Sunday, 31 August 2008

Time for an "outing", and presents

You will have seen from the squirrel shots that our friend James is a very talented photographer.

What you may not know is that he is also a very fine web designer. However, just like the shoemakers children, his own website lies unloved and out of date and I have threatened to "out" him and publish the URL unless he gets a hurry up and improves it. His excuse (and I have to admit it's a good one) is that he is too busy with full-time work, a small Sproglet and other websites to get around to doing his own.

Many of you are familiar with our great Online Fellwalking Club site, but the new - and lovely - kid on the block is this showcase for Jill Batchelor's photographs. Make a pot of coffee, give yourself time, and enjoy - her images are the photos I aspire to. Look out for new photos and journal entries soon because she is in the Lake District right now.

James is not all bad (grin), this week he decided that Bag End needed a present - Hobbits love presents and these Fritillary will find a nice home in the front grass near the orchid.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

It's going to be a long, hard weekend

Did I say that a 6 x 6 bin might be a little on the large size? I am obviously seriously delusional and should be taken away to a place of safety.

The shredder was collected and is neither as big or beefy as we'd like (but it was the largest model that we could get into the car, next time, if there is a next time, we will see if something bigger can be delivered). After some messing around we found technique that works but at 9.00 on Saturday morning the chances of getting all our brush shredded seem remote indeed. We have filled slightly less than a quarter of the bin and not made a noticeable dent on the piles which are laying around. To paraphrase Calender Girls - "we're going to need considerably bigger bins" . . .

And it is very hard work.

And some of the rubbish, nasty scratchy stuff like holly, is just not going to go through, or rather, it will take so much pain to get it shredded that a match and firelighters are starting to look like a good idea.

Compostus Binus Magnificentus

Although I am trying very hard to change the lifetime habit of being a Last Minute Lucy, with the chipper/shredder coming this weekend, I waited until Thursday to decide I HAD to build a bin in the Coppice. Off to Patersons fully admitting I didn't know what I wanted or how I would accomplish the task (but I did already have a pile of round fence posts).

Billy Paterson, bless him, refused to sell me the three fence panels which I thought I would buy saying that they'd not last 5 minutes before they were rotted through (I had sort of accepted that as par for the course) and told me I needed slab. Yes of course, why didn't I realise that, silly Hobbit that I am? Slab, yes that was what should be on my shopping list . . . I wouldn't know what slab was if it hit me in the face but rennovating Bag End is a continual learning process!

"Slab" is (are?) the bark covered edges of a tree trunk which are removed when the timber is squared up prior to planking. They look wonderful, will last for ages because they are larch and at 60p for a 6 foot length, timber for an entire bin cost less than one fence panel in B&Q.

Husband had gone to Keswick,so a determined Hobbit and a few carefully selected tools set to work and a couple of hours later we had a wonderful bin! (OK, Husband came home and helped screw in the last half dozen slabs because my paws were getting tired but he did have lots of praise for what had been done in his absence).

At nearly 6 x 6, yes, it might be a tad on the generous side but I have a feeling it won't be long before we have nearly filled it. Plans have already been approved for another one to use for leaves and after that, who knows! At least it served as a great (albeit unplanned) prototype for the log stores we want to build at the other end of the garden.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Lots of Progress

With September very nearly here we figured that all those birds must have finished breeding by now and we could safely cut up all the fallen trees that have graced the "lawn" at Bag End throughout the summer. Last week I made a start on my own using a combination of loppers and chainsaw to render down each conifer into a pile of brush and piles large enough to keep for logs.

This was triggered by the discovery that Keswick Garden Machinery would hire us a huge chipper/shredder over a weekend for a ridiculously small number of beer vouchers so plans were laid.

Remember this mess?

After a couple of determined sessions the trunks were bare and I had a very large pile of brush.

Fortunately Husband then started his holiday and proved that being half as big again as me and much taller & stronger makes rather a difference.

(this will enlarge if you click on it)

Just this one to finish, which will only take a couple of hours, and then we can start shredding!

Oh, and all those nesting birds we were so careful not to disturb? No one single dratted nest. We have rendered down six trees and there is not one nest between them! When you see a Blackbird (amongst others) making constant flights into the brush with food in her mouth at the time when babies should be around what are you meant to think? Hey ho, it was a good excuse not to do the work until now!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Thank you

The internet is an amazing thing. When Husband first suggested we "went online" (many, many years ago) I thought he was bonkers and off to waste money on some silly newfangled technology. How I had to eat my words not long after when it was ME who spent the most time on email and ME who had a conniption fit if the computer wasn't working properly or the connection went down.

