Shhhh! The weather has been reasonably dry for nearly a week! Still overcast and with a fair old breeze, but our half acre of mud is beginning to look more like a garden-in-waiting. Perhaps it was the subtle turning of the year as we passed the vernal equinox, but a gentle pressure drove me outside, like a new leaf bud, keen to burst into the Spring air.
It was time to dig.
There's a small patch of earth at the front of the property, maybe 20m by 2m, which looked as if it would be a good place to start. An attainable goal, I reckoned, for muscles that had forgotten what they were for and, conveniently, couldn't remember how back-breakingly achy turning over soil can be.
They soon found out!
We were well aware that the soil we could see would be a thin veneer over what had been, until recently, a building site. Sure enough, I began to unearth plenty of stones, so began to construct a cairn in the corner of the hard standing. The odd breeze block and kerb stone appeared, along with various bits of twisted metal. However, the predominantly, and overwhelmingly, main constituent of this garden is Dock, Rumex obtusifolius. This is a perennial weed with a deep tap root, so a long and uphill struggle (even on the flat bits) awaits me. It's not all bad news, as the leaves of the Dock are a useful tool in the natural First Aid kit against the stings of Common Nettle, Urtica dioica, which often grows in similar habitats.
So far, I have dug about a third of this small area, in short bursts of energy punctuated by vociferous complaints from my back. I have filled about six compost bags with Dock roots and made a decent start on the cairn.
Recently, whilst on the internet, I discovered this photo of the garden, taken by Google Street View in 2009. Apart from realising that our 'new' home has been in existence, almost complete but empty, for five years, the other shock is the sheer amount of Docks present. And then some, allowing for another five years' spread!
The area behind the house is now populated by another four homes.
I wouldn't wish to give the impression that I spend an inordinate amount of time surfing the web, but today I quite coincidentally came across another blog, also written in Orkney, whose subject was Docks, or Dochans as they are known up here. It features some poems written about Dock, although I must admit that my feelings towards this plant haven't quite risen to the heights of rhyming self expression.
For those readers who are sharper than the average nettle sting, the previous blog in that series can be found here.