Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Lean-to Glasshouse

I think it was in 2005 or thenabout that Rokpa House, a Buddhist Centre in Glasgow was having its windows replaced. Rokpa House is an early Victorian town house with high ceilings and tall windows. At that time there were perspex secondary glazing panels, which were unwieldy and difficult to open and close. When the fully double glazed windows were fitted, I took the old panels to the hut at Carbeth. I knew they would be useful.

Last year, another house was being refurbished, this time in Helensburgh: a Georgian house, again with high ceilings and tall windows. The secondary glazing – and it was glass – was being removed, together with a glass panelled door.

Thus, after only seven years, I had the basis for that long planned glasshouse. The Helensburgh panels, eight feet by two feet will fit against the gable end of the hut; the door will be, well the door (although transported safely the twenty miles from Helensburgh to the hut in a rattling hired transit van unscathed, on unloading, the west wind took the door and stove in the single glass panel – it needs to be replaced); the Rokpa perspex panels will form the lean-to roof.

The framing timbers are all worked out, there will be plenty of reclaimed wood for the shelving: tomatoes and peppers, maybe a grapevine – the delights of planning a crop free from the grazing of deer is to be savoured.
Hard against the hut gable end in a whisky half-barrel, oak, but now disintegrating with age, someone, many years ago planted a then probably exotic Lawson’s cypress. Now overgrown and threadbare, I had pruned it to thicken some years ago, but that didn’t really work. Though it did provide me with some fine “grotches” as one of Thurber’s characters calls them (“by and by we go hunt grotches in the woods”, he says, much to Thurber’s bafflement): I know he meant forking branches that will hold up a clothesline, or make a thumbstick.

So the old cypress will come down for the glasshouse. It stood for perhaps fifty years and is in the wrong place, shading the hut kitchen window. In this over-temperate climate, we need all the light we can get.

But not yet. Though everything is in place for the glasshouse, this year for the first time, a blackbird has built her nest in the cypress, balanced in a grotch and looking pretty unstable to me, but nevertheless a nest has been built. She sits (or is there a pair?) on the eggs. Until they are hatched, and the chicks fledged, I can do nothing. With two weeks or so for hatching, a further two weeks or so for fledging and maybe three broods a year, the nest should be finally empty some fine day in late July. Maybe August.

The glasshouse would be very useful now, but the blackbird’s eggs and chicks outside the hut-kitchen window at eye level are rare and precious things, cheering me on while brewing the morning Assam in a way that even the imagined growth of tomatoes would never achieve.