Category: Health

A guest post from Kathy Berry

Note from Old School Gardener: I read this wonderful piece on Facebook recently and Kathy kindly allowed me to re-post it here- I hope that you find it as inspiring and joyful as I did…

An ordinary beetroot. I pulled it and weighed it’s comfortable heft in my hand. This year I grew veg for the first time in 7 or 8 years. My large garden had gone, my health had gone, my budget had gone. My ideas completely exceeded my physical capabilities.I gave myself permission to do it badly.

I did not have a perfect plan, or a well prepared plot. I had an existing ‘flowerbed’ which last year had been rammed with annual weeds. I sowed a few seeds in miscellaneous margarine containers and plastic trays. Cress, lettuce, tomato. Things I’d grown before with ease.

Their fresh green leaves brought joy and excitement to the peculiar early days of lockdown. I brushed my hand over them on the windowsill whilst the world lay eerily quiet outside. One day, I lay in my bed reading, and every time I looked up, the leaves on the windowsill were bigger. That was actually unnerving. I’d never seen a plant grow in stop motion before my eyes.

I exchanged seeds and seedlings with friends and strangers. Small envelopes or boxes left on doorsteps. My collection grew. I watered, rotated, stroked and yes, talked to my seedlings. Although some of it strayed into weirdly sinister…”I’m going to eat you” I whispered one day, before lowering my head and biting through the stems.

As the weather warmed, I hardened off my seedlings like an overprotective parent…a few hours outside if it was not too hot, or too cold, or too windy. Soon I was transplanting. A block of spinach here, rocket there. A chalked sign to remind.

A patch I’d planted but couldn’t identify. I carefully weeded around direct sown seeds, only to realise weeks later the sowing had utterly failed and I’d been lovingly tending a patch of docks.

I recognised the self sown poppies at least. I left many of them around the edges and under leggy shrubs. No need (or space) for regimented rows in my crammed-in veg garden.

Potatoes were offered by friends and duly planted. Tomatoes grew, some spindly, some sturdy. I hardened my heart and culled the runts, and laughed at my friends with greenhouses as they raised 30, 40, 50 plants.

Impromptu roadside stalls began springing up. One neighbour arrived on my doorstep with a couple of courgette and a couple of cucumber plants. “I saw you were growing, would you like these? Yes please!”. My other neighbour had passed a driveway stall “Free tomato plants”, and their toddler returned home with their tomato, in triumph.

Long empty days found me making macrame holders for my now cramped tomato plants to maximise the windowsill light. It was warm out now, but would it last? I had no greenhouse: only the toughest would survive. Checking the weather forecast became a daily habit. I did what I could, when I could.

My ‘gardening’ rarely exceeded ten minutes a day, and yet things grew, were transplanted, grew some more.

I exchanged photos and messages with friends. “What seedling is this? I forgot to label them!” Back and forth, back and forth. Gradually, imperceptibly, I developed a little kitchen garden. I harvested raggedy rocket and spinach leaves to add to a sandwich, and glowed with satisfaction.

Plants died, were culled, were eaten (not always by me). I harvested garlic and onions from sets pressed into the soil last autumn. Disproportionate reward, for an Amazon purchase and a few minutes of pressing my fingers into the ground. My completely indoorsy, computer orientated son was nudged to come out for just a few minutes for some light and air.

He found he liked hoeing, and we would sit companionably working alongside each other for ten or fifteen minutes. “This is homegrown!” became a familiar mealtime refrain.

I savoured the casual thrill of walking into the garden and selecting the biggest onion or freshest leaves to add to my meal. A mini greenhouse was researched, bought and built. My son and I worked a relay, putting a few poles together, resting to catch our breath whilst the other took over.

Tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes went out. Of course it grew cold again. I laughed and shrugged. They’ll make it or they won’t. One left over tomato was planted outside, to take it’s chance (it grew to a mighty sprawling triffid, heavily laden with large tomatoes… although they appeared late and struggled to ripen (but that is a whole other story)).