Something I never expected were the friendships that could form through this medium. Nearly a decade ago I met, in person, the wonderful woman who is now my best friend in the whole world but we'd first communicated on a quilting email list. Email helps maintain friendships that are separated by many miles, especially important since we moved to North West Cumbria which, whilst glorious, isn't exactly on the way to anywhere else (which would be why we love it, but that's a whole different subject!)

Something else I never "got" was the emergence of blogs, millions of them, why on earth would someone want to post personal and private happenings for all the world to see? (you can probably tell I haven't bought into Facebook yet . . .) And then we came to Bag End and I knew I wanted to keep a record of the changes we make to the garden, and THEN I realised as well as a blog being the only format I could think of which would carry the discipline I needed to maintain it (discussed here), this would also be a great way of sharing our progress with friends and family who are spread so far.

So to my surprise, the Bag End Blog was born and this is published post number 101 . . .

And then I go and get one of these Award things . . . for which I have to say thanks to Angela, another "virtual" but nearly real friend. We "met" through the OFC but now regularly write to each other privately and I am sure we'll get to meet up eventually which I am really looking forward to. However, I don't keep this blog in order to get awards or the biggest number of visitors, in fact, when James showed me how to add Google Analytics and I saw how many different people and places are accessing the blog I blanched, I thought it was only close friends and family who might be bothered to check up on Blondie, Newbie and all the others!

But back to the Awards, I'm actually not very good at participating in these things, I don't follow "rules" well and in truth, my seven favourite blogs are my business, no-one else's. When I think a blog or a person is worthy of sharing then I'll just do it anyway!

So no Award buttons, no "me-me's", but if you want to see a site I used to visit very, very often before we moved to Cumbria (us Exiles need our fix of beautiful views!) then go and have a look at the lovely pictures here.

Monday, 25 August 2008


Behind doesn't even begin to describe it. It is now one week since we witnessed this fabulous moonrise and I have only just taken the pictures off the camera.

The second picture was taken shortly after the first but I was messing around with camera settings, hence the completely different exposure.

Sunday, 24 August 2008


Mrs Flummery and James, thanks for your help in naming my mystery plant. Hypericum was the species bimbling around in the dim recesses of my brain and now I've had a bit of a Google the berries confirm it. Not yet sure which variety, don't think it is Hypericum calycinum because the flowers are too small, and I don't have time to research it right now - just realised we have to be out for a lunch in less than an hour - whoops.

Rowan, and other berries

I don't feel I have been in the garden much recently and suddenly things are changing without my having noticed. I know this is a weird summer, or am I just terminally confused? For some reason I am surprised to find so many plants already well on the way to making their autumn/winter berries.

Back in March when I carried out the Tree Audit I did not identify four lanky, straggly things as Rowan. Now they have developed berries they're quite beautiful (and one of my favourite trees) and it is such a shame they have been starved of light and air and have had to grow so tall and thin in order to survive. Over time we will coppice them back to a more reasonable height and hopefully improve their shape at the same time.

The Lords and Ladies that looked so lovely in May have set their berries but I have not seen the Pheasant feasting on them, in fact, apart from one brief visit a week ago I have not seen the Pheasant much in the last month or so.

we seem to have plenty of them:

The Cotoneaster Cornuba is putting on loads of berries - the blackbirds will love them early in 2009 when the frost has softened them enough.

(click on this to enlarge, Back button to return)

The badly shaped Variegated Holly by the steps is making berries, the jury is still out as to whether this plant will have to be taken out, think it is too old to recover from a serious pruning but the one that is really confusing me is this:

Could whoever has the Group Brain at present please plug it in and let me know what this is. I know I ought to know, in fact, somewhere in the dim distant recesses I do know, but I just cannot remember. I am impressed that it manages to flower (the out of focus yellow blooms in the foreground) and set berries at the same time!

More squirrel stuff

We've been at Bag End six months but the sense of wonder at some of the amazing things we see in the garden has not faded at all. This video is also on Webshots where it can be seen larger.

Here's another of James' great photos - we're pretty certain this is Blondie, I love the drop on her chin!

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Brown Hare # 2

She was back again this morning for over an hour eating long grass in the same area where the orchid appeared. Another great reason for not having a manicured lawn! It was amazing to just sit at the bedroom window and watch, but eventually I thought I would chance it with the camera and crept outside. I managed two short bits of video before a passing lorry scared her off. One video is here but both and photos are at Webshots where at least the video is a bit larger!

And here are some of the photos from yesterday morning:

As for the quality of the photos - I'm half hanging out of a window perilously close to losing my balance with a point-and-shoot camera on full zoom . . .

Friday, 22 August 2008

Brown Hare

I'm dreadfully behind in sorting and sharing garden pictures, not sure what has happened to August but September had better not dare try to follow suit. Currently have at least 160 images in my "Garden to be edited" folder and whilst 90% of them will probably end up in the trash can, they all still have to be sorted out and the decent ones need to be cropped and resized.

