Thursday, 28 February 2013

The bright side

The morning began cold, damp and murky, with mist lying heavily over the distant hills. A few weeks ago I alluded to a sense that somehow Winter wasn’t quite done with us and now, at the end of February, mornings like these leave us in no doubt that this is still the case, though the daily increasing indicators of Spring’s approach suggest the hivernal grip is slipping.

Maybe we’re in for one last bitter wintery fling before we see the back of that season till the end of the year. But tomorrow is March – when the days grow much longer, and seeds need sowing, and the garden really starts to grow in earnest – and I’m optimistically looking forward to a warm, dry spring.

As I loaded rake, spade and barrow back into Digory at the end of the day, the sun came out.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Fashion in the garden

I don’t know who invented knee-pads, but I’d like to shake them by the hand. Possibly I’d squeeze a little too hard, just as some form of recompense for making the straps on the back of mine too short so that, when fastened sufficiently tightly to prevent them from wandering down my shins and consequently making themselves unavailable to my knees at the very moment of greatest need, they bite into the back of my legs. But, on the whole I’m rather pleased with them, at least after their first day in service. They have kept my knees dry and, most importantly to my mind, warm and isolated from the cold winter ground. There have been several chilly mornings where I’ve almost felt the veins in my kneecaps contract with the cold as I knelt on the frosted soil; the immediate moderate discomfort I can deal with, but the long term effects have to be considered as a jobbing gardener. If you want to keep at this into your old age, I tell myself, you need to remain bendy, or at least as bendy as you’ve ever been. I now feel liberated – freed from the tyranny of the waterproof trousers which I seem to have been wearing for months, irrespective of whether or not it’s actually been raining. Hard as it might seem to believe there have been quite a few dry days, at least in terms of precipitation, although the the ground has remained stubbornly, knee-soakingly soggy, something which the overgarments were supposed to counter. Inevitably they didn’t; they might be good at keeping off the rain and snow while walking, but prolonged contact with wet ground under pressure from several stone of solid gardener invariably results in the dampness eventually seeping through. That, and the combined efforts of bramble and briar have shredded several pairs into ribbons.

While on the subject of workaday fashion, I’ve also decided to wear eye protection whenever I’m in the garden now, which means finding a pair of safety glasses which look less like goggles stolen from a school chemistry lab, and more like spectacles. I’ve more or less succeeded, but they’re still larger than normal glasses. And then there’s the hat. Several of the gardens I work in are large, rural and exposed, which puts me at the mercy of an often bitingly chill wind, and so a trapper style hat, with faux fur flaps (which I think of as ears), seemed to be a good idea. It seems to be doing the job, but at what price? With the safety specs, I now look like an unholy cross between Ali Gee and Rowlf the piano playing dog from the Muppet Show. With knee pads.

It’s a look.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Notes from the greenhouse

11.5°C in the greenhouse, 7.5°C outside

You know that glorious winter’s day we carry about in our heads; cold, crisp, and golden with sunshine? It was today – and although it’s never a hardship working in the garden, this afternoon it was a positive pleasure. And so, while Emma got stuck in to weeding the veg patch (rhubarb peaking through the soil here; fat, deep pink stems starting to swell), I made for the greenhouse.