Saturday, 25 March 2017

#22: Field border

A strange reversal, when the edges of a field are richer in plant life than the field itself. I noticed vetch, clover and greater periwinkle on top of the stone wall bordering this local field, plus a white flower I couldn’t identify. The field itself looked bare, presumably waiting for its crop to grow. It’s tempting to lament the monoculture and pesticides which have led to this situation, but it would be hypocritical, given that I had just returned from the weekly market with a rucksack full of giant, cheap fruit and vegetables – enormous shiny red peppers, large apples and leeks – local, but probably grown as pesticide-garnished monocultures under the plastic sheeting which covers large areas of ground around here, especially towards the coast.

When do borders become the richest things in human lives? I couldn’t help thinking of Thoreau’s statement in Walden, his chronicle of years spent living simply, ‘I love a broad margin to my life’. What might this broad margin be? Leisure, weekends? Time to think, create or play? Time which is undirected, not farmed to the last inch, so that it invites a higgledy-piggledy collection of tenants? Thoreau talks of his days which were not ‘minced into hours and fretted by the ticking of a clock’.

Coming back to the real field, I wondered if those borders could be allowed to encroach a bit more – do we not have the technology to intensively farm some bits of land and leave increasing parts to be rewilded, as George Monbiot recommends in his book Feral? Perhaps together with reduced consumption, so that less of the food we buy is thrown away – the charity WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) estimates that an astonishing quarter of the food bought in the UK each year is wasted, mostly by households and food manufacturers, although only 60% of this wastage is avoidable. I will eat those red peppers. 

P.S. A friend tells me that the white flower is Allium, or wild garlic, of which there are more than 40 species in this part of the country.