The best antidote to a grey January afternoon

Well one of my resolutions was to post more on my blog. I’m sorry I haven’t kept up as much as I intended – I managed to break my laptop. And with Rich working morning, noon and night, it’s nigh on impossible to boot him off so I can write.

But here I am.

Ahhh Fridays. I do like Fridays. Now that I’m in the throes of my four-day working week, Fridays are MY day. You know, when the rest of the world isn’t off work. I rise late, I write, I write some more and catch up on getting all those little jobs out of the way; bottlebank, money bank, library, tidying… Today I’m planning on starting another letter. I’ll plonk myself down at some point during the afternoon and scribble away, no doubt accompanied by the background noise of a terrible 70s film on Film4.

My Smallest Smallholding is… well. Hmm. Green and weedy is the most diplomatic way of describing it. Or perhaps ‘slumbering’. Yes, I like that word. After the snow melted it was like an eye-popping explosion of GREEN. Everywhere was bellowing GREEN! GREEN AND BROWN! GREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN! The snow also uncovered all the messy bits – the unkempt piles of leaves, twigs, weeds, unpruned shrubbery, wonky veg plot borders etc etc. Whilst the snow laid, at least it looked relatively neat. Ah well. Such is nature. I have a lot of work to do this spring.

My local garden centre does a brilliant deal on seeds at this time of year – 50% off, with many “buy two get one free” offers to. So I am planning on heading over there with an extremely limited budget and starting to thumb through the racks. I’m definitely going for squashes again this year. Although last year’s produce was rubbish, at least I managed to get the plant to actually fruit. So this year, who knows. We may produce something edible – it has been known!

I’m not going for potatoes this year. I call my small bit of England ‘The Smallest Smallholding’ for good reason, and potatoes take up a lot of space. OK, maybe I’ll relent and grow a row or two of Charlottes. They’re fantastic when they’re freshly dug. In fact, I doubt whether Rich will allow me NOT to grow them. But as far as maincrop goes, I can easily buy a big sack from the local farmer for around a fiver.

I asked Rich whether he’d eat strawberries, if I grew them. His response? “Depends if they have maggots in them”. Let me remind you that this year, Rich is 30. Yes, really.

And apart from my staple crop of sunflowers (seeds for the birds), onions and garlic, I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do. I think I’ll decide when I get infront of the seed racks.  I have a feeling that this year, anything goes.

Weight: 11stone 6lbs

Well well, what would I do with a well?

I had visions of having a wall (or bank) of different types of sunflowers to disguise one of the less than attractive fences.

Hmmmm. Well, after all that wind and rain last week, my sunflowers got a bit of a battering. Most of the tall ones THAT I’D EVEN TAKEN THE TIME TO STAKE got blown over. And then carried on growing for a bit, so they’re all wiggy and wonky. Oh well. That just speaks volumes about me. I’m a bit wiggly and wonky and things never go to plan but you’ve just got to make the most of what you have.

Oh they’ll still bloom. I’m sure of that. It just won’t be the picture-perfect magazine-worthy sight. It won’t have much of a ‘wow’ factor, but at least I’ll enjoy the wonkiness, the bees will like the pollen, and eventually the birds will enjoy the seeds.

Rich and I were also super-busy at the weekend. Ignoring the jungle of plants, weeds and grass that’s growing all around us (we can’t mow, it’s just been too wet), we decided to tackle up near the back of the house. It’s a gravelled area, partly for aesthetic reasons and partly for functional reasons – mainly, to aid rain drainage. The gravel has been down for probably over 15 years, and is looking really tired. But because the sunshine streams into that area in the morning, we’ve always fancied making it into an al fresco eating area. So on Saturday, we firstly set about giving Rich’s hand-built gate a going over with ‘country cream’ stain and preservative.

It looks pretty posh now. Well, posh for us, at least. Rich also had a spasm at the garden centre and decided to buy a pretty well established bay tree to put by the back door. That looks VERY nice. We’ve decided that we’re going to put the ashes of our beloved late cat ‘Tubby’ in there. He was a gorgeous boy and I still miss him, even now, two and a half years after we lost him suddenly.

So now we’ve only got to find a nice plant to put the hens’ ashes in, and then there’s Smudge my rabbit’s ashes. Good grief. The last two years were crap for losing my animals.

Anyway – not dwelling on that at the moment! I haven’t finished bleating on about what Rich and I managed to do. You see, there was also a large double portion of trellis that was completely overgrown with ivy – it was strangling the pyracantha and honeysuckle. I felt a bit bad about it, because I don’t like ripping out established plants, but it had to go. It was just too dark there, too much work to keep in check, and we wanted to open up the view from the back door.

So we spent (what felt like) hours cutting and sawing, loading the car, pulling, digging, swearing, sweating… and eventually got there. It was SO satisfying. The trellis slide out of the ground and the area just opened up. We must have gained a good 6 square metres at least. Not much in smallholding terms, but in smallest smallholding terms that’s a fair amount of space!

After completing that job, and being peed on from the heavens for the duration, we felt pretty pleased with ourselves. We’d always talked about taking out this thicket of ivy, but it had always seemed like a really big, difficult task. But we just thought sod it, did it, and shock horror, it all turned out OK.

The only thing is, we’re left with a concrete path an two steps down to a well that’s been hidden under the lawn for a few decades. Mum tried digging out the well years ago, but got bored, tired and fed up with it, so filled it in. Don’t think I fancy a well. I can just imagine I’d end up falling down it or something.