With 9 days left of winter, you would easily believe spring is already here. The weather has been settled for over a week, with gentle frosts most mornings, and balmy afternoons that almost have you shed your jumper in favour of a tee-shirt. It is taking all my self-control not to get started and fill my greenhouse full of seedlings. But we are still in winter and as it passes the baton over to spring, experience tells me it is a tumultuous transition period and we haven’t seen the worst of the bad weather yet – that is still to come!
But for now I have the feel of spring on my skin as the sun gathers strength and the warm rays touch my face with their warmth. It is such a glorious feeling after shivering to my bones for the last few months. I find myself just sitting in the garden and basking in the comfort of it, like an old familiar blanket that I’d previously misplaced.
With all of this idyllic weather, the soil has dried out to the point that the plants that are in the ground this early in the season actually need watering. This came as a bit of a shock as I hadn’t expected to be watering the garden in the winter! The soil is magnificent and as I plunge my hands in I find it soft and crumbly and it releases weeds with an ease not often encountered in the soggy winter or bone dry summer. At the end of the day my knees are caked in dirt and my hands begin to take on the rough patina that marks me as a gardener.
The fragrance of spring fills the air and wafts up at you as walk past the daffodils. The aroma is completely intoxicating to the point that in other situations it would be overwhelming. However, against the back drop of a retreating winter it brings a freshness to cover over the wet and earthy odour the soggy season brings with it.
Looking out over the garden is like watching a fast moving play. The scene before me is constantly changing. The grass grows with such vigour you can nearly see it. Almost unperceivably, buds on the soft fruit and trees are fattening up and the slightest hint of green is becoming visible on the tips. The birds dance across the beds as they court each other and gather items to build their family homes in the branches of the trees.
The flavour of spring is all about making room. We are eating leeks with every meal to make room for the beans to come. The carrots need evicting and it is such a pleasure to eat their fresh, sweet orangey goodness right there in the garden. The first asparagus are peaking through the soil and the anticipation of this delicacy is almost too much to bear. Yet in a month or so, I will be bored of this amazing veggie and be on the lookout for the next new thing to present itself after a season of absence from our diet.
But with all those amazing things to connect spring with my senses, it is what I can hear in a secure corner of my garden that epitomises the sound of spring. Even more so than the gentle hum of the tractors across the road preparing the soil for a new season of horticultural bounty, although it is pretty reassuring to be preparing my garden at the same time as the experienced farmers. Surely they know what they are doing – their livelihoods depend on it.
The sound I’m referring to is the hungry baa of tiny little lambs. So small and so cute the chickens stand taller. Less than a week old, their newborn bleat is fresh and tender, just like the burgeoning spring. It is high pitched and yet at the same time soft. Their cries full the air with expectation and excitement as you approach with the warm milk in carefully prepared bottles. They are as vulnerable as the tender seedlings and as the spring develops into a season that embraces new growth, these lambs will grow big and strong and grow with spring and become less dependent on us, which is just as well because we will be off enjoying a new season.
Come again soon – I maybe a tad tired from all the night feeds in the freezing rain, that is of course inevitable.
Sarah the Gardener : o)