Saturday, 29 December 2012


Ah! Here I am again, full of resolutions - to lose weight after the feasting and to do something in the garden every day I can no matter how small. Having said that I have been pinned to the computer, if not by the rain, by the fact that, in my wisdom (HA!) I upgraded to the Latest Mountain Lion system for the Mac. It was only £13 - was - but then Photoshop was incompatible, scanner was too, half the things did not work and I have had to sort it out - sigh!

This has nothing to with gardening - only blogging.

The sheep are in the field in front of the house and now we are in the dark mornings after Christmas everything seems rather monochrome.

However there is a big flower bud on the Fatsia, the last roses of summer are still flowering, grasses such as Miscanthus have taken on a warm brown colour and bulbs are beginning to push through the soil - daffodils and snowdrops, the latter especially. The image shows the first snowdrops flowering by the Wendy House path at the end of last January.

Now a new year is coming and surprises - 'I had forgotten I planted that!' - self-sown seedlings - especially aquilegias and opium poppies.
The birds are singing too - twittering long-tailed tits, a robin in the ash nearest the house, great tits and collared doves, the coo-ee of the goldfinches t They know something is afoot.

It is during these dark days between Christmas and my mother's birthday that motivation is hard but the birds must be fed, the blogger must begin to starve and plans developed.
The paths need re chipping, the compost turning, dead growth removing, overgrown plants thinning, cuttings tended, and the garden needs walking - each time new ideas, things to be done come forth, wood fallen of the trees collected and added to the bonfire that never burned - too sodden.
Can I face the disaster of the veg this year with the incessant rain - can I find a way round it - the beds to be raised more, domed to aid water run off, be more selective in choice of veg - and will the asparagus have survived all this water?

It is time to be positive!!

So I shall light the wood burner, get a mug of something hot and contemplate all that I have just said and bury myself for the last few moments of this year.

Then . . . . . 

Saturday, 22 December 2012


By popular request or something here is a bit about our drain/stream/torrent.

It rises from the back field and runs through the rough area in the top western corner before plunging down a banking into the garden area proper.

This banking is rough but has golden saxifrage, wild bluebells and daffodils in the spring, wild angelica and grasses later in the year.
We cut/strim/clear it once a year.

From there it runs beside the veg beds and the compost heaps (or through them at present with this appalling year) and on into the far lawn.
As time has gone by it has cut itself a deeper and deeper bed but this still cannot cope with the volume of water coming out of the field today.

In the picture you can see the white Birches in front of the far wall. There are clumps of daffodils either side of the stream by its bank and under the trees. Later in the year the underplanting of the trees is mostly Ox-eye Daisies.

I have just been up the garden and the water is flowing freely everywhere, the turf is sodden and still it rains.
You can understand that the soil (Lois backwards)(Happy Christmas) is unworkable - even some of the leeks seem to be floating. (I have a Krik in my neck and a plethora of Grandchildren hunting me.)

To continue - after the lawn the way is through a wild area with teasels, yellow rattle, ragged robin and bedstraw to the top settling pond. This is shown in the picture with the boardwalk wending its way to the Wendy House (R's writing shed). In the water are watercress and reedmace. The shrub to the left is my one surviving amelanchier - the other two have drowned. The hedge to the field below the garden is on the right.

In the far corner the water plunges down a ten foot fall into next door's field. When the stream is in spate you can hear the water roaring as it drops out of the garden.

With all the good food around it seems a pity that fat is not water soluble - I could just stand in the rain for a while rather than diet. Mind you, with this year's weather I would have dissolved and disappeared long ago.
Mmm! I have a feeling there are some people already doing a rain dance.

So this is Christmas,
and what have I done, (in the garden - not a lot),
rain isn't over
and it's not much fun.
Wishing you all - a wonderful Christmas time.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


The first picture is the view west from outside the kitchen.

I have just noticed a black bottomless flowerpot with a copper band halfway up the top banking. I have absolutely no idea how it got there but it has come from the veg beds (slug protection). There has been little wind in the last few days and that which there has been is in the opposite direction. I know squirrels can get up to all sorts of mischief but . . . ?

I seem to be feeding all the small birds in the area and the only time they seem scarce is when a neighbours black cat - called by their children Megatron - or the greater-spotted woodpecker comes calling.
The pheasants from last years brood forage under the feeders, seem very relaxed at home in the garden where they were born.

