A full seven weeks behind schedule, and perhaps having grown tired of maintaining an icy grip on central Europe since Christmas, or perhaps settling to spread its brilliant white duvet a little further west, winter’s procession eventually arrived on our shores in late January.
To date we’d experienced one of the mildest and driest early winter periods on record, with daily temperatures 1.5 degrees above Long Term Average and cumulative rainfall a whopping 75-80% down on Long Term Average for the time of year.
Noteworthy also is that there was a full seven week hiatus between Conor’s Christmas Eve snarl and the Doris’ arrival last Saturday.
And such is winter in Ireland where we are well acquainted with such seasonal vagaries. It is not by chance that the ancient roman designation for this tiny little island tethering on Europe’s north-western edge was Hibernia, Place of winter.
In Ireland we do winter relatively well: we’ve learned to make the most of a season which starts at Samhain (Halloween), sometimes does not end till May, and at times will backslide just as we get set for the June summer bank holiday.
In Ireland winter is not so much a season as it is a state of mind, and as Hibernians perhaps we were preconditioned in our ancient conception: prenatally prepared to persist and persevere with those prolonged periods of darkness and dampness we experience annually. And as is the case with all indigenously constrained people we are genetically hardwired with the full knowledge of our ancient state even though an appreciation and understanding of that self same state is often sadly lacking.
We’ve learned to celebrate the darkness and the dampness. We’ve learned to do those interminable wet winter nights and the relentless Atlantic storm fronts; we’ve learned to do the endless days of dark slate greys and naked branches for months on end. We’ve learned the hunger and starvation of history, just as we learned the insatiable thirst for freedom and self determination.
We celebrate the dead, and we’ve learned to consider one good sunburning day in July a reasonable summer.
We do Christmas to. We do it better than most and, if truth be told, we do it longer than anyone else. This may be out of our centuries long adherence to religious rite whence we are willing to journey with startled shepherds one night only to gladly follow in the footsteps of seers and magi 12 nights later; or it may be as a result of our national addiction to the twentieth century’s developing an annual tinsel dressed splurge with all the accompanying jingly and tingly bright-lighted feel-good Ho! Ho! ho’s!; or perhaps it has more to do with our negating the cyclic oppressive and depressive darkness of winter by deciding to celebrate if for no other reason than the celebration itself; or maybe it is a national brew of all of these things.
Yes, in Ireland we know how to do winter. It’s in our genes. We are a chronic race; occasionally oppressive, periodically disordered, cytized, fibrized, haemized and chromazed and always bloody colourful. We are ancient Hibernians, and many a modern nation wouldst stake a claim to our heritage and bloodline, but it’s just not in their genes.
Winter arrived late this year. The unseasonably early grass growth is halted in its tracks. The burgeoning daffodils are slowed, and the remaining remnants of last autumn’s leaf litter is well and truly scattered at last. Temperatures are back to and below normal, whilst rainfall levels are back to and above normal.
Yesterday was our final visit to our old plot, and in winter we learn to plot. We’ve taken everything we needed and intended to take from it during the last 6 weeks and relocated it to our new plot. Our old allotment plot is finally laid bare just as we discover that our new plot is susceptible to water-logging, and we’ve come to realize that winter would be a dreary existence were it not for warm summer memories.
Winter arrived late this year and we’ve no time to hibernate. We learn. We move on.
Just a quick pictorial update of developments on the Monster’s New Face…
Day 31 on new plot 31 and we have all the dormant bushes moved; and with the reasonably dry weather for this early in the new year we’ve even managed to turn some sod…
Next task, some fencing, borders, barriers and pathways…good neighbourly like! and then to sow some early onion seed in trays and some broad beans into pots, and the year gets under way in earnest…
Over the last four weeks me and Mrs Dirt-digger have been busy transporting and transplanting our fruit bushes, brambles, rhubarb and apple trees from a plot in the garden where we formerly worked an allotment to our new plot in a new location. We began the migration on 15th December and glad to say we shall complete the process of moving this coming weekend when we finally relocate our strawberry plants and a well established sedum which we will also take. The relatively mild weather for late December and early January has helped no end, affording the opportunity to get ahead of the posse, so much so that we actually turned some of the terra firma on the new plot which is still a little heavy but trafficable nonetheless, and at least we have some basic cultivation with which to plan.
