Life on Pig Row: A spring rollercoaster

p22 Oldhams2013High on the Saddleworth hills, the Oldham family have created an inspiring kitchen garden which provides a wealth of rich flavours for the kitchen and larder. This column, written by Andrew and Carol, follows their journey throughout the year

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SPRING HAS been like being on a roller coaster. At the high points we have had days that have passed like summer fetes, all bunting, beer tents and laughter.

Then we have hurtled down into the dips, and on those days it has been like being part of Captain Scott’s ill-fated polar expedition.

Any sign of spring blown to the far corners of the world by the sky pushing our home into the very bedrock of the hill.

It has been so cold that working outside has been exhausting. We have been in the garden, going back and forth from shirt sleeves to scarves around our necks, our knees chattering, our feet longing for more weather appropriate shoes; dreams of thermal wellies.

Then the sun pops out, the north wind vanishes and our jumpers linger at the edge of a vegetable bed; thick jumper arms unwilling to be folded and forgotten.

Winter is having the same problem – it just won’t give up. We run into the greenhouse as the rain turns to hailstone and then back to sun all in the space it takes for us to put the jumpers back on.

When the sun shines, life on Pig Row is a little easier but when snow falls it knocks a job on the head and then you have to trudge indoors in a damp jumper. Late cold is the worst, it bites at the ankles of new plants.

Last week as the night temperature plummeted we dived into our over full, over flowing, still collapsing shed to find the paraffin heater for the greenhouse. We needed it to protect our seedlings, we cosseted them in fleece and cranked up the heat.

In the house we have windowsills full of tomatoes and dahlias, and we are torn between lighting the fire, putting the heating on or just putting a dry jumper on.

This is the type of month you never can tell what the weather will do next. Forget the weather forecast; they can’t even tell you where the North is.

So, our usual slide into sowing beans, peas and pumpkins has been delayed by all this unwanted nonsense. We dream of sowing, of getting out to clear the ground and putting our jumpers away but the compost remains stacked, the ground empty waiting for its first sowing, forlorn in stubborn frost.


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