Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We had three peerless days. I’ll polish off knitting and things like that first, and then write an Ode to Spring.


Tamar and Lisa: Helen Chronic Knitting Syndrome is always after me to use Firefox. Maybe one day I will. But the instability I was experiencing the other day seemed to be more fundamental – I don’t think I’d even loaded Internet Explorer. The whole system went down when I tried to back up Quicken (my accounts program) to a CD-ROM. And continued to do the same thing when I attempted subsequent CD-ROM operations, although I can read old CDs perfectly well.

Knitabulous, I note with concern what you say (comment April 9) about the failure of your cashmere-silk yarn to hold blocking. Sharon knit the prototype Queen Ring Shawl in her cashmere-silk yarn. You’d think it would be all right. Do I dare raise the question in the Heirloom Knitting group?

As for my current knitting, I got around the heel of the second bedsock in the last few days, and should speed on down the foot this afternoon when we have a routine diabetic appt at the Royal Infirmary. That will involve two lengthy bus rides and a great deal of sitting about. On the Princess, I’m doing row 29 of the final centre repeat. Since I’m going to end on row 38, that means that I’m counting down the final ten pattern rows.


The big news is that I have engaged A Man to cut the grass this season. We’ve got quite a bit of it. With that job off my back, I should be good for vegetables for several years to come.

I took the plastic tablecloth off my “raised bed” – under which it had spent the winter – and was so struck by the lovely softness of the soil that I confected a second bed with odds and ends of wood from the byre. It’s not the carpentry that counts – it’s having a patch tended, cultivated, manured and limed which is never ever ever trodden upon. My original one is now entering its third season.

I also dug a hole and tipped a bucket of compost into it, filled it in and erected a tepee for the climbing beans. And put up the support for the peas. And planted a second variety of potato. And then, not having intended to but the weather being so wonderful, I went ahead and sowed the seeds of the sort of things which enjoy – or at least, don’t object to -- a bit of spring chillth: salsola soda first of all, then spinach and lettuce and some other salady bits, radishes, peas both mange-tout and not, and broad beans.

I’ve been at this for ten years now. I went through my notebook and was astonished at the catalogue of failure. Why do I go on? I can reliably grow potatoes and broad beans. Both are delicious. I always get a few courgettes, never the glut that other growers suffer from, and they’re great fun. I’ve got a useful herb patch. That’s really about it.

The runner beans look nice on their tepee – some years I get a crop in September. (Down south, runner beans are the vegetable-grower’s standby.) I do pretty well with mange-tout peas. Spinach and ordinary peas grow, but I often miss the man-from-Del-Monte moment at which they must be eaten. Carrots, beetroot and swedes tend to come up and then just stand about, not growing. Spring onions, said to be easy-peasy, won’t even do that, for me. Perpetual spinach and Swiss chard grow, but don’t taste very nice.

But the answer is that it’s all for the sake of this wonderful spring moment. This year, everything will come up, and grow on, and taste great, and every weed will be whipped away the instant it presumes to appear.

That's my Fruit Hedge, with a rhubarb-forcing pot visible in the background. Blackcurrents, white currents, and gooseberries. Caterpillars and pigeons will have the crop, but hey! it's spring!


  1. Sounds like a lovely, hopeful Springtime visit. I do the same thing here in April with flowers, watch them flourish in May, plateau in June, then I spend July and August attempting life-saving measures and watching everything go crispy and brown. Every year I vow it's the last time...but then April charms me again.

  2. Jean,
    your garden sounds so lovely. Here in Oberlin things are still cold, wet and grey... with a few leaves coming out and some flowers. I am still waiting for spring....
    Won't be planting anything this year because I move to Texas July 1. But once I get there, visions of hot peppers and tomatoes dance in my head......

  3. Anonymous9:03 PM

    Is your chard bitter? That's from not enough water or too hot weather. If you keep cutting it during the hot season to keep it from getting out of hand and come back to it when the weather cools, it'll taste better.

    Good luck!

  4. Anonymous10:59 PM

    Oh, the magic of the Gulf Stream! Strathardle is so far north of Toronto, and although we have daffodils, it will be at least a month before we dare plant veggies. Loved your pictures.
    - Beth

  5. Do you double-dig your carrot bed? We often find if we don't, the carrots are puny. They like that extra-loose soil.