It has always been my desire to get my family involved in the allotments, and recently I have had more success. Andrew, my eldest son and a trained horticulturalist, worked away from Manchester for many years, but has returned and now settled. So now I receive assistance. This is useful, as to be bluntly truthful, I am growing older and have had some back problems. Andrew's arrival has meant that we have been able to take on a new plot, our second. He also has taken the lion's share of the digging while my back problems slowly heal. Really useful!
Andrew's wife is Angolan Portuguese, from a family who fled as refugees from Angola to Portugal , leaving behind what she tells me was a lovely farm that had been in their family from before anyone could remember. For her the allotment is a way of reliving the childhood farm life that she thought that she had lost; and she cooks. Besides helping with the planting she likes to make jam. So yesterday Andrew and I picked windfall apples and delivered them to her. We will split the jam between us,fifty per cent for her and fifty per cent for me. Their two year old daughter stands on a chair near the cooker while her mother is jam making. She also likes to visit the allotment and see the wild life. Last time she came she saw a rather fat frog, that must have got so large by eating the slugs that cause so many problems. Some means of attracting children matters
But whatever you do, don't force children to take part. My one-time neighbour used to bring her young children and make them work the garden with her. That strategy worked until their teens and then they stopped coming. Teenage rebellion set in. I never pressed any of my children to participate. They did like climbing the apple tree, even Helen,who has never taken to the rural/horticultural life, at one time did her share of tree climbing. I tell her that she is a climber as able as her brothers are, but she does not enjoy climbing much. Of course, her young son, aged ten months, who recently came to visit, has already found a role in the allotment: he eats the plums! So I already have a demand for my plums that is greater than I can satisfy.
Growing to meet family needs is vital. My second son, Peter, married a vegetarian and they eat a mainly vegetarian diet. Peter does not grow much food, but he loves cooking. In fact he decided not to be a chef because he wants to keep on enjoying cooking. So he is the prime beneficiary of my prolific pumpkin patch, whose pumpkins will be used in stir fry or roasted whole. He has asked for more squash next year, so that is what is going to be grown.
Finally, we have a table and benches for picnicking, and this means that the family can use the plot for small social gatherings. This binds a family together and makes them all have a share in the allotment.
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