Saturday, 19 August 2017

Magpie

I may have successfully reduced the corvid visits from magpies and jackdaws, but we're very happy to see this lovely visitor in the garden - Abraxas grossulariata - more commonly known as a Magpie.

Pretty little thing πŸ˜€ seeemed very relaxed resting on a Viginia creeper.



Lovely site with more information here:  Buttterfly Conservation

Friday, 18 August 2017

Getting behind is easy, getting caught up - not so much!

I'd say "where have the last couple of weeks gone" but it would be a rhetorical question as I know exactly what happened to them;  the first was spent recovering from a horrible cold and the second has been spent making excellent progress on Management's "Garden List".  Looking back I can see we spent the first couple of months of his retirement straightening out the house (which is not completely finished, but there is a good chance it never will be!) and we are on track to spent months three and four straightening up a few things in the garden (which will never, ever be finished, gardens never are).  Maybe by the end of the year we will be in a position where "all" we have to do is maintain stuff and can spend more time enjoying ourselves ..... but that's getting rather ahead of myself 😍

I have not been very good at photographing everything we have done, so today I will just go with what I do have pictures of . . .

The bird feeding area had some much needed TLC;  a weedy messy corner has been filled with compost and bark chip, edged with the logs we took from the pond path, and planted with some self-seeded ferns which I rescued from the back of the big log pile.



I used one of the old 'ground feeding cages' and made a corvid-proof cover for the peanut feeder.  I mocked this up with clamps a few weeks ago as an experiment and it has made a huge difference - far less magpies and jackdaws around now they cannot get at their favourite food, and double the numbers of small birds who obviously feel a lot safer.  Win win all round πŸ˜ƒ



Management has fashioned a superb tray to catch the fallout from our sunflower feeders.  The rain falls through it so nothing is getting soggy and smelly, and by supporting under the net with some old mesh he's made a nice, firm base for blackbirds and others to stand whilst they hoover up the seed.  There is nothing like the amount of waste that there used to be, so more 'win win'!





In preparation for using glyphosate we've set up a couple of sturdy barricades to keep Daisy away.  She likes to nibble at long grass and these two areas were favourite places to snack.  I absolutely hate using weedkiller and always feel I've failed as a gardener if I have to get the stuff out, but it would be even worse for Daisy to consume plant material that has absorbed such nastiness.






Many buckets of compost and bark chip were moved and now the new bed next to our 'trailer park' is ready for cyclamen.






Friday, 4 August 2017

Taking stock, and an unexpected visitor

In his corporate days, one of Management's greatest strengths was to go into companies who had difficulties and help troubleshoot them into a better place.

Ever since he retired, we have both noticed a common theme is my belly-aching about the amount of work to do in the garden, but making very little progress.  With an unerring ability to notice what is not being said, Management asked recently "when you're outside, are you doing the jobs which really need doing, or are you doing the tasks which are relatively easy to complete?"  Did I mention he also has a tendency to go straight for the questions that everyone else (me?) ignores?  No chance of an elephant hiding in the room when he's about :)

And so it was, that at the beginning of the week, outside we went:  me pointing out everything I wanted to do and Himself writing it all down.  There was then a fairly long interlude whilst a frighteningly large spreadsheet came into being.   It is actually less daunting having it all written down than the constant figurative 'spinning of plates' as I try to keep track of it all in my mind.  



This is just the tasks which (for "kicks and grins") we labelled as ideally being accomplished in the next two weeks.



Oh, stop laughing at the back there ..... a combination of Cumbrian weather, an overall lousy summer and an absolute doozy of a cold means we've got nearly to the end of the first of those weeks with only one teeny line item ticked off.

We will ignore how ticked off I am 😑   This was the scene a couple of nights ago which says something about how chilly it has been and how knocked out I have been.  Tonight's weather forecst on Channel 4 warns of 'dangerously high temperatures' for those venturing to southern Europe, but parts of the UK are likely to fall to single figures - sheesh - but I should not be surprised, mid-July there was a FROST WARNING in Scotland one night.



An unexpected visitor on Friday afternoon left us with "a little present" on the drive that means should I ever get to the point where all the garden is weeded I certainly have more than enough bark chip to mulch the living daylights out of the soil!



With the school holidays in full swing we've made the decision not to attempt any caravan trips until the end of the month, which - theoretically - leaves me with a lovely big window of opportunity to crack on in the garden. 

Wish me luck  πŸ˜›







Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Good riddence July, you've been a thorough disappointment

July started by being a snarky disappointment and maintained that attitude for the next four weeks.  My little walking trip in the Pennines was washed out at the last minute when the weather disobeyed the forecast which had been issued, and the rest of the month took notice and followed suit.

