Spring is finally here in March 2022, the bulbs we planted previously, light up the dark green corners, show their many different colours, waft their varied flowery scents on the gentle cool breeze, attracting a myriad of early buzzing bees after their own long slumber. Gosh, this descriptive prose is difficult, I’m going back to my less flowery, usual style. I really love spring when its finally getting lighter, warmer and we can get on with things outside after a winter huddled by the fire. There seems to be so much to do in spring after we emerge from our retreat and a very necessary rest. Tree planting is my particular favourite at this time of year, a replenishment after all the wood chopping and burning of the previous winter.

We planted 4 small fruit trees this week, 2 cherries, a plum and a coxes orange pippin apple, in a new area of land, cleared and landscaped to mainly facilitate better drainage, parking and turning of cars outside our little house. After 10 months deliberating about the disruption a digger would cause, we decided it was worth it to solve the problems of the previous 10 years. We got a local man with a digger in to remove all the tumbled stone from the old barn, soon to be a new workshop/studio. We also got him to dump the combined mix of earth, rocks and undergrowth in a big heap ready for leveling by hand to create the new parking plot above the drainage channel. It took one skilled man and his machine 2 hours to do what would take us about 2 months. His digger buckets can be seen in the background of the above picture, they are about the size of our small car. Ann built a new dry-stone retaining wall with some of the better stone. The start of this can be seen in the foreground. Thanks to my Irish roots, I helped flatten the new area by hand with a pick, shovel and a rake. When we stood back and looked at all our efforts we both thought it looked much tidier but very bare. Some trees and plants were needed even if it made the car parking slightly more difficult. I wanted something with spring blossom, which I love, so why not fruit trees.

Ann took charge of the lavender, rockery plants, and pots in a newly created bed to cover the drainage pipework and I tackled what I thought was the easier job of digging some small holes for the new trees. We had hoped to get them from a good old fashioned market stall in Villefranche but fell back on Aldi when the stallholders didn’t show. The trees are a little neglected but we treat them like timid rescue dogs and imagine them being re-homed with us after being previously mistreated by an uncaring corporate owner. My conscience eased, I then dig the holes on our newly compacted rock filled car park with much less ease and cart barrows of soil from elsewhere to refill the holes. Throwing some grain in the hole bottoms, a practical and spiritual gesture, the previously clingfilm wrapped roots are released to rest atop of the soon to sprout grain, surrounded by some dark well rotted compost. I feel they are happy in their new home.

Substantial stakes, of tubular aluminium, rescued on their way to the tip provide luxurious support to our new fruity friends. We feel this is far better use of these poles than holding up a weather-beaten nylon fence around a chlorine filled pool of some very good but considerably wealthier friends of ours. Just to make it clear we didn’t steal these poles. Our friends have swapped to a saltwater pool now, which is much better, remodeled to incorporate easier steps and an alarm, so hence, no need for the previous fence, or poles. They are lovely people and always give me first refusal on things they may considering releasing to the local landfill and recycling centre. Sadly, as Ann knows, I’m a dreadful hoarder. In one sense I know the poles will ultimately be recycled after being sorted and smelted but to me it seems simpler to reuse such things closer to home if I can, than send them all the way to China. So, I am slowly finding different uses for 38 black painted poles at our place. Two of them went to another friend to make a water-polo net over another pool. We don’t have a pool but have many friends who do, even some with a natural swimming pond and its perfect to have friends like these especially in Summer.

The trees are now in and well watered, but there’s still an annoying bare patch, so another tree another day, perhaps, this year or next. The good thing about trees is that we can really never,ever plant enough. I think, globally we humans chop down about 2 fully grown trees every year for each person on the planet, about 14 billion beautiful, majestic, enormous pairs of green lungs, which were until that point, helping us and our grandchildren breathe. So my simplistic reasoning is I should plant at least 2 trees every year, just to do my bit, more if space and funds allow. There was a time Ann and I planted many more each year on a wet, windswept northern moor back in the UK but we then had 12 acres to fill. At least here the planting conditions are more favourable to us older humans if sometimes a little dry for the younger saplings. More trees, this is the sort of growth we want.

Spring, I really do love it, so much potential being shown by everything in nature. At this moment within the global non-natural systems there seems somewhat less environmental potential in spring 2022, although politically we are told things are looking up, now the pandemic is over. Growth, growth, growth, maybe of the wrong sort, the stockmarket is looking good. A global system that works mainly in favour of economic outputs can’t seem to ever afford a season of retreat like winter so the system requires permanent spring or preferably a never ending summer. Winter season and even Autumn, like an impossible debt we owe, is put off well into the future while we try to keep the economic Summer sun shining all the time. More economic growth will sort it out, we humans say, even if this means another war against the latest tyrant we have found to blame. Maybe economic growth, including military spending, really does raise all the boats, large and small. I tearfully disagree as poor migrants drown and the wealthy nations continue to fight over oil, gas and money.

Perhaps in this current economic system of ours, which we humans created, we could do with a voluntary autumn and a winter once in a while, a time for retreat and reflection for leaves to fall and maybe even some snow. Maybe winter is underrated and spring overrated. Perhaps it is a moment to stop this endless quest for growth for a while, to pause and think about how nature looks after itself and how it really looks after us. Can we, together with nature, create this new system, perhaps we can try, this year, or perhaps next?