The End of the Ice ?

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The clockwork catchment mechanism that runs the seasons moved forward a notch sometime on Thursday night. The axis of the earth has tilted on its gears and tips us towards spring. The days since have had sub-zero temperature nights, great for sky watching, and cold snap mornings, but the dawn sunlight has a different cream butter quality. Frost lying on the slopes of roofs, but overlaid with subtle gold leaf. And we have noticeably more daylight hours now with blue skies a bonus.

So, for the first serious visits to the plots. I have been up there, to look around, check for damage, dodge the rain, do a little bit … mostly remind myself that the bean canes (from three double rows, lodged any old ways in the shed) have to be tidied up before anything really significant can be achieved. Because, it’s impossible to reach the tools racked at the back of the shed or the lid off the box we store the netting in … or more importantly, maybe, enough room to set up the chairs for a cup of tea.

(New project is to find space and time to set up a gas burner so we can actually brew drinks up there rather than take a flask. Watch this space folks!)

So Saturday, Sunday and today jobs collided.

Some digging, Pruning the currants (red, white and black). Weeding out the spaces beneath the bushes, some chicken manure top dressing applied and then one of the mountains of bark chippings mulched beneath the rows. The couch grass nets and dandelions put ready for – weather willing – burning on Friday.

Also pruned back the blackberries and loganberries and tied in the runners to the loose wire frames. I know the frames should be tighter but lack the technology, the know-how or maybe just the sheer muscle to manage perfect tension.

Some head scratching about the hedges. The plot is in the bottom left hand corner of the site. We have a hedge that borders the road and another that I have tamed from its initial thirty foot height – no really – and monster width – to head height. Mixed blessing hedges. Great for wildlife, sheltering natural pests and predators in equal numbers. But need for management can be demanding; we are bound to cut the insides and tops of our hedges. The road one looks very gappy at the moment. It is a mature hedge and the plantings (dog rose, hawthorn, hazel, honeysuckle and privet) I have tried to fill the gaps is largely unsuccessful. This is almost certainly due to impoverished soil: the roots of the established hedge will take most of the nutriments and water … and partly due to the spurt of growth from nettles, blackberry and goose grass that will swarm up the rigging very soon now, shading out light and air. I am happy to have a headland effect next to the hedges, but at the moment I cannot help but think the gaps look ugly. Because of the holes the sound also carries through: teenagers chatting at the bus stop, wagons on their way to the quarry or taking some mazy short cut to the M6 even cars turning in to the garden centre across the road.

Replaced the open fronted nest box at the compost heap end of the shed. Nothing nested in it last year, but I have seen birds (robins, a wren, blackbirds, starlings and a song thrush) using the compost heap as a pit stop. Painted two sides of the shed with masonry paint (its not logical, but had some left over).

The seed potato orders have arrived, so collected them (seven pounds of Arran Pilot, seven of Wilja and fourteen of Desiree). Have the banana boxes ready to set them up.

And, yesssss! Organised the bean canes. Things are looking up!

18th February, 2013.

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