Do you get stuck making choices between A and B, forgetting that there are many different paths? Some of which are more overgrown with weeds than others.
Soon after we moved back to Sheffield in 2016 we put our name down for an allotment. With a 9 month and 2 yr old in tow we thought maybe we’d get one in a couple of years. Hmm. Within the month we’d taken on a large overgrown plot on the edge of the woods with some fantastic natural dens ready and waiting for the kids. Our lovely friends joined us to help and we started to cultivate the half that wasn’t boggy or taken over by ash trees. It is so peaceful up there, and a complete sun trap. We weeded whilst the youngest napped and the eldest sat with snacks and the older kids in the woods. There was cider on sunny days, there were bonfires on cold days, there was courgette cake and apple crumble. it was exactly the kind of outdoorsy existence I had pictured for my young family.
Fast forward to this summer, two years on, and we’ve been up there much less. We’ve tried to grow raspberries in two different places on the plot, but unlike in our garden where they flourish, the ground is just too boggy for berries. Our friends who had been able to help have now been given their own plot, really near their house, so need to focus on that. My eldest had a dance show (parents of children who dance will know all this entails!) I had PTA events coming out of my ears last term, and all of that on top of the usual work trips and parenting.
When I visited the plot in July I didn’t feel peaceful and calm, I felt overwhelmed by how quickly it became overgrown in just a 10 day window. (And that’s even after my mum bought us an all singing all dancing strimmer for our birthdays.)
It started to become another responsibility we had, rather than a peaceful space to do some therapeutic weeding.
So what to do? I know from my client work that we often see decisions as either or: my existing job or the one I’ve just been offered, to move back home or stay in london, to give up our dream of allotmenting utopia or battle on through. We often get caught in ‘it’s A or B’ decision making, and I knew this was one of those situations where that wasn’t going to cut it!
So I sat down with my partner and we asked the question ‘what’s important to us about having an allotment?’
The answers included teaching our kids about how things grow and where our food comes from, spending time outdoors as a family in a shared pastime, and getting out into a peaceful spot for aforementioned therapeutic weeding!
These are values, things that are important to us.
Then we thought: how could we get these values met without the overwhelming responsibility of a large boggy patch of 40% veg plot and 60% nettles and dock leaves?
We came up with: growing things in our garden – it’s not huge but it’s enough for raspberries, tomatoes and a courgette plant, going for adventures in the countryside and also engaging in a bit of guerilla weeding for our friends with allotments (‘please don’t come and help me weed my allotment’ said no one ever.)
So we said bye bye to our allotment on Saturday, and we had a final harvest of onions, courgettes and green beans. And we look forward to helping our friends maintain their own urban idylls. We’ve got tomatoes and courgettes in our garden already which need watering (good job the three year old loves the hosepipe), and we’ll be going on many more adventures in the countryside (but not the boggy bit, said the three year old, after a misadventure in the woods at Burbage Edge which ended up in everyone having to scale a fallen tree to escape. Too right Sam, we replied, we’re taking a break from all kinds of bogs, just for now.)
If you’re feeling uncomfortable or struggling with a decision it may well be that a values button has been pressed. Ask yourself ‘what values are at play here?’ Or ‘what’s the most important thing for me right now?’ It can free you up from A or B decision making and help you realise that there are infinite paths for you to fulfil your needs and your values, all of which will be bordered by different kinds of weeds…. sorry, wildflowers for you to enjoy.
This summer we were able to free up our time and head space whilst maintaining focus on the things that are important to us, and i call that a win win.
If you liked this, you might also like this blog to help you think through making decisions when you’re dealing with a lot of change.