Text and accompanying images written for a cancelled project from 2021.
Things, overlap (notes on growing)
We started with a ton of shit from the farm and dug it in to the ground, worried about time and poisoning, nitrogen and decay. Should we have buried it deeper? Will the worms mix in time? I really don’t know much, slug-eaten city runner beans have not given me enough knowledge. In the end it turned out ok. I built a compost bed, displacing the energy for art making in to a functional object. A container for waste. Now I’m back in a town I see how much of the bodies of plants we were recycling through the simple process of composting. Waste seems not waste when you are putting it back in the earth, for plants to draw it up again and feed back to animals, us included. Maybe I’m wrong.
And I used to be a citizen
And I never felt the pressure
And I knew nothing of the horses
And I knew nothing of the thresher (1)
The Cerinthe Purpurascens that I chose for the aesthetics on a supermarket packet overwhelmed the herb bed and made a home for more bees than I’ve ever heard. The potato plants flowered and—thanks to these bees being drawn to the garden—were pollinated and produced bloated, pendulous berries; the real fruit of the plant: tomato like and inedibly tannic. I didn’t know this would happen. I squeezed the seeds from the flesh and brought them hundreds of miles south to Cornwall. A unique hybrid, unlike the tubers we sprouted and put in the ground months before, maybe they’ll grow here, climate migrants in a warmer world. Maybe their bodies will miss the cool, like ours missed the sun.
The thing things. Thinging gathers (2)
I’d never seen a slow worm, then I saw one living, then I saw many, many more severed by bike wheels on the road by the wall. Rabbits rush over the other wall when I open the gate, aware somehow of territory, of the lines of fences and places they should and shouldn’t be. I feel sad about this but also I want to eat my vegetables myself. Where does sharing begin and end? I wish we could walk over walls like them. Something has died in the density of the wildflowers, I never find the body but the smell of it hangs warmly for weeks as it turns back into another kind of life.
You look at a cabbage now, they tip over the chemicals round there, you can even hear the cabbages going ‘SKKWAAARRK, SKWARRR’, growing. Well, when you boiling the cabbage up, you smell the steam, what can you smell? Well, like a lot of pig squeal, not fit to eat. In other words they’re too tired to smell…ha…yes, too tired to break wind even. (3)
The soft wet leaves flop down and fall, I crack them off and pile them up and up in the compost, over weeks they hump down and mix with all the other leavings, the eggshells and coffee. Tomatoes rot on the vine, in a wet northern valley they can’t ripen. Perfect onions throw themselves out of the soil and I can hardly believe it, seeds germinate and pull down mass from the air. Splitting molecules. Building their bodies from carbon and breathing out oxygen.
Creation is a continuing process and “the process itself is the actuality”, since no sooner do you arrive than you start on a fresh journey (4)
Things overlap. Things die, get eaten & eat. So much air turns in to so many beans, the shit dug in flows up and grows, broccoli heads flower yellow again and again. Cut, they grow. Again and again. No fence is rabbit proof, no raspberries come. Rhubarb seems to die and then seems to live again. We do what we do and we leave, compost rotting for the next year. Fruit flesh, egg shells and leaves all cabagging down to mulch. Larvae crawl over and into the leaves, we fear at first then learn to share: they eat much less than us and life circles and bursts through them in white wings, to flap against netting. It’s cold and foggy in June, the brassicas push themselves out inside the wet air. The soil, the mildness, the air, the isolation. All these things were gifts to our garden, the plants made themselves where we put them. So much grows out of this dark earth, so much life from little, joyful tending. A garden, safety & joy. Life. There’s very little I know and very much to do in the not knowing.
1 Scott Walker, Farmer in the City
2 Martin Heidegger
3 ‘Oily Page’, The Moon and the Sledgehammer
4 Alfred North Whitehead