Archive for January, 2010


 I’m glad to get home at night and sit by the stove to thaw out. The hall-way is an array of drying coats, boots, scarves, hats and gloves; the kids have had a whale of a time in the snow and are plumped in front of the television, their energies spent and slowly drowsing. It’s been a good day. My dear wife has made a lamb stew and the aroma fills the kitchen. Whilst she’s upstairs I sneak a taste and that stolen ladleful is surely the best taste in the world. Around nine in the evening, with the kids in bed, a wave of tiredness overwhelms me and before long I’m taking a hot water bottle and a mug of hot milk and brandy to bed upstairs, my head hits the pillow and soon I’m dreaming of tropical islands and…


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Outside the potting shed door is a cotoneaster still bearing a few red berries. The blackbirds have slowly been polishing them off until only the ones at the end of the branches remain. Five fieldfares with their grey hoods and yellow scarves descend on the shrub intent on finishing the berries off. They peck at the red fruit until they reach the yellow innards or else leap up trying to dislodge them. They keep returning over the next few days, often clinging on upside down to the slender branches with a wild fluttering of their wings, until even the last berries at the very ends of the branches are gone. It makes for an interesting spectacle during my lunch break but one is tempered by the reminder that hunger has driven the fieldfares to our garden and that food is a matter of life and death for all wild-life at this time of year.

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One of the best jobs for a Jack Frost day is the grand opening of the compost bins. We have three bins made of railway sleepers, each one five feet square, built against a stone wall. The one on the left is ready to be emptied, leaving space for the middle one to be turned into it and hence leaving space for the right hand bin to be emptied into the vacant middle bin. The turning of the bins stokes up the composting process by adding air and the outer edges that break down more slowly are folded into the middle of the heap. It’s an enjoyable day’s work barrowing loads of gorgeous rich brown crumbly compost and flinging it with a fork and a flourish across the wide borders of the main garden. An old hand-fork that I lost ages ago turns up as good as new and is my reward for the day.

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first notes…

Hello and welcome to the very first page of my blog which is a whole new experience for me and I must confess to being rather intimidated by the weird and wonderful world of computers. Starting a blog is like being given a garden plot of rich and fertile soil but nothing else: a blank canvas just waiting to be planted up. One can gaze out of the window and dream of a tree growing here and a row of shrubs there, not forgetting the vegetable patch…..

And what a glorious winter’s day to start a blog! There was a sharp frost this morning but the sun has lifted it and the almost clear blue skies hold no more than the wispiest of clouds passing by. Winter still holds a cold stern touch though and I’m wrapped up in so many layers of thermals and  fleeces that if I fell over I would bounce back up again.

The job for the day is pruning the apple trees that make up a small orchard. I was quite cavalier in my younger days but now I take more care going up and down the jolly old ladder; there’s never been an apple grown that’s worth a broken leg. Looking up into the branches gives me a stiff neck and so I take the time to go for a wander across the field to ease the muscles. A satisfying collection of prunings litters the ground and the last job of the day is to gather them up and take them to the bonfire. If |I could only train a dog to catch the prunings as they fall and put them in a bag for me.

This orchard has been free from canker for as long as I can remember and I am always careful to wash the blades of my tools with antiseptic to prevent passing on the disease from other orchards. However, disconcertingly, the first signs of canker have been seen on one of the trees and I am careful to cut the offending branch out and hope it does not spread further.

Working outside all year round can be a curse sometimes but on glory days like this there is nowhere else I would choose to be…..

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