Is it spring yet? Oh, I hope so!

Like most of you, we’ve found this last winter a bit wearing. It’s not been too cold here – nothing like last year when the whole water system froze solid for a week. But it has been stormy, costing us five trees damaged or down in the wood. This is apart from the one damaged by a neighbour whilst taking a heavy hand to his own trees. And it has been wet! Rain, followed by more rain. Then fog and fine drizzle (“mizzle” in north-east parlance), with some heavy rain interspersed with showers. As a result we are surrounded by a sea of mud. Except for the overflowing pond of course. How we are longing for spring!

We’ve been watching this anxiously for several reasons. Firstly the damage to local infrastructure, especially the roads, is considerable. Most roads, small rural winding ones and supposedly main highways, are pitted with holes. The ground is saturated and the water runs off the surrounding land with nowhere to go except across the surface. Our little road, nicely resurfaced just over a year ago, is virtually impassable at one end now.

The loss of trees and undergrowth allowed water to sweep away a lot of the top layer and the heavy farm machinery has ripped large and deep holes in places. There are several areas where only a tractor can pass safely as the damage stretches over most of the road. Apparently it took over twenty years to get this half of the road repaired (the other half was not done but is in better shape now). I have little hope we will get any help with this given the desperate state of many other areas. We have one way in and out and drive very, very carefully at the moment.

Our other concern was getting some more trees planted in time. Apparently its okay to plant up to the end of March but once spring comes new saplings will struggle. With everything waterlogged we were not sure we’d be able to benefit from the clearing done in a dry few days last month. Still, you have to take a leap of faith sometimes so when Fergus our lovely tree man introduced us to Donal, a nurseryman, we decided to forge ahead. It took a bit of driving around to find the nursery but it was certainly worth it and we selected seven trees and some raspberry canes to start our new orchard. We were not willing to spray weed killer over the land, standard practise it seems. Instead Donal will return and rotavate round the trees before sowing “domestic” grass. Then it’s down to us to keep it trimmed.

March 1st is the official start of spring and the weather decided to celebrate this fact by giving us our first snow for a year. We were a bit worried about the baby trees but they’ve been raised outside and are just fine. We celebrated the arrival of spring by lighting the fire in the snug and staying in. I had a beautiful jigsaw for Christmas, the “Rainbow of Birds”, which kept me happily amused for several weeks.

I had some great news last week. The Northern Tibetan Spaniel Club are running a stand at Crufts this year and Scot Lemon asked if he could sell my book, “Puppy Brain”. Of course I said “Yes please!” I can’t sign them, obviously, but each copy comes with a signed picture (two of the dogs, not me) and a bookmark. If you are around on Thursday do drop in. There are some great items on sale and Scot is a fountain of knowledge for this lovely if tricky breed.

Finally I have a request to make. For a number of years I have worked with the remarkable Alex Lewczuk on a number of broadcasts both in Teesside and for Siren FM in Lincoln. The university hold the FM license and have decided to cancel it, effectively closing a valued educational resource and a popular community radio station. If you can would you add your name to the petition to save Siren Radio? It costs nothing and would be very much appreciated.

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you all again in a couple of weeks.
Keep warm, drive safely and here’s to spring!