There will be a procession of “firsts” in the next few weeks. This is what happens when you have a stop and then a start. Today was my first visit to The Mantle’s estate this year. It began with a beautiful drive on ice free roads, on arrival I was greeted with a steaming cup of coffee. Then, as Lady M was not long out of her winceyettes and still tucking into her morning kedgeree, we chatted for a while about the usual stuff: fennel versus celeriac, thermals, Freddie Mercury.
Now a plan of attack. Potatoes needed to be chitted, bare-rooted herbaceous plants were desperate to be potted up and then of course tomato seed had to be sown. At this point Lady M gave me one of her looks which I translated as “can you do it for me?”. This is a special tomato, the wonderful giant orange that was gifted to me a few years ago and I am intent on keeping it going. Seed had been collected at great effort. Unfortunately the tomatoes were so delicious they were being scoffed before anyone remembered to save some seed. As I can never resist Lady M’s helpless look, I agreed to take them away with me, returning with plants at a later date. A small plastic bag containing a dozen seeds was handed to me, which I left on the table.
Boots on, outside and onwards with the tour. An errant snow flake wafted past my nose, then another. Her Ladyship and myself looked at each other and shouted “SNOW!” in a very unrefined manner. His Lordship poked his head out the door and said “It’s snowing Gill, you better head off home before the blizzard takes hold”. Really, there was no need to be facetious.
And that was it. The extent of the snowstorm. A more accurate description would be flurry-ette.
Which is just as well as we had a project to get on with. I do so love a project.
The compost bins were to be moved from one side of the orchard to the other and two new pear trees planted. Simple. Not really. Brexit negotiations seem straightforward compared to the heated altercation that went back and forth between The Lord and Lady. Form over function, function over form. Like a verbal ping pong match with flaming arrows. True to my nature, I hid in the greenhouse, which was just as well as, if the Saharan conditions were anything to go by, no one had watered for a while.
Then Slasher arrived. I tried to warn him, but it was too late, before he had time to turn and run he had joined the fray. The new bins had to be both usable and pretty. Easy. Except that Her Ladyship does not consider pallets to be pretty. That was a great shame as that was Plan A, and there was no Plan B. With the help of Slasher’s, up until now hidden, diplomatic skills a compromise was soon found. Before long four by twos, power tools and spirit levels had calmed the troubled waters. Work progressed without further ado.
Soon it was lunchtime, cheese and biscuits and rooibos for some, cheese and pickle sandwiches with a mug of tea for others. More chat, this time Emile Zola, skate parks and bargain hotel deals. Then I realised that something was wrong, something not as it should be. “Where is the tomato seed?”. Everyone looked at everyone else until in unison our stares rested upon Lord M. He instantly leapt up, did a double back somersault, landing at the bin. A rummage later, the prize was in hand, followed by a further confession “I couldn’t resist popping the bag before I threw it away”. The propagation diety must have been looking down on us, as by some miracle the seed were still in the (now popped) bag. Clutching them to my pounding breast I made a dash for it. Crackers, the lot of them.