I expected this to be my final entry for 2019 and that the allotment would, by now, have wound down for the Winter. Surely such cold and short days would bring everything to a standstill?
No sir, not at all. The Sunday before last, I worked my wellies across the plot and
discovered vigorous growth in almost every corner.
I came away with piles of celery, red chard, celeriac, potatoes, salad, cavalo nero and pak choi. It’s an inspiring and useful reminder of just how incredibly resilient most of nature is, persevering where many mere humans would stop.
As a mere human, I am indeed beginning to stop. In my defence this is less by choice than circumstance. Since the clocks went back and dusk began at lunchtime, it has been impossible to make after-work visits. Gardening in the dark is not fun, productive or, frankly, sane.
Being limited to weekend slots means that priority must be given to essential tasks
rather than my preferred routine of aimless tinkering. I must instead cover any freshly dug spaces with weed membrane to pause them until the Spring. Cue me wrestling giant sheets of thick plastic, getting very muddy and wet in the process.
On one plastic-wrestling trip, my boots thick with dark soil and light rain on my face, I looked across Edinburgh, which from my elevated vantage point appears to drop away in a bowl-shape then curve upwards towards Arthur’s Seat, and saw that much of the scene was golden amber. Most of the trees, which dominate the view, had emphatically turned.
It strikes me that, if the seasons can be defined by a single colour, Autumn’s is surely orange. We see it in the leaves and low sun, in the fires, even in the light from houses at dusk.
Plus of course actual oranges and their relatives: the satsuma, clementine and easy-peeler which become nice to eat again. We are almost literally transported from the gold of Summer on a wave of inescapable orange-ness.
In the weeks since, leaves have, as they tend to, continued to fall, sometimes tumbling in great cascades, gracefully abandoning their newly naked branches. Through the passage of leaf-fall we move decisively into Winter. We face months of watery, pale-grey skies.
Does that mean grey is the colour of Winter? Not for me.
I think Winter’s true colour comes from the few plants that keep growing, producing something nourishing even when surrounded by snow, offering earthy, iron flavours throughout the colder months. For me, the real colour of winter is the dark green of kale, cavalo nero, broccoli and other brassica.
Holly and evergreen trees, including the Christmas tree too of course. These colours dominate the otherwise bland hues of this time of year, when we slow down, reflect and restore – with food at the heart of that.
As well as being buoyed by continued growth across the plot and the promise of what those covered plots will enable in the Spring, I have also been lifted again by my co-pilot – my Dad – who started helping in September and now makes regular visits.
Sometimes we go together and spend more time talking than working. Sometimes he goes on his own, updating me via WhatsApp about various happenings which no longer weigh heavy on my to-do list.
Tasks such as digging the courgette plot, fixing the guttering, piling up weeds. All jobs that are no longer just my problem.
And that’s a very nice feeling.