Salad Days – and GIY

salad daysBack in the day, we used to grow our own organic fruit, salads, vegetables and cut flowers and sell the surplus at Farmers’ Markets.  I forget the reason we stopped all that.  Something to do with cash flow, market forces, Celtic Tigers, down turns and broken legs (not necessarily in that order).

Our polytunnels are now sadly neglected, the kitchen garden has been turned into a lawn, the cold frame has made way for a decorative herbaceous border, and we buy our salads (fresh from Italy) in the supermarket like everyone else.

There’s something very wrong with that last sentence.  I kid myself that I’m into eco-friendly, green, sustainable stuff, but really? Honestly? I keep telling myself, as the rain pools in squelchy lakes all around us, that the tunnels are retrievable, but I’ve somehow lacked the enthusiasm to get down and dirty again. Until now.

Last night I was inspired to join a group of fellow gardening enthusiasts for a new GIY meeting here in the West of Ireland.  I don’t know much about the GIY organisation, but it seems like a good idea.  Their premise is: ‘When people grow their own they gain a deeper understanding of food called ‘food empathy’ which acts as a lever to a healthier lifestyle’.

I’m up for that. And meeting like-minded folk to talk the talk, to swap ideas and experience, and to exchange plants and seeds – what is there not to like about that notion?

I’ve been craving fresh watercress (which grows like a weed in the right conditions), and I just needed to hear someone tell me what a good idea it was to plant some seeds. So off I go to buy some fresh ones and start all over again. I might even manage some salads like the ones we used to grow, pictured here.

There is a writing connection here, of course.  Certain aspects of gardening can be therapeutic, but mind-numbingly monotonous at times – weeding rows of lettuce, for example.  But in the past, I have come up with some of my best story ideas while doing boring work in the polytunnels.  I always take a notebook and pen that I don’t mind getting covered in muck. Two pens, of course, because one might not work. And a pencil, because that will work better on damp paper and can be used as a dibber.

And I always take something to collect salads in – because even now, in our poor, neglected polytunnels there are self-seeded rocket and purslane plants to enjoy.

I’m off to get dirt under my fingernails before I change my mind.

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