Thursday, 31 July 2008

For Squirrel fans

Blondie did not seem to like the hazelnut feeder and has been taking all her* food from the bird cage near the kitchen. In an attempt to lead her to the proper food (hazelnuts) I've moved the feeder to another tree, propped open the lid and laced it with a few peanuts - should be impossible to resist!

Blondie knew I was outside on the patio, a couple of times she stopped and looked directly at me, but it did not seem to scare her, nor was she bothered when Canine One started barking. I was able to go indoors, get the tripod and set it up about 10m from her.

* or "him" - who knows? I think it's a female because in the 'standing up picture' it looks (to me) as if there are nipples all up the belly (as per comment from Chris at SOS)

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Wednesday, 30th July 2008

Is this too personal? I always intended this to be a "Cumbria" blog but somehow the Hairy One just keeps sneaking in.

Husband is away on business, I got up and had a coffee & read some email. When I got back to the bedroom half an hour later this is what I found.

Hey ho; he's 13 years old, he's comfortable, he's my baby - and he knows he can pretty much do anything he likes and get away with it!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Not a moment too soon

Helen and Robert could not have cleared away that little pile of logs in a more timely fashion because after lunch Craig and Graham arrived with a trailer full of grass cutting machines. Craig was one of the amazing team who helped cut down 32 trees in one day back in April and we had not met Graham before.

I was impressed (but not really surprised) that John had provided a sketch drawing of the garden showing which areas were to be mown short (paths and a couple of seating areas) and which areas to leave long and REALLY impressed when some of Craig's first words were "OK, where are these orchids that we've got to avoid?". It was agreed that they would go over the whole garden because the meadowed areas which were mainly grass were now so long (and gone to seed) that they needed cutting before the grass went over and became a matted mess.

It does look rather different now and I am not sure I like it - it's almost neat and tidy, must be someone else's garden!

The tidy (well, by our standards) bit at the back

We must get round to dealing with the Cherry tree trunks - the roots are all over the front and constantly putting up suckers. If you look closely on the left there is one of the orchid protection cages!

These "anti-Jackdaw" cages are proving extremely useful, thanks Rachel.

It is not laziness which has stopped us clearing away these felled trees, they are still full of birds either nesting or roosting.

One day, there will be a shed and a greenhouse here. Oh well, a girl can dream . .

And the Hairy One slept soundly through the whole proceedings having to be woken and moved out of the way on more than one occasion. For a dog who freaks out at the slightest noise in the house he is remarkably unworried by lawnmowers.

Monday, 28th July 2008

Clouds over Skiddaw



Friday, 25 July 2008

A sight for sore eyes

How lovely to come home from walking the Hairy One to find two neighbours busy clearing a patch of ground for me.

Today I returned from staggering around the block with Canine Person (I have a cold, it feels like flu but if it were influenza I would not even manage to get out of bed let alone walk the dog) to find Helen and Robert busy loading small logs into their car. They declined to be photographed but have left me with this lovely clear area next to the bottom gate. This is most timely - I have arranged for John Lowe to come and cut the grass on a regular basis and we'll need somewhere to put all the clippings.

I've had to accept that I do not have enough hours to do everything and keeping on top of the grass takes so much time that I am not making the progress I would like in other areas of Bag End. John will come every 10 - 14 days and mow the paths and grassed areas that are not being left as meadow. He is completely in tune with "our" way of gardening and I know I can trust him not to accidentally mow the orchids or commit any other similar crime. He is also a mine of information and good ideas and exceptionally generous; he will bring far more than just 'grass cutting' to Bag End.


Merlin the Millennium arrived at his new Cumbrian home yesterday afternoon. Seven large boxes were offloaded safely by a very helpful van driver and Husband who was fortunately at home. Good job too - I'd have been about as much use as a chocolate teapot - some of those boxes were heavy. The total shipment was 177 kg and my brain is too fuddled to know what that is in real money.

I now have to wait until Sunday week (3rd August) for John and Angela to come and help us build him and make sure everything is working properly and then WHOOOPPEEE - I get to quilt again!

(I know it doesn't look like there are 7 boxes here but trust me, they're all in the hall, I know this because we have to climb over them to get to the sitting room!)

Monday, 21 July 2008

At last - some real gardening

This might not look like much to you, but it is making me very happy. Taking things at a (for me) quite gentle pace, I spent all of Sunday digging over this soil. This section is 11 ft x 5 ft and I refuse to work out how many days it will take to do the whole bed! The soil is much better than I expected, quite loamy, not too much clay and far more worms than I thought would be there.

There are now fewer worms than before I started because I was assisted by two young Robins, one of whom was brave enough to come within 18" of my spade to pick out grubs and worms.