I have discovered solar powered fairy lights for the garden - well, the magnolia stellata by the back door and around the paved area outside the kitchen door. Then I obeyed instructions and left the batteries to charge for three days. Weather very overcast so after three hours one packed in - battery flat. However, once we get to summer and bright sunshine they will be great (except that they only come on when it is dark (and I am asleep)).

The first bulbs are pushing up - some daffs but no snowdrops yet and the yellow pansies in pots are flowering well.
The trellis for the yellow rose on the back wall is done - cost nothing - just some ash poles and string saved from an earlier tree delivery.

I have been trying to find a way to increase the area available for cuttings etc by the window in the shed. My son dumped and old glass-shelved television and video stand on me - just the job. It looks a bit peculiar but functions ok.

No garden work today - today is time for the Doc to be a patient - twice, morning and afternoon. The later one is for an appointment re failing hearing.
What did I say?
Or is that failing - er? - em - Ah! Yes, memory.

Nearly to the shortest day - the day the 'worshippers' at Stonehenge on Midsummer's Day should really be there, welcoming both the end of the old and the start of the new year. But that would be too cold and uncomfortable and so on? Midsummer's Day is when one thinks, "The days are getting shorter again already!'
Not a time of celebration, especially when you know it is going to rain for the next six months.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


Yes - it snowed - but only one flake thick - on the a frozen garden.

In fact the ground is solid and essentially must stayoffable.

I have just begun a winter clean of the shed, clearing out the excess of plastic flower pots, bagging them and taking them to the tip. When I got there I thought, 'I can recycle these, they are plastic.' No such luck - big notice on the plastics place saying no flower pots so they went in with the unrecyclable waste.

The birds are getting michelin star nuts and we were rewarded two days ago with a flock of squeaking long-tail tits. Their call is so recognisable.

Our dog is being very courageous. He (?she) stands outside by the pansies in all weathers nodding gently away.

I am writing a family history - incredible boring except for odd snippets.
I found one quote which might even apply to myself though it was said by my Great Grandfather of his uncle who, when he retired, took up gardening.
The quote was - "He has taken up putting 13 geraniums into 12 pots!"

The rosa rugosas by the path into the garden were being rocked and blown by this northerly gale we had so I have pruned them now to prevent damage.

We have four sheds - an insulated borehole shed (we have our own water supply), a 'Wendy House' down then garden with insulation and elec., a shed with mowers and pots and stuff in it and another shed - I badly needed more space - which is full of my sons' stuff. One day I might get it back - one day?

Under the seeming permafrost the ground is still waterlogged and drains from the field down our track and through the gate. There is a steep drop below the gate and the tarmac there is now covered in ice.

We have eaten the last of the carrots, there are still a few beetroot and some leeks.

Fortunately, with the very cold weather we do have sunshine so I can tell the time in the garden - well, I could if my gnomon was not bent. As a consequence, the last time I looked at it I got the hour wrong (partly because I had not moved the shadow back 1 hour with the change from summer time).
Like me the dial is suffering from verdigris. It came, I think, from a Liverpool house belonging to my wife's Grandparents. We, also, used to have a big windmill man from there - he stands holding a handle and the blades of the windmill turn making it look like he is turning the windmill not the other way around if you know what I mean. Unfortunately it disintegrated in a gale some years ago. I tried to repair it but failed.

Now, there is an idea. If all these huge windmills they have put up for generating electricity had a giant man attached to them winding away like billy-o, that would be fantastic and spectacular, wouldn't it?

Friday, 30 November 2012


So, one day we are totally Wellied (waterproof Wellington Boots on for those reading this in Russia) and flooded out - and then a hard frost - ice on the pond, clear skies and wonderful stars.

The last leaves are coming off the Great White Cherry and making a many coloured carpet on the path in front of the house. I have left them there for now they look so good but will soon collect them for the leaf mould sack - which I have moved to beside the new compost bins beyond the veg beds.
I have also dismantled the compost heaps by the house and dug over the ground. Then I transplanted a dozen bay trees (the ones I bought as a herb in a pot on the market for a couple of pounds)(there were 27 small bays in one pot)(so I planted them out) and put in then last of the daffodils from the cheap sack.
One snag from removing the compost bays was that I had a bird feeder pole attached to it. This has been move around to the side of the house so I can now see 4 feeders from my desk. However I spent half and hour crouched in the shed scrabbling on the floor as I dropped a feeder full of black sunflower seed and it shed its load everywhere.
Within half an hour of setting up the new feeder pole I was rewarded with the arrival of a male Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

The last tree (well not yet quite big enough for a tree) with leaves is the Liquidambar, so red and determined not to let go.

