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Spring Starts

Spring Starts

Today I have actually reached the point of feeling that I can actually use the word ‘spring’ officially without a) crying at the same time b) using some kind of prefix like “what the $&@#$ is up with….” and c) expecting there to be some kind of weather related retribution that will bring at least 10 cms of snow in the next 24 hours.  It’s been that kind of spring.

A few times in the last couple of months I have wandered outside, my face turned up to the sky and basked in the warm spring-like sunshine and thought to myself ‘this is it’.  Of course the next day my face was firmly inside because I didn’t want a foot of snow all over it.  Seriously.  There was a lot of snow this spring.  A lot.  Enough to bury my soul in.  Science fact.

But the weather forecast is finally releasing us from our wintery gloom and predicting 20 degrees on the weekend.  20 degrees!  20!!!  Degrees!!!!  Sorry I know that is an irrational amount of exclamation marks but holy cow, I’m ready for spring.  I know I say that every spring and I mean it every spring but this year I really, really mean it.  A lot.


Despite the mildness of this winter past, especially when compared with the face peeling cold of the previous two winters, it has still felt long and dreary and long.  Did I say long?  Because it felt long.  And, as it does every year, my foolish British soul peeks it’s head from behind it’s metaphorical spiritual duvet sometime in March and starts saying annoying things like “Isn’t it time for the children to be outside yet?”  And I, of course, reply “Shut up soul!  You do this every year!  It’s going to suck for at least another 6 weeks and look now it’s snowing again.”  Usually I weep at that point, or face plant into a cake.  Or both if I’m honest; this year was no different.

But some desperate optimism about the weather must have caught on because Stephen and I spent some time on the weekend starting seeds, little brown packages of hope that they are; plopping them into warm, moist soil and nurturing them, just as they will sustain us through the coming months.  Over the last few days we’ve watched and marvelled as the first sparks of life emerge in plastic trays in the dining room of our house.  I love how life works that way, miraculous and utterly mundane.

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We’ve had increasingly warm days this week, slightly stymied by my littlest bean coming down with a yucky tummy bug, but we are all emerging into the sunlight a little mystified and a lot happier.  There have been moments where the house has fallen silent as the boys run off outside for a bit (Sometimes with some encouragement from Mummy.  Or a lot of encouragement.  Some people would use the word threats but it’s such an ugly term.)  I’ve looked around a little, momentarily unoccupied and been a little unsure what to do.  We are coming into a new season not just of the year but of life, but that’s a post for another day and thoughts for another hour.

So as I peek underneath the condensation clouded lids of my seeds trays and as I wander, oh so casually, out to the polytunnel so recently cleared out by the lovely men in my life, my inner eye is beginning to dream of abundance.  Though there are only specks here and there and the memory of snow is a starkly recent one, my dreaming life is painted with green.  Green and the scent of honey on the air.

In the Garden – August

In the Garden – August

The garden really is taking up a lot of my thinking right now, or rather the produce we are bringing in from the garden and preserving.  All the work of this year has led up to this and I am determined to make use of as much as I physically can!

DSC_0911 DSC_0910 DSC_0909We’re still getting lovely salad from the garden (the romaine’s are coming to the end now though) and my seed onions are giving us lots of fresh spring onions.  As I thin them out we get spring onions and they get more space to grow, perfect!  The bulb onions I planted are doing well too, they haven’t gone over yet so I’m hoping they will grow a bit more before they are finished.

DSC_0916 DSC_0917 DSC_0918 DSC_0919I made rhubarb jam last week from our own lovely stalks, and it has gone down so well I’m planning on doing more.  I have delicious local strawberries in the freezer so I thought I’d do a strawberry and rhubarb jam, perfectly marrying the tart and the sweet.  Personally I prefer jams with a bit of sharpness, raspberry is one of my favourites, but that tiny fruit is very expensive so until we are growing our own I think I’ll stick with home grown rhubarb.  Delicious and free!

Other greens are doing well, our chard is growing beautifully.  We also have carrots coming through, pushing their cover crop of radish out of the way.  We still have some months for them to evolve fully so I’m resisting pulling them just yet.  I’ve done a bit of thinning but again, my policy is to wait until there is something that can be harvested rather than just pulling out shoots.  I’m sure this is a gardening sin but it works for me!

