This is a egg.
Now, you might say, so what, that looks just like any old egg. But the main thing about this egg is that it was laid by one of our own hens. This is remarkable. Now, we’ve had hens for more than a decade, but ours haven’t laid anything since last summer. Not a thing. It’s perhaps not surprising, as our hens aren’t really the best layers. The flock is ageing and some have died off. Only seven are left. Of these, only two — Bluebell and Esther — are what one might call layers. Two others — Poppet and Widget — belong to a fancy breed, more ornamental than egg-layers. The final three — Angelica, Eliza and Truly Scrumptious — are what one might call retired hens, or what others might call old boilers. Oddly, though, it was either Poppet or Widget that laid this egg.
But the timing is apposite. It’s spring, and we are in the middle of Passover, the second of three spring festivals. The first was Holi, just passed, and the third, Easter, is next week. And these are only the ones I know about: I’d have been completely ignorant of Holi had I not read A Suitable Boy last year. So it’s welcome to have an egg, just at this time of year.
It’s also the time of year, as the days lengthen and become warmer, when one gets the garden into gear. This year I have marked out quite a large area of the garden as a vegetable plot. It’s been used for this and that over the years — shrubbery, occasional part-time veg plot, chicken run, duck enclosure — so I thought it time to dig it over thoroughly and clear out any potential nasties. This means double digging.
What this means is digging a whacking huge great trench, as you can see on the left, probably a bit deeper than one would usually dig, and barrowing the enormous volume of soil to the other end of the plot for later use (be patient, I shall get to that part).
Double digging is great to get the ground into shape. It’s the best chance one will get to rid the ground of weeds, old pieces of rubble and assorted rubbish, and you never know what one might find. In this one trench I recovered the Ark of the Covenant and the Lost Chord.
When the trench is dug, you can start to dig another row, back-filling the first trench with the soil thus turned over, and creating a new trench, like this:
So, basically, what happens is that the trench moves from one end of the plot to the other, rather like holes moving through a semiconductor (a nice solid-state physics reference there). When you reach the far end of the plot you can then fill in the remaining trench with the left-over soil from the first trench.
Or at least, that’s the theory.
In practice I find that one has a lot of soil left over, given that uncompacted soil takes up much more space in a heap than it does when stuck together in the ground. This doesn’t matter, as that soil, now dug over and freed from rubbish and weeds, can be used to fill pots, mix with compost to propagate seeds, and so on.
Over the coming long Easter Weekend I’ll be working off the eggy eggcess of a Passover diet, digging the whole plot, and getting some spuds, garlic and shallots in. And maybe some baby leeks.
UPDATE! Here’s the plot, almost done (somewhat later). As you see the trench has moved down to the far end. You can just make out my spade in the distance, together with the wheelbarrow on top of the large pile of earth dug out of the first trench. You might be wondering about the large blue tarpaulin – this covered the entire plot, and I rolled it back, row by row, as I went.