The folk song 'The Housewife's Lament' could have been written for me! But of course, it's for everyone who has to do their own (or somebody else's) housework. I thought about it again as I inspected the slug and snail damage on my crops, and saw weeds springing up all around the garden. Coming indoors was no better - there always seems to be a sinkful of washing up to do, no matter how much or how often I stand there and scrub. Having to keep up a whole house alone does grind you down. I sometimes think about those men who go from home into a long-term relationship, without living independently in between - their mothers, then their girlfriends or wives do the domestic work for them, so they never know how much of life is drudgery. I'm very lucky to have a house to myself, of course, but I think people who don't live alone often fail to see there's a flipside. If I don't want to clean, nobody will do it for me - the dishes will sit, the rubbish will fester, the dust will stream down. That's the essence of the song, an endless, meaningless, soul-destroying strife with decay.
The heatwaves continue! BBC Weather is fairly unreliable for my location, and I think this is because it's set for the centre of town, which is on the coast. Here, just 1100 metres inland, it's often quite different - warmer, drier, and much less mist and fog. Having two south facing gardens helps (how is that possible? Well, the front of the house faces south, and the back garden slopes upwards, so gets almost as much sun, especially at the top). Having said that, the 5-day forecast looks so good, it's worth sharing (max day/min night temps): 14/9, 17/7, 16/8, 19/10, 22/11. Those are respectable summer temperatures here, where the sea moderates heat and cold alike (I suppose the night-time temperatures will be a little higher in a month's time). So far in April, there's been nothing close to a frost here - last frost dates being very important when growing tender vegetables, as I am. The reason for this is apparent in the pressure and wind stats: high, and blowing gently from the south-east. A couple of weeks ago I read that air was coming up from the Sahara, bringing dust, something which happens a couple of times a year, apparently. Well, I haven't noticed any dust (or particularly colourful sunsets), but the air is warm. Light winds make a big difference, too - especially on the coast.
So, what's happening? Despite the weeds, the garden is a good place to be now. I put pots of tulips around, to bring some colour against the green of nettles, strawberries, shallots and so on. The first variety, 'Candy Prince', bloomed from mid-March - I'd planted them last autumn. The rest I stuffed into pots before I flew to Iceland, early February, but they grew fast, and started colouring as the first pot faded. 'Purissima' were the least exciting variety, so I thought - I bought them for 30p a bag in the local super-discount store because I couldn't pass up such a bargain. Three bags, three pots. They are, in fact, gorgeous - pale cream, yellow inside, glowing things in low light, on cloudy days and at dusk. 'Blue Diamond' are short, double, paeony-like blooms in rich magenta. 'Shirley' are off-white, speckled with pink, especially round the petal edges. I love them, but they aren't fully open yet. Finally, 'Angelique' haven't started blooming yet. I tried to pick varieties that would give a long season - and I'm already determined to have more next year.
The broad beans have started flowering. Turnips, sown nearby, have germinated. I've squeezed Calendula in wherever I could. No sign of life from Jerusalem artichokes, which is worrying. If they don't come up, I'll put something else there. Strawberries are coming into bloom, as are the raspberry canes, the cherries are in full sway, and the grape vines are bursting into leaf. I get the impression everything is early this year - comparing photographs taken now and 12 months ago, the perennials seem a good week ahead in 2011. And of course, I got started on sowing much earlier, too, so the garden by June should be looking great.
And today, the first batch of tomatoes, those chosen few plants I will keep and grow here, have gone outside - to soak up the sun (and free some windowsill space), and acclimatise to outdoors (even though I hope to put them in the new greenhouse). The largest have what I think are tiny, embryonic flowers, which is startling, but I may remove them as some growers recommend, to allow the plants more energy to grow larger. On the other hand, the temptation to get an earlier crop is strong...
The sunny weather priorities: finish the wall against which the new greenhouse is going, build the greenhouse (the polycarbonate 'glazing' panels have been ordered), and tackle those weeds! Oh, and sit in the sun, reading and drinking coffee and wine.