Monday, 29 June 2009

Bonfire, Sunday night

Not many words 'cos (a) it is hotter than Hades and I can't think and (b) dear friend due here shortly for her first visit to Bag End so that's me out of circulation for a few days!

Before: that pile is 8' deep, 6' high and about 40' long!

During: the whole lot was burnt, took until 11.30 because there was absolutely no wind and the fire was so hot that most of the time the blokes were standing around waiting for it to cool down so they could add more.

After: there's a lot of ash but there's also a lot more room down that end of the garden.

Wildlife Update: Wasp and Kingfisher

Wasps: after a nervous few hours (that's me being nervous, not the wasps), it now looks like they have abandoned the soil pile and are using the beautiful papery nest which we moved. Fingers crossed this continues.

Kingfisher: not good news. I've just called Terry at Wetheriggs. Our little bird did well for four days, was eating strongly and all of a sudden - died. They did a post-mortem and found that the broken wishbone was not healing at all. Conclusion is that she died of stress/trauma, perhaps pain - who knows, but as the bone was not healing then she could never have flown and did not have a future. I'm not as sad as I thought I would be - at least we tried and gave her a chance.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Wasp Whisperer?

When I stopped to really think about it, the wasp nest could not stay where it was for the whole summer. Its presence would have made it difficult or even impossible for us to add any wood to the Log Store, and there was a distinct chance that the chaps coming to build a concrete raft for the shed would have planted a size 12 right in the middle of it.

I took some advice from members of the Grapevine, agreed with most of it, ignored some completely, dressed up like a train robber and moved the nest late Friday night.

Management offered to take some pictures of the removal process but light levels were very low and by his own admission he finds it hard to hold my large camera steady.

Earlier in the day some chicken wire was fixed to the fence and it fell naturally in a way which has not touched the ground, maybe the will prevent the nest getting flooded when it next rains heavily - and this is Cumbria - it WILL rain heavily.

There were no problems; despite much protective clothing not a single wasp flew at me or threatened to sting. I maintain this is because I had explained to them earlier in the day what I was planning and how it was for their own safety {grin} . According to NOG I am, therefore, a Wasp Whisperer - I've been called much worse!

Fingers crossed that they are not too disturbed by their relocation and that they do not desert the hive (and start a new one in a really inconvenient location!)

The pile on the left is what remains of the huge eucalyptus root which John excavated. It is dry and papery - perfect wasp nest building material. I have placed a chunk of it at each end of the chicken wire, partly to keep Mr Hairy away (not that he goes around this part of the garden much) and partly to slow down any unsuspecting two-legs (whose presence is also unlikely, but I don't want any visitors or workmen to be on the receiving end of an angry hive).

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Satisfying Day

I may not have been happy about sleeping for most of yesterday, but the additional zzzzz's don't seem to have done me any harm! An early start, much helped by light cloud and a gentle breeze meant that the remaining brush pile at the front of the house was no more by mid-afternoon.

All chopped and moved to the bonfire area.
Strewth, that's a mess. We're hoping to have a burn Sunday evening, weather & wind permitting. Fingers crossed for us - I so want to see the back of all this rubbish.

Still a lot of timber to move but that will not actually take long once I/we get started.

Made a start on cleaning up the biggest cherry tree stump (knocking the earth out of it)

and cut away a lot of dead Escallonia to let this lovely self-seeded Yew get some much needed light and air. Need to add a barrow of cow-muck and some pelleted chicken manure to the bottom of it, will do that tomorrow.

Is this what I think it is?

Found this afternoon in front of the Log Store. I confess my first thought was that it had been a bollus of grass, eaten by Hairy One and sicked up to make himself feel better.
Then I noticed the wasps crawling around it.

I touched it gently when the wasps had gone - soft, dry and papery. It is about 4" across and 1½" thick. Tomorrow I will make a big chicken wire cage to protect it and ensure that Canine Person does not accidentally stick his nose where it most definitely would not be wanted!

I did a Google search for 'wasp nest' and disturbingly, all but one result on the first page was how to kill a colony and get rid of a nest. Only one Consulting Entomologist pointed out that wasps can be regarded as beneficial insects because they kill a huge number of flies, caterpillars and other insects. They are also great pollinators so I will leave well alone for as long as possible, if this colony develops it will die off in the winter anyway.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

" . . . do not cause drowsiness"

"The tablets, at the recommended dose, do not cause drowsiness in the majority of people. However, as with all antihistamines, occasional cases of drowsiness have been reported. If affected, do not drive or operate machinery"

Yeah right. The hayfever symptoms were so bad this morning that I grabbed a packet of Piriteze in Sainsbury's and took one tablet when I got home. During the afternoon I suffered no hayfever symptoms - that would be because I was sound asleep. Sat down at lunchtime and woke up three hours later, dog outside, every door and window in the place wide open, thankfully no unwanted visitors. Not surprising then, no gardening on Wednesday. If ever I need a sleeping tablet I know what to take.

