Our final preparation day is on Wednesday. We will do a final survey and set up arrangements for starting the Residency proper next week – exciting. We will invite Simon over so he can see the allotment "in person". I went up last week to measure the allotment in bodylengths. This was inspired by finding out that the plots used to be measured in rods or perches or poles. All these are the same length i.e. roughly 5.5 yards. This is equivalent to 11 cubits, 5.0292 metres, 16.5 feet. 4 rods make a chain. One source says a standard allotment is 10 poles (10 x 30 yards or 9 x 27 metres). Roughly 300 square yards. But this does not add up. I must measure my allotment. Remember those old exercise books with all these measurements on the back.
Judith’s thoughts about bringing the inside outside made me realise we have 3 baths on the allotment, only one with taps. I went up to take a closer look at them. They are used as water butts now. Jeannie, my co-allotmenteer and I throw in comfrey as it enriches the water and helps the vegetables grow. Washing in rainwater is supposed to be good for your skin, to make your skin soft. I think I will try it.
With the time we’ve set aside for the allotment residency drawing nearer, the issue of a shelter has grown more urgent. Out of the blue I received a call from Simon Barker, an architect based in Eastbourne, offering to join us to help build a shelter.
Simon has a long standing interest in the evolution of improvised buildings such as those found on allotments or developed on PlotLands. We met with Simon yesterday and talked about ways we could work together to build a structure on the allotment using found and recycled materials. We talked about what the shelter will need to provide for us, and how we can make it into something more than just a shed – could it have another function or in some way be a place of transformation, somewhere that offers “a new view”? A telescope? A cinema? A schoolroom? And we talked about the work of Folke Köbberling and Martin Kaltwasser who mount installations and interventions in urban space, building structures from found and re-appropriated materials.
Simon will visit the allotment and we will all start gathering materials ready for a weekend of building at the beginning of October.
I love the shabbiness of allotments. Nevertheless I felt weeds and grass had got out of hand on our preparation day. Thus I took the strimmer and spade to prepare the allotment for the residency proper which starts in a few weeks’ time. It looks much better for its late summer clean.
I took the opportunity for a lesson and examined the leaves of the vegetables and fruit bushes. Spent a happy hour printing from these.
Following our second preparation day, I put aside some time to go through all the photographs I’ve taken at the allotment so far, and to begin to make up a work book in which links might begin to appear.
A couple of photographs have already prompted ideas in my mind. One seems particularly appropriate for our collaboration – “An extra pair of hands”, while a recurring theme, seen here in the image of the shopping trolley, is the constant exchange on the allotment between indoors and outdoors. This set me thinking of words which are common to both the context of cultivation and the domestic, with “beds” for growing vegetables, “carpets” of grass and “blankets” of blossom.
Still of prime importance for the residency is providing ourselves with a shelter. The weather on Wednesday was perfect, but we can’t rely on that to continue, and we will need somewhere to store and look at work as we make it. We have had an offer of help to build a shelter and will be having a meeting to discuss it next week.