Saturday, 2 April 2011

garden conflagration!

Yesterday my plan for a trip to Brighton for a mooch round the shops was scuppered by a sore leg. This is not unusual for me as I have a condition which means that my body tends to hurt quite a lot. I have to learn to adapt life to it, rather than it to life, and that is part of mindfulness for me, being quietly aware of what I do and ensuring that I do it in a way that doesn’t lead to lasting damage. So, I did some quiet sorting of Mum’s photographs as I have to weed out those that I have no room for. In one album, I found an image of the place my various “garden gods” came from in their earlier lives; a pristine garden, manicured to within an inch of it’s life! It was owned by my mother's second husband, a very neat and tidy and polishing sort of chap, who married Mum, his first wife, when he was 70! He was a Sunday School superintendent, church choir singer, instinctive organ player and all round good egg, who couldn't quite work out how to react to a barefoot hippie teenager! Our worlds did not coincide!
I’m sure these two must have many whispered discussions about my gardening shortcomings – just not how things were in our youth eh? no straight edges and look at all these weeds!

Then, as the day had cleared a bit, I decided that, sore leg or not, the garden was calling and I must obey.
This area here is going to be a lovely semi circular bed with delphiniums, hollyhocks and roses to spill and fill the summer days. However, now it is just a mess, albeit with some really lovely plants tucked away amongst the weeds

It is a space I will have to clear in small stages and is the sort of job in the garden that I love, but have to remind myself to take slowly, mindfully, so that I don’t end up very sore the next day. I cleared a manageable bit, then started to rake up the bits and bobs – note to self, rake things together into small piles first, then pick them up – it is less bending and therefore better for sore backs. My garden assistant agrees.
There was a brief interlude while Mad Dog Daisy tried to stake a claim, racing through the hole in the fence wildly barking "this is mine this is mine!" She was repulsed at the first, fur trembling, hurdle by my friendly “hello Daisy, whatcha doing?” My camera wasn’t quick enough to capture more than this - caught “on the back foot” perhaps?

Lawn or bog?
Having cleared the sticks and twigs, I remembered that I was “Home Alone”. My good soul is in the north visiting his daughter, picking mine up on his way home on Monday. There was no-one to tell me that a fire at the end of the garden would cause a terrible, unstoppable conflagration that would, likely, burn half the garden down, if not all of it and next door’s as well! What! With all this water lying about after the rain?

I have mentioned the gatherings together of “stuff” that I’ve been clearing and pruning, the great piles that need to be disposed of somehow. We have no compost heap at the moment, so it’s either shred, burn or bin. Burning is definitely the most fun, though I’m sure the least ecologically sound. So I hauled out the incinerator, fed it old newspaper and little twigs, followed by more twigs, bigger twigs, branches, and dry stuff and slightly damp stuff, stuff that went crackle fizz pop and stuff that made big clouds of satisfying smoke. I had my poking stick to hand, to lift off the lid and prod into the hot heart of things to make sure all was consumed, I had a small bucket of water, fortuitously to hand in case things got out of hand, I had a director’s chair to sit in to conduct operations, and the place to myself! Sore leg, what sore leg?
Carried away by the thrill of sorting poking prodding, leaping out of the way, choking on smoke, sitting down for a rest, leaping up again because that was no fun and the fire must need prodding again, I spent two very happy hours reducing several piles of burnable stuff to two small’ish piles that were too big to break up by hand. They can be shredded, but not by me.

So, this morning what do we have?
Moisture so thick on the windows that the only view of the garden is through the footprint of a snail,

A fine collection of wood ash to spread on the ground and feed the plants, which is what gardening is all about, recycling things to mimic what nature does, but in a managed way

Mad Dog Daisy shouting at the cats
Mad Dog Daisy!
Oh … and a sore back!

Of course Millais expressed all this with much more poetry, though I always thought his pile of leaves remarkably tidy - perhaps the little girls in their velvet dresses had a helper.

John Everett Millais - Autumn Leaves

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