Saturday, 28 June 2008

More birdwatching and a survivor

I have given up trying to count the number of Chaffinches - there are just too many feeding on the ground beneath the sunflower seeds. They are doing a great job of clearing up all the chaff which the Goldfinches and Greenfinches drop.

The Great Tits seem happy with the Jackdaw-proof peanuts

This rather scruffy Collared Dove is a real survivor. She has been attacked, probably by a cat, and her right-hand side both above and below the wing are in a real mess, her right leg is also damaged. However, we have now seen her limping around for three days and if she was going to die from her injuries it would probably have happened by now - we're having a week of very cold nights. She is eating and drinking and can fly (clumsily) so is able to get around.

Fingers crossed that she makes it.

Friday, 27 June 2008

No gardening this week


* It is cold, wet and windy
* Husband is on holiday and we are trying not to do things that equal a hard days labouring
* I am exhausted. Relocating 350 miles has finally caught up on me - months of preparing our old house to sell, the actual move to Cumbria, living in limbo in a rented house whilst we searched for Bag End, moving here followed by an unexpectedly large amount of 'fire fighting' as we discovered problems with the house that had to be dealt with immediately. The leaky roof last week was not exactly "the last straw" (that sounds so melodramatic) but it was one problem we could have done without.

Normal service will be resumed . . . when it is resumed. In the meantime, we still have a wonderful number of birds visiting every day and a huge monthly order with The Birds' Bistro!

The new feeding arrangements are working well (thank you Rachel) although it does mean a less clear view of the visitors. This young starling not only eats here every day but seems to enjoy sunbathing whilst digesting her lunch.

There are lots of baby birds around including this one - the biggest, fattest baby finch I've ever seen. S/he is half as big again as the adult birds, I think it is a Goldfinch but I am useless at identification until they get their adult plumage.

Edit: Thanks James - small fluffy thing now identified as a Greenfinch!

The Canine One is intrigued to find birds at eye level and this young Dunnock was not bothered by 30kg of Hairyness watching him.

The Greenfinch are regular visitors:

Monday, 23 June 2008

Monday, 23rd June 2008, #2


What a difference a day makes!

And thankfully some more water in the River

Monday, 23rd June 2008


Sunday, 22nd June 2008


Skiddaw is in there somewhere -

Grisedale Pike and Grasmoor are hiding back here -

The roof is holding up, so far we've found four small leaks in the loft, buckets in position. Nothing else in the sitting room, trying to remain positive about it all!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Summer Solstice, Saturday 21st June 2008

Woke early and was able to take these pictures from the garden, Skiddaw looked wonderful as the light constantly changed.




There was the unexpected bonus of a small inversion over the river and surrounding fields.




That was "it" for the Solstice, later in the day the clouds moved in accompanied by lots of wind and (much needed) rain, doesn't feel like Midsummer at all.

Lots more photos at Webshots


Over the last month we have had far fewer squirrel sightings although there are definitely two distinct individuals visiting the garden. I am not seeing them as often, perhaps they are coming earlier - or (more likely) because I have been getting up later?

This is Blondie, I read somewhere it is not unusual to see such very pale tails and it certainly makes identification easier.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw *

An unoriginal title and one I suspect I will use often. For those, like me, of a soft disposition this story has a (relatively) happy ending.

Glancing out of the kitchen window whilst waiting for the kettle to boil I realised we had a young male Sparrowhawk on the grass. I grabbed the camera but it took a couple of seconds for me to realise that the hawk had supper under its feet. Only one picture and I ran outside. The hawk immediately flew off leaving behind a surprisingly large male baby Blackbird which seemed unharmed - I think the hawk was a youngster who did not know how to swiftly despatch dinner and had just been standing on the fledgling.

Glad to report that the baby Blackie ran off into the shrubbery and didn't seem to be limping or moving awkwardly. Sparrowhawk has gone to hunt in someone else's garden. Hey ho, if I want to encourage wildlife then I must accept there is a food chain, even if I don't much like it. Damn pleased with the one hastily taken photo though!

* Alfred, Lord Tennyson,, from In Memoriam A.H.H. completed in 1849

Edit: 10.00pm. Info from SewAli's husband who is a very experienced birder: "he says it's definitely a male and not a youngster because of the slate colouring. He says the youngsters are browner." In which case young Blackie had a lucky escape. I have rummaged through the shrubbery and have not found any small bodies - so either baby Blackbird has survived or he keeled over somewhere else.

