Posts Tagged ‘Spring’

Tipped off by a local, I headed off to walk Nora in the best spot hereabouts for bluebells. They aren’t quite at their peak yet but are pretty impressive. Half the world’s bluebells are in the UK and, looking at this lot, you could well believe it.

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It was quite a magical walk in the drizzly rain surrounded by bird calls. I also saw two deer running past only a few feet away but was too slow to snap them. It’s the first time I’ve encountered them so close.

 

 

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I’ve always longed for a garden trug but new ones are really expensive and it’s something you can easily do without. After all, a cardboard box or a plastic basket of some kind work just as well for holding picked flowers until you bring them indoors. Also, until I came to Spring Cottage I didn’t really have any flowers to pick so a trug had to wait. P1010966 Now, however, Spring brings loads of daffodils and other narcissi, and I also plant all kinds of seeds in my cut flower beds specifically to grow things to bring inside. So I’m enjoying a clapped out old trug that I bought last summer at a car boot sale for three quid. It’s a bit brittle and won’t last for ever but I’ve waterproofed it a little by painting it with Danish oil and it now looks as thought it’s a family heirloom, which I much prefer to things being brand new. It kind of goes better with the ancient nature of the cottage, looks suitably rustic hanging in the woodshed, and I can spend the money saved on seeds instead.

The main flowerbeds here are in the front garden, which is at the side of the cottage, if that makes sense. Being at the side, at the gable end of the house, there is no window overlooking it. So I have to bring flowers in if I want to see them more than in passing on the way to the car. in hedge Many of the daffodils have also been planted under the various hedges. Well, they would have originally been under the hedges but now they are in the hedges, the hedges having grown widthways as well as in height over the years. So the daffs need rescuing before they are forced to bend over by the branches sprouting above them. daffodils on windowsill

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I do love this garden in the Spring.

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Today was a horrible day. Fretful and loathe to get up, I lurked inside for as long as possible before I faced the damp outside.

misty weather on the hills

But eventually my aim to counteract the worrying that is going on in my head with some productive activity did win through. So, as well as food shopping and mending the garage light (changing the bulb – sometimes things are not as bad as I fear), I drove over to Triscombe in the heavy mist (ok, maybe it was low cloud) and bought some narcissi and grape hyacinths, anemones and aubretia to brighten up my dreary garden that just will not come into flower.

If you’re within reach, I can highly recommend them. Time has slightly stood still there and very lovely it is to and chat to Stuart about this and that, while you’re thinking about what to buy – even if it’s just bird seed.

rock plants in an enamel bowl in the garden

The birds here seem very hungry, so I stocked up with so much that it came in a sack!

female chaffinchThen I went in search of lambs. Now, rather oddly, I saw the first lamb out in the fields when I was out riding on New Year’s Day. That lamb must be quite senior now that the countryside is full of actual spring lambs.

two lambs suckling

Things have been very tough for sheep farmers this last year (and not so hot for the sheep either). Wet all last summer, so lots of them (the sheep) are lame with foot rotty problems – they’re limping about all over the place, their fleeces sodden and muddy. This one is quite clean, although not pink as those that graze the red earthed land around here often are.

sheep with full fleeceThe horrible, long winter had temperatures that were well below freezing at night for long spells, followed by a very cold spring which led to sheep being buried in snowdrifts and lambs dying as they were being born. Luckily, it wasn’t that cold down here in the south west, but spring is still being held in abeyance by the cold and it’s windy as hell, or I should say, as usual.

two lambs gambolling across a field

So, anyway, here are some lambs. They brought a smile to my face with their silly antics – one of the lambs below is standing on its mother.

a ewe with two lambs

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Did you say allsorts?

I realised that I’d done this more than once last weekend: bluebells and tulips with fennel. Sounds more like a recipe.

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There’s something so lovely about a daffodil. They are so welcoming and so joyful, and so totally appropriate for Spring.

