Archive for October, 2010

The last bean

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

I posted a picture of the first bean of summer on 11th July, and now –just over fourteen weeks later and with nostalgic regret – I’m posting a photo of the last of the crop.

We’ve had a terrific bean season this year. The weather’s been just right to bring them on, and a kind fellow-gardener encouraged them along further when we were away in Italy. We’ve done very well. But now the days are suddenly growing cold and so the vines won’t produce any more new ones. I don’t believe that any of the tiny beans left will grow or ripen any further. It’s over, folks, until next year.

I don’t know what made this last bean grow in a corkscrew, but it was hanging quite close to the ground so maybe it was fear of the rampaging corn-eating squirrel.

Tuesday poem – Thanks

Monday, October 18th, 2010

THANKS by W. S. Merwin


with the night falling we are saying thank you

we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings

we are running out of the glass rooms

with our mouths full of food to look at the sky

and say thank you

we are standing by the water thanking it

smiling by the windows looking out

in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging

after funerals we are saying thank you

after the news of the dead

whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you

in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators

remembering wars and the police at the door

and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you

in the banks we are saying thank you

in the faces of the officials and the rich

and of all who will never change

we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us

our lost feelings we are saying thank you

with the forests falling faster than the minutes

of our lives we are saying thank you

with the words going out like cells of a brain

with the cities growing over us

we are saying thank you faster and faster

with nobody listening we are saying thank you

we are saying thank you and waving

dark though it is

What an extraordinary poem this is: it starts off filled with skip and bounce, and by the end has transformed into a Stevie Smith-style ‘drowning not waving’ howl. I don’t know Merwin’s work at all well, but I made a mental note to find out more when I read that he’d been appointed as the current American Poet Laureate. And I’m glad that I did.

Thirteen, ten, ten

Friday, October 15th, 2010

A letter in this morning’s Guardian pointed out the synchronicity between the number of miners trapped in the San Jose mine in Chile, and the date on which they were rescued; 13 plus 10 plus 10 equals 33. I don’t go in for numerology but I admit this coincidence has a pleasing neatness: another aspect of this extraordinary story to produce yet another smile.

Other aspects of the San Jose story interest me more. Who, outside Chile, knew the names of 33 of their miners before this? Now we’ve seen photos of all of them, we’ve watched them emerge from entombment and we’ve celebrated their release (sales of Chilean wine in the UK have apparently skyrocketed). We’ve marvelled at the modern technology and the skills of those who engineered it. Somehow the world seems smaller, kinder and braver than before, and whole lot more resourceful. It’s been a while since we all shared such a glorious good-news story.

But maybe, just maybe, we might remember other stuff – like the appalling, unconscionable risks miners still have to take, even in our techno post-modern world.  And I found myself humming an old union song this week about a mining community in the USA. (Do any of you also know the words to “Harlan County”?)

How is it possible that such dangers persist?

It takes only one squirrel

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

While we were in Italy one bold squirrel ate all our sweetcorn. Every single cob on every single plant. Our friends at the gardens tried to tuck the net we’d left more firmly around the plants, but the squirrel just laughed as it pushed the net aside and grabbed another mouthful. Pawful. Whatever. We’d probably need a metal cage to protect the plants while they grow, rather than the right-on, ecologically-viable, recycled fabric net we were using.

The squirrel in question has been identified – it’s large (well it would be, wouldn’t it, after all that extra nourishment) with a particularly furry tail (ditto). And it is, it seems, not to be denied. Other gardeners have also had trouble with it – more sweetcorn devastation (obviously it’s developed a taste for that) and even, oh horrors, fresh pumpkin.

We’ll have to revise our planting plans if we’re going to be away in September again, I am absolutely not going to plant and nurture veggies just to feed the wildlife.

Does anyone know of a surefire, humane squirrel deterent?

No? I thought not.