from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

notes from the lost valley

Early morning walk. Little yellow globes of crab apples in the lanes (I can't find the photo so this above is younger green crab apples in Brittany two months ago). A few still-healthy elm leaves.

A lump rising in my throat as 50, 60 swallows gather on the wires – so many more than I knew were in the locality. The skies have been so empty this year and I don't know if I'm grieving for that, for the imminent loss of the swallows to their winter home, for the danger of their journey (some of them without even pointy tails yet), or for the sheer joy of seeing them. I say a few words to the bird-gods and goddesses to keep them safe, return them to us.
A hot air balloon rises over Dartmoor to the northwest like a slow – very slow – thought.

A rough lick of my hand from a black-tongue bullock.

And then the field and our veg plot, bare feet in dew: a dozen butternut squashes quietly swelling; a new two dozen tomatoes; a few courgettes; exuberances of nasturtiums; the scent of mint.

A young buzzard's plaintive mew. A charm – two charms – of goldfinches. A family of jays gathering or burying acorns rising up as I approach (I read that a jay can gather and bury several thousand acorns in a day, doing its bit for reforesting, as it can't eat that many any day). The high peep of some bullfinches.

The orchard laden.

Wild windfall plums - bullaces (or mazzards as we call them in Devon) – for breakfast.


Writing is my day-job. Unfortunately, it hardly earns me any money. Gardening is my evening-and-weekend-job. That earns me nothing at all – though of course we're saving on food costs. In between, I walk, and read, neither of them for money; and on occasion remember I need to Get A Life, and phone a friend – or even see one.

My paintbrushes are cobwebby and stiff; but you never know. One day soon. Maybe.

Gardening is a bit forefront at the moment And what a bumper summer. There are bucketloads and bucketloads of pea beans to pod and freeze for the winter. These are substantial tasty beans that we use in anything from pâtés to soups to burgers – excellent vegan protein.
We have a fabulous triffidy courgette and squash bed. There are at least a dozen fat butternut squash swelling quietly in among the leaves. This is quite a coup, as it's normally too damp down here for a good – or indeed any – butternut harvest, and this is just from two plants. At the risk of sounding like a playschool leader, perhaps you can spot a few in here?
On the other hand, the green-outside orange-fleshed squash that a friend gave me has not been quite so prolific in fruit, although it does quite well in foliage. Here's a runner making a break for the woodland:

– and this is the first of its fruits:

This is its second fruit:

– which is a beauty, albeit not ripe. Don't break it off, I said to TM, it's not ripe yet. Can you just lift it gently, while I prop it on a slate, or a slug collar (the green thing in the photo above) to stop it from rotting on the ground. TM broke it off. I don't think he actually meant to.*

And this is the third and as far as I can see final fruit. It's a squeezed squash. You can see our dilemma. I'd propped it on a slug collar and had forgotten it, and it grew into the collar. TM tried kicking it around a few times to release it, until I stopped him. It needs a chainsaw but we are a bit loath to trash one of our (100-odd) slug collars – precious and expensive commodities that they are, being at least 50% effective. Mostly.

* The problem is, TM doesn't know his own strength.

On the other hand, he did save my life the other day – I do mean that literally – when I had a very close encounter with death; shockingly close. He gave me the Heimlich manoeuvre, which is why I am here to write about encounters with squashes and squeezes. But I do now have some cracked ribs. And what's a cracked rib or two in the face of a near-death experience?

And I live to continue to write, and to garden. So the question now is is it day-job time or evening-job time, or time for a cup of tea and to sit in the courtyard listening to the screech of the young jays or the very-close-by yaffle of a young green woodpecker?

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