Tuesday, 24 September 2013


Sunday -
Time passes so fast now I am getting more decrepit. Soon it will be time to organise the garden for next year.

I went out this morning to cut sweet peas for R. She is going to fill a vase in the church porch. The plants were so wet that I came back soaked. Yet, this morning the sun is out and it is warm. The seasons seem to be two steps on and one step back. We all thought winter is nearly here as it was so chilly but suddenly it is summer all over again.

Monday - To a tale of two plants.

First Hydrangeas - we have three types in the garden but two are outstanding especially Annabelle. It (she?) has huge heads of white and I planted it beside the Utility door - the one we always use.
I have not yet got the knack of using it as a cut flower - it droops alarmingly fast. It is time to search Sarah Raven's book for advice.

The other Hydrangea is pointy and I cannot remember the name off the shiny top of my head (under a number two cut). Its flowers have a more greenish tint and it grows on the banking below the house. I transplanted it there from a flower bed when it outgrew its situation.

I am still waiting for the grass to dry and may well have to use the small mower anyway as the turf is so soft - as was the rain - soft rain, an expression I first heard in Donegal in 1968. Here we call it mizzle - misty drizzle, and so wetting.

The second plant is the Japanese Anemone. The pink has grown so large it has encroached on the agapanthus which has produced only leaves this year - some serious sorting out is needed.
This photo is from last year showing the two together.
I am not sure I like the garish pink very much - I prefer the white even if the petals do go brown at the edges as they age.

The flowers have a very yellow centre which is all right with white but clashes with pink.

To a tale of five courgettes - of the plants I put in two have gone on to have big marrows, one is still cropping and two have snuffed it - the leaves went brown and crusty.

The butternut squash is fine and has taken over the place - ten feet across in any direction and has two, yes, just two, squashes.

I'se doin' summat wrong.
Have pollinated and stuff but just get greenery growing over the tomatoes, the sweet peas, gooseberry and rosemary cuttings, everywhere.
Toosday - Figgy picking - and here they are - so now?
No one much like figs 'cept me.
Somehwere in the recesses of my cerebelli (cerebella? cerebellums?) (latin declension of war) is something with cream cheese - somewhere.

Also up ladder getting in the rest of the damsons - the freezer awaits until I can decide what to do with them.

Today must be the beginning of the dividing and replanting and thinning and pruning and weeding and wishing for a single small flower pot on my concrete patio.

The man who strims has not come back to me on the phone - perhaps he hates doing it too. The difference is he gets paid to do it.

And what else have we reaped -

Just these - that's shallot.

Saturday, 21 September 2013


I have just finished making our first batch of damson jam. I have picked our first fruit but did not realise how tall the trees we put in when we came are growing. I will need a ladder for some of the fruit.The plums have come to an end but courgettes are still cropping. The cut flowers are battered and tatty.

Damson Jam recipe -
2.5 pounds of fruit washed and destalked,
add 0.75 - 1 pint water, simmer until fruit soft,
add 3 pounds sugar (I warm it in the bottom oven a la R.),
stir till sugar dissolved then boil hard for about 10 minutes.
Test by taking off heat and putting a bit on a cold saucer (bung the saucer in the freezer a la Delia Smith),
let cool a bit and then push with finger.
Wrinkles when ready.
Pop into preheated jars and pop on hot lids (I stick them in the bottom oven on a baking tray),

(0.453592 Kilo = 1 pound)

One of the writers on Cawthwaite, the online soap, has let the map out of the bag so here it is courtesy of the ?artist, royalty free unfortunately. Find more at http://cawthwaite.com.

I have not mowed the lawn for two weeks so it is long and wet. The only decent day we were in Herefordshire with family. Whilst there we visited Canon Frome Court as I mentioned in my last blog and had a trip around the collective's kitchen garden - makes mine look like a window box.
This is one of their apple trees.

The weather forecast for this morning, last night, was for a dry day with sunny periods. It stopped raining at 3 pm!

