It was midday and I had been inside all morning doing catch-up chores - fascinating things like washing up pots and pans, unloading the dishwasher, replying to texts, making beds, tidying rooms and doing the laundry. Too tedious for words really, though essential to the smooth running of a busy household, more's the pity. The sun was out and the garden was calling me. I had blackcurrants to plant, after all.
I told you, didn't I, that I'd embarked on a gardening course in September? It's a City & Guilds course in Practical Gardening which has numerous modules running over a two year period. So every Wednesday I get in my car and drive an hour and a half down to Reaseheath College in Cheshire and leave my world of dirty socks and pants behind. I'm studying with a great bunch of like-minded people and I always come home tired but inspired.
Last week we had to prune established blackcurrant bushes and then go and prepare a trench in which we were to plant loads of new young blackcurrants. Digging over grass and weed-covered alluvial soil, with a certain amount of clay content, after the winter rains was no easy task. It made me appreciate all the more the beautiful loamy soil I am blessed with in my own garden - so very fertile and so much easier to work. Still, it was a job well done and we finished with a fine row of bushes which we then pruned right down to encourage them to produce vigourous new growth which will produce fruits on the new wood in just over a year's time.
We have been studying fruit growing this term among other things - top fruit (apples, pears, plums etc) and soft fruit. It has been marvellous to learn things in the classroom that perhaps I didn't know before and, armed with that new knowledge, stride confidently up to the top of my garden where my own little collection of fruit grows.
Now, as you will rightly observe, I am hardly in the best neck of the woods for prolific fruit production. The High Peak, with its relentless winds and rain, does not boast bucolic fields of orchards and bountiful fruit farms urging you to 'pick your own' as I grew up with in the gentler climes of Sussex, located as it is in the south-east corner of our blessed isle. Compared to here, the south-east seems positively Mediterranean to me these days. But, as I have learned, many cultivars of blackcurrants and raspberries have been developed up in the Scottish highlands and lowlands (known, respectively as the Bens and the Glens) and, therefore, have become suitably acclimatised to these sturdier northern temperatures.
And so it is, as I head up to my inherited fruit garden (in fact just a casual patch hemmed in by drystone wall, rhododendron and greenhouse), that I am lucky to be able to play with blackcurrants, raspberries and gooseberries. (Truth to tell, I moved the gooseberries - they were originally located in a large but ramshackle border near the house and, while trying to develop it, I tired of snagging my cardi on their vicious little thorns.)
But you know, I have to go and get the children now and buy a pruning saw while I am at it (no connection intended), so I shall finish this story tomorrow.