Fly in the Ointment

May 29, 2016

greenery in the garden

We’ve had some unforecasted nice weather in recent days, and the countryside has reached that perfect late-spring pitch, with the air absolutely heady with blossom (and wild garlic, but let’s not spoil the image too much). Yesterday morning I had to cycle to Notso Bigtown and was struck by the carpets of white and pink flowers taking over from the bluebells under the trees, although I was unfortunately running late and hadn’t time to take a decent photo. Coming home again I was struck by how gorgeous everything is as the trees are just bursting into leaf.

I sometimes feel guilty about time spent in the garden or on the bench or out on my bike when in reality I should be at the computer working (or writing …) but fine days at this time of the year are precious indeed and really shouldn’t be squandered indoors. So today, although I didn’t have all that much time to spare, I made sure that I at least cycled down to the village to stick up a poster and cycled back savouring every minute

Right up until I inhaled a fly and nearly cycled off the road trying to spit it out. Remind me to keep my open-mouthed wonder to when I’m off the bike in future, won’t you?


Ooof …

May 18, 2016

I’m knackered. Our local cycle campaign is running a ‘Bike Message* Challenge‘ starting next week, encouraging people to cycle to the local shops, bank, hairdresser, library, museum or wherever, instead of defaulting to the car. We were hoping that, with luck and a following wind, we might manage to sign up around 40 places to take – some of the more enlightened shops and cafes, the local libraries, the museums. What we weren’t expecting was that half of all the town centre shops would jump at the chance – it turns out that shopkeepers are keen to be involved in something that encourages customers to beat a path to their door, whatever their mode of travel. Who knew?

The downside (filed under ‘nice problem to have’) is that I’ve just spent the last two days tromping round the centre of Bigtown delivering the packs they need to take part to over a hundred shops. Which is a lot of talking to people – something I do find quite exhausting, especially a lot of strangers, and this being Bigtown the shopkeepers were mostly friendly and wanted a chat – and a lot of walking (the bike is more of a help than a hindrance when you’re going door to door). And as a result I’m absolutely shattered. It turns out that regularly cycling 16 miles a day – and being able to cycle all day if I’m going slow enough – is no training for effectively a day spent standing around chatting. I pedalled home with heavy legs and then spent a good hour collapsed next to the Rayburn until I could summon the energy to move.

It reminds me that I’ll miss the Rayburn when we move. It’s already beginning to make the odd chugging sound which means it will be fading out soon, and then we’ll switch it off for the summer. And by the time September comes around, we’ll be gone, and the new tenants will have the pleasure of its company in the kitchen. There’s absolutely no excuse really for running an oil-fired Rayburn in a well-regulated eco-conscious household, and we certainly won’t be getting one of our own. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be sorry when we turn it off for the last time.

spring greenery

And the picture? No reason, except that you cannot have too much spring greenery in your life.

* this makes more sense if you know that in Scotland your ‘messages’ means your shopping (or general errands)


Gardening Leave

May 6, 2016

campaign t-shirts on the line

I find myself between jobs (and campaigning) for a week or two – a rare luxury. Naturally there is all sorts of admin backlog I should be getting on with, which I’m chipping away at, but there is finally the time (and the weather) to try and catch up with the garden.

broad beans planted

The first batch of broad beans are in, as are the peas – and the last of the seed potatoes went in today, which may be something of a record for late planting.

seedlings awaiting planting

The queue of things awaiting planting doesn’t seem to get any shorter though. And you’ll note the careful camera angles so you can’t see the weeds and the overgrown paths …

Maybe if I get a few more days to catch up with myself I’ll be able to show you what it really looks like. Well, assuming that this really is the onset of spring and it isn’t about to start snowing again …


HTFU

April 27, 2016

We woke this morning to clear skies and glorious sunshine – and no frost on the grass, for once, which was an improvement on the last couple of weeks. What better day, I thought, to take the peas and beans out of the greenhouse where I started them in a panic at the end of March and try and harden them off to plant them out before it’s actually May? And maybe get some washing out to boot?

hailstorm on laundry

And yes, I did stop to take a photo for the blog before rescuing the washing …

In retrospect, a day when it didn’t keep suddenly hailing, alternating with snowing, might have been better.

The weird thing was, in between hail/snow showers it was rather nice and even warm. In fact, I was sitting on the bench with my lunch when the first lot fell and it confused me because there I was enjoying the warmth of the sun, and here was this white stuff falling out of the sky – I confess, I looked up to see if there was a jackdaw or something dropping things because that made more sense than snow.

Anyway, according to all the gardening columns, hardening off your glasshouse-grown plants is a gradual process of putting them out on sunny days and progressively getting them used to the great outdoors with longer spells in the cold and eventually keeping them out overnight – not subjecting them to a day of violent freak weather conditions and hoping for the best.

broadbean seedlings

Fortunately, my peas and broad beans seem a pretty hardy bunch. With any luck they’ll survive tomorrows plague of frogs, or whatever it is the Weather Gods have in store, and I can plant them out at the weekend, ready for it to hail taxis.

Pea seedlings


Springing up

April 18, 2016

Working away at the kitchen table this morning I was interrupted by a familiar and very cheering noise

Yup, the swallows – or rather swallow – was back, sitting on the wire, chattering away, wondering where everybody else was. I’d seen one briefly yesterday on my way back from the litter pick (which went fine, by the way; someone came to my rescue and helped out with the teas) but nothing in our yard until just now. It’s always a little sobering how many we send off at the end of the year, and how few come back in the spring but hopefully this is just the harbinger and won’t be quite so lonely by the end of the week*

Other signs of spring are somewhat less welcome. Like the crunching noise underfoot that indicated I’d just unwarily stepped on a snail (I’m no fan of snails, but I prefer to give them flying lessons than completely flattening them).

Oh, and time to start weeding the cobbles again. Long since, in fact

dandelions

*Indeed, cycling down for the paper, I happened across a chap I often stop and talk to – he’s a birdwatcher too and we normally exchange sightings of there’s anything to report. Naturally I told him about my swallow and as I encountered him on the way back he started waving madly and pointing up at the sky where there were four swallows. It’s moments like this that really make my day …


Ready or Not

April 5, 2016

Are you bored of the ‘I’m too busy to blog about anything except about how I’m too busy to blog’ posts yet? I know I am … Things are hotting up as the preparations for Pedal on Parliament enter their last few weeks and suddenly it’s April and how did that happen?

Anyway, for those of you waiting with bated breath to find out whether the seed potatoes survived, they appear to be fine. Not planted yet – don’t be ridiculous – but fine.

seed potatoes in greenhouse

And I think they may be ready to start growing, if the potatoes we had stored in the basket in the kitchen are anything to go by.

potato shoots

Let me out of here!

I shall enter the greenhouse warily next time I go up. I don’t want to be grabbed by the ankle by a desperate tuber shoot, begging to be planted.

potato shoots


It Can’t Last …

March 28, 2016

wheelbarrow with a view

… but I actually managed to find the time to get out and do some gardening over this weekend. Not much, but a few barrowloads of manure were hacked out of the nettle heap and transferred to the greenhouse. If I get really reckless, I might even start some seeds, or just dig up the parsnips which have emerged now that the soil is warming up a bit

parsnips re-emerging

… and tomorrow, I will even be able to return to yoga. Actually, these two announcements may not be entirely unrelated…

sunshine and showers