Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Problems and Wheelie Big Problems


It is wonderful in the woods these mornings.
We go early, so the sun is still slanting sideways through the fresh new leaves.
The first bluebells are just starting to open. They are late this year, but magically beautiful, as always.

They aren't the only new things appearing in the woods. There are birds everywhere.
All the way up the road seagulls were mewling above us, high in the pale sky, and a pair of herons were lazily circling over the river when we arrived. They nest in the trees just by the water's edge so perhaps they were looking for an adequate breakfast for a growing family.
Further up the path SuperModel disturbed a pair of pheasant who flew out of the undergrowth, croaking in alarm. The male flew off (no comment), but the female stood her ground on the path, hesitant but defensive. I called SuperModel away - I expect the hen was worrying about chicks somewhere nearby.

I found myself worrying too as we stepped smartly along the well-worn track.
I still haven't got any wheels for Dublin. I've asked several motor companies, so I hope the latest one will come up trumps. At home, we only have the Silver Beast - that treacherous jade - and while she and I could happily set off for Dublin together (with who knows what little breakdowns tucked up her sleeve!), I can't leave the In-Charge stranded for a month with just a dodgy bicycle to get to Sligo on - it's 30 miles, and he has finals looming! I have the promise of a vehicle for a week, which is wonderful and generous, but I really need the whole month sorted before I set out at the start of May.

However, the best antidote for worry is a bigger worry. My personal wheels pale to insignificance compared with the problem of transporting the contents of the garden from Sligo to Dublin.
In one piece, so to speak.
The trees get bigger and bigger in my mind's eye.
The soft planting gets softer and more fragile.
It all gets heavier and heavier.
I don't think the bicycle is going to cut the mustard.

Well, I've been putting it out there - some serious haulage sponsorship is what's needed. Fingers, toes and eyes crossed something will come back to me soon!

On the way home, I took the dogs down to the little beach in the woods to have a splash and a drink, but as I approached the river I saw a mother duck lazily paddling through a pool of sunlight, a tight cluster of ducklings nestled around her.
I wanted to stop and look - enjoy the lovely morning of their lives, but I didn't dare.
SuperModel probably likes ducklings, and she doesn't have any at home. My hard-won victory over the hens ('Family, NOT food! Family NOT food!') would probably have disappeared like mist in the sun. Family is, after all, only found on one's own property!
I ran in the opposite direction, yelling 'Sweeties!' and waving dog treats in the air.
It never fails.

Some problems are easier to solve than others.
The ducklings are, I daresay, still sunbathing on the water.
Whereas my wheels - large and small - are sunbathing in some location as yet unknown to me.

The Kansan near my back door cheered me up a good bit, though.
It's also a bit late - but everything comes at the right time.
Hopefully even wheels.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Week


Where do the weeks go?

The hours have been turned into minutes, the days into blips.
My life has been hijacked by a ravenous time-eating Bloom-machine.
Somehow, it's almost Sunday again.
But, before I go into another tail-spin, I need to remind myself that I have achieved a good bit in this whirlwind week.

Last Sunday was Easter Day. I worked all day, paperwork - planting - paperwork - planting. At least the sun shone and it was balmy and spring-like, and we did stop in the evening. My friend DodoWoman had invited us for supper. It was delicious - and wonderful to switch off for a few hours.

Monday was,  of course, a bank holiday. Officially that is - there are no bank holidays in this house at the moment, nor will there be for the foreseeable future!
The sun shone as we piled the dogs into the car, hitched on the little trailer and headed out.
Not on a glorious picnic, but plant-hunting.

Eddie Walsh, the owner of Lissadell House, had kindly invited me to go and dig up some of the candelabra primulas that were bred there over a hundred years ago. I'd asked him if I could - they will be a perfect addition to my Yeats garden.
It couldn't have been a nicer day and the Model Dogs were thrilled to be going on an adventure.
(Rather meanly, we hadn't shown them the leads, forks or gardening gloves.) 

