Sunday, 28 February 2010

Happy Anniversary

Two Years.

Two whole wonderful, frustrating, tiring, emotional years since we finally moved all our baggage into Bag End and started life in our new home.

"Celebrated" in the usual way - a few cold and slightly muddy hours in the garden!

Decided it was probably more sensible and safer to fix this board in place before we are surrounded by acres of glass. The left-hand side will be the higher level with staging down both sides and the right-hand side will be lower and a great place to stand pots of tomato, cucumber and the like.

We'll gloss over the frustration of old tree roots being discovered just where I wanted to knock in a supporting stake and the very un-Hobbit-like bad language that accompanied a mini-tantrum along the lines of "why is nothing ever simple in this bluddy garden".

Quick and temporary cloche (two cages which used to protect bird food with horticultural fleece in between) to keep the worst of the weather off the strawberry plants whilst they get established in their pots.

Frustrations taken out on two large conifers - chainsaw time again! Two huge beasts in the bed between driveway and front of house:-

Have had their "back side" removed:

Very good timing because a neighbour's niece runs the local florist and will take away most of the greenery to use in flower arrangements. With Mother's Day just around the corner, she needs all the fresh foliage she can get.

Sadly, rain stopped play before I could get very far with digging out the ground on the driveway side of the wooden fence.

We are going to plant a new hedge using self-seeded Yew plants (although there aren't enough and will have to buy more). When established this will give a lovely evergreen screen for the potager and until then, the conifers on the bed next to the drive will provide the screening and protection. It doesn't matter that the conifers look awful, once the yew is big enough to provide screening, the triffids will be firewood.

A couple more roosting pouches and a lovely visitor midway through the afternoon.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Strawberry runners

Indoor gardening today, potted up the lovely package of strawberry runners received from Mrs Flummery.

The wonderful woman has sent me 15 plantlets which is perfect to fill the 8 x 4 bed, thank you my dear :}

Friday, 26 February 2010

Coming Soon - to a raised bed near you

These lovely Marshmello strawberry plants, just lifted from Mrs Flummery's wonderful Vegetable Heaven, popped in the post and safely arrived at Bag End within 24 hours. As soon as I have got some compost which is not completely frozen they will be potted up. Mrs F. suggests leaving them 2 or 3 weeks for the root system to bulk up before they go into the raised bed. Thank you so much my friend, you are a generous lass.

The pretty cyclamen in the corner was a present from SewAli on 17th November and has flowered its little heart out all winter and currently shows no signs of stopping. Fingers crossed I can find a suitable outdoor place for it in the Spring and keep it healthy until next year.

No gardening today, it is persisting it down and very cold. Ought to go into town and do the grocery shopping but am putting it off . . .

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Oh my aching back . . .

Tired but happy, another four hours this morning has seen the completion of the EIGHTH raised bed - definitely a TA DA moment.

Bearing in mind it is not yet the end of February, I reckon having been outside much of this week is a huge achievement. Covering the beds over winter with tarp or black membrane made a huge difference and digging over the bottom of each bed prior to adding cow muck was really easy.

In the interests of giving the soil a little protection and possibly even warming it up slightly I've bunged on a couple of bits of Enviromesh which were already cut, it's not perfect but it will do for a quick fix.

And as a good friend has just said "another tick on your long, long list. At least planting them up will be quite enjoyable, and watching everything grow and harvesting even more so. Nectar bar next?" . . . oh you know me so well!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Overnight it rained heavily and the pallet of glass was completely soaked. Moving this many sheets of glass is not high on the list of Great Ways to Spend a Wednesday Morning, moving this many sheets of WET glass whilst it is still absolutely PERSISTING it down needs a whole new category of its own.
"your mission, should you choose to accept it"
However, there is a god and She smiles on gardeners and Hobbits. After a very wet, cold hour on the drive, every sheet of glass is upright in the garage and intact.

and a couple of very wet pictures of yesterday afternoons accomplishments:

Hopefully I'll be able to save the self-seeded yew. The buried manhole cover is the "puddle" top right.

Credit to Elite for sensible labelling of greenhouse components.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The greenhouse is here

Although it was another bitterly cold day I was outside just after lunch and despite working very slowly was able to finish the 7th raised bed! Happy day - only one more to go. I decided that I'm going to remove the uprights. They started as a good idea - permanent posts onto which I could fix netting, good way of ensuring the hose doesn't get dragged across a bed. However, because of the uneven ground, even when the posts are straight there is always one view or another which makes them look wonky and they're driving me nuts!

