48 weeks to go…

by Max Akroyd


It’s been a non-descript kind of week: this hot, dry weather every bit as sterile as the weeks of frosty, dry weather we had earlier in the year.

Water is the only thing that makes my clay soil sing – albeit quietly – so no rain and hot sun mean my gardening options wither rapidly. Direct sowing would be absurd before the rain comes and, according to the forecast, that prospect keeps evaporating. The choice regarding things ready for planting out is keeping them well-watered in their pots or having them bake in some inaccessible piece of  ground. I choose the former.  Days pass.

The daily needs of the animals can’t be ignored, of course, and are augmented by the endless need to keep water topped up. The pigs regularly take the decision to knock their drinking water over to create a wallow. Like me, they spend the hottest hours inside. But without the paperwork. The hens find a dusty spot (not difficult) and half bury themselves in it until the goats return from their stint on the field and stand on them.  It’s hard work being a goose or gosling too. In fact, they’ve finally deigned to use the shelter we built them all that time ago, just to give themselves a bit of shade.

It has been excellent haymaking weather though, and I’ve pressed ahead with this task as quickly as possible. Not only does it save a lot of money to make your own but the goats – ever fussy – seem to approve of it far more than the mechanically generated stuff. Rather than picking at it disdainfully, they scoff it down in a mad-eyed sort of way.

The rough ground remaining after the hay has been raked up seems to cry out for a hen’s scratching or a pig’s foraging, so next week I’ll be reconfiguring  enclosures to meet the land’s need…



To be honest, I’ll be glad when June is over. The apex of the growing season is very steep for the solitary gardener and I arrived there pretty knackered after Spring’s endeavours.

The afternoon of the year has a different character. More containable. From July the sowings are more esoteric, but I’m happier with a limited palette to work from: infinite possibilities make me uncomfortable.  

This hot spell has imposed the reverse of the industrial day: work is only realistically done any other time than 9 to 5. Those stifling hours are best spent lolling on the settee (most unnatural) or trying to lighten the load of a wife on the brink of childbirth/meltdown!

It takes a sort of bravery to march out into the garden long before breakfast or after tea, but it is lovely when you make it… a parallel world of  birdsong and long-shadows.