There was a time when life centred around the seasons, and the farming year. I find that very appealing, coming as I do from a long line of peasant farmers and having designs on living in Ambridge. As I recall today is Plough Sunday, the first Sunday after the Epiphany, traditionally the Sunday set-aside for blessing the plough before ploughing started in earnest in preparation for the sowing of spring crops. Generations of my family have taken ploughshare and tractor to the Sunday morning service on this day for the vicar to bless their endeavours in the year ahead and pray for a good harvest. And so this morning I was sorely tempted to take my trusty spade to church for Martyn to bless my work on the plot ……..although a pickaxe would serve me better at the moment I know.
Nowadays it seems odd that ploughing should start as late as January for the ploughs are in the fields almost as soon as the combines have finished harvesting. But then, farming was very different. and, dare I say it, more sustainable. After harvest the stubbles were left to feed and fatten up poultry and geese for Michaelmas – an important feast day, marking the end and the start of the farming year. Permaculture in action long before it became the latest answer to the problems of unsustainable farming. Ploughing did not start until after the Christmas festivities giving time for the frost to break down the soil prior to sowing in March or April and no doubt an opportunity to work off the excesses of the Christmas season. So leaving the digging on the plot until after Christmas is in my blood as well as my psyche.
If you want to grow your crops or garden more sustainably the Permaculture Association is a good place to start look ing for information on maximising your crop without having to resort to artificial fertilisers or loads of intervention…..and no it isn’t just for ageing hippies who knit their own sandals out of lentils – although if you are one , they’ll welcome you too. I know a lot of people with very fetching self-made footwear.