Brassicas, netted

I’m one of the many people who has been gradually giving home and garden a glow-up while COVID-19 does weird things to the shape and content of our lives. Those are my brassicas, being shielded from the attentions of Cabbage White butterflies (there’s a Sacrificial Broccoli elsewhere for them to feast upon, don’t worry).

It’s not a new journey for me, the growing of things and the honing of home, although it is, perhaps, one to which I haven’t typically given quite such frequent attention. It feels more like a coming home, though.

I was fortunate enough to grow up with parents who grew a good chunk of the fruit and veg we ate, and I dug out and created herb and veg patches in a previous house, too, so while this year has seen the energy go that way, these are plans I already had. I doubt I’ll take on an allotment – I’ve a feeling that that would be too much of a time and volume commitment for the vast majority of a normal year – but I do get a huge amount from growing things on even a small scale.

It’s not about eventually ending up with sprouts, broccoli, squash and courgette, though.

It’s about connecting with the earth and with the food that I eat more closely. There’s no berry sweeter than the one you grew yourself and picked a moment ago, and there’s no shorter food mileage, too. You can’t get closer to the land than when you’ve got a good chunk of it in your fingernails and you’re figuring out what grows well in your little corner of it.

It’s about nurturing something. Trying things and seeing what works. Being patient and putting in consistent effort rather than seeking quick results. In growing as in fitness, there’s no shortcut that’s worth the taking. You can force things a little bit, extend the growing season a touch, grow under glass if your climate isn’t quite right for things, maybe. But you can’t really shuffle nature’s timetable all that much, and you have to go to considerable effort to grow things that aren’t cool with your climate and soil. Plants have preferences of climate, soil, light, water levels and so on, and they grow in their own time. Keep an eye on them, tend them, and if something isn’t working, try a different thing.

It’s about going with the flow. So much of gardening is entirely down to something you can’t control: the weather. You have to let go of the specifics – you can’t decide in April that you want to harvest x amount of y produce in August and have that happen. You can look at what you enjoy eating and what grows well in your soil, light conditions, and area, and give it a reasonable go. But you can’t do much about an unexpected late frost, or a particularly dry May, or an especially wet June, and they’ll all affect your plants. So, growing things is a continual lesson in accepting what you can’t change, adjusting course if necessary, being philosophical if things don’t turn out quite as you hoped, and having the resilience to try again.

Sometimes, it just ain’t a good tomato year.

And then there’s the ‘what the heck is behind that?’ stuff. Sometimes, you try it by the book, by a different book, by a YouTube channel, and by feel and you still just can’t get a particular plant to grow. Ain’t happening. Your neighbour can, but you? That thing is noping out of wherever you put it. Never mind, there are thousands of others that you can try, and your neighbour is probably wondering how come your rosemary looks so enthusiastic when theirs doesn’t.

Let it go, and focus on what you can actually help to thrive – because that’s where you can thrive, too.


"Shadows of a Sunburnt Mind" by cogdogblog is licensed under CC0 1.0

Abruptly, the shadows appeared.

Yesterday, the ghost of a past relationship came to haunt me from an unexpected direction. It’s the only relationship I’ve had where I feel it ended badly – however unpleasant endings are, I’ve usually felt that either things were mutual or that everything possible was done on both sides before calling it quits. I’d certainly have no qualms about running into exes – they’re all lovely people. But this one instance…

It’s fascinating the way that past pain you thought you’d dealt with still has the power to side-swipe you. I think in this case, the association of something that has been so wonderfully and unequivocally positive with one of the most difficult experiences of my life was so dissonant that it knocked me for six. Sleep lost, floods of tears – those still haven’t stopped – wondering if I’ll even be able to continue with the positive thing – the whole woeparty shebang.

All those feelings of realising I clearly hadn’t been as important to someone I loved as I had thought came crashing back. All the pain that was repeatedly poked as they ghosted me but tried to carve a friendship with my partner, putting everyone in a difficult position. All the things I should have seen sooner, the questions I should have asked, the ways I was misled, the inability to talk things through with a ghost. I felt stupid for trusting where I should have questioned, for not seeing what was hidden from me, and I felt unchosen all over again.

I didn’t handle it perfectly, I know that they also were hurting terribly, and I do have regrets, but I did think that I had learned from the experience and that it didn’t still have power over me. I guess the pit that I’ve been in since the conversation that brought it all back (which, incidentally, was a model of transparency and very much appreciated by me – I’d always rather know the difficult stuff than not – just tough territory) says I have more lessons to learn and more shadows to face.

I suppose there is always more to learn about ourselves, and plants grow back stronger when they’re cut. Time to get my emotional game face on and figure out which bits of my psyche are about to grow new shoots.