Summertime at an off-grid small holding
Late spring and Elevate artist Hannah Lefeuvre tells us about her challenges of growing home produce when presented with unseasonal weather.
As I write this, wrapped in a woolly scarf and jumper, it’s hard to believe that we are nearing the Summer solstice. Perhaps in the UK, and particularly amongst growers, we are inclined to bemoan the weather each year. However, this year has undoubtedly been beset with extraordinary weather challenges. A dry April, with hot days, combined with cold nights, ‘the frostiest April in 60 years’ (BBC) meant seedlings remained unusually pot bound, while potatoes and brave tomato plants managed to cling-on, fleeced and the latter sealed inside the polytunnel. Even shrubs and perennial flowers have suffered this year.
Despite these challenges, the process of home produce and living in connection with the changing weathers is rewarding. I imagine that we will need to become even more resourceful, responsive and creative in years to come and I take comfort in the growing ecological interest and awareness.
This year, I have been particularly struck by the many wild flower areas emerging in public and private areas – both rural and urban. At our own small holding, we have devoted approximately one acre of field, small parts of the garden and the bank outside our home to the growing trend of ‘re-wilding’. Our wild flower project has evolved over three years; each year we scythe and remove the tall flowers and grasses in late summer, aiming to keep the soil fertility low and allow light for seeds to germinate. In our first 2 years, there was much bramble and bracken to clear, but this is lessening, while the flowers increase. The bracken still needs to be tackled even when the flowers are peaking in the summer, at the expense of some of the red campions. We are fortunate that our largest wild flower area, a North-facing sloped meadow, seems to be thriving. Early Purple and Pyramid orchids give immense joy each year and extend the wild flower months as they span May to July.
As an off-grid home, we have no choice but to respond and adapt to the weather. This year, we have used every scrap of seasoned wood for fuel, and extra wood stores are already being made for next year, whilst improving insulation is a constant quest. The 5th June was World Environment Day and perhaps you marked this in your own way? Personally, I tried a WiFi free day – a challenge, but it was possible. This morning I picked garden flowers to have at our breakfast table and now, time to switch off the computer and tend to the seedlings…
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 ‘Elevate your Mood – Issue 10 (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.