Made a start clearing weeds from the long bed next to the driveway uncovering a manhole cover which has been buried under soil for goodness knows how long.

Two years ago I cut this escallonia back down to the ground - it was already 4 foot tall again in places and had to go. Pruned it back to stumps which (hopefully) can be levered out with a winch or dragged out attached to a car?

And all this time - no greenhouse. Despite the greenhouse supplier having directions to find Bag End the office manage not to tell the driver . . . it's unnecessary incompetence and really ticks me off (although once I'd met the driver I reckon that any directions would have been a waste of time). Gave up at 5.45 - I'd been out for four hours, was cold, tired and needed supper and a bath. Was just about to get undressed when I heard the lorry outside - 6.45pm.

The glass, which I had been told must be kept upright, arrived horizontally on a pallet. The loud popping noise as the pallet reached the ground did nothing to improve the situation at which point he tells me "I ain't never delivered a greenhouse before" - although I know he has worked for the supplier for 15 years .... Things did not get better when he nearly ran his fork lift into a motorbike which Management has wrapped under a tarpauline.

the only photo I managed to take

It was too dark and too late to move the glass tonight, that will be my job first thing tomorrow.

The day didn't get better when I opened the boxes of g/h frame and tried to make sense of 32 pages of assembly instructions ....... I'm annoyed with myself for being annoyed about this, the greenhouse arriving should have been a lovely exciting event. Hey ho, this too shall pass.

Frustrated but trying not to be.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Another day which didn't go as planned

Plan: as snow put paid to working on the raised beds on Sunday, as soon as the frost has thawed, get outside and do some more.

Plan is a four*letter*word.

Actual: remember I had forgotten to order a rainwater kit for the greenhouse. Phone Elite and explain I am stupid. Superb staff fix problem, add guttering to delivery for tomorrow and during conversation I find that the information I'd been given about how the glass will arrive is wrong.

Rats . . .

This is a big greenhouse, there is a LOT of glass, large sheets of toughened stuff which will take far more space than the amount cleared in the garage yesterday.

Spent all afternoon re-arranging the garage ...

I've taken out everything that could cope with getting cold and possibly damp and put it in the Log Store, which has gone from being 75% empty to nearly full. Loads of other stuff has been moved around, removers' blankets ready, leather gloves because I'm bound to end up moving some of it myself, and of course, poor Management will be heading down the M6 and missing all the fun.

The only place for the large boxes of greenhouse frame will be the dining room and hallway (where else?).

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Dratted weather

Not what I wanted to see this morning:

Not surprised, it is what was forecast. Fortunately there isn't too much and I doubt it will last.

It's not cold enough out there for the ground to be frozen hard so it will be very muddy underfoot, probably best I keep off it for the day, grrrrr.

The greenhouse will be built with the door at the "uphill" end for two reasons, the primary one was to protect it from the prevailing wind but a secondary bonus is that it leaves me with the gable end facing the sun which means I can maximise space for cucumber, tomato, etc. The slope also means that headroom will be greater at that end which, if you've ever grown greenhouse cucumbers, you will know is A Good Thing!

Once the greenhouse is up I will dig out the ground inside to give me two levels with a step down. The trenches around the side were dug so that Management could paint all the steel, they will be filled in with gravel which will help drainage and hopefully make it more difficult for small rodents to dig their way in.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Super Saturday!

Photos will have to wait until tomorrow - too dark by the time we had finished to take any today.

Bed #6 is level and full of extremely well rotted cow muck, plus a good number of huge worms that were found in a particularly damp bit of the manure. I don't think they minded being relocated which is more than can be said for the small rodent which had obviously spent the winter happily nesting in the loose soil under the protection of a blue tarp. Mouse fled rapidly but the little s*d disappeared into a crevice at the edge of bed #4 - that's a hole which will be filled very solidly with gravel tomorrow.

Management worked hard with the paint sprayer and the greenhouse base now has its second and third coats of dark green Hammerite. It looks much better than the apple green Hammerite used for the undercoat - reminiscent of Tellytubby Land but that's what happens when you are a little bit too quick to press the 'buy it now' button when shopping online (but it was ludicrously cheap, cannot now been seen and therefore not really a problem).

