We’re in week three of lockdown or are we in week two? It’s all blurred into one now. Life before this already feels like months, rather than weeks ago. It all happened so quickly but at the same time, felt rather like being in a slow motion film. One day everyone left the office, the cafe, Home & Garden, the little store, the small businesses, and Manor Yard, the hub of our little village, became deserted and silent.
Opposite our yard is the beautiful walled vegetable garden, which up to now has been nurtured and looked after by Kate who is sadly no longer here for the moment. Her last two days of work were spent giving us a crash course in sowing seeds, pricking, potting on, digging, watering, mulching and weeding. The daunting prospect of how we were going to manage and actually grow vegetables which hitherto had been nothing more than the pleasure of picking, cooking, eating and enjoying them, quickly took hold. We were also thinking about the future, the day we re-open the cafe and the need to make sure our produce will be available at such time… But who knows when that will be!
Luckily within 24 hours from handover, the worry was dispelled by a small group of enthusiastic family volunteers, happy to help every day in return for any produce they need. The situation is perfect because they’re all young, looking for something physical to do and there’s the added bonus of helping the community by selling any excess salad or vegetables. Each day the produce is picked and placed on pallets outside the entrance to the yard and a text message is sent to various residents alerting them to come and collect. Not wishing for anything to go to waste, we’ve successfully managed to sell some of the plants leftover from Home & Garden and Mel, our head gardener has also been selling excess stock from a little stall she’s set up outside her house.
So far we’ve sown parsnip and carrot seeds, harvested and cleared the gone to seed kale, sown two beds of different salads, and potted on wide variety of different seeds to the next stage of their lives. New potatoes, fennel and Romamesco cauliflowers are already planted and sticking to Kate’s instructions we’re moving some of the herbs from the small garden opposite the cafe so it can be used for growing plants to be sold outside our Home & Garden Store.
It’s pleasurable and therapeutic work especially in this warm dry weather. Watering can take one person up to two hours and the daily picking each morning of spinach, salad leaves, herbs and kale, mixing and bagging it up for the stand, takes one or two people at least an hour. But the lovely thing is, there’s no rush. There’s time to stop, look up at the sky, see how near the blackbird comes to where you’re standing, listen to the incredible bird song (well it has been so far but maybe not now Frank the cat has returned), discuss what there is to do, sit and have a coffee and revel in how fortunate we are to be here in our lockdown state.
In our isolation days it’s lovely to catch a glimpse of people taking their daily exercise. Today we looked over the wall and saw a couple peering at the vegetable and salad bags. “Sorry, but we don’t have any money, please can we grab a couple of bags and come back next time” one of them said. Of course the answer is yes, because why wouldn’t anyone want to come back, pay and grab some more? It’s the best you can eat but better still, it’s happily and lovingly grown.