Saturday, 1 August 2015

I'll grow 20cm high

Do these look like "neat, dwarf plants" to you?  Daisy was not in the mood to be a scale model, rolling on her back was far more fun.

I've cut right back on the number of tomato plants this year so I can put salad leaves in the front of the beds. The lettuce I've had growing so far really seem to like to shade the tomato gives. There has been a cull since this photo was taken.

That will teach me to buy cheap seeds in Wilko.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Mundane and minutiae

In the last post I mentioned minutiae which the dictionary sums up as:
the small, precise, or trivial details of something, details, niceties, subtleties, finer points.

I'm definitely into small and subtle right now, there has definitely not been enough of either of late.  Most of this year, or perhaps the last few years, has been huge big stuff.  But now we're moving to a different phase, more like the life we (stupidly?) thought we would have when we moved 350 miles north.  OK, in hindsight, those dreams were always attainable, it's just that too much house renovation and garden building pushed them to the background.

So here's the minutiae of some of Daisy's regular walks.  Even saying that makes me smile - once upon a time to do just a couple of these walks whilst on holiday would have sent me back to Hampshire with a huge grin on my face; now we have them on the doorstep every single day (weather permitting).

A rare moment of sunshine at the back of Sale Fell

Something's caught her attention on the Fangs Brow path

Clearly she needs no help or instruction when it comes to ladder stiles

Closer to home, a footbridge that absolutely terrified her in the early days

Plenty of other walks at the usual places - Ennerdale, Latrigg, Lorton, Crummock Water, but either no camera or no nice pictures.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Leaving the country

The lack of frequent posts and Bag End updates can be attributed not to being knackered and bluuurgghhh but to glorious mundaneness and minutiae.  Gardening has generally been confined to grass cutting and pottering about, and Daisy and I have been enjoying the wonderful variety of short walks on our doorstep.

But today that all changed when we upped sticks and left the country. No passports required until Ms Sturgeon gets her own way, just a family day out to Scotland.  There was much of this:  (not my photo, images nicked from Dumfries Caravan Centre's website)

But no purchases, yet, although we are very tempted and found a couple of lovely caravans that are big enough for three of us, within budget, and a good outfit match for my new car.

Daisy had been such a good girl, she had to stay in the car a bit more than she was used to (although at one point the caravan salesmen told us to just bring her into the vans with us - an invitation she happily accepted) but it was still a lot of hanging about for her and she was due a good walk.  It was a lovely day so instead of coming straight home we travelled another 10 miles or so along the coast and spent time at this gorgeous beach. 

With a little bit of imagination and artistic licence, I can see my house from here

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Veg Patch

It's not been a good year for growing veg, and certainly not a good year for this vegetable novice.  Cold, wind, rain and slugs have succeeded where my horticultural skills have failed and I am thoroughly fed up and disappointed about the whole 'grow your own' thing.

We had one picking of early sprouting broccoli, it was foul - very bitter and the beetroot isn't much better.  The broccoli which hasn't completely disappeared thanks to the slugs has now gone to seed followed rapidly by the spinach.  I'm rubbish at this 'succession sowing' lark so there's nothing following on.

Once again, the potatoes got early blight, and the peas, specially chosen old fashioned varieties which should grow six to eight feet tall have barely made it to the bottom of steel mesh.

I realised that the Fort Knox like barricades necessary to keep pests out of the brassicas also keep me out and have proved a huge disincentive to staying on top of maintenance.  Frankly, this part of the garden has given very little pleasure so far this year.

But there's always a Plan B at Bag End, and these gorgeous raised beds are not going to go to waste, I'm going to use them as proper nursery beds to raise perennials.  I've already planted up one section with bluebell seed from a neighbour's garden and as soon as I can summon the energy and enthusiasm I've got other recently collected seeds to plant.

As for the desire for fresh, organic vegetables, that's been easily solved with a call to a local company, Eva's Organics.  Debbie is friendly, helpful, incredibly flexible and I'm going to have a different box delivered each week on a rotating basis.  I tend to plan next week's meals on a Thursday or Friday so today's delivery fits perfectly into my schedule and the Small Mediterranean Veg Box which has just arrived looks fantastic.  All I need now is now some good Mozzarella for the Aubergine Parmigiana which has been winking temptingly at me from the pages of River Cottage Veg:-)

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The "F" word

Oops, bad blogger . . . should really have updated this a week ago.  But moving swiftly on, the good news is that the weather forecast was wrong, although not by much.  In the greenhouse the overnight temperature dropped to 4.1ÂșC  which is FAR too cold for this time of year.  If it was 4 degrees under glass it could well have been 2 or 3 out in the garden.

