Off with winter coats and scarves.
Lungs expand to fill
With smells that drift in through openflung windows.

Winter is a heavy time but
Spring is light.

Flowers burst into bloom,
Beetles set forth
And green shoots push up through red earth.

Winter is time for sleep but
Spring is work

Trees put out their fresh, clean leaves.

Not me.

I stopped to watch a thrush dance.
Strutting about,
Wings out
Like a cape behind him.

And the bees motoring back and forth
Pockets stuffed with pollen
A column of ants went across my path.

I followed the trail of bread crumbs.

Buckets of soapy water grow cold
While I watch the world at work around me


My Reality TV show

Having spent most of the week in bed with flu watching episodes of Restoration House and Garden Rescue the voice in my head has turned into a voice over by a British television presenter. Along with all of the hyperbolising questions used to up the tension and make building and gardening into spectator sorts.

‘We here today in the home of scatterbrained amateur gardener  Jem as she attempts to transform her garden from drab to fab (it’s a favourite catch phrase) and make this into the garden of her dreams. But has she taken on more than she can handle, are her plans just a little unrealistic and can she stay focussed long enough to get anything done?’

I can’t stop narrating everything I do. ‘I’m just sowing some Dianthus seeds in these little pots.’ When I walk around my garden now I am narrating my plans in my head. Then they are interrupted by the faintly reprimanding voice over again, ‘Jem really needs to get moving on her plans or she risks falling behind on her deadline,’ or ‘Jem is in danger of getting carried away by new ideas while she’s yet to complete any of her projects. Is this going to turn into another garden disaster?’

And then I reply in the candid interview style of the cut to home owner that it all feels overwhelming and I don’t think I’m getting anywhere.

I think it might be good to have a television crew following me around. I think an audience would give me the buzz to get things done and I could really indulge in my self pitying moments when things don’t work out. In the meantime I want to punch British voice over in the face.


Sowing seeds

This weekend I’ve been sowing my veg seeds. I went a little overboard on the Livingseeds website, this must be what victorian gardeners felt like with catalogues. Until a few years ago you could only get one or two varieties of standard vegetables in South Africa

Times have changed. I have four different types of tomatoes. I don’t even like tomatoes! This will be a consolation if I kill them.

Livingseeds has hundreds of different varieties of heirloom and open pollinated seeds. It’s so easy just to click ‘Add to basket’ and fantasize about devotedly raising healthy strong seedlings with elegant ease which give you bountiful harvests while you wait for your future food to be delivered. They also encourage you to save your seed for the next season which only adds to the pressure/level of fantasy involved but they give a lot of advice on how to do it. I’m pretty sure it’s as good as anything you can get overseas and I only wish they did flowers as well.

Instead of seed trays I’ve used self-watering pots made from plastic bottles. This seemed like a really good idea as the biggest reason for early crop failure in my garden is periodic drought when I forget to water them.

The pots are very simple to make. Cut the top third off a plastic bottle, make a hole in the top and thread a strip of cloth through. Flip it upside down, fill it with seedling mix and you have your planting pot. Fill the bottom of the bottle with water and stand the pot in that so that the bottom of the cloth is in the water. The cloth should then act as a wick taking water to the soil and making sure it doesn’t dry out.

That is the theory. It has been three days now and the top is definitely not as damp as it was. I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t planted all my seeds in one pot.

Arbor Week

In South Africa we have a whole week dedicated to Arbor-ness. There is great stuff going on all over South Africa one hopes, although a Google search produces more events from previous years and to be honest I haven’t seen anything but then I don’t get out much.

I am celebrating Arbor week by planting some indigenous trees in my Bird Garden. I went out to Grow Wild Indigenous Nursery this afternoon to buy them. It’s a brilliant nursery, although not much to look at. Their website is a fantastic resource for finding a plant that matches your requirements, they responded within a few HOURS to my query AND they have 20% off trees for the whole of September in honour of Arbor week.

The trees of the year for 2014 are White Ironwood (Vepris lanceolata) , which conincidentally I had been eyeing in my book, and the Lavender Tree (Heteropyxis natelensis). I bought a small one of each and a Wild Pear which turns out to be the Pink Wild Pear (Dombeya burgessiae) instead of the Dombeya rotundifolia. Both have beautiful blossoms so I’m sure I will be just as happy with it, perhaps happier, but it just goes to show the importance of Latin names; or tree numbers.

I hope where ever you are in the world you are planting a tree for Arbor week, if you don’t have a place for one yourself there are great schemes for community planting.

The Veg Garden

Spring has poked it’s nose in and retreated again, like a cat trying to decide whether or not it wants to come in; while it’s owner stands holding the door open and freezing. At any rate it won’t be long before it comes all the way in, promptly followed by summer. Time to get on with planning the veg garden.

There is no formal layout. I’m starting to wish I had put down straight rows of paths for the methodicalness and aesthetics of it if nothing else. Will do that next year.

The Veg garden – taken 2nd June
The Veg garden this evening – almost 3 months later.

Of course there is A LOT of garlic in already, some onions, possibly a couple of leeks and a few peas. I planted some more peas because most of them didn’t grow. Probably eaten by chickens. I planted out my brassica seedlings (now fenced because of chickens dust bathing) but I have a feeling we’re in the wrong season. Oops.

I’ve made a list of veggies I want to grow based on what we eat – lettuce, cucumber, celery, tomatoes, peas, beans, beetroot, carrots, sweetcorn, potatoes, peppers, squashes, melons – and I’ll probably add some others along the way.

I’ve already started planted some seeds in little paper pots but that’s another post.

Gardening with puppies.


1407782906293Just over a week ago I became a puppy raiser for the South African Guide Dog Association. It is a brilliant organisation whose work I greatly admire and a lot more goes into producing a successful service dog than I had thought. I will be raising this adorable bundle of cuteness for a year before he goes on to guide dog school and then, hopefully, into a life of service.

Of course the hardest thing will be saying goodbye at the end of the year but in the meantime there are other difficulties, like learning how to garden with a puppy and teaching him gardening time is not play time. This afternoon we managed a row of seedlings in the veg garden. He looks deceptively well behaved in both these photo’s.

Winter is coming…

Right now, as I write, winter is blowing in with force. Swooshing, howling, banging and rattling, on what is otherwise a perfectly lovely sunny day, announce its coming with a fanfare and I know that tomorrow we may wake up to frost and if not just bloody cold.

I’m excited about this. I’m excited because even though I hate the cold I love winter as a time of death and rebirth. For gardeners, like the wiccans, the year ends and begins again with winter. It’s a time of reflection and preparation. Without the forgiving green growth summer provides to cover them up all our mistakes and failings are exposed. It’s a far better time to make New Year’s resolutions so I am making mine.

Despite having lived in my house for 6 years (it seems an incredible amount of time, almost a quarter of my life in fact) much of it looks like I got interrupted in the middle of something. I have a short attention span, a tendency to fall by the wayside; I lack focus, drive, follow through, self discipline, self motivation and all the other traits worthy doers have so most of my projects and plans, having begun with extreme enthusiasm, fizzle out. I’ve done a lot here and there but my dreams of living an organic, eco-conscious, semi self sufficient life in a Sandton suburb are unfulfilled.

At the beginning of May, after a difficult and depressing few months wrestling with demons, I “got serious”. In the last five weeks, I’ve cut down some stuff, unearthed my compost piles, planted seeds, taken cuttings, dreamed, schemed and pinned and I hope that by the end of next year I’ll still be blogging and I’ll be on my way to where I want to be. If not, well then I’ll just have to accept that this is where I want to be.