We’re moving to a farm on the outskirts of a West Yorkshire village! The house is derelict, which is why we can afford it. We won’t own the whole farm – just a large front garden and a thin strip of field to the rear of the house. The front garden is beautifully laid out, with overgrown borders, a tiny square of lawn and a large vegetable patch. The latter hasn’t been touched for a couple of years, and the weeds are rife.
There is currently a 75-year-old man called Charlie living in the house. He has very kindly given me permission to begin work on the vegetable patch before he moves out. We won’t own the place for at least a month, and the time for planting has already passed for many crops. I’m eager to get started before it’s too late to harvest anything this year. Currently there is a small rectangle of strawberry plants.
So yesterday afternoon I collected my son from his primary school, loaded all three children in the car and drove over to the new house. It’s almost an hour from our rental house in Leeds. I’ve got a lot of bean, cabbage, brocolli, and marrow seedlings waiting to be planted and some marigolds also. Oliver, my 7-year-old, and I began digging. Oliver dug a hole, which he was very proud of. I threw my weight behind the spade and chopped the surface of the earth up a bit.
Then Charlie, a veteran gardener, emerged from having just eaten his tea. He had his overalls and big boots on, and got to work helping me. He gave me invaluable advice and got me on the right track. For example, we shouldn’t just pull weeds up because the roots will grow back. We had to dig under them and dig them right out. The three of us got to work on digging the weeds out of a long strip at the end of the patch nearest the house. Then I noticed that, whereas I was chopping the ground with a spade, Charlie was digging and turning the soil with a fork. So I got a fork and followed suit. Next, he showed me that our two forks were different. His had narrow pointed prongs, whereas the prongs on mine were wider. Apparently mine are for “digging ‘taters”. I found a suitable fork in the dairy, and got back to work.
Following Charlie’s advice, I worked backwards a few inches of the strip at a time. I dug the fork in right to the full depth of its prongs. The soil was hard, so sometimes I had to help it along by standing on it so that my ample weight helped push it in. (Who says gaining weight is a bad thing?) I dug the soil, turned it, and tossed it forward. The patch is on a steep slope, and Charlie told me that if I didn’t toss it back up the slope we would end up with a big hill at the bottom.
I worked on the soil for around two hours, and by the end almost two-thirds of the strip had been dug by Charlie, me and Oliver. I’ve had to learn to be fairly relaxed about what we can achieve in a set time. I could have done a lot more if I didn’t have a toddler who kept falling over and needing comforting. My jobs are always interspaced with toddler-related activities. There’s a great deal to do on the house and garden, and it will take a long time. Fortunately, I like to have something to do and plan.
It’s a good job really!