What a difference in a year. The before and after shots are the second of the half-allotments. We took this one on in October 2017 and since then it’s been completely revamped and has given us excellent crops this season. If you look carefully you can see next year’s onions, shallots and garlic sending down their roots.
But today is the winter solstice and it has always brought out the pagan in me. It has seemed to me since I was very young that this still point – which will happen at 22.23 today when the north pole reaches its furthest tilt away from the sun and then begins to tilt back again is the true turning point of the year. I don’t want to go into all the whys and wherefores of the Christian calendar, the Gregorian reformed calendar or, for that matter the argument as to whether Christmas or New Year is the more important. So far as i’m concerned as a gardener, this is a fundamental moment. Between the solstice and Twelfth Night comes the natural rest in the horticultural and agricultural year. Yesterday I talked a bit about Wassail, but in my old parishes we also celebrated Plough Monday when the local Young Farmers would carry an old Ransomes plough into Elberton church where I would bless the plough and the seed for the new season. As an aside I should say that the last time I tried to beg a bit of maize seed off a local farmer for the ceremony, she warned me not to touch it because it was treated with a systemic insecticide. It certainly was, it was bright blue and looked (probably was) thoroughly dangerous and in its small way part of the reason for the destruction of the insects and bees. But there we are – perhaps I should have nagged but they were good people whose farming practices were being deformed by the pressure to put profit before anything else. Not many of their critics would have been happy to work the hours that they did for such small reward.
But back at the Potwell Inn we’re completely organic and today we shall be celebrating the solstice with our own roast potatoes, carrots, squashes, parsnips and brussels sprouts along with a piece of slow roasted beef and a glass of wine. Slow roasting is the most brilliant way of making the cheapest cuts taste wonderful.
This morning I was up way before dawn to finish off a sourdough loaf that had been proving all night. Then a quick sprint to the sorting office to collect a delivery of seeds and then a couple of hours up at the allotment. The outbreathing of the earth is almost over and tonight the great inbreathing begins again. Strength light and hope to everyone who reads this.