Once a courtyard…

.. still a building site.

I’m struggling to give you stories of the garden at the moment as things are a bit stalled. Our lovely building project is inching along. (Don’t mention the perfidious window guy who is late, or the absent plumber.)

And if you have done building projects you will know that you start to get accustomed to all sorts of disruption.

Like no longer being surprised when you open your window shutters in the morning and gaze down on this.

The generator nail gun that starts at 8am and is often not turned off until 4pm. The rutted road from all the deliveries coming up the rural track. The sudden explosion of stone dust or wood dust.

But we love our builders. And who knew that they would be such a tonic during our lockdown year? Humans! Visitors. A bit of company during the day. Socially distanced, of course.

This mulberry tree in the courtyard is the rural equivalent of a shop sign. The marker that this farm was a silkworm farm. Hence the mulberry.

Well, if you read the rural architecture you would know that huge barns with chimneys is another sign that silkworms would have been harvested off the trees and kept alive in warm barns to stop the silk from spoiling and to increase the yield from the grubs into the autumn.

It has taken years for me to get this courtyard into a cohesive, almost elegant space. The rill gets painted every spring. The mulberry gets its hard prune every winter. The weeds get removed, the area tidied.

But not this year.

No. This year I decided that you just have to accept the building site and look away. The mulberry now reflects the same shaggy unkempt appearance as our own tonsures.

And it hides all sorts of sins underneath.

Oh yes, welcome to the wheelbarrow collection. They breed.

So too the collection of tiles I ran out of energy shifting. The fire-proof bricks. The random beams that came from the old bread oven and one day will be incorporated into the hornbeam hedge below the house. The bits of wood I scavenge before they go to the tip.

I am saving some for shelves, but the big beams are for the garden. But not until all the trucks stop delivering heavy material for the building site and barking their wheels on the carefully made chestnut barrier beside the road. I’ve given up rebuilding the barrier. It doesn’t encroach on the road. But yes, our little road is narrow and they get inattentive when they reach the house after the hairy drive up the mountain.

In fact it will be finished just in time for the snow plough to destroy it clearing the snow. Cynical, moi?

The other main feature of the courtyard is troubling.

In glorious years it looks like this:

And no, I didn’t plant the bulrushes – they were blow ins.

Today, not so much. If I could reach it properly to check, I could diagnose the problem. But it definitely looks like one side of this primitive laundry washing trough – lavoir – has sprung a leak. I’m not going to waste precious water in the dry season filling it up. The wasps and wild animals can drink from the other side.

I did have great plans to lift the surviving water lily in the slowing disappearing water trough and plant it in the functioning one. But it is so wrapped around the annoying bulrushes (blow-ins) that I can’t shift them.

That will be the plus side of emptying one side. I can finally get rid of these invasive beasties. They have welded themselves to the concrete base. And have probably been the reason why this stone trough which hasn’t caused problems for decades is now leaking.

I have decided to be lazy and just wait for everything to desiccate and turn into crispy sludge and work from there. If I can tolerate the stink.

And if I can climb over the building material to reach it.

And just to complete the random courtyard collection. My mot du jour – foisonnement. The architectural phenomenon where the volume of material coming out of a fixed space – say a stone wall – increases by a proportion of 1.3.

How on earth can that space where we now have one modest door held this many stones?

I’d be fascinated if they weren’t such a trip hazard.

Thank you so much for logging on and checking what I am up to in the garden. Don’t be alarmed by the rare appearance over the next few weeks. It’s hot. I’m hiding. And not doing a lot of gardening.