17 March 2012

Springy things are happening all around. But this loveliest of seasons is having its usual effect on me: wiping me out.

L contemplates another lap with the rotovator.

Of course it didn’t help my depleted energy levels that today I opted for the horribly ambitious job of making a new vegetable garden. In a spot (as I discovered as I dug) which is a rock patch. Yes, true, most of our land is a rock patch. But as the neighbour’s rotovator jumped and shuddered and lurched about not digging much, and I wondered whether we would be returning the machine bent and dented, I vaguely remembered a mountain of stones sitting there when we were restoring the house. Since when they’ve been well packed down into the earth by passing bulldozers and farm machinery. The rotovator was abandoned in favour of pickaxes and garden forks. And I began to wish, very ardently, that my new patch was not nearly so big.

I need the extra bed for all those things which occupy too much space, for too long a time, to be accommodated in my original orto: potatoes, for example, which I have never grown; and onions; and cime di rapa (turnip greens) all through the winter. That will leave the orto free for fast-moving summer crops and all those things which look so pretty and grow up rather than out, like tomatoes and beans and big leafy courgette plants.

Of course before I can put anything in the ground down there I need to get the water organised, and that depends on Francesco the fabbro (smith) getting my new tap-with-incorporated-hose-holder design made for me and that depends on… etc etc. I hope it’s not August before things fall into place.

But even when it does, the idea of using any water at all in this drought-plagued spring does cause me slight twinges of guilt. It’s as if the snow never happened. Since then, two drops have fallen on me; digging the new bed raised dust clouds of sub-Saharan proportions. If there is meltwater down at water table level, great. But it has certainly long gone from anywhere near the surface.

It’s quite uncanny. We’ve had every other meteorological phenomenon, including tramontana winds so strong last week that at times it was difficult to stand up straight, and which woke me at night as they howled and buffetted. Just no rain. In the end I shall just have to give in and re-attach the timers and get the whole thing going automatically. In mid-March. Ridiculous.


And so to spring: daffodils are busting out everywhere. We went to Rome on Wednesday 14th and there was one wild one out down the bank towards the washing line; we came back on Thursday and they were waving everywhere (much to the annoyance of one guest who turned up for dinner shortly afterwards who doesn’t even have daffodil leaves poking through yet).

Lizards scarper from unlikely places as I pass, making me jump out of my skin, and bees and wasps are making strange metallic reverberations all over the chicken house as they search for interesting cavities to nest in. I’m still waiting, with dread in my heart, for the Invasion of the Ants.

Inside my funny little greenhouse (now slightly less ugly since the plastic cover disintegrated in the snow and I had to make it a more elegant and definitely more resistant one) things are happening: tomatoes which I had almost abandoned all hope of are pushing up tiny little leaves; ditto aubergines. I sowed a tray of camomile seeds just three days ago and already there’s something very vaguely green happening there.

In fact, more than spring, it’s already beginning to feel like summer. It was 24 degrees today.

This post is also on my website.


About Gardens, Food & Umbria

I am a garden designer, working throughout central Italy. I have lived in Italy for over 30 years – for many years in Rome but now in the wilds of Umbria where I have fixed up one wreck of a house, am working on another, and tinker endlessly with two and a half hectares of land, some of which is my garden.
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