Festive breathing space? I think not…

ivyThat’s it, the whole cycle is about to start again. As I approach winter, every year, I think ‘well, at least I can have a bit of a rest’. I know, I know.

Of course, that thought only persists for about a minute or so, and then I realise that the weeds haven’t stopped growing, the veg patch needs to be limed and composted, the trees need their annual burst of attention, there’s the pruning to organise (down to P – he’s brilliant at it while I am completely rubbish), and there’s that huge list of winter jobs we drew up in September when we had five seconds and thought about all the things we’ve been putting off. So far, out of many specific tasks (‘trim oil-tank skimmia’, ‘get valerian out of pigsty wall’) and numerous non-specific ones (‘leaf removal’, ‘everywhere: remove bracken etc’), we’ve done ten. Only another thirty-six to go. And that’s without getting onto the page about plant movements, or mentioning other distractions like editing jobs, Christmas and the need for jolly festive root canal work.

But we have started, and that’s the important thing. Monday, despite weather which made me issue a public health warning and a very definite liability disclaimer, it was time for the tree tweak. Soon there was a scatter of P and T’s stuff all over the lawn: chainsaws, masks, bolt cutters, an enormous axe, a sledgehammer (?), gloves, several bowsaws, cups of tea: when we do tree work, we do tree work. Checked shirts. Braces (OK, not me). Beards (still not me). Muscles (not me either). Nobody singing the lumberjack song (of course I did).

WRCThe big Western Red Cedar at the back of my garden was savagely ‘trimmed’ by ManWeb on the lane side some years ago, and of course it revenged itself by growing wildly in every other direction. There are some tall whippy bits, but we decided to leave them alone for once. Cut them off, and the tree responds by growing sideways even more. We’ve already removed a couple of low branches that were threatening the oil tank – behind the skimmia to the left of the cold frame – and I vetoed a suggestion that it should now be topiarised into an appropriately seasonal giant turkey. (I don’t want to sap anyone’s creative impulses, but it already looks like a immense Christmas pudding.) In the end it could all be done with bowsaws, bolt cutters and not too much climbing – phew – plus they got to play with their chainsaws in the end, dealing with the logs. And the logs are all log shaped, and not carved into robins or bunches of holly. Result.

cedar droopI am slightly disappointed, though, as the trim means that there will no longer – or not for a bit, say a year or so – be views quite like this one, with the pineapple-scented cedar drooping above my head. As long as the rain isn’t coming in sideways it still functions as a massive umbrella (er, the rain often does come sideways, mind), which I suppose is another thing it resembles. Perhaps I should have called their bluff about the topiary…

We had help, too, and not just from me with lots of cups of tea. We were under permanent scrutiny by the Top Garden Robin, who bustled about very officiously, posing every so often in case we were short on our Christmas cards:


He (or she? Apparently robins can tell – and I should hope so too – but it’s difficult for observers) has been in the house a couple of times, just exploring and snooping about. I have explained to him / her that being such a fat, delectable, confident robin is not a completely brilliant idea unless he / she wants to end up as a Christmas snackette for Next Door’s Cat, but I guess he / she will find that out. Or not. And in the meanwhile there are fights to be had with the Middle Garden Robin by the waterbutt.

bring the sun back

My next task? Er, task which was missed off the list? Garlic, possibly, as the shortest day approaches, and I’ve just had my delivery – Germidour and Lautrec Wight this year. Germidour I know will be good, as I’m still eating the June harvest and it’s keeping brilliantly. Not so sure about the Lautrec Wight; I’ve a feeling I’ve tried it before without great success but I can’t find any reference to it in my admittedly patchy notes. Fingers crossed, anyway.

And then the Bonfire Heap of Doom has built up again (inevitably after tree work), so – and this is off the list, too – there’s a need for a major bonfire. Highly seasonal, and let’s hope it brings the sun back.

And, of course:

Happy Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Nadolig Llawen!

