It is Spring apparently, although the weather doesn’t seem to have realised it yet. We have had snow again today, not a great deal but enough to cover the ground, albeit briefly. Six miles away near Town it didn’t snow at all. Typical.

I had planned to sow my seeds today. One of the pleasures – and frustrations – of living in the country is having enough room to grow some of our own fruit and veg, but without the resources of commercial growers we are totally in thrall to nature. That means being unable to sow or plant out until the worst of the weather is over. So this year, we’re behind. It is far too cold and miserable to consider sowing the tender veg, even with the benefit of the heated propagator. I know to my cost that it is better to wait than to have repeated false starts.

Growing your own food on a small-scale isn’t about saving money (always cheaper in the shops by the time your crops are ready, unless you grow expensive soft fruit) but more about taste (always superior), quality (you know exactly how it has been grown) and satisfaction. They are the plus points. On the downside, be prepared for disappointment. It is going to be a late start this year, which means a shorter growing season which in turn means a smaller harvest. If we are lucky the weather will be good and everything will catch up. If not, well, you’ll be spending your money at the greengrocer’s or supermarket and throwing home-grown failures on the compost heap.

Last year was pretty grim. It was cold and wet, so very little grew well. The onions were good, but not as big as usual, the beans and sweetcorn a complete waste of time. The raspberries, usually so prolific, managed a reasonable crop but without any to spare. The redcurrents cropped very well, but we only had a half-dozen gooseberries. In the unheated greenhouse the tomatoes were late but good, although they didn’t crop for as long as they had done in previous years. The peppers refused to ripen since their necessarily long growing season had been curtailed, but the cucumbers made up for it (although, how many cucumbers can one family eat?) We enjoyed cape gooseberries and grapes until autumn, but our apple trees didn’t perform brilliantly so we didn’t even manage to make our own cider.

Of course, optimists that we are, we will be hoping for better this year, but it would be easy to become demoralised and give up. Many do. And if the thought of moving to the country is all about living off the land and getting back to nature, it is probably better to have a contingency plan in place. Just in case.

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  1. cathyharnett says:

    I realise now why poor characters in Russian novels lived on potatoes and cucumbers!

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