Quicke off the mark: Mary Quicke tells Devon Life ...
PUBLISHED: 16:00 29 April 2016
Our columnist Mary Quicke welcomes the arrival of Spring, but the change in the season brings with it cause for reflection
Yay, yay and double yay. Spring is here. I stop feeling like a troglodyte - I get up in the light and have some light in the evening. I stop being Michelin woman as well - I’m not swaddled in coat, hat, scarf, boots.
Everything else ramps up with the light and warmth. Grass, trees, plants, animals all start growing. The calves race and chase, playing tag in the field in front of our Kitchen Café, delighted to be alive. Lambs, the few we have, skip, leap and look engaging in a way they lose so quickly, cuddly to edible lawnmower in a few short months.
Crops go from pinched and wintry to lush and thriving in a few short weeks. Oilseed rape isn’t everyone’s favourite, but you can’t help marvel at how it goes from ankle-high in a field to a mad tangle of flowers over your head, growing visibly. It may smell a little of old cabbage close up, mixed up with the honey smell of its nectar. It may cause the sensitive to sneeze as it sheds clouds of pollen, impatient for the bees to strut their stuff. But when it’s planted blue green fields go to an astonishing yellow that lights up the landscape in a way that says high spring.
Milk pours out of the cows, cheesemaking goes crazy, crops need sowing, weeding, feeding, and tending.
I’ve yearned, waited, and looked for the spring all through the bleak days of winter, catching sight of it in tiny signs, gaining hope from all the little signs: lengthening days, catkins, primroses, udders springing.
Now it’s here there is so much to do. Nature, the biddable pussycat of just a few weeks ago, turns into the rampant tiger. It’s all very well the oilseed rape becoming a mad tangle, but everything else goes crazy too, on the farm and in the garden. Generations of farmers have resolved that by getting bigger machines. More energy provided by one machine guided by one person so the rest of us can enjoy the spectacle of spring. Whole communities no longer turn out for seed time or harvest.
The gardeners amongst us eschew ever increasing machinery. We say we enjoy the quiet time with the soil, working with our hands, our strength and vigour guiding nature. In my garden, the days lengthen just as much as in the fields. Does my energy? Hibernation over, no quiet read or telly of an evening. I’m not complaining…after all that’s what I’ve longed for for months. My energy gets stretched. I’m seized with the panic known to all gardeners: ‘’How am I going to do it all?’’.
April may well be the cruellest month, so long awaited, and such a steep hill to climb when it gets here. My husband tells me darkly our garden is too big, as he gets the lawnmower out again. Not much help for my projects from that quarter.
Every year I get inventive about easier ways to do things. Dig? You must be joking. A long-handled hay fork, and soil is loosened, the clod stamped on to make a rough tilth. Weeding? My husband is good for a wheelbarrow load or two of woodchip mulch, to smother the weeds.
I used to be able to spend all day out in the garden, eight, ten or 12 hours, just coming in for top-ups of tea and food. Now I pace myself, the weekend needing some seated contemplation of the beauties of my garden, if not of the inside of my eyelids.
That’s what’s cruel about April. Spring springs as vividly as ever from the bowels of winter. My spring has sprung. I’m slower, more wary with my energy, more circumspect about what I take on with each succeeding year. I compare the springs - early, late, cold, warm, wet, dry. I compare myself to last spring and. however cunningly I play it, I can’t help but notice the tea breaks get longer, the swing seat more attractive, and the fiddly work more appealing than the grunt work.
Enjoy it - that’s what I’m getting whether I like it or not. Can’t stop - planting to do, or at least some concentrated gazing at what needs to be done! n