How did I miss this?

Delight today at finding another Common Spotted Orchid growing strongly in the middle of a patch of unmown grass.

We now have this lovely at the front (smallest plant, gets baked in the sun), behind the house and now at the side. If you know Bag End, this is the view from the back door and the cage protects todays find.

So, green space that used to be cut to within an inch of its life by the previous owners now sports Dactylorhiza fuchsii, buttercup, speedwell, self-heal and a mass of clover whose flowers are being thoroughly enjoyed by the bees. This has cheered me up no end because I am having the worst hayfever day I can remember suffering in years - stinking headache, sore throat, runny nose, out of focus eyes - I flippin' hate Oilseed Rape and was surprised and dismayed to find that it is a more common problem than I had realised.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Good news and not so good

OK, the bad(ish) first. We were due to go to Appleby this afternoon for Mr Hairy's acupuncture. This morning he had an iffy tummy and that, combined with heat which feels like 100 degrees in the shade means that the appointment has been cancelled. Shame because he could really have done with the treatment.

The other bad news concerns the runner beans from Mr Photo and the purchased Kale and PSB. None have fared well whilst waiting to be planted in the raised beds. I don't know whether it is slug, mouse or pigeon damage as all three are prevalent at Bag End but the plants are in a dreadful state and I've made the difficult decision to compost-bin the lot. I really don't think they are worth the time and soil-space to try and save them.

The good is that, despite furnace-like temperatures and wall-to-wall sunshine all day, I've achieved quite a lot whilst pottering about from job to job.

Pulled up most of the Goose Grass (cleavers) which was threatening to over-run the comfrey, plus lots that was throttling everything else on the verge between our fence and the lane. That topped up the compost bin quite nicely!

Moved another 4 barrow loads of cow muck to compost heap to cover all the Goose Grass.

Re cut all the grass paths and grassed areas which pretend to be lawn; the clover is still in flower and being much enjoyed by the bees.

Sadly, have seen a couple of dead bees recently. They don't appear to have Varroa Mite so no idea what killed them. In all likelihood, there are probably always a few dead bees around but at the moment we're more aware of it. Of course, eventually bad beekeeping practises and the chemical companies will have killed them all and then we will have to buy genetically engineered crops which do not require bees for pollination.

The mowing regime has had to be altered (again) to take account of the Self-Heal which is just about to flower.

The Forget Me Not plants I pulled up recently had dried nicely so I spread their seed on a bare area, and then cut down the Welsh Poppy and chucked much of its seed around too. In future years I may well regret this because both plants are profligate little buggers and don't really need much help in spreading but whilst we have so few plants at Bag End they will be very welcome.

The best bit of the day came right at the end when I finally started to use one of the raised beds for its intended purpose which is to be a nursery bed for some of the self-seeded lovelies which we find around the garden. So far I have moved some yew, hawthorn and holly. Loads more to dig up and rescue, Bag End hedging in the making! Finally, some quick and temporary cover (greenhouse shading) to protect the plants if tomorrow is as scorching hot as today was.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Still boring!

Another exciting Bag End Sunday. More clearing of brush which involves hacking off all the horrible small stuff and retaining the timber that is large enough to justify being turned into logs.

Not a nice day to work, slightly overcast, but very muggy and humid. We took lots of breaks - him to watch Superbike, and me to visit a gorgeous garden open under the NGS (which will have it's own post when I get the photos sorted).

By anyone else's standards this would be a huge pile, but this is gardening Bag-End-Style (euphemism for completely daft?)

Still achieved another 8 barrow-loads leaving a pile to be tackled during the week that is not too daunting. The "ready for bonfire" pile is, however, looking considerably larger!

NGS Garden Visit, Crookdake

I remember this garden visit as if it was yesterday - gorgeous gardens have a way of imprinting onto the consciousness and staying there!

Wrapped around an old Cumbrian farmhouse, the main garden areas are a huge vegetable/fruit section with many flowers to attract pollinators, a very sheltered cottage garden, a lovely wildflower meadow and an extremely large pond, I've seen smaller tarns out on the fells.

Working anti-clockwise from the road, first the potager.







Next to that and flanked with big hedges to protect against the wind is the cottage garden.

from the house, the veg patch is on the left through the pergola

house from the cottage garden

Behind the cottage garden is a meadow area.



This is new and has lots of Yellow Rattle planted to reduce the grass fertility to make better conditions for wildflowers.

Across the farmhouse yard is the huge pond, is it wrong to covet someone else's Gunnera manicata?





Around the house itself are small pockets of planting which soften the buildings and are all perfectly suited to their location.







