It has been an insanely busy week! On top of the usual examining mountain that one must climb at this time of year, there has also been a whole lot of administrative gubbins that I’ve had to sort out quicksmart, as for the next couple of weeks my time is going to be taken up with. . . jury service. Amidst all of this, I have managed to spend a few precious and very excited hours here: yes, it is indeed the allotment. Honestly, I am completely blown away by it — I feel as if someone has given us an amazing gift of entirely unwarranted proportions. Actually, there’s no as if about it: someone has, and that someone is Billy, the bloke who tended it before us. . . (oh, and not forgetting the redoubtable Mr W of Edinburgh allotment services, who finally came through for us). Billy’s allotment is not just a piece of ground — it has an entire infrastructure. The sheds (note plural) come well-equipped with furniture, some tools (in reasonable nick), a stove and (joy!) a working chimney. There is also a greenhouse, a pond, well-built benches, fencing, and several bird boxes. The whole place is, of course hideously overgrown and in need of some repair — Billy can’t have done much here for the past season or two — but beneath the weeds we are beginning to uncover the shape of a thoughtfully laid out landscape. We are tackling the ground, and in a couple of small beds will be sowing what salad leaves and legumes we can — thanks to seeds from my dad (and some of you!) and a generous colleague who has donated squashes, tomatoes, and cucumbers.


Hacking my way through the undergrowth this week I have found many surprises, including an entire bed of strawberries battling stoically against the mare’s tail. Best of all, though, and in some wonderment, I discovered that the nettles of gigantic and primeval growth in the greenhouse disguised a thriving grape vine. I confess I was foolish enough to think of the eighteenth-century American women whose letters and diaries I read, many of whom were keen gardeners. These women’s politics – whether revolutionary or loyalist – often found articulation through the language of gardening, and they were fond of quoting that verse from the 4th chapter of Micah about sitting under one’s vine undisturbed. Whoa there! I’m getting historically carried away! Better get off down the allotment. . . .

15 thoughts on “ploughshares

  1. Oh – I am there with you – I soooo remember getting my allotment – it was the best feeling – and the voyage of discovery just as you described – I felt like I got to know the previous holder just by what i found in the shed and under the (thousands) of weeds. i know you will love it!!!


  2. Oooh, how fabulous. I look forward to seeing more pictures. It’s not too late to put in things like turnip and pak choi, so if you’d like some nice heirloom seeds, let me know and I’ll pop some in the post


    1. A grape vine? You really HAVE got yourself a patch there!
      I suggest leaving a corner for herbs…there is nothing like topping a dish with homegrown rosemary or oregano.
      Have fun getting down an dirty!


  3. I’m very excited for you and look forward to a summer of reading about your gardening experiences accompanied by your wonderful photos. Have fun!


  4. Wow, I am in awe of your allotment – and a teensy bit jealous. I am one year into a five year waiting list for one allotment site and I’ve recently joined the waiting list for another allotment site, I’ve heard that one is very overgrown and they’re waiting for the council to clear it, so I’m hoping that once they have, I might be in with a chance, as I’m ‘only’ 8th on that list!

    Until then I’ll have to settle for lots of pots on my patio!


  5. Heeee! Exciting! I am interested to know more about the women’s language of gardening – anywhere I should look? How lovely for you to have some earth to work with.


  6. Eeee! Happy gardening to you! Strawberries are remarkable in their resiliency. We found four thriving plants from last year when we weeded this year. They were buried under a jungle of some kind of invasive grass, but they were still happily growing away. I look forward to hearing more about the allotment!


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