Today, the sun is shining, a soft wind is brushing through the autumn foliage, and it is far too lovely outside to hide away in my study.
From where I am sitting underneath the pergola, I look across my garden and know that deep sense of peacefulness and joy that being outside on a beautiful autumn day can bring.
What could be better… a quiet time to myself, dappled sunshine over my shoulder, the breeze rustling through the trees, a cuppa, and my keyboard. This is my workspace today.
I love being in my garden, and I enjoy gardening, but I have to admit that I am not very good at it. Spending my early years travelling from place to place with my adventurous family meant that we rarely had time to set up a garden, although we often bought homes with beautiful gardens attached to them. But I didn’t learn the joys of gardening at my parents’ feet.
My first attempts at gardening were when we lived in a village in Shropshire. Our family had bought a fairly modern house, by the standards of the village, only about twenty or so years old, and it had a glorious garden that disappeared way down behind the back gardens of the houses of the next road along, under some ancient woodland trees, and over a narrow brook to a post-and-rail fence that edged a lane way up to the farmhouse on whose land our estate had been built.
Whilst the front garden of the house was filled with roses and lilacs (oh, the summer scents!), the back garden was rampant with a forest of raspberry vines, acres of potatoes and rhubarb (almost literally), and hidden patches of overgrown cabbage and peas and all sorts of scrumptious vegetables.
We moved in at the beginning of the Spring, following a dreadfully cold winter that had seen us relinquish residency in a gorgeous, but freezing cold and impossible to heat sixteenth century farm house on the other side of town. I was sad to leave the old farm house — which I still remember with incredible fondness (I didn’t notice the cold, and had adored being snowed in)– but fell in love with this amazing garden.
Always an outdoor child, I lost myself in the depths of this garden, climbing trees, dabbling in the brook, struggling through the undergrowth to pick wild growing raspberries and peas, and wriggling new potatoes from under the rich, pliable earth. It was heaven, and even more so when I was given some precious seeds to plant for myself: some carrots and lettuce.
When we moved on, I was sad to lose my paradise (although the new village offered new lanes to explore on my bike, an old quarry where iridescent dragonflies flitted over a blue lake, and the ruins of an old abbey to clamber around).
Fast forward many years, to my first house in suburban Melbourne on the other side of the world, and a pocket handkerchief garden which we planted out with a wilderness of native plants and a tiny veggie patch. And the most brilliant lemon tree ever.
Later, in Canberra, we repeated the exercise, adding a duck pond and some suitable garden fowl (sadly, meeting their demise at the hands – or teeth — of a neighbour’s visitor’s dogs)… and eventually moving to Seventy Seven Acres, a dream come true, but a gardening nightmare.
Hence I say that I’m not very good at gardening. We have a short growing season, wedged between cold and frosty winters and hot, dry summers (bar this year, where it was cool and rainy), and thin, rocky soil.
Our raised beds, inherited from the previous owners, grow weeds better than anything else, and this year in particular, were quick to bolt. I’m learning as I go, however, and this year we enjoyed an abundance of strawberries, our first raspberries, asparagus, lemons and a variety of herbs.
Always keen to learn from those who know, I have a myriad of gardening books that I have been collecting over the years — several shelves worth of them, I have to admit, because books are my weakness! The first was given to me by a family friend all those years ago in Melbourne… the most recent a pristine publication picked up whilst looking for something else entirely.
a selection of my books… and these are just the veggie ones!
One day, I’ll get it right. Although I do have plans for creating a large natural stone walled garden filled with everything we can grow that we like to eat, for now I’m working on my little veggie patch, and just enjoying what I can until I can find a knowledgeable local to teach me a thing or two in return for my labour in their garden… or find that elusive book with all the wisdom I seek…
…my first and much used gardening book… still a firm favourite…
Will these provide the answer to the knowledge I seek?
Or, perhaps this one will…
This week the title quote is from Nathaniel Hawthorne:
I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.
So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.