It was one of those evenings. Mehdi, who is never sick, has been flattened by a bad chest infection. The toddler is also nursing a chest infection. The 6 year old was in a grumpy mood and wanted everyone else to join him there. After a frustrating half hour or so inside the house, I decided the 6 year old needed some fresh air and exercise. One of the huge selling points of this house for me was that it has a manageable garden. As much as I love apartment living, a balcony does not cut it as an 'outdoors' space for 2 little kids.
The 6 year old and I pulled on our gloves and headed into the garden to pull up some weeds.
Note, our level of gardening knowledge is on a par with house restoration and DIY - there is a lot more enthusiasm than expertise. Our gardening rules include:
- Don't touch the jaggy plants.
- Don't eat stuff without checking with a grown-up.
- Don't pull up pretty things.
In my Heaneyesque childhood (where Drowning Kittens, Death, Turf Cutting and Potato Digging all featured strongly) I enjoyed picking blackberries much in the Heaney style. Along with my siblings, I'd gather jam jars full of blackberries, then mix in inedible berries and seeds to create a poisonous witch's brew in our Secret Den at the bottom of the garden, far from our parents' gaze. Our outdoors space was over an acre big - so my parents grew vegetables and potatoes (though how they managed this on top their full-time jobs as teachers and parents I have no idea). Our little patch of garden is generous for a city centre house - and more than enough for our horticultural ambitions.
Our first job will be to evict the brambles that have grown over half our garden - they are invasive and hurt. In the long term our plans are to plant the garden with things that are low maintenance and edible. My mother has some great rhubarb and blackcurrant bush cuttings to get us going - but we're a long way off from that. We'll have to first pull up the concrete flagstones that are covering much of the soil. We'll need to cut back the evergreens invading the garden from both neighbouring gardens. And we should of course spend a year watching this garden to learn what's already there.
We know we have a lilac tree - which is one of my favourite trees ever. It was in late bloom during our first viewing of the house.
And we discovered we have a little pear tree (that I suspect is not in the most favourable position for flowering and ripening fruit).
I'd love to add a magnolia tree for their blooms - but that might work better in the tiny front garden.
Today, this little garden rescued our evening. Both boys ended up outside - the 2 year old pulling leaves off plants, the 6 year old working out his grumps in pulling up weeds and planning where he can dig his firepit, while Mehdi was briefly engaged in gardening as he was the only person tall enough to finish weeding our brickwork.
It was a satisfying, energising end to the day. And I hope that next year our guttering and pipework will be in a good enough condition to ensure that the only weeds we have to deal with will be in our garden.