A New Year, a New Adventure

Never apologize. Never explain. Just get the thing done, and let them howlAgnes Macphail

Iris Katharine Hodgkin

I confess that for the last 10 months my muse has been locked in the cupboard while I have been pre-occupied with other matters. I will not bore you with the details but you will discover what I have been doing as the changes at the croft are slowly revealed. Managing change can be difficult, it is always time consuming, but ” if you are going to walk through hell, keep going” (Winston Churchill).

Hebridean winters are a ceaseless merry-go-round of Atlantic depressions, which bring strong winds and squalls, dreich grey days and occasionally a glimpse of sunshine. This New Year started with sunshine and a surprise. In the autumn of 2017 I planted my surplus bulbs in one of the fruit cages, mainly as an interim measure while I decided what to do with them and to see how the tulips, irises and crocuses would cope with our often plowtery spring weather. Last spring they produced some flowers and the tulips did particularly well, enough to produce some cut flowers for the house. During the summer I managed to scatter a little general purpose fertiliser in their direction, otherwise they were neglected and disappeared under a mound of chickweed and hairy bittercress.  So this year I was not expecting too much, and was planning to lift the bulbs, replenish the soil with some garden compost and seaweed. I was therefore amazed, or to use the local vernacular “gobsmacked”, to see a large clump of iris “Katherine Hodgkin” in flower on New Year’s day. Hitherto, I had only grown these lovely bulbs in pots in the greenhouse, where they would flower for a while before succumbing to one of the viruses which seems to afflict Iris reticulata. I am not sure whether it was the outdoor conditions or the period of hot dry weather which “baked” the bulbs last summer, whatever the reason, I am encouraged and will try a small clump in one of the more sheltered parts of the rock garden.
Since then the weather has been mild and particularly oorlich, but so far we’ve been spared the storm force winds. It has been too wet to do anything outside other than pause for a minute to admire the snowdrops in the orchard on the way to the compost, but as the days are starting to get a little longer it is time to get the polytunnel ready for early spring planting. So for now my gardening endeavours are limited to weeding between the over-wintering you rows of spinach, beetroot and fennel and sowing a few rows of early carrots, yet more spinach and some rocket. Although it is very mild, the days are still too short to facilitate any real growth, but next month as the days lengthen the plants will begin to respond to the increasing light levels.
After all these years I still experience the excitement of the start of a new gardening year, planning which vegetables I am going to grow and browsing through the seed catalogues.  New Years’s resolutions are not a problem, I just recycle last years to try a little harder with my gardening.

Happy New Year.

24 thoughts on “A New Year, a New Adventure

  1. Oh what a lovely surprise it was to see the email pop up with your post, Christine, and it was so good to read a little about about what you have been getting up to. I wonder wha6t your new plans might be….? What a joy the patch of iris is, even more so coming upon it unexpectedly and it is good to hear that thoughts of a new season are still exciting you. Hope you are both well

    • Thank you for the “welcome back”. We are both well and looking forward to another year of gardening projects. Last summer we seriously over-stretched ourselves with a big project, but the results made it all worthwhile. This year is a gardening rather than a building year, well that’s the theory, so we will see how things develop!

      • Seriously overstretched? I wonder what you can have been doing….? It’s good to have you back though, however infrequently it may prove to be

        • Almost literally – I discovered that I needed to be at least 2 inches taller and 20 years younger last summer!
          I have good intentions, but life sometimes gets in the way.

          • Those good intentions can be quite elusive! We were getting a quote for house insurance last week and were asked about rebuilding costs so were thinking back to when we built the extension in 1998….much as we enjoyed the process it would be much much harder for us now in our more advanced years – me clambering up and down the ladder with breeze blocks and the Golfer moving roof joists single-handedly… sigh… Two inches taller and 20 years younger would be a revelation for me too!

          • Eventually the time comes to retire the concrete mixer, but not yet!