Thursday, 19th June 2008


Ullock Pike visible but Skiddaw in cloud

Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head and Grasmoor ridge

I was so pleased yesterday when I could not see any of the fells thanks to rain-laden clouds. This afternoon it is much brighter but Skiddaw and Grasmoor are still in hiding. We need the rain so very badly, the first proper downpour since early May.

I was not quite so pleased when some of that rain decided to cascade into the sitting room. Each of the large windows had, once upon a time, a stylish ("not") and very 70's light fitting. These had been removed before we arrived at Bag End but the sockets remain.

(Nice decorating, huh?)

On one side the old cable has acted as a conduit for lots of rainwater. Our carpenter friend Brian visited this morning to see if he could identify the problem; we've ruled out a couple of possible suspects (lead flashing around the chimney, etc.,) so am now waiting for "Dale the roofer" to come and see what is going on.

A sense of humour failure followed when I found three other small damp patches in the loft as a result of the underfelt being old and starting to deteriorate. This was not helped by an attack of claustrophobia when I was trying to position some left-over loft boards under the eaves above the sitting room leak so that anyone trying to work up there could safely get across the joists. I am ~NEVER~ going to try potholing.

Misery was soon dismissed when I turned on the TV news at lunchtime. 5 million acres of farmland in Missouri, Iowa and Illinois are under water. Hundreds if not thousands of families are going to lose not just their homes but their entire towns as the Mississippi River breaks its banks. It puts a bucket of rainwater in the sitting room firmly into proportion.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Secret Garden no more

Another busy Saturday. The Secret Garden got its name because we had to fight our way into it when we arrived at Bag End and it was virtually invisible from outside. Husband wanted to clear out the huge and overgrown Cotoneaster and other plants, left to my own devices I would have trimmed and pruned but he was felt that severe coppicing would, in the long run, be more effective.

From outside the garden this is how it looked in the morning.

And from inside:

Four hours and three chainsaw re-fuellings later it looks like this:

And I have to confess that husband is right, everything will regrow and be much better for it. Now we have room to start moving soil around to create some level areas and get the soil away from the bottom of the wall. Mid-way through the forestry operations we had a chat with a chap from the church next door who tells us that our work to clear up the garden has been noticed and is much appreciated (he didn't say by whom [giggle]). We didn't tell him that one of Husband's main motivations for all this work was so that we could see the huge Copper Beech that dominates the nearest corner of the churchyard!

We found two Lilac which I know will regrow; one at the other end of the garden that was cut back to nothing in March is already 3 feet tall. We have coppiced two tree-sized Hawthorn and trimmed a large and previously hidden Holly tree. Husband wants the Acer/Sycamore out but the wood is far too dense and heavy for us to fell it, that's one for John Lowe later in the year.

So my Secret Garden is now not-so-secret but it does look heaps better and is full of dappled sunlight. It has also been rechristened, we found ourselves calling it The Coppice. Another bonus is that we can now hear the Silver Birch moving about as the leaves have room to sway in the breeze.

The hastily positioned compost bins are likely to get moved and we want to plant more woodland trees/shrubs that will suit the natural feel of the area. Given the dappled shade it would be fantastic if I could get bluebells to grow here.

We also found this hollowed out tree stump, Canine One is sure we have created this interesting hole just for him!

For my reference, pictures of severely coppiced plants:


Cotoneaster (with a small Rowan that seems to have self-seeded)


Much tidier Holly with a smaller hawthorn and another lilac

Saturday, 14 June 2008


I am nearly at the end of a 10kg bag of Sunflower Seed hearts. The bag which Birds' Bistro delivered last Thursday and I opened on Friday 6th June. It looks like the little feathered darlings are getting through nearly 1kg of seed a day (they would consume more but I refuse to fill the feeders more than once a day!).

All this wildlife nonsense could get expensive . . . there's also the peanuts, the squirrel hazelnuts and the Soft Billed Mix.

Garden Visit: Chapelside, Mungrisdale

I've been meaning to visit this garden for weeks, am so glad I made the effort and cannot wait to go back and take Husband. It is the most fabulous place, RUN don't (fell) walk to get there and if you cannot visit, then it is featured in Gardens of the Lake District. The garden nestles underneath Souther Fell and Bannerdale Crags, opposite the church at the north end of the village.

