Friday 23 February 2018

In like a lion, out like a lamb...

The meteorological winter ends on the 28th February this year, whilst the astronomical winter will officially end on the 20th March 2018. Usually, I would feel more inclined to yield to the former, but this winter has been a fair margin harsher than many in recent years. In fact, it seems to be showing little sign of relenting as we continue to hit -3 or more regularly during the night. Nonetheless, I do want it to be spring. I want warmth, and light, and growth. Perhaps this is why Mrs Cloister and her mother regularly declare this season over before it seems to have begun.

The January Snows
In preparation for the hallowed day when I declare spring - probably somewhere mid-way between the two official measurements - I have been making preparations for our garden. The hedges have all been cut, a not insignificant matter, and the compost heaps are coming on well. Most of the beds have been dug over and I’m trying to impose some order on the barn and lean-to where we will bring on our early sowings.

Of course, last year was our first full growing year at the Lodge. When we had finally cleared swathes of bramble and scrub and dug out the growing beds we had a good and varied crop. Some things worked better than expected, and others not so well. Nothing was declared a disaster, which is rare, though the parsnips and carrots weren’t a roaring success! The stored potato crop has just given way, as have the cabbages, but the leeks are still going strong. Not bad for a first year and I think we can be satisfied with our efforts. We had to tame the wilderness indoors as well as out, which took a fair bit of time.
May 2017

This year, I’m raising the bar a little and hoping we can build on the efforts made thus far. We’re getting to know the soil and a little of what can be expected by way of pests and so forth. Overall, the garden seems fairly forgiving, though perhaps this is a result of having been so long dormant. Rotations will be key in trying to keep it that way. Though the hedges and adjacent woodland provide some weather protection we are relatively high up for the area and exposure to wind and cold can be quite marked. In fact, the woodland hides an iron age hill fort which once would have dominated the local landscape.

We’re lucky that the Lodge gardens have the space and I feel we’re ahead of the game when compared to last year. Previously, I had to create beds; now I’m just digging and prepping them. Whilst there is a lot still to do - and the vagaries of the weather, pests and disease to be navigated - I have every hope that we can edge that little further along the line toward a more self-sufficient life. Of course, the real pleasure comes in simply growing and enjoying your own food for its unique taste and quality. After all, why bother if the stuff produced looks and tastes like everything else in the supermarkets? Rarely have I found anything as satisfying. Conversely, a little hard labour is also good for the waistline.