Potatoes harvested- nice taste, disappointing yield for one, great yield but waxy, disintegrating flesh the other. Succession plantings to fill gaps opening in beds. These seedlings were neglected rather more…now my attention was divided. Although I did carry them back and forth, night and morning, between my and my son’s room, to catch the most light.

One mini cucumber! A triumph! And delicious. Courgettes failed utterly. Flowers fell, promising looking swellings suddenly arrested. Nevermind. Raspberries now. So many raspberries.

I start to count how many things I have ended up growing, in my “just do it badly” garden: Rocket, lettuce, chives, onion, garlic, sage, broccoli, kohl rabi, spinach, potato, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumber. Swede, cress, mustard. Beetroot.

A friend gave me a few stray beetroot seedlings in a yoghurt pot. I teased them gently apart and transplanted them in a short row at the back of a bed. And then did nothing, and neither did they, for many weeks. But one day, suddenly, as if they had found their feet (roots?) they began to grow. And only short weeks later I harvested my first beetroot in over twenty years. I boiled it. It was delicious.

I’ve waited another four weeks or so for this one to swell. Today felt like a day I could spare the energy to boil a beetroot. And here it is. Just an ordinary beetroot, but like every plant in my garden this year, I know it’s story; it’s origins, it’s setbacks and failures.

Holding it now, I try to put into words what I’m feeling. It’s quieter than joy. Contentment? Satisfaction? Connection. This beetroot exists because I planted it there. I smile at my beetroot, and go to write an essay of celebration.

Kathy and her son, Hugh

Healing Gardens Project

PUBLISHED: 09:11 10 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:11 10 March 2018

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) governor Nigel Boldero. Photo: NSFT

The region’s mental health trust will hold a free half-day conference for anyone interested in mental, physical and spiritual health.

The event, Mind, Body, and Soul will look at health and recovery through social prescribing – the use of non-medical activities such as housing and benefit advice, gardening, arts and crafts, and sports.

It is being put on by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s (NSFT) governors, and will feature presentations from national, regional and local experts as well as stalls and workshops.

Speakers will provide an overview of social prescribing, including its key features and challenges, plans for its development across Norfolk and Suffolk, and lessons from local projects already up and running. Attendees will have the chance to ask questions and find out what’s available to help people manage their mental, physical and spiritual well-being and aid the process of recovery for those experiencing an episode of hospital care.

It follows the success of similar events organised by the Trust’s Governors in Ipswich and Norwich in recent years, which focused on a variety of topics including talking therapies, dementia, and the complex needs of people who have mental health problems and use drugs and other substances.

Workshops will focus on direct support, green therapy, arts, crafts and other interests, food and diet, sports and exercise, and soul.

Nigel Boldero, an NSFT Governor who has been involved in planning the conference, said: “I’m really looking forward to hearing about the wide range of fantastic community organisations that are helping promote health through non-medical activities. Social prescribing isn’t just about relieving the pressures on the NHS; evidence shows that these different types of therapy and support are effective and make a positive contribution to all aspects of a person’s health.

“We hope as many people as possible will join us for what promises to be a really enlightening, engaging and interactive afternoon.”

Mind, Body and Soul – Health and recovery through social prescribing, takes place on Thursday, 22 March at The King’s Centre, King Street, Norwich, NR1 1PH, between 12pm and 4.30pm.

Designing Regenerative Cultures

Daniel Christian Wahl
Saturday, 18th June 2016

Daniel Christian Wahl says a new generation of designers can design a world in which all can thrive and not just survive.

A new generation of designers are applying ecologically inspired design to agriculture, architecture, community planning, cities, enterprises, economics and ecosystem regeneration. Join them to co-create diverse regenerative cultures in the transition towards a regenerative society. Humanity’s impact needs to shift from degeneration to regeneration before the middle of this century. We will all have to collaborate to achieve this transformative response to the converging crises we are facing….

read more here

dandelion‘The massacre of dandelions is a peculiarly satisfying occupation, a harmless and comforting outlet for the destructive element in our natures. It should be available as a safety valve for everybody. Last May, when the dandelions were at theri height, we were visited by a friend whose father had just died; she was discordant and hurt, and life to her was unrhythmic. With visible release she dashed inot the orchard to slash at the dandelions; as she destroyed them her discords were resolved. After two days of weed slaughtering her face was calm. The garden had healed her.’

