I’ve been spending the days getting the garden back under control – not easy, believe me. Between being so wet for a lot of the year, it’s been impossible to mow and strim, and not only that, it’s shot up. Dry days have been few and far between of the type and length and convenience that are good for getting the garden into shape. And either I’ve been working a lot on those days, or there was too much to do. Last week, when I could have made a start, I was either sick or spider-bitten.
This, by the way, is Boris, who bit me. Notice his long shadow, his hairy legs, his red fangs.
I confess also that I’m feeling a bit lazy. It’s too easy to do nothing. To be honest, though, these are my first weeks without anything to do other than my own writing and occasional teaching, and having worked so hard all year, it’s my little holiday. Still, if I don’t get into the garden, it doesn’t get done. That’s why it’s such a mess now. I feel it encroaching.
Yesterday, I must have discovered 20 ants’ nests, disturbed a whole load of flying ant creatures, upset several insect nests of other varieties, and strimmed for a good two hours. It’s less encroaching. Today, it’s the turn of a bit of mowing and some more strimming. I really need to get the vegetables lifted and cooked as well. If I don’t do it this week, it’ll be harder to get it done because my sister is out next week, followed by a series of other friends right up until the early weeks of October. My dad fixed my fork. Good dad. That fork was driving me crazy.
So petrol tools are go right now.
And I’m winning. Slowly.
Plus, the garden has decided it’s autumn. The cherry has lost many of its leaves; the poplars are also downing tools for the year. It’s been such an unproductive fruit year – that cold snap coming at precisely the wrong time – I’ve managed to get a couple of jars of redcurrant jam, a couple of summer puddings and a few rounds of sorbet, but that’s it. I’ve been largely dependent on last year’s fruit which has now got to take me all the way through to 2013. It’s funny to think that the year is already coming to an end.
My dad said yesterday that it’s all downhill from here. I know many people don’t look forward to the winter and the cold, and it seems funny to be talking about it right now, but everyone’s starting to look for wood and think of the winter I guess. I don’t see the winter like that anymore. The winter is a time for comparative rest and also a time to start again. The new year is a fresh start for nature. I like that. The old year gets put behind us and as soon as the sap starts rising, anything could happen. It could have been an amazingly hot and dry year, like last year. It could have been moist and cool, like this year, with cold snaps in all the wrong places. It could be a year of 20 kg of cherries, or a year of none, but every year is a fresh start on the year before.
The groundwork of this year is the foundation for next, and I like that too. Plant seeds for today and enjoy the fruits of your labour the next.
It appears, though, that I am the only one working round these parts:
Hours I’ve spent on the loungers: about two. They look good though!
Heston’s just managed to get up on the sun loungers. He can’t manage the couches yet, so it’s a safe den for Tilly. These two play all day. Heston’s quite a bit stronger than Tilly, and he’s bigger than she is now, but he’s fairly gentle. It’s lovely to see Tilly play like a real dog. It’s given her a new lease of life. I thought at first he was kind of goading her into it, but it seems that she gives as good as she gets, and it’s all just play. He wins most of the time, but I don’t think she minds. This is where I miss the Moll. She’d love to have a little Heston around to play with all the time, especially as he gets bigger. I think Tilly’s realised she’s head dog, but she doesn’t have to be quite so nervous because she’s got Heston for back-up and he’s definitely on Team Tilly. He barks at what she barks at; he growls when she growls. He runs away then, but the sentiment is there. What you’re afraid of, I’m afraid of. If you think it deserves a bark, then so do I. She does love a bark, though.
Every other evening, I take them on a walk. I’m conscious that Heston’s bones and joints are all still forming, but at the same time, opinion is massively divided on puppy exercise, with some camps going for ten minutes a day including play (which means that at 6:40 this morning, Heston should have been put back to bed, to stay there until tomorrow!) and some camps going for ‘as much as they can handle’. Most breeders and clubs recommend two hours’ exercise for Berger Belge grown-ups, at least, so I’m trying to walk him for about 30-40 minutes every two days, to build up his muscle mass without destroying his young bones. Plus, he’s got to get used to other dogs, the lead, the neighbourhood, noises, things that leap out of bushes, cats up ahead, cows in fields, wild boar scents, and he needs the stimulation. It’s good pack-bonding time. He walks well on the lead, too.
And… wonder of wonders… Tilly managed to get past the rented pavilion with the noisy German Shepherd last night without barking. I wonder if she was tired or just couldn’t be bothered, or realised it was futile. She just kind of scuttled on, stopping from time to time in a provocative kind of way to drive the old GS bonkers. Ah well.
Last night’s walk was warm – still 27 degrees – and blue skies, despite the fact it was 7:30. Heston and Tilly stopped to play under the spray a couple of fields up from this one. Tilly loves having wet feet. Heston obviously feels the same since he sat down in the water and rolled about in it. I bet César does the same thing… he’s always turning up wet. He’s the resident Littlest Hobo of the village, a good-tempered, gentle, bouncy labrador who makes his way from house to house to say hello to everyone. One day he’ll get run over, but it’s still nice to see him when he turns up.