Friday, 31 October 2008

Before breakfast

Husband and I did an hour together with the chainsaw before he started work. I've probably done another 3 - 4 hours during the day but short sessions with breaks in between for breakfast, dog walking, lunch, talking to the plumber - a fairly normal Bag End day!

From the usual vantage point the area is opened up considerably and there are now three piles of small logs waiting to be moved up the garden. Husband knows this is his first job tomorrow morning, bless him!

Now that a 40 foot high solid wall has been removed the amount of additional light coming into the garden is amazing. I was working in sunshine for most of the morning in an area that probably hasn't had direct sun on it for 20 years or more.

It amazes me to think that a year ago I would have looked at this and not known where to start. Now I look at a multi-stemmed mess of a tree and think "yeah, about two hours if we work together". This pile is about 25 foot long and 6 foot high (excluding the green brushy bits).

We can definitely see progress and we are absolutely determined to crack on and get all of the newly felled timber rendered down and stacked away without delay. Of course, it would help if we'd finished building the log store but there's only so many hours of daylight at this time of year!

On Tuesday afternoon there was no clear ground visible, it was all covered in branches.

Another large pile of brush waiting for a bonfire


I cannot remember to whom I have told what, and as the darling Hairy One has a great extended family who love him nearly as much as I do, the easiest way to ensure that all his friends know what is going on is to issue Bag End Bulletins.
Birthday visit to Rannerdale, May 2008

A recap for those who are not already fully-paid up members of the Canine Club: At 13½ years old he has developed arthritis in his left hip and has slowed down considerably in the last six months. Last Wednesday lunchtime he was standing patiently waiting for me to open the back door when he suddenly screamed in pain, shot towards the kitchen and promptly slipped on the tiled floor and screamed again. It took me a long while and a large dose of Metacam to stop him physically shaking from head to toe, poor lad was hurting and had scared himself silly. Don't know what caused the first problem - wonder if he turned a bit awkwardly and jarred his hip joint? Anyhow, I now had a scared little dog who would not walk on the smooth kitchen floor so I made a a glorious "trip hazard" of spare carpet held down with Gaffer tape.

He eventually calmed down enough to sleep on my bed for a few hours, at 5.30 I went to take him out for a little walk. He was very happy to get up and walked freely down the hall - until he screamed in pain again, and again, and again, and was running around trying to escape from the pain and I could not catch him. All very nasty. Phoned vet, was in waiting room ten minutes later, Clare thought it was probably an arthritic flare up and gave him a big dose of Pethedin and instructions to treat him with the NSAIDs for the next couple of days.
Very windswept but happy on Boxing Day 2007

The drugs worked fine for Thursday and Friday. He was obviously pain free, wanting to play tug with his ring and breaking into a run whilst out for a walk. By Monday this week I was back down to the normal maintenance dose of Metacam and it is no longer enough. This afternoon (Thursday) I took him back to the vet. Clare is on holiday (half term week) so we saw John. Very impressed with the level of care and time he took to give a thorough examination.

Result - another dose of Pethedin, different NSAID drug from tomorrow morning. Appointment 9.00am Monday for sedation and X-ray, they will be looking at his hip for arthritis and his lungs (good opportunity to check up on a long-standing condition which has resulted in an enlarged heart on the right-hand side and congested lungs - he now also has a heart murmur, not unusual in an elderly Beardie). Once we know exactly what the problem is we'll know what drugs can alleviate the symptoms and make him comfortable.
Relaxing at Blea Tarn

Right now he is laying behind my chair snoring his head off. I guess the Pethedin has kicked in and he is comfortable enough to collapse completely after the "trauma" of more than half an hour in the consulting room being examined very thoroughly.

To all our friends, please excuse the impersonal nature of this and future updates, I think it's the only way I can keep everything straight without going mad (OK, even more mad than I already am . . .)
The serious business of sleeping

Thursday, 30 October 2008

One Hour

In just one hour, two determined people can accomplish a surprising amount!

Last night, when Husband arrived home late from a business trip, he prowled around outside with a torch to try and see what was laying around the garden and announced "if you like, we'll do an hour with the chainsaw between 07.30 and 08.30, then I'll have a shower and be at my desk for 9.00". Bless him, he's been away three days, had a six hour journey home and is prepared to start at silly o'clock. I'd only managed another 1½ hours yesterday afternoon and me doing two hours a day just is not going to be enough

But that is exactly what we did, me running the chainsaw and Husband moving stuff. We accomplished a huge amount, very satisfying start to the day. I'm off to get the punctured tyre fixed and then I can work alone tidying up logs with the hand axe and moving stuff around. We might even do an hour at lunchtime (it would be one way of getting him to stop and take more than a 5 minute break which is all he normally does).

At 7.30am - this is how much ground I managed to clear yesterday (on Tuesday night the only area with no brush on it was a small corridor along the side of the fence so that Hairy One and I could get to the gate!)

