Haven't done anything exciting today though the weather was lovely and the swallows are back...well, there are only two at the moment, but they are already swooping in and out of the biggest barn. Sometimes they repair last year's nest and sometimes they build a new one from scratch...I suppose it depends on how tatty last years has become over the winter months...
Paddy couldn't come as arranged 'cos he has gone down with a sickness bug which his little boy brought home from nursery school...he's expecting to be well enough to come on Monday so that's alright. Himself brought the two big lads back from Annie's land yesterday because it's easier for their feet to be done while they are standing on the concrete yard...Annie's land was once a garden a long time ago, but now it's rushes and small bushes and is altogether wrecked.
It's only three weeks now until Teresa and Reuben come home for a week...and four weeks before my errant brother comes. I had the shudders at the thought of them being here together but brother comes after T and Ole Shitlegs have gone back. They'd all get on...whatever else my brother is, he is easy to get on with and can be very funny...but we'd be a bit cramped when it came to eating a meal...
Haven't looked up much today because it was so nice I was pootling about outside but I did find a man who was described as a 'lighterman' which I thought meant he went round lighting the street lamps at dusk...not so though. Lightermen worked on the barges which sailed out to the ships which had dropped anchor just out of a port and collected the goods they'd brought. The barges were called 'lighters' hence the term lighterman.
And a couple, who ended their days in a Workhouse, adopted a little girl when she was two...it has infuriated me not being able to track down any record of her birth but it could be she came from an orphanage and was never properly recorded. By the time the old couple entered the Workhouse, she would have been an adult, so I hope with a little more searching I find she married and had children of her own. The Workhouse they went to live in was newly built and seems to have been like a fore-runner of today's old people's homes rather than one of the grim institutions which preceded it.
Another distant relative was a market gardener...he died in 1847...I'd love to know what he grew and if he sold his veggies from the door as it were or perhaps he supplied shops.
One of the old books I have dates back to 1724 and is a gardening book...and much would be applicable today...there is advice on how to grow apricots and peaches and figs on the south facing walls of the enclosed fruit garden...how to mulch the beds in the vegetable garden and to make sure the bamboo canes were tall enough to support the weight of the sweet peas grown for the house...it was written by a man who was the Head Gardener for a titled family...but I looked the book up on Google and he was fibbing apparently...he could neither read nor write so he had another more literate person write the book for him...not that it matters. It was his knowledge he was imparting after all...
Each chapter ends with advice on what flowers ought to be available for the house every month...during the winter months they were using foliage from the more exotic plants in the glasshouses...it's interesting to read that they were also forcing spring bulbs in the same way we do and delivering them to the house in bowls and planters...
He had twenty men working under him...some were lads whose sole job was to collect the manure from the stables everyday to load onto the garden compost heap. Another boy spent his days raking the gravel pathways to keep them clear of weeds...
I've just thought of a place in Norfolk, England you gardeners and plant lovers would simply dribble over...it's called Elsing Hall and is desperately old and beautiful and the gardens open once a year to visitors. It is just...to die for. All the separate gardens are enclosed with high stone walls...vegetables in one...cut flowers in another and so on...and every wall is draped with ancient fruit trees...and there is a beautiful river too...the banks are clothed in rushes and bulrushes and the water is home to swans and ducks and moorhens...
There are even the original rhubarb forcing pots in situ over the rhubarb and ornate glass cloches protecting the delicate plants...and along one wall are the old potting sheds...disused now, but you can peer through the cobwebbed windows at neat stacks of clay pots and wooden benches where the work was done.
Whenever I look through the old gardening book, I think of Elsing Hall and how it must have been in its heyday...there was surely a head gardener just like Thomas Mawe, in his breeches and neatly curled wig, presiding over a huge staff of people employed to keep the big house supplied with fresh produce all the year round...
The natives are getting restless...time for me to begin opening cans of dead animals and to stir in the pasta curls...