I will always love you, little one

On Saturday, my best friend, my little one, one of the things I loved most in this world was taken from me. I have so much grief that I simply can’t express it in words. Mindu, my little cat of 13 years and 2 months, was accidentally given an overdose of her chemo medication. After fighting for a week to survive, her body just couldn’t cope any more. She didn’t suffer at the end. She slipped into sleep and never woke up.

There is a big hole in my family and in my heart. All I can feel is sadness at the moment. I cared for her every day for 13 years. She was doing so well the week before it happened – putting on weight, purring and cuddling, eating well. I knew it was going to happen eventually with her cancer but we thought we had maybe another year with her. She was taken from me and I just have to go on without her now.

I’ll miss her cuddles, her purring, the way she would tread all over me in bed and knead me. Her headbutts, the way when I picked her up she sunk into me and just fitted in my arms. The way she used to wait on the stairs for me and spring up them and around the corner when I got halfway up. The way when I woke up on summer mornings I would see her stretched out in a patch of sunshine, or sitting on the back of the chair in my bedroom, surveying her kingdom below. The way she would cheekily jump out the window and smile-blink at me on the roof. The way she would knead with sometimes one paw stretched out a bit further than the other and go in double-time when she was really into it. The way she would wiggle her tail and stamp her feet when she was excited. The way she would put her head through the bannisters and rub the side of her face up and down when she knew you had some treats you were bringing up for her. The way she would curl up next to me every morning, close to my body, or come and rest on my chest with her head close to mine. The way she would sometimes lie straight down my legs, stretched out because she fit perfectly. The way she would turn herself upside down when curled in a ball and wrap her paw around her head and sigh contentedly. The way she would manicure her toes with such ferocity. The way she would sometimes just leap around on my duvet – her favourite place in the world – being silly. The way she would chatter when birds flew past the window. The way she would get silly and just keep headbutting me from side to side when I was trying to work on my laptop.

I just miss her *so* much. It’s so painful to lose someone you have loved and will always love.

Mindu and me

Mindu and me

The Squash Arch

squashes growing in the greenhouse

My squashes have been growing at a rate of knots in the greenhouse and in the past, this has been the time that I’ve really started to neglect them and just left the plants in their pots, restricted and begging for more nutrition. Bad veggie mum. But this year I’m a bit more prepared… although I have way too many squashes and not enough space to put them all!

Whilst I need to have a think on the best way to accommodate the bigger cucurbits like the spaghetti squash, knucklehead pumpkins and courgettes, the munchkin pumpkins will have smaller fruits that will happily scramble up and over the arch.

Squash arch in the garden

Taken a couple of weeks ago, the squash arch is in and ready for planting, just as soon as the squashlings are ready! (Can you also spot the black and white furry beast in the veg plots?)

I kept a space free between the big veg plot and the bare patch of the asparagus bed, and have bolted together a metal arch between the two to grow the squash over. I found the metal arch in Poundland for £6.99, and although it probably won’t last more than two or three seasons, it was the next best option (no plastic, thanks). Originally I had wanted to construct the arch with hazel or willow, but Wasseldine, my local supplier, were all out by the time I got around to enquiring about some bean sticks and poles. Organisation skills… not.

Squashes are thirsty and greedy little beggars, and with our sandy soil we needed to add in some manure and compost to give them plenty to feed on. As I’m doing no-dig this year I decided to just dump a load of manure and compost onto the space I’d been saving for my plants, and plant direct into that. Easy peasy.

They will of course need support to scramble up, so we’ve started fastening some garden wire as extra support. I was originally intending on putting in mesh panels but Rich decided to go for a more aesthetically-pleasing option (hopefully it’ll work just as well).

Spanish Flag plant

Image ©Sarah Raven – Spanish Flag scrambling – a perfect companion to scrambling munchkin pumpkins? Only time will tell.

While I wait for my squashlings to get a little bigger before planting out, I’ve put in some mina lobata (Spanish Flag) plants to start scrambling. The idea is to have both the red and white of the Spanish flag flowers intertwined with the squash vines and fruits… it’s all very pretty in my mind so hopefully it’ll come true before the blackfly have their way this year.

Please peas me

banana shallots
Through the “fog” of the last month, my Smallest Smallholding has continued bursting into life. The fresh leafy green of late Spring is in abundance, there’s perpetual bird song, and colour everywhere. At times it has almost felt like I’m being taunted – all this life and amazement around me whilst I grapple with another one of life’s curveballs – but it’s also helped me through. I think nature has a way of just guiding you through the hard times. It is literally grounding to have a veg patch to tend to, or plants to nurture. I’m feeling OK for now. My cat is responding well and seems pretty happy in herself. We’re just taking it day by day and being really thankful for all the good days.

Anyway.

Charles Ross apple tree

This year I wanted to try a few new things to increase my growing repertoire. I’m a fan of perennial things since they don’t need so much looking after in the frosty days of early spring, so fruit trees and perennial fruit bushes are always a safe option, in my eyes.

blackcurrant Ben Tirran

This year I planted in two blackcurrant bushes. Last year’s bumper crop of raspberries meant that I was able to make my first pots of delicious home-made jam, using an exceedingly simple WI recipe. We’ve almost finished the last jar and since I failed to make any marmalade this year we’ll be waiting on the blackcurrants. My crop will be less than modest this year, but next year I’m hoping for a bumper crop, enough for jam, cheesecake (yes, vegans can enjoy cheesecake too) and coulis. Maybe even some ice cream…

Rondo peas

In the veg plots I’ve planted my first ever peas – Rondo peas. Peas hold a particular significance for me; I have hazy memories of my grandmother sitting out in the sunshine in her garden, popping peas. I didn’t realise then how much my grandparents would influence the way I am as an adult, but my early exposure to homegrown veg and flowers has shaped the way that I look at the world. So I guess growing my peas are a little homage to my grandparents, and a way for me to relive a part of my childhood where I felt so safe and life was so simple.

The no-dig approach has been working really well for my veg plots so far, and I’ve had to do less than a quarter of the amount of weeding that I would have usually done by now. Everything just looks stronger, nourished and abundant. Our soil turns to sand so quickly without regular rain so extra nutrients being pulled down into our plots has meant less work for me, and I’m looking forward to pulling up big, healthy veg and cooking it all up later in the season.

Spring is easing into summer here, and the Smallest Smallholding is looking better than ever. Our hard work is paying off, although we still have so much to do. Will the polytunnel ever go up?