Monday, 11 January 2016

Five ways an allotment makes family life better

As I write this on a cold and wet January day, the prospect of Spring and Summer seem very far off. But, if you have an allotment or garden, this is the time to start planning for the coming months. March and April are the key time for starting seeds off in order to get a bumper harvest in late-Summer and Autumn. Sitting with seed catalogues is one of life’s simple pleasures on dark Winter evenings. As well as looking forwards, it’s good to reflect on the previous growing season. In this post I want to write about the past twelve months on our allotment and the positive contribution it made to family life.
five ways an allotment has a positive effect on family life
1) Better understanding of food production
If there’s one thing having an allotment teaches you is how hard food production is. There are so many things working against you, pests, weather and poor soil. You feel really proud if you can manage to get a decent crop of anything. We’re so used to walking into any supermarket and filling our trolleys with washed and packaged food that we underestimate our global and domestic food producers. They produce field after field of fresh produce for us to consume.
Anyone who has read my wonky parsnips post will know how hard it was for us to grow a handful of this particular veg…let alone tonnes of the things. Since having our plot, I have a new found respect for farmers and the less than 'perfect' veg we waste every year. We want our daughter to feel connected to at least some of the food she eats. That’s why having an allotment is great. Last year our potatoes were hands down the best thing we grew. We were eating fresh spuds for at least three months. Yes, it’s hard work and sometimes you just want to throw in the towel and head off to the shops to buy fruit and veg. But when you can succeed in making something grow it’s amazing. Watching Magoo’s face as we dug up handfuls of golden new potatoes makes all the hard work worthwhile.
young child enjoys harvesting muddy new potatoes straight from the soil
2) Health and Wellbeing
Technically speaking the plot belongs to my Mum. But it is a lot of work for one person and she was struggling to maintain the soil and plants. One of the main reasons we started to help on the allotment was because my husband thought it would be ‘good exercise’. He started to dig over the plot in February and March of last year and it was probably the hardest workout he’d ever done.
Not only is it great for your fitness, it’s good for your mental health. Over time it became more than just a green-gym, it became a sanctuary for us as a family. We love walking off the main road and into the tranquillity of the allotment site. You can hear birds singing, admire other people’s plots and watch the seasons change. Recently I blogged about the bench we installed on our plot. The wooden seat has a strong personal connection for me and the addition of the bench has created a lovely place to sit down and unwind.
young child wearing very muddy boots after digging the soil on our allotment
3) Nurturing and patience
In a world obsessed with instant gratification, maintaining an allotment is the complete opposite of this. In a face paced world, tending a plot teaches us about the slow process behind growing our food. Plants have to be nurtured and cared for. From the very beginning Magoo loved to water the plants on our plot. Although we all watered, in her eyes she was the ‘Chief Waterer’. She took an active role in caring for our crops and it made the act of harvesting even more rewarding for her.
little girl holds up enormous sunflower that covers her whole face with allotment plot in background
4) Fresh produce with low food miles
When the allotment is in peak production phase we sometimes eat meals that have come entirely from our plot and back garden. As I said above, we didn’t buy potatoes from a shop for over three months. We’re a long way off being self-sufficient, but the allotment supplements our weekly shop. If we can reduce the amount of food that has to be transported to us, then that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned. As the National Allotment Society say: “no longer will you be talking about food miles, but instead food metres”. Apart from low food miles, fresh produce tastes better. We eat strawberries and sugarsnap peas straight from the plant. Our plates are filled with potatoes and beans that were in the ground less than an hour ago. Harvesting delicious, fresh food is simply the best part of having an allotment.
enjoying eating tayberries in the summer on our allotment plot
5) Part of a community
We are all guilty of living insular lives. Sitting in the bubble of living rooms, driving in our cars or using public transport with headphones on experiencing the world through tablets and screens. In my opinion, allotments are one of last true community spaces we have. They are open to all, affordable and act as a green space in urban environments. On our allotment we see young families, retirees and adults with learning disabilities working with the Brandon Trust. Over the past twelve months, Magoo has experienced being in a community space with other people working around us. Most people say ‘hello’ as you walk by, others stop for a longer chat to pass on tips or advice and our neighbours often pass on surplus produce. Last year a newcomer to the allotment built an amazing chicken coop with upcycled materials and filled it with hens. I think one of my favourite photos from the past twelve months is this shot of Magoo holding an egg given to her by the plot holder. She was so protective of it, like it was a precious treat, rather than something that comes out of a box. Again it taught her more about where food comes from. It also shows Magoo how sharing resources is still important in our society.
young child cradles freshly laid egg from allotment chickens
These are ways I think an allotment can help to make family life better. But, there are many more I haven’t mentioned: camaraderie, biodiversity, socialisation, upcycling, thriftiness and creating havens for bees…to name just a few…
You don’t just have to take my word for it. Have a read of this piece by the National Allotment Society to see their take on the benefits of allotments.
This week I am linking up with these lovely blogs:
"How Does Your Garden Grow" over on mammasaurus.co.uk
"Made for Kids" over on www.theresourcefulmama.com
"Magic Moments" over on theoliversmadhouse.co.uk
"Let Kids Be Kids" over on letkidsbekids.co.uk
"Country Kids" over on www.coombemill.com
"Whatever the Weather" over on monkeyandmouse.co.uk and www.lifeunexpected.co.uk
"Happy Days Linky" over on www.whatkatysaid.com and www.quitefranklyshesaid.com
"Share With Me" over on www.letstalkmommy.com






















17 comments:

Lina - Cookies and Cwtches said...

