Mindful allotmenteer

My tagline on both my blog and Instagram account is “mindful allotmenteer”. For those who do not know what I mean by this, I thought it would be useful to give an explanation.

Mindfulness has become quite popular over the last 10 years, in both secular and spiritual terms. If you haven’t heard of it before, a simple explanation is to be in the present moment, and to have total awareness without judging what we are thinking or feeling.

I learned the practice of mindfulness from the local Buddhist community in Leeds. However, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to do this (I’m not). It is a practice of being completely present. There is a misconception that to be mindful is to be happy. This isn’t accurate. It is to have an awareness of self, that is even when the present moment is unpleasant or painful. This is in the knowledge that it will not last, feelings and thoughts are transient and will pass. This also occurs when the experience is perceived as pleasant. However, this gives us the opportunity to practice gratitude.

Like many, I am a busy person. Probably too busy. I’m a wife, a mother and I have a stressful job which can be emotionally draining. I also have other volunteer roles and study commitments. I sometimes felt like a hamster on a wheel. Constantly going from one role to another. However, the allotment gives me some space. It isn’t about growing food or saving money (which are huge benefits). Being at the allotment is a totally mindful and sensory experience. Someone asked me the other day if I found the allotment to be therapeutic, the answer would be a wholehearted “yes”. I don’t think that it is just being at the plot, I feel equally at peace when I’m in my greenhouse, or planting things in the garden. It is one of the activities that keeps me well, a true example of self-care.

I often find that if I need some help to wind down or to put my working day behind me, spending some time checking on my plants or getting my hands dirty is grounding. When I first began trying “mindfulness” I often felt quite distracted and found myself struggling to “quieten my mind. However, as gardening and allotmenteering is a sensory pastime, I find it easier to focus on these senses and experience the moment. I’ll give you some examples of what I mean (I’m not sure that I’m getting this across very well!).

Being aware of…….

The change of temperature as I walk into the greenhouse.

The smell of the tomato plants as I walk past them and prune them.

The sound of bird song.

Watching the bumblebees who seem to be so big and fluffy that their wings look too small to keep them in the air.

Watching the sunflowers over the day as they track the sun.

The sensation of putting my hands I the soil.

Watching the whole plot look vibrant after a rain shower.

Feeling the leaves crunch under my feet as Autumn gets underway.

Podding fresh peas and eating them on the plot.

The smell of sweetpeas.

The feel of stinging nettles when I haven’t put gloves on.

Marvelling every single time I see seeds germinating.

Feeling the sun, rain or freezing cold on my skin.

The smell of freshly harvested carrots.

The taste of sweetcorn cooked within 10 minutes of harvest.

Watching the cheeky robin who is trying steal worms when my back is turned after preparing a bed for planting.

Watching my children as they engage with growing veggies and the squeals of excitement when they have harvested them.

Weeding, Weeding and more weeding.

I would encourage anyone to try it. Enjoy the moment.

All the best Tx

We’re back!

So it’s been a little while. A quick update on the allotment inspection; it turned out that the letter that I received wasn’t aimed at me, every plot on the site got one. Slightly annoying but it certainly got me back into the swing of going to the plot.

It’s been a busy and unusual time over the last few months. Our children have been at home since the lockdown and my husband and I have been working from home for the majority of the time. The allotment has saved my sanity. It has been a safe place to escape and enjoy the fresh air. We have also incorporated the allotment into home-schooling (I’ll save the details for another post). We’ve spent loads of time there and it has been wonderful to see the plot evolve. I can understand why there has been such an increase in applications for allotments during the Covid-19 pandemic. The allotment has been a wonderful distraction and occupation.

One of the biggest changes that we have made was to move the greenhouse to our own garden. This has allowed me to give more attention to seedlings, young plants and to try growing a few things that I haven’t tried before such as indoor cucumbers and chillies. It absolutely amazes me how much plants are affected by an increase / decrease in temperature. The peppers and chillies easily sulk when it gets too hot but it’s been very handy to nip outside to open the window or door. I must admit, I’ve been checking on plants several times a day, they’ve become like additional family members.

We’ve also made some changes to the plot (royal we, my husband helped loads). Five additional beds have been created and the fruit bed has increased. I plan for three of the beds to be dedicated for growing cut flowers and I would also like to have a go at growing asparagus. I’ve been looking at adding more perennial vegetables to the allotment and have grown globe artichokes from seed that will soon be ready to plant at the plot. It has been wonderful to have more time than usual to research new projects. We’re usually so busy with work, school and extra-curricular activities that we hardly have time to fully engage with hobbies. I think that taking a little more time for the things that keep us happy, well and balanced like the allotment, will be one of the things that we hope to continue after lock down is over and “normality” (whatever that is) resumes.

I’ve also opened an Instagram account called @aparcelofland which has been good to capture the everyday loveliness of being on the plot. It’s also been great to see so many wonderful accounts which are giving me lots of inspiration.

All the best T x