However, very early this morning I took a series of pictures from the bedroom window of our young Hare which is growing extremely fast (must be all that nice lush grass and other wild things growing where most other people have a lawn!) Here's one picture as a taster and I will try to get the rest edited quickly.

Cumbrian weather today is fabulous, second day running of sunshine and a gentle breeze. Spent most of Thursday in the garden rendering down one of the big Leylandii and am going to continue that when I get off the computer!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Birds' Bistro

Latest delivery from The Birds' Bistro.

Am I mad to buy this much bird/squirrel food?
Do I care?
Is it worth it?

(the answers being Probably, No and What do you think . . .)

Saturday, 16 August 2008

I wanted to create a wildlife garden

. . . but maybe I already have one! This lovely little chap (or chap-ess) lolloped around the garden this afternoon but we didn't manage to get to a camera in time. Early evening however, our young hare was eating on the grass behind the back fence for quite some time. This is not the same animal we saw in the Spring, this one is much smaller and doesn't have a notch in its left ear.

SOOC except for resizing.

Friday, 15 August 2008

What a REAL photographer can accomplish at Bag End

My squirrel portraits are taken with an Olympus SP550 which is not a bad camera . . . for what it is, although it's got a lot of shortcomings (such as the greatest shutter lag in the history of photography) which do not really make it ideal for pictures of wildlife. However, it is what I have and I won't be buying anything different in the foreseeable future.

However, if you are a PROPER photographer with lenses that weigh nearly as much as my dog and a collection of gear that is undoubtedly worth more than both mine and Husband's cars combined then you can take photos like this whilst standing at the kitchen sink.

Please click on each to see how amazing they really are (then "Back" button or Backspace key to get back to here).

And the guilty party? Our friend James who had better get on AND UPDATE HIS WEBSITE or I'll start publishing the URL to the old one . . . thanks for some amazing images kid, look forward to seeing what you can do with a bit more time and the tripod.

Chain Piecing in Progress

It feels good to be sewing again (especially as everyone else is at FoQ in Birmingham this week). I don't tend to have a lot of UFOs laying around so if Merlin is to get a full workout then I need to make some tops to quilt!

Long before Jelly Rolls were invented an Alaskan lady called Debbie Caffrey came up with "Worms" which are 2½" strips cut across the width of fabric. Whilst my dear friend Joan was cutting up a storm to make some of these quilts she set aside strips for me which were then posted across the Pond and have, sadly, been sitting in a large box ever since. I've taken all the blue Worms to make this quilt and should just make it to 36 blocks.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Are you bored with this yet? I am!

Hedge regeneration continues apace. I managed an hour yesterday before Peter and Tracey arrived and today thought I'd get in a couple of hours before it rained. Well I did - and that was before lunch so like a Fool Thing that I am, out I went again after refueling. I really must get back in the habit of wearing a watch , when I came in I thought it was about 4.30. When I saw it was 5.45 I realised why I was so exhausted (grin). No photos, I am too dirty and tired to go back out with the camera.

The good news is that (I think) all the chainsaw work is done on the front row of hedge and much of the ivy has been pulled up. There are still half a dozen horrible large cherry suckers to dig/crowbar up and then I can start moving soil ready for the daffodils. Bit of a shock earlier this week - went into town for something and found sacks of Daffodil bulbs on sale. This is why I'm concentrating on the hedge above everything else, I don't want to leave it too late before I put the bulbs in.

Must bimble off and do some research on what bulbs to get - it would be nice to use the small native ones so if anyone has the Group Brain switched on at the moment and knows which variety I need, please let me know!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Much excitement, sorry - this definitely comes under the 'bragging' category

Had a lovely visit yesterday afternoon from Peter Burgess and Tracey. Peter is founder of the Online Fellwalking Club, a warm and friendly group, membership of which helped keep me sane in the last couple of years before we were able to move here (Andrea, I want no comments about "sane" from you, thank you very much).

It seems to be the case that when friends visit the clouds come down and I'm unable to share our glorious view but Peter was undeterred by the weather and spent most of the visit on his knees with an OS map of the North Western fells spread out in front of him, plus compass, paper and a very long ruler. With the aid of this photo, taken back in April when the view was a heck of a lot better, he concluded that the beautiful distant fell in this picture is PILLAR. Not just any fell OK, but Pillar - and, we can even make out Pillar Rock (which I will not be ascending!) and Windy Gap which is clearly visible on the right. What a wonderful addition to the list of Fells I Must Walk if I'm to get to the top of everything where (visibility permitting) I can say "I can see my house from here!".

