The fruit plot has also benefited from the sunshine, with everything ripening at least a month early. Never before have I made damson fruit cheese on a hot August afternoon. A most peculiar experience, although the early harvests have enabled me to get a few jobs done ahead of time. We leave for France in two weeks and there is much to do before we go. Last weekend was spent weeding and pruning the soft fruit, currant and gooseberry beds, tying in the cordon pears, cutting the paths and clearing out the shed. I'm always amazed at how much we accumulate. Since we stopped growing so much veg and switched to mostly fruit, my make-shift potting bench (miraculously held up by one bracket) had been made redundant. Over the years it had become a dumping area instead for all the bits and pieces you think you will use but never do, like used plant ties (I'm darned if I'll ever undo those knots), off-cuts of wire, brackets, nuts and bolts, bits of string, plastic plant pots, a ruler, pencils, old seed packets, a duster...?
Through the process of sorting and clearing I began to reflect on the space we had almost single-handedly planned and created, blissfully naive back then to the things that growers should know about planting and harvesting times, soil condition and crop diseases. Eager with our forks and spades, we just wanted to claim our portion of 'the good life,' way before With her Hands came into existence. Boy have we learnt a lot in that time. Beyond the growing, tending and harvesting, I have learnt a lot about myself and grown because of it. When life felt difficult, I'd retreat to the shed to enjoy the quiet meditative task of sowing seeds. When I was angry, I'd dig. When I was sad I'd sit amongst the fruit trees and look out at the view. It was hard not to feel thankful. The space we created had wrapped itself around us and nurtured us in more ways than we will ever know.
As I packed away the small calor gas stove, enamel plates and mugs, I was reminded of the many plot to plate brunches we'd enjoyed; boiled eggs with just picked tender asparagus, half the veg patch frittatas and hot buttered corn. I thought about how lucky we were to be caretakers of such a place. Surely we are changed because of it. We finished for the day, our forks hung up side by side in their usual places, united in the belief that someday soon, perhaps - maybe when France becomes our permanent home - others will come and add their own narratives to ours and will, like us, be better people because of it.
Damson Fruit Cheese
Makes about 1kg (2lb 4oz)
500g (1lb 2oz) unrefined cane sugar
glycerine or flavourless oil, for the moulds