No plans for planting, I probably need to dig it over again to get some of the ivy root I missed, I want this soil to be exposed for a while to give me a chance to pick out whatever weeds germinate over the next few months and to add compost and whatever other soil conditioner I can acquire. Yes, I know there is a tree stump in the middle of it, rightly or wrongly we have taken the decision to leave the stumps to rot where they are. The prospect of removing nearly 50 tree stumps from areas that will eventually be covered by hedging is more than we can face. I am going to drill some big holes to allow more water in to speed up the rotting and convince myself that I am just providing an additional wildlife habitit.

Tomorrow I shall buy a new spade and fork to celebrate. I am currently using a border spade which is (a) too small and (b) getting old - it was a house-warming present 18 years ago so I think I deserve a new one!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Brown Hare

Lepus europaeus if you're feeling scientific. Whilst clearing dinner dishes tonight I glanced up and saw our lovely Hare lolloping along the footpath behind the garden. He lollops rather fast - this was the best I could do, took three pictures but this is the only one in focus enough to use.

Didn't get a clear enough shot to see if it was the same animal who visited in April (with the notched ear).

There is some interesting stuff at the Hare Preservation Trust

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Thursday, 17th July 2008

I love living in Cumbria, I really do. I would not want to live anywhere else. But I do object to having to put the heating on in mid-July. I'm already wearing a reasonably thick shirt AND fleece. And socks. But I still put the heating on - only for an hour, just to take the chill off. At least I know it is not just me, friends everywhere are complaining that they've had to do the same thing.

I know the fells are out there, somewhere, I'd just prefer it if I could see them!

Making progress, a little bit at a time

Did fairly well yesterday and, for once, did not work myself into exhaustion but bimbled around from one job to another (which is probably why I never actually get anything completed in the garden).

Now have easier and wider access through to the Coppice. It isn't going to stay this open and accessible, a few years down the line I would like the planting in the garden to half obscure this area so that you don't see all of it unless you make the effort to walk up there.

Also hacked back the two remaining sections of hedge which were in danger of catching the eye of a careless pedestrian using all the cut branches to make a dead-hedge. This serves to prevent the Hairy One from wandering to the edge of the wall and means I don't have to think about disposing of another pile of rubbish until sometime in the future! Discovered we have lost a coping stone from the top of the wall - there was so much ivy covering it that we'd not noticed before.

Had a go at digging to see what the soil is like in the area that will, eventually, be a huge mixed bed. Only an area about half a square yard but it wasn't as bad as I expected. Loads of ivy root (I think I will come to hate that nearly as much as bindweed!) but no stones and a few earthworms. It's not brilliant but it could be much, much worse. Cleaning up this soil is going to take a very, very long time but that is OK - as long as I do it properly then I will only ever have to do it once.

Rain prevents any more hard work today. Have been into Cockermouth to do some errands (and Hairy One came too and had a paddle in the River Cocker) so I get to mess around in the house for the rest of the day which is no bad thing!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Which is Common Spotted Orchid to the rest of us!

Rain is interfering with plans to clear a proper path through to The Coppice so I have time to post the latest new arrival at Bag End. Thanks to James and Jill for identifying this beauty - I have found two plants in the grass that has been left uncut. There is NO WAY that the places it is growing (one in the front and one at the back) will be mown now.

I'm including part of Jill's email; nothing is ever simple at Bag End!
" It is certainly a common spotted flower but interestingly my book says "This orchid is identifiable by the dark, rounded blotches on its shiny deep green leaves" they obviously have never seen yours LOL"
(I had sent Jill another photo of just the leaves)

Sigh . . .

I am only ever daunted by the size of Bag End and the amount of work to be done when I am very tired. Since we have lived here I have been very tired twice. Right now, however, I must be completely exhausted because all I can see is mess with no end in sight and no clear plan of how to make it better. What was I thinking? Remember where Bilbo says to Gandalf "I feel thin, like butter spread over too much bread" but there is no One Ring at Bag End, just huge piles of felled tree to remove, tons of soil to be dug over and heavens knows how many miles of Ground Elder root to remove.

It is easy to be rational and analyse why I am so tired - every time I plan to 'stop' and take a few days off to fellwalk or sew or whatever would recharge my batteries something happens to derail my plans; I am starting to feel like a caged hamster going round and round on one of those wheels.

It is NOT all doom and gloom, last week the Barn Owl, I have seen a Sparrowhawk swoop below me as it came low across the grass in search of prey (Husband regularly sees a mouse near the shrubbery), Blondie now comes daily for peanuts and hazelnuts, a Tawny Owl at circling above me at dusk with (probably) a mouse in its talons. Such a privilege to see these creatures every day - I said I wanted to create a wildlife garden but it looks like I already have one!

Hey ho, I'm not really complaining, just thinking out loud. In truth none of this is a problem, it will all get sorted out eventually and I am a very lucky girl to have such "problems" to deal with. Into the garden with you girl - get some work done!