There's a great deal I ought to be recording right now, but I just can't seem to shake myself to do it.  Daisy is generally well although her skin/hayfever problems continue despite daily antihistamines backed up with local honey and constantly being wiped down to remove anything which might get on her coat when she's outside.  A trip to the vet is booked for Thursday, I except we'll be back on a low dose of steroids to get her over the current itchy eruption.  Found a bare patch of skin on her leg this morning, poor girl has chewed off the hair in the last 24 hours.  I feel so sorry for her, so guess who has been permitted to "win" the "I want to lay under your desk" battle?

I've continued to make slow but steady progress in the garden but the weather this summer is not helping.  Must rouse myself to go outside with the camera . . .

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

July, or January?

That's three times I've heard a frost warning for tonight, the latest being at supper-time with the forecaster announcing "when the sun goes down tonight the temperature will drop like a stone".

I have lots of horticultural fleece; it would be a shame not to use it and come out tomorrow morning and find the tomato plants ruined.

But draping fleece around fully grown plants (or rather, around the blasted bamboo canes) is no fun . . . hopefully in about 12 hours I'll be feeling silly for having been so over-cautious.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

So what happened to regular blogging?

Been busy here, but "nice busy" as opposed to frenetic, exhausting, never-ending busy.  I've spent quite a few hours in the garden getting as much planted as possible, and nearly everything is now in the ground.  The few annuals which haven't made it yet might well find themselves on the compost heap.

At some point it would be sensible to take some photos .....

Yesterday I completely blitzed my study.  As I get older I seem to be becoming a very untidy person and I absolutely hate it.  When I'm surrounded by clutter I can't think, can't relax, and my productivity take a nosedive to zero.  My study always seems to be the dumping ground for things I don't know what to do with, or piles of paper that need "sorting" and it had got to the point where I didn't even want to go in the room.  A big problem is that the room has to do double-duty and houses the longarm machine which takes up a fair amount of space.  After a lovely walk along the river yesterday morning which kept Daisy satisfied for a few hours I set to and moved every single thing.  Including the longarm (but that's on sliders and doesn't weigh as much as you might think).

Much has been evicted from the room and won't be coming back.  Cockermouth charity shops will be gaining many bags of book when I next go into town.  By the end of the day things were neat and tidy and for the first time in ages I actually want to come and sit at the computer.

There's still another pair of curtains to hang, and a wall which needs painting now I've moved the bookcases which were installed when we arrived here and hadn't been moved since.  For the time being I'm ignoring the massive pile of books and magazines in the sitting room (telling myself I am going to read them!) and the ghastly pile of paperwork which is now on the kitchen table (telling myself I'm going to deal with it!)

And there's a silly dog who really, really wants to lay under my desk even though there is a perfectly comfortable bed only four feet away tucked safely under the sewing machine ....

And now the sun is trying to come out so we're off to Crummock :-)

Friday, 26 June 2015

Busy Day

Today was going to be gentle and thoroughly indulgent - nothing scheduled except going up to Carlisle to collect my new car.  A fine plan until I found Walter in the garden shortly after 8.00am wondering if it would be OK to try and finish the paths.  (Blog lag and an unpublished draft post  means I've not yet written about heavy rain damaging the sub-base and having to wait until a drain was unblocked ...)  Management helped me move all the stuff which I'd left laying around and by the time breakfast was finished Walter had returned with extra fine sub-base to do the repairs followed swiftly by his big wagon full of slate chippings.

I left them working, Management in charge of Daisy and the kettle, and went to Carlisle.  There was nearly a tear and certainly a big lump in my throat when I handed over the keys to Hattie.  I've never kept a car this long (nine years), she was the most comfortable vehicle I've even driven, never once failed to start, never let me down in any way;  I hope she goes to a good home.