I have finished the back bed, cleared away dying vegetation, tidied shrubs and removed weeds. The yellow climbing rose's wooden trellis support had rotted so I cut some young ash poles (whilst I can) and made a new one - then tied the rose in after pruning.

In the rose bed the last flowers were struggling on but have now succumbed to the cold. Nevertheless I can usually find a rose somewhere for the Christmas table.

I am behind with everything because of the wet weather and spent some time yesterday repairing the outflow from the top pond - the flooding had washed it away emptying out the water.

It is nearly muck time but first I need to tidy the rest of the flowerbeds. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they are frozen solid. Chickens and eggs, harts and corses spring to mind.

I have just looked out the window - the female Greater Spotted Woodpecker is on the peanuts on the new pole and feeders. In the last ten minutes I have had the woodpecker, Wood Pigeon, blackbird, chaffinch, great tit, blue tit, coal tit, tree sparrow, robin and dunnock outside my room.
No grey squirrels for a while - can the word have got about that they should avoid our garden?

The sun is out, the sky is blue, all is well with the world - until it rains again - possibly tonight - on frozen roads.
Well, I cannot be an optimist all the time!?

Thursday, 22 November 2012


Now, some of you have thought that wearing a waste paper basket on one's head is ridiculous - see last blog.

It is the sort of thing I do.
I went down the garden yesterday to get some carrots with a plastic bowl on my head as it was raining.
The sheep in the field completely ignored me!

It is raining again and the vegetable beds are under water, the garden is a river and, in the village, it has burst its banks. I put on waterproofs and great big Wellington boots so I could wander about kicking up the puddles (and unblocking drains). Felt just like a senile Christopher Robin.

Do slugs drown or just do back-stroke waiting for things to get a bit drier - only a bit that is. Snails can seal themselves in their shells so they should be all right - sadly.

The birds have braved the rain and are using the feeders - those under some sort of cover and those in the rain.

If one has a garden one spends a lot of time doing a lot of things in that garden. This year the thing I have done most is look out of windows and plan as the jungle takes over.

And it is so dark - like dusk at midday.
The bad weather is relentless and next year I will only be growing water cress, flukes or no flukes. In fact, one wonders if the weather is a fluke - no it has gone on to long - this is Global Wetting.

My skin is going all wrinkly, (no, not just from age), and I am shrinking, (no, not just from age either).

So, to try and cheer everyone up who lives in this sodden country, (I said sodden), I am putting on a picture of a big red paeony, full of warm colours like the sun.
Now you may well ask what that is, the sun I mean.
Well, as my memory is getting poorer, (yes, from age), and time is passing faster, (ditto), I am trying to remember when I last basked, (no I am not as big as those sharks)(not quite), and came to the conclusion it must have been this year.
I think.
Therefore I am . . . what?


Wednesday, 21 November 2012


In fact, the ash first - we hear much of what will happen to our/my ash woodland but no one has yet mentioned that many of the hedges are predominantly ash. Around here some hedges are almost exclusively ash.

This is a nightmare for farmers trying to keep stock in fields. Invest in barbed wire!

Now to a tale of bats, or a bats tale or .... well. you decide.

The owner of this tale will remain firmly anonymous.

She hates bats.
She sleeps with her bedroom window open and, one night, she heard a fluttering in the house. (She lives alone.) A bat was at large!
The thought of one getting in her hair made her drape a towel over her head as she hurried to the computer and typed in, "How do you get rid of bats?"
She found the answer. 
Take a tupperware bowl and a sheet of cardboard. Place the bowl over the bat and then slide the cardboard under the bowl being careful not to let the bat escape. Then take it somewhere and release it. This is best done at daybreak when the animals are torpid.

