Monday, 15 September 2008

Not a normal year

In a normal year, winter means cooler temperatures, less rain and subsequently a pause in such gardening activities as mowing the lawns and digging out weeds. It’s a time for contemplating your garden, planning for the future and catching up on other jobs. This year the winter was unusually cool so we haven’t had to mow for some time. This is good because our mower has been out of commission. And we have hardly had a moment to even think about gardening.

Getting the mower sorted out coincided with my father’s arrival for a week to do painting so the garden actually got some attention. I spent Saturday afternoon pruning and clearing the front garden. I couldn’t remember the last time I had done anything in the garden. Actually that’s wrong – I remember planting the bulbs although not where I planted all of them and certainly not what all of them were. The garden surprisingly looked very respectable for Blithe Boy’s birthday party on Sunday afternoon. Several of the guests rode in on horseback so we even got a little bonus grass trimming in a neat circle around where they were tied. It seemed remarkably bucolic to have guests arriving via horseback. The rest of the guests eschewed historical verisimilitude and came by motor vehicle rather than by German wagon (yes I have always wanted to used those words in a sentence thank-you).

Today, the lawn looked magnificent. Unfortunately I can now see the prickles that have colonised it over the winter and have spent the morning pulling them up. It is such a nice change from painting. I find pruning and weeding very therapeutic. There’s something about getting dirt under your fingernails, the sunshine and fresh air and the triumphant heap of weeds that is soothing.

In a normal year we try to maintain the yard in four rough zones. There’s the house zone that is a constant battle to keep prickle free. Any delusions I had about organic maintenance of prickle-free areas have disappeared in the reality of the constant battle against encroachment of weeds from neighbouring farms. The house zone has flower beds and even a formal rose garden that is looking somewhat neglected. The second zone is the rest of the top of the hill that shades away into a line of conifers before disappearing into the fields. The third zone is approximately half of the former front paddock. Eventually I want this to be a gravel garden of the Beth Chatto school with a more formal layout at the top end descending into an orchard area then the flat grassed area at the bottom of our driveway which is one of our only flat pieces of land. Mr Blithe thinks of it as a potential cricket pitch. The reality of keeping a gravel garden a garden and not a gravel waterfall on our sloping land is a problem yet to be tackled. A girl has got to have some dreams. The fourth area is the remainder of the front paddock that we have planted with a few crow’s ash and is mainly wild grass. Mr Blithe likes to mow meandering paths through the tall grass to create a hillside walk that connects all the tree plantings.

Somewhat sunburnt and tired from the weeding, I am now focusing on not feeling guilty to be here writing while my father paints. My rationalisation is that I wouldn’t normally be painting at this time of day, but being obsessive and being brought up Protestant does have its downside.

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