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  • Writer's pictureToni Kenyon

Why morning is the best time in the garden

Early morning garden

I walked out of the living room and slipped my feet into my low cut ‘gumboots’. Gumboots are ‘Wellington boots’ if you’re in the United Kingdom—I have no idea what they are if you’re living in any other country in the world.

However, I digress.

I slipped on my boots, they were cold and I shivered. The sun had scarcely lifted itself out of the cradle of trees on the other side of the road and as I walked towards the shrill sound of the chickens calling to me from the back garden, I noticed that the Kaffir Lime tree had turned a strange shade of gold. The shafts of early morning sunlight had given the entire garden a golden makeover.

I lifted the lid on the even colder aluminium rubbish bin that housed the chicken’s food and lifted out their feeder. I was in the habit of removing the feeder from their enclosure each evening once they’d put themselves to bed. I didn’t need to alert the local mouse and rat population to the fact that there was a never-ending supply of grain available for them each night. The compost pile and adjoining dry shed were tempting enough.

It had been years since I’d seen the world at this time of the morning.

Yet, as I trudged in my cold boots through the waterlogged lawn, to the wooden and wire enclosure that we’d built for my latest feathery additions to my menagerie, I couldn’t help but think that I’d still made one of the best decisions for myself to come out of our first Covid-19 lockdown.

I pulled the bolt on the door that kept my avian friends safe overnight and was met with the soft clucking of happy hens who were pleased to see me. They’d learned already that it they made enough noise in the morning that they could get their feed delivered and then they would be allowed out to roam through the rest of the developing garden.

We (me and Mr Music) the man whom I love and live with and whose we’re-resurrecting-the-band-and-touring-the-country had been curtailed by the virus, had decided that we would situate the chicken coop just in front of our bedroom window. That way (I decided anyway) if there were going to be issues with noise, flies, smells or anything else, we’d be the first to know about them.

Backyard chicken coop

Hence, the reason that I found myself at 6.14am on a crisp spring morning out in the middle of the garden feeding my girls.

But they could easily be forgiven.

Once I’d secured their feeder to the hanging rope in the middle of the coop, checked their water and mucked out their sleeping quarters I was wide awake and found myself actually enjoying the early start to the day.

The garden can be a magical place first thing in the morning. Many mornings of getting up to the siren call of Miss Rosa, Katherine, Twickle or Thumbelina has given me an appreciation of the dawn and its associated beauty.

Everything has a cool stillness about it that you don’t witness at any other time of the day.

There is the yawning promise of the day to come, with all of its pristine hours just waiting for you to fill them. There’s no nagging demands of an overflowing email inbox, or the irritating ‘ping’ from a cellphone demanding immediate attention.

Here, in the garden I have a sense of the real cycle of life.

There’s the lazy coming and going of the bees from their hives. The comings and goings will speed up during the day as the heat encourages more of the worker bees from the warmth and safety of their hive.

The odd blackbird that still has the courage to visit the garden hops along the fence line. The imposing presence of the ‘prehistoric’ chickens in residence (dinosaurs with feathers) has deterred even the most ardent local cat.

Tiny lizards that inhabit the compost bin and the leaf litter under the trees scatter as I walk back along the path. During the winter, they will take to the back wall of the house, to lie on the bricks heated by the sparse winter sun. The lazy stroll of one of our own cats (who has come to a tentative truce with the chickens) lurks on the edges of the fruit trees that wall the garden, waiting for me to come and fill his breakfast bowl.

It’s too early yet for the butterflies and white cabbage moths who will dance across the tips of the garden plants. The butterflies competing with the bees for nectar and the cabbage moths trying ardently to lay their eggs on vegetable leaves that have been netted to save them not only from the moths, but also the savage beaks of my girls.

With my new early morning routine complete and my boots now well and truly warmed, I make my way back to the house, the cat in front of me, stopping for a moment to use a large potted pony tail fern as his personal scratching post.

I pass back by the Kaffir Lime which has lost it’s golden glow, replaced with the vivid green of a healthy citrus tree. A trail of ants leading to the base of the tree alerts me to the fact that I still haven’t beaten the continuing battle I have with the insect farmers.

The promise of coffee calls its morning siren song, but for now I shall feed the cats and make me and Mr Music a rousing cup of tea.

How do you start your day?

Backyard food forest


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