Being frightened (yet very brave) she stayed up all night and, as the first light appeared in the east, she put on her jeans and a wicker waste paper basket (over her head so the bat would not get in her hair)(and so she could see through the wickerwork).
She crept downstairs and there by a pot plant on a table was something resembling a dead leaf. Of course, as she had the basket on her head she could not wear her glasses but she thought it was the bat.
She placed the bowl over the thing and slid the cardboard into place. The thing moved. It was the bat.
Now what to do?
She opened the front door and, both hands occupied, set off down the road, the waste paper basket still on her head. It was a good thing it was very early in the morning.
Finally she found a garage door with a gap at the bottom and popped the bat inside.
Then she hurried home, forgetting to take the basket off her head till she had shut the door.
Now, I have asked the person in question for permission to publish this and she has reluctantly consented.

To move on - here is a siskin (I think) sheltering from the rain under the eaves of one of the sheds - even the birds are fed up with the weather.

At least it picked a place with plenty of food.

And autumn is done.

Winter has come in mid November. (And it will last until March.)
Wooly combinations on, wood burning stove lit, lumberjack cap with earflaps at the ready, gloves and Wellies by the back door.
Still loads to do in the garden.
I am getting my knees wet praying for a few dry days (for a change).

So, I know what I want for Christmas -


Thursday, 15 November 2012


First the big news - I have come third in the Gardeners' World Magazine Poetry Competition - and won £50 of gardening vouchers. Perhaps there is a little self wish fulfilment in the poem - what a way to go. (Not so nice for those who find me though.)

So what do I spend it on? It will not be on my knees even if I am. One replacement down, the other can wait (and wait).

It will not really go a long way. Get someone in for half a day to strim? Buy a few plants - no that has been vetoed for now by R who says we have enough in the garden and I can divide and do cuttings etc. A new trowel - do not need it - a pot with a lid to hide in the garden and put my whisky in for tots on cold days - am joking - on the other hand . . .

It is now time for tidying and clearing and weeding and getting the beds ready for the winter.
Autumn colours are all but over and it was misty and very still this morning, not a breath of wind.

The whole garden is going to sleep - well, not quite true - birds, rabbits and some plants are very awake. The sarcococcus is in bud as is the winter-flowering honeysuckle. Plants like roses struggle on and the marigolds offer blazes of yellow here and there.

The pots filled with tulips have been topped with bright yellow winter pansies and, after nipping out the flowers when planted, they are now blooming and lighting up the area around the house.
Hopefully they will do so all winter.

The last autumn leaves are still on the Great White Cherry and the Liquidambar.

From my desk I can, once more, 
see through the wood to the top where the ash trunks are grey in the mist.

So, it is start at one end time, work through the garden and, Oh yes, I have not made the new tops for the cold frames - urgent! I have not drained the cassis from the jars and rebottled it. I have not, I have not . . . etc.

And the poem -


April crosses the lawn,
swings shadows over the grass.
In a potting shed,
rotting at the back planks,
a kettle boils
on a gas ring.
He hefts a tea-bag
into a mug,
dribbles milk and stirs
till bricklayer brown.
Deck-chair stripes swing,
sink, settle.
He watches a spider
crouching behind the dibber
watching him, waiting.
He turns on the Test,
listens to tales of cake
and occasional cricket
and drowses,
lulled by the drone of the commentator,
warm sun through the webbed window
and the roar of the bees
on the rosemary by the door.
England collapse.
The tea goes cold
and skins.
Shadows creep over him.
The rise of his waistcoat
falls and stills.
Woodlice scurry,
disturb dust.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


So our Government has a sense of humour!!!

Their advice to gardeners to burn their ash leaves because of this fungus is just as stupid as imagining there is anything we can do to stop the spread of die-back.

We have at least ten mature ash trees in our garden, especially in the wild woodland area. Burning is as ridiculous as thinking I could collect the leaves in the first place.
If the plague reaches us as I suspect it will I will, also, not be burning the wood, well, not immediately. No doubt I will have to get a fellow who fells to take the trees down. However the wood will be logged and stacked for the wood burner. By the time our trees become victims the disease will be endemic, if not already. So, I pray that our lovely ash are immune knowing they will not be. They provide us with welcome shelter from the prevailing winds and, though the come into leaf last and drop first, I much prefer them to the sycamore that seems to get eberywhere.

Now to other things like rushing out into the garden between the rain and the rain.

The two thornless hawthorns came and have been planted and staked. I hope they will grow to form an arch over a strip of grass leading down to the lower lawn.

 This year’s wallflower seedlings have been munched to almost nothing but I have noticed last year’s are magnificent. Wallflowers are really small shrubs and, if looked after, will flower for a year or two or more. Last year’s crop are now two feet tall and bursting with promise.

