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.
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…
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…
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
Well, the weekend brought the return of our south westerly winds, which meant a relief from the recent cold weather, but (into every life a little rain must fall) came at the price of actually quite a lot of rain – there was a good foot and a half of water raging over the ford yesterday afternoon, thanks for asking. Given that we’ve had, amazingly, practically no rain at all since the epic snows, this has come as a bit of a blow. We were getting quite used to the idea of being able to walk around in something other than wellies, but more fool us.
The milder mornings had also brought another old friend, the wakey wakey bird, to be cheery outside my window at oh God do you really have to o’clock but – although twitter has been full of people announcing the arrival of theirs – no sign of any swallows. Until this morning when, peering out the window to see if it had stopped raining yet, the other half announced that he had seen one flying out of the window of the swallow shed. And there it was whizzing around in the sky, hopefully hoovering up the first of many beakfuls of midgies…
There was a moment this afternoon when we got out of the wind briefly and the sun was shining and it almost – *almost* – felt like April.
Which is good because my seed order has arrived.* Being permanently behind with the gardening starts here…
*Alert readers with long memories will notice that I’m going to try and do something about the cobbles this year – a bare couple of years since I first had the idea which is practically instantaneous for me
After all the mud and flooding of yesterday’s post, we were greeted this morning by blue skies and gentle breezes, though it’s going to have to do a hell of a lot more of that if we’re actually going to see much difference. I set off for the paper in my not-quite-coldest-weather gear (buff, scarf, hat, two pairs of socks but just the one jumper, non-mutant gloves) and was soon working up a bit of a sweat although on inspection that turned out to be the effect of leaving the dynamo on…
It was, in fact, a bit odd to be pedalling along with snow still piled up by the side of the road in places, but the birds all singing away in the hedges as if it were March. It’s amazing how seamlessly you slip from ‘will this winter never end?’ to the gardener’s panic state of ‘ohmigod it’s almost spring and I haven’t ordered any seeds, the garden’s not ready, there’s too much to do, help, stop the world, I want to get off…’ Remind me just how horticultural therapy is supposed to work again?
Not – I hasten to add – that I’m complaining. And I was cheered to note the village safety chickens were still on patrol, clustering pointedly beneath the 30mph sign this morning. Although perhaps they would be a little more effective if they were wearing some hi vis?
There’s no getting away from it – spring is here and the vegetable planting season has begun, whether I’m ready for it or not.
Actually, a couple of weeks of miraculously okay weather – and the fact that I haven’t started any new cycle campaigns for over a month now – means that I’ve more or less caught up with myself and the garden status is now:
- winter veg eaten up and removed to make way for the next crop (well, mostly – any new leek recipes greatly appreciated)
- beds dug over and ready for planting (well, mostly)
- manure spread where needed (well, mostly)
- perennial weeds dug out and roots removed for burning (well, mostly)
- planting plan worked out and documented (well, mostly – it helps if you don’t forget the onions in your first draft)
- seeds arrived and first lot germinating on a sunny windowsill (well, mostly. Okay, the broad beans are in and that’s about it. But I fully intend to start the peas tomorrow. And the parsnips once I’ve got the bed ready for them…)
So I’m … okay I’m a little behind but I’m no longer waking up at 4am to fret about it.
Remind me how this horticultural therapy lark is supposed to work again?
(oh all right, because one person asked) here are my spoils from Potato Day, ready to sprout:
4 Charlotte (was meant to be 5, never mind!)
7 Rale’s Emerald
5 Golden Wonder
Apart from Pixie and Rocket, which I’ve grown before and Golden Wonder, which I know was purely based on the name, I now have absolutely no recollection why I selected the varieties I did. Oh well. One day grown-up methodical gardening will be in my grasp… Also, counting.
It now feels like the season is properly under way. Which means a three-line whip on eating up the last of the parsnips and leeks (and leeks, and leeks) to make room for this year’s veg …
… that spring is well underway:
… a flush of astoundingly badly mended potholes along the road …
… and, in a field gate beside their badly mended potholes, two council workers parked up in their council truck, all tuckered out from the year-end-spend roadmending frenzy, both sleeping like babies
(I considered taking a photo of that too, but as they were probably on their lunch break, I decided it was a little unfair)