The sea at Lissadell

King's Mountain behind the beach at Lissadell. SuperModel chasing the seagulls

The ModelDogs practising good behaviour

Happy Days!
It was heaven at Lissadell. The sun shone and the sea sparkled like molten silver through the bare trees.
The Models gambolled on the beach (you have to gambol in Spring) and lay in the sea, and grinned inanely, but all too soon they were on their leads being told to behave themselves as Eddie and Constance welcomed us, and took us to the primula-dotted woods. Thank heavens - moments later, a couple of deer went running through the trees and Model Dog nearly took my hand off at the wrist as she leapt to the chase - she is a deer-hound cross, after all. I just managed to hang on to her and (to their chagrin) they both stayed on leads while I dug.

We took lots of photos while we were at it. The In-Charge is going to draw the house, with iconic Benbulben to one side, to make a print for my Yeats garden. Yeats and Lissadell are a bit like strawberries and cream, they kind of go together.

Lissadell and Benbulben (and SuperModel, of course)

But we didn't linger very long - we had more calls to make, so we bundled the Models and my two buckets of primulas back into the car, and headed off to Brendan's garden.
What was left of Brendan's garden that is.
The dear man has dug most of it up for me, and plants in every container known to man (and several heretofore unknown) confronted me inside his gates. I knew at first glance that our small trailer wasn't going to cut the mustard with that lot, and in any case, Brendan wasn't there.

After watering a few things that weren't sure if they were enjoying the heatwave or not, we headed off to Nazareth House to fill the trailer with dead leaves.
They must have thought I was balmy when I asked if it was OK. I mean, who waltzes in and offers to sweep up your dead leaves and take them away?
We used our tarpaulin like a giant bag, filled the trailer and headed home.
By then, the Models had forgotten the beach at Lissadell and were less than impressed with their day out.

The silent road to Dublin

On Wednesday, we rose in the dark and headed out into a world devoid of sound and people.
It was cold in the blue of the morning. Fog drifted like milky smoke in the fields, turning dawn into a mystical sacrament, the sun a distant red god veiled in the sky, the bare trees spreading their arms in hushed worship.
We passed unseen through their morning ritual.

Three hours later, when we got to Dublin, it was just another busy day, our dawn flight faded with the mist.
I spent the day at Bord Bia, meeting other garden designers; the People who Make Bloom Happen; the Health and Safety officers; the PR team; the tea ladies...
It was a good day - tiring but very informative. They were all human, and nice, enthusiastic and helpful. It made my project seem - paradoxically - more manageable but also more terrifying. It was good to meet people for whom this is challenging but routine, but it also reinforced the ticking clock deadlines, the reality of having to translate my vision into a spectacle for many, many eyes.
We drove home watching the sun - back to a deep, fiery red ball - falling through a milky, misting sky. In the real, real world, nothing had changed. The day had just been handful of insubstantial hours.

Friday was the launch of the Yeats Day celebrations.
I was invited to go and mix with the great and the good, and afterwards I had lunch with Lucy.

Later we inspected my beech tree which had been delivered to her yard in our absence. We stood and looked at it in dismay. It was not what either of us was expecting, and it certainly was not going to fit the bill.
One of her chaps joined us, on his way home for the weekend. The two of them stood looking at it, comparing it with several beeches they had planted in the last while.
Minutes later I found myself being taken to look at some of those vastly superior specimens.
'Shall we?' said Lucy.
'We could,' he replied.
The two other lads, who'd just gone home were called back. The digger was dug out of the shed, the truck was brought to the site. Within what seemed like minutes a tree had been lifted from the ground, my poor, unsuitable and unloved specimen had been put into the hole (where it can quietly grow into itself) and the new tree was being loaded onto the truck.

Lucy and her team

And, bless them all, instead of going home, they then drove it, and the other few trees that had arrived that morning, out to Jack's and spent I don't know how long potting them up.
Some people are just totally wonderful.

