Saturday, 15 March 2014

Biology 101...digging near the fence

'Walter', urtica dioica and rumex obtusifolius

I spent the majority of today out in the lovely sun weeding the garden.  It's the first opportunity I've had to get out and assess what's been happening out there since I bedded everything down for winter.  Over near one of our fences is a long plot of earth, excavated by me in baking hot sun last August.  I spent about four days in this two foot deep, ten foot long plot hacking back the enormous blackberry bush that had completely taken over the length of that end of the garden (all in total probably about 25 feet of bramble, over half of it still in existence).  During this strenuous and exhausting dig last summer, we unearthed the head of an enormous bone, a bone much larger than my fist and we dug it up from beneath that fence.  It had been tucked behind brambles and a rusty oil drum and I knew right away I would keep it.

I already have quite a collection of found bones: jaw bone from a seal, small bird bones, a collection of exoskeletons from crabs etc, and the memory of the one that got away--a fully intact sheep skull found when walking on the isle of Vatersay last year (I didn't have anything to carry it in and I needed both hands to steady myself along some precarious, high ground so I had to leave the skull behind).  But this bone, the one dug up beneath our fence, this bone...was Walter. I named him affectionately after my favourite scene from one of my favourite films of all times, 'The Burbs', all the while feeling slightly odd at the size of this bone and that it too, like the one in the film, came from underneath the fence shared with a neighbour... (I suspect that Walter is actually the remains of a dog bone bought for the German Shepherd that used to live in this house, but you never know...)

Anyway, today while digging along the same fence line where we found Walter, it struck me over and over how amazing it is that nettles and dock leaves grow alongside one another.  My recently weeded patch of earth was starting to reproduce just as many as I'd dug up last summer, although luckily for me these were still very small and easy to dislodge.  The dock leaves had grown quickly and the nettles much more slowly, so that each grouping of them appeared as if the dock leaves were actually sheltering the nettles.  A symbiotic relationship perhaps?  And today lots of things started appearing in pairs: my two cats playing with a bottle cap out in the grass, our pair of mating robins busy building an unseen nest, pairs of socks drying on the line in the sun, two buckets filled with weeds, two children playing next door at a game which involved one passing a secret note down from the upstairs window to the one on the ground, two earthworms desperate to get back in the ground, me and Walter out in the garden.

What a wonderful day to be outside, breathing fresh fresh air in the sun, digging, planting seeds, getting close up to look at the buds on the trees. 

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