Month nine and spring is definitely here

Don't you cut timber on a windy day stay out of wood better listen what I say
Winds and top flowers go either way don't you cut timber on a windy day

Don’t Cut Timber on a Windy Day // Sonny James 

I’m chomping at the bit to get to the allotments, but every time I have enough time the wind picks up for a few days and it just doesn’t feel safe enough to sit down and get lost in thought. Allotments are places where many things blow around and sometimes when it gets really gusty, as it has been, there are various greenhouses that have suffered glass broken and shed doors are blowing open. It’s just not the right place to sit still and draw, not to mention being impossible to control sheets of paper.

Finally there’s a calm day when I’m free and I head up to the allotments - through a hail storm. March certainly throws weather at us. However once I arrive the hail has stopped and the daffodils by the front gate are catching the sunlight.

Daffodil

Daffodil

The big news this month is that the water is back on.

Water butts against a shed

Water butts against a shed


The weekly delivery of chippings helps plot owners to tend to the paths and as they do so and some work together to help neighbouring allotmenteers the place is alive and so different from a month or so ago when the snow arrived! I stop off on my way and chat about the nesting box on Q6 which doesn’t have tenants. However a neighbour is lending a hand to lower the height of the holly, perhaps that will make a difference. To my untrained eye a nesting box in a holly bush is a perfect deterrent from intruders.
As I collect my sketching stool from the shed another hail storm passes by, tapping out a tune I don’t know on the nearby metal table as I cower inside the shed until it soon passes. 

Thorns on a rose

Thorns on a rose

As I paint that day a cat saunters past, they are too quick for me to catch in my sketchbook though, by the time I’ve put down my paintbrush and got out a different sketchbook, the feline friend has hidden itself amongst the leaves of a neighbouring plot.

A cat saunters past in the sunshine, ignoring me as I sit quietly.

A cat saunters past in the sunshine, ignoring me as I sit quietly.

The allotments are just so alive with energy and activity, there is so much tidying and pruning and planting going on, unwanted crops dug up and used as ballast or composted, from above the plots must look as though they are awash with busy ants this Sunday.

A redundant vegetable gets used as ballast

A redundant vegetable gets used as ballast

As I’m drawing the rain starts and I shelter in a greenhouse I’ve been given permission to use. The roof keeps the rain off but the recent gales have broken some of the side pieces. It is however, welcome respite from the now pouring rain. We have experienced so many weather systems today it’s hard to know what might come next. Eventually I give up on the day and a little too cold for comfort I head home to warm up.

Leaf catcher, otherwise known as a sieve!

Leaf catcher, otherwise known as a sieve!

This Sunday visit the weather has treated us to sunshine and warmth. I wander around the plots and can smell the wonderful scent of cut grass.  It’s just gone 10am and allotmenteers are out in their t-shirts, working hard, it feels as though spring is creeping into the corners and I spot blossom on some trees. It’s impossible to come here and not feel an overwhelming sense of wonder at nature.

Stunning blossom

Stunning blossom

I’m here to meet and chat to Q6 today, but before we meet for our lunch, I head onto plot O7A to do a little more to my page of drawings from the plot. As I sit by the pond and draw the willow the sun’s power surprises me, very soon my winter layers of clothing disappear and I’m in a t-shirt, feeling strangely bare without a scarf and gloves. It’s also hard not to sit and close my eyes, but I’m here to draw, at least this morning, I remind myself.

I don’t mind working on Sundays when I get a view like this

I don’t mind working on Sundays when I get a view like this

I absolutely love talking to allotmenteers about the life journey’s they’ve been on that has brought them to the allotments now. There are so many different people and diverse cultures it’s wonderful. I’m now on O7 who originates from Yorkshire, which is why one of there are three white roses, hopefully one being the original White Rose of York. There is certainly no red rose on this plot! I look through two photo albums that record the plot developing and changing during some of the six years since the current caretaker of the plot took over, I am amazed how different it looks. I know myself well enough to understand I would have probably been unable to take on that kind of challenge being completely overwhelmed given my lack of gardening knowledge, but I’m so glad someone has done. I’m also really glad we agreed to have something to nibble! The purple sprouting broccoli and blue cheese muffins are divine. The artichoke dip with Nordic crispbread are delicious and although the banana and chocolate muffins’ ingredients aren’t grown on the plot, my goodness they’re good! I wonder if all plot owners are good cooks given they all grown food for themselves…
We boil up some tea and sit at a round table with two chairs, talking about the plot, the person and life in general. This is a very special moment for me, the unbidden memory of sitting with my grandfather at his allotment is very strong and catches me a little by surprise. 
The friendships and generosity that people have shown me during the residency is very moving.

Hello, flowers and veg are beginning to surface above ground…

Hello, flowers and veg are beginning to surface above ground…

Finally I leave and head back to put my chair away only to stop and talk to another friend while she’s eating lunch and I have another brew. I may have to review which days I come up so that I actually get some work done and don’t get swayed with offers of tea and chats, or at least not too often, I’m easily persuaded when it’s warm and sunny.
The breeze picks up as the temperatures cool, a sharp reminder that’s it’s spring and evenings sitting outside are still some way off. Standing in the greenhouse now, I watch as potatoes have their soil built up so they almost cover the plant. Seeds of various kinds are being sown as others are being potted on, keeping a cycle of growing. On the constant lookout for slugs, which can quickly cause a disaster in a greenhouse with all those lovely new tasty shoots… one is spotted and it doesn’t last very long.
I’m given some glorious looking salad leaves to take with me, coriander and rhubarb which makes its way into a rhubarb and strawberry fool for Mothering Sunday.

Tasty rhubarb

Tasty rhubarb

Friday, people are around but it is still peaceful and the weather is like a summer’s day so I settle myself quickly in to a position to draw, which is where I end up for the next six hours, barely moving other than to slightly shift to draw another plant. Although there’s someone working in the plot next to where I’m sitting this one feels hidden away and that suits me today. Today is an introspective day, a quiet day, one where I just want to sit and draw which is exactly what I’m able to do in this glorious weather. I am joined on the plot by a scarecrow but other than a slightly rustling bag over her arm, and it is a her I think, as she has beautiful long blue plaits for hair, she doesn’t move so I’m not disturbed. 

She has beautiful blue string plaits

She has beautiful blue string plaits

The smell of a bonfire drifts over, I’m not sure if it’s on the plots or from one of the houses, I can’t see the smoke, just smell the scent of burning wood. Again I’m taken back to nearly 50 years ago and cooking baking potatoes in the fire pit in that small allotment plot of my grandfather’s in Switzerland.
Planes fly overhead to exotic places but I’m not drawn to wonder where I’d like to go if I could go anywhere, because I’m pretty sure I’d just pick here.

My idea of paradise

My idea of paradise