signs of spring

The Met Office would have us believe that spring started on 1st March, while astronomers say that it starts on the 20th March – the spring equinox. Although it doesn’t seem as if winter has blown out just yet, it’s good to see the back of February with its grey, wet days. In this first week of March, the skies have been blue and the sun has been shining, even if it is still frosty and cold in the morning.  Yesterday, I spotted two men in shorts wandering around town, which surely must be one of the first signs of spring.

Here’s five more signs that spring really is on its way.

duck eggs and hen eggs

1  Eggs, eggs and more eggs. Last month I was getting one egg every couple of days from my solitary hen but this month my new hens are laying every day and the ducks have started to lay as well, a sure sign of spring. I shall spare you a photo of the other spring activity of ducks.

2  It gets dark later each day and it seems the lengthening of the days speeds up in March.  In December, the ducks come to the kitchen window just after three o’clock demanding that I feed them but now I don’t go out until well after five to shut them away for the night.

primrose in spring

3  The primulas in the garden and the primroses on the banks of the ditches around the fields are just starting to flower and soon the banks will be a mass of colour. The snowdrops and crocuses under the apple trees have been flowering for a while and the sunshine has encouraged the first of the daffodils to trumpet their arrival. I’m not a great lover of daffodils. I’d rather see pale yellow primroses or butter yellow cowslips than the vulgar, brassy daffodil.


spring sunshine

4  Sunshine streaming through the windows. Morris the fox terrier moves around the house through the day, squeezing himself into the smallest patch of sunshine where it hits the floor. I see the dirt on the windows highlighted by the sunshine and quickly turn away.


5  Catkins dancing in the wind, waiting for their pollen to be blown to a waiting female bud, against a brilliant blue sky.

I’m tiring of winter now and longing for spring. And immensely grateful that we have such distinct seasons.

What about your part of the world? Are you still surrounded by snow or has spring arrived? Maybe you’re slipping into autumn. Do tell.


spring has sprung

primrose polyanthus violets

It seems that spring has sprung. Trees are bursting into leaf, there’s a froth of early blossom in the hedgerow and the grassy banks of the ditches are a covered with violets, primroses and cowslips.

In Grove Field, the land has been pulled down and the beans have been drilled and rolled in. I love it when we have beans growing near the house as the scent of the flowers is wonderful. These field beans look like broad beans as they grow, but instead of being picked green, they’re left on the plant to dry out. When the stalk is black and everyone thinks that we farmers have gone mad and left the crop for too long, the beans are dry enough to harvest with the combine. Our field beans are used for animal feed or exported to the Middle East for human consumption. Sometimes, I pinch a few to make a bean and tomato dish that we eat with a fried egg.

While work on the land is going full tilt, the outside landscaping around The Barley Barn has become a frustrating exercise in balancing the constraints of an old building with the regulations concerning public access.  Decisions can no longer be made on aesthetic merit or practicality but have to be referred to the “manual”. Railings have to be erected to cover the actions of the stupid, paving installed for  visually impaired visitors, ramps built for physically disabled people, everything measured to the millimetre, checked and rechecked to make sure we have it all exactly right before the official inspections by various authorities. Obviously, we want to provide safe and inclusive access, it’s just very time consuming making sure we comply with every last rule and pushes the finish time back further.

rose jelly in mould

As ever, I work out my problems by taking a long walk and making something frivolous in the kitchen. This week it seemed appropriate to celebrate with a spring like jelly because somehow, jelly is the thing for spring. It’s easily made by adding dissolved leaf gelatine to diluted rose syrup and then adding the juice of a lemon to the amber liquid, taking the edge off the sweetness and miraculously turning it a vibrant pink. Similarly, the violet liqueur that I make soon turns a slightly browner shade of violet than is desirable, but squeeze in some lime or lemon juice and it takes on the hue of methylated spirits (but thankfully not the smell). The jelly is made in layers, with a few primrose and polyanthus petals encased between each layer.

rose jelly

With a spoonful of sweetness, a few pretty flowers and spring sunshine, life’s not bad.

spring is on its way

This hawthorn tree seems to sum up early March with new buds just waiting to burst into leaf while the berry from last year still hangs on the branch.

It seemed that spring had arrived last week with warm sunshine and clear days and the tractors were out working in the fields. Then we had sleet on Sunday. Wind and rain on Monday.

spring buds

But there are so many plants coming into bud or pushing their way through the debris of fallen autumn leaves that spring really must be on its way.  In the yard the cockerel dances and flaps before his harem of hens while the ducks coquettishly dip their heads as they follow the drakes to the pond, only to be mercilessly ducked and held down by the drake as soon as they reach the water. We’re down to the last of the leeks in the vegetable garden and there are seed packets waiting to be opened for the next crop of vegetables. Even the sun is trying to shine this morning.