So, how many of us have filthy fingernails and aching backs from bending, digging, and grubbing about in the soil? Oh, lots of us, apparently. And are we all ready for the growing season, seed trays overflowing with new growth, and the weeds eradicated from the beautiful orderly vegetable beds? Oh. I'd hoped that maybe I wouldn't be the only one definitely unready.
But I'm getting there, as Sandra always says about any endless chore, despite some moments of sheer despair when mountainear showed us the tranquil orderliness of her vegetable garden. My allotment looks nothing like that - in fact, it looks more like a blasted wasteland with ramshackle sheds and nettles. But in reality we have been slaving away, determined not to have another disastrous year - deep-rooted weeds are being carefully removed, beds slowly and painfully prepared, and seed trays gradually planted, if not yet producing seedlings. Carrots were sown yesterday, in the lurid blue plastic drums visible from the moon, and the new strawberry bed netted - too late for a couple of fresh new plants, that got seriously grazed by The Rabbit. We only ever see one solitary rabbit on the allotment at any one time, and he/she is always referred to as "the rabbit" - but I bet there are dozens of 'em, and that only one, the big beefy one that looks like it would take you on if challenged to a fight, is employed as a decoy.
A little cat has been spotted, carrying a large kitten across the site to the riverbank; a cat with a red collar, leaving me anxious about its past, its grieving owner, and its future, in an area where the site adjoining our allotments is filled with pigeon owners who have a brutal attitude towards cats. The squirrels are rising to every security challenge, and wrecking most of the feeders; they will eat most things left for the birds, it seems, although even they are a bit picky about dessicated coconut.
The leaking pond has been partly filled in to create a bog garden of the tiniest dimensions - we do like to give our minor projects grand, pretentious titles - and a small rigid pond inserted into the remaining space. A large frog lay at the bottom of the old pond, and it hopped obligingly into the new one before we had even finished settling it into place; a good omen, we thought. We city folk can get awfully excited about frogs and squirrels and rabbits - sorry: The Rabbit - and we consult Eddie the Poisoner's bird book whenever we spot something unfamiliar on the feeders.
It's therapy, really, rather than gardening; we do mind when things don't grow, or are devoured by slugs, and we are often discouraged by our many mistakes, but the planning, the physical labour, and the intense pleasure of being in a tranquil spot entirely shielded from the city, does more good to body and soul than anything I know. Filthy fingernails? No problem.