Spring is at last well under way as Malhamdale glistens like a many faceted jewel. Is it me or is the sunlight somehow cleaner than it’s been for months; cleaner here than anywhere else I’ve lived?
I say ‘at last’ as it seems to me in my impatience that my sowings and plantings are taking their time this year. Moving north by 150 miles last autumn I should of course expect things to wake up more cautiously in this part of the world although weren’t those crocuses on display just as soon as in my home in the midlands? The ‘early’ potatoes are particularly slow; in spite of weeks chitting followed by weeks in the soil, pre-enriched and pre-warmed under black cover, not a single shoot is emerging. Broad beans are almost as shy. I’ve all but given up on some shrubs and herbaceous perennials completely; but at least the Hostas in the bog garden I made after Christmas are sending up determined spears and will soon make a great show of leaves – if the slugs don’t stop them.
I shouldn’t be so impatient but that’s the kind of gardener I am: I want to be out making things happen to my timetable, testing nature’s boundaries with schemes to warm things up, catch the light, beat the pests, put on a show. Nature, on the other hand, is quite happy with its own plan. The scattering of flowers growing around the Meeting House without any intervention from me is proof of that. Best be guided by its schedule rather than trying to control everything; grow what wants to grow when it wants to grow and not what doesn’t even if it’s feasible with large amounts of energy and inputs to force it. That doesn’t stop tinkering of course. In fact, it’s almost the first thing to do in a new place – otherwise how do you find out what will work?
One of the most useful pieces of advice from the world of permaculture is to ‘observe and interact’. Both are crucial to discovering how to work with any particular environment. We need to watch what happens naturally, then watch what happens if we move a pebble to know if moving pebbles is a good idea. All very scientific and all quite challenging for impatient types like me.
It doesn’t just go for gardens either. Leaders of any description do well to wait a while before suggesting any changes to the way their teams, groups or movements go about things. And in everyday life, moving to a new place prompts a great deal of finding out about how things tick, the better to find one’s place in the community.
What’s more, observing and interacting don’t need to stop; in fact they should never stop if we’re to be successful gardeners, group members, creatives, people. Why? Because like it or not, things evolve. We only need to look at the state of the world in 2017 to verify that.