Have a wonderful holiday, however you are spending it and whatever it means to you. And if you’re not having a holiday right now like some people I know who have to work over Christmas, then have a good one when you do get a break…


20 thoughts on “Festive breathing space? I think not…

  1. hoehoegrow

    Oh, I did enjoy that post, and could relate to it completely! When does the bit come, that everyone talks about so wistfully – those long afternoons sitting by a roaring fire, idly flicking through seed catalogues ? Hah ! Never! We’re too busy chopping logs to feed that roaring fire …

    1. kate Post author

      I know, I keep trying it but it doesn’t happen. My seed orders are inevitably the result of panic and not of relaxation with blackberry whisky and roaring fire. And it’s not just the log chopping – it’s the hauling them in the house too. I must go and get some more before the horrible weather gets any worse…

  2. Janet/Plantaliscious

    You have longer and even more ambitious lists than I do! I do think you should have let them lose on the topiary, I mean, they had all the gear there, and it would have made your house a real landmark… Looking forward to your bonfire post. There is something reassuring about these cycles, even if winter is never actually long enough for all the list items we come up with.

    1. kate Post author

      No no and thrice NO (on the topiary). I’m sure the poor tree would have looked very distinctive, and possibly dislodged the jackdaws that have taken it up as a roost, but NO. I also think it would have been so ashamed of looking like a giant turkey that it would have fallen over deliberately in the next gale (tomorrow, possibly).

      Am considering hiding the list as it keep looming at me…

  3. Dobby

    I have the same problem with robins. The resident of the moment follows me round, but so does the cat!
    A giant turkey topiary sounds fun. You could trim it in the spring to resemble something else:-)
    Have a good Christmas.

    1. kate Post author

      Your cat – apart from being a big softy – is also obviously very restrained (there were feathers on my lawn this morning, but they were definitely jackdaw / crow / something like that and not a lot of them – presumably whatever it was got away).

      Happy Christmas to you – and Mrs SoftPaws – too!

      1. Dobby

        Mrs Softpaws, as you have called her, is showing her age. In our previous house we had birds, mice, shrews, rats (very big ones) and even bats. Mind you, we did back onto farmland. Sometimes they were still alive and let loose in the house. Not so Mrs Softpaws!

  4. VP

    Ahhh that’s where I’m going wrong today – I need to put ‘Make a list’ on my To do list 😉

    I fear it may be even longer than yours!

    Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year

  5. Cathy

    And I thought I had long lists! I feel quite list free after reading your post Kate – oh, and eventually puzzled out the connection between pictures 2 and 3! 🙂

    1. kate Post author

      Photos – sorry about that! I think my list must be having an effect on my brain. Normally we make lists (generally a bit shorter) and then I loose them. We then stand about going ‘?????’ and looking blank for about ten minutes, and do some weeding anyway. There’s always weeding (sigh).

    1. kate Post author

      The thing is, Christina, is that list making is easy. It doesn’t involve putting on 85 layers of clothing, tying yourself down with rope because the wind off the sea is about 100mph, removing the slug from inside your garden clog with a stick – which you only found after you put your foot in, and which is now squished – and actually doing the things on the list.


  6. Anna

    No that sounds like the mother of all lists Kate and as for a specifics and non – specifics categories my mind boggles 🙂 Good luck with it all and may Top Garden Robin keep you on your toes throughout the proceedings. Wishing you all the best at Christmas and happy gardening in 2014 xxx

    1. kate Post author

      Many of the things on the list were on last year’s winter list too (‘clear grass from around fruit trees’, for instance). Maybe I should just stop making lists and find the trowel.

  7. Chloris

    There’s no rest in the garden is there? Non-gardeners imagine we sit by the fire all winter toasting our toes.
    I am sorry there is to be no topiary turkey.

  8. hillwards

    I haven’t dared make a list. Think it would depress me. On the other hand, the known is far less terrifying than the ‘looming-vaguely-in-the-mists-of-the-mind’ so perhaps it would be wiser! Hope that you find a few moments to relax, and have a lovely Christmas/New Year,

    1. kate Post author

      P and I were laughing over the list this morning – it was too wild to do anything at all. Making lists is easy peasy lemon cheesy. Actually doing anything about them – er……

      Happy Christmas to you too!

  9. wellywoman

    Mmm you’re making me feel guilty. I’m a fair weather gardener and will put on the gardening gloves when I start to creep out from hibernation some time in February. If I can get my seed orders and some semblance of a planting plan done in January then I’ll be happy. 😉 Ouch! … root canal work. Still I don’t suppose there’s ever a good time to get that done. I did say to my husband the other day that I had all sorts of plans to do nice relaxing things over Christmas but having seen the list of other things which I need to do this might not be the case. :0 Wishing you and your family a lovely Christmas. WW x


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