Sometimes I think that my relationship with Amazon (or any of the online shopping I use) is less about buying things and more about getting things in big cardboard boxes. Cardboard—especially the brown, uncoated kind—is a boon to a “no dig” gardener (see Charles Dowding primer). Lay some down on a weed and grass covered patch, mulch generously (about 4 inches) with compost, wood chip or bark mulch, and you’ll have far less weeding, more organic matter and, over time, more fertile soil for whatever you want to plant.
However, I have competition for any cardboard that comes my way—Mouse, the cat.
Minutes after I have taken out whatever I have ordered and towed the box and the packaging outside to put paper or straw in the compost and strip off any tape, especially the non-biodegradable stuff, I turn around to find the cat has taken possession.
He does this with little piles of dirt and detritus I sweep up on the path as well as newly cleared and composted VegTrug beds and potato bags… even my “potting bowl”! (See below for a gallery of places he has overtaken.)
I’m not sure what the attraction is. Himself (Robbie) says it’s because these are things I’m working with and that Mouse sees me as his “mommy”—heaven forbid!
But maybe he has a point… because the other day I turned my back on a selection of fabric for a quilt I was planning in order to contemplate my “almost neatly stacked” fabric shelves of scraps and pieces for possible additions. When I turned back… behold! He had, yet again, taken possession of my stuff! I call this his Mandarin Pose—and I think he knows it.
The Cat Who Would be King of All Cardboard
(and straw and dirt and planting places)
Here we are—almost at the end of what must be the wettest March I have ever experienced. Even when the day gets a bit of sun, the ground is so heavy and wet that there’s little can be done in the way of gardening. With the help of cousin Fionán, we did cover and mulch the Blackcurrant bed. What was a lovely ground cover of Ajuga Reptans (Wild Bugle) had become choked with creeping buttercup. When I could, I dug up the small ajuga plants and potted them up to grow on. We’ll replant them in the edges of the bed and in the rockery. Once (if ever) the bed is free of buttercup, I’ll replant the ajuga again. In any case, the bed is all mulched and will need very little attention for now.
The other project I completed was a lacy shawl for Lizzie. I learned several new techniques and stitch patterns doing this, sitting by the fire in the long winter nights while listening to all the Terry Pratchett Discworld books on Audible. This is something I find I’m doing more of… going through whole books (and authors) while my fingers are busy with needles and soft fine wool… sometimes with a glass of wine or a brandy & port. It really puts me in my “happy place.”
Much of what is happening in the garden is taking place without my attention. The daffodils are on the wane and the tulips are beginning to bloom along with the gorgeously scented skimmia. Of the fruit trees, the plum tree is the first to show any flowers, the others just barely in bud. The rhubarb has been coming up and the early variety, Timperley, is just about ready for a crumble. I’ll add some of the frozen blackcurrants I put by from last August and it will feel like summer is nearly here.
Fionan in the wooly jumper I knitted this winter
The blackcurrant bed all tidied up
Lizzie’s lacy shawl
Timperley Early rhubarb almost ready for a crumble on Sunday
I am now on to a massive dose of quilting. Much of this spring has been spent on hand quilting my daughter’s quilt. I bought the fabric last September when I was in Ballard visiting my dear friend and colleague Kathy. She is also a quilter although she’s been very busy remodeling her new house there. Shout out to Quilting Mayhem! A most amazing quilt store — I WILL be back! I know there are some who would rather spend five hours in a dentist chair than 5 minutes hand quilting anything but I find a calm and serenity in my needle and thread, using my stitches to create the subtle third dimension in the quilt. The very intentional divisions and the re-joining and defining of two-dimensional patterns add complexity to the quilt no machine could achieve. It soothes and satisfies me and makes me feel like I’ve brought peace, order and beauty into my small space.
I’m beginning work on a new quilt for my sister Monique who turns 60 this April. I think I’ve found a combination of blocks that fit her life: Traveller ‘Round the World for the center, Slip Knot, Storm at Sea and Sister’s Choice for the framing blocks, which should look like Dutch tiles. There’s a bit of geometry and math required as two blocks are a 4-patch base while Sister’s Choice is a 5-patch base and I need 12″ finished blocks to make the 60″x60″ quilt (not including the outside border.) So there’s a challenge involved… and the making of “test” blocks to make sure my math is correct before cutting into the fabric for the final quilt. A little stressful, but it’s creativity stress, so that’s okay.