Maybe it's not so bad really . . .

Saturday, 12 July 2008

This is getting to be a habit

But what a wonderful habit for us to witness. Blondie has now visited this peanut feeder on four consecutive days. I would get much more done in the mornings if I didn't spend so long watching out of the kitchen window!

Squirrel is getting very confident about this food source because the last two mornings I have been able to creep outside to take the pictures - s/he knows I am there but carries on eating.

The anti-Jackdaw cage is no deterrent to a determined squirrel!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Another first

Glimpsed this evening from the kitchen window (hence the very low light) - my first Bag End hedgehog. This was a very large and agile creature, looked in good condition and well fed. I wonder if it knows there is a charming little des-res hidden at the bottom of my Log Box?

All the photos I took were completely naff (too slow a shutter speed and hedgehogs move fast). In this s/he is investigating bread put out for the birds on a tree stump.

James - would it be worth investing in one of those Gorrilla-pod tripod-like thingies?

Thursday, 10 July 2008

House Refurbishment

No, not more essential DIY.

I found this tattered birdbox thrown under the shrubbery.

It has cleaned up rather well, now I need to find a suitable tree to put it in.

I wonder if putting up a squirrel box would be a pointless exercise? Red was back at the peanuts this morning.


I'm sitting checking my email before bedtime, it's getting dark but still light enough to see properly.

Through the side window of the study I notice something HUGE and very pale fly past slowly.

Throw myself at window to see the back of what must have been a barn owl heading towards the trees which front the road. (It's amazing how fast I can move sometimes).

Run to the front facing window to see same beautiful bird come around the trees and head down towards the river.

Grab favourite bird book and look up Barn Owl - yep, that is definitely what I saw! Oh, life is good.

(Goes to bed wondering how many hours I could spend at this time of night sitting outside with the camera at the ready?)

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Squirrels and Peanuts

I think trying to keep a squirrel from peanuts is like trying to keep some folk from chocolate . . .

I'm sorry - this jiggles at the beginning but it is handheld on maximum zoom, there was no time to go and get the tripod.

Solway Sunset

They are not going to win any prizes and we got to the beach too late to photograph the best of the sunset (although we did witness it as we drove) but MIL was a very happy little bunny and it made a nice end to her holiday.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Do Not Disturb

For every action there is a reaction.
For every hour a Hairy One spends charging around on wet sand there is a bath.

And now we are all plum-tuckered out and would just like to sleep, thank you very much and dream of all the gulls we ARE going to catch next time!

Crashed out in the back of the car

Freshly bathed and busy watching Wimbledon

And later, curled up in his own bed.

Sunday Morning at the Seaside

A short drive brought us to the coast just south of Allonby. Much enjoyment was had by the Hairy One as he charged around on the wet sand and I enjoyed playing with the Macro feature on the camera.

Scotland clearly visible across the Solway

A pretty Curlew wandering about, there were also Oystercatcher and many gulls.

I spent a lot of time on my knees in long grass photographing Six-spot Burnet, a daytime flying moth.

Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum)

Cut-Leaved Cranesbill (Geranium dissectum)

Plus a whole bunch of other photos I have not yet edited or plants I haven't identified.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Under Catbells

Mother-in-law is staying with us this week. No significant walks because of arthritis and angina and Ollie's age but the weather today was fabulous so we had a short walk along the path I call "under Catbells". One car near the cattle grid above Hawes End outdoor centre and the other at Manesty, not much but it was all we could do in the circumstances.

The path is a great viewpoint for Skiddaw and Blencathra.

Ahh - a chance to cool off

Now could you just bring that nice camera a bit closer before I have a good shake?

Two cars not just to have a linear walk but so that I could go into Keswick on the way home and top up the food shopping whilst Husband and others went directly home, this picture is for someone who is currently very "homesick" (giggle), you know who you are!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Wonderful things happen when you don't cut the grass

I know I am a little strange (please restrain yourself when leaving comments) but maintaining a bowling-green quality lawn has got to be one of the biggest WOMBATs in the garden (Waste of Money, Botanics and Time). Beautifully manicured lawns might look nice but they are wildlife wasteland and an awful lot of effort. I have always wanted a garden where there was enough room to leave grass to grow really long without it making the entire plot look like a neglected mess, I think now I might have enough space!

We do have a couple of mown areas with wide paths through the rest to give access.

The seedheads are so delicate

Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) has sprung up in large areas

Who needs orchids when Selfheal is this beautiful? (apologies to Jill and James for insulting the beautiful orchids they photograph, and full credit to James for identifying this is not Bugle!).

Rubbish photo but the mixture of Selfheal, Celandine and Clover is really pretty (the quilter in me is thinking of complimentary colours and mentally selecting fabrics).

A long way to go before I have the 'classic' wildflower meadow but it is a good start!