I was on my allotment on Saturday and feeling smug because I’ve managed to grow some lettuces that we can finally eat. I am not a very good gardener. My gardening strategy is to throw seeds and plug plants into the ground and cross my fingers for the best, making sure they are watered and lovingly cared for (obviously). (My allotment neighbours clearly take pity on me and the state of my plot and so offer advice and seedlings quite frequently.)
I was chatting to friends via Whatapp (my bookclub) and one said, regarding my lettuce haul and the liberation that comes with not having to buy bagged salad leaves, Lexi’s Lettuces! And I thought, hell that’s an ace name for my blog. And so I have changed my blog name, liberating myself from what I had come to feel was an impossible writing space. I may change my mind but right now, it feels as though I have cast off a grey cloak that was weighing me down.
I have been feeling for a while that the blog needed a refresh, because so much has changed in the past few years. I want to write about my life now, some of which is still cooking and baking, but a lot of which is not. I don’t want to be pressured into baking when I am too tired over the weekend. In fact, I have no desire to be pressured into anything anymore and this is a way to liberate myself from old shackles. So here we are. I will be writing about my allotment garden, a space I love and cherish. I will also be posting some book reviews, longer ones than the things that appear on the reading list. I may write about depression and anxiety, and the strategies I use for coping. I hope to write about swimming and knitting too. And baking bread. And cooking for friends… You see? So much promise.
But first I wanted to tell you about my lettuce. I got my allotment plot after a relatively (in allotment waitlist terms) short time (18 months!). It is a half-size plot which is quite frankly plenty of space for me to manage. It had been under-utilised and was overgrown with grass and the dreaded bindweed (my god I hate the stuff). There is a lot of rubble and glass in the plot – some sections are worse than others, and the worst section I have left to be dealt with at a later date.
I signed the plot lease about two weeks before my knee surgery so it has taken absolutely ages to put in any beds and start things off. I now have three raised beds and four dug out beds (with a fifth in progress). They are all skew (something my mother pointed out but I figure in the future there will be so many things growing in different pots and bags around the beds that no one will notice. Except you lot because I’ve now told you).
Digging beds is hard going – the grass is very happy on my plot and is resistant to change. There are mammoth roots that sneak across the whole plot so you can pull and pull and never get to the true source. I have made peace with the roots for the most part, pulling out what I can, leaving the rest. There are nettles and snaking, snagging brambles. The plot is on a downward slope. I intend to turn the worst of the rubble area (right at the bottom, on the final slope down to the path) into a wildflower meadow in the autumn. Possibly with a lavender border.
As winter has progressed into spring, I love the plot more with each passing day. We currently do not have outdoor space (there is some communal space but it is not particularly friendly towards outdoor readers and loungers) and I have spent a lot of time this last week outside on my plot, digging the fifth bed section by section, weeding, putting seeds into tiny starter plots in the temporary greenhouse. I have planted an artichoke, some broad beans, raspberries, a rose (for hips), sprouts, potatoes, wheat, onions, chard, strawberries and lettuces of many variation. It is the lettuce, after a particularly torrid winter, that have grown quickly in the sun, and which I have started harvesting this week. The rocket seems to be particularly happy in it’s grow-bag.
The robins, whom I can hear in the trees and who just last month would’ve flown down in search of food, are busy nest-building and twittering. There are massive pigeons who try to steal all the seedlings as they are planted out. I was left a dead mouse this week by one of the many cats that use the site as their personal hunting grounds. There is a rumour of badgers too.
As the weather warms so my allotment neighbours appear. On Thursday I made friends with one who brought his dog (Blue) to the site. He offered broccoli seedlings because they had started too many. My immediate neighbours have appeared, cutting their beds now and sifting the soil. It is a social place but it can be quiet too. Somedays it is just me and the birds. Sometimes those are the best days.