Whiskey time again.
Wholly inadequate.

And today is Saturday. The week has turned full circle faster than light.
On Saturdays, lots of people chill out, watch sport, put their feet up.
That would be nice. Not the sport, but the feet up bit.
But Brendan's garden was calling and - yet again - Jack came up trumps.
With his trailer and Dutch trolleys, he drove me out to Calry where Brendan was waiting, bless him.
Sunshine, hail and a chilly breeze notwithstanding, we loaded - and loaded - and loaded.
Now Brendan's garden is in my yard, all six trolleys-full, not to mention bags, trays, tubs, fridge doors (he's an inventive chap, Brendan), buckets and basins.

Jack, the ModelDogs and Brendan's garden 

I call it 'my garden at Bloom'.
It isn't my garden at all.
It is a garden being created by a tireless, amazing, generous team of fabulous people.
(And two dogs.)


Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Morning After



It's amazing what a good night's sleep can do for you.
Sleep has been a bit here-and-there-ian, a fickle bedfellow recently.
While tiredness, inevitably, has been a Siamese twin.
Is it not ever thus?
However, this morning I feel as fresh as a daisy, as my mother used to say.

I suppose there is truth in the old adage. Not about daisies - but about the enemy you know being less fearful than the one you don't.
The trees for my Yeats garden at Bloom have certainly been a foe beyond the gates - but, in tree terms, this was the week that was. Bad enough for me, but I don't even want to think about how it's been for Jack.
Jack, as you may recall, has put his shoulder to the Bloom-wheel and now also goes under the alternative title of 'My Hero'.
He spent last week, in gales, rain, mizzle and more gales, gouging, slinging and lifting trees out of the ground, into pots, out of pots, to this location, to that location and generally getting soaked, re-soaked and beyond frazzled.
All - I am reliably informed - without losing it.
Some trick.

As you can probably tell, I wasn't there.
I wasn't idle last week - I'm feeling the need to justify myself here, I just put in my hours elsewhere. My only contribution to the Tree Operation was sleepless nights.
A futile offering indeed.
Yesterday, I drove down to Jack's armed with a bottle of good whiskey.
It seemed wholly, woefully inadequate.

The deep trenches gouged in the verge of his laneway told their own sorry tale of overburdened vehicles in-coming.
We reviewed the trees in minute detail. They are all on drips in his Intensive Care Ward, as he calls it, and no patient in any ward has either been better cared for or had a more probing doctor's round than ours.
They are all in one place, they are enormous and they look great - but, admittedly, it is a bit early to say. They might still suffer from fatal arrests and turn up their muddy toes. I hope not. I feel bad enough wrenching them from their cosy, unremarkable homes.
Or rather, having them wrenched.

I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon with a tape measure and a bag of flour in the orchard.

The In-Charge, at my request, had cordoned off a plot the size of the garden at Bloom. I need to get a feel for the reality of it, trees and all.
The hens thought it was a terrific new game, and followed on my heels like the birds in Hansel and Gretel, but eventually even they got bored with eating it - white, self-raising wouldn't be high on their list.
The trees are big, there's no doubt about it, but they need to be. They need to look mature, like they've always been there.
I still have flutters of unease. Suppose they are too big? Suppose they die? HOW am I to get them to Dublin in one piece - in leaf, by then? Suppose they don't come into leaf - dead trees don't come into leaf...  Suppose, suppose, suppose...
But at least I now have them - they are safe, in one place, in the ICU and for the moment at least, present, correct and ticked off.
At some level I suppose something has relaxed, because I slept like the proverbial baby.
Even though I wasn't the one drinking the whiskey.

And this morning, Easter Day, despite the battering, freezing, howling weather we have had this week, my garden is calm and still and full of timid flowers.
Perhaps I am calm and still and full of timid optimism.
For today anyway.