Our new car is wonderful but it might be sometime before I worked out how all the modern bits & pieces function.  There's more computing power in this car than sent Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins into space.  Not withstanding technological befuddlement, we 'christened' the car with a quick family outing to Allonby when Management finished work, but only for a walk and not fish & chips.

Back in the garden Walter and his guys started at the nursery area and spread slate chippings everywhere but ran out when they got to the Big Pond. They're coming back in a couple of weeks to finish off as we've decided to include the Coppice path in the refurbishment.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


The process of recovering from having done far too much for far too long involves naval-gazing. (It also involves a lot of map-gazing - planning routes and walks for one day in the future, but that's another matter entirely.)  During a recent spell of contemplating and cogitating a blinding truth finally made it's way to the top of the consciousness:  I've not necessarily been doing too much this year, but I've been doing the wrong things.

I've been fire-fighting in the garden, constantly moaning about the need to weed and clear areas which are going feral, whilst ignoring the increasing number of plants either I've bought or raised from seed which were languishing in the nursery.  Plants don't belong in pots which is why you'll rarely find big tubs or containers at Bag End - I've enough to do without forcing things into artificial conditions and setting myself a huge watering task.  Plants belong in the ground where they can spread their roots, develop symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi, combine with their neighbours and take their chances.

So this morning I set to with a clear intention - just work steadily through the nursery area and get EVERYTHING in the ground.  If some plants ended up in not quite the right place they can always be moved later; I'd prefer to get the location correct first time round, but needs must. And so the day progressed with a pattern of one hour on, 30 minutes off.  I spent the 30 minutes off with my Kindle and read an entire book today; in truth sometimes the breaks got extended if I was at a good bit!  This way I pottered gently from about 10.00ish until the light started to fade, which at this time of year is also 10.00ish.  Of course I didn't get nearly as much in the ground as I'd like but when I'd had enough of planting I set out the remaining plants around the garden.  Today's been so enjoyable, if only I could do it all again tomorrow - sadly, errands will come first.

There were also countless games with Madam and a couple of short walks around the block.  Daisy has done so much sprinting back and forth after the vast assortment of toys which live in the garden I reckon she's covered as much ground, if not more, than she did on Monday going up Sale Fell.

The G&T next to the pond at 10.15 was lovely, so quiet and still except for three or four bats who visit every night to take advantage of the Midge Buffet above the water.  I needed a jacket on, it wasn't warm enough without one, but at least we were outside late into the evening, not something we've had much chance of so far this year.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Dog walk

No occasion, no fanfare, just getting (slightly) organised and heading off for Sale Fell immediately after breakfast instead of the usual fannying around achieving nothing and then being surprised that it's nearly 12 o'clock.

Daisy and I did the whole route and it was lovely to find I wasn't knackered.  There have been times in the past when, for whatever reason, walking up this little hill was just too much effort but today we had a steady pace, a gentle rhythm and all of a sudden we were at the top and heading off down to Lothwaite.

Biscuits for her, a banana for me, and sitting in complete stillness and silence, just relaxing.   According to the Viewranger stats which don't seem to transfer when you upload a track we were stationery for 29 minutes.  There was a bit of a breeze when we sat down but until then neither of us had needed a coat, which makes a change this year. 

There was a half-hearted attempt to catch that tail, she never succeeds.

All weeks should start like this and with not much effort on my part (weather permitting) they could :-)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Midsummer, the turn of the year

No Solstice sunrise today, thick cloud put paid to any chance of seeing the sun climb above Skiddaw.

I can hardly believe it's Midsummer.  From now the days get shorter and there is less light and we move inexorably towards winter.  Yuk.  Summer hasn't even begun this year. But as the year changes, so do I.  Things are good here and I've been pottering around in the garden thoroughly enjoying LP's absence.

Still not got everything planted out or weeded but I no longer care.  I had a turning point of my own a couple of weeks ago but I don't want to commit the details to the blog because doing so creates a permanence, whereas I'd prefer to forget a couple of really shitty days.  The result however, was that I finally gave myself a metaphorical severe thump around the head and am now able to view the garden in a completely different light.

