Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Local Cat Operatic Society

Well it seems like we've had our spring, bypassed summer and have arrived at Autumn once more. It's cold, drizzly and horrid. And to make matters worse, our local cat operatic society has started practising in our garden in the early hours of the morning. Judging by the indentations in my vegetable plot I'd quite confidently say they were doing so on my finely raked, well fertilised soil, too. If they're not pooing in it, they're performing Carmina Burana on it. Animals just have no respect. Even my little cat sat upright at the howls, responding to his primal instinct to join the chorus line.

I think I may have to convert my plot to a walled garden. With watchtowers and searchlights. And tripwires.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Gung-ho gardening, yoga-style

It was a perfect Easter weekend. The sun was out, our umpteen varieties of lettuce were potted up and put out in the little plastic greenhouse, the plot was turned over once more, and I built a bird table. It was a very laid back, relaxing effort, and then we bought some secateurs and Katie went crazy.

The effect that a very sharp and dangerous implement had on Katie and her gardening mood was amazing. I'd seen her destructive and brutal side before, and it usually results in cuts and bruises to her hands where the knife has slipped while chopping veg. But this time she proved unbelievably effective: bushes vanished in a flurry of quick snipping; the ivy that's strangling a plum-like fruit tree was given a very nice short back and sides; and I got to say don't twist the blades when you cut, hearing my Dad's voice in my head all the while.

Quite where Katie learnt the art of full-scale gardening war is beyond me. Possibly it formed in those moments of tranquility she has while standing on her head at yoga. But effective she was, and a tremendous job she did too. The garden is starting to look like it's well maintained and something to be proud of. And her only war wound was a small scratch on the end of her nose.

A perfect weekend indeed.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

That pesky varmint!

I love squirrels. We brought them here in nice little boats, and gave them the run of our country. It's not their fault they're singlehandedly responsible for our diminishing population of red squirrels. I've always thought a lot of them. But now one has just bitten my bird feeder to pieces, i think i may have to take up arms.

I might make myself a squirrel fur hat and hang the tail of each kill from its back, like Davy Crockett. Or I may just take the less barbarian approach and start feeding it. I can't believe that some clever person has come up with the idea of a squirrel feeder - something that's apparently just a dried sweetcorn hanging on a rope. The theory is great: feed a squirrel 'squirrel food' and it'll leave 'bird food' alone. If it works, them i'll be a happy man. But for some reason, all i think it will do is provide it with yet more food and make it even fatter at the expense of all my lovely blue tits.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Rainbow planting

It really feels like spring is here today. The sun forced me to remove my cardy on the train for the first time in months, and that was a very exciting experience. Also of great excitement is the fact that I have a few rows of tomato seedlings bursting out into the world. No longer does my future hold only lettuce and leeks! It must have been the warmer weather sneaking into my kitchen that’s done the job. Now all I need is my chilli seedlings to poke out their heads and say hello, and my early crops will be on their way.

This year I decided to plant proper tomatoes, instead of small hanging basket varieties and cherry toms. I’ve even snuck in an old yellow variety. I find that I can’t stop myself growing odd things. There seems to be much more pleasure in growing unusual coloured and shaped species, and the fact that I never see these vegetables in supermarkets makes it even more exciting. The yellow toms certainly seem sturdy little seedlings, so I can’t wait to see the fully grown plants. And soon I'll be growing my purple-podded peas as well, but I’ll wait a short while before sowing those.

I’m going to keep my eyes out for other unusual coloured crops. Who knows, maybe I can have the first rainbow coloured vegetable plot?!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Spuddle (spUdl) vb. The act of gentle gardening

I went out and had my first ever ‘spuddle’ at the weekend. It involved a bit of fork prodding, a little light trowel work, and even a few bits of weeding, but it was definitely a spuddle.

This word – or to give its proper definition, verb – is something my family have used for eons to describe the lazy act of general attendance to your garden’s needs. But it seems to meet the sarcastic tone of derision within my home. I’m sure that my cat would snigger, if he could, at my use of the word. It’s not a real word! It’s a silly yokel term that you silly Herefordians might use because you can’t read to know the real term!

The fact that it doesn’t have a dictionary entry does little to help my cause, but what better word is there for describing casual garden maintenance? Like pulling up a dandelion from the lawn, for example. Ok, so you could simply say ‘I’m doing the gardening’, but that’s just so general it could mean chopping down a tree, or even more athletic and strenuous acts like digging a veg plot. And spuddling could never involve anything strenuous.

So I’m sticking to spuddling for the time being. And I know that if I carry on using it, then before long Katie will too. Then we could go out and have a spuddle together – how lovely that would be!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Cock a leeky!

The news of the fortnight is that my seeds have erupted. Well, a few of them have, and – apart from two stray leek seedlings – they’re all various lettuces. In the other seeds’ defence, the week following their planting was the coldest and snowiest week of recent years. So no wonder they wanted to stay where they were.

It was clear that yesterday’s blazing sunshine (the sun always shines in Crystal Palace, by the way, even in the recent blizzards) brought out the leeks, so there is a hope that more will pop up to greet me soon. But it would seem that the leeks are just itching to get out into my veg plot. All the other seeds I planted will eventually live in pots – not a bad life, I agree, but just not as exciting. And I’m sure the leeks have seen that the frost (finally some frost!) has had a chance to work at the soil and make it nice and comfy for them.

Who’d have thought leeks were the early formers in life? They must be the females of the vegetable world!