What Lies Beneath

March 25, 2017

So, I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath to discover how the manky pink carpet experiment has been getting on.

carpet-covered veg bed

Well, as it happens, due to a rare confluence of events that meant I was not required to be in a random Scottish city this weekend, combined with a slight lull in the immediate pressure of POP preparation (but there’s still time to contribute to our crowd funder, just saying), and a day promising sunshine and light winds, gave me the perfect (indeed, possibly the only) opportunity to find out. In fact, I would have been hard pressed not to spend today out in the garden, given the gloriousness of the weather.

potatoes chitting

So far this year, my entire preparation for growing veg has been a half-hour trolley dash through potato day (top tip: label your seed potato bags before you pick your potatoes, and then put them in alphabetical order for maximum efficiency), and chitting my seed potatoes. I knew that the carpet hasn’t been down long enough to properly deal with the weeds or let the organic matter break down, but spring waits for nobody, and I decided to open up the first bed and put my first and second earlies in today.

veg bed uncovered

If I’d been hoping that underneath there had been a magical transformation into wonderful friable rich soil, I would have been disappointed, but if I’ve learned anything in gardening these past few years it’s to manage my expectations, so I was just pleased to discover that the grass it had covered up wasn’t just sitting there unscathed. There are still some clumps hanging in there to deal with, and a lot of the coarser plant material hadn’t broken down yet, but there was also a fairly healthy population of worms. So the carpet has saved me a lot of digging, although I suspect come later in the season when I’m battling the weeds that did survive, I will wish I’d been more patient

Fortunately potatoes have a fierce determination to grow and will do so even in a light-proof plastic bin so I suspect they will manage anyway (that said, I note that last year I was still putting potatoes in at the end of April, which might explain why we had such a rubbish crop – I had forgotten that. Clearly you can push even a seed potato too far.)

Anyway, given that I haven’t even bought any seeds yet, he rest of the bed can remain under the carpet for now, hopefully mulching down into something marvellous. Meanwhile the now-spare carpet has been moved up to where the fruit cage will be, which is currently about 50% nettle roots by volume. I don’t think we’ll be planting our raspberry canes there for a while …

potatoes planted

What with all the digging, lugging about of heavy stuff and general hard labour, I feel a bit broken now, but it does feel good to have got started for the season.


What is this Life …

March 24, 2017

spring trees

… if, full of care / We have no time to stand and stare?

There’s a field I pass on the way into Bigtown which is now full of lambs, still at their maximally cute knobbly-kneed, propeller tail stage. They’ve been sheltering by the trees right by the road, maximising photo-taking opportunities, but every time I’ve been passing I’ve been hurrying to catch a train or bus, or meet someone, or otherwise have not had time to stop. Today was probably another such occasion, but it was also a glorious if somewhat chilly spring moment so I thought I’d better try and seize the moment before they grew more reminiscent of Sunday lunch than spring.

lambs

Of course they all mostly ran away and hid behind their mothers as soon as they saw the bike, so you’ll just have to imagine the cuteness.


Kill or Cure

March 6, 2017

The thing I really needed to happen this week was for someone to discover an extra day between Tuesday and Wednesday so I can actually manage to get all the things done I need to in time. The thing I really didn’t need to happen was me catching the other half’s cold, so naturally that’s the thing that did happen, although I’m still hoping the magic of cycling will see it off.

Of course for cycling to work properly, you have to not just go out on a bike, but get miserably cold and drenched, at least that’s my theory* and ordinarily, you can rely on the Weather Gods to serve up that sort of weather without too much problem. So I should probably have been unhappy at the fact that during today’s paper run, the only rain I got was the tiniest of sprinklings and a fragment of rainbow, and the rest was just surprisingly warm spring sunshine – not enough to see off even the feeblest of rhinoviruses.

fragment of rainbow

Rainbow posed by model as this was actually yesterday’s rainbow.

Still, maybe the vitamin D will do it instead, although I don’t think the sun’s quite high in the sky to generate useful amounts yet. I took my cap off all the same, and cycled along bare headed just in case. It might not be doing much for my vitamin levels, but it did feel good to have some sun on my skin.

In other news, the daffodils are almost out.

daffodils almost out
* I suspect that, like most cold remedies, it will simply serve to cut down the duration of the cold from a whole week to just seven days.


