Five hours every day...
The third week of January, high summer in the messy Moosey Garden - I could garden for five hours every day, and still find things needing to be done. Like weeding, and trimming edges, and rescuing self sown seedlings from the middle of paths...
Flax Flower in the Ferns
Sunday January 14th
How peaceful it is this morning! Sure, there are ominous puffs of wind, and eyes half open can still see gum tree rubbish all over the (un-mown!) house lawns. But the early morning noises - Bach tootling away in the house background, insects humming, pigeons burbling, other birds squeaking melodiously. This is how my early mornings are supposed to sound! No more insistent bleating of the pet lamb Fred, who would watch the house for the slightest human movement, then 'baaaaaaaah' and (even worse) 'maaaaaaaah' with his lamby voice. Fred the lamb is finally weaned off his bottle - banished down the back paddock to bleat at next-door's goat.
The gardening day (which should include five hours hard work, remember) stretches in front of me. What to do first? Admire the staked tomatoes in the semi-weeded vege garden, and harvest some more beans? Start trimming the lawn edges? Get those lawns properly mown, with quality control - no missing bits? Finish spreading the trailer load of compost in the Pittorporum forest? Finish edging the boundary path at the proposed back of the forest?
Cats and Dogs
- 'Gardening with felines is humbling. It's so different to dogs - try booming 'No!' in your sternest voice of discipline to a cat!'
- Head Gardener
Playing-with-the-animals day also beckons. So off we will all go, Fluff-Fluff the Fearless, Beige Puss the Brave, followed by Tiger the Super-Big Kitten and Old Mother Stumpy - down the driveway to the Pittosporum forest. Here to spend another morning skittering around, zooming up and down trees (here Tiger definitely has the edge), lurking in the tussock grasses, weeding, raking and spreading compost around ... My goodness I love these cats!
Gardening with felines is humbling. It's so different to dogs - try booming 'No!' in your sternest voice of discipline to a cat! Ha!
Dublin Bay - View from the Frisbee Lawn
I've gardened for nearly four hours in the roaring nor-west wind. Firstly I had kitten company, then on my return with morning tea Jerome the Grey (she's quite possessive) turned up, hissed the kittens away, and took up cat-escort duty. This involves walking underneath the wheel-barrow while in motion (tricky), and springing nimbly onto the kneeling head gardener's back. Ouch! Do I miss Fred the lamb jumping his fence and charging through the Hump towards me? Hope he's OK down the back, and not being too solitary... I'll stay what I am... a solitary lamb... solitary lamb...' - apologies to Neil Diamond.
I've finally emptied the trailer load of compost, which has taken me three gardening days - a speed-spreading Moosey record. Hey, that reminds me - where's my Manly Garden Helper got to? He seems to have disappeared, temporarily I'm sure - probably wasn't contracted to do weekends. Or maybe the home baking just isn't up to scratch... Anyway, the Pittosporum forest is ready for him to plant its Pittosporums - a rather integral part of this newly named area.
Monday 15th January
I'm typing my gardening journal with a smoochy Stumpy cat and my first hot cup of tea - early morning magic! Another week of summer to enjoy - books to read, kittens to play with, bicycle rides with Rusty the dieting dog, more trailer loads of compost to spread, Brahms piano to practice, edges to trim...
First some questions:
- Will my Manly Garden Helper arrive today with Pittosporums?
- If so, should I bake him lemon biscuits or chocolate muffins?
- How easy will it actually be to lay weed-mat on the Dog-Path?
- Should I get a rail-pass or a bus-pass for Stage One (Europe) of my Grand World Garden Tour?
Hmm... My gardening jeans and shirt are laid out, ready for another big day. Time for a second cup of tea, then a quick look at laying the weed-mat on the Dog-Path. Fascinating stuff! When I actually meet some of my world gardening friends on my supposedly-intrepid world garden tour, will they mind that I am shy and boring? Old and repetitive? Warning - however interesting an old-lady gardener might sometimes seem when writing, safe and sound, thousands of miles away - reduce by at least nine-tenths if meeting in person.
