Saturday, 30 January 2010

A little more progress

Wall to wall sunshine and an uninterrupted view to the summit of Skiddaw over 11 miles away - too good an opportunity to miss.

We needed to get this half dead mess of cotoneaster and hawthorn covered with a huge weight of ivy down before the greenhouse arrives. Thankfully, we have the full support of our neighbour; he's lived here 10 years but never before had to draw his curtains against the bright sunlight - fortunately he doesn't mind!

Management was on chainsaw duty today and it did not take him long to bring the triffids down to shoulder height.

Not surprisingly, it took just as long to clear up all the timber and ivy rubbish as it did to bring them down. The pile waiting for a bonfire is now its "usual size" but by the time everything was tidy we'd had enough.

This does not hurt as much as it should.

The ugly bruise on my leg, however, hurts a great deal.

My lack of fitness was an issue today. I've taken virtually no exercise in the last six months. Since Ollie died I have hardly walked anywhere and the weather has kept me from heavy-duty garden work since about October. I have put on half a stone since August and now weigh more than at any time in my life (stop laughing at the back, I know I am a bit on the thin side at the best of times!) I'm not going to worry about it and refuse to change what I eat. As soon as I am back to my normal work level and I do a few fellwalks things will get back to normal.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


A not very good picture of a fleeting visitor.

The good stuff comes from SewAli's Lumberjack for which I am hugely grateful. He's a very experienced birder and terribly generous with his knowledge.

If you see one rook there will be others about and there should be a rookery around somewhere as they are highly social.

Rooks are very special birds, quintessentially English and highly intelligent but sadly far less numerous than they used to be. They traditionally nested in elm trees, in rookeries that were often hundreds of years old, but Dutch Elm disease killed off the elms and gave them a problem.

They are superficially like crows (i.e. carrion crow) and the usual way to tell them apart is by the rook's white parchment face, at the base of the beak (although young rooks have a black face) which you can see clearly in the photo.

Rooks are quite different in character from crows though. They are noisy and playful and do not have the carnivorous and rapacious nature of carrion crows. They subsist mainly on grubs and seed (although will take the odd vole if they come across one out in the fields.)

Rooks are also slightly smaller than crows, have a longer thinner probing beak rather than the pick-axe of the crow, are more 'ragged'-looking in flight and their thigh feathers give a 'baggy trousers' look rather than the sleek look of the crow. Also when the light hits their plumage they tend to show a purple iridescence rather than the green-ish shown by the crow.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Vegetable beds - more than half way!

Another surprisingly mild day, so back outside to move the now very well-rotted cow manure. Every time I make arrangements for someone to come and help the weather throws a complete wobbly. Perhaps the answer is for me to do little and often when conditions allow.

Started with 4th bed, partly filled last year and covered over

and a surprisingly short amount of time later ended with this

which has been covered back over again. It needs a bit of digging over to mix the soil and manure and is bound to settle lots and need topping up again. That means 4 out of 8 beds are just about finished.

Discovered I am even more unfit than I thought, or else the slope up from the driveway has got steeper during the winter. Also did a lot of clearing up of all the pots and stuff that had been abandoned on the driveway and it looks much smarter. If I could just get the rest of the manure shifted we might be able to park exactly where we want for the first time in 8 months ...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Two days, two jobs and new wellies

Monday - Put more bark chips over the daffodil bulbs which are coming up far too fast. I'd been wanting to do this since before Christmas but the weather had other ideas. Was reminded that 100 litres of B&Q small bark chips weighs at least 5kg more than I ought to lift. Also cut back all the remaining shrubbery which was overhanging our walls so for the first time ever we no longer have any escaping greenery attempting to whack an unsuspecting pedestrian in the head. Cleared off all the ivy from the top of the wall which was revealed when the escallonia hedge came out - not surprised to find the many of the coping stones loose and in a right state - and all that took less than 3 hours - result!

Tuesday - Dug away the soil around the bottom of the greenhouse frame so that we can finish painting it. Much more Hammerite ordered (the correct Dark Green this time, not the horrible apple green I ordered by mistake, but it has served well as an undercoat!). Greenhouse is ordered and expected early February so we need to be ready for it.

Knackered but pleased, as Management reminded me, it is only mid-January and to be able to get outside on two consecutive days AND achieve both the tasks I aimed for is quite a result.

Also a result was a pair of Muck Boots on Monday morning when I went to the local ag. store to pick up more mixed corn for the pheasant. I'd read a review of these some months back in a gardening magazine and had filed the thought away so was very pleased to find them in my size. Mentioned my happy purchase (and toasty warm feet) to a friend that evening to be told "oh, I've used them for years" .... which I suppose is not surprising as she used to work in farming; and there was me thinking I'd discovered something new ..{
they may never be this clean again . . .

Monday, 18 January 2010

Be careful what you wish for

I wanted rid of the snow, and between Friday night and Saturday morning my wish came true. One of the biggest storms since we have lived here, and no huge screen of Leylandii to protect us or the house. At one point I thought the bedroom window was going to blow in, not much sleep that night.

I think we got off extremely lightly seeing as the only damage was the cheap, temporary log store screen.

Our view changed from this

to this

and the water level in the Derwent rose more than 2 feet in less than 24 hours.

This van was washed downstream during the November floods and for nearly all the time since, has been barely visible. However, during the cold spell the water level has dropped steadily and this is how much of it could be seen on Thursday. Now its roof it barely breaking the surface.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Pinwheel progress

I've made 4 more pinwheel units but the project is stalled! The latest plan requires 7 yards of background fabric and despite my fabric stash being of such a quantity that I may never use it in two lifetimes, of course I do not have the "right" floral with pale background.