I no longer look out and see all the jobs that I've not yet completed.  Instead, I am looking around the garden constantly amazed at just what a wonderful space we've created.  I'm no longer working outside every available moment but spending nearly as much time sitting by the pond reading as working.  It's rather lovely:-)

I might even take a few photos at some point, in the meantime, here's today's photo.

Middle of the year and we've got the fire on and not for the first time this week.  There is consolation in knowing it's not just us - everyone I speak to admits to having the heating on for an hour or so in the evening, "just to take the chill off".  Hell, I even took a hot water bottle to bed one day last week.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

By jove, she's finally done it.

I was never, never going to have another dog after Ollie died but life would be so much less if we hadn't brought Daisy into our family.

I was never, never going to change my lovely Hattie Honda.  Mutterings of "you will prise the keys from my cold, dead hands" have been heard on more than one occasion when Management generously offered to get me a newer car. 

But long ago I learned never to say "never" and the slow process of finding a new vehicle began last November.  I hate changing cars but even I don't usually take quite this long.  But this morning a decision was made, contracts were signed, and next Friday we become a two-Scoobie family.

Now it's all done and dusted I'm rather looking forward to it :-)

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Upheaval? Well, maybe not so much

On this occasion, the lack of stress (to me) can directly be attributed to two things.  The first was having Management at home on Monday and Wednesday, the second was choosing local firm, Eddie Shimmings, to do the work.

Every time I was asked a question I brought in M. to confirm the decision I was making and that really highlighted just how many choices I'm called upon to make when work is being done.  Might not sound like a big deal, but it takes its toll.

We had two teams from Shimmings.  Dean & Steve to do all the preparation, and Tony & Jason to fit the new vinyl floor.  Plus assorted other staff who would turn up unexpectedly with exactly the right sized screws, or trimmings, or whatever it was the crew had asked for.  Nothing was too much trouble and everything was done cheerfully.  This may have been due to a constant caffeine/sugar high; I've never known any workmen get through as much coffee as these guys consumed.  Hey - if it made them happy then I was prepared to put the kettle on as often as necessary (which turned out to be about once an hour!)

The hallway caused problems; it wasn't until the vinyl was down the reflections allowed us to see a bump in the screed ... I think the vinyl was put down and lifted about four times before everyone was happy with it.

There's absolutely no way this room will stay this tidy.  By the weekend we will be back to the usual miscellany of abandoned rucksacks, unread magazines and dog toys. 

The only question now is how soon we'll have the same vinyl fitted in the rest of the hallway and my sewing room :-)  We chose the most hard-wearing, thickest grade of Rhinofloor that's available.  This is what we used extensively in our Hampshire house and when we left after nine years it showed almost no wear at all - and that was despite enduring a young and active Ollie using the hallway as a racetrack on an almost daily basis.  The Rhinofloor is warm underfoot, easy to keep clean, quiet to walk on and dogs don't slip on it as they do with wooden surfaces.  No affiliation and not being paid for this {giggle}.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Upheaval, 2 (aka "is it really only Tuesday?")

First things first, this is how the rooms looked after hardboard was laid yesterday:

I suppose today's not been too bad .... depending on your definition of bad.  It started at 4.00am for Management who unexpectedly had to be in London (so much for 'working at home' to help mitigate my stress and disruption!) 

It started just before 6.00am for me with the continually smiling floor fitters on the doorstep at 7.20am . . .

Daisy followed me around like a shadow all day.  She didn't mind yesterday's noise but today's shut doors and barricades had her confused and more than a little worried.

This was my kitchen for Tuesday.  Making coffee for the boys was easy, but taking it to them involve walking around the entire garden to get to somewhere I could leave mugs which they could access:-)    Fortunately it was dry so cooking a late breakfast on the camping stove in the garden worked fairly well.

Being denied access to most of the house wasn't too bad, particularly when I realised I could open a never-used door on the balcony and get into my study if need be.  Having wet screed poured everywhere wasn't too bad, at least it didn't smell, and the boys left at 10.30am.  They returned four hours later to "finish and polish" which should have taken 60 minutes.  They finally went home at 7.00pm. 

The wet screed in the hallway had pulled the hardboard away from the old and damaged parquet flooring underneath and the whole lot had to be redone.

Just one more night of mild chaos, and hopefully there won't be any problems tomorrow when what feels like acres of vinyl flooring is being fitted.