We spent some time on the allotment this weekend, tidying up the beds, digging over and weeding those that had been empty over the winter and checking on the progress of our over-wintered crops. The broad beans are struggling a bit (probably because of all the snow and frost we've had), but the garlic is coming on like a champ. We haven't grown garlic before, so that's quite exciting. Our cavolo nero kale stolidly pootles on as only kale can, resisting all but the rapacious wood pigeons who sneak under the netting. Kale is amazing stuff, and it's a bonus that I actually enjoy eating it too. We found some onion sets in a bag in the wheelbarrow that we should have planted out in the autumn. Some had gone soft and rotten, but others were still firm and had started to throw up optimistic little white etiolated shoots in the darkness of their bag. Since we had nothing to lose, and we felt sorry for neglecting them, we dug over a bed to plant the best ones out.
One of our allotment neighbours (R) was there too, and he gave us some Maris Piper potatoes because he'd massively over-ordered on his spuds. I'm beginning to think that potatoes are an allotmenteer's Achilles Heel: even though we've got more than enough potatoes ourselves, we found ourselves accepting the potatoes and thinking, "Well, we could do with a good variety for baked potatoes..." I hear that branches of Spud-U-Like are opening up again, so perhaps we can sell our excess.
Spring is an amazingly hopeful time on the allotment, and R was desperately trying to get the last of his spring crops in. It's a little early for some of them, but he's scheduled to go in for serious heart surgery very soon, so he won't be able to work on the allotment for several weeks. He told us that he wanted to make sure that he'd given everything the best start he could, so that things would be growing well on their own while he was recovering. Because of his condition, he's short of breath and can only work for short periods at a time, but the green pull of spring is so strong that he felt the need to catch the wave of growth with the timing of a good surfer and ride the first wave of the season. We said that we'd keep an eye on his plot for him while he's out of action, but I know he'll be fretting about it until he can get his hands back in the soil again.
I feel as if I've been hibernating this winter, for one reason or another. It felt really good to get out into the fresh, cold air and feel the sun on my face and the beginnings of warmth in the earth.