gardening


Today I did behold a lemon and upon its label were there inscribed the names of Imazalil and Thiabendazole. Purchasing this cursèd fruit and spiriting it from the market, I was able swiftly to neutralize it within an admixture of quinine and a reduction of juniper water. Then I did betake to my study to further examine this phenomenon.

I have begun these, my Notes Towards a Grimoire of Contemporary Spirits Whose Powers May or May Not Be Trusted.

1. Imazalil

2. Thiabendazole

3. Triticonazole

4. Tebuconazole

5. Glyphosate

6. Thiacloprid

7. Metaldehyde

8. Cypermethrin

9. Abamex

10. Isomek

11. Kunshi

12. Sokol

13. Tropotox

Let it be known then that their ranks do extend yet further, and while capable each of great boon even so do they offer a bane for their unintended actions upon the other plants and creatures of the air, water, and earth.

Next:

On the Rites of the Summoning of the Mouthdaemon, M.S.G.

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Longer-term followers of The Mortal Bath may recall mention of horticultural activity.

Sunday in the garden, a nice ritual in a number of aspects. Eventually the physical event of tending the plants took on a greater importance than any need to communicate it to the wider world.

Part of that is the unbearable crunchiness of it, the perception of so-called virtue so-called signalling, all that. At core was a question for which I was unable to generate a satisfactory response. (The question of course being “Who gives a fuck?”)

I’d often devote mental space to extrapolation while in between the rows. Composing, contemplating the long-term potential of collating the posts into a modestly successful series of books, the delivery service, a large scale permaculture campaign, the inevitable backlash and ensuing midlife crisis in which I purchased a fleet of leather jackets and a battered motorcycle to make a road movie round the Horn of Africa with Ewan McGregor.

I would giggle softly to myself as I returned to the present to hoick a clump of cat shit into the hedge with the hoe.

“Yeah, but, acorns, man!”

“No, definitely a cat.”

Anyway, Green Parent magazine/ rise and fall fantasias aside, there’s such a lot to be said for digging, edging, preparing, planting, weeding, growing, picking and eating. There is a lot to be said about it as well, but, like those writers spending endless hours polishing their process posts, it’s likely as useful left unuttered.

Last year we grew radishes, potatoes, beetroot, carrots, onions, leeks, beans, broccoli, rocket and turnips. This is in a space about 6x7m.

We also had tomatoes and cucumbers in grow bags along the wall under the kitchen window, mint in a metal tub (mint loves to take over) and borage in poly pots. A hop plant did well for itself until it got overrun with aphids… the ladybirds we introduced quickly got too fat to keep up with the little green varmints. We had a disappointing elderberry crop for the same reason.

Mostly, though, we had tasty, tasty veg.

The great thing about gardening is that it’s an annual lesson in planning being only part of the schedule. The science of it is fairly predictable, but it’s all subject to uncontrollable variables.

This was last month… I mean, I’m only writing this because it’s chucking it down with rain outside, again.

This weekend, though, fair being foul or no, we’re potting up and planting what we can. The excitement of the new season is upon us. The bird is on the wing. Pan’s pipes do warble native woodnotes wild. There’s a bustle in the hedgerow.

Although, to be honest, that is more likely to be next door’s cat.

Having not been active in this space for (checks calendar) some time, what better opportunity than the hothouse spring schedule of A to Z blogging month to reconnect with online publishing?

The last post here was characteristic of this writer’s then mindset of disillusionment, cynicism and fatigue – which nest of deixis might be taken to indicate a certain kind of distancing. Such a reading would not be mistaken. The times they are always a-changing. Something about words I can’t quite shake off, though.

Yes, because words are very devils. Such was the sentiment guiding my abrupt abandonment of writing here. I was enjoying detailing movements in the garden, for example, but it became obvious that this was a process secondary to and less enjoyable than the actual gardening.

Broccoli, swedes, beans, rocket… Sort of autumn time.

… I’m conscious of sounding like I’m assuming some sort of horny-handed son of the soil pose of social superiority. I found I was drawing more enjoyment from the digging, and the words accompanying seemed superfluous. But, anyway, a toes in the mud sort of thing… and an equally obvious, trending, move away from being ‘online’ all the time. Not quite smashing the Spinning Jennies, but limiting my reliance on habitual info sources, turning off notifications, exploring other media. Writing, but longhand, and not for sharing. Reading and reflection. Kids to raise. Job to hold down; schemes of work to maintain. Tones to clip.

