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.