Sunday, April 25, 2010


The return to Hamburg has been a good one: the balcony has really come on and in my next post I'll be putting up a lot of Phil's photos. The good news is that everything grown from seed has sprouted (only one pepper seed though), and the seed potatoes and sacks are en route from the U.K. The only concern at the moment is the limp and leggy chard - advice much appreciated. The aggressive courgettes have been potted out to start climbing up the windbreak, and all the other balcony plants seem very happy, including the new member of the family, Phil's lemon tree. He's also ordered all of the kit for our veg blog live webcam. Not only will this be streaming live balcony video on this blog, but we're also going to try some time lapse photography to catch the summer in action. An odd blend of the back to basics grow your own food, and modern technology.

On a rather more romantic old fashioned note, as I was flying back this evening thinking about our potato crop, Seamus Heaney's wonderful poem came to my mind. I hope his publishers don't mind me sharing it here:


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

- from Death of a Naturalist (1966)

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