Saturday, 30 January 2016


On the Sunday of the snow I stopped on my way back from town to sit with Sue M-R by her fire and chat about the old times and herself.

This Sunday Sue left us. She will be sadly missed by all. I took this photo of her wonderful garden last year. She created a glory no one who has been there will forget and in it we will remember her.


One of the good things about these dark days in winter is that I cannot see it and all the jobs needed to be done.

So to talk of jobs - The buddleias have been cut back to a couple of buds on the new growth and the stuff taken to the bonfire. It is where the birds sit and queue for one of the feeders so my fleece is covered in bird droppings.
It is very mild - temperature in double figures again - but damp.
The garden birds are starting to sing - now they will continue until the summer - birdsong is one of the delights of a garden.

The first daffodil is out, picked and in a vase in the kitchen. Other plants apart from the roses have flowered all winter like this campanula. It has flowered throughout despite rain, frost and snow.

The grey squirrels are getting brazen - here is one escaping from the peanut feeder after I opened the window and talked to it. Before that it just looked at me as if to say, what are you interrupting my breakfast for?

The moss on the lower hoggin path is becoming a problem - the wet weather dos not help.
The paths up into the wood are in need of a bit of work.

But one main problems is the stream crossing in the upper wood. 

You can see the usual stream nearest to the camera but another one runs a few feet further on. What bridge I had, a few planks, has been washed away and the far stream is sourced from two new springs like this one.

It is Wednesday and every time I go out it rains. There was flooding in the Lake District for the umpteenth time this year. All I can manage is to empty the kitchen bucket on the compost heap.
On Monday had a 24hr BP machine strapped to my arm, went back yesterday and it had failed to record!! Will have to do it all again. Sometimes life's a bit of a compost heap - smouldering and full of snakes?

Today is Friday and Storm Gertrude (dirty Gerty?) is battering the house. What a winter - wet and windy and wild - a bit like some of our summers.

And in the garden things stir, sparrows and chaffinches, tits and goldfinches, bullfinches and woodpeckers.

 There are still roses, I picked these yesterday, and our first narcissus with a delicious scent.

And of course snowdrops everywhere. Last year's divide and replant when they are in the green has worked and they appear in so many places - we have forgotten where we put them.

Sunday, 24 January 2016


First some chilly pics -

Cold weather at last - hopes it deals with some of the garden pests including the munching slugs. It won't make much difference to the squirrels though - cheeky as ever. I am waiting for them to come in through the door (opening it first) and raid the fridge.

I have seen two chaffinches with foot disease today and wonder if it is becoming more common. It is caused by Fringilla papillomavirus and affects other finches like bramblings.

It snowed last night and is snowing again - we have about 4 inches now.

So we have just come back from the above and R bought Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff (the red one) and three packs of seeds - butternut squash, courgette and beetroot boltardy. Well, one has to feed the snails and slugs with something. 
We had soup, a cuppa and cake there. It is always funny going back to Greenodd as I was born only 150 yards up the Coniston Road. The hall tables are laid out with boxes of seed potatoes, rhubarb, horseradish, dahlias, onion sets, garlic, and there are fruit bushes and trees and seed packets.

Potato Day


10 am until 3 pm : GREENODD VILLAGE HALL

Choose from over 120 varieties of potatoes, fruit canes, onion sets, shallots, seeds, dahlia tubers, fruit trees etc.


I thought the rabbits would be curled up snugly in their burrows but here is one under the small oak sheltering.

Monday - well, that didn't last very long - thaw already set in and snow going. By evening it is 90% gone - short winter?

Tuesday and I have a new arrival to deal with the long grass on the banking. It is a metal bladed Flymo and all I need now is a long extension lead with a safety cut out plug. 
Quite like the colour. I had a similar one some years ago but it died - Flymo RIP.
R and I have been around the garden and there are signs of snowdrops flowering - and a lot of mess. One stream disappears into a hole in its bed and reemerges thirty yards away by some tree roots. To get there the water has to flow underneath another stream!

Wednesday and a beautiful cold morning again - can't quite get used to this dry weather. The mowers are coming back after servicing. I am cooking tonight (don't faint) and have picked some Brussels Sprouts - no nasty creepy crawlies so far.

Here are a couple more snowy pics - from Sunday. The back field with sheep and rooks starting to gather and begin nesting and looking back down the track up to the house. There were only two sets of footprints - mine and Megatron the black cat from down the road. The last one is looking the other way at the house.

I have just looked at my hands and they are muck up from the garden. No wonder the keyboard gets a bit grubby!

