Monday, 31 May 2010

Au Revoir

It cannot have escaped anyone's notice that Hobbit has been working rather hard recently.

It's time for a little vacation and the Bag End blog is going on its holidays.

Au Revoir.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Management laughed at me ...

Busy in the greenhouse, potting up endless seedlings (WHEN am I going to learn that my germination success is in the high 90%'s and I don't need to sow spares ....). I telephoned Management at work:

Hobbit: I know this is a daft question, but an aluminium greenhouse doesn't conduct electricity, does it?

Management: Well in theory, no, why on earth do you want to know?

Hobbit: Because there's a hell of a thunderstorm down the valley and it looks like it is heading this way.

Management: "chuckles" {lots}

I felt justified in having asked the question when I saw the evening news; within an hour of my call a poor chap had been struck by lightening whilst walking on Grasmoor, two people were also hit in Braithwaite and one near Buttermere.

Grasmoor, as one of the highest fells around here, generally gets to be centre stage if there is a storm brewing. Its lovely bulk was forgiven later when it earned Best Supporting Fell to the full moon.

A sense of order

Glorious day spent entirely in the greenhouse. The occasional showers did the garden some good and didn't impede my progress at all.

Everything ready to be put outside is now on the gravel area (apart from the peas which are lurking near the door and probably should already be outside).

Plants which are too small to go out and the tender greenhouse crops completely fill the tops of the staging.

The main village Church (there is more than one) is having a fund-raising evening next weekend with a plant stall so all my spares are potted up on some lower staging either to be donated or given to any friend who happens to get there first!

The potatoes are maintaining their Triffid aspirations, look closely at the green tub nearest the edge of the staging. Nature always finds a way - and in this case, it is through a crack in the old plastic pot.

Trying not to feel a little glum that most of my plants, especially tomatoes, are so far behind everyone else's. I know I started them late, and I know they will probably catch up (and being greenhouse grown, may be safe from blight and have a chance to mature), and I know that having any crops this year is a bonus - it is only our first year of actually "gardening" here, but they are still so small . . .

I'm fed up with this

I ~KNOW~ that the last frost date for this part of the world is "June" but knowing the fact and liking it are two different things.

Once again, last night the temperature dropped sharply (not surprising with such clear skies most of the time) and at 9.30pm it was a case of "spend ten minutes now making things safe or hours tomorrow cursing myself for not doing so". The greenhouse contents and a couple of the raised beds got tucked up for the night.

Trouble is, I only have a small amount of horticultural fleece and the larger the plants grow, the less it covers! Resorted to bit of Enviromesh and shade netting, and also went back to a few tea light candles on the greenhouse floor to (hopefully) raise the temperature just enough.

Of course, at 6.00am when I went out to fill the bird feeders it was obvious there had NOT been a frost last night, but if I'd not covered up the tender stuff there would have been :{

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Not enough hours in the day

If I don't soon spend a day in the greenhouse potting on seedlings then I shall not have to worry about lack of prepared space - half my plants will curl up and die of overcrowding and inadequate attention.

Today was not the day - lots of errands to do which resulted in two different trips to Cockermouth and one to Workington.

Weather has changed, thankfully much cooler but also breezy and the asparagus fern has caught the wind and is not strong enough to stand up to it. And unplanned bit of carpentry at lunchtime to make a semi-permanent wind-break which will still allow me to weed when necessary.

I'm rather pleased with it and Management approved when he got back from London this evening.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Just get on with it!

I have procrastinated and prevaricated for much too long, but the rampant growth of the greenhouse contents mean if I don't get some more beds sorted out there will be nowhere to put these plants.

Gritted teeth, determination and an 8.00am start did the trick, and by mid-morning the boards were in. Much time was lost packing up all the tools, putting everything away, getting washed and going for acupuncture. An interesting experience which I enjoyed, and two days later {when I wrote this} I think the hip is a little better than it was.

Spent a hot afternoon moving 15 barrows of cow muck which equated to a complete bulk bag plus a bit more. Don't have enough left to fill the bed completely, but that's OK. There are HSL peas in the greenhouse which are desperate to be outside so I'm going to use cane wigwams this year, I don't like them but do not have time to make fancy wooden obelisks - perhaps that's a job for the winter?

Pots are buried in the middle of the wigwams to make watering more efficient later in the year with a crumple of chicken wire to ensure nothing falls in and cannot escape. This was about the point I realised in my hurry to get the bed done I have forgotten to fix damp-proof membrane to the soil-side of the boards ...... ggrrrrrrrr.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Day Off?

So ridiculously hot - and we are still in May. Not getting too excited - looking back at this time last year it seems the weather did pretty much the same thing in 2009 - and we all know where that summer ended up.

Relaxing day, our friend James came to visit and his presence, coupled with furnace-like heat meant that nothing was done except chatting, sitting around in the hope that squirrels might show up to be photographed, and consumption of much excellent cheese!

Until 4.00pm when J. left and it cooled down a bit. Potted up the big Hay Racks with the Aldi bedding plants (which are surprisingly decent).

Took a [frost] risk and put out some French Marigolds in the potager, and a few Ollie's Sunflower, but they could survive a cold night.

Watered all the raised beds, and after dinner, cut the grass. Mower is back from WMP and working brilliantly.

The mowing regime continues to avoid the lovely Dactylorhiza fuchsii of which we now have five!

Saturday, 22 May 2010


All of Friday and much of Saturday . . . a bit like moving house but there wasn't anyone I could pay to do all the carrying.

