Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Groundhog day

Yesterday was Groundhog Day, or Imbolc, or perhaps more commonly in this country, Candlemas – exactly half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, and traditionally a day for predicting the weather.

On Candlemas Day, if the thorns hang adrop, Then you can be sure of a good pea crop

Well, everything was certainly hanging adrop, but I don’t know about a good pea crop – every day I go down to the allotment it seems to be Groundhog Day; I dig up half a wheelbarrowload of weed roots, and the next time I go down, it’s exactly the same again. It’s all a bit dispiriting. But I suppose on the bright side, we’re halfway to Spring.

And it’s all so very muddy. The long frost has broken down the soil structure and made go a bit spongy, so it feels like there's gallons of water down there.

Still, the groundhog or the badger, or whatever it might be wouldn’t have stood a chance of seeing his shadow yesterday, so if the folklore is right, Spring is on its way and we can all start growing peas. Except we can’t, as John reminds me – it’s a waning moon.

* * *

I went up to Westonbirt in the afternoon with the Malmesbury Dog Walkers (you’d have thought I’d had enough mud for one day, but no...) Sally was there, and she has an allotment in Little Somerford, so I picked her brains about what to do about the endless quantities of subterranean marestail and bindweed root that seem to rear up overnight like some gardening version of the many-headed Hydra.

“The first thing to do is only dig over the bit you're actually going to grow things in - don’t bother with the rest, you’ll just find yourself fighting a losing battle,” she suggests quite sensibly. “You’ll never get rid of all the marestail – it's been around since the dinosaurs and survived the last ice age, so it's not going to worry too much about the odd bit being yanked out here and there.”

Already things are beginning to look up and I’m beginning to see some distant mirage of normal life forming hazily on the horizon, in between lengthy episodes of digging interspersed with muddy dog walks. I’ve lately begun to feel I’m in danger of developing an unhealthy relationship with my spade and I realise that I can't actually name many people in the village that haven't either got a dog or an allotment. Except for Adam and Cheryl, who I’m always popping round to borrow things from or ask to borrow the spare keys because I’ve forgotten to take mine down to the allotment with me.

“And if you can manage to get down there for about an hour every other day, you should soon find yourself keeping on top of it”

“Blimey!” says Fiona, who hasn't got an allotment. “It’s like being out on a walk with a couple of seventy-year old blokes!”

Not that I have have anything against seventy year-old blokes. In fact I can count several among my best friends.

Mind you, I suppose I have met most of them down on the allotments.

* * *

...and for badger lovers, here's a little clip taken by our neighbours in the snow. (See, Adam – I’m not the only one who comes round on the scrounge...)


  1. Morning - you're on the same allotment track as me! A bit of digging and a bit of thinking. I have sown peas but in pots....have no clue what I'm doing as I've never grown them before.

  2. I've always thought I'd like to meet a groundhog. Here it is 'Chandeleur', a day when crepes are made and eaten in great profusion.

  3. ''s been around since the dinosaurs and survived the last ice age...' Hmm, put like that, what chance have you got? And an hour a day would certainly feel like groundhog day to me! Well done you for dreaming of peas whilst surrounded by mud!