Showered and clean clothes, WBS is happily rendering more leylandii into fine ash, and a busy evening in front of the DVD awaits ...

Friday, 19 February 2010

Number 5

It was minus 3 overnight and bitterly cold first thing, but by noon the sun was shining and it was a glorious day to be working outside. Have finally worked out how to level one of these frames and bed # 5 definitely looks very smart compared to the first four . . . which are all going to have to be sorted out - eventually! Dug over the soil at 'ground level' and added 14 barrow loads of perfectly rotted cow manure - pure gold!

Much of England has another blanket of snow - you're all quite welcome to it. I prefer what we have at Bag End today.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Blogging Friends

A couple of generations ago it was considered quite normal to have close friendships with "pen pals" whom one might never ever meet. So why is it that some people sneer at the friendships made online, why are those friendships not considered as real and valid as those made with people you physically see every week?

Mrs Pao recently sent me this gorgeous "care package" - because I made her and Mr Pao laugh! Thank you kiddo, you are way too generous.

As I confine my blogging experiences mainly to sites devoted to gardening or sewing I don't find it unusual to witness this sort of thing, perhaps it's just that gardeners and quilters are really nice people?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


On days like this, all the problems fade into insignificance ....

(click to enlarge)

Now if a clever somebody could name all those fells Back O'Skiddaw it would be perfect!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Bridge progress?

It is three months since the devastating November floods nearly destroyed Cockermouth and caused havoc across much of West Cumbria.

The TV crews went home to normality, the politicians scuttled off to the next photo opportunity, but we have been left with miles of detours, hours of delay and very little progress. If this was the south of England and main arterial routes were affected, repairs would have been completed within a fortnight but not here, we're obviously not important enough.

There is a huge amount of anger and frustration amongst local people whose lives and businesses just cannot function normally when the only way to cross the Derwent from the west coast is about a 20 mile round trip via Cockermouth. Last week a local farm closed their tearoom which used to employ 11 people because lack of access has reduced the all-day trade to a handful of faithful at lunchtime and nothing else. Generous donations have swelled the Flood Relief Fund to £2 million - will any of it get to these people?

Things have not been helped by the closure of many smaller roads in order to protect bridges from really heavy lorries, this in the name of 'traffic management' but it strikes me as pure mis-management. If a bridge could be opened then I think it SHOULD be opened, it didn't take the authorities long to put cameras on the Bill Barker Bridge to catch motorists dropping off pedestrians so I can't see any reason why bridges cannot be managed with traffic lights, cameras, whatever. Yes, I'm royally p*ssed off but my feelings are nothing compared to some of the angry correspondence published in the Times & Star, and I was shown a letter yesterday written by a neighbour to the Cumbria County Council Chief Executive - phew, I don't ever want to be on the wrong side of this particularly intelligent, articulate and angry chap!

I haven't mentioned this before because it is not the image of Cumbria that I want friends and family to take away with them nor do I particularly want to dwell on it, so rant over, it finally looks like a start is being made on repairs to our bridge.

I'm guessing the container units are for site-office and tool storage, and that the bags of ballast might be to divert water from the bridge pillars in order that repairs can be carried out? The cynic in me wonders how long it will be before anyone actually turns up to do anything with this kit.

Monday, 15 February 2010

The brain is going ...

In a vain attempt to be organised I spent much of Sunday preparing backings for the three latest tops. This doesn't mean they will get quilted anytime soon, it just ensures that when I am in the mood to use the longarm, everything is ready to go.

Nothing exciting to see, two are plain blue chambray and for the Heartstrings top I had enough of a dark and busy floral which I think will go very nicely.

What was a little worrying however, was finding this:

Yes, it's a quilt top ..... but worryingly, I had completely forgotten ever making it until I saw it again. The blue 'coins' are the leftovers from St Louis Log Cabin, once destined for a border but there wasn't enough. Now I am looking at the top I remember putting it together - wanted to use up the blue fabric and thought it would be a good quilting exercise in setting a continuous-line pattern inside a frame which is not something I have done very often although it looks great when done properly. Hmm, suppose I'd better make a backing for this one too!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

An alternative method of mouse control #2

The aforementioned Grey Heron happened to land on the road outside Bag End on Sunday morning, just as I was standing at the window.

