When my parents were looking for a house in the second half of the 1970s, their choice was influenced, in large part, by thoughts of self-sufficiency. They bought the new house because it had been a smallholding, and they proceeded to grow vegetables on an industrial scale. My teenage experience of ‘helping’ in the veg patch informs much of what I did when I started the Midlife Garden. Initially, I was rebelling, trying to do things differently from what my father did, but increasingly I have come to grudgingly accept that much of what he did in the garden was actually sensible and effective.
My father’s quest for self-sufficiency stemmed from the bad old days of the early seventies with the threat of nuclear war and the challenge of oil supplies from OPEC. But these days not everyone looks back at the seventies with horror. Our two erstwhile candidates for the post of Leader of the Conservative Party hark back to the election of 1979 and are in a race to the bottom to prove that they are the real Spirit of Thatcher, competing to see who can promise the lowest taxes, the most Grammar Schools and fewest immigrants.
In 2022 my own desire to grow more veg has been sharpened by concerns similar to TOM’s, over oil prices, inflation and even the thought of nuclear obliteration. So, in another nod to my parents’ efforts I have begun blanching and freezing our excess crops, starting with the peas. In the past we have not always been as diligent as we could have been in preserving our full crop of veg. Rumour has it we have had to import two thirds of our own vegetables. Only five words to describe that situation: That. Is. A. Dis. Grace.
Of course, at the Old Place we also raised pigs which meant a plentiful supply of meat for the family. Our opening up of the Midlife Pork Market went some way to filling the freezer, but now that we eat less meat at MLG, we are more reliant on veg, so blanching and freezing is back the hot topic around here.
Unfortunately, it does not look as if we will have much surplus in many crops. The beans are a case in question. Very much the Rishi Sunaks of the veg patch, they were looking good at the start of July, but they have since bolted, appear increasingly desperate and are unlikely to be as successful as we first thought.
Instead, we have a great crop of tomatoes (yes, it’s a good season for trusses, you will be pleased to hear). And also peppers are doing well in the greenhouse. But, if the tomatoes are on Trusses, they might struggle to find their way out of the greenhouse…
While the indoors is thriving, the hot dry spell has left the raised beds looking arid and many crops are wilting. But fear not, as many online trolls have pointed out, it is no worse than the “Long Hot Summer of 76”, so why worry? Don’t be distracted by so-called experts at the Met Office (what do they know?). Let’s get back to the 70s, when we elected our first female Prime Minister. Maybe that is what the Midlife Garden needs: Iron Lady II – the War on Garden Waste. Blanche and Freeze to our heart’s desire, and let’s party like it’s 1979.