Thursday - rain is back, I am inside looking out.
Friday - rain is back, I am inside looking out.
Friday afternoon - sun is out and I have fed the birds (and of course, unintentionally the squirrels).

Monday is is Burns' Night so we are celebrating it tonight  - that is (Saturday) and the old tartan tie will need to be sought. (My mother was a Hay) (So, perhaps, I can just get away with it?)
And, of course - My love is like a red, red Rose! (In joke for those who know.)
I can see snowdrops flowering on the upper banking and even outside the kitchen door. Things are a-stirring.  That is except the rose that continues to flower whatever the date.
What else? I have just tried to descale the kettle but it will need a second go and have ordered a replacement car for the 8 year old one we have. Now I will need an electric socket!
All this is very garden I don't think.

Time to don me Wellies after a coffee in town - however it might be raining by this afternoon and . . . . .
But it did not rain till 5pm so I went out and tined wet lawn, raked bankings so the snowdrops showed up better and carted fallen sticks to the bonfire. 

I wonder if I can remember the words to 'Ye banks and braes o bonny Doon'?

Didn't need to - was regaled by Tam o' Shanter, ate cock a leekie soup, haggis, tatties and neeps and excellent puds to be finished off perfectly with a wee dram of Lagavulin single malt whisky. Good company and great hosts!

Sunday, 17 January 2016


Just got to start with Marmalade - this years lot done to R's mother's recipe. (See below)

R has been making borscht with beetroot from L and G - they had a few tiddlers left in the garden like this one. (Pen for scale!)
Now I am looking to make some pickled same hence the malt vinegar - you can have special pickling vinegar but the old malt (not the only nice malt) (Horlicks) and some spices good too.

The biggest one weighed 2.5 pounds (1.134kg). 
The best beets are the small sweet ones but in January who's complaining. All my seedlings snuffed it.

We still have the odd rose in the garden (as well as the one in the house)(not odd of course)(go on dig yourself deeper).

I have been down by the pond using a fork to tine the wet patches to improve drainage and it does seem to have worked - for now.

The miscanthus is holding up well, at least where it has't fallen over. It will need cutting back soon before it gets growing again.

It is Wednesday and this morning winter has come with hail and ice, roads slippery and though raining by midday it is cold. R making more borscht soup.
I have been outside the kitchen door with numb fingers planting up the pots - I Know! I should have done it months ago - so one with a box to clip as a ball in the centre and ranunculi around it, others full of tulips two layers deep. These are Sarah Raven's scented collection of Orange Favourite, Ballerina and Brown Sugar and then Antraclet, Burgundy and Tambour Maitre. Other pots were topped up with a layer of fresh potting compost. 

We still have a few Brussels sprouts and they will be all the better for the frost we had in the night. The forecast is bitter for the weekend.
The beetroot are done but now L and G are threatening us with giant parsnips - scary!! We got them Thursday. (Pen for scale). Lotsa soup coming up.

I have tidied the woodshed ready to move in some of the new log pile and dug out the drain from the back field - it was overflowing and making some of the areas soggy that I wished to be dry.

Friday - there is snow on the Coniston mountains, deep snow but here just frost and a sharpness in the air we have not had yet this year. The light in the garden is magical.

So the recipe - 9 Seville (bitter) oranges, one sweet one and a couple of lemons, squeeze out juice, put pips etc into muslin bag, put peel and pith through a mincer. Shove the lot into a big jam pan with bag of bits hanging in it. Leave 24 hours.
Bring to boil and simmer till ring soft - say a couple of hours.
Add 8 pounds sugar (I warm it in the bottom range oven first) and stir over low heat till all sugar dissolved, Boil hard for 10 minutes and begin testing by taking off heat and putting a small spoonful on plate chilled in fridge. Push with finger and when ripples - done. You may need to repeat this a few times if not yet ready, boiling for a minute or two and then testing again.
You may need to do it in 2 batches depending on pan size. 
Put into hot jars and seal, label and eat.

Sunday morning and SNOW! About 3 inches (7 cm) here - more next blog.

Sunday, 10 January 2016


I am not going to mention the rain again, you me and everyone is bored with the subject - hang on - I've just mentioned it - d***!
I am wondering if its is all the fault of my Chilean rain stick.

R has been out with the power washer - power washing the paving. I have started the weeding and clearing up and shifted a barrow load of the old manure - my back is not what it was - partly as I was trying to push the barrow with a half flat tyre - and the old muck is wet and heavy. 
The wagon has been to collect the mowers for servicing.

Today, Wednesday, has been a good day - rain due but not yet. The sun shone this afternoon and we are all confused as to what is this strange light in the sky.

