A Frosty Pause

After my last doleful post, winter got her act together.

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For a couple of days last week the rain stopped, the skies cleared, temperatures plummeted, mud froze,

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and, at long last, it was shiveringly cold.

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Not on a Siberian or Alaskan scale but at -5°C, Sussex was cold.

My first chore on arriving at work is to feed the Priory’s voracious guests.   (Pheasant don’t have an invite but loiter under the feeders nevertheless).

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My second is to make a pre-work cup of tea.

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Backlit by the rising sun, Priory Garden HQ is a warm, inviting lure on a frosty morning and, as I approached, I heard a rousing, angelic choir … if only, perhaps, in my head.   I filled the kettle and nestled on the electric heater like a fat, broody hen.

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As the kettle rumbled to life, I studied ice patterns on the glass

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before the rising sun rubbed them away.

My mini ice-age didn’t last long and warm rain has settled in once more … but it was nice whilst it lasted.  I’d still like some snow-fall to smother the Priory in white again.  We haven’t had a decent amount of snow since 2013 and I rather miss it.

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January 2013

Not everyone shares my love of ice and snow but I like living in a country with four distinct seasons; and, when they are not, it unsettles me.

On the home front, we finally moved into an C18th cottage a few days ago.  Jim and I wander amongst towers of boxes and through unfamiliar rooms with unfamiliar quirks; open windows which we can’t then close; tussle with swollen doors; hear odd noises; worry over odd smells; hunt down draughts; anxiously install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors; sadly shake our heads over tragic 1970’s ‘improvements’; recoil at bizarre decorating decisions; wrestle with an uppity wood-burner (who needs to knuckle down sharpish if she wants to avoid an early Ebay listing); gaze at an intimidating, overgrown, very steeply, terraced garden; and fall asleep beneath a red tractor and giant, garish flowers (painted, badly, on our bedroom wall).

With this large renovation job, you’ll understand if I relegate blogging somewhat.  I shall still post occasionally but plastering, painting and eradicating odd smells aside, we have a garden to make.

Blight, Rain and Flood

This is a rubbish winter.

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A winter-ish scene

No snow, no ice, barely a frost,

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just rain.  Lots and lots and lots of rain.

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Day after day of tedious, repetitive,

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flooding rain.  I’m not prone to depression but weeks of non-stop rain is twisting my arm.  “Rain, rain go away, come again another day” is too polite by far for my current mood.  (My own version has three or four expletives added).

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Gingerly treading across the lawns causes accusatory damage.  The grass won’t stop growing and you’d hardly believe that, having mowed just before Christmas, it needs cutting again.  But I can’t trundle out the mowers onto this … this … this mush.  What’s wrong with some good old-fashioned

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone

for heaven’s sake?

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Is it small comfort that alder, willow and reed mace are happy?  No, not really.

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When I arrived at work last Monday, the bridge to the meadow had disappeared.  But where?

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Ah, there it is.  It’s too heavy for two to lift but the flood effortlessly carried it 50 feet away.  My partner, Jim, lent a hand in dismantling the beast and we stood, scratching our heads, discussing how to make a replacement.  I’ve never made a bridge – at least, not a proper, grown-up bridge – but will need to do so soon.

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The flood swept most of  the duck-weed from the ponds

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and dumped it in a thick mat on the west lawn.  Duck weed ends up here most years but not normally in one, single carpet two or three inches deep.  Jim spent a happy few hours raking and barrowing.  He’s a man of simple pleasures.

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During last weekend, the river burst its banks for the second time in seven years and left a leaf and debris high water mark on the netted, post and rail fence.  That’s far higher than I’ve ever seen and I felt cheated in not witnessing such a deluge.  Little surprise with water so high that, for the first time since I’ve worked here, a room in the house flooded.  Luckily only one but still, stripping out soaked carpet and furnishings isn’t a fun gardening duty.

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After a brief  respite, the downpour resumed and water levels rose once more.  This cycle will continue for weeks, I suspect, unless the rain holds off long enough for the ground to dry out.  In the meantime planting is on hold and mulching is on hold.  I had mulched some beds only for it to wash off.

Box blight (2)

On an equally glum note, the arrival of box blight was particularly upsetting.  I’ve planted yards of box at the Priory and have loved its slow maturing into tight hedges.  This double length is about six years old and, I thought, beginning to look rather smart.

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Tragic then, to dig up all the plants and wheel them off to the bonfire – along with another infected planting on the other side of the house.  I could weep.  I’ve told myself that other box plants in the garden will be fine – but I’m probably delusional.  I should hate a completely box-less Priory and will scrupulously disinfect shears and box-clippers to lessen the chance of infection.

Did I mention it was a rubbish winter?

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As if blight and flood and rain weren’t sad enough, the Priory boat, Despondent, has slipped her moorings, drifted out into the west pond and filled with rainwater.  I need a volunteer to dive in, swim over and haul her to shore.   Anyone?

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Thursday last week

As I type, the rain is hammering down again and I wonder what I will do on returning to the Priory tomorrow.  One thing is for certain – I shan’t be mowing.

Happy New Year!