Adjusting The Plots

Ella Montt is in the process of giving up Plot 326. Plot 21 will still be a working area investigating plant material, human labour and non-human agents; wildlife and weather. Art practice is still at the core of the investigation and how allotments can act and be used as studios through the act of gardening labour.

Another Plot could be forthcoming in the future, but for now the wait for this Plot is determined by a waiting list.

The Moon in the Sky

Ella Montt originated from across the Sky. While EM was labourig the Plot she would often gaze in to the infinity, watching old and new stars blink from far far away. The Earth’s Moon waxed and waned and sometimes she saved and stored glimpsed images of the Earth Moon as the seasons changed and days and light years passed. EM was grounded in the Allotment Garden but her thoughts were all around her and floated through time and space. Seeds were sown and plant life (sometimes) germinated and grew as the Moon and Earth slowly wobbled, rotating suspended in the Sky.


Time Flew By

Ella Montt’s gardening labour at both Plot 326 and Plot 21 continued. The labour was constantly juxtaposed and intertwined with everyday human life. Ella Montt studied the subtle differences. Art as life and life as Art. A practice of everyday life and the practice of everyday life. Time passed by and plant material growth altered with the seasons. Time activated the growth of plants. The plants created a constantly fluxing installation, a living sculpture both shaped and constantly shaping by gardening labour and forces of nature, all of which were part of nature.

The contrast of soil workability was evident when digging the Plots. Plot 326 had soil which when wet was sticky and heavy mud. When dry Plot 326’s soil was rock-like; unpenetrable and unworkable. The spade tool and the fork tool were quite useless when Plot 326’s soil was dry. Plot 21’s soil was different; the soil was easily workable when wet or dry. Differences in the soil created different environments for fruit and vegetable produce to grow. Some plants were more successful at times than others. Gardening is a labour of constant experimentation. The Allotment Plot a kin to an Artist’s Studio and the practice of gardening an Art Genre.

New Plot

Ella Montt acquired a new allotment plot, Plot 21, in May 2015. Plot 21 is at a different location to Plot 326, and makes an interesting juxtaposition in everyday life on Spaceship Earth. When Ella Montt accepted this new allotment challenge, she realized cultivation of two plots would not be easy. There are advantages and disadvantages of both plots. The soil on the new Plot 21 is easier to manipulate and has less wild plants embedded in its structure. The new plot has other structures on the Plot, acting as legacy left by previous cultivators, which will enable the plot’s cultivation.

The time of year (May) was already on going in the growing season and Ella Montt had to act quickly to encourage edible plant growth on Plot 21. Cultivation of the Plot began. Ella Montt cut the grass at both Plots and planted seeds. Meanwhile wildlife agents interacted with the Plot. Pigeons and other big birds waited for Ella Montt’s absence. Robin birds engaged with cultivation activity. The Robin birds were even more friendly than Plot 326’s and landed (within cms) on tools. Often it was not over warm; sunshine was frequent and rain un-frequent. The soil dried and needed water applications. Plant roots were cleared and new plants started to germinate.


Allotment Plotting: Spaceship Earth 21st Century, a Continuum

Ella Montt emerged from the Allotment Shed. She recently transported back to Spaceship Earth. Her visits to Allotment Plot 326 are essential for its cultivation, yet situated within everyday life so continue sporadically. Ella Montt maintains multiple facets and personalities in everyday life elsewhere (on and off world) determined by social, cultural, vegan and economic priorities. The Plot 326 contains its own life force; wildlife and biodiversity are abundant. It would seem mice eat most of the Plot‘s produce, but birds, Common Lizards and all kinds of insect life also participate in the Plot‘s plants consumption. Often harvestable produce is minimal and some plants fail to grow at all, but plants that did survive and grow, are vibrant and tasty.

Slow Worm

30 December 2012 was a numerical date close to the end of some humans year cycle. On that particular day, the area of the Island where Allotment Plot 326 was situated was experiencing less favourable weather conditions than seen earlier in the predictive reading of Ella Montt’s crystal ball. Ella Montt was however able to visit the Plot without rainfall saturating the event. The ground at the Allotment Plot had continued to receive substantial amounts of rainfall. Plot 325 next to Plot 326 was flooding and collecting a pond of water. When Amphibian life ventures out of hibernation standing ponds of water can be used to breed, but the ponds need to remain in place until the young have developed enough to survive outside of the water.

As each second passes, the human counting system moved ever forward towards the New Year. At the start of a New Year cycle gardeners thoughts can shift through success and failure of plants from previous years; these thoughts are combined with anticipation for plant growth for the coming year. Each harvest no matter how small or large can be seen as a metaphor for human labour, even if the labour can only be attributed in the gathering of a few leaves. The weight of plant growth when harvested can be translated in to profit or loss, even in the eyes of the domestic gardener. Seeds that are purchased are all part of the capital system. Seeds that are saved and used by the seed grower or exchanged with other growers are all part of a system of human interaction. The individual who can sow, grow and save seeds without human authoritarian intervention experiences freedom. The dogmatic authority that requires compliance within their guidelines by using their horticultural products seeks to dictate to individuals and destroy the freedom of the grower.