I don't think I can remember a mid-summer month that has been so wet and unsettled.  Apart from occasional days it has also been bloomin' cold for the time of year with the woodburner on one night, and even when it's dry there is no residual heat in the ground to make sitting outside after supper something we can contemplate.  Even the Met Office admits it's been crappy πŸ˜•



The slugs however, are having a bonanza of a season.  Despite a thorough application of Nematodes the slimy little sods have decimated my runner beans and destroyed both the Japanese spinach and Purslane I was so looking forward to adding to salad bowls.  Emerging carrots haven't stood a chance, and sluds have also demolished my cosmos, marigolds and dahlia sowings, and the echinacea plants I was so keen to grow from seed haven't stood a chance.  I've realised this is one of the reasons I have blogged so little in the last couple of months - I am thoroughly demoralised, disheartened and discouraged this season and it's a feeling I am struggling to shake.



The only thing the slithery little sods are not eating is the weeds and oh baby, do we have weeds.  Loads of rain and a disspirited gardener who is not outside enough to keep on top of them and we are very, very close to an afternoon spraying "magic water".  I try my best to use no pesticides and be as completely organic as I can, but there are occasions (and outbreaks of ground elder) where those principles just cannot be maintained.



Yeah, I'm unnecessarily grumpy but now I've said it outloud I can move on and get a grip on sorting out some of the problems - when I'm recovered from the raging sore throat and jelly legs that a brief summer cold has shared with me 😑😑





Thursday, 27 July 2017

Before the rain came

We're forecast quite a few days of wet and windy weather, and so far this morning that prediction has been rather too accurate.  Therefore it made sense to grab an opportunity yesterday afternoon to get out and give Daisy a short walk in decent conditions.

It only takes half an hour to get to St Bees which is currently one of our favourite places to walk, and the massive Seacotes car park always has plenty of space.  (Note to self - don't send poor husband all the way to the only working pay meter when he can't remember the registration number of my car.  Poor chap walked all the way there, and back again, and in the end I went "sod it" and we moved the car to a spot much closer to the parking machine!)

A fairly gentle potter uphill to the first viewing point.







Whilst it is good to see the cliffs, and around to St Bees lighthouse, it was not so good to see this offshore:



A little digging at the ever-clever Marine Traffic website [isn't this home page prettyπŸ˜‰]



and it transpires another beautiful stretch of coastline is due to be despoiled because JB119 out of Nassau is a "Construction and Maintenance Vessel" for the offshore wind turbine industry.  Ever the optimist (I thought that was my job?) when I told Management he said "hmm, perhaps they just parked it".  He then said something else which was very rude ....



Nonetheless, we enjoyed our walk and were home just in time to put the oven on for supper 😊








Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Irritated

It is probably apparent that over the years we have spent more than tuppence on bird food.  I have been using the company who were GW Titmuss since about 2014, they now call themselves "Little Peckers" but last week's delivery is looking like it will be the final one.

The sunflower seeds were fine, but we are currently blessed with large numbers of blue tits, great tits, young robins and many other species who love fat balls and I needed to stock up.  A box of 150 for £15.99 seemed more than reasonable - until they arrived.

As you can see the outer box was not squashed or damaged. Sadly the same cannot be said for the contents. 



Almost every packet of fat balls has one or more balls which are completely disintegrated and it is therefore not possible to use them in the suet feeder.



I'm posting this here because I am thoroughly irritated - so far three emails to customer services since 19th July have recieved nothing more than an automated reply.  Perhaps the one-star review I left on TrustPilot this morning might get their attention.

Other food suppliers are available ...



Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Weeding #2 and a techie problem

Tech problem first - anyone know how to solve this week's computer glitch where the blog NavBar does not display if you're using Firefox on a Mac?  It works in Safari, and in Chrome, and is clearly visible on Management's Windows PC.  Google searches, looking in the Firefox Knowledge Base and rebooting everything (clearing cache, cookies, etc.) hasn't helped ....



It is not just my blog - Sue at GLAllotments and Kate at LiveLoveCraft are two examples where everything looks fine in a different browser, just not in Firefox?  


But on to problems that we can (eventually) solve.  There aren't many sections of any garden that will not become completely feral if they do not get some attention, weeding and general maintenance every now and again.  The long bed in the side garden looks mostly-OK for much of the year, and the Coppice & the moist bed behind the Top Pond are current successes - they only need a few hours each year and then very little maintenance thereafter.

Coppice in May:







Top Pond bed in June:





The Big Pond really ought to be in the same list but it has been somewhat neglected over the last two years and I am now paying the price with rampant growth both in the water and on the margin beds.  A couple of the grasses (which were bought as 'clump forming' not spreaders) have not behaved and it's going to take Management and I much of the Autumn to dig the blasted things out and start again, a heavy & very physical task which neither of us are really looking forward to.  But for today we limited activity to an hour of me wandering around in waders which was quite enough!









