Thankfully the storms that have battered England and Wales seem to have missed Orkney for once. It’s been raining and a bit of a breeze blowing today, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Yesterday was actually a beautiful day, bright and sunny much of the time. I made the most of the pleasant weather and was pottering around outdoors. The ground is too wet and waterlogged from weeks of rain to work with it at the moment though. But I’m pleased to see that the trees and shrubs I planted as twigs last year already have buds ready to burst open.
The house has a large garden that hasn’t been cultivated for probably about 50 years! I would love to do something with it, but it will need machinery to dig up and level off parts of it. And as it’s 100 ft x 100 ft it will take some looking after. So for the time being I just leave it to field grass, some rhubarb plants and a couple of elder trees. In the Spring it becomes an emergency lambing pen as the 5ft high stone dyke (wall) running around it gives protection to the ewes and their vulnerable lambs. The sheep belong to a neighbour – I just have the pleasure of looking at them, and the occasional task of checking they are the correct way up!
But I miss not working with the earth – although I can’t do much in the way of heavy gardening I just love pottering with plants! So last year I cleared a large border at the back of the house and have planted some shrubs there. It took quite a bit of clearing as again it hadn’t been worked in years. But by the end of the summer I got the border more or less level. When I started digging along by the dyke I found a submerged path a few inches under the soil. Or rather a succession of paths one under the other, made up of cinders, stone, and sand, layer upon layer. It took a while to dig up the stones and these are destined to make a base for the garden bench. There are also some huge flagstones several inches think which are leaning against the wall at the moment. One day if I can persuade someone to lay them they will make a lovely path! The local sandstone is a lovely warm reddish colour.
At the front of the house I planted some willow trees as these grow well in Orkney. A friend, J. gave me cuttings from her willows – just bits of twigs. J is a professional tree expert – though I did wonder at her advice to just use a hammer to bang the twigs in! When a neighbour saw what I was doing he said I had more chance of getting a fence post to take root than those twigs. The photo at the top shows that the trees and I proved him wrong! I was absolutely amazed that in the first year most of them took root and grew leaves and quite long branches!
I also have some Spring bulbs planted – mainly dwarf daffodils and some snow drops, crocus and bluebells. The dwarf varieties seem to do quite well as they aren’t so “leggy” and get less battered by the wind. I also love to grow seeds in trays indoors in the conservatory. They need to be given a good start before being planted out as the hens will just scratch up any bit of earth that has been dug. I am usually surrounded by beady eyes when digging – and much grateful clucking as I throw the hens some worms. Now if the weather would just dry up a bit I can get out there and get on with this year’s plans!