Mulberrying in Barton Farm

“Mulberrying” [present participle]: the act of gently meandering in Nature whilst giving the appearance of working. A key component of mental health and well-being. See also “snoozing”.

A casual observer might be forgiven for imagining that all is hot and sweaty down on the school farm. Ditches to be dug, beds to be raised, soil to be improved, wood chip to be added, weeds to be tamed, seedlings to be cajoled, fruit to be picked, plants to be potted.


But a closer look might reveal a team of enthusiasts doing all the work, leaving some to go “mulberrying” in the sunshine, happy to supervise the ripening produce and sprouting shoots. Eager to justify the supervisory role and the responsibility that goes with watching others hard at the tasks one might construct a convincing ‘workout’ session around the various farm activities.


“Hot yoga” perhaps has nothing on the experience of an hour or two down amongst the plants. A few carefully formatted warm ups and calisthenics cutting giant lengths of bamboo then leads seamlessly into some high-level stretches amidst the picking of wing beans. Low level extension and flexion is easily accommodated with ground level planting of seedlings before gliding into considering the ‘powerhouse’ as A frames are erected. Next some careful beam balance as you negotiate the plank bridge over the ditch, focusing on good core strength to stabilise the teetering wheelbarrow full of woodchip. Good forearm and triceps workout is engaged at the ‘tip and go’ point where the load is upended around the plants. Back for more at a brisk walk with multiple repetitions; plenty of eccentric muscle action. Spade work at the wood chip pile; a must for those developing essential knee and lateral flexion and always a popular spot for the keen beans.


Meanwhile much “mulberrying” goes on: a gentle amble down the pineapple avenue, pausing to count the emerging crop. A careful eye on the dangling dal, and a consideration of the time to harvest. The crop has been very good and the pods are splitting in the sun; another task for someone else to do. The ginger needs talking to now that it has decided to sprout and a careful scraping of the soil reveals some plump root stock ready for the canteen stir fry. So too the turmeric, firmly established and spreading beyond its original bed. Good as a natural pesticide as well as slicing and dicing in the kitchen. It nestles next to the lemon grass, partners in natural repellents. Time to call over the volunteers to select some stems. High and low level limes are available with an elegant 3+ metre tree as well as two very low level mini versions, all loaded with fruit. Beyond the lines of blossoming torch ginger [a table decoration needs to be gathered] lurk the surprising water melon, surprising because they have grown at all and also look like the genuine article. Experienced “mulberrying” of course relies on never looking surprised at anything, merely taking in one’s causal stride all that appears: a very large monitor lizard [ah, yes, I wondered what that noise in the undergrowth was], the staggering speed of sugar cane growth [uh huh, yup, I expected those shoots to be out by now], the ability of basil cuttings to survive [31, 32, 33 new plants. Good good]. Mulberries too of course need tasting now that they are ripening up after some judicious pruning. The original line alongside the playing fields has been extended by over 150 new plants grown from cuttings, allowing plenty of scope for professional mulberrying to take place; a casual sweep of the hand across the tops, an occasional taste of a ripened fruit, a pretend nonchalance at the manic overloading of the branches with new buds, a gaze into the middle distance as the volunteers emerge from their most recent endeavours.


Time for a coffee break; and perhaps a mulberry infusion.


Friends of MCM meet every Wednesday to do all the work that needs doing!

You may also like