Baby, it’s cold outside

In one of Pratchett’s best novels, Nightwatch, Sam Vimes travels back in time and takes part in the “Glorious Revolution” (twice, actually), with its motto of Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love, and a Hard Boiled Egg, and its symbol of lilac in bloom, which happens on the 25th of April. I remember Caine being very fond of that day, posting pics of lilac. For me, living in a place where spring comes earlier than North Dakota and wherever Pratchett lived in the UK, by that time, the lilac had already bloomed, taking its sweet perfume with it.

Except this year, with its extraordinarily cold April. This year, the lilac has not yet dared to open its flowers.

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Most nights still had freezing temperatures and lots of plants are four weeks behind their usual schedule, which creates a problem for your dedicated hobby gardener: I planted the seeds according to the usual timeline, and most beds are also ready, only that it’s way too cold to plant anything outside:

©Giliell, all rights reserved The garden as o two weeks ago. The lower terraces are ready for planting, but the weather isn’t.

This means everything is still inside, although I usually carry about 50 plants outside in the morning and carry them back inside in the evening. Say hello to the cocktail tomatoes.

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I’m also running out of pots, because most of them have now been replanted three times and had to ask my mum for planting pots. What I really couldn’t keep inside for longer is the squash, so I planted it outside, hoping it would survive. By now, none of the plants look happy, some of them also don’t look alive:

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I can only hope that it will regrow those leaves, otherwise the squash will be entirely shop bought this season. As they were last year, when all my plants insisted on having male flowers only.

In the meantime I’m taking joy in the growth of my corn. Intellectually I knew that in order to get that high, it had to grow like mad, but knowing and seeing are two different things.

The two upper terraces in the garden will become “milpa” beds, also known as the “three sisters planting”, an old central American planting technique where you plant corn, beans and squash in the same area (hopefully the squash will survive…). The corn provides stability for the beans to grow on, the beans provide nutrition for the ground, and the squash protect the soil from drying out and being washed away. This was the little one’s idea and I must say, the idea of fresh corn on the cob is intriguing. So, cross your fingers for warmer weather and surviving squash (also the fucking slugs have been at it already. There’s a whole garden for them to eat, they can’t tell me they need to eat my squash).

Through my lens

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It’s been a while since I’ve been around, but I thought I’d pop in to say hello and let you know what’s up. Several weeks ago, Mr. V had a health crisis that’s kept me busier than usual. A lot busier, and I admit that I’ve been feeling stressed, exhausted and depressed. We’ve come through the worst of it, for now, but it’s left me feeling behind in just about everything, with worry nibbling at the edges of my days. Add to that the lingering grief of losing Jack, the fact that my best friend has moved to Nova Scotia and the continuing isolation of Covid, and it becomes a recipe for getting stuck in a not-so-good place.

It’s always been my vision to provide a positive type of blogging. This channel is full of serious writers who provide important content that I value, but what I have to offer is simpler. I want to share my vision of the beautiful, simple things in life that nurture us and give us reason to continue the fight for equality, justice and a livable planet. I think that has value, and I hope you do too. So, today I am kicking myself in the ass and saying enough of the feeling sorry for myself. It’s time to stop and lookup.

It’s Springtime, and tender green plants are being born. Colour is creeping into the grey landscape left behind by winter, and leaves are painting in the spaces between bare branches scratching at the sky. There’s a riot of green trailing streamers of red and yellow tulips, blue forget-me-nots, purple violets and pale blossoms of apple and plum. I’ve thrown open my windows, and the passing breezes bring in the sweet earthy scent of spring.

I’ve taken stock, and now it’s time to take a deep breath, count my blessings and with intention, begin again.

The Gardening

As you may remember, we had some (did I say “some”) work done on our garden two years ago, which left the slopes left and right to the stairs in shambles. The effort I’d made towards terracing the left hand side (seen from the garden) was undone. Last year we spent spring with building a small plateau on the right hand side where we want to put up a lamp, a project that got mostly postponed due to the fact that our friend couldn’t come over to help us due to Covid restrictions. Also, getting the area ready to put up a pool took several weeks, so all in all the gardening season was mostly cancelled.

This year, we’re working on the left hand side which is my vegetable garden. Terracing the slope means working with those nice planting stones and I must say, by now I’m pretty good at it. This is how the project looks right now:

View of a garden slope with red planting stones in rows

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You can see several things here. Number one, our ground is pretty sandy. One year I tried to plant carrots and they simply didn’t manage to grow downwards. the good thing is that it keeps moisture in the depth really well (although the surface quickly resembles the Sahara). I’ll put a layer of gardening soil on top for the young plants. The lowest terrace will be planted with chillis. The second terrace, which you can only guess from this pic is between stone rows 3 and 4. That will be for sweet peppers. the rectangular stones at the side are for flowers. We need to put them there so the side with our to be demolished one day garage doesn’t slide into the veggie patches, as there is little growth there. Now for the bigger problem:

View of a garden and a house with stairs separating two slopes

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The garden is actually a two way slope, being much higher on the left hand side than the right hand side. the perspective of the image is a bit misleading. The terraces created so far are 2/3 of the depth, but only half of the height. After the next two rows of stones we’ll run into a problem: the terrain grows wider, the stairs turn to the right, creating a triangle that sits much lower than the left hand side, which is causing us a lot of headache. Our current idea is to keep the terraces six planting stones wide, and to create a drystone wall in that nasty triangle. If you have a better one, feel free to tell me. While it all looks pretty gloomy right now, it will be wonderful and a habitat for many little critters once we’re finished and the planting has begun. On the right you can see last year’s project. That side will remain “wild”, although I always throw flower seeds there because otherwise I#m ending up with a monoculture of goldenrod.