At 08.30 after an hour's hard work (more has been cleared on the left behind the fallen tree but it's not visible from here).

The view that has been opened up now the trees are gone.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


First floods, and now snow and it is still October.

The weather is not being kind

Rain has driven me indoors after only half an hour of limbing and tidying up. It should have been more like 1½ hours but I made a complete Horlix of putting a new chain on the Husqvarna and lost the best part of an hour to mechanical messing around. Lesson to self - ensure the chain brake is OFF before removing the bar & chain otherwise it is impossible to reassemble everything.

Eventually I realised what I had done wrong, quick call to Keswick Garden Machinery (thank you John) to confirm I was right. I was less than happy with the advice "you won't be able to fix it yourself, takes a huge amount of brute strength to reset the brake, just bring it down here and I will do it for you". Wrong answer on a day when I have a slow puncture on a front tyre and cannot find the pump in order to make it safe enough to drive to the garage. Those who know me know better than to tell me I cannot do something. Ten minutes and not too much brute force later the chainsaw was reassembled and working beautifully.

It is not the end of the world, I learnt more about how the saw works and have subsequently located the foot pump for the car tyre!

Letting the light in

The front corner of the garden never receives any sun regardless of the time of year, and not much grows here either. Granted, the Leylandii are providing some protection from the prevailing winds but they are also busy trying to wreck the retaining wall with continually growing roots - they've got to go!

This was how it looked first thing Tuesday morning.

This is how it looks Wednesday morning.

It was a long day in bitterly cold conditions, at 4.00pm it was 0 degrees. Thankfully no wind otherwise I would have found it very unpleasant!

Unfortunately THIS is how the recently cleared garden looks.

Although John and his crew efficiently logged and limbed the first 2 trees to come down we realised that the two largest trees were taking far longer to fell than anticipated; they had to be nibbled away limb by limb because all the weight was to the front and we couldn't have multi-tons of timber landing on a road. I had to make a decision - "Down" or "Dismembered", I chose Down on the basis that I can do the logging and limbing myself, but I cannot fell a 40 foot Leylandii on my own. With the clocks having gone back this weekend we ran out of light at 5.15 . . .

I'm going to be a bit busy for the next few days, just pray the weather co-operates.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

October update

There has been a lot happen in the garden this month (when the weather has allowed) but I didn't want to record it until most of the tasks were completed.

The main job this month was to clear up the remaining timber and brush that has been littering the garden since 30+ Leylandii were felled in April. The big pile in the centre of this picture is brush that's waiting for an appropriate time to have a bonfire. All the logs from the bottom left of the picture have been moved to the huge tarp covered pile that is waiting to be cut up. (Note to self, must take tarp off tomorrow to let the pile breathe).

(click to enlarge, "Back" to return)

We've made a start on the Log Store but been driven inside by the weather the last two weekends. There is one more upright to go in centre front, the base is made but needs to be raised off the ground and secured to the uprights, and lots of Larch Slab is sitting waiting patiently for its turn to become sides.

Will we ever have nice shrubs and a tidy lawn like normal people?

The main "waiting to be burnt" pile - sadly, it is MUCH bigger than it looks.

Flood levels on Monday

At home the Derwent has dropped about 12 - 18" and parts of the fields are peeping through the water making little islands.

In Cockermouth many have not been so lucky. This is the other face of living in a waterside idyll, Waterloo Street on Monday afternoon.

Monday, 27 October 2008

First Snow

Well, possibly not really "snow", more a faint wispy covering of cold white stuff!

Skiddaw with Ullock Pike in front


naff pictures but it looks like the cloud is coming down again and I might not get another chance.

Rain, rain, rain

Saturday was exactly as the previous night's forecast had predicted. Driving rain, high winds, absolutely horrible and no way the new camera was going outside to get wet.

By Sunday, things had calmed down considerably but the water levels continue to rise and I know that Waterloo Street in Cockermouth has flooded again. By midday the Derwent was higher than we'd seen it before, the tops of the fence posts are completely submerged so the water level has got to be 5 feet above normal (yes, I am daft enough that when everything dries out I will go down and measure it!). The water is spread over an area three or four times wider than the normal channel - imagine how high it would have to be if the fields were not there to take the spread?

Part of a fence has been swept out of the ground and is floating. The water might look calm and benign but the main river channel is flowing frighteningly fast.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Calm between two storms

Thursday was abysmal and today hasn't been much better, but yesterday was a clear, bright day with that lovely "fresh washed" feel which often comes after bad weather.

Our beautiful Pheasant came back for lunch, so good to see him again and I hope he'll be a regular winter visitor. A couple of days ago I glimpsed his mate in the Coppice but wasn't able to photograph her.

The dreadful weather continues

Despite the awful forecast last night, our little part of Cumbria appears to have got away quite lightly during the day. Neither the wind or rain have been as bad as expected, however, and it is a BIG however, after dropping about 2 feet overnight the Derwent has now flooded back to higher than yesterday. We might not have had much rain at Bag End but areas upriver of us must have had a huge amount.

