Forces of nature and 10 remedies for gloom

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Weather: it is what it is. I love the shadows created by the sun and the feel of it on my face; I love the wind whipping up the sea and watching birds ride the updrafts along the cliff edge; the thrill of spotting a rainbow; the mesmerising cloud formations; the rain sweeping in and watering the garden. And I love that I can see more weather living here and get out into it on long dog walks. In this crazy, high-tech, man-made mess of a world what I love most about it is that we can’t control it.

A recent Office of National Statistics study has revealed that people in middle age are the least satisfied with their lives. Christina has written about it here and there was extensive coverage on Radio 4 recently. I fall into this age group but I’d say that right now I am the most content I’ve ever been. I am extremely fortunate in many respects and I know that many people have big, serious issues to deal with in their lives but, for what it’s worth (and I’m probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs), here are my 10 Remedies for Gloom:

1. Get a dog.
2. Walk the dog as often as you can. If you can’t get a dog, walk anyway.
3. Do some other form of exercise too (yoga, running, kick-boxing, whatever).
4. Grow plants. Properly look at these plants. Notice their beauty.
5. Read books. Lots of them.
6. If you fancy a piece of cake or a chocolate biscuit, have one (just one).
7. The same goes for a gin and tonic. Or a glass of champagne (perhaps two of those).
8. Spend time with the people you love and who make you happy.
9. Make something (a cake, jam, a jumper, a quilt, a massive sculpture in cheese, anything).
10. Do something nice for someone else.

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Before Imogen whipped herself up into a fury on Sunday (if we’re naming storms we may as well have fun anthropomorphising them), David and I spent a few hours tidying up in the garden. We cut back the raspberry canes, weeded the beds by the greenhouse and mulched them with compost. There are two empty-ish beds (one recently vacated by gooseberry bushes) and we’re mulling over what to plant. I’d like one for flowers to cut and bring indoors and I think we’ll plant more herbs, salads and beans but it’s still in the planning. Whatever we manage to do in the garden at this time of year is a bonus and it lulls me into thinking we’re on top of things before the rush to keep up when all the plants are growing like mad.

In other news… You may recall that I had some rather lofty intentions at the start of the year. Um… Well… I’ve not done much (apart from in the garden). I’ve managed a basic chain link crochet thingy, I’ve thought about decorating schemes for the front room and moved the furniture that’s waiting to be painted, but I’ve decided to scrap the idea of getting a new job for now. I periodically decide to get a ‘proper job’, rejoin the ranks of the permanently employed and enjoy a little security but these bouts tend to be short-lived. I applied for a couple of local jobs in January, nothing to do with anything I’ve ever done before, but didn’t get anywhere. Oh well. Never mind. I do love my independence, long walks and being able to wander out into the garden during the day, so I’ll hang in there with the freelancing. Phew.

Right. I’ve got a poorly teenager at home, so I’m off to check he’s ok. We’ve had a few fallings-out recently but his teenage force is temporarily crushed by a stinking cold. He’s a poppet when he’s not well.

Hope you’re having a good week.

Flower power

It may be feeling cosy and almost Christmassy indoors but our garden is blissfully unaware that we’re speeding towards the shortest day of the year. It’s been gloomy of late; we’ve had very strong winds and rain (but nothing like the devastating rains in other parts of the country) and not much sunshine. It has been unseasonably mild, though, and this is probably why some plants seem a bit confused.

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There are still marigolds.
A strawberry plant is flowering..!
A strawberry is flowering!
There are still snapdragons...
There are still snapdragons. They’re a bit windswept but they’re hanging in there.
The Erigeron is still flowering on the front steps - continuous flowering since April. It's such a hard-working, joyful plant.
Erigeron karvinskianus is still flowering on the front steps – continuous flowering since April. It’s such a hard-working, undemanding lovely plant.
Salvia 'Hot Lips' is still going strong.
Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ is still going strong.
Some hardy geraniums are still sending out flowers and the leaves on some others are only just starting to fade.
Some hardy geraniums are still sending out flowers and the leaves on others are only just starting to fade.
Primroses!
Primroses! This one has been munched by an opportunist mollusc..
And, yes, the cheery geraniums are STILL flowering. This time last year, we'd moved them all into the greenhouse for the winter.
And, yes, the cheery geraniums are STILL flowering. This time last year, they were tucked up in the greenhouse.

In other news, I took the dog for a short walk this morning – a gentle stroll (no stomping yet) up to the top of the cliffs to breathe in some fresh, sea air and blow the cobwebs away. It was windy and drizzly and grey but it was marvellous. Have a lovely weekend.

Good things to come

It worked! The tomatoes obviously prefer the balmier climes of the kitchen window and have finally germinated. Once they’re all up, I’ll return them to the greenhouse and pot them on. The cucumbers are there growing well, as are the French beans and various flowers. We’ll soon be running out of space (and pots).

My French beans are growing!
My French beans are growing!

The weather has been wonderful here. Once the early morning fog has burned off, we’ve had three days of sunshine (albeit hazy today under the Saharan-sand smog cloud). Perfect Easter-holiday weather.

We had friends staying with us earlier in the week, so I took the opportunity to take them to nearby Walmer Castle. The hightlights for me were the glorious gardens – a formal garden with a large, rectangular pond and topiaried yews; a woodland walk; and a fabulous kitchen garden. I can’t believe it’s taken us almost three years to get round to visiting this lovely place. As it’s just up the road, I’m sure it’ll become a regular destination for inspiration.

The kitchen garden at Walmer Castle.
The wonderful kitchen garden at Walmer Castle. You can just see the amazing, wobbly yew hedge in the background.

With the children all busy (one ‘adventure training’ in Cornwall, one ‘resting’ after exerting ski trip, and the youngest happy pottering about) we’ve made the most of the weather and had two days of full-on gardening. Our mail-order strawberry plants arrived this morning inside a jiffy bag. Not quite what I was expecting!

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Luckily we’d prepared the bed yesterday so we were ready to go. It was quite fiddly planting them – spreading out the roots and making sure the crowns were level with the top of the soil – but they’re all in. There are 12 mid-season fruiting (‘Alice’) and 12 late (Vibrant), so hopefully we’ll have some fruits this summer and a bumper crop next year.

Progress in the veg plot. The strawberry crowns are in the foreground.
Progress in the veg plot. The strawberry crowns are in the foreground (really!).

It’s the village spring show tomorrow. We don’t have any suitable named varieties of flowers or veg to enter the show classes (competition is quite hot!), so I’m entering the beginner’s flower arranging class and my daughter is entering a posy. Our entries have to be at the village hall by 10am sharp, so we’ll be out in the garden early in the morning to see what we can find.

PS Thanks to my lovely sister-in-law for showing me how to insert photos into my blog posts!