Sunday, 16 November 2014

Clearing the path for winter

Winter has landed with all its force and unapologetic power. The heavy rains that pounded down on us all this week - causing roads to merge with waterways and keep us all indoors for as much of it as we could - is a stark reminder that no more is the phrase winter is coming  (in all its Game of Thrones foreboding doom and gloom) apt, and once more winter has come. The towering beeches that line the estate walls are completely bare of their golden leaves - earlier that normal it feels, and spindly oaks are bereft of leafy crown for  another five months at least. And the dark is back and dark is the new black for the season that's in it. 

Winter's garden
I don't see how we can ever get used to this forceful annual event - one day sunshine and bare feet, and then the next hats and scarves and wellied up to the nines - it's an annual imposition ;)  And so this weekend I suited up and wellies were donned for the (literal) clearing of the path for winter. 

I don't get out into the Holly Cottage garden as much anymore, not since golden haired child appeared on the scene and the demands of motherhood that go with that. So when I do get out, it seems to me to be a rare treat and very much an event. And yesterday was the day for it - rain had cleared, sun was shining and a blue sky above to restore faith in the November sheltering canopy. 

Starflower blue remains to brighten our days
First there were the standing-dead forms of ornamental clover that lined the path to clear - how different they stood as skeletal lignin stems from the vibrant green and purple of summer. The grow-bags and falling down tomatoes of August and September were dismantled onto the compost heap. The tumbledown nasturtiums were forked away too, and the sturdy starflowers that bulged up between the patio slabs were ceremoniously taken away to the decaying pile of 2014 in the corner of the garden. Mint in disarray was ordered; withered oregano stems were chopped back and collapsing gladioli spikes dismembered - all traces of 2014's summer whisked away in the quick flash of a garden blunted scissors. And then the yard brush was brought forth to clear leaves and bits of sand and grit and bark that had spilled onto the path, and then my work was done. 

Inspector of paths
There are still a few things left out there, the stuff that doesn't mind the cold and most importantly, the stuff that's easily accessed in all types of weather: the protective green manure to feed the soil for next year - the colourful purple Phacelia; the hardy turnips; the leafy cabbage; the bursting brussels sprouts and the curliest, curly kale. These things will keep our vitamin levels up in dark days to fight off the colds that seem to be a much more frequent visitor to our door these days. 

And so we are ready. Ready for winter, again. Path is cleared. Wellies are off and packed away until spring time. Time for sitting by the fire. Time for winter to have its own way and do its own clearing and cleaning - changing the garden in the way that we can't, returning life-that-was back to the cold comforting, embracing earth so that 2015 can live its own new way. 

And just the time for us to do the same.

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