Thursday, 30 October 2014


Popeye, Oi've Now Dunnit!

Some times one has to ignore the instructions of a loved one.

We returned yesterday from a couple of nights in Selkirk, Scotland where we had explored the delights of Traquair and Abbotsford, and sat in the rain at Smailholm Tower.
After unloading the car I went out through the kitchen doors to look at the pond. Pond, what pond?

True there was a puddle at the left hand end but the rest was liner and all the plants were high and dry.
No longer could I be content to wait a month for Gary to return from Canada - I had a Popeye moment - 'I can stands so much, I can stands no more!' Tin of spinach out, one squeeze and down the hatch. Off to the shed for spade, fork and hoe then down the path to the Wendy House and around the back of the pond.
I dug towards the pond from the ditch by the hedge, uncovered the top of the liner and carefully scraped away underneath with the hoe, blade down so as to not damage the liner.
Suddenly water was flowing through my Bosphorus into my Black Sea, a veritable gush. Gradually the level of the liner fell - panic - I realised that as I drained the water from under the liner I needed to fill up the pond on top.
Off to the settling pond, block the outflow, remove the cover I had placed over the pipe leading to the pond and wait. The level rose and then water was running in over the butyl sheet that was the pond.

It is only temporary but Oh! how good it was to see pond not liner this morning.
As Popeye would say, 'Toot, toot!'

However, all that tooted, yesterday was the first lovely sunny day for a while and here is the garden in the late afternoon.

Surprises came as I looked around - this is an oriental poppy having a second fling.

However not everything was a delight - the rhubarb is well over and needs tidying for winter as does the asparagus.

And plants have arrived and need putting in somewhere - a host of hydrangeas and some grasses, bulbs by the bagful.

So, what am I going to do - go to town for a coffee with friends after I have finished reading The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker. (The o in Joel has two little dots on top but I cannot find how to do that in Blogger.)

So, I have set myself a task of some time every day in the garden (weather permitting) to try and catch up. Mind you gardening is a continuous process of catch up.

So I shall do an uptake of loin-girding and despatch myself to the Farmers Arms for a coffee.

So October ends for 2014.

Sunday, 26 October 2014


I am for ever being surprised by the people who say they read this load of rubbish. As a consequence R and I will be going to visit Abbotsford in Scotland (we were determined to get away for some autumn sunshine) to seek inspiration from Wally Scott. (Yes, I have been to the top of the Sir Walter Scott Memorial in Edinburgh but it was a VERY tight squeeze at the top).

Pond update - I think I have found the problem, at least one. Water is tracking in from the stream and so called settling pond via the old channel; though it was filled in, water has a way. Unfortunately due to the efficiency of the liner this water is going under it.

Here it is in better times -

And now -

It is driving this control freak bonkers.

And I have got stuck, weight wise, with my diet.

We have had BC to tea and before she came I went out get some flowers for the house - the roses are still good(ish). The cosmos by the house was, surprisingly, covered in honey bees. I say surprisingly as I have not seen a single honey bee in the garden this year before.

Soon I must empty and replant the pots and things with bulbs - some bought and some saved from last year and stored in the garage in the dry and dark. I suppose the topping will be winter flowering pansies - they did well last year.

Earlier in the year I hacked back a brachyglottis (senecio) to see if it would regenerate from the old wood and Voila! (Showing off now).

And it is doing well so now I know that mutilation is not terminal in this case. (Unlike the broom I killed off a few years ago.)

So the clocks in the UK have gone back an hour, what was 8 am yesterday is now 7 am and I got an hour of extra sleep. Has not changed the grey windy weather though.
The leaves have come off the cercidiphyllums but have scattered so no toffee scent this year.
Most of the leaves are off the big trees and the first of the cherries is turning.
So I leave you again with an image of autumn, an image of work waiting and the end of another season.

Bit depressing.
Christmas - urrrgh!
Work can continue to wait.
Roll on February and snowdrops.
Cuppa time.

Friday, 24 October 2014


and I am bulb barmy - forgot I ordered them and now will have to put them in - somewhere? The pond area looks vulnerable to assault but not where grass will grow.

This is the way into the garden from the unappetising approach to the house over tarmac, past shed and wheelbarrows and washing lines. Even the leaves on the Rosa rugosa on the left are turning yellow. Seeing all the leaves cascade from the trees makes think of a power blower rather than a rake and barrow (I do have a trailer though now.) Actually, though the sun is shining and I have done a bit of tidying, most of the day has been making blackcurrant jam and updating the Mac to Yosemite. Family do have a connection to the place - though very tenuous - my Great Grandfather on my mother's side was John Muir's first cousin! I wonder which gene he and I share, if any - probably just Levis.