Ella Montt had started to notice tiny pieces of blue plastic embedded in to the soil of Plot 326. The plastic was not confined to one area, but distributed across the plot. The source of the plastic was unknown. Ella Montt had occupied this particular plot for 28 human month cycles, but it was only in the last month that the plastic had become really apparent. Perhaps the rain had washed the plastic to the surface of the soil? Ella Montt tried to remove the plastic pieces as an on going activity. Then after uncovering an area of the soil that had been covered in tarp, dug the soil, then re-covered the soil with newspaper and cardboard which she weighted down with more tree products including apple tree branches. In the course of this action Ella Montt disturbed a young or female Slow Worm hidden in the soil. It resembled a tiny snake, but was brown on one side and cream on the other with a distinctive marking along its body. The Slow Worm re-entered the soil.

The allotments were bleak in the depths of winter. Harvest was minimal and only centred on an accumulation of a few cabbage leaves and the remainders of the Parsnips that were dug from the soil. There would be no vegetables to harvest for some weeks so nutrition would need to be found elsewhere. The overwintering Broad Beans, Garlic and Onions continued to grow.

Harvest: Winter Green Cabbage leaves = 1oz = 20g; Parsnip White Halblange = 9oz = 620g.

Storm and the Dark Side

3rd November 2012, Plot 326 was experiencing the calm after the backend of the storm. On the island there had been substantial rain and wind in affect, but nothing compared to the Frankenstorm 3000 human miles or so across the ocean. The storm ruined many human habitats and stopped the Halloween parade. For some electrical power was reinstated after so many days, but others were not so fortunate. Did the high usage of electrical power contribute to the storm? Other areas of land occupied by humans were also devastated, but the loss of life was minimal compared to the Japanese tsunami 18 months ago. Ella Montt missed the state’s shared space community, which was a strange predicament as she was virtual. She observed the far off land’s vegetable growing gardening projects through other virtual portals.

The Chard and Spinach growth had been stunted by cold weather, so harvest was limited. Ella Montt attempted to have a bonfire, but the sticks of wood were too wet to burn. Ella Montt changed her activity and covered an area of soil with re-appropriated wood products to create a mulch. There was no sign of the Garlic, Onions or Broad Beans that had recently been planted to over winter. Ella Montt hoped the seeds would not rot in to the soil.

Harvest: mix of leaves including Chard, Perpetual Leaf Beet and Red Mustard = 5oz = 160g; Raspberries = 3oz = 90g; Cabbage Winter Green = 15oz = 420g.

11th November 2012, at Allotment Plot 326 it was a calm sunny day; the temperature was dipping down very low close to freezing at night. Ella Montt dug the soil. The world had been delivered from the dark side (US election). Shoots of new Garlic had started to appear.

Harvest: Cabbage Winter Green = 9oz = 250g; Spinach Giant Winter = 2oz = 60g; Mizuna and Red Mustard = 3oz = 80g; Raspberries = 2oz = 60g; Spinach Perpetual Leaf Beet and Chard mix = 5.5oz = 160g; Potato Nicola = 1lb 12oz = 800g; Parsnip Halblange White = 1lb 1.5oz = 500g.

18th November 2012 – When Ella Montt arrived at Allotment Plot 326 it was another sunny day; temperatures continued to drop down close to freezing at night. The nearby Oak Trees’ leaves were golden. The tree sap rose during the daytime and fell at night producing the tree leaves colour. Tomorrow was predicted to be warmer. Ella Montt finished pruning the old apple tree. The tree had been embedded in to Plot 326 before tenancy began. Ella Montt dug some soil and then covered it with recycled wood products as an overwinter mulch. The nutritional leaves that could be harvested were very small due to the wintery weather and others were being eaten by wildlife as they grew. The tender leaves of new Broad Bean and Onion plants had started to emerge from the soil.

Harvest: Raspberries = 1oz = 20g; Cabbage Winter Green = 10oz = 280g; mix of Chard, Spinach Perpetual Leaf Beet and Red Mustard leaves = 6oz = 170g.

28th November 2012 – It had rained profusely, not just at Allotment Plot 326, but also all over the Island. The winter drought was over. The river known as The Thames (which winds its way to the Island’s human capital) was flooding. Areas marked on old OS maps as “known to flood”, were no doubt flooding too. At Allotment Plot 326, it was a chilly day. Ella Montt moved about the Plot harvesting any nutritional leaves she could find. There were not many leaves, but every leaf accumulated contributed to boost the vital intake. Ella Montt although virtual was financially poor. Poverty was not desirable in current society, but it was an attribute that some could not avoid due to their circumstances. The Allotment Plot was a continuation of allotment history, which itself plots the history of human poverty and the provision of land for the human poor to grow nutritional plants for their own intake.

A Robin bird perched on the hedge and then the fence, as Ella Montt moved about the Plot, the tiny bird followed her and sang its musical song. The bird was always there in the water months when it was getting dark. Ella Montt dug. The soil was heavy and sticky, but luckily this particular Plot was not water logged.

An allotment inspector drove by in a marked red motorized vehicle. Ella Montt had never seen an inspector in this kind of car before. Several plots near by 326 were still empty. Plots were up for renewal and some would change hands as new would be allotment holders reached the top of the list.

Harvest: a mix of Chard and Spinach Perpetual Leaf Beet = 7oz = 200g; 1 x Potato Nicola = 3oz = 90g; 1 x Parsnip Halblange White = 6oz = 180g; Beetroot Bolivar = 8oz = 230g; 1 x Carrot Amsterdam = 15oz = 30g.

The harvest was quite pitiful considering the physical size of the Plot. A failure in vegetable seed germination had contributed to this problem. The weather had been too warm and dry in the spring and then to cold, dry then wet in the following months.