 Now to some house planty bits with pics of the poor ailing things. Poinsettia still surviving me on the left and a Peruvian lily on the right that has needed potting on months ago. 
Then on the right is the lemon scented geranium that comes in for the winter. I hacked this back last spring but it is doing okay.
However the streptocarpus on the left, also needing repotting, got overwatered as we were both topping it up and a lot of the leaves went yucky so I cut them off. It is in recovery mode.

 This is the window in the utility where I stick odd stuff, blue salvia on the left, then dead parsley, a small Hydrangea Annabelle alive and sprouting and two amaryllis almost at the end of their build up for next years flowering.

R has developed the habit of announcing that the moorhen is back on the pond by saying she can see the mallard. There are differences - one could eat a mallard but a moorhen would be very scraggy.

So what does one do when it is raining outside - eat. sleep, tv, write blogs, muck about and read. It is such a shame Harry Bosch is now a pensioner. I have just finished an amazing book - Joshua's Story by James Titcombe - traumatic reading of how the death of his son began a road through the minefield of NHS and political bureaucracy to change the way the NHS works.

Now I am reading The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks about a disappearing way of life in The Lake District. I grew up on a sheep farm though was never going to be a shepherd but recognise much of what he describes.
At the moment we have a movement for the wilding of the fells, the removal of the sheep - and of a way of life that certainly dates back to the Vikings and maybe many thousands of years further. In the end it may be achieved because hill farming cannot pay.

The outcome may be that wilding comes but with it the landscape loved by visitors will change for ever as fields disappear to be replaced by more upland woods. And these woods will reach up onto the mountains obscuring the views.

The tree fellows (fellers?)(both) are cutting down a neighbours huge evergreen and we will have a much better sight of the bay.

And then suddenly, after a dark wet morning, the sun comes blasting from behind a cloud. I walk up the garden, treading carefully on the gravel paths, and see new growth - snowdrops pushing through the leaf litter, buds braking on the flowering currant and there is light everywhere. The trees are full of finches and tits; robins, dunnocks and blackbirds scrabble around searching for food.
Of course it does not last, soon it darkens over and rain returns but now I can see into the future and how it might be.

The paving needs repointing so got a man coming to quote Tuesday - cannot do it until weather better though.

It is raining again.

Monday, 4 January 2016

RESOLUTION NO.9, NO. 9, NO. 9. . .

Apologies to the White Album.

So we proceed through the winter. Today is Wednesday 30th December and rain is lashing on my window, the eucalyptus is almost bent double and gutters are overflowing. This storm has been named Frank, a silly habit adopted by the Met Office and frankly I don't care a d***. G next - how about Gail?

So now you know why I am not out gardening today - I thought yesterday I would pick up the twigs and branches fallen off the ash trees but why bother when another lot willl come down the next day. The sheep in the back field are standing backsides into the wind and rain. But, you know, only the surface of their fleeces will be wet. Deeper in they will be dry - who needs a kagoul?

Pm - the rain is intermittent so I went out in my Wellies. Three new springs gushing forth and the grass is definitely no go - absolutely sodden. The sun appears and goes almost immediately. Daffodils are through in clumps on the upper banking but not yet in flower and even the day lilies are showing new growth. What a crazy world we're living in! (Apologies to Joe Brown.)

Today is the first day of 2016 and this is the view from the house, three score years and ten approacheth and I am going out to run the engine on the sit-on mower as it went flat a couple of years ago causing havoc for the mower service men. 
At the moment it is not raining, I have sort of started a diet, well am thinking about it, and my New Year's resolution has to be - gerrout there and do summit.

So I did - raked off and collected fallen wood from the daffodil banking and took it to the bonfire. I planted a Hydrangea Annabelle on the banking near the gate. 

Then decided to prune the two Rambling Rector roses which were out of control. They did not like it and got revenge - I have a long scratch right across my forehead.

In the kitchen cupboard were some small potatoes that were sprouting so I have chitted them and put them in empty egg boxes.
Whether we will get any produce from then waits to be seen.

I had a dream last night, crazy dream (apologies to Jim Dale)(or MLK?) about creeping buttercup - a recurring nightmare. The more you dig it up the more you have.
And I have put on a shirt with four buttons on the cuff - another nightmare for a man with ten thumbs. (I only broke two glasses over New Year.) Perhaps I should stop reading PJ O'Rourke from the 1980s (Rolling Stone Mag.) as he is influencing my verbosity and talk of gardening.

G, G, wherefore at thou and so on?

Oh! And diet time :-(