The first autumn coloured bush you comes to is this witch hazel, not the usual yellow flowers one but it has deep orange ones.

Then there is the Acer sango-kaku my sister I gave us. I did plant some crocus around its base but they seem to have emigrated.

It always stands out well against the dark leaves of the big sycamore by the wall. Dismal things sycamores - grim brown autumn colour - I mean they are an acer so why not give us a bit of end of year va-va-voom?

Next is the Euonymus in its bright red splendour - just stunning. The hue seems almost unreal and when the sun shines - wallop!

Euonymus alatus of course - the winged spindle. Up here we do have the wild Euonymus europaeus in places with its peculiar pinkish fruit. I believe that the tree got its name from the habit of making spindles from its very hard wood. It grows as far away as Iran and has hermaphrodite flowers. (Well, it was time we had a bit of sex in this blog.)

Now, below these shrubs at the foot of the banking is a Liquidambar (not yet in full red) and a Rhus typhina.

You can see it has already started to sucker. (Ignore the drain excavations in the background.)

Our big old ash has lost a lot of its leaves and those that remain are yellowed. The younger trees are still green - but it won't be long, yeh! yeh!

More autumn pics -

So, what am I going to do now?

Make a cuppa for the memsahib down in the Wendy House who is writing something or other a lot more erudite than this stuff.
Might make myself one too.
Yes, that is a good idea.
Wish I could sneak a biscuit though.
I am suffering from a dietary deficiency of self indulgence.
The world is treating me bad - misery!

Nearly forgot - compost - had to mention it.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Hurricane something today - lightning, thunder, hail and gales, driving rain - not a day to be out so am having lunch with R and I.

Recipe to start with - Bramble (blackberry) and Apple Jam -

3/4 pound chopped peeled and cored cooking apple in 1/4 pint water - simmer till soft.
In another pan 2 pounds blackberries in 1/4 pint water - simmer till soft.
Combine, add 3lb sugar (I warm this in a bowl in the bottom over to speed things up)(R taught me that one) and stir till sugar dissolved.

Boil till setting point reached (cold saucer in freezer or fridge, take out and put a teaspoon or so of jam on it - if it wrinkles when pushed - ready (R taught me that one). Also. I use a big metal spoon to stir it all - when this is resting by cooker if cold and you run a finger through clinging jam and it leaves a trail - ready.
Pot into jars made hot in bottom oven. If you put the jars into a roasting tin they are easier to get out when hot. I put the lids on a baking tray to get hot too. Put on lids straight away and tighten - they will need another tighten when cooler.

Now R found some sprouting potatoes in the veg cupboard and I popped them in the garden - look at the crop we got.
I added the pen to give you the true size. They tasted good even if only one bite each.

I have been up to my frozen fingers in the upright freezer seeing exactly what we have buried in there - so much fruit - well, I will never get constipated!

Let me change track to the pond - perhaps not - so much of the risen liner that the plants in their sunken spots are falling over. "Gary, Gary, wherefore art thou Gary?"

Move on quickly lad - roses, yes roses - still flowering and a delight.

These two in the garden and the one below by the shed on the way in. It was given to us by P and A from t' big 'ouse on Stockbridge Lane.

Finally a pic of the huge Fatsia (no, not me any longer)(just a bit tubbia) by the Wendy House beginning to flower again. It must be nuts or very stupid, I mean, winter is almost upon it (us).

I have just been down to the compost heap with the kitchen waste (mentioned it) and it is almost full -  so I will need to empty the other one.

Those two rabbits I keep seeing worry me - all the go forth and multiply stuff. Mind you the solitary moles seem to manage too well let alone the grey squirrels. And snails. And slugs. 

Thought for a children's book -

Once upon a time Slimey the slug was slithering across a big cabbage leaf when a blackbird landed beside him. 
'Nice lunch,' thought the blackbird.
But he had not reckoned with Slimey's superpower!
As the bird bent down for a nibble Slimey jumped, yes, jumped right onto the blackbirds head and began to make all its head feathers horrible. Not only that, he squeaked as he slimed. . . .  etc etc etc.

Well I thought it was better than X men.

Saturday, 18 October 2014


I have been sent to the naughty corner!
First I have to mention compost - COMPOST!!!! - This is for L. who complained that I have not mentioned it for a while. Here is the bigger of the compost heaps, as you can see growing a fine crop of nasturtiums.

