A woodpecker, soft spring light, and hope on the plot

A woodpecker, soft spring light, and hope on the plot

Breakthrough day at the plot. When the late spring garden takes shape, the soil shakes off its slumber and the early summer structures go up. Howard and I had started early. Greeted by the spotted woodpecker who sets the soundtrack for the day, flitting from tree to tree, laying down tenor taps, with added bass on heavy branches.

We want the bean and pea structures to be free-form – rustic, a little rough around the edges. It is not a year for overweening elegance. We work well together, Howard and I, gently chiding, prodding towards an aesthetic we agree on.

Howard’s daughter Rose arrives with chocolate biscuits and a shiny copper trowel. She sows beans along the long structure. I sow Basque tear peas around the two ‘wigwams’. After I finish I remember I’d meant to leave one free for sweet peas (last year we had three for flowers) but I think I was overexcited. We’ll deal with this later.

The sun shines a soft spring glow, backlighting the last puntarelle and red Italian chicories. There is a scattering of tiny wild Tuscan calendula coming into single flower. The soil, 30 years organic now, is a rich plain-chocolate crumb, shrugging off the long winter soak and heavy weight, responding to our work.

I give everything a good seaweed feed and water it in. I weed and hoe through Mary’s pumpkin pit, removing invasive nettle and clumps of grass.

The crimson-flowered broad beans we had just about given up on are starting to show through, though only two green shoots as yet. But there is sunlight and warmth and, yes, even hope on the plot in an anxious time when it can feel in short supply elsewhere.

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