Saturday, 26 March 2016

Stony Faced

It was near as damn it exactly 7 years ago yesterday that we created the raised beds that became our veg plot. It was 7 years ago last month that we created the trenches that became the poly-tunnel. Come December, it will be 7 years ago that we created the five rows and ten holes that became the soft fruit patch. All of these were bare soil reclaimed from a grassy, weedy field unloved and unfarmed for a good long while. All of these required hours of hard labour, digging, raking, sieving. How then could I possibly have forgotten just how stony, and I mean really seriously stones galore stony, our land is!

Once upon a time we had a wild flower garden. It lasted one summer. One glorious flower filled colourful summer. Then the chickens started free ranging. And the grasses and the docks and the nettles moved back in. All that remains is a small patch of comfrey and a border of rose bay willowherb, and the latter only there by accident, the seeds parachuted in from elsewhere like emergency reinforcements as the seed heads of the front line flowers fell victim to scratching greedy chickens.

There have been other experiments with wild flowers over the years. The seeds scattered around the new pond produced a one off bonanza poppy display not seen again until last year, some 4 years later, when a smaller but equally impressive display flowered 6 feet away from the original flowering site and INSIDE the poly-tunnel. Meanwhile, the annual pond display now consists almost entirely of red and white campion. Beautiful and bee-friendly as they are, neither were in the flower mix we sowed.

Undeterred by our track record, spurred on by the plight of our forage hungry bees, we've begun another wild flower project, optimistically trying to learn from past mistakes. David did the hard graft of removing the turf, leaving me with the delight of returning home from a day at work to find a corner of the fruit patch transformed into a flower bed with a curve so shapely I felt the need to wolf whistle.

All I had to do was follow planting instructions to "dig over the bed to the depth of the tines of your fork and create a fine tilth". If my fork had been half the size it actually is, everything would have been fine and dandy. As it was, my first attempt to sink the fork tine deep was met with a stony thud halfway. Move the fork a little to the left, try again. Thunk. Move the fork a little to the right and behind. Thud. It was at this point that all those hours, 7 long years ago, of digging, raking and sieving came back to me. As I said at the start, how could I have forgotten!

Two hours, a setting sun and four piles of stones later, my flower bed had a sort of definitely not fine but fine enough for me tilth, my hand had a blister and my back muscles were in need of a soothing Epsom salts bath.

The sun continued to shine that week, warming the top layer of soil to a seed cosy temperature, so we broadcast sowed the seed mix. Seeds are fascinating little bundles of botanical magic waiting to explode into floral fireworks. The closer you look, the greater the detail there is to see in their differing shapes, textures and colours, and yet none of that detail can be extraneous as Mother Nature is not generally frivolous for frivolity's sake. My seed mix included fairy paint brushes (or hairy legged micro squids), teeny tiny eggs, fossilized spiky baby slugs and beetle body husks.

The packets promise that this unpromising looking medley will one day be cornflowers, borage, buckwheat, calendula, phacelia, corn poppy, hyssop and crimson clover. I yearn for that day.

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