May

by Max Akroyd

 

For me, May is the watershed month.

Fruit and vegetable-wise the harvest is still a bit thin as the long wait for fruition continues. But this starts to change quite rapidly by the end of the month as the rest – the leaves, roots and shoots we eat – start to come thick and fast. The opportunity to sow things is comensurately reduced though: the vast majority of seeds sown from June will be an uneasy ‘late sowing’. The foundations for every edible plan need to be laid this month or filed, improbably, under ‘maybe next year’…

Inedible things are burgeoning too. Making our cultivated food crops look like the overbred weaklings they are – weeds, grasses and everything else farm animals conveniently process for us – swamp the last vestiges of winter’s sparseness.

With that mud and drear a distant memory, this is the time of abundance for the animals. Leaves for the goats, endless vegetable peelings and trimmings for the hens and, in the case of the pigs, there’s the regular chance to take their siestas outoors in the bramble patch. It’s capturing this contentment, as much as the diversity of  their outdoor diet, which makes the end product so rich.

Hopefully this month will see the arrival of lots of ducklings – poor mother duck has certainly been sitting for long enough. And the conception of some goslings too, if the gander diverts some of the energy spent squawking and shaking his head at all and sundry into a bit of bird on bird action.

The new month will also see the (slightly delayed) arrival of the meat hens. It would be easy to stay as a pork monoculture, but instinct suggests that we need another broad supply of animal protein. Another animal-related certainty is the need to radically reduce imported grain in their diet. Forage crops are going to be mentioned quite a bit this month. Which is nice because I’ll be able to say mangel-wurzel a lot.  

It’s just as well the animals are hard at work. If the sowing train is leaving I’m definitely faced with a last-minute, undignified sprint to get on board this year! My determination to get planting spaces ready on the field has meant the absolute basics are in pots and open soil, but nothing more. And there’s a new throng of good things joining April’s ranks of the unsown: beans, sweet corn and squash.

Fortunately motivation isn’t lacking to get these wonderful, abundant crops going. Just time…