At the moment I am writing this as an excuse to come out of the garden. Some plants are dangerously invasive and I have been trying to extract Japanese anemones from a rose bed. This has proved impossible and I am sure bits are left to reveal themselves next year - then I will have to do a second weed.
Into the hole where the anemones were have gone the lilies from last year’s big pot.

Next to the outside table, on the paved area by the house, I plant a big tub with lilies so we can enjoy the flowers, bask on the scent and get the pollen all over our clothes. What lilies - for myself there is only one - the gorgeous Lilium regale, ten in a tub.
There is some discussion as to whether they should be potted up now or in the spring. The idea being that, in the spring they will not have had to survive a winter. I have found that, if you plant them deeply, there seems to be no problem - and was none in the two hard winters we had.

When I was dumping the barrowful of anemone roots in a distant corner of the garden - they may survive there and will not be a threat I found the old golden autumn fruiting raspberry canes I had also dumped a few years ago and they had fruit. A bit sour but really raspberryish. It is just that my head cannot get around the colour and R does not like them so they are, affectively, a wild surprise.

Had my break - must go into the garden and pick up all the ash leaves - see you next spring!

Monday, 5 November 2012


. . . and so is approaching winter. A huge flock of redwings zoomed through the garden yesterday and the brambling, a female, was seen at the feeders amongst the chaffinches. Our Cotoneaster “Cornubia” was stripped of its berries by four male blackbirds in three days.
We have had hard frosts for two nights so I have been out digging over the veg beds so the frost can help break up the soil. Have been topdressing some such as asparagus and rhubarb with a leaf mould compost mixture but being careful with the rhubarb not to cover the crowns as rot could set in.
I am waiting for two trees from Weasdale, non thorny hawthorn - that sounds wrong - and still have lilies to move from a pot and replace with daffodils.
The wooden frameworks for the climbing roses are crumbling so I will need to cut some more poles and construct new trellising. There is some good coppiced ash in the back hedge I could use .

Almost time for cutting back the perennials and adding them to the compost heap but not quite - there still flowers here and there.
I have bought a new ladder, one of those that can assume a whole range of shapes. This means I have two ancient and unused ladders - one wooden and the other aluminium, each in two sections. I am trying to think how I could use these in the garden without being silly.
Possibly as a basis for a boardwalk topped with planks, as fencing, as trellis?

We are still eating carrots and what we can salvage from the bolted leeks. The remains of summer lettuce and caterpillar and snail munched brassicas have been consigned to the compost heap.

Some time ago I bought two scarlet Lonicera for R but, as yet, have not planted them. They may be about to over winter in the cold frame when I can finish making the new covers.

There is still warmth in the sun and the other morning the Wendy House was steaming.

Bonfire night, or rather nights, is/are with us and the fireworks are scaring the animals. It is possible, if it will light, that we might have a bonfire later in the week when the grandchildren arrive. Thus I have taken the rotting heap (because of the endless rain) that pretended to be a bonfire and relocated anything of it that might ignite. Hopefully this will cut out the chance of cooked hedgehogs and improve the possibility of a few flames. Last year was a great success.

The rest will be left to rot down and be used somewhere as it is dig and mulch time. Put on the compost and let the worms do their thing.

And planning for next year - more carrots, less brassicas, net the redcurrants, pray for the raspberries, dream of a summer (we never had one this year), get a trailer for the mower so I do not have to barrow mountains of horse muck to the garden, divide montbretia, ditto japanese anemones and be surprised by all the things you have forgotten are growing in the garden.

And it would be great if the Magnolia grandiflora finally flowered.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


What do you do if the two gardeners living at a site disagree about the garden?

One wants a more formal room structure to the garden with neat hedges, well drained lawns and a separate wild garden. The other likes a random appearance with an evolving garden where wild and more formal blend into one another.
The first is tidy and organised, the second is not.

The image of the pittosporum ball illustrates the dilemma - R loves to prune and shape and control the plants. She would be a topiary fanatic if let loose.
This does have some advantages - the cutleaved elder needed taking back to near the ground to get new young growth next year. So I let her at it.

The pressure is building and I think I am losing. The jungle is being tamed and threats of diggers and drains looms.
I have a rough patch by the stream where yellow rattle, ragged robin and teasel thrive and so far she had been thwarted in attempts to "tidy this up".