One of the lovely things about this garden is the sheer variety of daffodil-like flowers that appear at this time of year. I think there are about ten types of narcissi out there. I don’t know the names of any of them as I owe them all to my predecessor here.

different varieties of narcissi

As soon as one type has ‘gone over’ another pops up and so they continue for a few weeks. They grow in the flower beds in the front garden, on the lawn and the banks in the back garden as above, and at the back and front of the house.

daffodils

I’ve just had a good rummage about at Peter Nyssen and found that I have a pretty good cross section of the different types available. Had to log out of there quickly before I bought something…

more types of narcissi

The ones I find the least successful are those that are really fancy – double headed cream-coloured ones – in the picture below, with their second flower not yet open. They look a bit washed out compared to their brighter, more exuberant cousins but it could also be that they are planted where they look a little lost in the bare earth of a bed not yet colonised by alchemilla mollis and strawberries.

double headed narcissi

At this time of year, I buy a bunch of daffodils almost every time I leave the house if I’m not in the country. They are just so cheerful that I want to fill every room with them.

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3rd April 2010

2nd April 2011

30th March 2012

Well, so much for this year being so warm. It turns out that last year, the garden was far more advanced than it is this year, despite this year’s sunny spring. However, in 2010, there were barely any flowers out at this time. Interesting.

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Today has been the best day.

Sunny all day and warm in the sun, although the air’s still March-cold.

Boring things were ticked off my To Do list: boiler service and chimney survey.

I spent most of the day outside in the garden, waiting for Owen and Ben to arrive; doing a bit of weeding before the weeds get a chance to get too established, making a huge mess with bits of dead tree and then sweeping up loads of dry earth. I picked some narcissi from the garden for the living room, which doesn’t have a view of the garden, and cut a few branches from the little cherry tree, which I’ve ignored since I’ve been here. Annoyingly it now has two trunks, effectively, as it divides very low down. I’m not being nobbish, saying ‘narcissi'; it’s just that there are so many varieties out there, including double headed ones, and I just know that they’re not all DAFFODILS.

There was a fabulous moth thing – ok, ok, I’m going to look it up in a minute… (Actually, I didn’t have to look it up because a kind reader commented that this is an Orange Tip butterfly – and when I looked it up, it says it’s one of the sure signs of spring, as it’s one of the first species to emerge.)

Back to the mundane, the chimney needs quite a bit of work but the chimney man has various ideas about why it might be leaking water and is going to try the least major first. I like.

As always, I’d forgotten how nice Somerset people are. Just so, somehow, likeable. I had a long chat about buzzards with Owen, the boiler man. There were six of them wheeling above Higher Close, the bare earth no doubt a good background against which to spot their prey. We stood outside and watched them hunting and picking on one of their number. They always seem to be falling out. Not everyone’s work is the same, I thought, reminding myself that I was in the office until 7pm yesterday.

Ben, the chimney man, was very admiring of the bread oven, so I took advantage and asked him how it would have worked – although I sort-of knew. I really wanted to know if it was original, as someone had once said they thought it was fake. It’s real, he said. I was a victim of their bread oven envy.

As to how it worked – think pizza oven: in the evening, when your fire had burned down, you’d take the embers and put them into the oven at the side of the inglenook. Then, when the bricks were hot – not quite sure what o’clock that would be – you’d rake it all out and put in your bread dough, which the residual heat would bake, presumably in time for the morning. Sounds a very sensible use of energy but I’d rather be sleeping myself.

Ben, the chimney man, by the way, was really charming (I feel like my own grandmother to describe someone as such) and is the first buildery person I’ve ever come across to say things like: “Well, one might take out the liner and insert a new tray…” and then give you a big cheesey grin, while being covered with soot and bits of rubble. Yes, I like. I definitely like. Although, actually…come to think of it… there was once a chap called Colin, who did a nice line in marble tiles… but that’s another story.

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Spring is definitely in the air but here in the hills high above sea level, there are only some very small signs.

And a very few tiny flowers.

The snowdrops ares still the most obvious presence.

snowdrops

There is still some fine winter colour in the leafless hedge.

And some things that have been around quite a while.

And others that are very new.