The river level at 5.00pm. No amount of playing with Photoshop is going to make this look better so I am not even going to try.

Unsurprisingly, there are more flood alerts and flood warnings in place for the north west than any other part of the UK.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Flooding #4

4.30pm, water level continues, thankfully, to fall.

More pictures at my Webshots account.

However, the forecast from MWIS for tomorrow is dire:

Southwesterly 60-80mph, gusts 90 to temporarily 110mph on highest areas. Very difficult conditions even at low level, with any mobility widely difficult or impossible on higher areas. Significant wind chill. Widespread rain, later torrential Prolonged rain developing through morning, turning torrential through the afternoon, giving 1 to locally 2 inches, flooding streams and paths. However, northeastern Lakeland fells will have very much less rain.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Flooding #3

Thankfully the wind has subsided overnight and for now the rain has eased up although it is noticeably colder. Whilst the situation in our immediate vicinity is better, considerable rain fell yesterday in the Lorton/Buttermere area and this has to drain into the River Cocker which in turn feeds into the Derwent. At present the water level across the fields looks slightly less than 6.00pm yesterday. The fields are doing what nature desugned them to do - flood, and at least here the water has somewhere to go.

Flooding #2

Compare the water coverage over the fields from 90 minutes ago. Goodness knows what the level will be by morning - there is a lot of rain falling on the fells at present that needs to end up somewhere.

Edit 6.00pm: Just walked Hairy One around the block and seen a neighbour who tells us this is the highest she has ever seen the Derwent - she has lived here ten years.


The River Derwent has broken its banks over the fields in front of the house. The river is on Flood Watch from Keswick to the coast at Workington (about 20 miles).

If you look at the river just to the left of the "bend chevrons" on the bridge you can see the top of a line of fence posts (click to enlarge, backspace or "back" button to return). The normal river bank is 6 - 10 feet back from that fence. The road leading to the bridge is under 6" - 8" of water and vehicles are having to take it in turns to use the centre of the tarmac. Although our roof is leaking again over the sitting room (still waiting for Dale to come and fix it!) I am thankful we're 50 foot above the normal water line.

It is easier to see the fence posts in this photo.

The wind is gusting 25 - 30mph outside the house, goodness knows what it is doing up on the Fells.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

It is most definitely Autumn

Yep, leaves being blown off trees courtesy of what is probably the most severe gale we have experienced since living at Bag End. Accompanied, of course, by rain - horizontal, driving, double wet rain!

Despite the filthy conditions today we have a great deal of squirrel action in the garden, two of this years young are competing to see who can take the most hazelnuts, I have already had to refill the feeder and it is only 10.15. No chance of photos this morning, the light is too bad, but I took some earlier in the week that are moderately reasonable.

A very inquisitive little squirrel:

"Hmm, something unusual over there"

"Yep, I definitely need to investigate this"

"Ha ha, bird feeder blown over - peanut bonanza!"

There is definitely something wrong with this nose - dont know if he has been in a fight

Actually, moderately reasonable is stretching it a bit. The light has been awful most of the week, shutter speeds have been correspondingly slow and generally the photos have been consigned to the Recycle bin but I wanted to post something and these are the best I have managed since the weekend.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Morning sadness

On the verge just up from our house, the body of the beautiful Brown Hare who has visited so often this summer. Looks like she was hit by a car and foxes have done the rest. Far too distressing to take pictures. This lovely creature harmed no-one and hurt nothing but will not see another Spring, not have a chance to breed. I can see birds taken by the Sparrowhawk without any emotion, it is natural and part of the food chain. Road kill is not natural. I ought to get a spade and move her body where Canine One will not find it next time we go out but right now I can't bear to.

I took these pictures earlier in the year.

Early one morning she was foraging for breakfast

Husband took this from his office window, not a bad accompaniment to a conference call.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The trouble with wildlife

- is that it doesn't tend to play by any rules but its own and does not always know its place, and the Utility Room is certainly NOT the place for wildlife, especially not wildlife of the rodent kind.

Delay in getting to the duvet last night because I found a mouse in the utility room when I went to lock the back door and turn the lights off. Much time then spent muttering furiously as I searched the garage for a mousetrap which was baited with peanut butter. Bloody creatures, this wildlife gardening is all very well as long as the little sods stay in the garden!

Fortunately mice are not the smartest creatures and peanut butter is completely irresistible to them. This morning the small furry intruder was safely trapped and I've relocated her to the edge of a field at the top of the village, hopefully far enough away that she cannot come back. This might seem daft given how many other mice I know are in the garden but so far they've all stayed outside and I did not want this one telling her chums how warm and dry it was inside. It is also a very good reminder to me NOT to leave the lids off any of the bird food containers.

Edit - Sunday 19th October for Rachel: Good news, she hasn't come back yet! The trap is still set but all the tasty stuff is now secured in plastic tubs with close fitting lids.