Monday 8 June 2020

Marking out time

Yesterday seemed to me to be the right time to plant out the leeks. Two twenty foot rows, six inches between each plant and twelve inches between the rows. The variety was the ever-reliable 'Musselburgh'. Leeks have the great virtue of being happy to remain in the ground until needed whatever the weather, so no harvesting and storing involved. They will see us right through next autumn and winter until the spring. Any leeks remaining by then will be dug up to make space for next year's crops - carrots and parsnips most likely. Already thinking about what will be on our plates in 2021. Strangely enough, but actually no real co-incidence, when I checked, I had planted out the leeks on exactly the same date last year. Another regular event marking out the passage of time.

Its is commonplace in these covid times to hear people say they have lost track of what day in the week it is. Or that everyday is the same - because for many it is, being more or less confined to home. The usual signposts are missing. Who noticed it was Whitsun the other day, or even that it was a bank holiday weekend? Not only that, but the lockdown has also seen the absence of the usual rituals which mark significant life events such as birthday celebrations, weddngs and funerals. 

The usual state of affairs is for our time to be structured in a continuing cycle. In times past, daily life was structured by the seasons and the agricultural year: ploughing, sowing, harvesting, weekly and annual markets and fairs. Or by the Church year: Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Christmas. The influence of both of these continue to mark out our time to some extent. Hence the school year still with its six weeks summer holidays, for example. In more secular times other things mark out time for us: work routines, leaves on the tracks, the academic year, public examinations, moving up a year, the football season, wimbledon, the Notting Hill Carnival.

What stays constant is the growing year whether that is for keen gardeners, growing fruit and vegetables or livestock. Little has changed for the arable farmers nearby. The fields opposite have still slowly evolved from brown to green to gold. And the routine here on the smallholding has continued much the same too. I know what I will be doing, all being well, in the ensuing days, weeks and months.