With the sunlight levels now increasing (hurray!!), I have made a start on seedlings this week and it feels so good. They hold such promise, don't they?
Guided by the gardening team at Glansevern Hall Gardens where I volunteer, a copious amount of reading on gardening and plenty of informative conversations with people here and on social media, I have begun the process of growing parsnips, brussel sprouts, chives, basil, tomatoes, peppers and sweet peas. A gentle start to see how it goes, keeping plenty of seeds back just in case and also to stagger the growing season. I also plan to sow courgettes, aubergines, beans, peas, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, sweet williams and other flowers but it is too early for them yet.
I have put the pots and trays in our sun room for them to germinate. Some plants will end up outside in the vegetable beds at some point; some will grow in the polytunnel and tomatoes and peppers will go in the specially designed greenhouse built along a wall that is a bit of a sun-trap. For now, my efforts go to ensuring the seeds do germinate with the right amount of water, sunlight and right temperatures.
As I was filling the little pots and trays with compost and placing the seeds on top with a little watering, I was reminded of the time when Peter and I began to sow the seeds for our move to Wales and reflected on it. Sowing time is a tentative time with much hope but also trepidation. There is much preparation needed before any plant is ready to bear fruit and there is a germination period to go through when nothing seems to be happening on the surface, yet the process of expansion from something small into something bigger is under way.
The germination period for our project was almost two years, during which time we made several visits to Wales to see what life was like here and we also attended a Smallholding Course to help us decide. Initially, a smallholding in Pembrokeshire or Ceredigion in West Wales was what we were looking for. But when a job opportunity presented itself in Mid-Wales, we adjusted our plans to settle here instead and when we did, our smallholding found us! Time to prepare is worth investing in to ensure the conditions are favourable for a project to come to fruition. Just as seeds have germination periods of different lengths, so do the projects we plan for ourselves. Our move to Wales was a complete lifestyle change that needed serious consideration. We discussed our plans with our children and talked about the impact the move would have on them. We had very good friends as guides and confidantes who would follow our plans, ask pertinent questions and support us during the process. It involved a change of workplace for Peter and a winding down of a business and career for me. We were facing moving away from a well established network of friends and colleagues, not an insignificant loss. At the same time, we both felt a desire towards a more sustainable, slower-paced lifestyle closer to Nature and we knew we could not achieve it by staying in Salisbury.
So where in our project are we now? Metaphorically, we have selected the plant we want to grow, prepared what we need, bought the seeds, committed them to the compost and the seedlings have appeared! So nearly seven months since we moved here, we celebrate that we have sprouted!
It is still a tentative time with challenges - seedlings are fragile whilst they shoot and root! The Winter has been very mild but very wet and windy, not at all the usual for here. There is a copious amount of mud in the fields, which our sheep are not too happy about either! As livestock keepers, we have been concerned about the impact the flooded fields would have on the sheep, their feet not really designed for these kinds of prolonged wet conditions! We have had some technical difficulties - and expenses - with our sewage treatment plant and they are still ongoing today, made worse by the fact that the system is a complete mystery to us, with no manual and no-one who knows how it really works. We are experiencing the vulnerability of carrying the responsibility for our waste ourselves, without the Local Authority sharing the burden, since we are not connected to mains water or sewage. We are getting to grips with keeping warm with wood burners that need feeding with logs of a certain quality, dryness and size, with no central heating available at the touch of a button - this can be tough; it requires planning, especially if we are out and about. We are learning how the wind turbine and solar panels work at producing electricity - it is always unnerving when a warning light comes on! We have needed to do a lot of tidying up around the smallholding, clearing wood left about the place and organising it in some order, repairing leaks in outbuildings and general maintenance that had been somewhat neglected over the years. All important tasks to turn Upper Cefn-Y-Pwll into what we want it to be, even if at times, especially in the prolonged bad weather we have experienced all Winter, it has felt relentless and merciless.
It is certainly beginning to look more tidy and organised outside and with more daylight hours available, the arrival of Spring is giving us more energy for what still needs to be done. The snowdrops are looking gorgeous in the lane and the crocuses and daffodils are opening up all over the garden, adding most welcome nuggets of colour. I have a potting shed on order for delivery next month and look forward to using the dedicated place to grow and care for the plants that will feed us - hopefully! The leeks are about ready to be harvested and I have picked the first florets of purple-sprouting broccoli, whilst the broad beans are looking strong and seed potatoes are chitting in the utility room.
I value the teachings of Nature and right now, the transformation from seed to seedling and the growth from seedling to plant to fruit reminds me that there is pain and discomfort in any process of change and that with nurturing, protection and nourishment, seedlings do grow roots and shoots needed for the plant to bear fruit... and so will we.