Now to something a lot more threatening - the ash tree disease. As usual the powers that be have footled about when action was needed but, probably, the spread was unavoidable, sooner or later.

The problem is our small mature woodland area is 80% Ash. Some of the younger trees are beautifully shaped and then older ones a haven for wildlife.

One question begs to be answered - why import ash saplings?
In the spring and summer seedlings are everywhere and surely this country could have provided its own young trees.
Of course then there is the question of MONEY! It was almost certainly cheaper to get them from abroad.
One consolation is that, by the time it reaches here, there will be little point in burning all the wood to prevent its spread and we will have enough logs to last us until we are 150!

(from the Norse)

Ash .....
our flesh is your wood,
you are the Tree of the World*,
you are my hammer haft,
and cleft the cure of my child.
Your flesh comes late,
goes so soon.

Ash .....
when your leaves fall
your limbs are bare and grey.
When a gale blows
your one-winged keys
spin to another day;
your black caps mourn.

Ash .....
your wood is white
and hardened in the years;
your sawn branch
cleaves well, burns long.
Summers ascend in smoke,
and that which remains ..........


Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Well, no - it is the traditional cream colour.

Not very green then - but -
we rarely have the central heating on, as, with the kitchen door and other doors open, it heats the whole house,
we do not have a tumble drier, do not need one,
we do not have and electric toaster, kettle, coffee machine and so on,
our appliance will last for years and years - no need to replace items including cookers - and how much ‘carbon’ is burned making those things and creating the electricity to run them?
When I calculate the cost of running it with how much I would have to pay out to run all the substitutes then I think I win!

And, last of all, it is a wet winter’s day and you come in from the garden to a wonderfully warm kitchen . . .
And imagine being a cat or a dog and lying down on the floor and stretching out in the warmth . . . let alone reviving a newborn lamb in a box in the warming oven with the door open.

So, I await the backlash . . .

To the garden - the ash trees have all lost their leaves now and I have been collecting leaves for leaf mould and putting them in my big builder’s bag - see photo. I could get a blower but the two pieces of wood and the broom work very well. I looked at last year’s leaf mould and it is about three quarters of the way to being good - they do compost slowly.

The sun has just come out and the coal tits emerged to raid the birdfeeder. The other day we were in the kitchen when R noticed a big bird sitting on top of the feeder pole.
It was a Peregrine!! Obviously it was looking for lunch. Geese are going over regularly from Duddon to Morecambe Bay and vice versa. Frost is forecast for Friday.

The enormous sack of daffs and other narcissi never seems to empty. Have just planted under the willow tunnel sides so should be good in the spring and gets me out of cutting and tidying there until July when the bulbs have fattened up for next year.

It is so still outside, as if the world is waiting for - winter, weather, what?
What? The top pond has sprung a leak and needs rescuing. This serves me right for just digging a hole and not lining it, also the summer downpours have dumped a load of mud and silt in it so it is only very shallow. Now, excavating that is a back-ache job which I have just partially done.
At least water has returned and levels have risen.

 I have still not repaired the cold frame tops as I got the measurements wrong and haven’t got back to the shop - anyway the wood store needs a gutter so the list grows.

And then there is the 1960s shame to get over of being member 18950 of the Teen and Twenty Disc Club from Radio Luxembourg - 10 pm after the Deep River Boys - Member number 1 - J Saville!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


The main image is a view of the Wendy House from the bog area. R has been slaving away down there cutting back the long growth (and uncovering frogs).
The sweet peas have stopped flowering and are on the compost heap - roots left in the soil with their nitrogen fixing bacteria. The wallflowers I sowed earlier in the year are a bit moth-eaten but okay now I have weeded around them. I have pruned the lower parts of the willow tunnel and the prunings have gone to a friend as wands to be pushed into the ground on his small holding for a nascent hedge.

The other two pictures are of fruit - two of our few damsons and our one meal's worth of Victoria Plums.

As the cauliflowers and beetroot have not been a raving success (or any success) (well, did get one big beetroot) I have been searching the market stalls for the cheapest good quality veg and have made Borscht and Cauliflower and Cumin soups. These are now in the freezer.

