No sooner do I say how much I'm enjoying a bit of sunshine than it's back to mizzle - mist and rain. How dreary! It's really miserable out, low light levels, cold and damp, goodness knows how the spring flowers put up with it. The snowdrops look delicate but they are hardy little things. I've brought some into the house to enjoy.
There are more than five hundred cultivars of these dainty 'milk flowers' but I have only two or three un-named varieties.
New flowers are forming on my orchids. This plant had white flowers when it was given to me as a present several years ago. Since then any new shoot has produced yellow flowers.
At last a couple of dry days and some sunshine. I've been itching to get out into the garden for weeks. The soil is wet and sticks to my boots, but there's so much to be done, ground to clear, shrubs and trees to prune, perennials to divide that in spite of claggy (technical term!) footwear I've been outside clearing the vegetable beds ready for spring planting.
There are still quite a few crops to harvest, including sprouts, swede, leeks, chard and spinach. Can you see all the mole hills in the orchard? They've been very busy tunnelling there and in the garden whilst I've been tucked up inside throughout the winter.
It's lovely to see spring flowers and the green tips of bulbs emerging from the ground. The snowdrops are putting on a good show.
Miniature daffodils around Maisie's grave.
We walked up the road to meet friends for lunch at the local hotel.
It always involves a pootle round the vegetable garden to see what's growing.
Parsnip (who should know a thing or two about root vegetables) has introduced me to a new word for swedes. Rutabaga. It sounds exotic. I had to go to google to read all about it. What a confusion! When is a swede not a swede? When it's a turnip, or a rutabaga. While the vegetables stay the same, and taste quite different from each other, their names are interchangeable depending on which part of Britain you're in. And that's without factoring in names given in other countries.
It reminds me of the childhood joke,
how do you tell the difference between a stoat and a weasel?
Answer, A weasel is weasyily recognised, but a stoat is stoatally different.
When my swede and turnip seedlings first sprouted in the autumn I had no idea which was which. Birds had pulled out the small white labels that identified each row and I ended up planting out the thinnings as guesswork. No matter, both crops did well. How pretty the turnips look, and, satisfyingly, just the same as on the packet!
It's a cold wet day, best suited to sitting by a well-stocked log fire and having a leisurely read through the papers or starting on one of the Christmas books. The various seed and plant firms are bombarding me with emails tempting me to purchase their goods. I would love to be swinging into action in the garden but it's far too early in the year to be doing much. We are still cropping plenty of vegetables; sprouts, leeks, chard, spinach, turnip and swede, but it's not much fun squelching about in the sodden soil to harvest them. To eat with our haggis we had the traditional mashed 'neeps 'n tatties,' homegrown. (Turnips and potatoes to you sassenachs.)
I sowed swede and turnip seed in the autumn after clearing one of the veg beds of a summer crop at the suggestion of Monty Don on a gardening programme. I thought that it might be too late in the season to have much success, but worth trying as otherwise the ground would just lie idle.
I'm pleased with the results, a good crop of both. Something has had a nibble at the swedes, but without inflicting too much damage, as you can see.
There's plenty of seed left in each packet to plant again this autumn. Now doesn't that gladden the heart of someone who has a combination of Scottish and Yorkshire blood in her veins!
Skywatching this week has involved being able to see little more than grey mist. Some days have been positively dreich, such a descriptive Scottish word for dull, wet, dreary weather. My mother was a Scot and my grandmother Irish and many celtic words remain in common use in our household.
Big brother phoned to ask if I'd eaten haggis on Burn's night. He complained that he'd been unable to buy one wrapped in anything other than plastic and was not very happy about the fact. I told him that was a minor complaint, that I'd gone to buy my haggis only to find them on sale either sliced or in the shape of a sausage. Some haggis were labeled vegetarian. Come on, a haggis, vegetarian! Isn't that an oxymoron? What about tradition, sheep's pluck, oats and spices all wrapped up into a nice round ball in the lining of an animal's stomach, how can you improve on that?
No answers on a postcard, thank you very much!
Apparently the most depressing day of the year is today, January 16th, known as, 'Blue Monday.' Mental Health Research UK wants to rename it, 'Blooming Monday' and is encouraging everyone to share pictures of themselves in brightly coloured clothing. I've just walked down the road to the postbox and have to say that the weather isn't helping, it's anything but bright and inspiring; the landscape is grey, the fine rain drenching. I'm living in roll-neck sweaters and woolly socks and forgive me for sounding like a grouch, but January and February are the months when I could happily hibernate.
Our e-mail system stopped working at Christmas and we were out of communication for weeks. Friends phoned to say that they couldn't make contact. We've just discovered why, our provider went bankrupt! E-mail is so immediate, ideal for those silly, short exchanges with friends and family that make you smile and equally good for lengthy catch-ups and an exchange of photographs with those who now live far away.
The art of letter writing, it seems, is dead.
Mt mother wrote wonderful letters, full of the routine of her daily life. She would describe a blackbird singing outside the kitchen window and what she had baked that was going to be eaten for tea. Her writing would transport me straight back home. I was also a letter writer, often adding drawings to accompany whatever I was writing about. One day I received a reply from a friend. She had made, as a heading, a carefully detailed pen drawing of a town crier in a feathered hat. He was ringing a hand bell as he read out a notice, proclaiming, 'Such is the letter that Rosemary writes and so do I....'
Throughout my childhood a single house telephone was our connection to the outside world and its four-digit number is embedded in my memory. The phone was positioned in the hall at the foot of the stairs and was used for my father's business as well as for family calls. A pad and pencil were set out on the table so that important customer details could be written down. Unfortunately I was a doodler. When friends rang to chat I would pick up the pencil and doodle on the pad. Loops and lines grew and connected the letters and numerals in an intricate web. I was totally unaware that I was doodling. If Dad was in the sitting room and I had been talking on the phone for some time he would know that his business messages were in the process of being obliterated. "Rosemary!" he would bellow, "Get off the phone!"
I like the feel of a pencil in my hand and have drawn and written since childhood, both for my own pleasure and for my career. I think of a pencil as a magical tool, able to record fact, create fiction and make imaginary figures that can, with just a few small marks, smile back at me from the page.
I've just finished writing my first novel and when I started I wrote in pencil, only later transferring what I had written onto the computer. At some point, I can't recall exactly when, perhaps during the editing process, the pencil became redundant and I wrote straight onto the screen.
Do I still doodle? I went and looked at the telephone pad in the hall. Pristine! Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs! How strange. Did I stop doodling at the start of the digital age?
I live with Himself (husband) in a former gamekeeper's cottage in the South-West of England.
All text and photographs on this blog are
copyright and property of Rosemary Murphy unless otherwise stated.
I have three blogs;
Share my garden,
My life in one hundred objects and
The 'Himself' blog consists of short stories and artwork, copyright of Peter Murphy.