And the rain it raineth every day, every day, all day and every day. Back to our usual weather then.

Soon I will have pick the crop off our Conference Pear tree. Here it is!

And so to the carrots which are distorted and not supermarketable, and indelicate, but taste so sweet.

Monday, 16 September 2013


Off we nip for a few days to the delights of Orcop Hill and the garden sneaks up on
us with its carrots, damsons and so on.
I picked the last of the broad beans before we left and took Victoria plums with us (they were eaten within 36 hours.) I have just picked another 3 pounds of fruit but the wasps have arrived and gave me a nasty shock. They were right inside a plum and had virtually hollowed it out.
The damsons are coloured but not yet ripe so they stay unpicked.
Even the roses with hips are laden and have twigs bowed to the ground.
The asparagus fronds are good and there is hope for next year. (There is always hope!)

The rhubarb has been in for 6 years and needs dividing and replanting to reinvigorate it. I will dig up each plant and look to see how many growing points it has. Then I will split the crown so each piece of plant has at least one growing point and then replant in rich soil 18" to 2 feet apart and water in well. They could be planted father apart but I am limited for space, (because I have transplanted the wallflowers to where I wanted to put the rhubarb), and they will get a big feed of well-rotted manure to give them a boost.

We have had gales and the cosmos are leaning
over, many sweet pea flowers marked
by the rain. I have had to pick some, dead head any going over and hope that they will recover.

Mowing has been difficult because of the wet weather (and because I have not been here). The stream is full and I have not completed the dig out of the bed.

Whilst we were away we went to Canon Frome near Ledbury, a community living in a mansion, and I bought a big planter by George Thomas.

It is a splendidly original galvanised creation and will make a great change from the usual garden centre stuff.
The plan is to have yellow winter flowering pansies in it  around the perimeter and deep plant it with dark red, purple and orang tulips. The pansies will be encouraged to hand down through the gaps between the petals.
It was made from an old water tank the site above says.

The kitchen garden at Canon Frome was enormous and had fruit and veg going over. It did, however, look a little like, as the year has gone on, attention to maintenance has lapsed, a bit. One joy was a large mulberry tree with its delicious fruits. Much of the crop was sadly on the ground.

This is one of my marrows with a pen to show scale. I love them - sadly alone - so it will be marrow and mint soup by the bucket load. Some people say marrow has no flavour and I agree the taste is subtle, but lovely - stuffed with lamb mince and cut in rings - yummy!

I have brought in green tomatoes from the outside plants and put them on the windowsill with a banana to help ripen them. the lowest fruit had been attacked by slugs.

The last broad beans are picked and in the freezer. It is always a surprise that the large heap of pods on the kitchen island becomes a few small bags of beans.
I cannot be bothered with shelling them - fine dining rubbish - as long as the beans are fresh and not too big they are wonderful.

Autumn is with us, leaves are staring to turn, temperatures are falling (R will not let me put on the heated bathroom floor yet) and the last swallows and martins have gathered and many are gone.

The view from The Nook has a distinct end of year feel even though it is only September.
R is about to put away her summer clothes and dig out the wooly combinations.
There is a sense, already, that the garden needs preparing for the winter to come so it is time I got of my backside and did something -
                                               like have another cuppa tea.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


Fancy having wire cutters in your mouth!
Well, that is what our squirrels have. 
I have just thrown away a bird feeder for the wee grey beasties have chewed through the wires to get at the peanuts.

Here are the stair rods, wet ones courtesy of an Auntie Cycling in the Atlantic and depression here. We are fed to our teeth as another autumn AND WINTER loom.

The Vicky Plums have been great and we have sticky chins - they are so sweet and juicy. I went down the garden yesterday and had to robble ( a cross between run and hobble (those with knadgered knees know what I mean)( 3 ks - is that alliteration?)) back to the house through a downpour.

