The Days, And List Of Garden Chores, Are Short

There’s little to do in the frosty garden – except feed the birds

In the Danish winter garden, the only seed is bird feed. A fat pheasant, alert but unconcerned, puffs her exquisite feathers and feasts on sunflower seed. Later, she takes a stately stroll past the floor-length windows, a catwalk exercise in elegance. She will soon be joined by her gaudier but dimmer mate, who will endlessly pose on his favoured stumps. I crush grain-studded fat balls for where they walk.

The bird-feeders are alive. Clouds of greenfinches sometimes clutter the trees. There are chaffinches and goldfinch, hawfinches like in my Devon childhood, and puffed-up pink-chested bullfinches. A pair of spotted woodpeckers nests in the trees. Many types of tit gather around the forsythia, using its shelter to make raids on seed. Goldcrests flutter, like moths.

Squadrons of geese head to the bay. Swans are here now from further north and east. You can hear their call in the winter mist. The sea and its winds cry louder now.

There is not much to do in the garden except ensure the birds are fed. Perhaps a little pruning. I am trialling autumn-sown calendula protected by large, clear Ikea boxes. They are growing well so far, larger than I’d thought – though a harsher Nordic February will be the true test.

I rake frosted leaves, stack wood for the fire, and see how the saplings have grown. The pale birch, skeletal and almost spectral, looms. The days are short, but the long summer light encourages fast growth. We decked one of the smaller red pines with outdoor lights at Christmas. Henri’s mother has made a second miraculous recovery, though I have been near-faint with fear. I distract myself by watching the tufty-eared red squirrels scamper through our trees. Fearlessly, joyously, swinging on skinny stems.