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The Allotment Project Post 3

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Hello and Welcome to Post 3!

First off, a confession: I haven’t finished chapter 1 yet. But, if you’re a writer, you know this is how it goes sometimes. If you’re not a writer, now you know ;-)

COVID has really changed my writing habits. In the past, I wrote in coffeeshops, but now I write at home. I had ways of getting into a writing frame of mind that don’t work any more. Have your writing habits changed since lockdown?

What I’ve been doing instead of writing is going to the allotment and loads of reading. Here’s a picture of some of the books I’m reading: 

They range from nature writing to how-to gardening books to essays on agriculture and the natural world, to memoirs about the outdoors and mental health and themed notebooks. One of the dangers of research is that it can be so pleasurable that it draws you away from the writing itself. I am definitely down a rabbit hole at the moment, nearly finished with Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun. I found it slow going at first, but then it really picked up speed and now I don’t want it to end. The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane I’ve read three times now, but it’s something I purchased a few years ago and have returned to recently. 

The Gift of Good Land by Wendell Berry is a book I read when I was studying Environmental Conservation at University of New Hampshire. His writing has shaped much of my thinking about how we inhabit the world and what we do to grow food. His opening essay is about Peruvian potato farmers who are farming land on steep hillsides that has been in cultivation for thousands of years. Two of his points have stayed with me. First is that each farmer and their family have a small plot, one which they are able to manage well. Second is that they practice a kind of agriculture that doesn’t require them to be especially intelligent or have access to lots of information–the methods they use (worked out by their predecessors ages ago) are intelligent in themselves, and result in good land use.

In walking to the allotment today, I found myself split between two timelines. The first timeline is how I first experienced the allotment, beginning with the February when I was given the plot to look after. The second timeline is now, what’s growing on the plot, what needs tending to or plowing under. As I write this, it’s early September. The apples are done (early due to pests), the corn is done as are the potatoes. There are still a few crops ripening, like the raspberries and thornless blackberries, rainbow chard, beetroot and spring onions. I’m new at gardening in the UK, so I need to read up on what to plant for fall crops. These two timelines are at times confusing to me as I try to remember the details of lockdown and what it felt like to be confined to the house for weeks, my only relief a bit of time each day at the allotment. The world feels different now, but of course it will never go back to what it once was.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with a few photos of the recent results from some of our harvests–a load of jam and a few yummy meals. 

Enjoy, and happy writing!