Someone told me today that snow is forecast for tomorrow. There’s certainly a strong, chilly wind blowing. We shall see. But when I stroked the heather here, I disturbed two bumblebees.

heather

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If you can be distracted from the wondrous moon lying back kicking its feet in the air while it relaxes with Jupiter and Venus, you can scent Spring in the air in the evening. Bulbs are bursting forth and pushing away the covering earth as they rise up to find the light. The plum tree is partially covered with blossom and the branches of the pear are fat with buds. It has also made such a welcome change to have some sunshine and light after so many grey days.

This song thrush sang so persistently and loudly for so long, that I had to stop what I was doing to go out and look for it.

The late afternoon light was lovely and made me regret that I’d been cocooned inside all day in my sometimes lethargic way. But we all occasionally need those kinds of days too.

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Last weekend, I warbled on so much about horsey stuff that I didn’t mention the garden but Spring really was starting to show. At 200 or so metres above sea level, things are a bit further behind at Spring Cottage than in towns or down on the Somerset Levels. So, belatedly, here are some pictures:

daffodils

I love the way that these daffodils have managed to grow right at the top of the bank between Higher Close, the field behind the cottage, and our garden. Perhaps Lady-Vendor planted them up there deliberately, or perhaps they got there courtesy of a rabbit, who knows? But it’s a lovely spot for them.

cats in the garden

The cats are always very keen to get out into the garden and they have very little competition for their territory here. In this picture, they are are advancing in a crouch, still a little bit ‘on guard’ as they head out to explore. The concrete behind Percy is the top of the septic tank and to its left a rough patch of earth that I haven’t yet decided what to do with. I had thought that I would grow a few vegetables there originally but they would need a lot of protection from the rabbits and, so far, I haven’t had the energy to prepare the bed properly for that. My other idea is to have a wild flower patch.

frosty garden and daffodils

Saturday morning dawned with clear skies, a temperature of minus three degrees and a sharp frost, which produced the rather odd juxtaposition of frost and daffodils. The daffodils have a very strong scent unlike any of the shop bought ones I’ve come across.

budding shoots

I think these are peonies just starting to come up. They look frighteningly triffid-like.

hellebore

And, of course, after almost three months, the hellebores are still going strong. These two look like a pair of ballet dancers doing a pas de deux.

front garden

Lovelymost!

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I’m actually going to get dressed and get out of the house on this beautiful morning but, before I do, here’s a picture of a pheasant that I snapped in my pyjamas (me, not it, in the pyjamas). It was surprising that I could get so close because the stupid creatures usually scuttle off at the slightest disturbance. The wind must have been in the right direction, for once. I just love their plumage.

pheasant in the sun

In the last few days, I’ve been so struck by the beauty of the robin’s song. Such a small bird with a lovely varied voice – here is the little bird below recorded on my phone today. He or she carried on for ages this morning, adding to the springlike feel of the day.

robin singing

Will say more about the simply delightful hoards of snowdrops in the gardens and other signs of spring soon. Although, if you see the article below, you’ll wonder if this is wise.

Related Articles

Postscript: 13 Feb 1,774 more or less – pen was hard to write with in the rain.

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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve sensed such a pent-up longing for spring in the air but it’s just the early snowfall that’s made us think that this is what we’re now due. We’re clearly still thoroughly in the grip of winter. If anything, the strong winds of the last couple of weeks have robbed the trees of any last, lingering softness and their branches range starkly across the hill tops, linking their skeletal arms against the elements. It seems bleaker now than when snow lay on the ground a month ago.

cyclamen and snowdrop buds against bare earthWith the temperature hovering around freezing, I crunched over the stiff worm casts or other animals diggings on the grass to inspect the garden. Rabbits are carving new burrows into the bank and dislodging small rocks in the process, flattening the burgeoning snowdrop buds below. The hellebores, short and sparse, came up so early that they’ve been killed, no, murdered, by the fresh drop in temperature. There’s one tiny, wild cyclamen – a minuscule patch of brightness in the garden, which appears otherwise quite desaturated of colour.

frozen pond

The pond is frozen again – the little ball being too light to stop the water freezing beneath it. We broke the ice in the hope that any remaining pondlife would survive this time. “They’re cold blooded,” said the Boy. “Not that cold blooded,” I replied, hoping that amphibians ‘in aspic’ are not on the menu.

