February Seed Tray -- Susan Price

Deep mid-winter... That was last month, January. And (above), the footprints of our resident wood-pigeons mingle with mine. They'd come down to trample the snow right outside the kitchen door because they were tired of waiting for us to put out seed.

Now it's February and, like gardeners the ledth and breangth, I'm starting to think about seeds. Tomato seeds and sweet-pea seeds especially, in trays, on the kitchen windowsill.

Seed potatoes in old compost bags. Leaf mould. Mulch.

I think gardening takes up more of my time and energy these days than writing does.

My garden is the usual grey, dreary, untidy, depressing winter mess -- but here and there are snowdrops and cyclamen. And big, fat green buds on the narcissus.

A slightly nibbled Christmas rose.

But then, being nibbled a bit is what this garden is about...

 A wood mouse, who lives under the bonsai apple tree.

Some of the nibblers come and impatiently knock at the kitchen door.

 Look at the grump on that face. "What's the delay with the meal worms!?" I don't think I'm anthropomorphising them either. The birds know there is seed and meal-worms in here, and they know I bring them out through that door. If I keep them waiting, they let me know.

The sparrows sit up in the top hedge and raise a wall of sound denser than anything Phil Spectre managed. You get so you stop noticing it, like traffic noise. And then I open the kitchen door and -- crash! Instant silence. After a few moments, they call to each other. It's a call I've come to recognise. It means: 'Grub's up!' And before I can get back to the house, they're coming in.

Furry buds on the magnolia, soon to flower. They're paler today than they were yesterday. I'm getting very impatient to see them open.

But it's still winter and gets dark early.

 And so, goodnight.


Susan Price has won the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Fiction Award.

You can learn more about her books at her website.


Griselda Heppel said…
LOVE all these photos. Especially the wood mouse - how did you manage to capture that? And the impatient robin. I feel drawn into a Beatrix Potter story, just reading your blog. Utter joy.
Susan Price said…
Oh, thank you, Griselda!
I've cheated a bit -- the robin photo was actually taken by my brother, who was just lucky enough to be in the kitchen and within reach of his camera when the robin came to see why meal(worm) service was late.
The wood mouse isn't very shy and we often see it running about the garden. We'd been watching it running out from under the apple-tree pot to snatch seed from the ground-feeder, which is just out of sight in the photo. So I focused my camera on the spot and waited. It's just a little point-and-shoot Sony, but a good one. I bought it refurbished because I couldn't have afforded it new.
Anyway, I snatched several shots of Mousie whipping in and out. Some were too blurred, some showed nothing but a small vanishing bum. But two or three were not too bad. I put them on the computer, zoomed in, fiddled about with exposure, shadow, highlights etc and got this lucky picture.
Sandra Horn said…
Glorious post! Much up-cheering. Thank you!
Peter Leyland said…
Love the pictures Susan especially the first one with the print of the wood pigeon next to one of your boot. Made me think it was time I got back to some proper walkin! Now what about Phil 'Spectre'? Was that your suitably grim joke?

Thanks for a great post.
Love the cheeky robin! I have a robin back in my garden after several years without one (the neighbour's cat ate our last resident redbreast), but it is understandably wary and so far has stayed in the prickly bush beside the feeders awaiting a refill.

Great photos :-)
Susan Price said…
We're hoping this robin sticks around. According to Bill Oddie, they surge up and down the country and you seldom see the same robin twice. But a couple of years ago, we hosted a robin family who raised three chicks. The male robin terrorised the sparrows and clearly thought no other bird had a right to be in his garden. I think he would have seen the neighbour's car off. With the same targeted dive-bombing he subjected the sparrows to.
Umberto Tosi said…
Thanks you for planting these seasonal images. We're still deep in winter here. Spring doesn't really happen until April. Till then I'll enjoy your wood pigeons and hopeful garden besides our snowy scapes.
Susan Price said…
At least you get a proper winter, Umberto! Usually we get three months of cold darkness with a few sleet flurries.
And, of course, in my last comment, there's a typo. I meant our robin would see the neighbour's cat off, not their car. Though he was such an aggressive little blighter, I'm sure he would have had a go at the car. Perhaps one of his kin were responsible for the recent attack on mine... Or perhaps the bird community were just reminding me to get the car washed.
What a lovely post! I always like to see signs of spring. At the moment I'm monitoring the forsythia flowers - I think they've come out too soon but hoping they'll survive!
Julia jones said…
Beautiful - especially the first one of foot prints in the snow. That doesn't mean that the others weren't all heart warming full of life and colour etc - but that first pic has an astringency which i associate with your writing. It woudl also make a great design.

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