The Raspberries Are In and Other Things

Yes, the title says it all. I got my Polka raspberries in last weekend, beneath a beautifully blue sky. I’m ashamed to say that although Stephen at Victoriana Nursery Gardens sent through a very informative leaflet about caring for my raspberry canes, I have a feeling that it may have be sabotaged by my bunnies. They like to eat papery things, and I fear it has fallen victim to the nibbly nibblers.

So Stephen, if you’re out there – I’ve got my raspberries in, but what do I do now?! I have a bag of wood ash that I was going to sprinkle around the roots, and I need to water them a bit more thoroughly I think. We have well-draining soil so hopefully they should do OK. I have visions of fat juicy raspberries making it into fresh summer desserts, brought out of the freezer for rich autumn crumbles, and preserved for rich fruit jams over winter. That’s if I’ve planted them in properly. I just need… reassurance. I’m a complete novice when it comes to soft fruit.

I also went a bit mad over last weekend and bought a telescopic pruner with a proper pruning saw. I set about hacking the last of the big hedges down, and started on the fruit trees. Our crab apple, bless it, was looking a bit worse for wear. It had massive branches that had been weighed down and half snapped by a bumper harvest a couple of years ago. Since I’ve been at it with the pruning saw it looks a bit… well… different. It’s OK. I’ll see how it goes. The birds sat around and looked on, probably wondering what on earth the human with the big long metal arms was doing to their trees.

Really I need a tree surgeon in. We have three trees that are reaching colossal heights – almost as tall as the houses that we wanted to screen ourselves from. The telescopic pruners are only useful if we can get our hands on a tall ladder, but even then I think it’s a bit precarious. And let’s face it, by looking at my pruning picture and my shoddy work, you can tell I’m no expert at tree pruning either. No, it’s a bit of an art in itself and I either need a very tall ladder and a book, or someone who knows what they’re doing. Either way, it’s more money. Always more money.

But I’m still impressed I’ve managed to tick two things off my list – ‘plant raspberries’ and ‘plant garlic’ (yes, I did!). Rich even spent a backbreaking day and a half digging out (and by digging out, we mean putting the spade in a few inches into soil and rubble) his asparagus bed. He’s boarded the edges and mixed in well rotted manure, and is ready to put in his asparagus – ‘Connover’s Colossal‘ and ‘Purple Giant’. I have a feeling we’re a bit late, as per usual, but what the hell. We’ve got to wait a couple of years at least until we can sample the delights of these plants anyway. That’s if Rich can stop the cats using his asparagus bed as a toxic poo dumping ground for that long. I see him hanging out of the house windows warning them off as they eye up the rich, crumbly, soft soil. I can’t help but snigger.

This weekend, however, I have more plans.

Aside from getting the onions in, I wanted to get a straw bale into my greenhouse and start planting some strawberries in the greenhouse. I think I’m going to experiment this year and see just how many different plants I can bung into one straw bale – strawberries, peppers, It’s a Smallest Smallholding space-saving experiment that will probably F-A-I-L, but I’m tempted to give it a go. I’ll get the bale in first and report as I get going with it.

And for those of you that are interested, my new job seems to be going very well, thanks very much. It’s quite a varied role so far, which is always welcome, and the three day weeks working in an office are AMAZING. For instance, this week I did my Mon-Weds in an office full with a pretty positive and creative atmosphere. I’m using about a quarter of the petrol to get to work, and my average commute time is 25 minutes.

I then worked on my own stuff at my own pace yesterday (Thurs) – took time out to make sure my back wasn’t crumpling – and the same again today. The pains in my back, neck and chest are subsiding. I’m getting more sleep. I’ve got the time and inclination to exercise. And I chose to work my butt off for the last two days because the weather was bad. If it’d been nice, I would have moved my work around. Simple. Flexible. GOOD!

Although, I did have a very minor breakdown a couple of nights ago that involved lots of swearing, crying and mascara smudging. I don’t know where it came from. I suppose I must have been quite tired. It was a sort of a blip of a post-quarter life crisis. Mainly frustration at my freelance work and my usual feelings of inadequacy, competitiveness, failing the high expectations of myself etc etc. It all sounds so rubbish when I write it down. But sometimes I just feel like I work and work and work, and get nowhere, or at least I’m not edging too far forward in getting the work that I *want*. I was told throughout my school career that I could do whatever I wanted, but I never really knew what I wanted to do. But in my teenage ignorance, I always imagined I’d be a success, because school was quite easy, and I was constantly told as much. But success at school and exams and success in real life are completely different beasts.