Pete knows these fells much, much better than I do - if he says this is Pillar, then it is!! Thanks Pete! (and thanks too to Tracey who sat very patiently whilst Pete played on the floor).

Monday, 11 August 2008

More hedge regeneration

In the interests of trying to keep my own diary up to date, here's what I accomplished on Friday afternoon:

The arrival of Graham and Tim to cut the lawns meant I packed up before I'd completely finished and there are still two large stumps to be removed (and endless suckers from the cherry trees . . . sigh) but apart from that, I reckon I am now half-way there!

James' visit on Sunday made me realise that whilst I might know exactly what I'm doing here, it is not necessarily obvious to anyone else, so here's the Grand Plan for our front hedge:

When we arrived, the top of the Escallonia was 10 feet high and hanging three-quarters across the pavement, I am surprised we didn't get a warning letter from the local council. For years the only treatment it received was an annual chop from the local farmer who came by with a flail and ripped off the edges but according to neighbours Mrs Previous Owner wouldn't even pay him a tenner a year to do that so we inherited about 4 years worth of total neglect.

Escallonia regenerates extremely well. At the end of April I cut down an overgrown area which was blocking our access from the driveway.

Within three months we have this much dense new growth. Because of my timing there were no flowers this year but in 2009 I expect a good flowering which will make the local bees fairly happy.

Once we started to cut back into the Escallonia at the front we could see there are two rows of plants with about 18 inches between the front row and the edge of the wall. This year I am cutting back all of the front row to stumps and after good feed and mulch it should put on new growth similar to that above. In the space between the plants and wall I am going to put daffodil bulbs and perennials such as Nigella, Foxgloves and already a few ferns are making themselves at home.

In about three years time when the front row has regenerated and grown tall enough to give us a screen from the road I shall do the same with the back row. By leaving the back row intact for the time being I retain some privacy in the front garden and a screen which keeps the Hairy One safe.

First Quilt

Strewth, how did it get to be a whole week since I added anything to this journal?

I know I did spend a lot of time playing with fabric last week and that was a joy! I didn't realise how much I had missed working with textiles until I started again.

Here is the first quilt to be completed on Merlin. It is a small (40" x 50") brushed cotton blankie for the Hairy One.

The back:

and where it belongs:

Friday, 8 August 2008

The front hedge .. all 100 and something feet of it

Disorganisation continues at Bag End, I thought I'd posted this last week but obviously not.

More hedge regeneration, this section done on 1st August. By the time I've cleared the Escallonia, dealt with all the prunings, cleared the ground of ivy and other detritus, cleaned the chainsaw it is taking a whole day to do this much. Which means in all I have about 6 or 7 solid days work just to get it cleaned up. Then comes the "fun part" of moving barrowloads of soil from the Coppice (where soil level is two/three feet higher than it should be in places) and building up the section behind the wall so that I can fill it with daffodil bulbs.

As with many tasks at Bag End, I have been wanting to sort out the Coppice ever since we arrived, having three feet of soil banked up against that old wall is not a situation we want to ignore but until I knew where I could put all that surplus soil I didn't want to start moving it.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Blondie has company

Despite the continuing rain it's was a great Thursday at Bag End as we had the pleasure of watching two Red Squirrel in the garden for nearly the whole day. The second has temporarily been christened Newbie and we're guessing this is another of this years young. About the same size as Blondie, no ear tufts yet but a much darker back and tail. The hazelnut feeder has been severely depleted since breakfast time!

I don't know how well this will show up (click on picture to enlarge) but Blondie is in the "cage" and Newbie is at the tree feeder.

I want to get out and do some gardening now but I took lots of pictures yesterday and I will try to share some more later.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Tufty Club update

Here's something you don't see everyday!

Monday, 4th August 2008

What a beautiful start to the day - 8.30am

Sunday, 3rd August 2008

Normal service is being resumed (or whatever passes for "normal" at Bag End!).

Our wonderful view 7.10pm

Zooming in on Hopegill Head

and Grasmoor

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Breakfast babies

All of a sudden there are baby birds around - everywhere! Difficult to photograph because they won't keep still for very long but we are currently "raising" Blue Tits, Great Tits, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robins and this gorgeous family who came for peanuts at 8.00 this morning. Long-Tailed Tits - one of my favourite birds, such companionable and friendly little people, they always make me smile. Just wish they'd learn how to sit still in front of the camera.

There appear to be seven Long-Tailed Tits in this picture, plus the daftest baby Greenfinch (?) - it finds somewhere comfortable and just sits, and sits, and sits. Sometimes it is in the middle of the food, sometimes on the edge of the water tray, I have a horrid feeling it is going to be target practise for a Sparrowhawk.

What is the collective noun for a bunch of Great Tits who will not stay still, a flurry? Think there are 9 in this picture: