I started this post parked in a very chilly kitchen tasked with ensuring the Aga man was greeted, encoffulated and then held prisoner until our ancient reconditioned Aga is relit. Outside the sun was shining merrily but the kitchen was glacial. The Aga was part of the house when we bought it, and old and knackered then. We thought at the time of replacing it but the astronomical cost of a new one and the rebuilding required to extract it from its nook was all too much. It is now a much loved pet. Deeply inefficient, none of the ovens are at the designated Aga recipe book temperatures, we have come to know and love its little ways. The baking oven is perfect for slow cooking. A quick blast on the top shelf in the roasting oven substitutes for ages under the grill. If something fikey is needed we have the electric job (though that has its own demerits) but for something toasty in a hurry, and a place to warm your bum after a frosty walk, it is incomparable. Thankfully, after an emergency run to the shop for rolls and a pork pie, Keith phoned the aforesaid Aga man and told him we would be mucking about in the garden and to just let himself in and crack on. Relieved of my post, I promptly escaped into the relative warmth of the garden.
Apple tree pruning has started and Keith has the shredder going to dispose of the shorn twigs and branches. My role in the great orchard ecosystem is to weed over the garden beds and borders and mulch them with the shreddings. Lyra’s job is to sit, sphinx like, in the orchard, monitoring everyone’s progress and scanning the horizon for anything worth chasing.
The soil has defrosted, but is still horribly cold and clammy so, even begloved, I can only stand about an hour at a time winkling out the omnipresent buttercups and sticky Wullie before I have to break off and waggle my fingers back to life. Still, every little helps, so I gave it an hour and despatched a barrow load of shreddings. I was kept company throughout by a friendly robin and an extremely fat blackbird. There were tips of mystery bulbs poking through where I was working. I think this might be where I tipped the bulbs from the pots at the front of the house. Recycling tulip bulbs doesn’t always work, some varieties don’t seem to come back another year, but I always like to give them a chance.
I tipped my weedings into the compost bins as the light started to fade and headed back to the kitchen where the Aga man was sitting on the floor surrounded by rusty bits of Aga. He assured me that the old dear was still in fine fettle and would shortly be reassembled. She is, he thinks, about 60 or 65 and in reasonable nick for her age. I shall henceforth think of her as the Imelda Staunton of the kitchen.