Gardening in January is a miserable thing. Paths are muddy, soil is cold, and all those things you didn't cut down in the autumn so as to be wildlife friendly and which you hoped would stand whorled with frost against a low sun droop and drip sadly in a soggy, bedraggled tangle. All the talk about winter gardens and structure which you can ignore in the summer when your garden is flowering its socks off comes back to haunt you. Yes you do need the hardlandscaping and paths you can't find the time or money to sort out. Yes indeed, you should have more evergreens. I usually cope with January by staying inside by the stove. This year in particular I have been knitting.
I made a Moebius cowl, partly because I loved my first neck warmer so much and partly because I have always been fascinated by the Moebius strip which apparently has no beginning and no end. Actually knitting one was amazing. I still don't really understand how it works as you knit it on a doubled circular needle. It seems as if you cast on in what becomes the middle of the cowl and as you work the cowl becomes deeper and deeper, each new row adding to both the bottom and the top of the coil. Still no wiser? No, I wasn't either. I just followed the instructions with my mouth open in amazement.
Then I made a cable cowl which is probably my favourite of the three. It is very soft and warm and the cable pattern is deeply satisfying to knit. Both these patterns came from a fabulous website called ravelry If you are at all interested in knitting take a look. There is a vast selection of patterns and yarns to look at, many of the patterns are free, and it has transformed me from a clumsy knitter who had done nothing for twenty years or so into a person who can make things she actually wants to wear. The latest project is a cardigan for me, the first full size garment I have made since I was about sixteen when I laboured for months over a jumper which ended up so saggy and baggy that I nearly cried with disappointment and never wore it. When I am not knitting I have my fingers crossed about this latest endeavour. So far so good. If you never see a picture of it you will know it was another disaster.
But today I have worked in the garden, the first garden day of the new year. We are looking after our son's dog for a week so I had to take her for a walk this morning and that set me off feeling like being outside again. A well behaved dog is a good companion in the garden, lying peacefully alongside when I was cutting back hellebore leaves so you can see the newly emerging flowers, snuffling about in the field, occasionally disappearing off to check the corner of the field where the badgers come through or turning up hopefully with a stick for a quick game of retrieve. I cut back a lot of lank perennials and everything in the side garden at least looked better for it. There were places I didn't even get to and there was the usual rush of reminders of how very much there is to do out there but there were snowdrops pushing through and arum leaves gleaming in the weak sun.
I don't think there are as many snowdrops as usual this year although I haven't yet done my totally anal snowdrop count. I wonder if they dislike the milder winter we have had so far. Certainly last year when the hard December snow went huge clumps of them emerged in January although I didn't do my usual job of splitting the clumps to encourage them to spread. It was wonderful to find quite how much space I have for more bulbs in the new bed at the bottom of the field although I couldn't find any of the winter aconites I planted last year. Should they be out now?
I think I might be ready to go outside again.