvest season and I’m left to take stock of the summer that has passed and think about what has and hasn’t worked for me in the garden.

The past few days I’ve been thinking about the nature of the changing seasons and the cycles of our lives. Thinking of how our gardens can reflect everything else in our world and how that reflection can guide us to where we are meant to be.

Now, before you wonder what the hell has happened to mad, hilarious Fiona and begin to panic at the thought that I might have become a bit of a poetic, philosophical bore, bare with me. This is an absolute cracker of a realisation I have to share with you! Then I promise I’ll get back to my usual slapstick gardening humour.

I do still have my funny moments to be fair…caught someone in a quite compromising parsnip position the other day…

Over the past few years, I’ve been juggling some hefty commitments, including a 50 hour a week thankless job, a blog, freelance writing commitments, food growing workshops and of course, a pretty large veggie garden.

Of all these things, the one that has taken up the majority of my time has been my job. Not that I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth, I have enjoyed my work the past few years and am grateful for the amazing opportunities that it has afforded me. However, it just wasn’t right for me anymore.

I no longer had time to write or to dig, I had no space to blossom.

Plants and people are not so different really and this is the overarching point of my preposterous poetic preamble; if we treat ourselves and our lives the way we treat our plants, we’ll be all the better for it.

Think about it.

If you are a gardener yourself, you’ll know that when a plant is wilting, diseased or dying, it’s not the plant that is at fault, the problem is the environment.

This is why we grow some plants in polytunnels instead of outside

If a plant is parched, we water it, if it’s starved, we give it light, if it’s struggling we support it.

Put simply: if your plants are not thriving, you change their environment.

When a plant doesn’t perform well, we don’t scream at it, admonish it or bully it into submission (except for weeds, I’ve been know to scream at weeds on occasion). We take note of what has caused the problem and take steps to avoid the issue in future.

We repot it. Change the way we water it. Bring it in indoors. Give it less sun or more. We plant it in a different environment, we adjust our care in line with its needs, we try something new in the (sometimes vain) hope that next time, the plant will thrive.

If all that fails, we simply try again.

As gardeners, we are care givers, we are bound to the many lives we have become responsible for. We are held to account by our plants, and rewarded by our dedication and diligence.

We measure our successes in harvests and seeds, the more we put in, the more we are rewarded and we are guided by a tangible desire to do what is best, not only for our plants but for ourselves too.

In fact, based on these findings, I think it’s time for another one of my Fiona Grows Food Mathematical Discoveries of the Century.

Where:

A=hard work

B=desire for success

C=time spent in the garden

D=plant knowledge

Y=Tomatoes

Then:

I haven’t used any square roots here as the roots I work with are far too organic in structure for me to quantify in a single equation.

Mind Blown.

*patiently awaits phone call from Nobel prize committee* (there’s a Nobel prize for best off the cuff blog thesis right? Right?)

Now that we’ve had a small scientific segue, back to my original point.

In essence, plants that are stressed need a change of environment and in that regard, the same can be said for people.

If a person is wilting, hungry for more, struggling to grow or needs more space for their roots to spread, the fault is not with that person, but with their environment.

That is exactly what has happened to me this year. The garden has suffered and the blog has suffered. My days were spent in a toxic environment and no matter what I did, I was wilting.

So I’ve taken a leaf (trolololol) out of my book of gardening experience and I’ve decided to change my environment. In a decision that took forever to make and yet only took seconds to finally come to, I’ve left behind my old job and found something far more suited to me.

There’s a very well known saying about money and I’m sure you know exactly which one I mean. The only thing is, most of us get it horribly wrong.

The old adage doesn’t go “money is the root of all evil”. Well it does, but everyone leaves out the most important part, the beginning.

It’s from the bible. The correct quote is in fact “The love of money is the root of all evil”. 1 Timothy 6:10

It’s getting biblical up in here lads (and yes I have in fact read the bible but that’s a topic for another day).

If we break this quote down in its purest grammatical terms (nerd alert) it’s not the noun that is creating the negative outcome, but the verb. It’s the doing. Actions are always undertaken with some level of intent (and yes I believe that love is an action and not just a feeling), and to all intents and purposes, having money doesn’t cause evil, the relentless pursuit of having nothing but money does.

Officially changing my name to Fiona Descartes Kelly. Has a nice ring to it.

Money definitely cant buy happiness, but in a garden you can grow it.

As such, I’ve decided my health and the pursuit of my own happiness and well being is far more important than the pursuit of money, so I’ve struck out and decided to try something new in the hopes that I will have more time to write, more time to garden and to tend to my needs and the needs of my plants.

