Friday, May 9, 2008

Reflections on times past

I used to sit in a pub with a few friends and the conversation would eventually get around to gardening. At the time I was probably the only one, out of the five or six of us who regularly met, who didn’t grow food. You know the reasons, I was too busy, I worked long hours, I had a large garden which already took a lot of maintenance.

So there we were, usually in a real ale pub, five fairly conscientious veggie growers and me.

Every so often someone would claim they had grown the biggest potato, or leek, or onion and invariably the ensemble would dissolve into mild hysteria when the proponent of this accolade produced the item in question – which was usually a very sad example of whatever vegetable the parent plant thought it was.

And then one day, somebody claimed they had grown the longest carrot, and immediately the ribald comments started amidst demands of evidence – "produce the carrot" was sung from the benches.
But today, our man simply dug into an old back pack he had brought and produced a gleaming shiny silver cup, with his name engraved on it and the year - and in much bigger letters, the cup was engraved "Machen Agricultural Show, Longest Carrot". This was a first for this group, silence fell amongst us as we all took in the enormity of this situation and then we celebrated in time honoured tradition and ordered another round of drinks.

I don’t go to that pub any more. I moved on. Indeed I moved countries, but I often think back fondly to those times.

No one cared that I was there, commenting about vegetable gardening with no experience whatsoever. No one cared about the gross exaggerations and sometimes, bare faced lies that were being expressed as "truth". We were confident in our young selves and didn’t need to ascertain that everything we said was factual and PC.

Then , a few months ago I was given a book about working a "potager", a French Kitchen Garden, and somehow, that book managed what my friends had singularly failed to do – it managed to make me want to grow my own food. Just a few vegetables – not a lot, just a few.

So I started to follow whatever advice I could find starting out by building a couple of raised beds on what the French call "parc". That’s a bit of lawn that isn’t lawn, but neither is it meadow.

My research led me to join KGI, an internet based community of kitchen gardeners.

My inexperience was huge but people very kindly explained and demonstrated what I should do, how I should do it and I learned a lot in a few short months. Things like sprouting, which I had never heard of and Three Sisters, which I knew was a play by Chekov, were kindly explained to me, amongst so many other things.

The forums were there with all sorts of comments – sometimes on topic and sometimes way off topic. They reminded me very much of those conversations I had taken part in back in that pub in Wales, or in England depending on the weather. I smiled to myself as people made clever and funny comments and I soaked in the knowledge as people made frank and honest comments and explanations about things.

It really is very much like my time in the pub. Very serious topics are discussed but with a lightness that makes them fun

And now, after a certain amount of cajoling from others, now I’m writing on here in an effort to assess my own progress. I hope you, dear reader, will indulge me?

Maybe one day I shall repay your kindness.



Kate said...

There is a nice community spirit amongst gardeners and their blogs which, on the one hand, broadens our horizons, but on the other, brings us closer together. It is a nice feeling.

(KGI is another matter and I don't feel part of its scene at all. That's the way things go.)

What is life without a little indulgence?

Ian said...

Kate, thanks for your comment. The problem with KGI, I think, is that there are too many people trying to control what happens anad to make it their own baby. Add to that some very parochial US members and I'm not sure how much is to be gained from it. Although of course it was the way I came to chat with you!

Kate said...

Yes, I had forgotten that, Ian!

I wish the other 400 members would get online and drown some of the 'regulars' who, I think, will kill off any discussions soon. One or two need to be spoken to by Roger to get them to calm down. A 'storm' in a teacup?

ilex said...

Ian, you are simply a marvelous writer. Ever considered publication?