So, I'm very excited. I've taken the week off and we're up at the house. I've got nothing to do but hang out with the hubby and Dot - bliss. Well, that and search for an eco-friendly fridge to buy, but more of that tomorrow (unless anyone can quickly tell me which one to get - I never was the consumer reports type and energy star searches are practically impossible - i need to get to bed this side of Xmas).
It's hard to know where to start when you haven't posted much in a while (it's also hard to make the time when you've got out of the habit). There are the evenings spent round the barbeque in the back garden (not sure if this is eco-friendly but figure it must be more so than using propane to fire the oven), lit only by candlelight (we've taken to using no electric lights at night, just lanterns lit by candles. Keeps the insects out, saves electricity, is terribly romantic and doesn't wake Dot up when we go to bed. Reminds me of when we used to stay at a beach bungalow with my grandparents when we were kids. There was no electricity so we used gas lamps instead). Then there's my ludicrous over-excitement about the farmers markets and seasonal food going on at the moment (I spend half the journey up here trying to guess what will have come into season this week, buying huge bags of herbs and greens and using them liberally, shelling fresh peas with gay abandon (so much meatier than frozen, I find). Alice's shelves at River Brook farm are finally heaped with produce. This week I found a bowl of tiny black raspberries - then spotted loads more in our own back garden...)
But I have for ages been meaning to write about the garden. So, I will. Our garden is approx 3/4 acre and the rough layout is house, stretch of lawn, barn, little bit of woods with a path through and beyond that a clearing surrounded by trees. On one side is a beautiful old drystone wall and the other a crappy hodgepodge of bits of fence bequeathed us by the previous owner. The wall is home to gophers and chipmunks. Our overgrown beds of wildflowers (read: weeds) attract butterflies, birds and bees. We have evidence that deer pass this way and we've had three snake sightings this summer (sorry, Pen). There are quite a lot of trees so from about 1pm onwards the lawn is in shade - perfect for hanging out with a little Dot on a blanket.
What to do with this garden has been a bit of an ongoing debate. I know nothing about gardening and having rather a lot on my plate already have not found the time to learn. I did spend a couple of weekends last summer frenziedly wrenching weeds and roots from a couple of beds but by the time I got ready to think about plants, the buggers were completly ovegrown with weeds again - it is rather vigorous here - so I gave up.
Then I stumbled on the idea of a wilderness garden (http://www.jackiefrench.com/wilderness.html - sorry, on the hubby's mac again). The idea is that you basically leave your garden wild so it can play host to all sorts of native flora and fauna as - get this - an eco-statement. No pesticides, no artificial fertilizer, no water-guzzling lawn and, the most appealing bit if you ask me, no work beyond mowing a little patch of grass to sit on.
Since this was the first green thing I'd stumbled on in a while which was actually less work than the non-eco alternative I embraced it with both arms and we've been cultivating the meadow look with reasonable success ever since. Admittedly it does look very...rustic and I'd like a bit more colour around the place - some roses, maybe a hydrangea - and I'd LOVE a vegetable patch, but whatever.
My brother and his lovely wife have just been for the weekend and little bro, who's become something of a garden expert in recent years and has a lovely neat one of his own back home in Bromley, wasn't overly impressed with the wilderness garden. He kept making kindly suggestions for things we could do to easily improve it. These ranged from 'you could replant that bed and it'd keep the weeds down naturally' through 'you could easily make a vegetable patch back there you know' and 'could you move the barn?' to 'if you cut the trees behind the barn down you could have a lovely huge lawn area and actually enjoy your garden. There are so many trees round here I hardly think it'd make a difference'. This in between leaping around in the woods extracting dead wood to tend the bonfire with - very eco-friendly and strangely satisfying - and scything weeds with a scythe from a local yard sale.
But the thing is, I don't want a lawn stretching back to there, needing watering and mowing and all that - yes because I'm lazy and oversubscribed but also because it really wouldn't make sense to do either when I'm turning the tap off while brushing my teeth and paying someone else to plant trees in my name whenever I fly. And anyway, the little magical-path-through-the-woods-to-a-tiny-clearing effect is part of what sold the house to me in the first place. Plus he hasn't tried weeding these beds. I have.
Actually, now I come to think about it, my brother is the one person I know who actually does have enough energy to tame a garden like this (80 mile bike rides at dawn, anybody?). Perhaps I could persuade him to give up his career as a high-flying dentist and become my PA gardener!
There'd have to be ground rules of course. No tree-cutting, just tree-hugging.