But still, January sometimes feels like the longest month.
In the gardening groups on facebook, gardeners at these latitudes have started posting photos from last summer, desperate reminders that colour will return, that there'll be a feeling of abundance in our gardens again. May and June will come around!
Meanwhile, to keep some of us occupied, there are seeds to be sown. For me, it's the first year that I've ordered from the AGS and my seeds arrived this week to much excitement (and much trepidation!) A gardener in the AGS gave me some small pots for the sowing (I keep repeating it here, but gardeners really are a generous bunch), so I just have to get a bit more organised next weekend: make sure I have the right mix of compost and grit, find a place to put the pots once they're sown, sow the seeds, and then hope...
|Seeds in from the AGS: an Easy Pack and some selected from the main Seed List|
|Ferns and mosses provide green in the winter woodland|
|The schnauzer investigates...|
I learnt recently that hollowed out trees can provide great homes for small beasties and are very valuable for that reason. It was a tree surgeon who told me, very early one morning here in our own small bit of the Dublin suburban sprawl. Around eight in the morning I heard a chain saw on the go: not that usual for mid-December in a quiet suburb. I assumed that a neighbour was getting some shrubs cut down but discovered, to my horror, that the one large and lovely tree that's on our local little green space was being cut down.
|The lime tree in our local tiny green on a December morning - about to be cut down and removed|
I wasn't the only one who was standing there aghast. Other neighbours had arrived too, to stare in disbelief.
Apparently, someone had complained of the tree's interfering with their light. The tree had been 'assessed' and deemed dangerous as it is slightly hollowed out. The decision was made at some desk in the local council to cut the tree down completely.
This story has a happier ending than you might think.
The tree surgeon rang the council; talked earnestly about angry residents (which conjures up visions of all of us wielding pitchforks and flaming torches; the truth was we were standing there forlorn and shocked, though also determined); and the tree got a stay of execution. Unfortunately, the work had started, so they still had to cut the tree back by a lot, to balance out what they had already done. And so: we still have the tree, but only just. Let's hope it grows back okay and continues to delight us throughout the year. It's a lime tree, so provides all sorts of delights throughout the year: shelter for the birds and the beasts of course, and for us that wonderful delicate scent on summer mornings and evenings, and a warm glow in autumnal light as the year moves on.
|The lime tree in late summer light a couple of years ago: this view from my back garden|
|The same tree, also from my back garden, at moonrise on a January evening, after its stay of execution|
But to end on a more optimistic note. The drawing classes continue apace. Very formal as I've mentioned before. Very rigorous, really. I'm enjoying them - I think of it as fitting in well with the other 'slow' movements that have been around over the last few years (around food, living, etc.): this class is about slowing down, about taking time to set up a drawing, taking time to really look at something, taking time to place a mark on the page, taking time to assess that mark. All of this is difficult for me as I'm always wanting to get to an output or an outcome of some sort, but the discipline of the class is helping me to realise the importance of the process itself. And since some of the best photographers and artists I know work this way, well it must be worth a shot!
|Practice and process and learning to slow down; |
a poor photo of some of my attempts on newsprint