Now for G in Dublin who has used the blog as a way of keeping up to date with us - G, if you believe everything I write - well?!
So I will try to tell you more about the trials and tribulations of my decaying body and brain - just to cheer you up. Oh! And R is seeing an osteopath for a pain in the backside - how's that? (No, the pain in the b. is not me . . . . I think.)

So, to complaints that I proposed to change to a longer monthly blog - have you no sympathy for a knee-compromised old fogey suffering from the Autumn blues as the darkness closes in?

I tried to relieve the yuks with a gift to myself of a trailer for the mower - the ulterior motive is to make me use the mower like a tractor in the winter so the battery will not go flat like it did last year.

(I have set the screen saver to change image every 5 minutes and when it does I jump - not good for the old bloke.)

Where was I - yes, trailer - here is a heap of old mowings and stuff vaguely compost - see I mentioned it again - now I can move this with my trailer to the far end of the garden where the big heap of mowings and things are gathered.

Now you can still see the scars left by the willow tunnel removal - but things are healing - when the rabbits do not dig there (and the MOLES!)

I have just repaired the steps up into the wood as they had rotted away.
Talking paths - I will have to do something about this miscanthus as every time I pass after rain I get soaked.

 Ah! problems, problems to quote Don and Phil.

Down in the veg beds all is not too well either - this is the mass of sweet pea plants - not a bloom in sight. What a flop.

However we still have tomatoes, albeit green ones and the strawberry bed is looking good - lots of promise for next year.

I am still waiting for the tomatoes to finish and then I can transfer the runners I have temporarily put in the rhubarb bed.

So now - I have done another blog and mentioned compost so I will creep off the naughty stair (we have one of those as well) and show off my wind spinner again.

Well there it is - I go blogging on - and on - and on - and . . . . . .

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


And R's, but I get me underwear more twisted over things.

So before pondy stuff we have had our first autumn fog in the morning though the sun came out later.

This left the alchemilla in full glory again, covered in water droplets which shone in the sun that followed the grey dawn.

The garden was so still and silent, the latter only broken by the mocking laughter of a yaffle (green woodpecker) in the part of the wood beyond our wall.

So, I suppose I should explain the title of the blog (a nod to John Bunyan).

The photo on the left shows the view from the kitchen to the pond now I have assassinated at the big brachyglottis obstructing the line of sight.

The photo to the right shows, if you look carefully, that we have developed an island - we have a pond under the pond. The clay pan below the liner has become full of water lifting the butyl up.
There are several possible solutions one of which is most inadvisable - i.e. making a hole in the liner so the water will rise through the gap and the liner can sink.
Another is to put a drain from the ditch by the hedge in under the liner so any water that accumulates can drain away.

Actually what I have is done is chuck in a few smooth stones and their weight has caused the liner to, at least, sink below the surface.

Now to the shed front where a bog has developed as water coming off the banking, and no doubt from some hidden spring, has gathered there.
So yours truly has dug another small ditch to see if the water will drain away. It seems to be working but will need a permanent drain.
Perhaps the boggy bit at the foot of the banking could be converted into a bog garden patch. I suggested a giant Gunnera but R is NOT in favour of that.

To other things - I have bought a cheap wind spinner - about five feet high - with two wheels of blades. These rotate in opposite direction if the breeze is blowing. This appeals to my childish delight in such things.

R has cut back the Japanese anemones as they are now more or less over but the roses flower on. Still have some courgettes and green tomatoes - I need to bring in the latter and bung them in a dark drawer with a banana to ripen them.

S from down the road brought us some reed mace and a lovely blue flowered comfrey so these have gone in - the former near the settling pond, the other nearer the Wendy House.

Just mowed all the grass, washed the mowers, tidied the shed, washed R's car, washed myself (shower), received new trailer for the sit-on mower so I can cart stuff around the garden, drunk a glass of diet coke, ate a few garlic sticks (the crunchy things in Bombay Mix) - all after golf this morning.
Now knack - very fatigued.

I am drawing up a list of jobs to pay someone else to do, have booked a couple of days away Scotland, reading C.J. Box's Breaking Point, having another glass of diet coke - fizz = problems later!

I have just looked to my right where the rainstick leans on the digeridoo - I really should bother to learn cyclical breathing.

Time for some Farrer's special mountain coffee - glorious stuff, tastes great, makes my hair curl!

Sunday, 12 October 2014


Well, R is taking our small glut of tomatoes and my marrow to make a ratatou - what's it.

So, here is the forgotten courgette with an apple and a six inch ruler for size (15cm).
In this remote corner of England a marra is a friend or mate. It is a greeting word showing respect. This has nothing to do with the green object above but is a line filler. Anyway my marras will not complain.

