Strange Days Indeed, He Mused….

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Olivia Rose Austin

If it feels like absolutely ages since I last posted then you are quite right.  I have to confess at not being a particularly disciplined person, I have to be in the moment, in the mood to create.  When my headspace is not in a creative mood I just don’t seem to be able give myself a good talking to and get on with it.  So I guess that you will have to be patient and like me, wait for my brain to be in a compliant mode.  I’ve been at home for 4 weeks now due to a combination of factors not any of them Corona Virus related.  That in itself is strange in these surreal times.  There have been some major changes here in the Moosbach Garden, some personal and many with the garden, especially how we manage and develop it.

It has been 6 full years since we arrived and in gardening terms they have been very challenging, harsh winters and then very hot, dry summers.  As you would expect, these years have been dotted with successes and failures but that as they say, is the gardeners lot.  This is the first year that we have really noticed how much some shrubs and trees have grown, perhaps we have just been too busy to notice until now or is it because we are getting better at knowing our garden and it’s limitations?

So what has changed I hear you ask?  Well out of necessity there have been some role reversals, I have had to go and get a proper job, yes I know gardening is a proper and noble occupation but sometimes you have to be sensible.  For those of you who know me, sensible is not something that I have EVER embraced.  I still believe that running through a populated area with your arms outstretched like the wings of an aeroplane is liberating (very much frowned upon in Germany).  I am 52 this year and I intend to keep doing it until I die.  Embrace my uniqueness or move on, that what I say. Who wants normal, really?

When I lived in England my occupation was Information Technology and I did this for 35 years, I never went to college but learned on the job and got by through acquiring the necessary technical skills and by being able to talk to people.  When I came to live in Germany with my Partner, I gave up the corporate life as we had a guest house and restaurant.  We have lots of land so there were no limitations on garden size and most of the locals got used to my uniqueness, there were a few raised eyebrows and muttering about he’s from England but no drama.  For the first 5 years I fitted gardening around waiting on tables and we got a reputation for having a beautiful ‘English’ garden albeit a work in progress (what garden isn’t a work in progress I ask?)  I had always gardened as a hobby in England but now I had the space and the time to really give it a go and I did.  Monty Don and all of the experts say that gardening is extremely good for life balance and it is certainly my ‘Happy Place’ and always will be.

Last year, we had to make some changes and it was decided that I should go and get myself a job.  I had always worried about getting a job in Germany as my spoken German is not good although it has improved a lot.  I once asked a male customer if he wanted a kiss when I meant to ask if he wanted a cushion for his chair, he wanted neither!

I never imagined when I left England that I would end up working in Information Technology again and initially I got a job working for a supermarket dealing with the plants and cut flowers but in the long-term it wasn’t the mental challenge that I needed.  I went to an employment agency in Offenburg (never again, please) and registered for work and in the same day was asked by a customer if I would be interested as working as an IT Manager.  It seemed too good to be true, I dropped off my Curriculum Vitae (that’s Latin you know) and thought nothing would come of it.  A week later I was asked to attend an interview with said Company and then a second interview and then got offered the job.  I started in November and admit to being rather apprehensive not having worked in Information Technology for over 6 years. One of the requirements of the job however, was to study and acquire a Microsoft qualification, an MCSA.

I realised that working full-time and studying would mean that I had no time for gardening as my employers wanted me to get the qualification as quickly as possible.  At home discussions were had, things were said and it was agreed I would have to give up my gardening duties, along with my chicken and geese duties.  My Partner was not a gardener when we met but he is a quick learner and he has had 5 years as the under gardener at the Moosbach Garden.  He has now assumed the position of head gardener, Under gardener and general dogs body.  It has to be said that he was always very good at structural things, you know cutting down trees, building walls etc but now he has good plant knowledge so he is a more rounded gardener than me.

Over the last 6 years we have become fanatical environmentalists and we don’t use any chemicals in the garden,  we apply well-rotted horse manure to everything in the Winter, mulch in Spring with bark and water with a drip-feed watering system from March to October.  We are lucky to have the space and over the last 6 years have increased the amount of fruit and vegetables that we grow here.  It has stood us in good stead for the current and horrendous corona virus pandemic and we are growing even more this year as we suspect that everything will be harder to source and therefore more expensive.

I think everybody is considering trying to grow something for the table this year and it also highlights how dependent we have become upon Supermarkets.  Maybe one of the after effects of this period of tragedy and hardship is that we will stop importing as much food and instead grow and source seasonable produce.  I think when you grow your own fruit and vegetables it can rekindle the love affair with really good food, did you know that fruit and vegetables lose 80% of their taste and goodness in the first hour after they have been harvested?  What better than to pick salad leaves, vegetables and fruit just before you are going to eat them?

We have sown seeds for all the salad, fruit and vegetables that we will be serving fresh from the garden to our overnight guests once the restrictions are lifted.  Sometimes I think that we live in a paradise with a beautiful garden, fresh organic produce from the garden and organic eggs from our happy chickens.  One of the upsides to the restrictions is that we have had much more time to get on with garden projects and I don’t think it will be long before we see the first rose, lilac and peony flowers.  Currently flowering in the garden are the viburnum Carlesii Aurora which are filling the garden with the most glorious scent which I wish I could share with you all.  For me one of the joys of gardening is the ability to share it with friends but that time will come again soon I am sure.

Today is gloriously warm and sunny and what I really want to do is go outside and get on with some gardening but I am afraid that I must study for my next exam.  I hope to see some of my local readers when we are allowed to open the garden again but in the meantime I wish you all good health and happiness.

 

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Viburnum Carlesii Aurora 

 

 

Andrew Huber

I am an English gardener who has been living in the Black Forest in Germany for 4 years. Slowly I am transforming 16 acres of mountain into a garden. Feel free to email me if you have any gardening questions and I'll see if I can help.

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