The Gruesome Underbelly of Spring


Every time the season changes I am convinced that it is my favourite. The blossom of spring. The warmth of the beginning of summer, the return of cool days in autumn, the first bite of winter. I think I like autumn best because of the sheer relief of the end of hot weather. I am a delicate snowflake where the sun is concerned. But spring brings so much joy with it. Blossom, green leaves, yellow daffodils. Baby birds. In spring the swallows return to the mountain and swoop all around Paul's cabin and the echidna comes out of hibernation and begins to stump around again, snuffling up ants. 

The nectarine trees are in excellent form, blossoming their little cotton socks off. As well as honey bees I am noticing an increase in native bees in my garden, year by year. They seem to have adapted very well to feeding on exotic fruit trees. They love the euphorbia too - you can see it flowering in chartreuse splendour up above - which came to me as seedlings from my neighbour's garden. I've stopped picking the broccolini plants and they are clouds of pale yellow blossom, also loved by the bees.

Daffodils, grape hyacinths and primroses are an adorable combination. The grape hyacinths I found struggling through the weeds the year I moved in and the daffodils were struggling to keep their heads above the long grass, but I rescued them and moved them under the apricot tree and added primroses. I bought the primroses, a single punnet of eight the year I moved here (2016!) and they have added much cheer to the spring garden. They come back year after year, can be divided and replanted and are quite tough little plants. They prefer shade and especially shaded roots, so add lots of mulch. I have several planted under the nectarine trees which leaf out to shade them in the summer and they are very happy there. 

I am not an enthusiastic cook as many of you know, but I did do a spring lamb roast for my dad's birthday because I love him dearly, with roasted carrots, parsnips and greens from the garden. 

And what would spring be without vast numbers of seed flats cluttering up the house and needing to be carried out to the verandah every day to see the sun? This is the trick to avoid leggy seedlings, and is especially necessary for tomatoes. Even a sunny windowsill isn't bright enough to stop tomatoes trying to grow out of the window to get all the sunshine they need. If you grow seedlings indoors under lights the trick is to position the lights and inch or two above the seedlings and keep on raising them as they grow. If the lights are too high up, again, the seedlings will get leggy and weak on their stems. No-one wants a weak stem! I cover the seed flats with bird netting because the blackbirds see this sight and think, "Salad buffet!"

I suffered the pangs of writerly disappointment this week - my novel was returned with a polite "No, thank you," from the literary agent who miraculously agreed to read it. It is not, perhaps, a very commercially appealing novel. It is about an old woman called Dovey, her garden, a flock of renegade nuns, three ghosts, a homeless woman, and a Slovenian refugee on a houseboat, among others. It features an angelic visitation and at one point a character turns into a tree. There is a lot going on. It is a novel that will appeal to a very specific kind of reader, of which this literary agent was not one. It is disappointing, but there it is. She is very experienced and knows her market, and this doesn't cater to it. I will take her comments on board, edit it again, and enact Plan B. I have a writer friend who is providing brutal literary criticism for me, and whose first novel bounced around publishers for five years before being taken on board. She provides much hope and encouragement for me, and tea. And offers of gin. This novel may or may not ever see the light of day, but I do now know this - I can write one hundred thousand words! In a row! And I am twelve thousand words into the second novel, which features the ghost of a head librarian and a cat called Stephen.

Spring is a good time to call up new resolve. The birth of new projects isn't always easy or comfortable, but what kind of birth ever is? Have you ever watched a seed hatch into a seedling? Its skin swells up so tight that it bursts and splits in two to let the root and the leaves out. And you can't get a baby bird without it breaking that perfect, unblemished egg. Something always has to break or stretch in an entirely unprecedented way for new life to emerge.  I see all you mothers nodding along with me here, and surreptitiously crossing your legs. Spring. All that blossom, so pretty and fragile, has to wither and die and whirl away on the wind for the fruit to form. You know, I'm beginning to wonder whether spring might not be a good time to just go back to bed with a cup of tea and perhaps emerge again in summer when all the pangs of new life are over and done with. Worth considering.


Treaders said…
I'm pretty content with all four seasons too, although I have to say I think spring is my favourite. As you say, it's so full of "possibility" and new beginnings. And thanks for that tip on how to encourage seedlings. I really know nothing about gardening so I start off all gung ho in March and then get disappointed when my seedlings try to make a run for it six weeks later. Your book sounds intriguing - I'm sure you will find your niche readers. I doubt anyone ever hit the jackpot right off the bat did they - ask J.K. Rowling!
Jo said…
Anna, I have been growing vegies from seed for over twenty years and I still have disasters - last week I lost the cucumbers because I let them get a leetle bit too cold outside in Tasmania's chilly spring weather. But I'll replant them again and cross my fingers! Every year I have learnt something new though, as well as making disastrous mistakes, so swings and roundabouts there:)
I hear you on the book. It is early yet to be thinking of filing it quietly in the bottom drawer. Keeping on sending off my manuscript to find a home could become my new hobby:)
Anonymous said…
AS you enter Spring, I am beginning Fall...or the possibility of Fall here in South Florida. This is my favorite season, not sure why. I am hoping for big changes in my country this fall...Hope.
May your novel find an agent with the vision to share it with the world. Keep writing!
Wishing you always, the best!

Jo said…
Patricia, autumn is my actual favourite. Crisp mornings, blue sky, leaves changing - it's all wonderful. Though I do not know if that is the least like a Florida autumn. And I am sure that for all of you in the US this autumn will be one of those Interesting Times that most of us would rather do without..
I do hope that the beginning of autumn means the end of hurricane season for you xx
Anonymous said…
Jo: Interesting times indeed.
Hurricane season actually ends on November 30th. And, it cannot come soon enough. My daughter and family live in Pensacola, which was hit hard by hurricane Sally this week. They are safe, but the destruction is devastating. Our spirits are weary.
Jo said…
Patricia, it looks like a brutal battering and I've seen photos of the flooding. I hope you and your family stay high and dry for the next few months. I guess you are very glad for your hurricane window purchase right now. Every year in fire season here people start to remember all the things they should have done to make their properties fire safe. I guess you guys have that with hurricane season. Except, what can you do, other than store your generator somewhere high up? And food, and important documents and store a lot of water, and.. and..
Anonymous said…
Yes! I love my windows, and am so grateful for the peace they bring!
Anonymous said…
I am happy to see the seasons change, and grateful to live in a place where there are four distinct seasons, so that I can fully appreciate each one. Spring holds such promise though, and might just be my favourite. Perhaps it's just that primal sense of relief at having survived another winter.
Sorry about the book, but it will eventually find the right person, and we'll all be waiting!
Linda in NZ
Jo said…
Linda, spring really does seem to be a season of great rejoicing, even thought there are discomforts involved if you are an eggshell, a seed a a fruit tree blossom!
Mary said…
My favorite part of spring: all the different shades of green.

Popular Posts