February, you tart...

First you walk mud through the house, leaving a clumped and wet trail of Winter’s tilth. Then you tease us with small and beloved envoys of Spring…

Crocuses are beginning to stretch their pale, swan necks, wide-open beaks showing yolk-yellow throats; young, sunny-faced primroses can be found peeking tentatively from among the teeth of last year’s bramble, only to become wind-whipped and drowned beneath a deluge of yet more rain.

And then there’s my bees. What are they supposed to make of this early call to arms? With their queens still in slumber, recovering from the previous year’s marathon of progenitorial magnificence, they’re unprepared and there are signs of mild panic. Occasional clouds of pollen can be seen, lifting on the wind like a fine curtain of mustard powder from the early-formed tails of hazel catkins.  But it’s the brave and fool hardy bee that leaves the warmth of the hive and tries her luck during these wet and wild days that have chased us into this month.

In my efforts to expend some of our lurcher pup’s endless supply of bounce before bedtime, I’ve taken to grabbing a torch and walking down through the field at night. Rather predictably my feet steer me to my usual route, through the tired and bumpy islands of tangled grasses, to the gate of the vegetable garden.

During daylight hours – at this time of year – the naked beds wear a forlorn and slightly reproachful air,  their empty gaze being more than a little imposing. But under torchlight, the bare bones of huddled pea canes leaning at the far end are just enough to raise hope, and the corners of my mouth. It’s been the soggiest of Januarys and the ground is depressingly waterlogged, incapable of drinking another drop. But perhaps this bodes well for a lusty surge of verdurous growth, come Spring.

The familiar dull, slide-clunk of the gate latch, and we’re heading back home now, through the wet field, when the torch light snags on the early, embryonic leaves of field mallow, and then the tiniest lobes of the borage that we sowed last year!

And with all the enthusiasm of that blackbird that strikes up every morning as the light teases at the far edges of the forest, I find my bounce. The puppy thinks I’ve gone nuts, but is more than happy as apparently bounce is a lot more fun than trudge. And to be honest, this Winter there’s been a fair bit of trudge.

I’ve friends who relish everything about Winter, and I too adore the time and space it allows for quietness, and contemplation with perhaps a measure of single malt to warm ones thoughts. With it’s darker, colder hours one is freed up from the frenetic level of activity that we come to associate with Spring, then Summer. There’s the comforting whiff of a stew or a roast that can slip up the stairs and lurk for days at a time. And with the scarcity of daylight there’s a unique and exquisite touch that this season brings, when the sky cracks to let a finger of sun slip through its vast acreage of grey; the way it gilds all that it touches is unsurpassable in its pure and unalloyed beauty.  Nevertheless, I think even though we may relish these delights, we all get to a point where we’re done with the heavily knitted nesting of Winter.

For me though, more than a lengthening day, or the steady creep of mercury, the shift towards the new season is signalled by the arrival of the seed packets.

It’s like a ticket to Summer.

 

Happy delivery, from Brown Envelope Seeds