Giving back to the earth

Last Monday ten cubic metres of specially formulated compost were delivered to our farm and we spent all weekend distributing it among the vegetable beds. There's a sentence I never would have thought I'd write three years ago. Thoughts like this stop me every now and then as I consider how much my life has changed since meeting Oliver. I was once the quintessential city-girl, loving the London lifestyle of travel, shopping and partying in South Kensington clubs. Oliver has growing in his blood. His father is an environmental scientist and he was brought up in the most incredible edible food garden in Canberra which his parents still tend to diligently. Oliver's very being responds to the seasons whereas I used to barely register their existence (except perhaps to complain about the shortness of winter days in London). It's clear Oliver brings out the best in me, but perhaps this new-found desire to return to a more natural way of life also has something to do with age. I think it's only natural that the older we get the more we begin to search for meaning in our lives. And no matter how wonderful our upbringing was, the desire to provide a better future for our children is strong.

A freshly turned patch of earth holds so many possibilities.

A freshly turned patch of earth holds so many possibilities.

The compost delivery couldn't have arrived on a worse day. This winter has been the wettest in twenty years, or so says our Pilates teacher who is generally considered to be the font of all knowledge regarding our local area. It feels as though it has rained non-stop for two months and the sky was equally as threatening the morning the bulky truck arrived with our delivery of nutrients. We had such high hopes and thought we were organised, but we're learning things don't always go to plan on the farm, sometimes with disheartening results. Put simply, vegetables need nutrients in the soil in order to grow, by consuming them the vegetables supply us with the nutrients we need to remain healthy in return and so it's up to us to replenish the soil to ensure the success of future crops and indeed our own health and wellbeing. It's all about leaving the earth better than we found it for the next cycle and on and on it goes. Industrious farmers that we are, we recently sent a sample of our soil off to a laboratory to be tested and found that while our land was rich in organic matter it was nutrient poor. So, we approached a company that creates compost tailored to the individual requirements of the soil. Genius! We even prepared a special bed close to the driveway and allowed it to go fallow over the winter so the compost could be deposited directly on top ensuring absolutely no nutrients were lost. God laughs at the best laid plans - is that what they say?

Oh, the shame! Oh, the waste! Oh, the mess!

Oh, the shame! Oh, the waste! Oh, the mess!

The truck arrived under a blanket of pregnant clouds and it was as though the driver knew she was doomed even before she began. I explained where we wanted the load dropped and she shook her head ruefully before saying "I just hope I can make it without getting bogged." Superstitious woman that I am I forked a sign behind my back against the jinx but it was no use. As the rain fell in fat drops around me I watched in horror as the huge truck lost control and slipped inexorably towards the delicate herbs and salvias in my cottage garden. The gears clunked and the engine strained as multiple wheels spun, ripping up our grass and angrily spitting red mud at me. I felt for sure the driver would need to call someone to tow her out, but not before nightmare visions crossed my mind of the great truck ploughing into our half-a-century-old cherry tree. Amazingly, the driver made her way back up the driveway in small increments and onto firmer ground. But not before crushing a section of the earthenware pipe that sends our waste water running off to the far side of our property. I don't blame her for this. The deluge of rain over the season has washed away much of the soil protecting the pipe and we hadn't got around to filling it over again. God only knows how we're going to fix it because I don't. Soaked to the bone now and covered in mud I was forced to admit defeat and agree for the compost to be dumped on top of our gravel driveway and then watch as the coming rains drained the powerful nutrients from our pile of good intentions into one of the only parts of our property that we have no intension of using for growing - the drive.

Oliver practising safety-first on the farm with hat, earmuffs, gloves, boots and high-vis T-shirt.

Oliver practising safety-first on the farm with hat, earmuffs, gloves, boots and high-vis T-shirt.

Nevertheless, it's not all doom and gloom on the farm. The weather was spectacular on the weekend and we achieved more in two days than we had in two months - or so it felt. The first hint of spring was all around us in the form of birdsong, blossoms bursting and chickens laying. I peeled off my jumper and drank in the sunshine. We were busy, as we always are, but we made time to stop and watch the first bees settle on our flowering azaleas and breathe the scent of jasmine crawling up the side of our house. In the end I was spared the stinky duty of distributing the compost. Oliver was well organised with his tractor fitted with soil-scoop attachment and instead I weeded the lavender and blueberries and topped up their beds with mulch, smiling all the way at Oliver's enthusiasm for the farm. His passion has become mine and we can't wait to taste the results in next seasons's harvest. 

Thank you for reading. To receive email updates when a new post is published please add your details here.   

The bees are back signalling spring is on the way. We couldn't be happier.

The bees are back signalling spring is on the way. We couldn't be happier.