At this time of year, with spring nudging the crocuses, violets and celandine into flower, and encouraging buds on trees to fatten and swell before bursting into flower, it’s time to be busy outside.
Our garden’s a minute or two’s walk from the house, and out of sight can mean out of mind. So once there (‘I’ll only be 10 minutes’….), I’ll find all kind of things to do. The grass needs strimming already. The vegetable patch is a disgrace. The fruit trees need attention: they suffered horribly in last May’s heavy snow, and they should really have had careful pruning much earlier this month. The compost heap needs a bit of TLC. Time passes while I prune our ‘vineyard’ – 6 vines. (‘Oh, sorry, have I really been two hours?’)
So I’ve taken a big decision. No vegetable patch this year. That way, the trees may get the extra attention they need: the ivy and brambles may not get the upper hand quite so readily, though I wouldn’t bet on it.
I’m not going to do it on my own though. From Easter, we’re planning new recruits to the garden: a gang of hens, whose job it will be to peck away at all the grubs, and keep the grass trimmed, whilst offering the occasional egg for breakfast.
Quite a few friends in England have re-homed ex-battery hens, and I’d love to do this too. I’ve written emails, joined internet discussions, asked around, but it doesn’t look as if I’m going to be able to find any here in France. But the search goes on as we plan the next project: build a hen house.
Although it’s often a lot of hard work, this garden’s a really special place for me (and I do mean me. Malcolm’s excused gardening duties so long as I’m excused DIY duties). From it, I can see Montségur, the thickly wooded long chain of hills called the Plantaurel, and the snowy peaks of the Pyrénées behind . So near to town, and away from the house, it’s where I come to get away from it all, and have a healthy workout as I dig, hack, uproot and generally try to keep Nature at bay.By the way: greenfinch update. Enough already! They’ve shown themselves to be belligerent, selfish dogs-in-the-manger, who dive-bomb, use their wings to beat off the opposition, peck, bamboozle – anything to keep any other bird away, even ones who are eating their least favourite thing on the feeding station.
They’re also extremely messy. I’ve told them. I’m not replenishing the feeder till they’ve eaten every scrap of the food mountain they’ve dumped on the ground beneath.
Oh, and as our lunch guests pointed out, it was a goldfinch, not greenfinch onslaught we had two years ago. We’ve seen none since. They’re all 4 miles up the road at my friend’s house in le Peyrat.