From The Ground #17

It takes a lot more than gale force winds, downpours and a broken shelter to stop this bunch of kids from having fun. The weather at this afternoon’s From The Ground session was a mixed bag of blustery conditions, sunshine, rainbows and torrential rain. Children being children though, they weren’t deterred by any of it. It was wonderful to hear them screaming with excitement as the rain lashed down on their heads.

The allotment site in Oakridge is very open, with little protection from the elements, especially on a day like today. Although disappointing, it came as no surprise to see attendance was down. Only the most hardened of souls braved the weather. Yet it was great to see a new face there. One couldn’t help but think, or hope, that he had been inspired by yesterday’s seed saving workshop. Who knows. The point is he was there and he enjoyed himself.

The biggest blow of the afternoon was the damage to the shelter. It had been put up earlier in the day in readiness for the session. Having erected it with help the day before for the seed saving workshop, one knew a little more about how to do it second time around and so it was a relatively simple one man job. Much satisfaction was felt to see it up, pegged and firmly fixed to the ground. Or so one thought. When there are doubts in the back of one’s mind, one really ought to pay them a little more attention than one possibly did. However, such is one’s determination to see the children up there, come rain of shine, any rational thought went out of the window. On reflection, one should have realised that twelve pegs probably wouldn’t cut it. It doesn’t seem an overly sensible idea to erect what, for arguments sake, is really just a large sail in the middle of a very open site with gale force winds buffering it from all sides. With just two pegs in each corner and four guide ropes there was only one way it was ever going to end up - in the air!

Thankfully, when it was found, it wasn’t up in the air, but slumped casually over the compost bins. Worse still, one of the poles had snapped and there was a large tear in the fabric. It was pretty frustrating given the tent wasn’t even forty eight hours old. Still, it could have been worse. It could have sailed over to another allotmenteer’s plot, squashing their prized parsnips. So yes, the shelter may be down, but it won’t take the wind out of our sails.

Once everyone had helped to pack the shelter away, the children made a start on planting the Spring bulbs. Daffodils, tulips and alliums were all dug into the ground. They cleared the tractor tyre planters of the old bean and pea stalks and dug over the soil. Children bring an innate sense of fun to everything they apply themselves too. It’s a quality many adults would do well to remember. For example, one wouldn’t think there could be much of a game to be made out of planting bulbs. Wrong. The children delighted in carefully laying the bulbs on the surface of the soil before messing the pattern up with their hands. They then fetched a watering can and poured (too much) water over everything they’d just done before mixing it all up again! It was fascinating to watch. Muddy fingers galore.

It was lovely to see the children get stuck in. Little ones delighted in the task and when one doesn’t have enough hands to carry any more bulbs, teeth make a good alternative.

As the weather dried up and the rain clouds moved on, the most beautiful rainbow appeared. Where there’s a rainbow on the horizon one feels good things are just around the corner. There’s a lot of love for everything the children do on the allotment. What they achieve is felt not only by the parents and teachers but also by the wider community. At the seed saving workshop yesterday, a lady who lives in the village was walking her dog and stopped to chat. She was simply gushing with her approval for what the school is striving to achieve here. The path to success is often a bumpy one, so kind words by local folk go a long way in re-affirming one’s belief.

Once all the bulbs were in the ground, the children enjoyed pressing flowers. Some even tried to press a runner bean seed. Flower pressing is an old favourite but it’s an activity that hasn’t gone out of fashion. It made a refreshing change to see the children delighting in the simple task of picking flowers rather than playing on computer games. As with most things in life, it’s hard to find a balance between the things one wants to do, the things one has to do and the things one has never thought of doing. The greatest rewards often come from the most surprising of places.

While some children pressed flowers, others continued to forage for seeds. One can understand the children’s fascination with them. They’re rather captivating, not to mention incredibility colourful. One could almost be mistaken for thinking that it’s not pots of gold that are found at the end of a rainbow. If rainbows really did grow from seeds then what a wonderful variety of seed that would be, and hey, whose to say they don’t. In children’s eyes, anything is possible.