Yet, here we are, among the words again.

With that in mind, this A to Z is likely to follow a few threads on the lines of preoccupations, new and enduring. Tomorrow: Books.

This weekend in the garden, we got at the berryfull but overgrown elder.As the photo shows, the apples are dropping too.

 Elderberries are very potent vitamin C containers, have a lot of vitamin A, and some research suggests they have strong antiviral properties.

We make juice. The berry recipe:

  • Lots of elderberries
  • Cloves
  • Star anise
  • Cinnamon

Cover with water, boil and reduce to a thickish liquor.

Strain, add sugar/honey to taste…  Simmer again. 

We’re probably going to keep this one liquid (in stoppered bottles), but quite like the idea of procuring some gelatine (beef/veggie), and jelly baby moulds, to make winter sweeties with the next batch.

The elder bush is in the chicken run, and they greatly enjoyed the offcuts.

Currently considering a more appropriate title for what I was calling ‘Sunday in the garden’, mostly because it sounds hopelessly boring and twee. Anyway, the point is the content, of course, and over the summer the content of the garden has changed enormously.

I mean, ‘enormous’ is often used glibly in such a context, but srsly, this garden has changed, man. Veg end went from this:

To this:

Eh? EH? Note the petunias. And at the other end, we introduced hens.

Chooks love green leaves and scratching about, so the girls got stuck right into the plants here. It’s now a twig-and-soil Mad Max-ish hen zone. Every day throws up some new excavated surprise – decades-old crisp bags, neolithic pottery shards, mouse burial complexes aligned with Mus Major in 10,500 BC… they are quite the archaeologists. 

I mean, this was August, so they’ve really gone at it even since this pic.  The troupe is Settled Right In. This is they having a dust bath ‘neath an acer.

So, yeah! Tending the fowl, weeding, holiday, toddlers… blog updates have been fairly low down the pecking order this summer.

This time, the orange streetlight loomed large in the foreground. With an irritated click of the tongue, Bryan took two steps to the right. 

Right, he thought. 

The overgrown privet now shaded the lamp on its post, but a cloud had appeared along the top of the moon, occluding the upper half. Across the garden Jean, crouching in the shadows, shifted on her haunches.

“How much longer now, Bry?”

“Just a minute love.” Bryan paused, willing the clouds south west with a wave of his hand. Not much cop, he mumbled. 

“What was that, Bry?”

“I said, wrong f stop.” Stalling. “Here we go.” Mercifully, the cloud scudded off, revealing the huge orb of the full moon. “Right, now!” Jean rose slowly from her position by the bay and, as Bryan clicked, she stood with her arms aloft, the brilliant white of the moon illuminating her. 
A few moments passed.

“Well, have you done?”

“What? Oh, yes, sorry love.” Bryan, flustered, fiddling with the dial on the camera, started towards where Jean’s dressing gown hung from a branch on the bay. A fresh cloud scudded over the moon. In the sudden dark, he clouted his foot on the low fence around the lavender bed and with a grunt hit the turf.

“Bry? Y’daft beggar.”

“I’m alright, love… Hang on.” As the moon emerged, Jean watched Bryan heave himself to his hands and knees, groping about for his glasses, which sat askew on his moonlit scalp.

 She stifled a giggle and reached for her dressing gown. Pulling it on and fishing her spectacles from the pocket, she started over to help.

The full moon shone down.

image

Work began on the fence, with the entrance being the first section. My dad lent a pair of hands, and a pair of spirit levels, to help create what appears, without fencey context, to be a Fringe-style portal to a parallel universe over by the hedge. ‘Tis a world much like our own, only sunny in summer time.

Some precision measuring, and less precise grunting spade-and-trowel work, took a couple of hours out of the morning. It’s over that side to take advantage of the paved path, mainly.

Note the partially-tidied privet hedge (left of pic), another fathers day tick list item, which had to be abandoned owing to short extension lead issues and on account of the June skies dulling once more. Solstice sunrise and full moon seem unlikely to be visible if the weather continues in its current sogginess. Got the lawns done, at least, so the grass is enjoying the showers.

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