My New Year’s resolution is to give up on New Year’s Resolutions. They are, I have concluded, hideous things. In past years I made many, certainly too many, only to lapse, or more likely forget, by February. I have gnawed away (fruitlessly) at Dostoyevsky just because I decided I should read the classics. I have berated myself for having a (very delicious) glass of wine on a Thursday despite having resolved only to drink at weekends. I have ushered a reluctant spaniel out into a dank, dreich morning and squelched about the muddy fields because I swore to run 30k a week. And none of it has made me happy. It has served only to create a general air of dissatisfaction and guilt for not constantly improving.
But I am not completely reformed. What I do remain a sucker for, and I think this is far more wholesome, is new beginnings. I like nothing better than a fresh start. The first page of a new note book. The shine of a brand new saucepan. A sharp new pencil. All that potential.
And this year I have, to my mind, the ultimate in new beginnings: a new kitchen garden. If you follow G&G on Instagram (you don’t? Heavens. Click here, quick), you will have seen me recently waving goodbye to the spot I have grown on for the last 6 years. The Benevolent Farmer Brown, a friend and neighbour who has a smallholding, allowed me to share his gigantic walled kitchen garden when he heard I’d had to give up my previous patch (the farmer’s bull had more than a passing interest in my kale. Fences got repeatedly trampled. Beds got squished. Not pretty). Anyway, The Benevolent Farmer Brown took me in and we divided his patch and greenhouse between us. The 6 years I spent there have been a soft-focus idyll of growing, pottering, listening to Radio 4, chatting to the pigs– in short, joyous and I owe Farmer Brown a huge thank you.
But susceptibility to the new and un-sullied also afflicts, or assists depending on your view, Farmer Brown. In 2018 he has planned an extensive revamp of the walled garden. Plans for self-sufficiency are well underway – more veg, more fruit, even asparagus – and so he needed his patch back. We, the veg and I, would be homeless.
As if on hearing the news, my leeks got rust and a swarm of mealy bug infested my kale. So since there was no final winter harvest to be had anyway, I packed my spade and left the plot. Not withstanding my gratitude to Farmer Brown and excitement for his new venture, I cut a forlorn figure moping down the muddy lane from the farm with my spade in one hand and final harvest of mangy kale in the other. That little piece of soil has been a haven and an inspiration and I surprised myself by how attached to it I’d become.
Fortunately, another neighbour (I haven’t thought of a pseudonym for him yet – I’ll keep you posted) who had, some years ago, asked if I might take charge of his under-used patch was quickly persuaded that his, probably long forgotten, offer still stood and so within 48 hours of leaving one patch I was making plans to move into another. Phew!
Such is the serendipity of these things, the new patch is, in many ways, more suitable than the last. It is bigger: I will be growing in a space 10m x 10m but the plot itself is probably twice that size, the rest being covered with strawberries, raspberries and the like. It is closer: opposite G&G Towers rather than a 5 minute walk up the lane – these things matter when you’ve got a 10kg potato harvest. And it is, wait for it, covered. I know: netted. No pigeons. No rabbits. Probably a determined cabbage white (which is, admittedly, most of them) could struggle through; but it will make growing organically so much easier.
In the grand scheme of fresh-new-shiny-and-full-of-potential it doesn’t get much better than a clear patch of rich soil just waiting for your spade. The sense of promise is palpable. Looking at the frosty, chocolate soil last week, I could almost see the rows of green that will fill the space in a few months and I’m convinced the soil looks full of energy as if it’s trying to say, ‘come on, let’s grow!’
These next few weekends I will be heeding that call: plotting and planning, deciding on seeds and trying to contain my excitement. I almost certainly won’t contain it, so watch this space for a full year in the new patch and a fresh growing chapter…