The asparagus has been cut back and the ferns put on the bonfire (which has no chance of lighting without a flame thrower).
I have potted up tulips, and daffs for outside pots and popped some yellow pansies in the top as this looked good last year. One of the tulips I used was the striking 'Queen of the Night' - almost black. Three small pots of daffs have been put under the sink in the utility room in the, probably vain, hope they will flower for Christmas.

In the garden the coal tits - I have counted 7 at once on the feeders outside the window - are busy burying the sunflower seed. We came home the other day as a mute swan went over its wings whooshing loudly and the buzzard has come back to its tree by the wood.

On the hoggin path a curious fungus has emerged - Orange Peel Fungus - Aleuria aurantia - a rich deep colour against the drab path. There is not too much sign this year of the dreaded honey fungus but it still lingers near some old wood chippings. If you dig a little you find the 'bootlaces' of its mycelium.

In the garden we recycle as much as possible, plastic bottles at the bottom of big tubs rather than crocks (this makes the tub lighter and you need less compost), willow wands all over the place, compost, leaf mould and so on - voice in back of my head - "You are repeating yourself" - well, the garden repeats - seasons and thus, so do I. (Senility does not help.)

Soon it will be shrub moving, tree planting time.
"We have enough trees!"
Mmm! I have just entered a competition where the first prize is £2000 worth of trees.
I will just have to get one giant redwood then.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


- that is the question.

As I sit here watching the ash leaves fall like yellow snow onto the lawn that I have just mown, (a great way of collecting the leaves), I am undergoing an internal debate over whether to leave the dead stems of perennials till spring or tidy up the garden, get it spruce before the winter.

The control freak in me wants to make it all organised, manured and ready for next year. The naturalist wants me to leave it all for the wildlife. The grasses would be left anyway - they look so spectacular in a hoar frost.

Do I cut back the phlox, dig up all the bolted leeks, fork over beds, clear the streams - or not?

R has trimmed the vegetation at the side of the stream and I can now see it has silted up with the debris washed down by the storm rain - of which we have had plenty this summer. Though it is autumn, summer is back again today - it is raining.

We are just back from southwest Scotland where they are at least a week nearer winter. We went to the Wigtown Book Festival and heard Miriam Darlington on her book on otters - 'Otter Country'. Afterwards we walked around the White Loch of Myrton. The dreaded Japanese Knotweed was there as well as a strong bloom of green algae. The more the farmers fertilise the fields the worse this will get.

Whilst we were away it must have poured down for the track up to the house has developed channels where the water has washed away the lighter chippings.

Despite fruit and veg disasters this year one success has been the carrots planted in plastic tubs with the bottoms knocked out. Supermarkets cannot compete with the sweetness of newly pulled carrots.
Yet, I have had to go to the market and but beetroot and cauliflowers for our soup. I did wait until they came down to a reasonable price. As it is raining this afternoon will be cooking day, make soup, pot it in plastic containers and freeze.
In the depths of winter there is nothing as good as hot home made soup for lunch. Well, perhaps a deep-fried Mars Bar and chips with chutney and mushy peas? (I do not really mean that.)

I wonder about myxomatosis being back - lately we seem to have had only a solitary rabbit in the garden; the same cannot be said of the squirrels, which must have bred like rabbits. (I know that is not genetically accurate and we are talking dreys not warrens but you get the gist.)

Another puff of wind and another leaf-storm outside my window, time for home made soup.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


So, between the showers and rain
I have failed to get a tan.

However the garden has turned colour early.
The shrubs and trees we planted over the last few years, especially with autumn in mind are strutting their stuff. Even the fig leaves (not needed in such a cold wet summer) have gone a lovely pale yellow. (So have the raspberries but that is another story that has gone viral.)

Here are some of the shrubs etc.

The first is Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' which was given to me by my elder sister and is now about six years old. I have trimmed the wispy bits of dead twig they seem to get at the end of the branches to make things tidy. Tidiness is not one of my fortes but the wildlife in the garden will not mind.

In a row of three are, from left to right, Euonymus elatus. Liquidambar styraciflua and Rhus typhina 'Dissecta'.

The insect life has not yet left the garden and the last of the swallows, possibly going south from the far north, still fly about.
Last year I planted some Verbena bonariensis, (an 'in' flower), with not much success but this year they have been tremendous.

They are in amongst the roses and Japanese Anemones with an underplanting of a large catmint.