Many under-gardeners.



A very high Drool-Factor with this garden, one of the best I have visited up here and full of planting inspiration.





Thank you Google:

(Street view)

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Boring but essential

A slow start after a nice (but late) dinner out on Friday night.

Despite my "intention" (see, I didn't say plan because that is a 4-letter word!) to continue working on the raised beds until they're finished, we have decided to clear the large brush pile from the front corner. With Management at home, two of us can achieve three or four times as much as I can manage on my own, and even though we did not start until after 12.00, we made a heck of a difference.

The little green trolley once again proved that it is one of the best things we have purchased.

Does it look like we shifted 9 or 10 cart loads (tried to keep count but failed . . .)

It wasn't warm enough for the honeysuckle to emit much scent but it looks terrific at the moment and the Escallonia is coming into flower and covered in bees (as is the clover-filled lawn).


One of the reasons for the slow start was much time spent watching two different red squirrel. On one occasion when I was looking through binoculars instead of the camera the darker one showed a very enlarged nipple - most definitely the sign of a mum who is either suckling kittens at the moment, or who has only just finished doing so. Of course, once I had the camera to hand she refused to pose quite as nicely again but if you click on this picture to enlarge then you can see definite signs of motherhood (back button to return).

The other squirrel is much smaller and has an almost grey back (NO, don't panic, it is definitely a red).

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Kingfisher Rescue

Never a dull moment at Bag End . . . but I did say at the outset that one of our aims was to make the garden a wildlife haven, so I cannot complain when wildlife do wild things.

07.30 - Kingfisher doesn't look like she moved much in the night, but still alive. Took some of the covers off in case she wanted to get out of the cage.

08.15 - phoned Terry at Wetheriggs. He advised picking up the bird and trying to help her fly off. Because Kingfishers normally launch from perches they find it very difficult to get off the ground.
This did not work, she sat still in my hand and when I moved her gently to the edge of my fingers to see if she would gain a perch, she tumbled forwards and landed (fortunately) on long grass.

08.30 - Explained this to Terry who asked if I could bring her to Clifton as he was out trying to save a buzzard. The early start surprised the heck out of Hairy One, but we got to Wetheriggs for just after 10.00.

Terry had just returned and swiftly examined our bird, confirmed she is a young female, born this year. He could feel that her wishbone was broken which is why she could not use her wings, but that she was in good health. In expectation of our arrival, a packet of prawns had already been purchased. As James said in the update he posted (thanks James), Kingfisher are quite partial to a fresh prawn or three! He gently put the meat into her beak and stroked her crop, I learnt it is important that she swallowed it herself. After 5 minutes quietly back in the little box I'd transported her in, we saw that she had eaten.

Now it is a waiting game. If she continues to eat then within a week or so she ought to be recovered sufficiently that she can be released back near Bag End. Kingfishers are very territorial and it is important she is put back where she came from if there is any chance of her breeding next year. We'll work out the details of that later, either I will go and get her, or one of Terry's staff lives a few miles north of here and he will bring her over and I can go and watch the release.

After a coffee and a dog-walk around the car park, I went back into Wetheriggs, this time as a paying visitor and had a lovely hour looking at pigs, ponies and peacocks and some gorgeous pygmy goats, amongst others.



Accompanied by one of the staff, I went back to the area where Miss Kingfisher was being kept and had a final look at her, and my "reward" for today's good deed was a 10 minute play with this darling fox cub.
The room was quite dim and she moves like greased lightening - difficult photography conditions!
I know when the Bag End hens are here I won't think foxes are gorgeous, but this one thinks she is a puppy, has no fear of humans and loves to be cuddled and tickled. Her story is that police found a group of men digging up a den, they had dogs with them and this is the only cub found alive. Terry has hand-reared her since she was about 3 weeks old (she is now 3 months) and she can never be released, she's too imprinted. She will still have a valuable life however, going to schools when he gives talks and helping to educate children and adults.
She is only in her cage when there's no-one around to play with her
This badger cub was found suckling its dead mother - road kill. It is not being handled at all and will be released as soon as it is old enough to survive alone.

Wetheriggs is a lovely place, and the only wild animal rescue in this part of Cumbria. Like all such organisations, they survive on donations and volunteers and it is obvious from meeting the staff that everyone cares very much about what they do. If you can visit the site (great cafe) or support them in any way, please do so.

I'll post an update on Miss Kingfisher as soon as I hear anything.

A quick stop at Birds' Bistro to stock up on Sunflower Hearts and a longer stop at Blackstock Point on Bassenthwaite so that Hairy One could have a short walk and a paddle. Got home just after 2.00 . . . by the time I'd eaten and done this there was not much of the afternoon left, and I have to go into town for food shopping! Not much time left for gardening.