So all the bits go back in a bag until some time in the future when I've found the right fabric and feel like continuing. Note for Hazel - this is quite normal quilting behaviour.

Don't discount the possibility that by the time I have 7 yards of a suitable floral, I won't want to make the quilt any more and will have changed my mind about the layout ...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Local Tourist: Whitehaven Harbour

Last Saturday was gearing up to be a typically domestic day involving a trip to the supermarket and other household delights, however, as I was driving out of the village, Management told me he had read about Whitehaven Harbour being frozen over. Our plans were immediately changed and we were rewarded with this:

A wonderful trip out wandering around on an extremely cold but bright day and walking along the walls to the very outside of the harbour from where we could see both the Isle of Man (with a snow clad Snaefell) and Scotland (with surprisingly little snow on Criffel).

Biting cold required hot rations and we enjoyed a superb lunch in the Beacon Cafe before more ambling around.

I don't think the swan meant to land like this; skidded, looked stupid for a while, and then nonchalantly wandered off across the ice.

With both a maritime and mining history, Whitehaven is definitely a place to spend more time investigating - but preferably when it is a bit warmer!

Big freeze visitors

Not surprisingly we have had avian visitors by the flock-load during the cold weather.

The Fieldfare have stayed, stripped every single cotoneaster berry from the garden and discovered a taste for sunflower seed hearts.

Management is waiting for them to leave. He says he thought Blackbirds were territorial and could be aggressive but until you've seen a manic Fieldfare defending the area where it is feeding you ain't seen nothing! The blackies have, however, held court over the water trays and watching them bathe each day when the temperature has been well below zero has surprised us.

(a montage of 20+ shots put together as a slideshow, click on arrow to play)

We had a pair of pretty Yellowhammer visit for a few days, it would be lovely if they became regulars. Numerous Chaffinch too.

I may not like them much, but even the pigeons have to eat

As do the Sparrowhawk, not captured by camera but often seen streaking through the garden in search of a meal.

It is hard to portray just HOW MANY birds have been feeding at Bag End since Christmas. This picture doesn't clearly show the numerous Chaffinch on the soil behind the logs or the equal numbers over to the left where I have cast more food on the ground. Spreading it out goes some way to reducing the squabbles and minimising stress for these hungry visitors.

Finally, this darling chap (or chapess?). The darker of the two squirrel who come here every day to feed and drink

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

What was I thinking?

I don't care if she is the birthday girl, I am blaming QuiltSue for this. I must have been spending too much time talking quilts with her, this is definitely Sue's fault!

After more than two years I finally picked up a box of half-square triangles made in mid-2007 for a quilt that I changed my mind about (which, for the non quilters here, hello Hazel, is not an uncommon occurrence!). Inspired by something the aforementioned trouble-maker is working on at present, I set to making pinwheel units.

What is wrong with this picture of blocks on the design wall?

The 20 at the top are fine and were made last week when I was hiding from the ice. The bottom 8 were sewn today but laid out over the weekend. I hate making pinwheel blocks even though I like how they look when completed. No way I'm unpicking this batch so it is back to EQ6 to redesign the quilt or just use them in something else!

Log Store progress

We're about half way through the winter (I hope) and thought it would be useful to have a record of how much of the Log Store we have burnt so far.

At a rough guess, our estimate is that we've used slightly under half of the prepared timber. We don't stint on how much is burnt, nor do we think we are wasteful. If it turns out that a completely full Log Store does us one winter then we'll be extremely pleased as we had no idea what our useage would be.

Tree Stump Removal: day three

there was no day three ...

Last Wednesday brought us temperatures which had plummeted overnight and for a rare moment, snow at Bag End.

The crew arrived after fairly unpleasant journeys on icy roads but we could barely see from one end of the garden to another and it didn't take much convincing on my part to call a halt to the operations. I slunk back indoors feeling very relieved - fighting off a cold and Management away at a business meeting (no snow was going to stop my Husband!).

Later when the weather had improved I was able to get outside and have a good look at the devastation which now calls itself our garden.
An expansive view but I don't like it - the front is now completely exposed and it feels like we are in a goldfish bowl

Can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, bla bla. It looks horrendous, pray that we get this corner rebuilt in much less time than it normally takes us to do things at Bag End

There is a HUGE amount of timber in this pile, the large stump bottom right has a cut end about 24" across and is at least 6 foot long

the rubbish pile is no smaller - I foresee a few more bonfires in the future!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

First Finish of the year

We've finally cleared up the dining hall enough to create a really nice space for doing puzzles. It is comfortable, the lighting is good and a puzzle can be left set-up for as long as it takes

(which often is not very long at all - like the tail-end of last week when it was bitterly cold and I didn't want to go outside, so I sat and completed this one in record time!)

Kitchen Garden from House of Puzzles:

Without the cutmarks it looks like this.

The next one might not go together quite so fast, until I started to sort the pieces it did not register that it has a black edge, yuk! Recent present from Himself does make life much easier and came from Barney's in Grasmere, best jigsaw puzzle shop in the world

Friday, 8 January 2010


Sunrise this morning was gentle, an apricot blush spread across the sky.

That would be the completely clear, cloudless sky.
l-r, Skiddaw, Whinlatter fells, Grisedale, Grasmoor
We have no snow, well, barely a smattering. What we do have however is ICE. With the bridge out our choices to get away from the village are 2 miles of ungritted road which is fairly level or 5 miles of might-have-been-gritted-earlier-in-the-week with a couple of steep hills.

Thank crunchy for all the house insulation because right now in the garden it is MINUS 9. I know there are plenty of places worse off but that's quite cold enough for me, thank you.