Monday, 28 April 2008

Breakfast Visitors

The feeders visible from the kitchen window are usually very busy at breakfast time but this morning we had a new visitor.

First he/she investigated the slate table which has Soft-Billed Mix (for the blackbirds and robins). Obviously crushed oats, mealworms and sultanas are not to its liking.

A significant amount of agility and balance was needed to get a secure hold here but then one very happy Jackdaw had a good breakfast of peanuts. Normally the upright of the Shepherd's Crook is straight - the bird's weight pulled it over this far (it's not a wonky photo).

This is a bird with a seriously determined look on its face!

More regular visitors included this lady Blackbird who was busy filling her beak with sultanas and then flying into a pile of brush (something I saw a male Blackbird do many times yesterday, sultanas definitely seem the food of choice at present for the littlies that must be in a nest)

and this pretty little Goldfinch.

I *MUST* clean the kitchen windows ...

Saturday, 26 April 2008

A Wildlife Garden needs Wildflowers

Bag End is a wonderful place and contains a Secret Garden. It's a smallish area that is a 'dog leg' off the main plot having been purchased as additional land in 1977 by the family who lived here then - gosh, that's 31 years ago. It's lovely but I don't think anything has been done to it for 30 years!

We have a section of fairly old wall that is 7 foot high on the road side but only 5 foot high on our side - there's a LOT of soil that I need to dig out and move away from its base. It's a job which will be considerably assisted by John and the digger that we need to bring in to deal with the tree stumps.

Eventually this might be a home for compost bins, leaf mould bins, a log pile or two (apparently one now calls them Wildlife Habitats . . .) and a few nursery beds. It is currently heavily shaded and covered by a carpet of Celandine which is nearly the only thing in flower at present and this beauty:

I confess I had to ask Kath to identify it for me because I was having brain failure. It is a small Comfrey, a most beneficial addition to compost heaps and also makes a fabulous (if stinky) liquid feed if you steep the leaves in a bucket of water for about three weeks. Previously I have only grown the large Russian Comfrey (that's my excuse for not recognising this one).

This pretty little flower crops up all over the garden and in the bottom of hedgerows around the village. Kath tells me it is Ladies' Smock or Cardamene praetense if you're being horticultural.

Friday, 25 April 2008

First Bluebell of the year

I had to be in Cockermouth early this morning so took Mr Hairy Four Paws to Harris Park. Good views of Grasmoor from this nice spot and a chance for His Hairyness to have a paddle in the River Cocker which he loves.

Lots of Spring growth in the wooded area above the river and my first Bluebell of the year, in fact, the first since moving here!

I know it is not in the garden, but it's my diary so I can include what I want. Hopefully we will have Bluebells at Bag End in future years.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

More clearing up

And I didn't have to do any of it! Roger and Ann came over this morning and left with the car full of logs. Roger has cleared away all of the pile which was here

and taken half of this pile, then he moved the remainder off the lawn and put it under some trees. It looks much better now and all I did was make coffee!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Another Day In Paradise

Just because I can't disturb brush piles in which the birds have nested doesn't mean I'm short of jobs to do in the garden. It doesn't feel much like gardening at present, I think Mrs Flummery got it right when she linked to this Diary and called it "Garden Reclamation".

Chainsaw, petrol, helmet, chain oil, isn't this what everyone gardens with?

A messy but satisfying afternoon clearing up various areas that had been left a complete mess!

This was an ankle-turning obstacle course that made getting to the squirrel feeder a tad difficult

A bit easier now:

Much of the debris I moved ended up here ... another bonfire ... eventually

This is as far as I got with the limb that fell yesterday. The branch that split has fallen onto and into the one beneath and now both are under tension. No way I am using the chainsaw at shoulder height on a tensioned limb when I am by myself - I may be moderately daft but I am not completely stupid.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Tawny Owl

We hear two Tawny Owl every day. They roost in the Leylandii closest to the road and have often been heard making an unholy racket as they move around in the top of the tree but I've been told it is most unlikely they would be nesting here. A few weeks ago I got a fleeting glimpse of a bird as it disappeared into the greenery very early on a Sunday morning.

Today I got a proper look - 4.00 on a Monday afternoon - and as I was getting out of the car a very large bird flew from one tree to another. Quite beautiful and graceful but no chance of a photo. Spent ages subsequently craning my head and searching with binoculars to try and spot it. No chance, it's very well camouflaged in the thin and dead branches deep inside the tree.

The owls are not going to be very happy in the Autumn when the remaining trees are felled but it has to be done, we've already made the decision to leave a couple further up the garden and hopefully the owls will roost in those instead. Sometime between 2.00 and 4.00 this afternoon a small branch came down, it's not particularly windy today but it proves the point that the darn Leylandii cannot be left indefinitely. If one of these monster trees falls onto the road it will cause a blockage for hours and if it hits anyone they're dead.

Monday, 21 April 2008

No more bonfires

Well, not in the immediate future. We hurried to get the trees cut down before birds started nesting so what do the little feathered pests do? Wait until the trees are laying all over the garden and then nest in them!

Within 24 hours of felling an industrious Blackbird was busy making a nest in the pile of brush outside the kitchen window. She worked tirelessly for a week first bringing twigs

then dried leaves and finally soft moss.

In the last few days we have only seen her occasionally. I think she's sitting on eggs and just comes out once or twice a day to eat at the nearest birdtable (which is well stocked with Deluxe Soft-Billed Food!). There is no way "her" pile of brush will be touched until we are absolutely certain her babies have left the nest, but now everything else is following suit.

We have a Robin nesting in the next pile, a pair of Dunnock firtling about in another, Blue Tits are seen busily going in and out of one large tree that's not yet been touched and more Blackbirds constantly appear from underneath another.

