Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Just what the doctor ordered

As I'm poised to flip the page of my bluehillfarm calendar, I'm reminded that April has been the glorious turning point in the garden. Tiny seeds are germinating daily, frothy blossoms seduce with their fragrance and I can’t think for birdsong. 

Early this morning I spotted skylarks quivering high above the yellow stippled rape fields. In the sunlight I could almost see their shoals of lustrous notes bursting into flower on the crops below. 

Never mind that a marching army of ground elder is encroaching on the flower borders and that brambles taunt me with their thorny tentacles. That's just life!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Old Chapel Gallery, Pembridge

It's definitely spring..... the swallows arrived this weekend, back to renovate last year's nest in the garage rafters.

And as if on cue, some of my little bird paintings migrated west to the Old Chapel Gallery in Pembridge, Herefordshire, to perch alongside lots of beautiful artwork in their Spring Exhibition, until the end of May.

"Coal tit" 12 x 12cm

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes" Henry Thoreau

For weeks I haven’t set foot in the garden without buttoning up my twenty-five year old Chinese People's Liberation Army coat. I bought it in northern China for a song, just as the weather was beginning to bite. Snuggly quilted with cotton wadding, I even slept in it to supplement my budget accommodation. Then for years it was my “Bonfire Night” coat with fur collar turned up against the wind and pockets deep enough for frozen hands. Latterly it has become my winter gardening companion with those same pockets easily holding half a dozen eggs and a bunch of spinach.

However, with a long overdue hike in temperatures this weekend, it was with relish that I hung up my second skin for another season, in favour of gardening in shirt sleeves. I was not the only one chirruping. Across the fields new-born lambs were shaking out their tails with a skip and bleat, and a lone yellow Brimstone butterfly had crept out of hibernation to be buffeted by the whim of the wind. Every branch of every tree in the garden was throbbing with birdsong as I planted potatoes, sowed peas, waged war on the nettles, ferried barrowloads of debris to the bonfire and picked the first few salad leaves for lunch.

Who put that quite obviously new, quite bright, quite inappropriate scarf around Monty Don’s neck on Gardener’s World last Friday? Surely he should have been wearing a well loved twenty-five year old remnant!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Once upon a time there were three little pigs...

A couple of summers ago we spent a few days babysitting some pigs. I admit to being smitten and have been dreaming of fattening up my own little porker ever since. Call it a quest for home grown chorizo.
So with help and encouragement from good friends, combined with a sense of purpose that doubtless has something to do with turning fifty... the fairy-tale begins!

Having worked through a snowstorm to get the pig's pen ready, collection day was thankfully sunny.... but still unseasonally fresh, so there was only one way to stoke up before collecting the three unwitting piglets. 

Keeping an eye on her litter from beneath her floppy ears, mum, "Squeak" is every bit the classic Gloucester Old Spot sow.

Father answers to "Freddie" and is a hairy, "should be" ginger Tamworth but is happy enough in his own skin to feel no compulsion to dust himself down for visitors. 

And little Joan will be sharing a pen with piggy friends Peppa and Imogen.

Joan, as in Joan of Arc... pigs sleep in an arc and the original Joan was burnt at the stake. Er yes, it’s a bleak future!

On a more nostalgic note, Joan was very popular name among my mother’s contemporaries. There’s just something about the firm flesh of a pig’s hambone which tapers to a dainty trotter that conjurs a childhood picture of many a middle-aged ‘Aunty Joan’ nipped at the hips by a skirt that no longer fits as well as it used to,
(with apologies to all the Joan's I know)!

Pig portraits coming soon of course!