Clare Leighton 1935

toddler-gardening‘My father mistrusted gardeners- they dig up all one’s best plants, he avowed- and would not have one anywhere about the place, so always I was commandeered to do the weeding and clearing that bored him. ‘When I grow up I’ll never, never, never have a garden’, I resolved, as day after day I uprooted daisies from the tennis court or tidied the edges of the paths. And I meant it. But now that there is no force to command me but the needs of the garden itself, I am happy with it.’

Clare Leighton 1935

double-digging-hero‘There is great healing power in digging. This is so much the case that one is tempted to wonder if any actual electrical power comes up to one from the earth. Perhaps the benefit is merely from the rhythmic movements of the body. At any rate, however sulking and rebellious one may be at the start, sesitiveness creeps up the fork into hands and body and legs. Finally the brain surrenders and one is again at peace with the garden.’

Clare Leighton 1935

P1020823aSeen from indoors, or as you approach a stepped entrance, pots can make a ready-staged display as they mount the stairs. But always make sure that the pots do not obstruct the route and that they cannot fall or be kicked over. You can fix the pots in place with a dab or two of cement, as long as the drainage holes are not blocked, but this means they cannot be moved. The simplest way to secure each pot is to wrap a loop of gardening wire firmly round it and tie the ends of the wire to side railings or other firmly fixed uprights.

Source: ‘Good Ideas for Your Garden’- Reader’s Digest 1995

Old School Gardener

nature playHere’s a final extract from the book ‘Noah’s Children’ by Sara Stein. This piece reflects on how as adults we are in danger of losing our ability to play and that this is part of a wider disconnect between humans (especially children) and the natural world about us:

‘One of the nicest things about the human race is our abiding juvenility….We’re fun; we’re funny. There is probably no species, not even chimps or wolves, in which there is as much behavioural congruence between adults and children.

Yet how ‘unfun’ we’ve gotten! Biking has gone pro; it is to be performed seriously (exhaustingly!) and properly attired. Even taking a walk has been transformed into walking – stylishly, with striped sweats and weighted mannerisms, to the purpose of fitness- and without an eye for what might be of interest along the way. In an article I read about dismantling playgrounds and abandoning school recess, a principal was quoted on the subject of improving academic performance. ” You can’t do that”, he said, “by having kids hanging on monkey bars.”…’

Coincidentally I’ve just come an interesting review of a new book about children, learning, play and nature. Here’s a quote from that:

‘Children play, and used to play ‘in nature’, outdoors. To some extent they still do, but probably not nearly enough. We inhibit their explorations, creativity, and self-testing. And the same goes for adults.’

You might like to take a look at the review here: ‘Learning with Nature and the Nature of Play’

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this series of extracts. I certainly found the book very stimulating and am currently enjoying Stein’s follow up to ‘Noah’s Garden’, all about natural plant communities and the like.

Old School Gardener

Picture: Free digital

Picture: Free digital

Here’s another extract from the book ‘Noah’s Children’ by Sara Stein. Here she reflects on how adolescence for many is not a transition to adulthood, but an increasingly inward-looking culture of it’s own:

‘We have experienced an emphatic turning of children towards their peers. We have seen the emergence of idols not yet beyond their teens. We watch our children withdraw into other worlds along the malls and behind computer screens where we don’t – and they don’t let us – follow.

This is taking a great leap into the unprovable, but I would guess that the interminable stage of life we call adoloscence is, in fact, a halting of development in cultures where childhood endeavor is not rewarded by adulthood as children imagined it would be.’

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and the wider issues raised…

Old School Gardener

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