Half Sprung

April 15, 2014

waiting bike

It’s a tough life, but today I had to add a few extra miles to my route back from Bigtown after yoga to deliver some Pedal on Parliament flyers to a local cafe and farm shop. The sun was blazing down* and dazzlingly bright, but I battled on up hill and down dale, stopping only for a cold drink and a a rest once I had arrived there.

hedgerows and trees

The hedgerows are full of green and blossoms and the skies were full of singing larks, but the trees remain resolutely wintry. We’re not there yet, not quite. There’s still springing to be done…

wintry trees

Sometimes it’s hard work bringing about safer cycling in Scotland, but someone’s got to do it…

gate and green field wintry tree two trees

* you may laugh, but I had not really factored in the insulating effect of having my yoga leggings on under my normal trousers and I was genuinely boiling by the time I got there and was able to do a quick change routine in the loo. It was so hot I even considered nipping behind a bush and just continuing in my leggings but they contain lycra and I was concerned someone might think I was a real cyclist.


Facts on the Ground

April 14, 2014

It’s that time of year when you only have to turn your back on a bulb of garlic and it turns into this

garlic bulb sprouting

So it got re-allocated from kitchen duties to joining the overwintering (and by ‘overwintering’ I mean ‘lost track of last summer and only rediscovered it when it sprouted’) garlic up in the veg plot.

overwintering garlic

The garden feels massively behind this year, but things are warming up at last and spring is advancing. Tempting though it is to dive in and go mad on a glorious sunny breezy day like today, the soil is still very damp and claggy and there are frosts forecast so I’m having to hold back from planting anything just yet, apart from the chitted parsnips. Everything else is crammed onto the shed windowsill biding its time with varying degrees of patience – I have to be a bit careful walking past the pea seedlings, lest they start climbing up my leg.

broad beans in flower

Thank goodness for my autumn-planted broad beans. Battered they may be, but they are magnificently in flower. Even though I’ve done practically nothing except take a punt and stick some in the ground last year on the off chance, it almost makes me feel like a real gardener…


Bursting

April 8, 2014

Less than a week ago, I noticed the blackthorn buds were just about to burst into life

blackthorn buds

Coming home from a brief stay in Glasgow I noticed they had burst.

blackthorn in flower

 

Spring is the thing that happens when your back is turned, if you’re not careful. See also life.


Gardening Leave

March 10, 2014

There was much I could have been doing at my computer this afternoon but the sun was out and, while we haven’t had the glorious weather in the past couple of days that the rest of twitter was banging on about, we have had – well, calling it dry weather would be pushing it but it hasn’t been raining all that much since, ooh, the last yellow warning of heavy rain on Friday morning. As a result, most of the garden has gone from squelchy to squidgy making it possible to contemplate catching up with the winter’s backlog. As an added incentive, I was suffering from a baking-related back injury having tweaked something while bending down to put a cake in the oven and sitting at the computer wasn’t making it any better, so an afternoon’s binge gardening definitely beckoned.

garden before

Four hours later, I’m not entirely sure that weeding and wheelbarrowing was exactly what the doctor would have ordered for a dodgy back although it was still better than crouching over my laptop all day. Nor am I entirely sure that I’ve made any progress – in my experience, the more you garden, the more you discover there is to be done.

garden after

But I did achieve my main objectives: I found some of my spring flowers lurking under all the died back plants and liberated them, I managed not to then promptly tread on any of them, and I’ve added several barrowloads of plant material to the compost heap. In truth ‘adding material to the compost heap’ is pretty much the only achievement I’ve found I can rely on when gardening. Everything else is just in the lap of the slugs. If slugs have laps.

emerging anenome

And the cake? Well truly, revenge is a dish best served cold. Accompanied by a steaming hot fresh cup of coffee.

cake and coffee

raspberry and lemon yoghurt cake – nom nom nom. Please try not to look at the the weeds behind…


It’s not often…

February 11, 2014

… we sit up here and listen to the South East of England getting all our weather. I used to live in Maidenhead so the news bulletins have been a bit of a trip down memory lane, albeit one where memory lane has required a pair of chest waders and/or a rubber dinghy to negotiate.

We were forecast all sorts ourselves today from sleet to heavy rain to ice, but so far apart from one short snow flurry it’s actually been (whisper it) sunny, if cold. It only promises to be a brief respite between storms but I took the opportunity of a free afternoon after my epic work bout to go and see whether anything was going on in the garden – looks like the snowdrops have recovered from last year’s harvest, anyway.

snowdrops

Whether you’re flooded, soggy, or just anxiously watching the waters rise, hang on in there. Spring *is* on its way…

It has to be.


Signs of … Something

February 7, 2014

I was a bit startled, when cycling through the village, to be accosted by a fellow gardener and asked if I was planning on going to potato day again this year. Already? I thought. It’s not even as if winter has properly started yet, and here people are planning for spring. And then I was startled again as I stuck my head out of the door to chat with a passing neighbour and found not just sunshine but – out of the wind, anyway – actual warmth. Looking around there are snowdrops everywhere, daffodils poking their leaves up out of the swamp that passes for the countryside, birds going bananas in the hedgerows. Time to start panicking about the garden again

The problem is that, with storm after storm marching through, we seem to have had nothing but an endless October this winter. It’s been so mild, I was picking caterpillars out of my kale the other day. There’s been no sense of anything going properly dormant and hence no sense of the impending spring. And I’ve barely been able to touch the garden because even if I wasn’t too busy, it’s far too wet to do anything but plan out where to construct the rice paddies…

broad beans

Still, she says, recklessly tempting fate, at least the broad beans are hanging on in there…

Anyone else still feel they’re waiting for winter to arrive?


