That dog of mine remains insistent on his need for regular exercise. A walk is pleasant but Monty needs to put in the miles.
As an ex-working collie sheepdog, you expect him to be full of energy. He comes from a race famed for their speed and stamina. They live to work. Mystique is shattered, however, when you realise we acquired him, not with a dog licence but a P45 as he was sacked from his previous job for being lazy. As the farmer put it “He’s not got much drive!” A lover of his bed, he can’t be bothered to greet me when I come down in the morning.
That changes when I haul on my ill-fitting, tasteless cycling gear for our morning jaunt. He stretches and starts pacing, ready for the off. With most of the world asleep, we drive up to the canal for our morning constitutional. It must be the most exposed section of canal in Britain and, for the last few months, it has been with gritted teeth I have faced the icy blasts.
It was with a sense of resignation I set out last Sunday into a day characterised by gusty winds. I grimaced, puffed and panted as I pedalled into the headwind, while Monty ran ahead. But this time things were different. As we clocked up the miles Monty kept stopping for a drink, and in a moment of impulsiveness leapt into the canal for a dip.
It was then it struck me: he was hot. Although still windy, there was no longer that feel of winter. The chilliness in the wind had gone. The daffs were at last in flower. In the fields, lambs were playing while lapwings (peewits) fluttered and I fancied I spotted a curlew.
Back home, the frogs, after two months sitting with their legs crossed, were cavorting in the pond, while the koi were hunting for food. In the shrub border the first yellow flowers of the Forsythia have appeared with the lilac (Syringa) on the point of bud burst. Here and there around town the tiny pink blossoms of the purple-leaved plum trees (Prunus ‘Pissardii’) and flowering currant have arrived. This is it. This is spring!
I found myself motivated to get out in the garden and do a little tidying. Once out there I realised this late start means there is loads to do. Roses to prune, clematis to tidy, rhododendrons to mulch, fruit trees to feed, vegetables to sow and more. This week I intend planting potatoes, sowing carrots, parsnip and beet, replacing strawberry plants and maybe take the lawnmower out for a walk.
Best of all though is, rain or shine, I will be planting tomatoes in my greenhouse. I no longer use grow-bags as I find I get far better results growing them in big tubs in a blend of multipurpose compost and John Innes. I train them up spiral supports fixed to the greenhouse roof. I grow a range of types and can’t resist trying “just one more variety”, but my main crop comes from the F1 hybrid variety Shirley which (like me) has few vices.
It is at this moment I remember why I do this job. Hard physical graft and long days, but it remains a labour of love and, in case you were wondering, with these longer days there is still time to take Monty for a run…not that he’d let me forget!