Will someone please remind us that next time we do this, there must be a limit of 30 MINUTES in the water.  It was not until I got out and changed I realised how cold I'd become and spent the next two hours shivering under a fleecy blanket with a hot water bottle - not quite at the point of mild hypothermia, but cold enough to know I'd got too cold πŸ˜’






Monday, 24 July 2017

Weeding

Last night was so miserable, damp and driech that I lit the woodburner after supper, not a big burn and only for an hour until I went to bed, and probably as much for the comfort of the flames as for the warmth.  This afternoon was so hot I was in danger of getting sunburnt when we spent an hour on the Big Pond.

A couple of times a year we need to get in there and curb the enthusiasm of the oxygenators.  The water is beautifully clear but there's so much weed growing that it gets difficult to see very far into the water and observe all the lovely little creatures who live there.



I float around in a child's dingy getting wet and into all sorts of positions which are not terribly good for my shoulders, Management stays on dry(ish) land and empties the trays for me (and apparently acts as the Responsible Adult should I fall overboard ....)





Despite not falling in, it's still necessary to hose both me and the dingy before going in for a shower.  Fortunately for Management, the hose doesn't reach the photographer who stayed on the black deck :)






Muscles permitting, we need another session tomorrow.








Friday, 21 July 2017

A little local dog walk

It's been a (generally) cold and unsettled summer so far, but perhaps that means I appreciate the warm and sunny days even more.  Monday was one of the lovely ones, and we took a slow walk through the woods at Crummock Water, had a paddle at the boat house, and an equally slow stroll back to the car.



Daisy seemed to enjoy herself; by staying in the woods and out of the sun as much as possible she didn't overheat.  I'd thought about taking swimming gear but decided I couldn't be bothered which was a mistake, I had to settle for a paddle instead.







I can only get Daisy in the water more than an inch or two by holding a biscuit right in front of her nose, and even then she's not daft and won't go very deep.



Walks on water?



Unfortunately not, just another mean trick to cool off Daisy's feet.



"Save me, Daddy!  She's trickling water over my back and I don't like it!!"






Thursday, 6 July 2017

Rudderless?

Oops.   Absolutely no way did I mean to abandon my blog for a month, particularly at a time when there has been so much going on that I am hardly short of anything to write about.  But that is the way of things; so I'll move on from this point and if the mood and moment takes me, do a bit of retrospective catching up when the time feels right.

Whilst Management's retirement is a good great thing, it came about rapidly without taking much time to plan for how we'd "do it".  But that's normal for us - we can take YEARS to decide where to hang pictures, or what colour to paint the sitting room but Big Decisions, nah, they take hours or sometimes days, but never much longer! 

It comes as no shock to anyone who knows me that I like, need, crave routine and order.  It is my anchor and my safe place from which everything else comes into being and the one thing which has completely disappeared from my life in the last month is routine . . . and that includes finding computer time to sit and blog.  Does everyone's retirement start like this? Six weeks on we are still in the midst of strangeness and whilst we have a pretty clear idea of how we want to live, what we want to do, and what we need in order to achieve that,  a backlog of months/years of should-do's and have-to's seems to have totally taken over our lives.

How can it be a month since I last blogged?

How can it be that neither of us ever seem to sit down/sit still and yet we are never finished?



We've certainly been busy, LP's last day was 6th June and since then Management has been a tremendous help in the garden.  Ah yes, The Garden .... a place of happiness and sanctuary (especially during the incredibly hot spell last month) but also a place which needs a lot of time and attention.  Much thought is being given to small changes we might make in future to lessen the workload without diminishing the space.



Daisy is, as always, a delight to live with and happily the Apoquel tablets seem to have conquered the seasonal allergies which make her skin so sore.  Many short local walks, especially to a favourite wildflower meadow near the river.



She found some of June rather too hot and the slate hearth was a favourite place to cool her head



Those white boards full of tasks we've been wanting to get to for months/years have kept us busy, particularly from the middle of last month when we started at one end of the house and absolutely BLITZED a room each day until a week later when we were sick and tired of it all, and anyway, his Mum was arriving the next day!  We spent a very gentle week "on holiday at home" doing as much as an 85-year old with decreasing mobility could manage.  A lovely trip to Lingholm filled a wet day, plus the 'obligatory' visits to the seaside which included the Roman milefort at Allonby, Silloth and even a short climb above the beach at St Bees:



The now-traditional last day visit to Wasdale:



After the post-holiday tidying up and laundry sessions we were both completely worn out!  Over the last month I've developed a possibly unhealthy interest in the TriPeaks game on my iPad and that has been filling what little computer time there seems to be each day. When I find myself wasting time on mindless computer games I know I need a break, and as Management has often said "you could take the caravan away alone and I will look after Daisy" I suddenly decided to take him up on the offer and booked three nights at a tiny CL on a working farm outside Appleby with stunning views of the Pennines.



Which was lovely, but very strange to be without Daisy-dog, and now I'm home, surprisingly knackered but hopefully I will get up refreshed and renewed tomorrow!