The children have just started two weeks of spring holidays, which makes me really happy. Friends coming and going, sleepovers here and there; it’s like Picadilly Circus but I love it. It also means there are a few extra pairs of hands to help in the garden; there is just so much to do at this time of year and weeds seem to grow overnight. We have been working so hard in the newly formed vegetable garden, and we spent the afternoon on Sunday planting out tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and hot chillies which are Millie’s project. We also put in some lettuce, salad greens, cucumbers, watermelons and courgettes. The children planted because that’s the fun part while I hoed up weeds and raked! Our beans we sowed a couple of weeks ago are now about 8″ high and the peas are shooting up. There are rows of tiny carrot tops peeping through the soil, along with the spinach and potatoes – it’s all so exciting. We have had to fence it to keep our dear feathered friends out, or else they would think we had planted a feast just for them, and we included the row of ten grape-vines inside the fencing because I read that chickens love grapes and we would not have a grape left if they were within their reach. Next project to hand cut all the grass under the vines!
Dear Rosie is being a very dutiful hen; she has less than a week to go now and we are all so hopeful we might get at least one chick. She leaves her nest briefly around 11am each morning: the routine is always the same as she wanders up the garden, stretches her legs and looks around. The others are really quite nasty to her as she is no longer “one of them” and they peck at her and chase her away if she comes too close; it’s actually rather sad to watch. After ten or fifteen minutes she swiftly heads back to her nest and carries on coddling her beloved eggs.
Eleanor is now also broody, sitting on two eggs and a ping-pong ball to make up the numbers! Our sweet, lovely, docile Eleanor, she of the Mad Hatters’ Tea Party fame, has turned into Hen-Zilla. Each morning when we open their door, she comes out straightaway clucking that special phrase of cluck we’re now getting used to; “Get out of my way, I’m an important broody hen with eggs to sit on; out of my way, out of my way, I need to eat, no time to waste!” and she is back inside and on her eggs within ten minutes, having made quite sure that we all know exactly how important she is!
But the real time-wasters are Penny and Adrian, the pair of ducklings we were given at the Farmers Market nine days ago. Most of the ducks sold that day no doubt were bought to be fattened and intended for the table. They would have gone into a large sandy enclosure with an old pond in the corner, where the last blade of grass would have long since ceased to exist. However, Penny and Adrian have entered a life of luxury, and are enjoying the pampered mollycoddled life of a pet duck! When they arrived, a temporary run was made for them, along with an old paddling-pool filled with clean cool water. The next day a new home arrived. A brand new dog-kennel was put together and filled with straw. Chairs were placed near the enclosure and the children would sit and watch them, chatting and laughing, the ducks getting used to people and their endless talking! The chickens came and took a look, wondering what all the fuss was about and who the new arrivals were. Penny and Adrian ate and swam and loved all the attention. Then just when they really thought life couldn’t get much better, it did – in fact it got a whole lot better. Yesterday the temporary fence was removed from around their paddling-pool and their deluxe house – they are free to wander in the garden along with the chickens. Their permanent pond is under construction, yet another project! The chickens take little notice of them and the cats have decided they are definitely too big to hunt and wander away. Bentley, being Bentley, totally ignores them. The ducks waddle around, they flap their tiny wings and run across the lawn – if this is what life is all about, it really is pretty good.
The garden is changing on a daily basis; it’s like a video on permanent fast-forward and everything is growing so fast. The first roses on a south-facing wall are blooming
I love the Arum Lilies, simple perfection
and the Tamarisk is never still, always moving in the breeze
We’ve also been walking, lots and lots of walking; it’s such a perfect climate at the moment, not too hot and not too cold and everywhere is so stunning. Hedgerows with sweet scented lilac, tall grass waving in the breeze, waiting to be cut for hay. The bright yellow of rapeseed cuts a colourful swathe across the landscape. Blowing dandelion seeds and making wishes. Childhood memories and carefree days.
Whenever we come home and walk down the driveway I am greeted by the beautiful flowering horse-chestnut. All the trees are incredible and in full leaf; one half of the garden is now a canopy of shade. Sometimes I just stand and stare. I call the children over to look at them as it’s all too easy to forget about the trees. They are just there, a part of the garden, and we do take trees for granted. But I like to draw attention to them as they are magnificent, hundreds of years old, and only then, standing looking up at the giant lime tree, do we all really see how huge it is.