It’s quite a while since you last had an Eva’s Update and high time I put that right. However, I am mindful of the advice received from one of our customers who, exasperated with my previous poetic offerings, left a phone message to say “Look we don’t need the Gettysburg Address – just tell us what’s going in the boxes!” She was quite right of course. Until that verbal slap I had come to regard newsletter-writing as a sort of personal therapy – an opportunity to recollect in tranquillity the point of our efforts to grow your food in ways that nurture the biosphere and to try and grasp what a Victorian thinker might have called ‘nature sensibility’.
Well, as is the way with reverie, real life intervened last December, caused a six-month cessation of updates and nearly scuppered our entire enterprise. Let me explain.
One score and ten years ago, a union was formed on this continent, conceived in hilarity and dedicated to the proposition: oh what the heck, it’ll be a laugh. And an excellent laugh it has turned out to be. I met Debbie at 2.33 in the afternoon on Saturday 30th May 1981 on the hot deck of a Greek ferry as it ploughed a white furrow through deep Aegean blue en route to the herb-scented island of Sifnos. She was a vacationing student nurse with dark curly hair and sunburned shoulders. I was a bronzed plant collector with a welcoming grin and ample capacity to forgive being mistaken for an Englishman.
The world will little note nor long remember what I say here but, to cut a long story short, our cup of mutual devotion filled in full measure as we went forth and multiplied: a boy then a girl then a boy – David, Fiona and Robert. If that trend had continued we would’ve called the next one Eva but three was a charm so we stopped there and put the spare name into safe storage in case it came in handy in the future. When fate delivered us to Cumbria it soon became clear that while its weather and much of its soil would challenge the grower, it was an ideal place for a family to put down roots. This took time of course and as Mother Earth revolved and resolved every day to continue her slightly eccentric elliptical orbit, the seasons passed and lots of interesting things happened which I’ll tell you about another time. All you need to know now is that while the children grew up and Debbie’s dark curly hair turned into a snow-white halo, we dreamed a lovely dream and called it Eva.
Debbie made it real by combining a good nurse’s natural empathy with an abundance of practical common sense that served to temper my airy-fairy notions and give them a fighting chance of survival. So without wishing to sound overly sentimental, I can tell you that a pig with a glass eye could see how much Debbie means to me and would not be surprised to learn that I am well-disposed towards her. The preceding lines summarise a train of thought that recurred during several sleepless nights last December while she lay in Intensive Care at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. A ruptured aneurysm on the left side of the loop of cerebral arteries called the Circle of Willis had caused an outage in the supply of oxygenating corpuscles to a portion of her brain resulting in a loss of muscle power on her right side and worse still in her ability to speak coherently. I held her good hand and searched for clues to what was happening in the complexity of hardware plugged into her arms and neck. It occurred to me that after all these years working with organic vegetables, it would be ironic indeed if she became one and somewhat less than agreeable if she died.
But she did neither! Thanks to the breathtaking skill of the doctors and nurses who looked after her, she is now well on the way to full recovery with no obvious deficits other than a slight loss of temperature sensation on her right side and a tendency to get tired more quickly. Long days in the office and packing shed are probably a thing of the past and we both really must accept that our hunch that we are immortal is probably not correct. So we are now engaged in a long process of working out where Eva goes from here. There’s an orchard to develop – the cherries and plums should give their first crop this season and there might be enough apples and pears to experiment with juice-making. We have plans to plant a wider range of soft fruit at Houghton and to increase production of winter vegetables. Our nine polytunnels continue to produce wholesome produce all year round but the process of improvement never ends. We need people to build on the foundations we’ve laid over the last fifteen years so if you know anyone who might be interested in the challenge, let us know. Meanwhile, as we sample our first strawberries of the season and Debbie enhances this week’s boxes with our home grown organic chard, spinach, lettuce, pak choi, parsley, mint, rocket, Oriental leaves and chop suey greens, we can reaffirm our belief that government of the vegetables by Eva’s Organics for the people shall not perish from the earth.