A Forgotten Life
Posted by Michael Allen, 13th May 2009
My son Niall and I arrived at the Mahon site to work on our allotment it is Tuesday 5th of May a beautiful day. On entering through the large green gates, the clonking sound of the metal bolt abruptly disturbing the tranquillity that greets you. As we both strolled down the gravel pathway, the glorious warm May sun caressed the allotments and waving in the gentle breeze were a diversity of young vegetable plants. Instantaneously your eyes are greeted by Catherines' multi-coloured scarecrow that stands proudly on guard with head aloft and eyes scanning the trees. The gravel pathway separating allotments on the left and right. Allotments on the left worked by Trish, Sylvia, Lucille, and Finbarr with his high-rise domed shaped greenhouse. On the right Becci, Maura, Cian, David, Catherine, Niall and myself, Paul and finally Tom & Kevin. Kevin came into view at the opposite end of the allotment where the patio table and chairs stood unoccupied on the lawn. The bold Robin caught our eyes as he skid majestically across the fence of the pig run like a Californian surfer. Kevin introduced Niall and I to our new resident as she was entering the site in her preferred mode of transport, a box. She is a beautiful petite clocking hen accompanied by her twelve unborn chicks(eggs).
Kevin rushed the amber feathered mother and the unborn into the maternity unit, otherwise known as the Aviary. The twelve eggs were meticulously placed by Kevin into the specially built incubator (hen box). Beads of sweat glistened from Kevin's brow highlighting the excitement of the moment. The clocking hen was put through a thorough medical examination by Kevin, Niall and myself. i.e. Kevin, "she’s a lovely hen" myself, "she is" Niall, "mmm." The medical examination complete Niall, Kevin and myself exited the maternity unit. The two remaining pigs, including the three laying hens and the ten broilers, have gathered at their garden fences grunting and clucking as if showing interest in the new clocking hen. One of the pigs let us know he wants breakfast as he shoves the trough with his snout across the concrete path. The clocking hen will have the privileges of the other free-range chickens and pigs. Specially built homes and floors covered from wall to wall with the most expensive wood shavings and recreation areas. Care is provided daily for the chickens and pigs by the allotmenteers, Paul being the chief s**t collector. These animals are free from intensive farming and their culinary diets are Organic and G.M. free too. Only the best of animal welfare provided, a life of free-range bliss! Thus, providing the allotmenteers with quality food fit for human consumption free of unnecessary contaminants. We must not forget the conditions they could have been left in, in contrast to the animal welfare they enjoy on the Mahon allotments. Unlike other pigs and hens that are caged for the duration of their natural life’s and will never see the light of day. Niall and I strolled to our allotment pass the tool shed with its muddy path that has been covered by Catherine with strips of carpet so as not to muddy her trainers. We walked through the lawn via the herb box, and the rockery garden with its pathway known as the duck walk. The duck walk is a pathway that meanders through the rockery up to and under a small archway in the stonewall that leads to a pond, a duck pond! which is on the convent side of the stonewall. This rockery and duck walk were laboriously and exquisitely created by Maura and children. The rockery garden adorned with exotic flowering plants which is fitting for entry in the Chelsea flower show. Glancing at Toms' and Kevins' allotment the crow doing her daily lap-dance as she swings erotically on the pole that protrudes from the earth and reaches so high it gently touches the blue May sky.
On to our allotment, Niall and I tend to our young crops which are free of herbicide and pesticide sprays. As I peered through the window of the greenhouse, Becci strutted on to the site with a smile that straddled from ear to ear like a hammock, her hold-all strewn over her shoulders cool as an ice cube in the desert, so she was! Stephen Bailey arrived later as he promised with numerous bags of Micro-Life organic compost they donated to the allotments. This soil en-richer that’s teeming with microbes and bacteria which are fundamental to any vegetable garden, its gardeners gold! The benefits of this organic matter in soil can help to improve, Structure, Water Holding Capacity, Temperature, Microbes, Plant Nutrients, Nutrient Capacity, PH and Erosion.
The clonking sound of the metal bolt abruptly disturbing the tranquillity and our concentration, heads popup like rabbits in a meadow wandering who has just arrived, its Cian! Cian is our proud Artisan Chef with a passion for traditional food and cooking. Cian puts his possessions into his three storey Argos greenhouse and he turns and strolls over to me. He hands me a plastic carton with the liver from one of our pigs we recently slaughtered at P J Crowe’s organic pig farm. Cian explains to me how to marinade the liver adding mushrooms, onions, Soya sauce and garlic I am now drooling profusely from the mouth like Niagara Falls. The day for us has come to an end thanks to Cian. Niall and I gather up our tools and lock the double doors of our greenhouse for another day. As Niall and I were about to exit the allotments, the pheasant flew up from the convent side on to the century old stonewall to bid us farewell, his prehistoric screech cutting threw the serenity of the allotments. I turned to Niall and said, ‘they can keep their Celtic Tiger I don’t want him back, the scream of a Pheasant the grunt of the pigs the clucking of the hens the song from the bold Robin are the only roars I want to hear, they can keep their foreign holidays, the life of an allotmenteer is enough for me!’ Walking back up the gravel pathway I stopped… …momentarily looking back over the site. With a sigh of contentment I stood with pride gazing at the ingenuity of the allotmenteers when creating their respective allotments. Wavin drainpipes stood vertically and also hung horizontally all filled with soil, strawberry plants leaning out through holes cut into the wavin pipes resembling Irish holidaymakers in an apartment complex on the Costa Del Sol. Greenhouses erected from salvaged materials built with resourcefulness and commitment. Raised vegetable beds made with planks supplied from a nearby construction site, old window frames, mesh wire and concrete blocks removed from skips formed archways and paths. Materials that would otherwise have been added to the City dump and just a short few weeks past this was an overgrown unused site but now it is teaming with life. Just a short few weeks past most of the allotmenteers did not know each other but now a friendship has developed, a friendship that has emanated from a mutual desire to appreciate and work with nature and ultimately enjoy the fruits of their labour.
I turned to Niall and said, it was people power that created this Garden of Eden! "mmm" Niall replied. "This is what life is all about dad, simplicity! Niall said. 'mmm' I replied.
The clonking sound of the metal bolt unlocking the double green gates abruptly disturbing the tranquillity that we were leaving behind. A Glorious Tuesday in May never to be forgotten!