What an amazing achievement growing your own fruit and veg. I love the idea of it but I'm not green fingered at all sadly.

Eco Gites of LĂ©nault said...

I could not agree more! I used to work in schools on gardening projects and the children loved it. They thought they were getting out of lessons when in fact they were learning as much, if not more, out in the garden as compared to being in the classroom. Gardening really needs to be brought into the curriculum .... and cooking.

Lucy Jacob said...

So many great benefits to growing your own food. It's definitely something I want to start with our toddler, though I have no gardening knowledge and have killed all our houseplants...#letkidsbekids

Erin Vincent said...

Oh my gosh the picture of the muddy boots and the HUGE Sunflower...WOW! Love it!

Annie, Fable & Folk said...

I'm with you Rosie there, we need horticulture back on the school curriculum.
I'm quite emotional sat here reading all the positive ways that being on the allotment has changed life you your family.
I've had the desire for a couple of years to try to apply for an allotment as there's one not too far from where we live but then I remember who little time I spend in my own garden and talk myself back out of it. Posts like this might just push me into it!

Thanks for joining in and sharing lovely c

Me, You and Magoo said...

Thank you for all the lovely comments :) The huge sunflowers were a surprise to us too. We thought they were going to be mini ones we could put in a vase...how wrong we were!

In all honesty Annie, we don't have enough time to make the plot as tidy or productive as it could be & there are times when we get disheartened with the constant weeding. We only had 5 rows of potatoes & it kept us going for 3 months. We had 4 bean plants growing up a wigwam of bamboo canes & they produced bags of beans. You don't need many plants to get enough food to supplement your other shopping. Even with our plot not looking as neat as it could do, we still love going there. It's a nice place to walk to, nice place to sit down & I do like the community feel too.

Karen Bell said...

There really are so many benefits to maintaining an allotment. You have achieved a lot this year and sounds like you've all benefited and enjoyed it too. It must be so satisfying growing your own food. I would love to grow more, but don't have time or space for more than a few carrots etc.
Thanks for sharing #LetKidsBeKids

gina caro said...

We also have an allotment and we love it! I plan to get down there a lot more this year and possibly grow some new things this year. There is nothing better than eating fresh veg that you have grown with your own hands #WhateverTheWeather

Coombe Mill said...

I have really enjoyed following your year on the allotment, to see the fun Magoo has had and all you have learned together. The work you have put in has all been worth it and your giant misshaped parsnips looked the best to me! It really has provided a great family outlet, something you can work on together and a great end result. Happy January preparations and I look forward to seeing you reap your rewards in the summer. Thank you for sharing with me on Country Kids.

Jibber JabberUK said...

We took on our first allotment last November and the kids are loving it. My son actually cried at the weekend when he couldn't go to it! I wish ours was closer but it is the nearest one the council provides. It's such a joy being there altogether and planning our future meals.

Chloe Ciliberto said...

I adore this post so much. I've loved reading about your journey this year on the allotment and seeing everything you've grown. This post is so beautiful and makes me and probably many others want an allotment on their own. I think we should all grow things a little bit more and show our children where food comes from and get them to help us grow the food. It really does look like a lovely community place to be and tasting produce that you've grown yourself must be incredibly rewarding. Thank you so much for linking up all of your allotment adventures to #whatevertheweather. I can't wait to see more in 2016. xx

Katy Reeves said...

I don't have an allotment but I do want to start some raised beds this year and give growing a few of our own veg a go - this was a really inspiring read!

Jenny Eaves said...

I love this post and it's getting me so excited about working on our plot and both us and the boys reaping the benefits. I hadn't thought much about the community aspect , we've only visited once as there has been snow on the ground since then and so noone was at the allotment yet. As soon as it thaws we will be down there digging over the plot and deciding exactly what we'll grow! Love the protectiveness over the egg too, so sweet.
Thank you for linking up to #Whatevertheweather and looking forward to comparing allotment tips this year! :) x

Jessica Powell said...

Lovely post! We don't have an allotment but I'm hoping to do something with our garden this year. Growing up we used to grow lots of veg in the garden, and my parents still keep hens (though one has recently turned out to actually be a young cockerel, so I don't fancy his chances much in the middle of a residential street!). One of the guys I work with is chair of the local allotment association too so we do manage to get some produce from them, even if the pay off is listening about the endless infighting at allotment association meetings! :) #sharewithme

Katy F said...

Gosh I would just love an allotment, we did have a little space up the back of our old garden but sadly no room at all in our current garden. What a fab year you've had- and that sunflower- wow!! Thank you for joining in #HappyDaysLinky x

Sian said...

Oh blimey look at the size of that sunflower! Every year I say I will grow some fruit and veg but I always fail to be organised in time. I used to love gardening as a child, digging up my first crop of homegrown potatoes is one of my happiest memories. Thanks for linking up to #HappyDaysLinky x

Jenny Ripatti-Taylor said...

What an amazing thing to do together and look at the size of those wow. I am so impressed I cant' grow things they die on me. lol Thanks for the continual support of my linky and blog as it gets quieter and quieter I am hoping to turn it around and save SWM. #sharewithme

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