Up on the top banking the branches of the ash trees hang so low it is almost like having a canopy above. This is where the chimes are hung - I know - bl**** wind chimes and all that - they do not suit some people, but we like them.
I have just noticed the font and so on has changed and I cannot get it back so you will just have to put up with it. (Very irritating!)
Now, here is a pic of the garden from under the ash trees - all a bit jungly and grassy. I am having a phobia moment and using the weather as an excuse to stay indoors. There is so much to do and so little desire to do it.
Autumn has come with its leaf colour. Note the pond still has water in. I have just got the Pond Bible through the post and it says to avoid having the stream running through so I will change that (one day).

 Another aspect of autumn is berries - here cotoneaster and hawthorn (the thornless one we saw at Holker Hall).

 There are flocks of redwing and fieldfare that have arrived from northern Europe for the winter so I expect them to clear the garden of berries soon.

The sun is out so I go out and the sun is in and it is raining so I come in and the sun comes out and so on and so on. The grass is too wet to cut. At least the roses are still flowering.
This font size is chopping and changing - I have been bowled a googly (Googley) (Cricket term for non aficionados) (Game not grasshoppers).
This is my 468th blog and I may take a break soon - probably not stopping altogether but writing a longer one every couple of weeks perhaps.
Getting the place ready for next year starts now and I dream of an apartment with a window box - but then would miss the garden, our garden, our little corner of heaven. (Except it can be Hellish sometimes.)

I am off to make some more blackcurrant jam from 2013's fruit to clear some space in the freezer.

And have yet another cup of tea.

If I wasn't on this diet I could have a Kitkat biscuit - Mmmmm!

Whoops! R has just nicked her finger chopping onions to go with the marrow and our tomatoes to make the ratatou - what's it thingy.
Doc to the rescue, plaster in hand, knife in the other to complete job.

Thursday, 9 October 2014


Before I swing into action with the chutney recipe here is (no, not a selfie) part of an old hedge near Broughton-in-Furness that looks remarkably like a hippopotamus.

Right - Green Tomato Chutney - what do with all the tomatoes that have not ripened, are not in a drawer with a banana trying to get ripe and one cannot bear to just chick on the compost heap.
I have just made about 20 pounds of it, much to go to the November fair in aid of R's church.

Ingredients :-

2.5 lb (1kg) green tomatoes
same of cooking apples - I use Bramleys
A couple of pounds (860g) of onions

Wash, peel and chop roughly before mincing. (No, not over to the sink and back)

Add a pound (450g) of raisins.
Then add 6 crushed cloves of garlic, big ones if you like the stuff. Do not slice as they tend to stay in the chutney as crunchy powerful pieces after cooking.
Pop in 0.5 UK tablespoon cayenne pepper, 2 level dessertspoons of ground ginger, 0.5 tablespoon salt and 1.5 lb of soft brown sugar (you can use Demerara) and mix it all up well.

Now you need some pickling spice (you can buy it or make your own). I could not find any in the supermarket so mixed black peppercorns, mustard seed, cloves, allspice and coriander seed. You can add chilli flakes but chillies upset me so - no go. Tie it in a muslin bag and attach to the handle of the pan.

Add malt vinegar - about a couple of pints (1.1 litres) and stir well.

Pop on the hob, whatever, and bring slowly to simmer. We have an Aga range so it goes into the bottom simmering over (the smells go up the chimney) for about 2.5 hours. It needs a stir every half an hour or so, more nearer the end. It is done when dragging a spoon through the surface leaves a permanent groove.

Then it looks like this.

Whilst hot put into preheated jars and put lids on tightly. The lids will need tightening again later. Most modern jars do not need the little waxy disc of old.

This is the second lot. I got about twenty pounds of chutney. (I have said that before - Mm!) Nearly as bad as leaving the golf club with my wallet on the roof of the car! Someone friendly who knew me found it in the road a third of a mile away, cards intact, coins scattered and a few notes absent but, hey! what luck. Brain dead sometimes.)

Back to chutney -
When cold slap on some fancy labels to make it pretty.

Now it is best if left to stand for at least a month to mature.

You can use the smaller jars as Christmas Presents with say one of jam and one of butterscotch sauce.

So there you are - it kept me away from the dreaded garden for a day or two (well one day was wet so I might as well make chutney as anything.)

So to finish - I found a setting on my camera (the one I have had for a couple of years) and whoopee - it does panoramic shots.


ps The settling pond (that we did not line) has developed a hole and water is running out I know not where - to some underground stream?
Had to try a bit of plugging and patching. Main pond OK.