I'm a bit of an outdoorsy girl, or as Noel puts it, a raging hippy. But only in the peace n love, earth-loving sense. (I'm a bit too married for free love and have always been far too clean-living for hallucinogenics.)
My mother thinks if it weren't for the house we live in I'd have us all in a yurt in the woods. She's only half right. I would quite happily move to a yurt in the woods tomorrow, but it's not this house that holds me back. I like our house well enough but there's no way I'd turn down a heap of land for a three-bed semi in the 'burbs. It's the townie I married that keeps me in bricks and mortar. Noel with his fondness for home comforts like central heating and electricity and running water.
I've never really dreamed about The Perfect House or The Dream Car or The Killer Wardrobe. It's always been The Land.
Land is all I ever wanted. I don't want masses of it. Just a reasonable amount, enough space for Cherry and Violet and their friends to run wild and build dens and camp out under the stars. And of course enough room for some horses. And chickens. And a pond with ducks and geese. And some space to grow fruit and veg. And an orchard with beehives. Actually if there was space for sheep or cattle, just a few mind, that would be great too.
And obviously I'd want a good part of it left wild. A wildflower meadow would be lovely - great for the bees in the orchard too. And I don't want to sound greedy but some woodland would just be perfect.
There would also need to be space to put up some outbuildings, stables for the horses although I'd really love stalls within an open barn that the horses could wander around in, and I'd want a sandschool of course and maybe a few jumps.
In the absence of the circa 40 acres of land I need to make my dreams come true, I downsized my vision a bit and signed us up for an allotment. Cherry and I chose our plot last week. I don't want to sound like an attention hog but to be honest her role in the process was quite limited.
Then this week I collected the keys to the gate. We are officially tenants!
Now the real fun begins. In the spirit of all things hippy I want to work organically so first I will need to read up on organic practices and I'm looking forward to joining a local organic gardening group, which is not a sentence I thought I'd ever be typing until I was well and truly in the throes of middle age. Is 35 middle aged? Is allotment gardening middle aged? Who cares. I want to know about permaculture and crop rotation and organic matter and mulching and all that literal shit. It makes me happy.
The plot isn't in too bad a state, although there is a lot of clearing to be done. We have inherited a pear tree, which was actually the main reason I chose this plot. Ever since I scrumped an orchard of wild pears as a kid, standing on the back of my pony to reach the higher fruit, I have wanted pear trees.
There's also other brackish bushes scattered around. At the moment I have no idea what they actually are. I look forward to finding out this year, and then I will decide whether or not to keep them.
Checking over the plot made me feel a little emotional. I discovered some sprouts at the very bottom, which never quite made it to Christmas dinner, and some long-forgotten spinach which has been well and truly chomped by the resident, at a quick count, eight billion snails.
I wondered who had the plot before us. How long were they there for? What were their hopes and dreams for it and why did they give it up? I felt a little like I was looking inside somebody else's life, trying to work out a little of who they were and what they might have been like, just by looking at what they left behind.
From this detective work I concluded that they were heavy-handed, if the broken fork and spade with the head sheared clean off were anything to go by.
Then I found an actual BONE in the compost heap and decided I probably didn't want to know any more about the previous occupants or how the spade head came to be sheared off.
Assuming there aren't human remains scattered about the plot, I'm really excited as to its potential. Our first task is to cover it in black polythene while we dig it over, although in future I think I will follow the 'no dig' method because I love finding uses for horse shit and I don't really fancy breaking my back digging 125 square metres of earth every six weeks.
Perhaps that 40 acres is a bit unrealistic for now.
This week we will be sowing the first of our seeds. Tomatoes, courgettes, sweet peas, broad beans and peas to go on top of the gigantic guinea pig cage by the French windows. Basically a homemade greenhouse, yeah? I really want to grow borlotti beans because they're super pretty, other than that I have no major squad goals for our first year as allotment holders other than to enjoy it and hopefully eat something at some point that we have grown from scratch.
I've always had a lot of success growing flowers, herbs and vegetables in our garden, so I am feeling positive about the plot. Not just as a place to grow food, but also as a bit of a retreat for me. Somewhere that's pretty much just mine (Noel's not really into The Good Life) where I can go to think, write and reflect. Bearing in mind the above caveat about not fantasising about The House I have always wanted a summerhouse in the garden that I can use as a studio for writing, crafting and photography. In absence of that, a table and chairs on the plot would be a perfect second choice.
It's corny but I guess I'm hoping this little allotment, a tiny slice of the land I have always dreamed of, will help me to grow too.