I have landed myself an amazing freelance content writing role with the super sound team at buzz.ie and I have some very exciting plans for Fiona Grows Food and of course for my garden.

I am in a far healthier environment for my needs now.

All that being said, my allotment has been thriving this year despite the diminished time I’ve spent there the past few weeks.

It helps that the plot is well established now and no matter what, I always have my perennials to enjoy. I did put a lot of work in earlier in the year and it really shows when late summer and early autumn arrive.

I’ve been harvesting mountains of tomatoes, courgettes, raspberries, beetroot and cucumbers and I’m just about to head around to the garden to finally pick some sweetcorn.

I’m excited about the future, I’m excited to grow and I’m excited to spend more time getting down and dirty in my favourite place in the world.

I am warning you though, you’ll be subjected to a lot more of my insane takes on gardening now that I have more time to write about it.

 

You think you’ve seen it all….bikinis in the polytunnel, bare arsed gardening, falling into ponds…but you ain’t seen nothing yet.

 

I’m only getting started.

The War

It was the first of September. The battle lines were drawn. I donned my armour (gardening gloves) and drew my sword (a rake). I surveyed my territory with the keen eyes of a veteran war strategist. I assessed the formation of the enemy troops, I determined my objectives. One wrong move and the weeds would win the battle and all would be lost.

I began my offence at oh-fourteen-hundred-hours. I concentrated my assault on the South-East corner, cutting a swathe through the thicket of nettles, creeping buttercup and dandelions. The weeds fought a good fight, the nettles left me scarred and aching. I moved along the eastern front, demolishing everything that got in my way. It was a massacre of epic proportions, a trail of corpses littered behind me.

I fought a long and hard fight, I sustained multiple wounds. I was sweating, bloodied and broken by the time I made it to the North-East corner. I surveyed the battle field, drew my arm, scratched and stung, across my forehead and smiled. It was oh-seventeen-hundred-hours, battle weary and satisfied, I threw down my sword and shield and let out a victory cry loud enough to make the gods themselves tremble.

But alas, this was only beginning, the first assault of many. The battle against the eastern weeds had been won but the war was only beginning.

 

The Prodigal Gardener

Forgive me, garden, for I have sinned, It’s been four weeks since I last paid you attention.

You see, dear garden, let me explain, it’s not that I don’t love you or want to spend time with you; it’s not that I’m lazy and not bothered to dig you, it’s simply that life has gotten in the way, and the real world has hindered my ability to tend to your needs weeds.

Fear not, my garden, I have returned. (With help, of course.)

We arrived this morning, myself and my parents, whose help I enlisted to battle your weeds. I’m sorry we stared at you aghast, I’m sorry we laughed at the sorry state you were in, I shall endeavor not to mock you again. Your beauty was hidden behind weeks of weed growth, spurred on by the horrible, wet, summer weather. Your lovely shed door was almost wide open, if not for the kindness of my lovely allotment neighbour, who tied it closed, after what it seems, a huge bunch of weeds had forced it open.

I am full of remorse.

We spent three hours, pulling up weeds, tidying you up, making you look nice again. We pulled up your beautiful borage plants, who were so prolific they were choking everything else, we massacred at least one hundred poppies, we pulled up at least a thousand and one nettles; my arms (my penance) covered in stings.

You began to look lovely again, your sweet peas and cornflowers, glorious in the sunshine.

You, my garden, despite the neglect, have continued to grow and provide me with crops. Your poor potato patch, badly blighted, looked forlorn and beyond redemption. On closer inspection, much to our surprise, hidden below were hundreds of beautiful, baby Maris Pipers, healthy as anything. Only a few were rotten. It’s truly a miracle.

No such thing as too many spuds

Onions nearly ready

Your raised beds, when freed from the grasp of the weeds, revealed a bumper crop of huge beetroots, some almost as big as my face. Your cabbages, celery, brocolli and lettuces, your peas, your rhubarb, your strawberries and artichokes all huge and healthy, despite the bad summer. Your swiss chard and spinach decided to bolt, but are beautiful bright lights in the centre of the plot. And your onions, oh your onions, they are almost ready, I can almost taste them. I long to dig them up.

So, my garden, you have been restored, I promise not to neglect you again. You have provided me with dinner for the week. I do not deserve it.

May the weather bless you and keep you until next weekend, when I shall return, to reap more of your bounty.

Amen.

P.S.  Many thanks to Janette and John, without whom, you’d still be a mess.

Yum!

Giant beetroot