Well that was a nice break.
Oh, all right, I’m lying. It wasn’t a break at all. Actually it was quite as diametrically opposite from a break as a temporary absence can be. Something odd happens to me, about the end of February, every year.
Until then all is ticking along nicely. It’s going so well, in fact, that I start congratulating myself (very quietly, and only when I’m on my own) on my ability to juggle work, children, vast and growing numbers of animals, yet make sustained progress on taming my wild and unruly garden. I post regularly on my blog: I keep up with my seed sowing: I meet deadlines. I even manage to do some housework. Yes, I am that much in control.
Then that thing happens. I think it might be March.
I arrive at my greenhouse one morning to find the shelf space to seedling ratio has reached critical tipping point. Simultaneously I discover that my carefully thought out rotation plan – and yes, I do draw it out on paper – has gone horribly wrong and I’ve planted too much of some things and others in the wrong place so that what’s on the ground bears absolutely no relation to what I’d planned. This year it’s the onions which got out of control.
While this is going on, we enter the land of non-stop birthdays. Both my children were born a month apart slap bang in the middle of the spring gardening rush which was spectacularly bad forward planning on my part.
This means that I have to take precious time off to crisis-manage appropriately memorable birthday parties. Since the eldest is also a leap-year baby, we had a Proper Birthday this year (she turned three…. awww….) which therefore demanded a Proper Party.
So we took several other equally hysterical 12-year-olds up to Bristol – on a Saturday! – to go ice-skating and then shopping in Cribbs Causeway which is the most mecca-like temple to Mammon you will ever encounter. It’s so huge I got lost before I’d even parked the car. This took Everest-expedition quantities of forward planning including complicated arrangements for little sister so she wouldn’t impinge even a little bit on the full tweenage experience.
Two weeks of pause and we’re off again. The youngest reached double figures this year so I had to pull off another spectacular. She was 10cm too small to do the mind-numblingly scary tree-top adventure thingy she wanted to do (thank God – I knew there was a reason for not feeding her properly), but we pulled the rabbit out of the hat and stemmed the tears by finding a junior version. Only drawback: it was in the New Forest, which meant another mega-expedition involving sleepovers at grandmas and all sorts.
As if that wasn’t enough, I’ve had a major new writing project come up: this involved building a whole garden and filling it with plants within three weeks so someone could come and take proper pictures of it. I may have slightly glossed over a few details about the state this area of the garden was in while pitching the idea to the editor.
This would have sunk me entirely were it not for some truly wonderful friends who dropped everything and came round to shovel gravel for me all day.
Oh yes, and I’ve acquired two ponies, got involved in two school gardening projects (one primary, one secondary), given a talk, taken the first round of my RHS Level 3 exams (while suffering from food poisoning due to an ill-advised BLT sandwich from a garage the day before), signed up for two weeks at Chelsea (well, one in Birmingham, one at Chelsea), occasionally had passing conversations with my husband and from time to time even slept.
My house is a tip, I have unfailingly polite but increasingly long-suffering editors asking me if I’m ever going to deliver any copy, and greenhouse, coldframe and Corner of Shame are all overflowing with plants I really must get into the garden before they burst their pots.
So, that’s by way of explanation as to why I haven’t been around much lately. I’m very much hoping things will calm down a bit soon. But it’s show season next month. I’m not making any promises.
Sarah Raven said:
An extra busy life you have indeed! Congrats on shepherding children around Cribbs Causeway – quite a trial indeed.
I feel exhausted just reading this. Sometimes everything happens at once, or maybe it's always like that for you! I expect you're a naturally busy person, but hope you manage to find some calm occasionally amidst all the turmoil:)xx
Scribble Spud said:
Wow, Sally, where do you find the time? I struggle between writing and growing even with no kids left at home (just 2 dogs). I,too, draw crop rotation plans. They are all in a lovely book (now scuffed and muddy) that my daughter's friend bought me a few years ago. I don't grow massive amounts of veg but even with 10 separate four foot wide beds, the rotation gets scuppered. Always too much ground given over to potatoes. And you're right, everything always goes pear-shaped in March and April.
Naomi Slade said:
I'm reading this with a big smile. It sounds so like my life it is ridiculous – though so far I have avoided ponies and Cribbs Causeway. Greenhouse most certainly at tipping point though!
The Constant Gardener said:
Thanks Sarah – I take it you are familiar with the joys of Cribbs Causeway then…!Naturally busy, yes Margaret, but this is taking things to extremes even for me. Calm is gradually being restored (though I suspect another storm may be hot on its heels).SS – I love my planting plans. They're more than just record sheets: they're a witness to what I do every year and always bring back memories, a bit like a photo album only I can decode. I keep them all :DNaomi – continue avoiding ponies, they are nothing but worry and money pits out of all proportion to their size. Cribbs Causeway – ditto 😀