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.


Hares Today …

March 14, 2017

hare outside front doorAs I may have mentioned, we have a resident hare in the garden. It has a few favoured spots where it likes to hang out, and it’s a bit fly to be photographed on a mobile phone, although today I did my best when I went into our entranceway today and found we had a visitor right outside (possibly contemplating nibbling the second of the pair of little bay trees that I had been hoping would frame our doorway; it’s already decapitated the first.)

When I was in Inverness, I also got a text from the other half to tell me that not one but two hares were hanging out on the manky pink carpet, waiting for the rain to stop. As hares are largely solitary, two hares can mean only one thing: that the time has come when a young hare’s fancy turns to, well, other hares (the ‘boxing’ they are famous for in March is generally down to the female hare not yet being similarly inclined and reminding the male hare that hares are largely solitary and she would prefer to keep it that way, thankyouverymuch). So far we’ve seen neither boxing nor any sign that they are doing more than just tolerating each others’ presence, but we live in hope of more hares tomorrow.

hare haring off

Naturally this makes the hare-proof defences for the vegetable patch increasingly urgent, but for now we are just enjoying their presence and trying to work out a means by which we and the hares can continue to share the garden nicely.


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


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 …