Growing things is a primal, grounding pleasure. And I write this with a sore fingernail from an embedded wooden splinter and a sore back from hoeing duck poo laden straw for hours. It is almost childish in its simplicity and in a strange way, nostalgic even though I never gardened as a child.
I remember reading picture books and learning all these profound agricultural concepts as a child. Richard Scarry’s illustrations of cheerful farms with seed packets flagging out lines in neat furrows. Stories of scarecrows who come alive, Peter Rabbit’s adventures, James Herriott’s veterinary mishaps, Gerald Durrell’s Corfu olive groves and Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Foxes ran rife in my imagination. How important farming used to be, culturally-speaking.
And it is a bit of a miracle when you realise that you can feed yourself with a bit of planning, sweat and knowledge. You reap what you sow. And what you harvest can be pickled, jarred and stored for winter or the zombie apocalypse. It’s a really satisfying experience looking at jars of your own homemade goodness in your larder, like a bank full of edible gold.
Our project for the past few weeks has been building Vegetable Patch #3 at the back of our house. The main vegetable patch is quite far from the house, surrounded by a passionfruit fruit hedge, rosemary bushes and olive trees. We wanted to build one nearer to the back door so we could send the kids out to pick sugar snap peas and herbs without having to worry about them running on the driveway.
The Irishman and I did some vintage trash store hunting and found these cool old zinc arches which we are going to run the peas, beans and zucchini up the sides of.
I even love the lexicon of gardening with its fullsome words. Tilling and aerating the soil so that it is light, fluffy and friable.
We reaped our first spring harvest today – succulent spears of asparagus and exploding armfuls of leeks. Someone wise once said that flowers were beautiful, but vegetables are majestic. And they are, in their simple, rugged and regal glory.
This week we will have asparagus, potato and leek soup, thickened with creme fraiche and herbs from our garden. We will have asparagus dipped into soft boiled eggs with brilliant saffron yellow yolks from our chickens. We will make fresh egg pasta with pesto , our wild watercress and locally cured prosciutto. And we will feast like kings.