Veg Patch: summer jobs in the garden.

July's a very different animal from March. In March, I talked of shopping trolleys and walking in the rain. In March, I lost hours in my veg patch, unfurling from my winter hibernation in the mild early sunshine and being reprimanded by the gaffer at the local tip for bringing too much garden waste! In March, I dreamed of neat rows of vegetables, mown lawns and trimmed hedges.

July has arrived and June has been long, hot and dry. My veg patch is not quite all I'd hoped: my pea plants are having a bad hair day; my broad beans have serious black fly; my cucumbers are wilting; the coriander is going to seed; and the only thing like a row in the whole patch are the canes up which my beans are belatedly starting to curl.

Just like last year, my vegetable gardening has been in the style of the ‘wildlife garden’ with pumpkins, brambles and frogs crossing paths; foxgloves, rosemary and butterflies rampant. This may sound romantic, fashionable even.  But I long for that order I see on the annual open day at the allotments: regimental rows of leeks, cabbages queuing neatly in lines, cultivated blackberry canes trained with care along wires. The type of gardening undertaken by the retired male of our species with a yard stick and string. For them, March is a month for precision measuring and marking, not of dreaming and lifting one’s face to the new sun offering unspoken prayers of thanks to the one who swings the seasons round.

I must confess that hot trudges up the hill to school twice daily and nights of garden watering as the hot weather bakes the soil, alongside infant tennis lessons, school shows, sports day, summer fairs, carnivals, fun days and the endless parish barbecues for this, that and the other have relegated my shopping trolley to the hallway until slower cooler months return.

I used to dislike the months of late winter with a vengeance, wishing them gone, hurrying them along. Now, with children and a garden in the heat and hurry of mid-summer, I long for those slow short dark days with low expectations, minimal demands, and time to think; time to try out a new hobby or craft; time to try a life change and to attempt to live up to ideals long held or recently won.

I'm afraid my life's like my veg patch: over run and unruly. In the slow quiet months, I dream of year round order: children with clean faces; hoovered carpets; clothes washed, ironed and on shelves not piled high in drifts in the laundry room; and a tight schedule of activities, a weekly routine strictly adhered to. But just like my patch, the sun shines and life abounds and grows rapidly outside the confines of my assiduously planned boundaries: an impromptu trip to the paddling pool after school with pizza for tea, staying until bedtime; a late night meal with friends at a retreat house, my children chasing geese round a field; an after-school playground rendez-vous, children already pink faced, wild haired and tired, dragged home tearful after half an hour, flopping dusty faced and dirty nailed into bed.

This is my life; it's not all I dream it to be, but I'm kind to myself. I forgive myself. I’m learning to live with life's incongruities until, with time, I learn to be consistent and wise and whole.

Read last month's post: the importance of having nice nails (or not!)

Emma is a columnist and feature writer for Liberti Magazine.

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