We also have pumpkin plants spreading out all over.  I planted them in as transplants in early July and I’m really hoping we’ll get some lovely pumpkins by Halloween.  There are plenty of flowers on the plants but no sign of fruits so far.  I know from experience that there will seem to be nothing for ages and then suddenly you find fruits everywhere, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will be the same.  I can think of nothing more brilliant than our own orange pumpkins in the fall!  Again I have to remind myself that we still have a good way to go for things to develop and ripen, with the wonky weather we’ve been having there have been days when it felt like autumn is already upon us.

DSC_0945DSC_0920 DSC_0921DSC_0942I’m so pleased with the way the new beds have performed this year, it’s transformed our gardening experience.  Having individual spaces seems to make the tending so much easier; weeding out one bed at a time feels very doable, rather than feeling like you have to tackle a whole field at a time.  I’ve been very proud of the work we’ve all done in the garden this year, Stephen and I have enjoyed many peaceful hours weeding side by side, but the boys have helped too.  Huwyl in particular is growing into a great little farmer, his skills are developing along with his discipline and focus.  He’s been quite the boon to have around this year.  Neirin loves just being with us, bouncing around all over the place.  He’s also become a little obsessed with home grown and home made foods, which of course I love!

Though we haven’t felt like we’ve really made the most of our polytunnel, we do have a fabulous crop of beans in there right now.  Beans are something that never quite worked out for us in the past, so to have them bursting out all over the place feels like a triumph!  We’ve enjoyed some beautiful beans in our meals recently and I’m planning on freezing some this weekend so that we can enjoy them through the winter.  We’re also going to leave some to grow to full maturity and harvest them as drying beans to add to soups and chilli’s through the winter months.

DSC_0913 DSC_0915DSC_0922DSC_0926But of course the real story in the garden right now is the tomatoes.  We’ve hit that point where so many are ripening at once, we are bringing in boxes and baskets and buckets of them.  We’ve harvested roughly 23 kilo’s in the last couple of days and I’m sure there will be more coming in over the weekend.  To be honest I’m not sure that we could ever grow enough tomatoes, we would use them all.  We use them year round and I’ve never quite managed to grow and preserve a year’s supply.  Last year we got to February on our own tomatoes (from the summer onward) so we’ll see how many I can put by this year.

Knowing that we grew these plants from seed, raised them, tended them, fed them, weeded around them and are now harvesting them, gives me immense satisfaction. It was a family affair as the seeds were a gift from my Dad, a connection from across the water that’s stayed with us all season.  I know that we could just go to the store and buy them, that the hours and energy we put into them might not make purely economic sense. but it goes far beyond that for us.  Apart from the superior flavour and nutrition (there is no doubt they are better) we’ve gained so many other things from tending our own crops.

DSC_0925DSC_0948DSC_0930This year, more than any other I’d say, we’ve really worked as a team.  The boys have helped in the garden this year, from sowing seeds, potting on,  planting out and harvesting.  They are seeing, literally, the fruits of their own labours.  When they eat the sauce I make from these fruits they have a vested interest in it’s production, I think that is a wonderful thing for them to know.

It’s also so been great for the grown ups!  Apart from the obvious exercise and health that comes from gardening (it’s not called the green gym for nothing!) we’ve also had many hours of peace and companionship.  When else can you just browse and chat, moving quietly but without boredom or lethargy?  Working alongside Stephen has been my greatest joy this summer, knowing that we are truly a team, bonded together in work and harvest.

While this summer has been about work (and a lot of it) it really has also been about family.  We’ve taken trips together, had fun days out and done things on our summer ‘to do’ list.  But when I review my memory album of this summer, many of the highlights revolve around these moments in the garden. Simply working as a team, each of us doing what we can to contribute to the well being of the whole.  Pulling weeds, planting plants, digging, feeding, watering.  All so basic, so fundamental and so terribly important. All of us doing our own work but all interconnected, side by side, with our hands in the earth.