Now, there are always a few surprises at this time of year - I don't mean yet another heavy shower though I have just run around the bird feeders topping them up before the heavenly taps are turned on again (we have 8 feeders) - for instance, an oriental poppy has decided to open a bud and blaze away in the greenery.

I will also have a few bonfire dilemmas to come.
1. Will it be full of creatures - thinking of hedgehogs and so on?
2. Will it light?!! It is so sodden it might just have to be left to rot down to compost.
3. Can I even get to it as the surrounding cut turf is squelchy?
4. Do we buy fireworks? Well, the answer to that one is only if the grandchildren are here.

It is interesting how this time of year affects different people differently.
For some this is the best time of year, for others the looming threat of S.A.D. hovers in the increasing darkness.

For me spring seems a long way away at the moment and between now and then there is a lot of clearing up and manure shifting to be done.
I just hope next summer is worth waiting for. This one was literally a wash-out. I can count on my fingers the number of days when the temperature has been into the 70s.

Sad, isn't it?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


The only problem with the Ark was the two rabbits, two grey squirrels, two slugs, two snails - you get what I mean.

On the other hand if it keeps on raining - well?

Our small stream is usually pretty dry by now.
It tumbles out of the wood through a bank of wild flowers - at this time of year especially wild angelica.

Apart from a very brief respite it has rained for 48 hours and is not due to stop before 5 a.m. in the morning. Being on a hill the house is okay but the garden is suffering. The grey poplar that fell over earlier in the year has broken its ties and has had to be pulled upright again and retied to its stakes. I did clear the watercress from the stream so the flood rushes through and off to bother someone else.

The small bridges are either washed away or under water. Leeks stand in puddle filled trenches and the lawns have to be forbidden territory.
Fortunately a friend came and left us some wonderful beetroot to add to my one root.
Consequently I have been making Borscht.

Recipe - Ingredients -
2 lb beetroot, large onion, medium potato, 2 oz butter, veg. stock 4 pints, cider vinegar 6 tablesp., (I like to add a couple of teasp. of Agnes Rose Raspberry Vinegar), Marmite 2 teasp., Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Chop veg, fry onion in butter till transparent, add other veg and stock, bring to boil - 5 mins, simmer 1 hour (bottom oven of Aga), let cool, whizz in blender, add rest of ingredients (plenty salt and pepper), put in plastic pots and freeze.
You can freeze in plastic bags in square containers and then remove from the container. The soup can then be stacked in the freezer like bricks.

Talking of manure, this is the mountain in the paddock next to the house from where I can take free supplies. In fact the more I can take the more grateful they are.

I wonder how they managed in the Ark. Perhaps they threw it over the side?

They must have had the same dilemma and solution that the astronauts will have on the way to Mars. Recycle and grow veg from the stuff.
But on an Ark where there are 2 of everything?!


Thursday, 20 September 2012


The skies weep, my garden is a hankie.

And the rain it raineth,
still falls the rain,
it’s raining, its pouring,
the old man is snoring -
enough of the quotes
and I am told on good authority that I have been known to snore occasionally (every night!)

Giant Despair is at the door.
It has rained for 10 hours and is forecast to do so for another 24.
The lawns are waterlogged and unmown - 'Keep off the Grass' definitely applies - not that there is much grass left in many places, just moss, mud and reeds.

On a better note the blackcurrants, rhubarb and watercress (we cannot eat it because of the danger of flukes) have thrived,
all else is crop flop.
The asparagus failed, leeks have bolted, beetroot and parsnips would not germinate and, go away to Herefordshire for 5 days, and slugs, snails and caterpillars have stripped the sprouts and kale.
Wooden steps and fence posts rot and the boardwalk is unsafe - the BOG garden is superquaggy.
This is the worst summer I can remember - and it has been cold with far too little sunshine - figs and squashes - Ha!
We do have four damsons, eight plums, three apples, no pears, no greengages and no figs.
There is mildew on the purple prunus - so it looks pink, the leaves have fallen off many of the roses, three amelanchiers are dead and the oak in the lawn is turning early.

Weeds thrive, long grass is unstrimmed so bulbs are not being planted.

So I will make blackcurrant jam with fruit from the freezer - but I am on a slimming diet so cannot eat it!

Moan, moan, moan!

So only one cure - go to Avanti in Kirkby Lonsdale for lunch with wife, sister-in-law and her husband. (Must take a brolly).

Salad for me - (the chives have done well.) 
The wellies are at rest.