Spring has … ah

February 27, 2017

So I was hanging out the washing this morning, listening to all the birds out there singing their feathery little heads off, and noting how the sun has finally inched its way up in the sky to the point where it reaches over the top of the roof and so can help dry the laundry. And I was thinking that, these days, spring tends to invoke a sense of impending panic as much as anything else, what with Pedal on Parliament and now Walk Cycle Vote and never even mind the veg plot. Having a garden, fantastic as it may be for one’s mental health, does nothing but intensify the feeling of time galloping past with too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

However, this morning, I didn’t feel quite so much panic as I probably should. It’s not that everything is under control, exactly, but I’m just trying to deal with it. PoP is run under anarchist collective lines, which means there’s really no point trying to draw up any sort of detailed plan for anything, you just have to go with it; as a kill-or-cure treatment for control freakery and terminal anxiety it is highly recommended. And it probably helps that the garden is still under wraps and the longer I leave it there, the better it will probably be (technically, I should probably sit out the whole growing season to get rid of the worst perennial weeds but I’m not sure I can face another 12 months of staring at what is becoming increasingly manky carpet*). So I went inside to start work, happy to celebrate the impending arrival of spring, rather than try and push it back into its box until I was ready for it.

And then I looked up an hour or so later and noticed it was snowing.

*Indeed some of it seems to have got into the spirit of the thing and has started to go green


And the Puncture Fairy makes Three

January 29, 2017

misty morning start

After a couple of years of running winter rides for the local Bigtown Cycling Campaign that have attracted none, one, or at best half a dozen participants, suddenly all our likes, comments and shares on Facebook have started turning into actual cyclists, turning up on actual bikes, to come out and ride with us, which is nice.

Unfortunately the Puncture Fairy is also apparently following us on Facebook and turned up this morning with a vengeance – including one poor lass who’d only been out for a spin on her nice new Halfords bike on her own and been struck by way of collateral damage as she passed our assembly point. Sadly Halfords had not thought to supply her with a pump or spare inner tube (or managed to set up the quick release on her brakes) so she was awaiting rescue when help arrived in the form of several knights in shining – or at least hi-vis – armour in the form of several of the wiry-old-boy-in-lycra brigade who like nothing better than fixing a puncture, especially if it can be combined with fulminations about the uselessness of Halfords.

And even if you don’t count her, the grand total by the time we finished was one delaminated tyre (fortunately noticed before we set off), one puncture at our destination, and one mega puncture involving a Bastard Big Thorn, a duff valve on a spare inner tube, and a recalcitrant back wheel, which meant by the time the back markers had arrived at the cafe stop, most of the front markers had already gone home. Having eaten all the soup. Honestly, there’s just no solidarity among cyclists these days…

Still, it was a gorgeous day to be out, and the weather was mostly pleasant enough to make standing around in the sun making helpful remarks during someone else’s puncture repair (and handing out cranachan-inspired flapjacks, complete with a tot of whisky, to mark the fact that this was our Burns ride) almost pleasant.*

afternoon sunshine

* apart from the point where I said, ‘we’ve been very lucky with the weather within earshot of the weather gods, who imediately started raining on us, just to remind us they could.


Room with Rather Too Much of a View

January 12, 2017

Apologies to my twitter followers today who were subjected to a stream of tweets of the view out of my study window

The view is distracting at the best of times; add in snow and it becomes very difficult to concentrate on anything else.

sunny interlude

In the end, after lunch, when there was a lull in the weather and everything began to go a bit sparkly, I cracked and decided to go out and enjoy it properly.

sheep in the sun

You said there could never be too many pictures of sheep, right?

snowy lane looking uphill

avenue of trees

snowy lane looking downhill

And then it was back to the grindstone again

Well, sort of.


It is One Thing …

January 11, 2017

… to slog up the hill cycling home on a dark wet freezing afternoon from Bigtown, head down into the teeth of an icy headwind with the Met Office’s latest weather warning for wind and snow ringing in your head.

It is quite another to do so knowing that no sooner have you got in than you will have to turn around and head out again on the bike to Old Nearest Village, which has now become Really Too Far Away for Comfort on a Night Like This Village.

And it is an entirely third thing to head out into the cold and rain when the reason you’re heading out again is to act as secretary of the community council for a community you no longer live in because they haven’t found a replacement yet. Apparently the next stage, our Facebook call for volunteers having failed, is an appeal from the pulpit (to the congregation, I assume, I don’t think God interferes in community council appointments which are surely an ecumenical matter).

On the bright side, getting home and collapsing on the sofa in front of the fire with a whole pizza has never felt quite so justified. Or so sweet.