Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Before spring appears in nature outside, it manifests itself in our bodies and brains.
Even thought the temperature of around 10 degrees outside is winter cold, the same temperature in springtime seems warmer.
A blanket comes off the bed. Winter socks seem too thick. You look around for lighter shoes. The neck scarf is not always necessary. Gloves are left at home. In the kitchen potatoes begin to sprout. Onions have a soft core.
Outside plants, shrubs and trees are still reluctant to come into bud. Even catkins are still to appear. Although the mornings and evenings are marginally lighter, a longer day is still needed before nature really makes a move.
The garden, seen outside the window, is still in its winter guise. But in one’s body there is the feeling that the new year’s work awaits.
Bamboo posts need straightening and ties reinforced.
The lower content of the compost bin needs to be extracted for rejuvenating the upper soil in plant, tree and shrub pots. Some must be put on to the ground and loosened in with a fork. And some needs to be put in a bin for mixing with soil for new plant pots and the buckets for new potatoes. With plenty of good home-made compost, no other fertiliser should be needed. Leaves that escaped the early winter clear-up can now be put into the emptier compost bin, along with any bagged-up leaves for which there was no room in the autumn.
Away in the loft, the last vintage of wine grapes has been fermenting and resting over winter in its demijohns in readiness for bottling. Late bottling has the advantage that the wine might have passed its malolactic “fermentation” stage. It is time to act, to bottle, to cork and to inscribe the labels with the vintage year. Will it have been a good year for red wine? (2011 certainly was.)
Birds feel the springtime urge more than humans. They start to feed and fly in pairs. Favourite nest boxes are eyed up, inspected, and the openings prepared yet again by beak-hammering.
The male blackbirds patrol the boundaries of their territories, running up and down on the side they own, while the male of the adjoining territory runs with him along his own side of the boundary. The hen blackbirds are making up their minds about nest sites. They bath a lot to look their best. They are early to nest in springtime, and have already started before other garden birds – except for magpies who are putting together their twiggy nest balls in bare trees.
The tin of seeds must be sorted out, and new packets bought in anticipation of crops as good as those depicted on the packets. And seed potatoes must be bought to grow in soil or buckets. They must be left in the light to chit but not to send out pale, straggly shoots in a dark place.
It is the time of anticipation and planning.
Yes, spring is in the air.