Saturday, 6 April 2013

spring is slightly sprung

The car was frosted this morning, as was the chickens' water container.  The latter was frozen together more solidly than I expected, and I had to boil a kettle of water to melt the ice in the base before I could remove the top half and refill it.  This led to my setting off for work slightly later than I would have liked, but fortunately it was a morning with practically no traffic.  Arriving at work I met the dogs standing by the front entrance looking speculatively out into the road.  I thought they really shouldn't be there, since cars come hammering along that road at well over the speed limit, so I parked and went back to call them in.  To my great relief they came, and consented to follow me up to the house, where I was able to shut them in.

The sun shone.  It shone out of a rather hazy sky, and as the day went on the wind got up, though not as bad as yesterday (which was a day when empty compost bags blew across the garden unless weighted down).  It was not exactly a gentle and balmy spring day, but it was sunny (at home the thermometer reached a whole nine degrees in the middle of the day.  That's still a couple of degrees colder than the average maximum daytime temperature for April in this part of the world, but still a big improvement on last Thursday, when at lunchtime my car thermometer was reading half a degree).

Our first instruction for the day on the manager's list of tasks was to check the watering.  Some of the evergreen shrubs in the shade tunnel were dry, and I pulled out the hose ready to start my fireman Sam act.  I enjoy watering, though it can get physically hard work in hot weather when we're doing four hours of it every day.  I have seen a Freudian interpretation of female satisfaction at spraying water around with a big hose, though I don't look at it that way myself.  This morning's pleasure was short-lived, as after an initial spurt of water the hose stopped working.  That normally means there is a kink in the hosepipe, but if  there isn't, it usually means the nozzle is blocked. There was no kink, but when I managed with some difficulty to uncouple the lance from the hose, it was blocked with ice.

I went and defrosted the ice in hot water in the cafe sink, and for good measure warmed the spray head end as well, but it didn't improve matters, and when I tried the hose without the lance (standing at a safe distance), no water came out.  I tested the tap at the wall (keeping well clear) and that had a normal water supply under pressure, so I decided that the problem was that the hose was frozen.  I left the watering for an hour, until the day had begun to warm up, and when I tried the hose again a gout of slush burst out of it, discoloured with earth where the irrigation system has leaked slightly in the winter.  Sometimes the lance heads get blocked because a piece of gravel has got into the hose, and once, when a garden hose stopped working at home and I investigated the spray head, I found the squashed remains of an enormous slug.

Customers were a little slow to arrive, and by mid-morning my young colleague was faintly restive and anxious.  I thought they'd be along later.  People tend not to dash out to buy plants first thing on a Saturday, but seem to take their time to get going.  Lie-in, breakfast, grocery shopping, I don't know how they occupy themselves in the first part of their day, but plants generally fit in later on.  I was right, and in the end we were busy.  Total takings through the tills were helped by the couple who spent over eight hundred pounds on pots and trees.  My young colleague served them, but overhearing parts of the conversation I gathered that they were slightly anxious to be buying things without their gardeners' permission.  Their gardeners were apparently lovely people, but the owners weren't always allowed to have their own way.

The turkeys have found their way into the car park.  The cock turkey is an enormous creature, and he is feeling the joys of spring.  He was displaying to Mrs Turkey, fanning his tail, dropping his outspread wings to the ground, and shuffling along with rapid steps while making the most extraordinary gobbling noise.  She seemed utterly indifferent.  My young colleague managed to herd them out of the car park, as he was concerned that they were so large they could be intimidating. In fact, he said, they intimidated him.  I don't mind them myself, but I think I would if Mr Turkey showed signs of going for me.  He is a big bird.

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