Yesterday I had the joy of seeing a small Sparrow busy collecting up the soft, downy chest feathers that had fallen from a Wood Pigeon (well, at least the WP's are useful for something ...). It must be more than ten years since I saw Sparrows - there were none at our previous home but I've seen at least three here. Too late for this year but a Sparrow Nesting Box is definitely on the shopping list for later this summer.

I must clean the outside of the kitchen window - it's a great vantage point for photos.

Friday, 18 April 2008

My new lawnmower

OK, not a lawnmower but an expensive hole in the ground. Discovered that one of the drains (from sink & dishwasher) was cracked and it was impossible to guess whether waste water had been happily flowing under the house instead where it should have gone.

Brilliant service from Alan Varty, a sigh of relief to find there doesn't seem to be any damage to the footings and another nice bill with zero's on the end.

The lawnmower will have to wait (and anyhow, with fallen Leylandii all over the place, I can't get to the grass so I couldn't cut it even if we did have a mower that was up to the task). I hesitate to call the green space outside a "lawn" - it's lots of moss, celandine (Thanks Mrs Flum) and other greenery with occasional blades of grass thrown in to show willing.

Thursday, 17 April 2008


There's something very satisfying and elemental about a huge bonfire. I know burning might not be the most green solution to garden waste but mega quantities of Leylandii brush is never going to make good mulch or compost. At least I can put the ash on areas that masquerade as flower/shrub beds and have the nutrients wash into the soil.

A) First make your pyre:

B) Then add firelighters held in place with paper spools.

C) Light paper, add a little dry kindling, then a little more, then some bigger stuff, and then you have a wonderful fire like this:

Which I then spend the next six hours feeding like a mad thing as it burns so hot that it's consuming large amounts of Leylandii in seconds. Then collapse completely exhausted and smelling like a bonfire and try not to notice that there is still so much waiting to be burnt that it will take another five or six days like this at the rate I can work. Phone John Lowe and leave a message admitting defeat and asking for help to get rid of the rest of it.

(And leave out the bit between "B" and "C" where the damn thing didn't light first time because everything is a bit damp).

Monday, 14 April 2008

On feeding Red Squirrel

Squirrels whose diet consists primarily of peanuts can develop calcium deficiency which is why those of us of daft disposition buy hazelnuts at five times the price of peanuts ...

However, no-one appears to have told this squirrel that peanuts aren't particularly good for it.

I could resort to putting anti-squirrel cages around all the bird feeders but most of the cages are sized to keep out greys so they'd be no use here.

They also display a fondness for apples which were put out for the blackbirds. They will not eat the skin but seem to enjoy the soft flesh and leave tell-tale toothmarks.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Just when you think it can't get any better

We were up early this morning with many things to do but got seriously delayed for half an hour watching another visitor to the garden.

This wonderful fellow came in from the fields opposite, toured all around the garden examining the piles of fallen leylandii, went next door, came back 5 minutes later, and this was repeated three or four times. He moves VERY fast and I didn't manage any photos but this afternoon he returned to the front garden when I was sitting at my desk with a camera only inches away.

This is not a brilliant picture but it is proof that we have a very large hare visiting us. He appears to have a chunk missing from the outside top of his left ear, it will make identification easier and we might be able to see if we have more than one animal visiting.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

New Toys

I killed the chainsaw. Well, not exactly killed it, but we think there's a bit of dirt in the fuel pipe because it will start quite happily and then immediately cuts out when you give it some throttle. Husband did his best to take it apart yesterday to see if he could fix the problem but the bits we needed to get access to did not want to come out to play, therefore back to Keswick Garden Machinery this morning.

We'd been thinking about buying another one anyway because our chainsaw isn't ours, it's on permanent loan from brother-in-law but if he ever needs it back we're scuppered. And in our daft world in makes sense to have two - one to use and one to have on standby in case I get the bar of the main saw severely trapped and cannot free it.

So I am now the very proud owner of a brand new Husqvarna 345e. It will never ever look this clean and shiny again . . .

It is lovely to use, light enough not to be too tiring but powerful enough to cut cleanly and with no effort. A girl cannot have too many power tools!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Let There Be Light

It all looks a bit different now:

There is now space and light where there used to be solid Leylandii

Now you see it

and now you DON'T !!

In truth, right now the garden looks like the October 1987 storm has blown through and there is barely a patch of lawn that is not littered with fallen tree and piles of brush waiting to be disposed of. That's what chainsaws and bonfires are for!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008


John and his team of three (thanks to Donald, Nick and Craig) worked tirelessly from 8.30am until well after 4.00 taking only the shortest breaks when I supplied a tray of tea and considerably less than the "lunch hour" that they deserved, I think it was more like a "lunch 20 minutes". At the end of the day the body count was 32 but once we got into double figures nobody was counting ... they were working too hard.

32 includes a couple of small items such as a pathetic cherry discovered behind a large Leylandii and an old & out of control Elder that was in the way of where the chainsaw needed to be.

The additional amount of light coming into the garden is staggering, as is the quantity of debris that needs to be disposed of. Roger has already taken a car load of logs and our neighbour Richard has offered to help cut up one of the trees on Saturday in exchange for logs.

Here's a nice noisy example of how the day went. The remains of the weekend's bonfire can clearly be seen and after the falling tree disturbed all the embers it had to be thoroughly doused before it came back to life. We'll be having plenty more big bonfires but Tuesday wasn't the day for one of them!

We had assumed most of the large trees were about 40 years old, same age as the house. It was a surprise to find that the worst offenders had only been planted 25 years ago. They sure do grow fast . . .

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Going, going .......

John Lowe and his team are due in an hour. A perfect Lakeland day, heavy frost, clear blue sky, the fells are dressed in their white coat of winter.

It's all going to look very different by this afternoon . . .