Saturday, 31 January 2009


I so, so, so want to plant things. To do real gardening. To sew, germinate, prick out, nurture . . .

(I made the mistake of looking at photos of the greenhouse I had in Hampshire, this was June 2006)

But until we've stopped felling Leylandii I cannot plant anything - it is too likely to get flattened.

But before I plant nice things I need windbreaks, hedges.

But before I can get hedges established we need to finish felling Leylandii.

Are you starting to see a pattern?

However, before we fell more trees we really need to move all the timber from last year.

And then there's all that Thinking I've been doing whilst watching the rain. Dangerous stuff is Thinking. It can get you into all sorts of bother.

I've Been Thinking about The Pond.
Yep, made the mistake of looking at those pictures too. I loved that tiny bit of water we created in Hampshire, watching Dragonfly emerge, tiny froglets no bigger than a fingernail, Damselflies mating - quite amazing (and if anyone tells you it takes 2 - 5 years for these things to happen, RUBBISH, we had Dragonfly larvae within six months and they hatched when the pond was barely a year old).

The Pond is capitalised because by the time I have finished it is likely to be the size of a small tarn! However, excavating The Pond has its own problems - what the heck do I do with goodness knows how many tons of soil?

Now . . . digging over the ground between the trees we retain in order to make it a lovely environment for a new hedge to grow is going to be Damn Hard Work - and take forever - but I can't do the nice stuff until the hedges are established - and so the Dependencies go on.

And then I had "An Idea" (BTW, when you're my Husband, Small Hobbit having "An Idea" is just as bad as when "I've Been Thinking"). Way back when Monty was gardening at Berryfields, he planted trees in mounds of earth to compensate for poor, shallow soil (well, at least, that's how I remember it).

Back to The Pond (are you dizzy yet?). Why not use the soil from The Pond excavation to make ridges between the tree trunks and plant the hedging whips into them?

* somewhere to put the excavated soil
* I don't have to do the back-breaking work of double digging to prepare the ground for the hedges, I reckon breaking up the surface, removing the worst weeds and laying out the contents of a couple of compost bins would be a reasonable start . . .
* I get the hedges started sooner rather than later
* I get The Pond MUCH sooner than expected
* The hedge is raised which means it will be taller sooner and there will be a (mainly) south facing slope at its base for cowslips and the like.

Cons: Not sure but hopefully some gardening friend who knows more than I do will tell me.

but we still need to move that damn timber and fell the rest of the blasted Leylandii, and before I get too excited about hedge I need to see if the earth we're going to be excavating is usable or nasty blue clay. I think I need a Test Pit.

I wonder if Mrs Flummery is ready for another weekend in Cumbria? In the absence of Tony Robinson, maybe I should borrow a friend with an Archaeology Certificate, we're within sight of a small but significant Roman settlement, who knows what might be lurking under the lawn?

Friday, 30 January 2009

Some old friends return

Not many photos, but yesterday some old friends came back.

In the morning a young Ring Neck Pheasant spend a couple of hours foraging around in the uncut grass.

During the afternoon a visit from a very dark Red Squirrel with extremely long ear tufts. Its looks and behaviour (taking a particular route through the trees that none of the others do) very much makes it look like Newbie is back.

At 6.00pm, Canine One and I went outside and were serenaded in the dark by two extremely noisy Tawny Owls, last year we regularly heard their young squeaking in the churchyard at night, fingers crossed we will be so lucky this year.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A sunny Sunday afternoon

At 11.00 on Sunday I thought an hour or so in the garden would be a good idea - it was cold but bright and I could get a few logs moved - but finish coffee first.

At 11.10 it was peeing it down and there was no chance of getting outside in anything other than an Ark.

By 1.15 it was clear and bright again . . .

I did 45 minutes on my own and was able to move three small piles of pre-cut logs like this into the Log Store.

Then Husband joined me and we were able to shift all the remaining cherry logs from the front lawn. He then suggested we got the chainsaw out . . . and an hour later the three remaining large trunks from April 2008 were no more - but the pile of timber waiting to be split into Log Store sized chunks has grown considerablty.

(rhetorical question - if we can get the damn things cut and moved in an hour, why the smeg hadn't we done it sooner?)

And then because we're nuts and didn't have the sense to go indoors, we took a huge chunk off the overgrown Cotoneaster, one of many out of control shrubs along the boundary between us and next door.

Unfortunately this has left a tatty pile (right-hand side of photo) that will probably need to be burnt but the big "long-term" log pile is starting to look quite impressive.

We've left a good few feet between the logs and the house and eventually this pile might get covered with a tarp and left for a couple of years - guess it depends upon how fast we get through the Log Store and need to replenish it.

Given how slowly we're filling up the LS (or rather, just how much we seem to be able to store in it), replenishing could be a long way off!

And whilst we worked, this was our backdrop. Life is good . . .

(private note to J: yes, I know some of the Photoshop edits are atrocious. I am tired, I have a migraine, it's this or nothing . . . . .)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Let Sleeping Dogs . . .

Is there anything more gorgeous than a deeply sleeping puppy?

OK, not exactly a puppy at nearly 14 years old, but he'll always be my baby.


I do try not to whinge but I'm completely and totally hacked off with January. It has either been too cold & frozen solid to go outside or too wet OR (I think this is the most frustrating) a day like today where we have a fresh breeze, blue sky above, views of snow-clad fells but there was so much rain in the night that the entire garden is sodden.

I cannot walk on any part of it without water oozing up around my boots. Trying to walk around and carry logs from where they are to where they need to be would be slippery, muddy and probably dangerous because it's hard to keep upright on some of the sloping bits! Areas where the grass died because it was covered by fallen Leylandii are already a muddy bog. What little "lawn" (I always use that word very carefully at Bag End!) we have is rapidly disappearing from the traffic areas that cannot be avoided.

