January and early February have seen an upturn in postive thoughts around here. The early morning walks are punctuated by the sound of thrushes singing their hearts out from the tops of trees while woodpeckers drum on hollow branches and robins argue noisily below; all trying to claim their separate territories with spring just around the corner.
My attempts at my own territorial improvements have centred on transplanting the Acer from the pot at the back of the house, where it was looking rather sad in the atutumn. It has now taken the place of the unsightly cotoneaster, which took some uprooting from the front garden. The removal of the cotoneaster has naturally been delayed until the blackbirds had taken their fill of the red berries, just as my father would have insisted. I follow his advice more now than I ever did when he was alive.
Elsewhere, I have been tinkering with some of the borders: pruning roses and cutting back the autumn bliss raspberries – though the latter was mainly to ensure that I could get to the hen house more easily. There had been the usual hiatus in egg-production from Agatha (although she still claimed her free board and lodging). Supervision of the hen house had become rather intermittent, so when I did finally check on the 20th January, I was astonished to see eight eggs in her nesting box.
Since then we have cleared the path to the hen house and check on her regularly to collect any more eggs, while they are still fresh. But this hen has a sense of humour, it seems, and there has not been a single egg layed since the 20th. It’s probably her way of protesting over her recent exclusion from the flower garden – a ban imposed on her after she destroyed some of the nascent daffodills. Not all birds are welcome in the borders.
The main piece of garden preparation I have managed is to spread two tons of Viridor Revive compost on the raised beds. Thirty-eight wheelbarrow loads to help improve the clay topsoil and top up the beds. So far my efforts have simply created the biggest, most luxuriant cat litter trays in the village. The feline equivalent of Andrex triple-ply quilted, they are soft and very deep, and not even my labrador is able to consume the quantities of cat-poo that are likely to be interred on my refurbished veg patch.
Last weekend storm Ciara blew her way through the country leaving us to pick up the pieces of her trail of destruction, although the greenhouse managed to remain intact (despite losing one pane of glass a few weeks previously). Today I am sitting inside as storm Dennis repeats Ciara’s performance of a week ago. It is the type of weather my old head of PE once described as so bad “I wouldn’t put a cat out in it”. To this brown-fingered gardener, it is precisely the type of weather I would willingly evict any defacating feline.