by Patrick Vickery
Patrick Vickery lives in the Scottish Highlands and runs a small hardy perennial nursery (part-time). Patrick is also a part-time garden writer, and part-time special needs teacher.
Married to Liz, they have three children, two goats, two dogs, an assortment of small animals, and lives in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world.
Patrick gardens using a raised bed system and all, of course, chemically free - a chemical free zone!
Visit his blog
His first book was published in January 2002 by Capall Bann Publishers, UK:-
"In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden" (ISBN: 186163 1480)
Also visit his website at www.patrickvickery.com
At this time of year gardening can be a bit of a challenge. Despite this it can also be invigorating to dig a vegetable plot in the rain, hoe a flower bed in a gale or prune shrubs in a blizzard as long as you have the clothing to keep you warm and dry.
My wife knitted me a woolly hat recently which is ideal for temperatures below freezing. The wool is chunky as befits a man with a chunky head and was bought from the Kirriemuir wool shop. We had a holiday near Kirriemuir before Christmas, you see, an unusual place for a holiday perhaps, but well-worth a visit, particularly the excellent Kirriemiur wool shop. No doubt there are other equally fascinating tourist attractions in Angus. I must investigate further. Chunky, by the way, is a bona fide technical term used by the knitting fraternity. And in addition to chunky you can buy super chunky as well!
Anyway, when I'm not gardening in sub-zero temperatures or enjoying the delights of the Angus countryside, I enjoy a winter bonfire. It's freezing outside, my breath is visible and I relish the thought of setting fire to large quantities of combustible material in the goat paddock (just a large fenced off area for the goats really, only paddock sounds better, don't you think?). The two goats, 'Pippin' (Lord of the Rings) and 'The Goat with No Name' (because he has no name) strip the bark from the combustibles (tree branches, woody hedge clippings, that sort of thing) and the remains are burnt with the resulting ash scattered around the base of the garden shrubs to promote vigorous growth next year.
I had a bonfire last week - and a bit of a disaster it was too. I put the firelighters down for a moment to light the fire and heard a crunching noise behind me as the flames took hold. The unused firelighters, ten in all, had been eaten by the goats. The potential for a flammable incident in the vicinity of their rear ends was a frightening possibility. Goats have four stomachs, you know. Well, near enough anyway. So I retrieved what was left of the empty packet and scanned it for ingredients. Nothing listed. Not ordinarily a food item. However, I did manage to read "Better Fire Lighting Every Time" and "Energy Granules" in bold print on a fragment of chewed card as I pranced between bonfire and goats in an attempt to keep them separate.
Goats in general - and ours in particular - enjoy a spot of prancing. This is an invitation to play which involves standing on your back legs (goat) and head butting the prancer (me). I don't normally get butted, only today was an exception to the rule, so I called for reinforcements. The goats were removed to a place of safety and no exploding incident was forthcoming.
On the topic of exploding goats I had a conversation with 'The Man with No Name' recently (he does have a name actually, only I'm not saying who he is) as we pruned trees in his garden. His pond had been raided by a heron, he told me, and his fish had been snatched, so we conjectured whether dummy fish packed with high explosives might be an option for the future. That would sort the blighter out. But where do you get hold of explosives? Might we be prosecuted for blowing up herons? At this impasse the conversation moved seamlessly on to exploding golf balls. He had been gifted these for Christmas. I wanted to ask him what sort of character had gifted him exploding golf balls for Christmas, only his wife called him in for lunch so the answer remains shrouded in mystery.
On this explosive note I wish you a calm and non-explosive 2011. For my part I shall be content to sit by the fire, read a book and forego the challenges of the weather for another few weeks whilst eagerly anticipating the arrival of Spring.