I know how dangerous it is to admit to any plans I have made (because it always puts the mockers on them!) but this plan is already shot to h*ll so why not tell? Stupid Hobbit thought she would be able to get in the garden for one hour a day, every day ... not much, but lots of little hours add up. Yeah right. Total gardening in 2009? One hour last Sunday during which I cleared a small log pile from it's inappropriate location on the front "lawn" (there I go again). This area is destined to become the vegetable garden (oops - shouldn't have said that) but needs a protective hedge first.

(yes, I know this looks a mess, that is because it IS a mess!)

And the logs were moved to, surprise - surprise, another log pile!

(no, I didn't move all that in one hour - I wish - Husband moved most of this over Christmas)

Much of the frustration is because Nature is getting on and starting to grow and I wanted to have straightened out all last year's felled timber before that happened.

And talking of Nature - found our one and only clump of Snowdrops in the garden today:

but there are more in the churchyard.

We've also got some bulbs popping their heads up and the heather is doing well.

Although the ones I put into tubs haven't done anything yet (but they did go in very, very late)

And two different Reds visit us every day.

so life is good, even if the Birds' Bistro bill is horrendous!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A blizzard between Bowscale and Bannerdale

Happy Day - I got out on the fells yesterday for the second time this year! First outing was last week to Carrock Fell and High Pike with Stoke's biggest fan and the Loweswater Puffins, and a good day was had by all, thanks guys.

Yesterday's walk was roughly based on David Hall's trip to the same fells (8th January 2006) which shows much better pictures than I took. A peaceful six miles during which time I didn't meet another soul, saw a couple of people in the distance but that was all. I followed David's route straight up The Tongue for only half of the ascent and then decided I was having no fun at all so traversed across to the narrow path which eventually meets with the valley track. It meant I lost height but enjoyed myself more so was worth doing.

Lunch was very comfortable resting against the shelter on Bowscale looking at a distant Sharp Edge but cut short by ominous clouds rolling in from Skiddaw. When the clouds reached me they brought with them nasty, stinging, horizontal sleet/snow which made the ridge walk to Bannerdale's Curricks fairly unpleasant and meant I didn't get the lovely views of Blencathra that I had been looking forward to. Of course, the rest of the day was pleasant with sunny patches - typical!

After that a straightforward off-piste walk down White Horse Bent (if there's a path I never saw it) and then the track next to the Glenderamackin River back to the car at Mungrisdale (£2 honesty donation, another soap-box - I get very annoyed when people don't bother to pay this just because there is no ticketing system and they can "get away with it"). The walk-out was simple but extremely wet and boggy in places. Very pleasingly, the lightweight Salomon Elios shoes I was trying out got me back to the car with completely dry feet and it was a pleasure to use these boots, very good grip where the ground was slippery (and that was despite the best efforts of puddles, boggy bits and the Ford which was fairly deep and running fast).

Very few photos taken and those here are annotated for a friend who is planning a walk in the same area next month.

Taken from the top of White Horse Bent, just visible bottom-right is Mousethwaite Comb, the route up from Scales.

Monday, 12 January 2009

I suppose this makes sense - if you're a Woodpecker

Saw the Greater Spotted Woodie on a peanut feeder but by the time I'd got the camera out he had moved

- to the squirrel's hazelnut box!

(click on this to enlarge and see what he has in his beak)

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Utility Room: After

Oops - back in October we had "before" and "during" but I never completed the set, the room may never look this tidy again . . .

The changes we made work really well and the room is now much more usable than it was before. Two of the walls need completely replastering, the whole thing needs decorating and the carpet tiles are a disgrace - but all of those things can wait. In the great big scheme of things they are not important.

Wildlife Watching

Gently kicked up the appropriate part of anatomy by Sewali, I have finally put together a list of all the birds and mammals we've seen at Bag End in the last year.

Barn Owl (once briefly)
Blue Tit
Bullfinch (once)
Coal Tit
Collared Dove
Great Tit
Greater Spotted Woodpecker
House Sparrow
Long Tailed Tit
Ring Neck Pheasant
Song Thrush
Sparrowhawk (male and female)
Tawny Owl
Tree Creeper
Wood Pigeon

Canada Goose
Grey Heron
House Martin
Hawks, Hercules, Tornadoes, Tucanoes (sorry)

Brown Hare
Red Squirrel

We don't take any of this wonderful wildlife for granted, it could take so little to change our immediate environment to make it inhospitable for many of these wonderful creatures.

This is asking for trouble but it would be good if I could get a photograph of each of our visitors!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Here's something we don't see every day

although it was minus 6 outside just before 9.00 when this was taken.

To put this into perspective - we live in a lane which is only wide enough for two cars for a 100 yard stretch where there are houses, after that it is single track with high hedges, there are no road markings, no street lights and sheep in the field opposite.

Me thinks it might be a bit slippery out there when Ollie finally wakes up and we go out.

Monday, 5 January 2009

It's a beautiful day

I ought to be getting ready to drive to Appleby for Ollie's next acupuncture appointment, not messing around with the camera . . .

The light is in completely the wrong place to take a decent picture of Skiddaw at this time of day and I've had to maul the picture around in Photoshop to try and get back to what I can actually see.

Happy New Year

The view which greeted us this morning does not show how cold it is or the black ice which appears to be covering our driveway, and all of the road between here and the A66. Nor the fact that despite the heating being on, it is only 12 degrees in my study and that's a tad nippy . . .