Summer evenings imagined: lounging on the garden bench in the sunshine, wine chilled to perfection, an olive or thirty within reach. There is knitting – perhaps a skirt-in-progress, with neither dropped stitches nor tangled yarn. On the lawn in front of me, children and wildlife gambol endearingly. (No, I didn’t say gamble – that would be a bit less charming.) The Stoic Spouse is nearby, being stoic of course.
Summer evenings lived: Oh, is it raining again? Never mind, I’ll just relax in the sitting room with this delicious glass of HOLY YARN-BALLS, WHAT IS THAT?! TWIN ONE, HAVE YOU DUCT-TAPED TWIN TWO TO THE CEILING AGAIN?! GET IN HERE NOW AND UNPEEL HIM OR SO-HELP-ME I WON’T TAKE YOU OUT TO WATCH COMBINE HARVESTERS WORKING IN THE FIELDS TONIGHT! *
Yup, it’s the school summer holidays. Much as I adore my boys (and I really, really, do adore the pesky little blighters), I’m not very good at this sort of thing. Big respect to parents whose children’s leisure time comprises Latin on Mondays, archery on Tuesdays, oboe on Wednesdays, nuclear physics on Thursday, and squirrel anatomy on Friday, but planning ahead has never been my forte, and my sons would sell me to the lowest bidder on eBay if I dared book them in to any organised activities. I know that it’s important for children to have unscheduled boredom-time in order to stimulate their imaginations, but we’re quite an extreme case of structureless living. (And yeah, they have excellent imaginations, so that’s the upside of my incompetence.) We have at least wandered around in the countryside, splashing in streams and catching critters:-
We even spotted a fox, whilst visiting the Gregarious Grandfather:-
But on days when I haven’t been working the day-job, we’ve mostly been pottering at home. By which, I mean that the twinnage have negotiated too much screen-time, whilst I’ve felt guilty about not doing enough with them, not doing enough for the house, the garden, the book, my friends, my family, the wider world, the everything. But at least we’ve had a few visitors and a few days out, and since the twinnage haven’t completely forgotten how to use a knife and fork, say thank you, and put on trousers, I’m counting this summer as a not-complete-failure. Yeah my standards are pretty low, now that you come to mention it.
Work on the book about stranded knitting is trundling along. I’m not progressing as rapidly as I ought to be, because at this time of year, the garden is an irresistible draw. After all the hard work during our ludicrously late/freezing/dry/wet/generally-mad spring, we’ve finally reached the stage of abundant and effortless harvests of much loveliness. You can just wander into the garden and MUNCH!
Breakfast in August involves going outside and grazing. I love it. (OK, so I obsessively weigh everything first to compile an accurate log of crops, but still…) All of those books that I read over the past 18 months about permaculture, forest gardening, no-dig, wildlife gardening, and organic gardening have opened my eyes wide and have had a massive impact on how I produce food and encourage wildlife. And yes, I probably am just as irritating in real life as I sounded in that last sentence.
But there was no escaping the fact that our garden is small, until a friend who lives one minute’s walk from here invited me to cultivate the raised beds in her garden because she no longer uses them.** Er, yes please! It’s fair to say that I’m excited about the prospect. These past few days, I’ve been sowing seeds of over-wintery thingummyjigs (technical gardening term) that I’ll soon be able to plant out in in my friend’s beds. The plan is to grow low-maintenance, high-space, harvest-all-at-once stuff in my friend’s garden (potatoes, onions, garlic, celeriac, amaranth grain, leeks, fennel, sprouts, parsnips, edamame, quinoa, sweetcorn, etc), saving the divas who need a nightly bedtime story, hourly harvests, or daily fertilizing using mermaid tears for home (tomatoes, celery, beans of various kinds, peas, all the fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, and squashes). It’s going to be awesome.
Meanwhile last, but very definitely not least, I want to thank you again for the donations to pancreatic cancer research that are still arriving, as sponsorship for my year-long 1084-mile run. You’re fabulous. (There’s still time to sponsor me here, should you wish to do so.) The total currently stands at over £2600, which is just brilliant. Thank you. Your money will help make a difference to future outcomes for this hideous disease.
*OK, the flaw in this paragraph is the unlikeliness of combine harvesting occurring during a downpour, but why let realism get in the way of a story?
**Actually, age-related infirmity has made gardening difficult for her. Fair enough, but I want to offer her something in return for the use of her garden. Money, a share of crops, and labour (eg lawn-mowing) have all been offered, but the most she’s agreed to so far is “I might take the occasional carrot”. Consider this a work in progress.