Speaking about critters: The wild bees are alternately very happy with us and very upset. Each time we move some earth they go “ohhhhhhh, loose earth, let’s go burrowing”, only for us to destroy it again. They still got the entire right hand side where whatever loose earth we put here stays put. Here’s an ashy mining bee for you:

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And, last, but not least, some of the residents to be. Sadly we’re having a really cold spell with solid frost overnight, which doesn’t allow to plant even the more robust plants outside, so my windowsills are being overgrown…

©Giliell, all rights reserved Butternut squash, already showing flower buds

©Giliell, all rights reserved Nasturtiums and sunflowers

©Giliell, all rights reserved Hokaido squash, Mexican Honey tomatoes, orange cocktail tomatoes, and on the left some sweet peppers

I also keep carrying some plants outside in the morning and inside at night. Hopefully we’ll have left the worst of the cold behind us, but it’s supposed to stay grey and cool throughout the next week.

Breaking Ice

A photo today from the end of February. Avalus found a bit of broken ice and tells us,

really comically broken ice. I don’t know why but I really find it funny.

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Now that my world is turning green again, I can say with a smile that ice is very photogenic, and this patch reminds me of Charlie Brown’s jagged striped shirt.

Not an Ugly Duckling in Sight

The cygnets of Edinborough are growing quickly and Anne, Cranky Cat Lady’s daughter, Emily Davis, has sent us an update.

The cygnets are looking more swan-shaped, look at their long necks!

June 20/20, ©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

June 21/20, ©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

June 21/20, ©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

June 21/20, ©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

A Fledgling Comes to Visit

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There’s a robin’s nest in the eaves over my front porch, and I haven’t got the heart to evict them. Instead, I provide them with a birdbath and a regular supply of mealworms. In return, they’re cheerful to have around and provide me with lots of pleasant chirping and peeping and poop. I could do without the poop, but it’s a package deal, so I try not to grumble about the mess. It cleans up quickly enough with the hose.

This morning I heard one of the young birds making a fuss, so I went to the door expecting to see one of the parents out hunting in the yard. Instead, I found this little fellow sitting on the arm of my wicker rocking chair, looking a bit dazed and confused about what to do next. I watched him for about 20 minutes from inside the house as he quietly looked all around, trying to process this new perspective on the world. He spread his wings a few times, and I could see he had his flight feathers but hadn’t quite figured out how to use them. His mama was watching over him from a nearby tree, so I shut the door and walked away from it, hoping that mama would feel safe enough to come to his aid. Over the next 2 hours, I checked on him from the window, and the only thing that happened was that he took a nap. That seemed like a good opportunity to sneak out the side door with my camera, and I took a few snapshots through the railing before leaving him to the care of his still hovering mama. The next time I went to the window to check on him, he was gone. Bye, Bye, Birdie. Thanks for cheering me up 0n day eleventy-seven of the pandemic.

©voyager, all rights reserved

©voyager, all rights reserved

More Adorable Fluffiness

Last week we saw this fuzzy clutch of cygnets all huddled together in the nest.  Today we get to see them venture forth and go for a swim. Thanks to Anne, Cranky Cat Lady and her daughter Emily Davis for sharing them with us.

©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

Adorable Balls of Fluff

These sweet floofy faces were photographed by Emily Davis, who is the daughter of Anne, Cranky Cat Lady.

Emily has been watching the swans at Holyrood Park during her daily bird walks. They’re nesting, and today she has pictures of fuzzy cygnets. 

©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

©Emily Davis, all rights reserved

Jack’s Walk

A swampy mud bath ©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s been a perfect day – warm, but not hot with a deep blue sky full golden sunshine. The growing things have sprung to life in a million shades of green, and there are bright, colourful flowers in almost every garden. It’s been wonderful. Marvellous. Splendiferous. All the good adjectives and none of the bad. It’s the sort of day when you want to be outside, and our neighbourhood came alive this afternoon with activity. The gardeners were out gardening, the old men were out gossiping over fences, and the joyful noise of children playing filtered in from yards in all directions. I’m sure their mothers were grateful. Jack and I were definitely grateful to get outside. For the first time in weeks, it wasn’t a chore, it was a pleasure. I don’t want to jinx it, but the weather is supposed to stay nice for the next few days. If it does, this gal and her dog have some gardening of our own planned. It’s finally time to change from mittens to garden gloves. Hooray!