This week, I’ve lain in bed shivering, but warmed by the heat waves of grim satisfaction that accompanies a hard cold snap.
Gardeners in particular like a spell of ice. Traditionally round here, they’d expose clay clods to the frosts’ shattering forces. Organic practitioners abhor a bare soil in winter, but see Jack Frost as an ally in killing off key pests such as slugs and aphids. There’s also the notion that a “proper” winter begets a “proper summer”, one that recent patterns would appear to confirm.
At Hawkwood, the restart of salad picking has been put on hold, and the glasshouse taps have burst. Digging work is slow in the morning as spades have to break soil hard as stone before getting in to the soft underbelly, to remove perennial weeds or make trenches for raspberries.
But these winter curses are offset by the aforementioned gardeners’ delight, the joy of the crisp fresh days of golden light, and a widened window for fruit planting and pruning. Mary, our new Veg & Fruit worker, will be grateful indeed for this, given the complex and diverse plans she has inherited.
These include the speculative planting of almonds, which I heeled in on Friday, dreaming all the while of the pink-white honeyed marzipan blossom I walked amongst but two weeks ago in Andalucia. There, I was told, they didn’t have a winter, more like two springs. All well and good for southern Spain, but amongst the terrible fears for climate change is the psycho-culturally deep one, that our planet’s rich diversity of seasonal rhythms will be eroded: bland capitalist monoculture creating a global weather system after its own image.
To which the hushed notes of the falling snow reply, give us cold toes but give us parsnips.