Any Colour you Like, as Long as it’s Green

May 14, 2013

spring_green

I’ll say something for a damp spring and an all-pervasive grey sky: it certainly makes all the spring greenery pop. My new-to-me phone camera doesn’t really do it justice but although the wind is icy and the sun is elusive, the greens are GREEN. Every blade of grass catches the light and shimmers in the wind and the fields just seem to glow with lush growth. The hedgerow flowers haven’t really started yet, and the bluebell woods are yet to come, but if you want verdure, we’ve got it.


Spring has Sprung. A Leak, that is

May 9, 2013

It’s never a good sign when you’re warming your hands over the toaster while waiting for your toast to pop up…

There was a brief moment – Tuesday, to be exact – when it was positively warm out there. We took the bikes and did the suicide papershop run, past the when-I-win-the-lottery ruined mill which is has tantalisingly been for sale for ages now, down through the beech woods with the first fuzz of green just furring the branches of the trees. Not only did I have to relinquish the merino, I was even too warm in my lighter summer trousers, although I drew the line at shorts (we’re trying to eschew the hi-vis round here, which rules out my legs). We sat in the sun and ate ice creams and then pedalled back at a leisurely pace with the wind at our backs and there wasn’t anywhere on earth that we would rather have been. Since then the rain has returned and we’ve been suffering the consequences of rashly not getting the Rayburn relit and it’s been back to not just the thermal baselayer, but two jumpers and the sneaking feeling that, ridiculous though it would be in May, it would be more comfortable to keep my fleece on indoors…

However. We also noticed yesterday that suddenly green is everywhere, the hedgerows are starting to blossom (no sign of the May yet, of course), the birds are most definitely singing and the bindweed has started to emerge. The latter means the soil has definitely warmed up – and also means that I am, as ever, behind in my gardening.

I shall just have to catch up when this is over. Ten more days…


Snug as a Bug in a Rug

April 30, 2013

The landlords spent this morning topping up the insulation in our loft which is exciting – at this rate, we may even get the roof fixed and the window in our bedroom replaced which has been jammed slightly open since before the worst of the snow. Apparently the new window will actually be double glazed when it arrives, which has left me looking thoughtfully at all the other windows. It would, of course, be terrible if any more of them were to suffer accidental damage at the hands of a careless tenant…

Naturally all this has happened on the warmest day of the year to date – could it be that spring has actually sprung? Moderate clout casting (I know, reckless or what) has even taken place: I am down to just the one jumper and have put the lobster gloves away although not very far. I’m still firmly sewn into my merino baselayers though. There’s reckless and there’s downright foolhardy and if last summer was anything to go by I’ll still be wearing my thermals in July…


Perfect Day. Well, Almost…

April 20, 2013

The sun came out properly today, adjusted for being in Ireland. I had stuff to do in the morning but just before lunch I was done and we were freed to get the bikes out for a potter down to the shops for lunch and onward for an adventure. As I was waiting for the other half outside the local Laldi or Aldl – I can never remember which one it is – a family of five showed up on bikes: Mum, Dad with trailerbike and sleeping toddler, two boys on mountain bikes. The mother & I got chatting about the need for more bike lanes (I honestly don’t steer these conversations at all, she started it) as we waited for our prospective partners and watched the cars steadily gridlock themselves in their hunt for the elusive Last Parking Space in Newcastle. They then cheerfully gave us directions to a place where we could watch seals, backed up by annotations from the wee boys (‘turn left at the derelict house’ ‘the stinky house that’s all broken down’ ‘go down to your left and there’s a really nice track’ ‘it’s not nice at all it’s really bumpy’) and off we set with the wind for once on our backs.

We found the spot and picnicked high in the sand dunes watching the seals lie on the beach across the inlet like so many sleeping-bagged revellers after a hard night partying. Occasionally one would lollop in and out of the sea and then collapse on the sand further up, or lie on its back with its flippers in the air with every appearance of satisfaction. The mountains were half veiled with cloud and the beach was misted with vapour rising off the wet sand and there was barely a soul about, probably because the red flag* was flying and the beach was technically a free-fire zone. We headed back into the wind having decided that the extremely wide and deserted pavement beside the 60mph road was really a cycle path, they just hadn’t got around to signing it as such. And then we got onto the actual cycle track which is pretty good – wide, with plenty of space for both bikes and pedestrians. Although you are supposed to give way at every side street, in practice the cars give way to you (they also carefully make sure when they park on the pavement they take up the whole of the pedestrian side and keep the bike part clear, which is a little odd) – with one driver who was waiting for a gap in the traffic even reversing so I could get past him easily. It was hard not to take a certain pleasure in whizzing past the queue of traffic waiting to get into town, and in nipping in and out of the gridlocked cars still looking for that elusive parking spot – indeed some of them might actually have been stuck circling the place since the morning.

And then, as it was a sunny day in a seaside town, there was nothing for it but we needed to have an ice cream. And this is where the ‘almost’ part comes in – I was awkwardly manhandling my Brompton down a couple of steps to get to a bench on the promenade when *plop* *aargh* … my double cone (nutella-flavour on one side, chocolate on the other) had broken and was now nothing more than an empty stump and the ice cream was on the floor.

It’s a sign that I’m 44, not 4, that I managed not to have a meltdown then and there. But it was hard won. And as KarlOnSea put it on twitter:

It’s almost as though he was there…

*Army range, not communists


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