“I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older.” Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room.
Well Gin, I’m not so sure.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love spring and all that it represents: new beginnings, fresh starts, a clean slate, budding life, flowers galore. But I love autumn too, and winter and summer. I’m not so sure I could choose a favourite season now. As a child, and possibly up until the last five years or so, summer was the outright winner for me. I still love it but, unlike Virginia, as I get older, I’m appreciating the diversity of the seasons and the qualities that each brings to our lives, experiences and senses. I love all of the seasons.
Aquilegia (left) and Irises (right), spring flowers, in bloom now
Cosmos flowering in Summer 2012/13
Chrysanthemum, in flower Autumn (May) 2013
Daffodil Erlicheer, flowered in Winter (July and August) 2013
Although, having said that, last autumn verged on being a let-down. It was too warm. Many of the leaves that normally colour-up in autumn remained green before turning a reddish brown and then finally dropping. We have an ornamental pear tree in our front garden which has bulging spring buds on it whilst last year’s foliage is still attached. Many of the leaves just never dropped. They never turned the deep orange, red and burgundy colours promised on the label. The tree never lost all its leaves to reveal a ghostly wintery sculpture. It just didn’t get cold enough. The pear looked puzzled and confused, all winter.
Winter was generally disappointing (if you enjoy crisp cold days, warm scarves and hats and a raging fire). It didn’t get really cold and I’m sure we didn’t use our fire as much as we did last winter. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, maximum winter temperatures were the second-warmest on record for this sun-burnt country. Around us, the vegetation was clearly befuddled and dazed. It still is.
The wisteria flowered early and not for long. The peach tree in our house garden is laden with new, bright green growth but it’s still heavy with last season’s leaves. It doesn’t know if it’s Arthur or Martha. Yesterday it was 37 degrees and the entire garden presumed spring was over just as it had started.
The other thing that has made me question spring this time ’round, is that during a period of new life and birth, we lost Boo this week. Boo was one of our Boer goats, the smallest of all of them. When he was young he had a bad case of worms and, as a result, his growth was stunted. He was a gentle, affectionate, sweet goat. He wasn’t my favourite, Richie is (is it OK to have a favourite in the goat herd?), but he came a very close second.
We headed off for a camping trip last weekend and on our way out, we noticed that Boo was down in the paddock. Not just lying down resting but flat-out in a ‘dead goat’ kind of position. Unusual. I ran over to him, relieved to find that he lifted his head when I called his name. I lifted him up and immediately noticed he had a lame back leg. Hubs and I both suspected a broken leg as it was completely lifeless but his other three legs seemed fine. We carried him to the stable so he was isolated and safe, and left him with water and feed. We were only camping for one night so we figured we’d make a decision about him when we returned, see if the leg had improved.
It didn’t. When we got home, Boo was unable to stand at all, even with my help. I felt stupid for having thought it was a broken leg and I began searching for a paralysis tick. I found nine. I removed them all. Poor Boo was chock-full with tick poison. As he was still eating and drinking I held out hope, but not much. I stayed with him for some time, comforting and stroking him, apologising that I hadn’t been more attentive.
The next morning, he lay on the straw in the stable, still and silent. He was warm and soft so he must have died a matter of minutes before I got to him. I tried to close his eyes, like they do in the movies, but they wouldn’t shut. Instead, I closed mine and held my hand to his belly, a tear trickled down my face, and I hoped his night had not been too painful.
A tough farmer I will never make.
Otherwise, this spring is warm and full of hope of a hot, sunny and fun-filled summer. Some rain in that equation would also be wonderful, as the paddocks are parched and the steers look hungry. We’re hand feeding the rest of the goats and have boosted the amount of sulphur in their diet. Apparently increased sulphur helps repel the ticks. The other goats are also bigger and stronger than Boo was, but we’re keeping a close eye on them nonetheless.
And I’m watching the buds in the garden too. Each day something new has opened, a new flower or bright green leaves on the Crepe Myrtle. Spring is such a happy time and it’s so exciting when you’re watching your new garden grow.
As Audrey Hepburn once said, “to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”