Springtime off-grid

Late spring and Elevate artist Hannah Lefeuvre tells us what this means for her living on her off-grid small holding in Somerset.

At this time of year, particularly during a dry spring, it can be tempting to feel there is capacity to initiate new garden projects. The paths are clear, the hedges neatly trimmed, the weeds are fairly under control and the weather is pleasant. Not so! There are many seedlings that need attention, unexpected frosts to brace for and soon, the garden will explode into life.

Hence, attention has turned to essential maintenance jobs: installing more rainwater harvesting tanks, off-grid maintenance, weeding the vegetable patch and tending to new seedlings. The house is lined with seedling trays and weather forecasting becomes vital, with fleeces coming out to protect seedlings on cold nights and water carefully rationed until further rainfall. Every year there are lost crops, as there is so much at stake at this point. This year, we have lost all our apricots to the spring frosts, an apple tree fell in the storms, and we appear to have purchased a poor batch of seedling compost. We learn a little more each year, and keep looking forward, preparing for all eventualities. Growing is a good lesson in acceptance, patience and nature’s gifts, as well as challenges.

April and May are known to growers as ‘the hungry gap’, where preserves of fruit and tomatoes are drawn upon, alongside garlic, parsnips, celeriac, fresh salad, rhubarb, leeks and purple sprouting broccoli. We take our annual foraging walks to collect wild garlic for pesto and enjoy the new shoots of fresh herbs in teas and recipes. The strawberry plants will soon give the first fruits and will be covered with netting and surrounded with straw, to avoid animal nibbling. Our wild flower meadow shows great promise, and we are enjoying primroses, bluebells, the beginnings of red campions and even the odd orchid. The meadow will continue to delight for many months to come.

Meanwhile, above it all, the birds have been disseminating their magnificent sounds through the bird waves. This year, we installed a bird box, bird table and bird bath, and in line with International Dawn Chorus Day, helped to organise a ‘Bird Week’ in the village, where villagers noted bird sounds and sightings on blackboards. I find it soothing to know that the birds are still in action after such an unusual year for humanity. I hope you enjoy the photographs.



More from Hannah and the Elevate artists

During the spring and summer 2020 Hannah Lefeuvre recorded 13 audio Garden Musings about the nature surrounding her and living off-grid. You can listen to all episodes of Hannah’s Garden Musings here

Download ‘Take the time’ Issue 9 – Spring reflections and birdsong (pdf)

Send us your contribution

We love to include some of your own reflections in future posts and in our monthly print edition ‘Elevate your mood’ or quarterly printed tabloid ‘Take the time’. Why not write a few lines, try a poem or send us picture on the general theme of summer? Email to ArtCare or send to ArtCare, Block 29, Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury SP2 8BJ.