Here at Monster in The Corner our belief has always been that a garden’s summer glory is set in winter’s planning, and Boy oh Boy! will this hold true this year, but then we never shirk a challenge.
Now that the all important time-critical work of relocating the dormant bushes is complete we have set our mind to mapping out some other design aspects at our new plot; pathways, shed location, polytunnel situation whilst not forgetting compost bin and leaf-mould location. We are also assessing ground cultivation versus raised beds possibilities, and have opted for a 50-50 approach.
Some of the neighbouring plot holders at our new site have offered us compost and manure and even seedlings in a couple of weeks time, and where wildlife at our former location consisted largely of flocks of pigeon and magpie (not forgetting one of the highest population densities of grey squirrels in the whole country) at our new site we have thus far observed hares and pheasants and even exotic looking waxwings in the last 2 weeks.
The Dirt-digging Mrs. has purchased Bedfordshire Champion onion seed, Tuscan black and Scottish Green kale seed, tender and true parsnip seed and cornflower seed; and we also bought some onion sets (Stuttgarters) and Jumbo peas; and our short term plan includes shallots, main-crop potatoes and broad beans which we shall start off in pots in the next fortnight along with the Bedfordshire Champion seed.
All in all things are moving apace, and though we were a little deflated (to say the least) last autumn when reconciling the reality of our experience at our former location, what a difference a month can make.
There are not too many photo opportunities on a midwinter’s allotment plot, and all the more so when it’s an overgrown unused plot, but we are making headway, and though at present we have little to show of the planned schema at this stage we will simply post this photo of the other two workhorses on monsterinthecorner, i.e. The Barrow Bug and The Dotty Dolly…
We have much to do that needs doing on our new plot, and much to say regarding the decision to leave behind all the effort of the last seven years at our former plot; but, we’ll concentrate solely on the doing.
We’ll take a leaf from Davina McCall’s New Year’s approach to life’s challenges, and simply say that by This Time Next Year the Monster shall be a transformed creature.
At present we feel somewhat akin to Eliot’s journeying Maji, having decided on quite the worst time of year for such an undertaking, but, just as with those ancient sages the prize shall be worth it, and also by way of acknowledging the day that is of course…
At the moment, and while winter dormancy allows, we are busy transferring all our fruit trees and bushes from one allotment to our new plot located 5 miles away. The weather has remained favourable enough for the time of year, but the car will need a professional valet after the move is completed.
Currently we have one foot stuck in the old with the other foot finding its way in the new, and while not in any way drawing comparison with Shakespeare’s descriptive prowess of the mighty Julius, it strikes me –Cassius-like that is- that we …perhaps…
bestride this narrow world, Colossus like,
and beneath us crawl some petty lot,
peeping out from that shadow cast
to dig graves on their dishonourable plot…
Yes. That’ll do Pig.
with apologies for liberties taken
With courtesy nods of course to TS Eliot, William Shakespeare and Dick King-Smith
After six and a half years on a former site, yesterday, January 1st 2017, was the first official day on our new plot. The manager at the new site allowed us move and transfer a lot of our fruit bushes over the last 3 to 4 weeks, and yesterday saw us split and move some Timperley Early rhubarb crowns kindly gifted by our daughter who works a plot at this new location, whilst today we will split and move some of our own personal favourite from the old site, the Victoria stools we planted when we first arrived there; we shall leave nothing to the scavengers save their ignorance and loss.
We shall be very busy in the short term, clearing, cultivating and establishing our plans in our new location, and it shan’t take us too long at all to forget the utter filth, appalling practices and some very dangerous people at the old allotment site,,,so here’s to a brand new start in every way…
Blackbird trills dark hush of morn,
A carol to winter’s darkest day;
Straggler leaves still cling; forlorn,
The holly’s crown in disarray.
We’ve come full circle in our flight,
Our knowledge dimmed in knowing chorus.
Our hope rests now in promised light
On darkling wings, on berries bright,
In blackbird songs in the dead of night
And brighter days stretching before us. © JK December 21st 2016
Merry Christmas to all. Our wish is that you periodically log in as we move forward with new chapters from the Monster’s brand new stomping ground throughout 2017….