I have today been energised by a visit with Stephen and Julia Hayes who since 1992 have developed an orchard in Durley, Hampshire. I was blessed deeply by my time with them; they are affirming and generous. They have achieved much, but share their knowledge in an open and gentle way (more details…).
The object of my visit was to dig up 15 young trees surplus to requirements. These are now planted on Aldermoor Community Farm, standing in a row near the north fence. We have no ground cleared yet so I thought it best to keep them at the edge. I struggled with rope-like nettle roots to get the trees planted and now they stand looking nervously at the ground cover of stinging nettles that have recently woken up from their winter sleep mere inches away. By the time next winter comes I hope to be ready to move them into their final growing position. I hope they survive this year!
Touring the orchard with Stephen I was surprised how often he pointed out the mistakes they had made over the years. In every corner of the 9-acre site lurked something they had done that they wished they had done differently. Stephen looks around and is reminded of mistakes. I looked around and saw success, success, success. Hundreds of trees producing apples, pears and plums. I saw harvest, achievement, experience, abundance. I saw true wealth – a range of biological systems up and running, producing a crop. They have transformed rough pasture into a wonderfully productive and beautiful place.
If I took you on a tour of Aldermoor Community Farm this week I would show you an acre of bramble, nettle, willow and a number of self-seeded oak trees. I would talk very excitedly about all the possibilities. But I don’t have any stories to tell – I haven’t started anything yet. I haven’t even been much of a gardener in the past and all I can tell you about is my experience with last year’s accidental tomatoes (a story for another time, perhaps). What I’m getting at is I don’t have any of my own mistakes to report on.
Now I have planted the 15 various apple trees. Now I have done something. Maybe I put them in the wrong place; maybe I planted them too deep or too close together. Maybe the deer will get them. But now I have some experience to learn from.
Stephen and Julia share their experience through their website and videos, and they never hide their mistakes. But they have not made “the greatest mistake”. And me? Me neither. I came home and planted the trees. I have begun to do something.
The greatest mistake? The greatest mistake is to do nothing.