Today I had an opportunity to work in a couple of different departments at work, with the idea being that we could get an insight into the daily processes and practices of colleagues, as well as in some cases being an extra pair of hands if needed.
So I swapped my Chef's whites and apron and set off for a morning with the Garden team.
As with Catering there is only a small core of staff - only five garden staff tend and manage a huge area of land; twenty acres of formal gardens which need to be maintained, a one-and-a-half acre walled garden growing produce for use in the kitchens and for sale to the public, as well as two other properties entirely. On top of that, they cultivate plants for sale at other properties in the area, functioning effectively as a Nursery.
In this they are supported by an army of volunteer gardeners, and as with Catering, these volunteers need to be supported and nurtured and looked after, because without the whole system would break down.
So, following a briefing meeting, which I missed (thank you temporary traffic lights) I was set to the task of watering the nursery - five poly-tunnels full of vegetables and plants, each with different needs, and each tunnel with different conditions - temperature, humidity, airflow - and if you're ever stressed out by anything, that is one of the most therapeutic jobs you can do.
Next was plant prep, labelling, trimming, dead-heading and top-dressing pot plants ready for dispatch to half-a-dozen other outlets around the county. It was described as a conveyor belt - it was a production line!
Then planting some of the one thousand (!) leek seedlings, in regimented lines, 16 inches between the rows, 8 inches between the plants, back-breaking work. I made the holes for maybe 120 of these tiny potential plates of food. The garden team will have to do the other 880, plus the onions, rhubarb, cabbage, celeriac, redcurrant, cucumbers, tomato, chard, kale, pumpkin....
I really enjoyed the few hours I spent in the gardens - it was gratifying to see the dedication and passion obvious in the staff and volunteers, and interesting to see the priorities and planning that go to ensure that the whole outfit works smoothly.
I hope that all this produce goes to a good home.