  2. I am with Cathy, what a nice surprise to wake up to! And so lovely to see the first ‘Katharyn Hodgkin’ of the year! Mine (in Kent) are just poking up through the gravel in a pot outside my kitchen window. I just went out to check on them – there is under a cm of growth, so are far behind your Polytunnel! Looking forward to hearing about your plans – it is so interesting to read about your growing conditions.

    • Thank you. There was never really much doubt that I’d be back, especially with the muse hammering on the door to be let out. It really is too early in the year to do very much, so I’m trying to temper my enthusiasm to plug in the propogator and get some seeds started.

  3. Luffy

    Nature never fails to surprise us! ☺️

  4. Chris Ashby

    I’m glad to see your return to blogging.
    Happy Gardening!
    From Lower Holloway

  5. J & D > Happy New Year! Well at the far end of South Uist, it’s not much different. What is surprising is how mild it’s been this winter. Only the damp makes it feel cold – and boy has it been damp! And Gales but not Storms. But wet, very wet. And yet … the hens are laying, the daffodils are up and forming flower heads, and there’s seaweed on the beach and compost that needs spreading and digging in. Lots to do! Like you, we have changes happening, and all we have is a general sense of direction, but not a clue as to progress or the details. And we know who lurks in the details!

    • The weather may be mild, but it has a raw edge. The wind has dropped this morning, but there are squalls scudding aklong the horizon and occasionally cutting across the headland. So not much chance of muck/seaweed spreading today. However, the very damp conditions requires a vigilant eye to keep the plants free from mildew, so pottering in the greenhouse is an essential chore!
      Change is obviously in the air, I wish you look with your plans.

  6. Very pleased to find you blogging again and very envious of your Katherine Hodgkin. I love them and have tried them outside (ok in year one, disappeared) and in the greenhouse (ok in year one, disappeared, mice I think). We have snowdrops here and lots of daffodil snouts coming through. This is necessary because January and February are not my favourite times of year but somehow I am able to ignore that this year. It may be that the running is helping!

    • Thank you Elizabeth. I almost didn’t come back, but I’ve had such a warm welcome, that I now wonder why I stayed quiet for so long.
      After admiring your running efforts and despairing over my inability to manage a brisk walk, I spent an hour running round the headland rounding up stray sheep and returning them to the common grazing on the machair.
      Perhaps I don’t need an exercise regime!

  7. Per

    Good to see you back here again. Winter is not my favourite season. Not so much snow yet, but we still have a couple of winter months ahead… Longing for the spring flowers, butterflies and nesting birds… 🙂

    • Hello Per, I’m looking forward to being inspired by your photographs again. I am sure not all the snow is in continental Europe and it will arrive in the north west eventually. It is forecast to go cold here later in the week, I just hope that we get some sunshine, it is very wet and grey here today.

  8. Luffy

    Love the word oorlich. So expressive of miserable, damp and cold! 😊

  9. Luffy

    Or does Oorlich not mean cold – more wet?

  10. Luffy

    I have to ask. What’s the difference between dreich and oorlich? Is it the degree of wetness? ☺️

    • Dreich is wetter than oorlich, more of being wrapped in a wet grey blanket than a damp one. Dreich is about as grey and miserable as it gets. Think being half way up the Cullins in a heavy mist, being wet and cold with a 5 mile walk to the nearest cup of tea and a dram!
      I love discovering new words and, like a child, use them whenever I can. Oorlich is a new Scots vernacular to me and is one of the great Scots words for describing the wet grey weather we get in this part of the world. There are others and they vary according to the degree of wettness and cold, and of course with where you are. I’m sure dreich on Skye is much worse that dreich on the Hebridean riviera!
      Multiculturalism may have enriched our vocabulary but globalisation is impoverishing our vernacular.

      • Luffy

        Very true! Thanks for the explanation – I’m looking forward to learning about all these new ways of describing cold, grey and wet 😉

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