Management and I were treated to a ten minute spectacle during which time this magnificent bird stalked and caught three mammals - difficult to photograph as it was dull, misty, damp and grey and the heron was nearly the same colour and although just across the road from the drive, still some distance away. We think two of the meals were mice, although with the presence of mole hills on the verge ...?

This is one predator who will be welcome in the garden when we eventually get a large pond dug although I hope he/she finds it easier to catch mice than the many toads we have living in the undergrowth - I like the toad population at Bag End.

Merlin the Magnificent

It says something about the quality of a longarm machine when it sits unused for the best part of six months but on a cold Saturday morning, after cleaning, oiling and running up gently for a few minutes it stitches so beautifully you have to keep stopping to check that "yes", this is really happening! From the very start the stitching was perfect, stitch length was consistent to the smallest possible part of a millimetre, everything so utterly amazing from the git go that, despite being completely out of practice, an entire quilt was completed in a day! (OK, I was physically wrecked at the end of it from all the standing up when I am not used to it, but that's not Merlin's fault.)

(when the first row sews this nicely, you know it's going to be a good quilt!)

I probably should not have bought a new longarm when we moved and the way this house swallows up money, I'm not sure we could really afford it but I have never for one tiniest fraction of a nanosecond regretted trading in the Gammill for this APQS Millenium. Granted my Gammill was a good one and never let me down but this is like having an Aston Martin when previous transport was a Ford ...

The St Louis Log Cabin top is now a quilt - I think this may get an award for taking so long. I started piecing in December 2007 whilst at the rented house but gave up pretty quickly because there wasn't room to work. I made a small amount of progress in August 2008 but it took until March 2009 to finish the top which has sat patiently for the best part of a year . . . I thought I had a blog post about the backing but that seems to exist only in my brain, it was created ages ago to try and use up some of the Fat Quarters and is pretty much a scrappy quilt in its own right.

Pattern: Feathered Curls, Willow Leaf Studio
Top Thread: Valdani Denim Light variegated, M46 (50wt)
Bobbin Thread: Superior Bottom Line, #632
Batting: Matilda's Own 60% Wool/40% Polyester

The quilt is not finished until it is trimmed, bound and labelled - wonder how long that will take?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

When it's no longer fun, stop doing it

I hate to give up on something unfinished and I do not like to admit defeat, but this one has got the better of me:

Despite being out on the puzzle board for the best part of a month and it being a beautiful picture, I just cannot "get into" this one and it has been packed away. Great shame because it's been in the cupboard for about a year and I have really been looking forward to it.

Never mind - I am sure there is a willing victim volunteer somewhere who would like to take it off my hands?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Roosting spectacle

Travelling home at dusk on Tuesday, not sure how I had the camera in the car. As we drove through a nearby village we realised the sky was full of starlings getting ready to roost.

We watched an amazing spectacle as they swooped above our heads, flowing through the sky in a unified mass. As this caught us unawares we were in the wrong part of the village to get decent pictures and it had been a horribly grey day. Must go back when conditions are better.

Three Days, Three Quilt Tops

But not three consecutive days - elapsed period was four. Saturday saw the Heartstring blocks finished and pressed, quickly followed by this top, created from cheater panels. I remember buying the fabric in 2000 during a trip to America to see my dearest friend. It's not really obvious but the top has a 6" plain border and I'll use the darker blue from the inner border for binding which will give it a nice frame.

Sunday saw the remainder of the cheater panels metamorphose into this which looks a whole lot better in the flesh. Think it will gain another plain outer border before it is quilted which will give the little log cabin strips more opportunity to float (and give me more space in the corners for big feathers).

Neither of these quilt tops are works of art, nor will they ever grace the aisles of a quilt show, but they do give me a canvas on which to practise freehand quilting, and seeing as I have not quilted very much in the last three years I badly need to get PPP-ing and build my skills up again. When these are completed it will be good to have a couple of new quilts in the spare room for when comfort quilts are needed as gifts.

I'd been umming and erring about the string blocks, Himself suggested just putting them away but I knew if I did that it could be years before they saw light of day again. A few pleasant hours in the newly tidy sewing room turned 36 blocks into this top (thanks to Himself spending half a day of his holiday finally sorting out the electric sockets so that I no longer have a major trip hazard around the room in order to get power to the sewing machine and iron).