All of this should tide me over until I get a sunny enough day to clear out the greenhouse. I’ve detected aphids so I think I need to take EVERYTHING out and spray it down and maybe add a bit of garlic or vinegar to the sprayer. And we probably should tidy up the tool shed as well… that’s two days work and we have not had a warm enough (or sunny enough) day to get that done. But April is just two days away. Maybe we’ll get lucky. Saturday promises a sunny afternoon and sunset at 8:04 pm… so maybe we can get something started. Although that WILL be April Fool’s Day. Finger’s crossed!
Imbolc(Imbolg)– the first day of Spring and the feast of Brigid!
Signs of spring are already showing up in our garden, green things pushing up through the ground, the sun rising earlier and earlier, bird song abounds and, the most heart lifting of all, there’s a stretch in the evening—that soft blue gloaming in the west that stretches the light after sundown.
This year will be the first time a feast day celebrating Bríd (both the mythic and saint) will be a public holiday. It falls on the first Monday of February, completing the cycle of the four Celtic feasts for which there is a public holiday, the other three being Samhain (November 1), Bealtaine (May 1), and Lughnasadh (August 1).
Lá Fhéile Bríde is the first public holiday that celebrates women—even Nollaig na mBan, Women’s Christmas doesn’t do that. As is fitting, some of Ireland’s finest traditional musicians have composed and choreographed pieces for the day. I’ve posted these pieces by Caitlín Nic Gabhann—a slip jig Lá ‘le Bríde, Síle Denvir’s song Seo í isteach mo Bhrídeog, and Louise Mulcahy’s jig Port Naomh Bríd.
Enjoy the day and celebrate the end of Winter—even if it doesn’t look much like it wherever you are.
I’m not one to get involved in New Year’s Resolutions—particularly resolutions involving activities for which I have no great desire. That’s really setting one’s self up for failure. But for things that I might have deferred or got out of practice with, having a promise to indulge in these in the coming year has its attractions, reminders that there are these things I really do want to do and now is a good time to do them. So, keeping the list to just five things I really DO want to do, here goes:
Get out the mountain dulcimer and really learn how to play it. I have started on this already by asking Robbie to string it for me and I’ve dug out the books we have. I’m going to research some YouTube videos as well because I’m someone who uses ear as much as eye in learning things. If I give myself over to doing this even once a week, I’ll get there.
Get back into doing Yoga. I was doing well with it when there was a regular yoga class here in the village. I’m going to find out if such a thing will be starting again soon. If not, I’ll just make the effort once a week to use the video to get back into the swing of it.
Do what I can to help get the community basketball court up and running. We’ve been given the money but there hasn’t been much activity. The weather hasn’t helped. Now that the holidays are over, maybe we can get things going. I will make it a point to be at the next CAKCC meeting.
Do what I can to help with the Grotto plantings and the pond. This will be equal parts money and time but my own garden will not come second this time.
Quilt and/or knit daily. Sitting with my earbuds, listening to a book that engrosses me or makes me laugh out loud, while moving my hands in a creative project puts me in my Happy Place. I want to have even one hour of that a day.
There’s my start. New desires might come onto the list but this feels like a good start and enough to be getting on with.
If I wanted to add one more thing, I think it would be “Write a blog post once a month.” Well, so far, since last month, I’ve been doing that. So I’ll change that to “KEEP writing a blog post once a month.” The other thing is the Ancestry/Photo work. It’s the kind of thing that acts as a time vampire—once you start hours, days, weeks elapse. There might be a point at which that will seem attractive again but for the time being, I think I’ll just leave that in the “resting” pile. I’m resting from doing that kind of stuff until something comes up that makes it take precedence over the five or six things I have on my list.
Not a bad start. I’ll check in next month to see how I’m getting along. Checking in with myself may be the most important resolution of all.
About this Blog
Roxanne O’Connell is a writer, needlewoman and gardener living in West Waterford, Ireland with her musician-writer husband, Robbie. Together, they are working on a BIG garden project: stripping away everything that was lawn and planting a permaculture, edible garden that will be nature friendly and pleasing to the senses.
Only a few more days to go!! Please help me meet our goal!