I don’t know what it is about living in the country but it’s certainly good for the soul. And when you’ve been away overseas, it’s lovely to come home and go around the garden looking at your plants to see how they’re doing. There had obviously been a lot of rain and wind in our absence, because a few of my plants are looking a bit dishevelled, but they’ll bounce back. They’ll have to, because I’m not going to nursemaid them through life. This is not the botannical gardens. I actually have a bit of a weird attitude to gardening – to me, a weed is just a plant in the wrong place at the wrong time. If the weed is threatening to steal all the water and nutrient from something I’ve raised from seed, or bought at the garden centre, the weed loses. But because we have such harsh conditions here – searing hot in summer, icy cold in winter, windy all year round – there are many weeds which are actually quite pretty groundcovers which I am allowing to stay. One, for instance, which is flowering now, has a tiny, azure flower and it’s so brave the way it creeps all over the stones and hard ground, determined to thrive.
That said, today I replanted sage bushes, cardoons, and about one dozen artichoke plants (I raised them from seed last summer) which have multiplied. They make great shelter belts, plus who can resist the delicious heads. Boil them until tender, then serve with a vinaigrette of olive oil, melted butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper and garlic if you wish. Peel the leaves off one by one, dip the soft end into the vinaigrette and scrape it off with your teeth. As you progress through the artichoke, the soft parts get bigger and bigger until you have the delectable heart. It’s like opening a present really – pass the parcel all to yourself. So this coming summer I’ll have masses of artichokes, hopefully, to deliver to our friends in Wellington. I might even sit out at the gate and sell them (just kidding).
Meanwhile, Colin was down dismantling and tidying up the old pump area just through the gate. Before we went away he dug out, with great difficulty because it was cemented in, the pump shed, and we dismantled it and brought it up to use as a pig house. Today he went down and dug out a random post which had a pipe and electrical wiring attached to it. Unable to find the source of the wiring, he refused to just bury it, as I kept suggesting. (Just chop it off and bury it, darling, just bury it, ad nauseum). He hates a job half-done, so I left him to it, digging his way to England, and came back up to my garden.
Hours later, after splitting more firewood for me on the way back, he arrived at the house and informed me that the wires were still attached to the pump, probably live, so luckily he didn’t, as the old ball and chain kept suggesting he do, “just chop it off”.
The vineyard is looking a picture, all beautifully pruned and tied up, ready for the new growth. Rowan’s been at work with the new mulcher, which is attached to the tractor and goes along the rows gathering up the prunings, chomping them up and spitting them all back in the rows as compost. It’s good for growth, plus, if you just leave the dead prunings around the place, you risk disease getting into the vines.
We’ve also had FrostBoss here hi-teching the vineyard with all sorts of flash weather stations so we’ll be able to get state-of-the-art information on wind speed, humidity, temperature, rainfall – every time the vineyard sighs, we’ll know about it. Don’t ask me how it works yet, I don’t know, but for sure we will be given a lesson by Nick and Rowan.
So it’s very satisfying to work hard, physically, all day – even to dig a hole in this weather when the ground is relatively wet requires massive swinging of the pick-axe – lie down and read for a wee while, then take a nice hot bath and pour ourselves a glass of wine. Which is what I intend to do, right now.