Recently I have had more than the usual amount of evenings on my own. It is sometimes a little lonely but after J has settled for the night it has given me the opportunity to catch up on all the recorded TV that I love, (Smash, Revenge, The Newsroom anyone?), do a good bit of reading and a little bit of blogging. I can hear my mum saying “you haven’t done any ironing though?” She is, of course, right.
On Monday, I was looking out of the window watching the endless downpour of rain drench the garden, its drops hammering down like stair rods making the delicate leaves shudder and shake like they were experiencing an earthquake. In the corner of the garden there are fruit trees, leafy but almost bare of apples and pears. Their failed fruits litter the floor, barely formed waiting to be swallowed up by the soil after being battered in to submission. The hardy shrubs hang on, well established enough to not mind the weather but endless sowings of wildflowers and vegetables have been washed away or decimated by the snails. It has not been a good year for growing.
While I was looking at the garden I got to thinking about when we first moved in to this house. It was 2004 and we were so excited to be moving in to our brand new family home. It was too big really for what we needed then but it was a bargain and we had always planned on filling it with love, laughter and little people.
We were one of the first to move in and the estate was only about a quarter finished. Everyday plant machinery thundered down the road moving tons of earth, men in hard hats and yellow jackets strolled up and down all day patrolling their build site. The streets were caked in mud and after the sun had gone to bed and all was silent you could hear the eerie sound of plastic sheeting slapping in the wind and the creaking of the odd door blowing back and forth. There were few lights, or trees and no chirping of birds.
As the weeks and months went by and more properties were finished, families moved in and the sense of community began to build and friendships made. New trees were planted and gardens made, the place began to feel like the countryside again and less like the surface of the moon.
I read somewhere once that it takes birds seven years or more to return to a habitat once it has been displaced, this must be about right as this year we have had more birds in the garden that I have ever noticed before, loving the wet weather which brings a bounty of earthworms to the top of the soil for them peck and pull.
The thing that everyone should know when moving in to a new home is that a new housing development brings with it lots of interested/nosey people – many of them who have no consideration for new residents. One afternoon, not long after we arrived I was laid on my sofa watching an old film, slightly hung-over, blonde hair atop my head like a bird nest when I noticed a couple peering in my window. I sat up, trying to compose myself but they just kept looking in. I don’t know if they saw me until I stood up. Then they waved and walked off; just like that, as bold as a primary coloured painting.
The next day there was a bright yellow digger in the front garden. I stuck my head out of the door as it is very off putting having a huge piece of machinery with its engine running about six feet from your TV. “Sorry love”, shouts the driver above the racket. “Didn’t realise you had moved in”. Ah, the car on the drive, curtains at the windows and the girl in the doorway with the crazy mad eyes didn’t give it away them. He shoved the thing in to gear, rumbled off and promptly parked it in the back garden.
At that time the garden was no so much a garden as a muddy, sloppy load of soil (fenced off half way down to stop it slipping into the road prior to the retaining wall being built) but it had potential written all over it. It was flat for a start which coming from an area that was built on one of the steepest hills in the city was a real blessing. It was bare like a blank canvas, ours to do with what we wished.
It wasn’t really until 2010 that our garden really started to take shape. Sure, we did some planting but we did no planning and we put things in the wrong place and lost a lot of plants to poor preparation.
Our garden will probably always be a work in progress. Such is my enthusiasm for gardening and the design of that I will never be able to put a lid on it and say “that’s enough”. There will always be another plant to put in, seeds to sow and structures to be considered. The addition in 2011 of “my cool shed” allows me to spend even more time in the garden, from there I can (often assisted by J) sow, pot out, plan and survey my plot.
In the last eight years we have planted, dug up, planted and dug up some more. It has been built on, played in by kids and munch at by our animals. It has been the place of great parties and small family gatherings. It has been a place to potter, play, relax and reflect. It is a wonderful place to be.