Friday 28 January 2011

Sunshine and Shadows

When Garden Girl was really little and first became aware of her shadow she was scared of it. She would walk along trying to detach herself from it, standing still, demanding that it go away. Garden Boy, on the other hand, has always been on the very best terms with his shadow. He looks for it when we walk along, waves to it and runs with it, so when the sun came out one morning last week we went out specifically to play with our shadows.

It is a good time of year to play with your shadow because the sun is lower in the sky and the shadows are longer. We walked along beside our shadows, holding hands and watching as they copied, holding hands themselves. My shadow was pushing a pushchair just like I was and when I started jumping up and down my shadow did too. Garden Boy waved at his shadow, giggling as it waved back. They ran, jumped and danced together, then played peekaboo over the top of a wall's shadow. We watched as our shadows hid in the dappled shadows of a tree, unable to see the whole shadow, but seeing a shadowy movement all the same. 'It there!' Garden Boy shouted as he spotted his shadow moving, followed by 'It gone!' when it hid beneath a solid shadow.

We tried, very hard, to get our shadow to walk on the other side of us, but it would not. Garden Boy made himself dizzy, turning in circles, trying in vain to step over his shadow and move to the other side of it. I explained why the shadow would not move but I'm not sure he cared. He was having far too much fun playing with his grey friend and he was very impressed when I took photos and we looked back through them, guessing which shadow belonged to who. I now have a mission to take pictures of all his friends shadows so we can mix them up and play a matching game with their actual photos.

And I have to admit that I was rather pleased to see my own friendly shadow waving back at me and copying my silly dance moves - no-one else in their right minds would copy my dance moves, so I have a soft spot for my shadow who joined in with as much energy as I did!

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Moving Mountains

On Saturday, Garden Dad levelled all the pathways around the raised beds ready for laying weed fabric. Garden Girl and Garden Boy helped out for short bursts, heading in and out of the house as they became cold and tired. Garden Lass and I stayed clean and warm indoors, supplying hot drinks and warming food for the workers outside.

Then on Sunday, we swapped and, donned in my wellies and leg warmers, I set about flattening the mountain of soil that had grown in the middle of our lawn. I had no little garden helpers, whose attention was drawn away from the garden by the distraction of Hello Kitty on the play station. I don't blame them. It is tough work moving a mountain!

The soil was wet and compacted and it stuck, in large clumps, to every tool I tried to use. I tried shovels, forks, trowels, rakes and even at one point my hands. But eventually, and with much satisfaction, the mountain was laid flat. The result is that we now have a more even lawn, that is level along the bottom edge and, although it is by no means a croquet lawn, it is certainly much flatter than it was early on Sunday morning.

There is now a large patch of bare soil in the bottom right hand corner of the lawn, over which we will scatter lawn seed this coming weekend. I am sure that spring time is probably a better time to sow grass seed but we would like some growth there as soon as possible, to make the garden slightly less muddy. We are not expecting the perfect lawn from our sowing and we are aware we will probably have to resow to fill patches in spring, but some covering early in the year will make a difference. My biggest concern is that the birds will eat all the seeds before they have a chance to germinate so on Saturday, before we scatter the seed, our Little Garden Helpers will be attaching rags to sticks, to wave like pirate flags, scaring away the birds. And I think we will make a family of grass heads as well. I can't resist.

Wednesday 19 January 2011


Garden Dad worked really hard at the weekend, cutting all the wood to size and building the final raised bed and the edge to our seating area. He worked through the cold and the drizzle, but it was worth it, because all the posts have been concreted in and this coming weekend we will be able to spread out the mound of soil in the middle of our lawn and make the ground more even. We will also fill in the post holes and hopefully get the weed fabric laid down over all the pathways. It is really very exciting because I can see that this year we will not only have a productive vegetable garden but one that will be nice to sit in and wander around.

The plan is to have two seating areas in each of the bottom corners of the garden; one with a large bench for us and one with a smaller bench or some stools for the children. They will have the shadier area, so they can stay out of the sun when they break from their play for a snack and drink, while we will have the evening sun to enjoy a glass of wine amongst the growing vegetables.

The next big decision for us is what the little fence will look like along the bottom of the lawn. How high should it be and should we have gates at the top of the steps? We both have different ideas on this, but one thing we both agree on is that we still want to be able to see the vegetable garden from our window so the fence should be low or have gaps between each slat. I think it is probably time to look through the garden catalogues, with paper and pencils to draw some plans and fingers crossed it will all become clearer!