The owners are wonderful - welcoming and generous with information about the garden. They have been at Chapelside for 30 years and have turned a windswept farmyard into an idyllic garden with a quirky side and a great deal of charm. For me it was fabulous to see some of the ideas we have for Bag End which are mature and successful - unmown grass, huge wildlife pond, fernery, private hidden areas and so on. Absolute bliss! I would not want to replicate this in its entirety at home but it has been tremendously encouraging to see the style of garden I love flourishing in an even more windswept location than our own.

The garden is approached down a long gravel drive with alpines and sedum either side. This opens out into a courtyard area with a closely mown lawn on the left surrounded by a herbaceous border that was beautiful for my June visit.

The house is on the right and ahead are a collection of old barns and forge. The main part of the garden is behind the house and can be accessed from either side.

A tiny stream flows through the garden and has been directed into deep gullys which are home to hostas and ferns.

At the top of the garden this bench looks back down over a huge wildlife pond to the house.

From the side of the garden - the house nestles under the fells. How I envy them all the stone and walls!

Many more photos at Webshots

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Watching Paint Dry

No gardening over the last few days. My new longarm machine will be arriving from America in (I think) 2 - 4 weeks time, once it is in place the study will be very full and moving anything to paint will be impossible. I'm changing the habits of a lifetime by decorating the room now rather than waiting until I get a phone call that 7 large boxes are on their way.

I don't mind the painting side of decorating but I hate moving everything out of a room and then moving it back again, especially when the computer has to relocate. At present I am perched on the end of the sewing table accompanied by tottering piles of 'stuff' that seemed to take no time at all to move into my study. Not everything will be going back . . .

I know where the camera is and could take lovely photos of the Ring Neck Pheasant who is now a daily visitor or the numerous birds who call the Bag End Buffet their own - but I have no idea where I have put the USB cable so there is no way of transferring those pictures to the PC. And if that were not enough excitement, in order to complete the newly painted study I am going to have to shorten two pairs of curtains . . . aaarrrghhh . . . I don't DO curtains!

Monday, 9 June 2008

When is a Beech Tree not a Beech Tree?

When it turns out to be a Magnolia.

Earlier in the year Roger and I were trying to identify (leafless) trees and we guessed Magnolia from what was laying under this tree in the flowerbed. (Flowerbed? who am I kidding?). If this were Beech it would be great but as a Magnolia it's not in a good place (catches the morning sun which is not good in an area that gets plenty of frost) and the crown is very over-crowded. This year it produced virtually no flowers and nothing on the windward side.

Later this year it will get a very serious pruning, a thorough feed and mulch and hopefully we can keep it happy. When I was a kid there was a huge Magnolia in the garden which Mum used to sit under in the afternoons; she loved that tree so it is not surprising I have always had a soft spot for them.

If it survives the pruning fine, if it doesn't then maybe I will put a Beech Tree there anyway!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Goodbye Escallonia

The green thing (I hesitate to call it a plant) on the right is a large Escallonia whose only purpose seemed to be to get severely in the way if you were trying to use this path from the driveway onto the garden.

Half dead and empty inside, it wasn't even being used as a nesting site.

Removing it was fairly easy.

If we were going to the trouble of removing the roots it would take a little longer . . .

Unless I give it a second chance (well, some of it - the roots currently occupy an area over 1 metre square). Despite being cut back to within a few inches of the soil the plants are already regenerating and looking considerably better!

His Canine Hairyness

Recently celebrated his 13th birthday. He is now definitely an "old dog" wanting to sleep in until 10.00 or 11.00 o'clock on many mornings and having a good percentage of "slow days" when he really does not want to do much. And then there are the days when we go out of our driveway and he decides he wants to go to the river and pulls me (running) down the hill and does not stop until he is within sight of the water.

His birthday swim; he has to be kept on a lead near water otherwise he goes in and refuses to come out.

Left him quite plum-tuckered out but not too tired to keep a close eye on anything happening outside

He has always loved travelling by car . . .

Sitting on the balcony watching the world go past has become a most enjoyable evening activity

Thank you for the days

Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me
I'm thinking of the days
I won't forget a single day believe me

© Ray Davies