Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Fresh fruit and vegetables, from someone else's allotted work

Nothing beats organic vegetables, and there’s no better way of guaranteeing that they’re truly organic than to grow them yourself.

Or, if you’re like me and can’t bear the idea of gardening, then nothing can be better than having someone in your household who thinks the most marvellous way to relax at weekends is to go and weed, dig and plant on an allotment.

Well, to do it with a friend of hers.

Well, two allotments really.

Well, two plus a third smaller one.

All this, apparently enjoyable, effort means that there are today at least two Luton husbands who have a fine source of high-quality fruit and vegetables for most of the year. I’m delighted to be one of them.

All it costs in return is that we occasionally have to shovel large quantities of horse manure into bags and haul them to the vegetable beds on our wives’ allotment(s). And occasionally to dig a hole or two, to plant... well, plants. Or sometimes trees. The making of such holes I regard as holy work, and from such holiness will, in time, come apricots. Pears. Apples. Plums. Virtue finds its reward in fruit.

My holy work, allotted and done.
Just a few years left until we reap – literally – the rewards
What amazes me is how educational the experience of working an allotment turns out to be. I came home on Sunday, from my own rather more limited form of entertainment – badminton – to find both our gardeners tinkering with a powerful and daunting looking piece of machinery which they’d got in bits on our carpet.

I say tinkering but I have to admit that it would be far more accurate to say they were expertly assembling it.

‘It’ in this instance turned out to be a petrol-driven strimmer. A strimmer, in case you don’t know, is a machine that can be drawn along the sides of a flower bed or a lawn – or a vegetable plot – and, using a pair of viciously rotating plastic threads, free it of any unwanted growth. There is, fortunately, no such thing as a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants, or such a device would certainly have been banned.

Fiendish device
My engineering skills are limited to understanding that you climb into a mechanical device, insert a key into the ignition and turn it, after which by some extraordinary miracle, you can move off and travel, with speed and efficiency, to your destination. Or at least to the first traffic jam on the way to that destination.

So I was impressed to bits to find these two friends competently putting together threads and shields and handles and a motor, until they were ready to fill a miniature petrol tank and put the strimmer to work. Which, apparently, it did to their immense satisfaction. Leaving me full of admiration for their mastery of mechanics.

Not so much of economics, of course. Add up the price of tools and plants and seeds and other products, and the cost per vegetable starts to mount up. Add in the opportunity cost of their time on the allotment, and I suspect that you’d find the produce was significantly more expensive than what you get in a supermarket.

But, oh so much better tasting. And better for you. So, if they’re enjoying the work, I certainly won’t complain.

Just as long as my involvement is kept to the present minimum, and my role is limited to eating the produce and expressing my (sincere, heartfelt) satisfaction.

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