Friday 14 January 2011

Safety First

Last Sunday everyone was very eager to get outside and help Garden Dad saw wood and fit together the pieces to make a retaining wall for the lawn. Conscious of the fact that Garden Lass will soon be toddling around in a wobbly kind of way, our priority for the garden is to make the drop at the end of the lawn safe. This involves fixing wood along the bottom of the lawn to hold it all in place in the same way that we made the raised beds. Then we will need to build some steps, so we can all climb safely down from the lawn to the raised bed area. Finally, a small fence will be built to stop toddling/running children falling off the edge.

Armed with her own tool kit Garden Girl was the first to join Garden Dad and she helped him measure and line up the long pieces of wood. Garden Boy was a little slower to make it outside, due to the familiar daily routine of him running around, naked from the waist down, while I wearily ask him, for the hundredth time, if he could please put his pants on. One day I think I will have to let him outdoors pantless just so he understands that he really will be very cold without them. But, eventually he realised he was missing out and, with pants on, he finally made it outdoors.

It was a little bit too cold for Garden Lass to sit and watch the fun in the garden so until she settled for her nap I stayed indoors. But when Garden Lass was contentedly dreaming, I joined everyone else in the garden and harvested some of the winter vegetables for dinner. I also did a little bit of general clearing up and I couldn't help but notice that the frosts and snow hadn't deterred the weeds, so I have made a mental note to pull them up as soon as possible. I am determined to get them before they take over this year. All the hard work last weekend however was carried out by Garden Dad and his two eager helpers, with more planned the weekend ahead.

Friday 7 January 2011

Back, in Style

Happy New Year!

It has been some time since I last logged onto this site. I didn't take a conscious break from my blog. It just sort of happened. With the very cold weather and snow covered ground we spent very little time in the garden, so perhaps I was less inspired to write. There was also the busy fun of preparing for Christmas and the winter colds and viruses, which meant the computer seemed far less appealing in the evenings when I finally sat down for a rest. Then, with a quiet Christmas and a visit to my parents in the North West for New Year, I was enjoying time spent playing with our Little Garden Helpers and relaxing with family.

Routine has now returned however and the garden is looming high on our priorities for 2011. I can feel the excitement returning and I am eager to start planning the gardening year ahead. Garden Lass is crawling now and can even pull herself up to standing with the aid of low furniture so by spring she will be able to get fully involved. I am really looking forward to introducing her to the pleasures of throwing compost all over the garden, scattering seeds everywhere but where I want them and getting soaked by water from the watering can. Just like her older brother and sister Garden Lass has a most brilliant smile which is going to brighten up our garden this year and I really can't wait to share the fun with her.

So, with Garden Girl back at nursery on Thursday, I took Garden Boy and Garden Lass to the garden centre. I thought it would fill the hours while we waited for Garden Girl to come home and plan our activities for us (she took full control of how we structured our days over the Christmas holidays and I guessed we would feel a hole on her first day back). We didn't buy anything on this trip because we haven't really made a proper plan for the months ahead but just being at the garden centre put me in the right frame of mind and offered inspiration. We stopped for a drink and slice of cake while we were there and talked about the garden. I asked Garden Boy if he was looking forward to growing vegetables again this year and he said 'Me want to get the big watering can and water the tomatoes... and peas... and me want to eat them'.

Over lunch at home we told Garden Girl about our trip out and after she had finished telling us off for going without her she told us she wanted to move the apple trees, something she had remembered us saying we needed to do at the start of autumn. Then she added, 'And I want to be in charge. I need to make sure Garden Lass doesn't do it wrong.' So we have a willing commander teacher!

Inspired by our trip to the garden centre I made sure I had my priorities straight and began my own preparations for the garden with a spot of sale shopping. A little bit of style in the garden is very important when one is under the critical eyes of Garden Girl so with Christmas money offering guilt free shopping I have bought myself a lovely warm gilet from Musto and some very comfortable and stylish clothes from White Stuff (the new handbag honestly just slipped into my online shopping basket all on its own!). All I need now is some extra warm footwear and I will be stylishly but practically attired for the garden. And this weekend we will get down to the real shopping and start looking through the seed catalogues!