My year in 12 stops…

January brought mild weather, Steve and Jake’s return from England and new shoots. The new year was tetchy and difficult but I managed to get out and plant some stuff. My first shoots came up and I suddenly felt like I was in business. I waited a long time to get busy with the greenery and it was worth the wait.

First shoots of 2011

The garden was about all the solace I had that January. Sometimes, life really pulls the rug out from under you. Hopefully, this January will be a whole lot more soothing.

If I had to sum January up in ten words it would be:

things fall apart; new shoots emerge from the frozen lands

February was much less traumatic at first as the boys settled back down. But February was the month of loss. First Basil, my most beloved of animals, then Saffy, our rescue spaniel. February was pretty crap too. The only good thing about it were the snowdrops appearing and the arrival of Mr Fox and Mr Bird, our two new cats. By April, Bird had disappeared. Life is crap sometimes when you have people and animals in it who die or disappear, but it’s all the better for having had them in it.

February Fox

And if I had to sum up February in ten words, I’d say:

Winter bereavement and sadness  give way to sunshine and snowdrops

March – the best thing I can say about it is that nothing died. I started gardening hard and trying to stay on top of everything for Jasmin’s arrival. Oh the hours I worked! I dug and dug, planted and planted, pruned and chopped. The trees blossomed and life returned. My feet ached and my legs ached. I can’t believe how much stronger I am now. Now I can dig for hours, I can weed for hours. I’ve done thousands of squats and pulls and all kinds of bent over maneuvers. I never thought I’d be this strong again.

Spring returns

My March ten words would be:

Ah! Sakura! Ah, Hanami! Subarashi’ito Omoimasu! Sugoi, desu ne?!

Okay, so that’s nine, but they’re in Romanji Japanese, so I don’t care.

April was only about one thing: my Nana’s birthday. Various friends and relations descended on the area to celebrate her birthday. Unfortunately it didn’t go entirely to plan, what with my step-mum’s gall bladder playing up – on the positive side, I realised how important it is to learn words like vesicule biliaire  and to know internal organs. They never teach you those in school, do they?!

My brother Al and my lovely Nana

April went in a whirl, with my mum arriving at the beginning of the month and the rest of my family coming over towards the end. My mum and I planted potatoes and dug stuff over. We went for walks and I wished she could come and live over here all the time. My dad, step-mum, Nana, step-aunt and step-uncle, step-second-cousin, sister, brother-in-law, uncle, aunt, brother, step-brother and step-brother’s girlfriend all arrived en masse – and then we were fourteen. Amazingly, we all managed, despite gall stones and dropping to thirteen, then food poisoning and dropping to twelve… If April was anything it was:

Family and friends bring much-welcomed happiness from British shores

May is the beginning of my work year in many ways. It’s when the marking season begins. This year, I had a double whammy of marking and I got to go back to England for a few weeks. But I spent the weeks before in a harvesting and planting chaos, picking 15 kg of cherries, bagging up turnips, thinning out lettuces, picking early tomatoes and sowing lots of radishes.

May's lettuces

So if May was anything, it was this:

Much hard work, backache and red pens bring early rewards 

June was just work. Work, work, work. Whether I was in Manchester or whether I was in France, I was all about work. I pruned, weeded, tried to keep on top of things (girls are so much more hard-working than boys and nobody can deny it) as in my absence, things fell into ruin. Potato crops became sown with weeds; my pea patch disappeared in convolvulus. It was so dry we needed to water all the time. It hadn’t rained since March – and that’s a very long time. We’d long since run out of stored water. We had courgettes and tomatoes coming out of our earholes and for the first time, I made courgette flower fritters. They were okay. I can’t understand why they’re a delicacy though.

June's courgettes

June wasn’t much different from May, to be honest.

Back and forward between the rainy city and my courgettes

And July followed in the same pattern. More to-and-froing. More weeding. More heat. More sunshine. More vegetables. More tomatoes. More courgettes. More eggs.

July melon... small but delicious!

This was the month when I was spending three hours in the garden, five hours marking and trying to do everything else in between. I went back to Manchester for 10 days and it was much more peaceful than it had been the time before. I confess, I ate a lot of my sister’s toffee crisps, though.

Hopefully, that’s the last time I’ll have to to and fro with work. It might even be the last time I’m able to. You never know. When Steve and Jake go back permanently, it’s going to get a whole lot harder to up and go for a week or so. I shall rely on housesitters and dog sitters and cat sitters and chicken sitters!

If July was anything, it was this:

Melons, strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes, peas, beans, beetroot

August saw me mostly here on my own, what with Steve and Jake being back in England. It rained, a little! I marked until the bitter end. I picked ripe pears and peaches, began to dig everything over. It’s funny to think that August marks the beginning of the end, but it was getting more autumnal. Some trees were already losing their leaves – it’s been a weird year, weather-wise. I harvested and pickled and jammed and stored and froze and dug.

When the boys got back, we went to Bordeaux for the day. I don’t feel like I need the holidays so much here – not that every day is a holiday, but it certainly seems to be a different pace. I no longer have traditional weeks and weekends, only days without clients where I do other work, like online translation or writing or marking, or days when I weed and I don’t weed. It gets easier, I tell myself this!

August pears

And August in 10 words?

Silent harvesting and some rainfall with slow Autumn moving in 

September brought Jake back to school, lots of school events and new friends. It brought an end to the riots that had plagued my home city and a bit of calm. Jake presented a wreath at the war memorial in memory of France’s war dead, from both world wars and campaigns since then in North Africa and as part of Nato and the UN. September was all about the grape harvest and all the ways I could use up our 150 vines’ worth of grapes, too. It was a last minute rampage of harvesting and I began to understand why Harvest Festival was such a big deal.

Remembrance of the war dead

September in 10 words would be:

La Rentrée, school days, motor shows and preparations for winter

October meant a trip to Galway to celebrate Mossy’s 40th birthday. It was days in pubs drinking Guinness and listening to Irish music, trips to the Galway Aquarium and birthday kebabs. It was a time when the future of us three was thrown up for challenge, and it meant plans for Steve and Jake to return to the UK in June 2012. Sometimes, doing what is right doesn’t feel very good at all. Things began to get colder here, though not as cold as it was the year before.

Autumn colours for the sumac tree

If October was anything, it was this:

Changes on the horizon as things come to an end

November was a bit more settled. Things found order again. I dug and dug and business picked up. It was the season of mushrooms and foraging and hedgerows and winter sunrises. Nothing much happens in November: there is nothing to plant, only mulching and digging over to do in the garden and it was time to batten down the hatches for winter’s arrival. I started to get all crafty, knitting and sewing, painting and drawing in preparation for Christmas. Home-made presents are the order of the day.

November sunrises

If November was anything it was this:

Nesting is always such fun when you have craft supplies

December started with sadness: our chickens were taken early morning and I felt rubbish. There was a long period of cloud, rain and darkness as the winter set in. The heavens opened and the river returned and then I began all my preparations for Christmas. It’s so important to bring a little life and light into your life in the winter months.

December wreath

December means only these ten words:

Brightly shining stars, family and gifts of love from home

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