Month eight starts with snow ends with a heatwave

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow // Dean Martin

A light dusting of snow on the allotments has then frozen over making the paths crunch underfoot. The sky is a solid fearfully cold blue which requires the wearing of many layers of clothing, with more in my bag. However the snow is deceptive and as the sun burns through the day warms up. I’m being interviewed for the Ham & High today and as we talk on Q8B we drink freshly brewed coffee and chocolate ginger biscuits laid out on a tablecloth of ice.

Wrapped up drawing in the cold

Wrapped up drawing in the cold

After the interview I’m left on my own and carry on drawing as the sound of ice cracking on corrugated plastic shed roofs accompanied by the constant dripping of melting snow, along with two magpies squawking. As soon as the sun disappears the temperature drops I realise my feet becoming very cold and I make a hasty retreat to my warm home.

….

As I arrive today the wind brings a cold twist tucked inside it which holds on to your ears, nose and fingertips after the powerful wind has passed on. 

But between the swirls of this mischievous petulant wind which catches the clouds, the sunshine bursts through on J4B. This on/off winter sun is difficult to work with as shadows come and go not only on the ground but also on my paper.

(This video is shot at six times the normal speed, with constantly changing light levels)

This plot is exposed so there’s no hiding from the wind when it comes, no shed to befriend its lee side. I am so wrapped up it takes a few minutes to realise a there are some drops of rain. With no where to hide I hastily clear up and by the time I’m all packed away the wind has blown the rain somewhere else.

A useful pile of things for an allotment holder

A useful pile of things for an allotment holder

I’m battling today though, though a head cold and sitting in this spot is rather chilling so I head back to my writing spot at the rusty table elsewhere on the site. Making some notes and now out of the wind with a cup of tea, I feel less chilled continuing to write until the lack of light makes it impossible.

Walking slowly back on the dried leaves I tune into the sound of the birds. They are busy in conversation as the sky turns to dusk.

Finally I have to give up writing as the light falls away.

Finally I have to give up writing as the light falls away.

I’m late to the plots this afternoon but I manage to get on to F4, even if it does mean turning down the offer of tea from a plot I pass which is a shame. I aim to draw a large explosion of leaves but once again I’m caught up in the detail of an artichoke leaves and some dried seed heads. At this time of year instead of the summer’s vibrant colours everything is muted, soft greens, greys and silvers.

As I sit and draw in my quiet undisturbed world I become aware of the noises that surround me. 

No need for a hat or scarf today!

No need for a hat or scarf today!

I’ve become accustomed to working on my own and only seeing one of two people around each visit. However I’m aware this time work is going on all around. Someone to my left is hammering on their plot, someone to my right is pruning a fruit tree. Dogs are vying for attention in the houses that surround the plot (answered I think by a dog on the allotments) as magpies and parakeets shatter the soft air above.

Catkins

Catkins

As dusk starts to amble in it’s noticeably later and slower than previously visits. The dogs have all gone inside and quietened down, most people have left and it’s time for the quieter birds to be heard. 

Before I leave I sit having a last cup of tea from my flask and a wave of contentment settles over me. Although I have a small urban garden there is something special about the space of an allotment, for me this one is the countryside within a town, where the pace of life is no longer influenced by advertising and trend but where nature dictates.

Beautiful low light on the plots

Beautiful low light on the plots

It’s Valentine’s Day!

My heart of nature’s discarded leaves

My heart of nature’s discarded leaves

I arrive at the plots which are sparkling in glorious sunshine. It’s unseasonably warm and I can’t wait to draw. However I bump into a plot owner who invites me to join them for a coffee which is such a lovely sociable thing to do and I have time today so I agree. It turns out to be such a treat as they have many photographs of a previous tenant who I have heard so much about. The personality of Margaret and her friendships with people seem to have become part of the soil here and I have heard so much about this wonderful lady that when I am shown a video of her talking about the plots it is a treat to be able to put a voice to this wise and wonderful gardener.

I haul myself away from the lovely sunshine and chat to a plot where there’s a lovely mixture of new and old. A bucket of twigs and branches holds last season’s offerings but in the beds of winter flowering crocuses are a treat for bees and wasps enjoying the warmth and in another bed seedlings start to force their way through the ground.

There is always so much to draw on a plot, even in winter

There is always so much to draw on a plot, even in winter

I’m sitting near a tree with many bird feeders on it and there is a constant flow of small birds visiting, playing in the branches of the trees, their chatter like a playground of young children. What I think is a crow, appears for a while and finally makes its way down to a feeder, it’s not as elegant as the smaller birds but still somehow regal with its muted black feathers.

As I talk to one of the other plot holders there is a sudden rustling and charging through the plants on plot to our side and then a beautiful young fox appears seven or eight feet away. It literally glows in the low sunlight and then is gone, out of sight, so quickly I momentarily wonder if I imagined seeing it. There’s another fox nearby but it doesn’t appear, then the noises stop and their game of hide and seek is no longer close enough to hear. I head home wondering just how many foxes there are that visit this plot, is it just a playground when they aren’t rummaging though the food rubbish of nearby dustbins.

Winter Digging (a hand coloured linocut)

Winter Digging (a hand coloured linocut)

Today the sun is baking down, it’s like a warm spring day, bonfires are crackling as they get rid of unwanted waste, pruned twigs and branches, there are many plots being worked on, the allotments are alive with activity, but no one really believes that this good weather will last and everyone’s aware that a frost could still be lurking around the corner of March.

I have arrived with far too many layers and although I’m sitting still and drawing which usually means I get cold, today I’m finding really rather warm in the sunshine in my long sleeved t-shirt, how different from just three weeks ago. The plot I’m on today is close to a main path so I catch up with people as they head onto their plots and then on their way home. Someone has come to finish of a pond so that they can encourage frogs, which have appeared in some of the small ponds around the site. The sounds of chatter and laughter from the allotmenteers trickles over and I remember how busy summer was, it feels like years ago that I started this residency not just eight months.

As this pretend spring day gets ready for an early night the chill soon spreads over the ground. Appropriately for February as the sun sets the tree branches play with its shape and form a heart.

A heart shaped sunset in February

A heart shaped sunset in February