Monday, 25 March 2013

Frozen rabbit

Late March, Palm Sunday behind us, and most of the country is in the grip of snow again. Here we’ve escaped the worst of the weather – only the odd flake falling – but outside the wind is bitter and a chill is on the ground. Indoors we’ve been nursing coughs and sneezes and sore throats – my first for at least eighteen months – but out in the cold, fresh air my head clears and thought becomes easier as the steady tempo of work drives out more precious complaints. Here in the ever-present company of robins and the occasional blackbird, to whom clearly both spade and mattock ring sonorous as any dinner gong, I am glad of my hat (sometimes two at once), scarf and thermals, but I muse as I work that the central heating back indoors has spoilt us. Not only does it make us softer and more susceptible to winter illnesses when we get a little run down, but it dries out throats and noses and makes sleep elusive. Still, I ask myself if I am really advocating a return to houses like the one in which I spent my childhood, with gas fires and three-bar electric heaters, where only the side of you facing the heat source was warm and to move more than a foot or two away was to be resubmerged in icy cold so thick you could almost see it eddying around you? I don’t think so. I think rather I’m picturing some cosy aga-warmed kitchen of a woodland cabin or farmhouse I’ve never seen, wet boots and gloves drying on the hearth while supper warms in the oven and a kettle sings on top. Fairy tale stuff, but it’s cold and still dark, and spring’s late, so I think I’m allowed a comforting daydream.

Swing {thump}, tread {squish}, lever {thut}, shovel {flump}. I love digging. The sound, the rhythm, the movement. Though I’ve a sneaking suspicion that there might be something in the no-dig method, I've not yet found a way of putting in rabbit fencing without disturbing the soil to at least a spit deep, preferably more, so I feel I can safely complete this job without spectral voices nagging me about damaging the soil structure and the loss of carbon sequestration capacity. Quite apart from which considerations it’s a cracking way to keep warm, so I’ll continue to find many a reason to so occupy myself during the colder months, even if the days of double-, or even single-digging a plot are largely behind us.

Swing {thump}, tread {squish}, lever {thut}, shovel {flump}. I scoop the final mound of earth back into place over the chicken wire barrier, a warm glow steadily spreading through me at the knowledge that my handiwork will keep my clients’ cherished plants un-nibbled this year.

A flake or two of snow has started to fall, and a rabbit scampers over my boot.