A Warm Summer Sunshine Rose - Golden Tribute
How about barbecued pet lamb for dinner? Apparently Fred the pet lamb kept on jumping the back fence and charging up to the neighbours, sitting peacefully on their patio minding their own business. They have rather crossly brought him home, bleating loudly. It was awful - I was lying on the sofa, snoozing apres-gardening, and thought I heard pleasantly distant baa-ing noises in my dream. Aargh! I will not feed him! So there he is, totally on his own (strains of the song Solitary Lamb again) in the front paddock.
And how about 'Sonly' Garden Help? 'Manly' didn't appear today, but Sonly Garden Help was available not only to drive the car with trailer (oooo - scary!), but also to wheel the compost onto the proposed Pittosporum forest garden. This took son less than one hour (shaming my three day effort). I did the raking, and dug up some seedling Pittosporums to replant around the boundary.
- The Water Race :
- The water race is a straight irrigation canal which runs through my garden.
In the afternoon I worked really hard in the water race, laying the weed-mat. I have done about eight meters, the new surface sprinkled by hand with stones scooped from the bottom of the race. I'm rebuilding the small stone wall at the same time. I got delightfully wet. So I have completed yet another five hour gardening day (the trick is to take all cups of tea and coffee, and lunch, outside) and I have not lost a single garden tool, either!
Tuesday 16th January
Each of my days has exactly the same beginning - first cup of hot tea, good morning to my journal and Stumpy the lap-sitting cat, off on the bicycle with Rusty the steadily shrinking dog, second hot cup of tea, then off outside with wheelbarrow full of garden tools and cricket radio... I guess there are always reasons for a routine.
Two Mary Roses
I almost forgot - good morning to Fred the solitary lamb. Bleat away - I've thrown out your plastic drink bottle. A free-range lamb would be a disaster - in a few minutes yesterday he ate four Mary roses and a beautiful soft orange dahlia which I usually take photographs of at this time of year...
No Kitten Photographs Allowed...
Just a quick kitten note - observant readers (hello, family in the Maldives!) will notice a lack of pictures of the new kittens, Fluff-Fluff and Beige-Puss. Little Fluff-Fluff's face is still healing from ringworm, and cute chocolate-box kittens do not look good with bald patches above each eye and scabby noses. Right. Enough bleating, from human and lamb. The day begins - the Dog-Path/bicycle/Pittosporum forest beckons, though not necessarily in that order.
And No Garden Helper Photographs Allowed, Either...
Exciting news - a phone call from the Manly Garden Helper - he is arriving tomorrow. I need a photograph of man-at-work. This could be risky - think topless, tattooed, tanned, spreading compost in the hot summer sun - more suited to a page at www.gardenfantasy.com...
Yes! Another five hours of sensible gardening, with several bleating interruptions. It's quite sad - I think Fred the lamb is lonely. He isn't trying to 'find' his bottle, just seems to want to hang out with someone (as opposed to some sheep). Then he munches a daisy or a rose flower and I realise the romantic notion of lamb-company is a totally silly one. Think I'll stick to good-listener, non-bleating cat-company and dog-company. I wonder if Fred the pet lamb may need to be tethered...
Anyway, more of the water race Dog-Path is weed-matted - it's a slow, wet, summer job, as I stand in the water clearing the path and trying to flatten it. Rusty the puppy-dog loves this style of gardening - he positions himself downstream and waits for any weed or stick which escapes my busy weeding hands. I also have another trailer load of compost, and I am working my way down the shady Driveway Gardens, pulling out weeds, transplanting inappropriate plants and dumping barrowfuls of dark rich organic soil conditioner on the borders.
And all the time I am thinking about my silly travel plans, and wondering if September is really 'too late' in the northern gardening calendar. I'd like to see the famous Piet Oudoulf garden (in Holland, I think) - I'm sure the grasses that he plants should look really good at the end of summer. Last time I garden-travelled I was hopeless - all I wanted to do was to fly home and do my own garden. But I was younger then - and this time I think I have more money and more patience, both of which could be useful...