In the Garden

Spotted LungwortTextures in the gardenWinter in the gardenPrimrosesPrimulasLadybird on FeverfewWinter Salad LeavesRosemaryLaundryP1040642

Last week, a few warm days meant I was able to spend several hours in the garden. Spring has definitely, thankfully, arrived here in south-west England. As is usual with every season, by the time I have had enough of it, the new season is already on its way. No more frosts to speak of, and, though downpours are expected, the hail storm that we had a couple of days ago was a surprise. The last picture above is my newly planted sweet peas and the white flecks are balls of ice!

Even though this is usually one of the scarcer months of the year for harvesting, we are lucky to still be enjoying a bit of homegrown: leeks in various stages of development, winter salad leaves, chives, rosemary, mint and thyme are all welcome additions in the kitchen. Now I just need to decide what else I want to plant for this year… not too much, I have to keep it manageable for little old me to take care of on my own.

This month is the time when everything in the garden tends to shoot up a metre every time I go inside. If I don’t get rid of the weeds now, it will Day of the Triffids before I know it! It felt so good to work on the garden for longer than a few odd minutes. Leaves are bright and lush and plants are budding. A few specks of colour hide here and there: the primroses, spotted lungwort and a ladybird stopped by for a rest. There’s already been plenty of gardening and games of badminton, wafts of line-dried laundry, too much balancing precariously on ladders for shuttlecocks that the wind has blown over the hedge, and, of course, many cups of tea while sitting watching the squirrels and the birds prepare for the new season. Spring is here!

In the Garden

Pink Dahlia

A few mild days and I’m able to spend some time clearing up the garden in preparation for the winter months. The dahlia in the photo above that just last week was abundant with tight pink blooms, is now black and dead.

The ground is slick with rain. The rich sticky mud clings to my gloves and my shoes as I gather the lifeless stalks and brown leaves that have collected all over the ground. I snip off the old branches off the fennel and fuchsia, and muddy droplets flick onto my face.

Bo, our cat, hates the rain. Each morning she is impatient with excitement to get outside. She races around the house trying to attract our attention so we’ll open the door for her. But if it’s raining… a sad kitty will sit glaring out the window waiting for it to stop.

Black cat by the window

She loves it when we are in the garden with her. She’ll follow us around and play hide-and-seek and scampers out of nowhere making me jump. Can you see her hiding in the undergrowth, or disguised as a plant in the pot?

Black cat hiding in the garden

Black cat in a plant pot

At this time of year, it is so cosy and warm inside. So inviting to stay in the warmth of the nest of the house, I often put these outdoor jobs aside. Yet, when I do venture out, when I don woolly hat and gloves and old clothes and get stuck into the rhythm of the work, I am always glad I did.

Thyme

The smell of the garden is earthy at this time of year. There are few insects, and only an occasional robin or pigeon come to visit. The light fades by late afternoon. When I go inside my glasses mist over, and I have to peel off my gloves and wipe them with my cold red hands.

That’s it for the garden work for this year. I’ll be popping out to harvest a few leeks or some winter salad leaves now and again, and to snip a sprig of thyme or rosemary for the Christmas roast, but mostly I’ll hibernate for a couple of months til springtime calls me back outside to prepare the vegetable beds for planting. It seems like a long while off, but I know it will come around quicker than ever. For now it’s time to put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

Coral pink sunset

In the Garden

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The past few days have been satisfying. Time spent away from the Internet has been nourishing to my frazzled soul. The weather has also been kind and enabled me to weed and dig, and spread manure and sow a few early seeds.

I forget how much I need to be outside. Winter creeps surreptitiously into my life and I don’t realise it has been months since I spent more than a few short minutes in the garden. My body needs to be outside and my brain needs it too. Like water. Like air. I need to feel the sun and the breeze on my face and the earth between my fingers. I need to trim dead branches and gather old leaves because this process is a like a life ritual for me. As I prune and clear the garden I am also purging the dead and the dying and the useless thoughts from my mind. And the growing of vegetables, herbs and fruits nourishes me just as much as the eating of them does.

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.”

~ Michael Pollan

The compost crumbles to a fine tilth between my fingers  as I scatter it over the seeds and dampen the soil with water where it is parched. The rosemary in her pot was a thirsty soul and the potted rose has doubled in size in a week, I swear.

I transplanted half a clump of campanula that grew out of nowhere between a crack in the paving and the wall of the house, and replanted it in a pot to put on the garden table. Now I can look forward to purple bells in the summertime. I sowed everlasting sunflowers – the tiny seeds were so different to the usual varieties – and I am still deciding where to put the sweet peas I bought from the garden centre. In a pot or in the garden bed?

From time to time I stop to sit and bask in the sunshine and habitually squeeze the leaves of my new thyme plant between my fingers and inhale the lemony fresh scent.

I sowed radish and beetroot and inspected the spring greens and the tight clusters of white violet-hearted petals on my two broad bean plants. An experiment to see how well they grow and if it is worth allocating them more garden space next year. Lots of leeks look ready for eating – I must remember to use more leeks in the kitchen and look up recipes for their use. I dig and break up the thick clods of clay soil and it breaks my heart when I inadvertently slice a poor earthworm.

And please do tell me where all the dandelions come from? I remove their long tap roots every year, and every year they return. I shall make a salad of them or tea perhaps.

I love being outside and tending the Earth – just my small part of it –  I even begin to feel like a new person 🙂

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A New Year, A New Blog, A Fresh Start

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Hello world and welcome dear reader to the very first post of my new blog. Allow me to introduce myself and tell a little of the reasons why I come here to write.

I’m Kim, a bookish sort, odd and insatiably curious. I live in the south-west of England with my two youngest children – Jay (15), who is ‘unschooled‘, Emily (12), and our black cat Baudelaire. Learning about unschooling has changed our lives immeasurably for the better and I am writing a book about my experiences with school and home education (when I’m not procrastinating by blogging, reading and surfing the internet amongst other things).

I like to create a cosy home; I bake sometimes; I hate clutter but am loath to get rid of a single book. And when I get irritable with piles of dishes to wash and messy floors, or the mould that needs removing from the bathroom ceiling (again), I try very hard to remind myself that it is not forever, nothing is forever, and I try to be grateful for even those things.

I want to slow down and learn to do one thing at a time. I want to take the time to smell roses and watch the ripples on the lake, to lie in the grass in the middle of summer just watching the clouds drift overhead.

Writing is a way for me to let go of a painful and difficult past by focusing on the here and now as much as I can. I want to value this one life, not waste it. Sometimes I get so afraid of wasting it that I am paralysed by fear – utterly stuck – like an ageing tractor rolling its big old tires in the mire and digging a trench beneath itself, sinking deeper and deeper into the squelchy mud. Well, this is my way of pulling myself out, cleaning myself off and moving on.

I suppose I just want to live a well-lived life though I am not at all sure just what that is. And so I write. I write to explore, to discover what I think about things and to be inspired by the lives and words of those who know a heck of a lot more than me.

Writing helps me uncover the truth, or at least my truth. When I write about the small ordinary things – the ‘little wonders’ of an everyday life, I’ve taken time to truly see. I appreciate them and remember them and that feels like a good thing.

So here I’ll write about the books I read, art and crafty projects, growing things in the garden, treasures found in dusty lanes and wild fields, inspiration and ideas to live better, deeper, richer.

I’d love for you to join me for a cup of tea, and we’ll put the world to rights or at least have a darn good try. Thanks for reading.

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