Walking the dog across the fields this morning in the warm, slightly misty, spring sunshine – skylarks singing, the sea glistening in the distance – was an uplifting start the day. I still walk with my daughter to the local village primary school, even though she is in her final year and old enough to walk on her own. It’s lovely to have that time together, just the two of us, and she doesn’t seem to mind. She’ll be travelling by train to secondary school with her brothers in September, so these are precious times.

It couldn’t be more of a contrast with my previous life in SW London and the walk to school alongside busy roads, nose-to-tail traffic, planes overhead, everyone rushing. Don’t get me wrong, I loved aspects of my life in the big smoke but this is where I now feel rooted and in my natural place. Being a forces baby, my childhood was peripatetic. We rarely lived in one place for more than a couple of years but all of the RAF stations where we lived were either by the sea or in the countryside and I think that may be why I feel so comfortable in this environment. Perhaps my children will hotfoot it back to the city when they’re older!

Our rescue dog, Cassie (a lurcher), would have hated London. She was a bag of nerves when we adopted her two years ago and still gets spooked by lots of traffic or loud noises. The wide, open spaces here suit her perfectly. I can let her off the lead in the arable fields and she runs and runs in big circles round me, the growing crops tickling her tummy. If dogs could laugh with joy, she’d be doing it.


David has been rebuilding one of the retaining walls in the garden this week and uncovered a slow worm curled up under a rock. We found quite a few last year, mainly in and around the compost heap, but this is the first sighting this year. He also came a cross a large toad and narrowly avoided dropping a rock on its head. Luckily, he managed to transfer it to the side of the pond where it shook itself off and dived in.

This slow worm had a rude awakening.
This slow worm was discovered curled up asleep under a rock.

I’m busy potting on seedlings whenever I have the time to do it. I’m awestruck that tiny seeds (some too small to handle individually – you just have to shake them over the compost and hope they spread out) can grow into miniature plants with leaves, delicate stems and tendril-like roots. Transferring these fragile seedlings into pots can be tricky, especially when they’ve wrapped their roots around each other. I’ve found that the wrong end of a pencil is the best tool for teasing them out of their trays and gently easing them apart. Over the next few weeks, these babies will grow into larger, more robust plants and then we can plant them out into the garden where they can really get their roots down.


Many hands

photo 1-1Reinforcements arrived last Wednesday in the form of my mother-in-law, who’s come to stay for a week. For someone in her mid-70s, she has immense energy and drive (she puts this down to her nurse training) and has been chivvying us along in the garden. She also has years of very welcome gardening experience and knows what will do well and where. I remember her reassuring visit after I came out of hospital with my first baby and it’s a similar feeling – she knows what to do!

Apart from a lovely family day out to Leeds Castle, where the children begrudgingly enjoyed themselves, and various trips to buy new shoes and sports kit (the boys, in particular, are growing almost as fast as the plants in the garden) we’ve spent a happy few days outside making good progress.

We cut poles from the hazel tree and made wigwams for the French beans. Asparagus has been planted –I think we may have taken too long to get them in the ground. They’d started to develop white fungal marks on the roots, so we cut these off… The crowns require delicate handling and we may have been a bit too heavy-handed!

French beans in situ with their hazel wigwams.
French beans in situ with their hazel wigwams. You can see the asparagus bed behind left, neatly tucked in under layers of compost.
I've left the tops on the hazel poles to see if they'll sprout into leaf.
I’ve left the tops on the hazel poles to see if they’ll sprout into leaf.

Several 1-tonne builders bags have been filled with weeds, hedge trimmings, ivy, etc and carted to the tip. We found an old cold-frame and have cleared a bed, spread out weed-suppressing mat and gravel to create an area for hardening-off our new plants. It’s a joy to come back from walking the dog, open the greenhouse door, take the lids of the propagators and see what’s grown. We’re making progress and it’s exciting.

Seedlings of Tithonia 'Torchlight' (foreground), which is great for bees, and an ornamental grass, Setaria, behind.
Seedlings of Tithonia ‘Torchlight’ (foreground), which is great for bees, and an ornamental grass, Setaria, behind.