We stopped for lunch at the pub in Bicknoller, sharing a long table with an elderly one-eyed man and his wife. He was eating beef Wellington and muttering, “oh God, oh God, oh God,” into his food. “I just wish I didn’t hurt so much.” “Well, if you won’t take your pills,” replied his wife placidly, feeding their poodle crisps. I wondered how he’d lost his eye; it wasn’t a recent injury or the cause of his pain. Despite all appearances, he put away two pints and when they left, he was going to drive them home.

Watchet buildingIn Watchet, our destination, the winds blowing in from the sea were so cold that we only managed a brief walk around the streets, taking in a few junk shops on the way, for warmth, of course. Usually bustling, the town was pretty much closed for business with only pockets of life. A tiny chemist’s shop, the size of my living room, staffed by three women, surprisingly offered up the twenty-first century contact lens solution I was seeking. But the station shop was closed, when we went to buy the Boy a copy of the poster below, which I bought about 18 months ago, and we hurried back to the car to hear football reports and warm our noses.

I love this poster, which is made from an original screenprint by an unknown artist. Exaggerating the bright colours of high summer, it advertises the famous steam railway that runs from Bishop’s Lydeard to Minehead. The poster cost £1.00 and I’ve framed it to hang in the kitchen at Spring Cottage, where there is lots of other brightness. But first I have to remember to bring drill and bits, as these are not walls into which a nail can simply be hammered.

West Somerset Railway poster

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January

Floodtime:  We had a pipe burst in the loft over the kitchen and I learned to leave the heating on and turn off the water at the mains when I leave.

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February

Repairtime: So many things wrong with the house all of a sudden that it became rather depressing to be here but we got through it.


March

In which my neighbour brought me some eggs from the farm, Spring Cottage had lots of visitors and I was reimbursed for the flood by the insurance.


April

When Spring arrived at the cottage, as did a lorryload of logs, and the house was painted. We also celebrated our first year here.

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May

Started with a bang. On the day I collected my new car, I had a crash. Racing, double-barrelled cow driving the other car, who then lied about what happened. I’m still annoyed…

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June

We settled into enjoying the cottage this month, with visitors and summer times in the garden. Nice that the pace slowed down a little.


July

During which nothing much happened and blogging really almost stopped, only to be followed by…

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flower
August

During which the blog went public. I had a holiday down here, and blogged like a woman possessed. I also journeyed to the beautiful Montacute House, south of here, and did lots of gardening.


riding clothesSeptember

Brought the discovery that what I thought was mainly an ornamental vine in the garden, actually had grapes on it. I also celebrated the first comment on the blog and went riding for the first time.

autumn leavesOctober

October arrived with the cheque from the insurers for the car accident in May. It took five months for them to settle the claim, because they are a pile of idiots. I started having riding lessons.

November

In which Spring Cottage had eight lads to stay and there was the first snow before Christmas for many years.


December

Was cold and frosty, with snow covering everything for the best part of a fortnight. It was frustrating not to be able to get to the cottage despite the Tank – although this was mostly cowardice rather than practicality.

Happy New Year! I hope 2011 brings all the things everyone wishes for, combined with good health and happiness.

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I’m sitting in pale sunlight filtered by high cloud on a Spring afternoon. Bumble bees are buzzing in and out of the heather flowers, there is a light breeze and it’s warm. The flowers are starting to bud all over the garden. I have a cup of tea and have just eaten hot cross buns. Birds are twittering in the trees nearby and, far away, I can hear the calling of crows. There is the distant rumble of a aeroplane as it starts to make its way over the Atlantic and the barking of a dog. Occasionally a tractor or a car goes by and then the peace resumes. Sometimes a pheasant makes its startled cry. This morning my very urban cat killed a baby rabbit in the garden. I am so lucky to have Spring Cottage and can scarcely bring myself to return to the city.

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