And The Beet Goes On

“I can’t remember such an extended period of wind and rain.” Roger utters as we study our very soggy garden beds.   We are standing in the wind and drizzle taking an inventory of the spring gardening projects.  We have a lot.

For such a mild winter nothing has grown.  Too much rain and a complete lack of sunny days have laid to waste much of our winter vegetable beds.  The remaining hopes — cabbages —were attacked by rabbits, despite our fencing.  In short, our winter garden this year has been a washout.

Looking out upon our vegetable beds, I can’t help but feel weary and careworn.  Procrastination taking hold like a tap-root weed as I anticipate the exhaustion I will feel BEFORE we begin to tackle these jobs.  To keep the rabbits out, yet make access to the raised vegetable beds easier, we are considering building them up another plank level.  Currently the beds are 12 inches high.  If we double that, the additional compost will give us better growing conditions, a little less bending for us, and an easier defence from the rabbits.  That is, the rabbits who don’t burrow into the beds.  We’ve just discovered a bloody big tunnel right in the middle of our artichokes.  Those little bastards!


A year ago, I planted nearly 300 bulbs and this past November we planted 100 hedge plants — blackthorn, holly,  dog rose, maple, hawthorn and guelder rose — to create a habitat for wildlife and ultimately create a hedgerow where the fencing is failing.  What is giving us hope and renewed energy toward our garden are the snowdrops and daffodils poking out from under their mulch of fallen leaves.  These brave little harbingers of spring are defying the rains and mud reminding us to just get on with it.   So too, the hedge plants are all showing signs of establishing themselves.

The ever hopeful snowdrops!

The ever hopeful snowdrops!

Beginning their floral displays are the garden plots we re-established this past year.   Lifting rocks into place and creating drainage, we added rich compost and planted bulbs and bedding plants artfully along the perimeter of the house.  When my brother was visiting in September, he helped relocate and separate some plants that had wilted or suffered shock by being moved.  Peter and I looked at them with a strong sense that our intervention had likely killed these voracious plants.  Happily, they are perking up, budding new leaves and sporting a few purple, pink and white flowers as they shake off their sleepy winter state.

I am ready for spring and accept that I have another month or two before we are in the swing of it, but the past several months of endless rain and skies, which on most days look like dirty plastic hastily placed to cover a broken window, are enough.  There are days when the clouds are like low-hanging mist rooms, testing my usually sunny resolve.  Or, there are days when the clouds lift up high and play hide and seek with the reluctant sun, setting out to tease me with hopes of a dry day.  While our winter vegetables didn’t grow, the potholes along our track certainly did and we are facing a much larger job this spring than in past.  Most of the trenches to the side of the track have been restored, and once we have several days of sunshine, we can begin to fill the ever deepening potholes.

The activity of Sparrows, Tits, Robins and Finches at the bird feeders is on the upswing.  And those noisy Jackdaws are starting to make a mess in and around the barn building their broken-twig-messy-nests. The lambing season also heralds the arrival of spring and soon the sounds of bleating lambs calling to their mothers will fill the air.  Slowly, our chickens are beginning to up their egg production and the recent daily appearance of a blackbird perched atop one of our window boxes, which will soon be planted with marigolds, delights us with his melodic mating song.  Yes, we need to get a move on with these projects.

The light is lingering later into the day and further inspection of the garden shows we need to build a new bed for the rhubarb as it suffers in its current location.  The blueberries need a prune.  And when a sunny day rolls around, the greenhouse will get its spring cleaning and the strawberries inside will be replanted.  Our potatoes, beets, lettuces, tomatoes, radishes, carrots and onions will all be ready for planting in April and May.  We carry on with our outside inventory, picking up fallen branches from the trees as we go.  We stop and listen to the birdsong across the valley, and notice small buds appearing on the trees.  The beard of moss and lichen on the trees and rocks sports new little flowers.  And just below where we’ve stopped I spy the beginnings of nettles.  Despite any garden setbacks, there will always be successes. Perhaps in a few weeks there will be enough of these pesky plants to make some soup.

The chickens pecking for worms, bugs, and other snacks. Despite the sunshine, they are electing for a shady feed.

The chickens pecking for worms, bugs, and other snacks. Despite the sunshine, they are electing for a shady feed.

The nobel Sam. Not much of a gardener, but happy to supervise the whole scene.

The noble Sam. Not much of a gardener, but happy to supervise the whole scene.


17 comments on “And The Beet Goes On

  1. jllevitan says:

    Just finished listening to A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson. Many references to flora and fauna. I think you might enjoy it if you haven’t already read it.

    Lovely pics, especially Sam and the girls. It’s currently 41 degrees (fahrenheit) here and slaining (a combination of sleet and rain) if that makes you feel any better. Although things are dismal right now there your hopeful and positive shines through.

  2. Paul Blaney says:

    Sam, at least, seems philosophical. Quoting Shakespeare: “Come what come may/The night is long that never finds a day.” Somehow things sound more convincing when they rhyme!

  3. It’s only February, but already a strong contender for ‘apposite blog post title pun of the year’! RH

  4. You do sound weary though..And it is almost spring – hopefully you get a little sunshine soon that always lifts the spirits. We had a terrible rabbit problem until we got the barn cats. Now my only real problem from rabbits is when the seedlings are small, so all seeds are covered with a pile of dishwasher racks I have collected. There is nothing more demoralising for a gardener to have her plants all disappear in a night! c

    • Heading out now to seize a day of no rain (no sunshine either, but at least it is dry) and tend to some of the projects. Little and often is the plan. We have considered a good barn cat and always stop for two major reasons: Our dog Sam hates cats on a level which would make him crazy to know they were nearby and there are nesting birds in and around the barn. To be determined which way we proceed.

  5. Ann Dawney says:

    I’m sorry to hear of your garden setbacks. But good to see Sam again. I’ve heard that planting a hedge is one of the most ecologically valuable things you can do, so take heart!

    NB ‘A God in Ruins’ is brilliant – cf William Boyd’s ‘Any Human Heart’ as as an attempt to give the flavour of the 20th century.

    • Thanks Ann. The hedge planting was no small feat and the other projects will all get sorted. We know the garden will be doing well in no time. This winter — and the vast amounts of rain — have left several large projects which we had not anticipated back in November. And love “Any Human Heart”. Great read. Will check out “A God in Ruins.”

  6. RobP says:

    The weather has been pretty atrocious this year, hopefully it’s just getting the bad stuff out of the way up front. Didn’t realise that rabbits were so enterprising. I can imagine them whistling the Great Escape! I wonder if chicken wire run horizontally under the cabbage beds would deter these critters?

    • When we first arrived, our biggest challenges with the garden were the weather (wind and rain) and slugs. We have found some success with slugs and manage okay with the weather and shorter growing times. Then the rabbits arrived about 2 years ago and they seem unstoppable! Chicken wire under the beds would help a bit, but we have to stop them from getting over the tops, too. Last year, they found their way in by chewing through the bird netting. Something more drastic in terms of our defences is in order. Too bad Sam dislikes cats.

  7. It sounds like you are beginning to emerge from the winter albeit a wet one. So much to do but am sure you will see results soon. That hedge and some blossom. Wish we could take some of your rabbits. There disappeared from here but the big bird predators need them and genets, mongoose etc. Not sure I might in my garden though!

    • I wish you could take some of our rabbits, too! Thank you for those words of encouragement, too. Yes, lots of work to do and if we keep on top of it — little and often — it’s not really that bad. The break from the rain is making a huge difference, too.

      • We get a lot of rain here in these months and things can’t get done easily but when the sun shines it is bright. Hope the weather does improve for you in March.

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