We are Sweet Pead, if you know what I mean - inundated this year, wonderful - I think I have dealt with this before but they are so fantastic I am mentioning them again.
Some fruit is abundant - blackberries, plums, some is a wash out - apples and pears. I can only assume that it was the cold spring that got to the blossom and the bees.

Last blog I rabbited on about yellow and orange flowers at this time of year so, just to show you what a load of rubbish a prattle here are some pinkies.

Cosmos, clematis and Japanese anemones top to bottom.

R is in her shed and all is well with Cawthwaite.com, hang on - we are being assaulted by felines and canines (not teeth) again - and the sun is out - cannot see a rainbow though.

Does one prune buddleia or not? Well, one could but not this one as we have so many around the garden that it would be a horrendous job. (an horrendous?)
What is needed now is thinning and dividing and replanting and stuff. I hate to throw plants away but sometimes there is no choice. I will stick them on the banking and in corners but there are still barrows full of them even after that.
A note on our willow that would not weep, had two stems, got the dreaded lurgi and all the leaves fell off. Thought it was dead - well, one stem was but the other has sprouted and the new growth is bending over a bit - perhaps a weeper after all! (Good writers do not use exclamation marks)(so now you know about me.)

And Syria - Putin is still puttin' it around but more deviously, Obama's cavalry are humming and ha-ing, fidgeting with their stirrups and looking uncomfortable, Cameron is less Churchillian and more Blairite, Assad is just sitting and waiting for the hoo-ha to subside so he can get on with eradicating anyone who disagrees with him (I wonder if Assad has some spare weed killer?) and the sweet peas need picking again. And the plums. And the carrots. And the weeds definitely need eradicating.

So I just suck on a juicy plum, stare at the garden, realise that I cannot do it all and ring the man. The man, however, is giving up doing his gardening job so I shall have to find another man.

Shall I go gardening?
No just Skype the hyper grandchildren.
Much better idea.
But not for the garden, alas.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


The phone is dead, the mobile reception is poor and anyway I was out in the garden mowing uphill. I am a bit wary of slopes with the sit on mower, especially side on, but straight up and down seems ok and the more I can do sitting down the better my couch potatoes will grow.

Speaking of potatoes - they have flower typical of the Solanums -

Colourful and beautiful?

Yesterday, with the rain coming, I mowed the lawns and then cleared out, cleaned and reorganised the shed. The day before I had been ditch digging, and stream digging and back aching and belly-aching.

I have been growing some oriental poppies from seed so these have been potted on and I went around the garden collecting trees from 6 inches to four feet tall to take to Orcop Hill for my daughter and her husband. They are pruned and potted.
Having attacked the blackcurrant bushes I made ten bundles of ten cuttings for R's coffee morning, and made another load of blackcurrant jam.

We are eating Victoria plums - so juicy straight off the tree - yum! They are so sweet (a bit like me!)(and sickly?)

Have you ever truly looked into the heart of a flower - this is a rose backlit by the sun.

Many flowers at this time of year are, like in the spring, yellow like this helianthemum. They can get out of hand though - eight feet tall and spreading by underground runners.

And then there is orange like this day lily, also out of hand.

So much to do and so many potatoes in my couch!
My cousin J sent me copies of family silhouettes today and I was glad to see that the older ancestors fed themselves well, some too well. Few were shadows of themselves - Oh! Ha Ha!
In fact the one of Great Great Great Grandfather Robert's double chin just looks too familiar.

Enough - back to the couch and a can o' lager and salted cashews.

Now it is another day and I am still couched - the heavens have opened and water is cascading over the gutters. Do not think I will dig the stream at the moment.

Did you see fantasy land in Russia with the 20 G strings? Putin posing and puttin' himself about, Cameron Churchilling and Obama trying to bring up the cavalry.
Look lads, come up to The Nook, I'll put on the kettle and we can have a chat in the scent of sweet peas and a juicy Victoria plum off the tree.
As for Assad - as said - sad.