I’m trudging. There’s something ennobling about a good trudge. A tough journey needs to be made so you just make it. Sometimes it’s a trudge back from Spar where you bought too much, were too tight to buy two plastic bags and now you’ve lost feeling in the in fingers of one hand.
This trudge a proper one though. I’m walking to and from the car with sacks – okay, one sack at a time – of manure balanced on my shoulder. Like a man. I’m bringing it to The Allotment that we’ve rented for the first time two weeks ago.
Now what do we do?
As a farmer’s sons, the weight of history is on our shoulders. Ideally of course we should be bringing in heavy tractors, knocking half the gate-posts off, getting stuck in a river and working until three in the morning before the weather breaks. I should get involved in a boundary dispute over an nice ash tree that is growing into My Field while my brother fills out applications for Area Aid.
One step at time though. First, we had to dig. The spade and fork were of course new and, embarrassingly, still have the price labels on. That’s not how a spade should be. It should be smoothened and discoloured by twenty years of handling. I’ll have to get it aged somewhere by a man with more digging to do.
Digging was an escape. This was no place to obsessively check an iPhone or tweet about the nobility of a good trudges. I tried but now I have earth all over my iPhone. For a blissful few hours, my mind cleared and concentrated on proper work. The useless bit of my brain that takes care of daydreams created some new ones to mark progress. They were not very environmentally friendly daydreams. I was a pioneer taming the vast wilderness, breaking treaties with the natives, hunting the larger mammals for their valuable furry ears, extracting precious minerals.
Speaking of minerals, the bags of manure are now on site. With my upbringing, buying four-bags-for-the-price-of-three in Homebase is not the dung thing. There should have been a steaming heap leaning against the shed where the cattle were but those golden days are long gone for now.
With our suburban manure and new tools we are ready to plant. In the movies, they show the seeding bits, skip a few weeks and suddenly there’s a crop. As soon as we put the seeds in the drills, we are convinced we are doing something completely wrong and the horticultural fraternity are watching us on Candid Camera, laughing. The instructions on the seed packets mention nurseries and seed beds. We read it with the attitude of someone who’s just discovered an entire section of exam paper they didn’t know was on the course. But we carry on. Nature has to do some bit of the work, right?
And now we wait.
This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on June 24th, 2013