And things have turned out very different for me. I’m not where I want to be in terms of my career at all. I feel as though I’m trailing and too far down that blasted ‘career ladder’.  Only in the last few years, or even months, have I really discovered the direction that I’d like to go in, and started to believe I can do it. But I guess I’ll just have to be a bit smarter about things, and a bit more go-getting. Stop sitting around weeping about it. Make sure my “bread and butter” work doesn’t become my only work and just go for it.

It’s hard. All this working for yourself lark. I need to sit down and strategise and keep motivated. But I also need to see results this year. I knew when I set out this year that I wanted to achieve quite a lot, but it’s proving quite difficult, especially as the house is crumbling down around my ears, my Smallest Smallholding demands a lot of my time, and I’m trying to take time *out* to exercise and keep healthy… but nobody said it was going to be easy, did they?

At least I got my raspberries in last weekend.

Weight: 11 stones 1lb (watch it go down next week, just you watch!)

In February it snows, and it rains.

I was hoping to greet you all with many pictures and words detailing the amazing number of things I’d done this week. But it was not to be.

I finished work on Monday, and was given a beautiful bay tree as a leaving present.

During Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I waited for my wages to arrive. And whislt I waited, I ate, I ate, I watched Star Trek, and I cleaned, I baked rock cakes, and then Rich and I ate them all.

Friday arrived, and so did my pay packet. I whopped and cheered, and went shopping, safe in the knowledge that I’d have all weekend to get going with Things That I Have Wanted to Do for Weeks and Weeds. You know – composting, potting, sowing, planting, repairing. You see, I had cast an eye over the weather forecast a few days previously,  and was delighted to see that we were in for some sunny intervals. I didn’t check back. I should have done. Because today, it rained, and it rained, and it rained some more. Joyfulness.

I don’t mind rain at all, really. But it’s somewhat troublesome  when the volume of rainfall practically quadruples overnight, just when I really want to get on with some important jobs. It rendered me into a useless lump with nothing else to do. Well, I did go shopping. I bought a few clothes for my new job.

I’d also drafted a huge long blog entry a few days ago, tainted with hormonally-tinged rage about being stuck in the house and fed up with cleaning, clearing out and sorting. I couldn’t bring myself to publish it though.  The jist of that gargantuan, self-indulgent moan was that I’ve got as far as I can go on my own in the house. I have to wait for Rich to finish working his six million concurrently-running jobs before we can get on with the next (big) steps in our Quest to Live in a Normal, Nice House. We’re talking next steps like bringing down 100-year old cracked, saggy lath and plaster ceilings. Filthy work.

But, right now, every inch of me is willing spring to wake. I want be out there with it all erupting out around me. I want natural fragrance, warmth, growth, and green. And I can definitely feel it stirring – here in the east, that feeling of unrelenting bitter, biting cold is starting to edge away. The mornings and evenings are getting noticably lighter, and there are buds and shoots tentatively emerging.

But the rain has tripped me up this weekend – and having two missing panes in the roof of my greenhouse doesn’t exactly help matters. I can’t even get to work in there yet. Perhaps tomorrow I should head out and see if I can find some replacements? Not likely though, is it, on a Sunday afternoon? I think it might have to be a mail order job. For now we might have to just live with an unsightly but temporary tarpaulin greenhouse roof. I’m sure the neighbours will get over it. Good things come to those who wait. Or something.

I’m pretty desperate to get my raspberry canes in. Having read Kat’s blog entry about her Polka raspberries which fruit on the first year’s growth, I decided to get some of my own. But I’ve had them over a week (I shall blog in detail next time about my delivery from Victoriana Nursery Gardens – including why I’m going for wild plants this year), and I need to get them there canes in the ground quick smart. I think tomorrow I shall just have to brave the rain. I need to stop being a wuss. I’ll have to don the fetching combo of my oversized blue rain mac under a snowboarding jacket, leaky (spotty) wellies and woolly hat. Well, it can’t be any worse than my pyjama-spotty welly combo. That’s my usual morning summertime get up.

Oh, and I’m off out tomorrow to buy the wood for my greenhouse staging. Which Rich is going to build next week, he says. I think I might just fall over.

Hopefully I’ll have a more interesting update tomorrow!