Nearly all the contents of the garage are now in the shed although I'm not sure I could find any particular item in a hurry should the need arise. Management persuaded me to take all the 'old' shelf units from the garage as well as the new ones we had bought for the shed and, as usual, he was right and we really do need that much shelf space if I am to stand half a chance of organising the contents.

Each day I do a little more to instill some much needed order, getting the tools up felt like a big step forward.

Seem to be spending all my time in the top (east) corner of the garden; all the 'business stuff' is here - log store, shed and greenhouse, and when I eventually get them built, compost bins too. It feels very workmanlike and rather nice!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Digging week: derailed

Don't knock the NHS, and certainly not in Cumbria. Tuesday's appointment was for a physio assessment to try and get to the root of hip pain which I've experienced since a bad fall on ice in January 2009. A corticosteroid injection was suggested for which I needed to have another assessment ... and 24 hours later I'm being seen by the senior Physiotherapist at a different hospital. No waiting, no messing around, excellent service.

And even better - no steroid injection, I'm starting acupuncture on Monday. It worked brilliantly for Ollie, I'm looking forward to finding out firsthand what we put the Hairy One through!

All this means I "lost" two half days to these appointments and my hip hurt like h*ll after Monday and Tuesday's digging sessions, so Digging Week has been suspended and replaced by Painting Week (which was scheduled for next week).

Inside of shed -



Unfortunately there's a problem with the roof support which has started to sag and Patersons are replacing it and beefing it up. I cannot start to fill the shed until the work is done, darn and drat.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Digging Week: Tuesday

Pain in the **** when life and other stuff gets in the way of ones aims for the week (see, I didn't say plans!)

Forgot I had an appointment today and that wiped out most of the morning. Patersons came to felt the shed roof. That involved taking OFF the huge roof they built last week and taking it back to the yard to apply roofing felt - it was too warm outside to do the job in the garden.

(yes, the sky was THAT blue today!)

Add to the endless list the need for trellis adjacent to the back and side, large beds in front of trellis, and interesting climbing things grown to minimise some of the bulk!

I retreated to a very hot greenhouse, fixed up some additional shading and had a huge reorganisation. This has given me a little bit of staging space but that won't last long because everything is growing brilliantly and continues to need moving into larger pots.

Once the shed work was finished and I had Bag End to myself again, I managed a bit more digging. I've got to the end of the 24' long bed but the last 6 feet were hell, full of stones, some the size of footballs, and the ground was rock hard. In the time available I chose to dig up all the soil and remove the largest stones and leave big lumps to be 'de-rooted' tomorrow.

The weather may be summer-like during the day but the sky is cloudless and once the sun goes down the temperature plummets. I'm still covering plants in the greenhouse with fleece but am not lighting half a dozen tea lights anymore, fingers crossed.

These outside potatoes (Brampton Maincrop) have been thoroughly earthed up again.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Digging Week: Monday

Despite the usual catalogue of Bag End interruptions, cleared another quarter of the bed today. Lots of stones in this section and the ground was much harder than nearer the hedge. Took out loads more buttercup root and although I will have missed some at least there is now less than there was!

Finished early (3.00) so I could take the lawnmower to WMP in Carlisle. The usual Keswick repairer doesn't deal with our make of mower (I think they're grumpy because we didn't buy it from them) but it's their loss because I've found an excellent alternative. The view towards the fells as I drove home on the A595 was just breathtaking, when I go back to collect the mower I'll have to take the camera with me and see if I can stop and take some pictures.

Greenhouse growth

After being without a greenhouse for so long I'd nearly forgotten just what a joy it is.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Digging Week

If universities can have Reading Week, then Bag End can have Digging Week. All these nasty, cold, frosty nights are a Good Thing (hang on, there is logic here, somewhere!) It means I cannot possibly consider putting out this years tender plants therefore I still have time to prepare the two long Potager beds and make room for some of the Triffids currently trying to take over the greenhouse.

Whilst it is fatal to have plans at Bag End, perhaps if I have some goals to aim for during the week I might fare better? (Stop laughing at the back, I know who you are.)

Although it is not as neat and tidy as when we pay someone else multiple beer vouchers, the fedge is now in place and digging has started. A couple of hours on Saturday and a few more today has got me half way along the 24 foot bed. No Mantis on this one - the soil is not too compacted and there are a good number of worms.

The aims for this week are to get this bed dug, wooden edges along the front of this and the "nectar bar" and add multiple barrows of cow muck. If I have any time and can still walk, I'll make a start on clearing the area next to the greenhouse where one of the IBC tanks will go. The continued tending of greenhouse plants and endless potting on will be fitted into the digging breaks . . .

Oh yes, and drive to Carlisle with poor, not-very-well lawnmower which has so far defied the best attempts of Management and I to cure whatever ails it.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Garden Design, Bag End style

There was this plan (there I go again, that 4 letter word!!).

We were going to build another small fedge in front of the greenhouse, partly to act as a small windbreak and partly so that I could plant ferns on the shady side. Just for a laugh we stuck some posts a few inches into the lawn to see what it might look like.

And of course decided we didn't like it, but Management had one of his "how about if we put up a trellis to hide the huge log pile and then we could ....." moments

and a few minutes later, we've got the next phase of building work all sorted! Of course, normal people would finish the jobs they have already started before launching into the next lot, but where's the fun in that?

Friday, 14 May 2010

Shed, part two

Bitterly cold and a bit damp underfoot, but after two years, the shed is here.

Huge frustration because although built, the roof still has to have its roofing felt applied and until it's waterproof I've been told not to put anything in it.

Plans are in place for gutter to collect rainwater from that huge roof and planting on two sides of the shed which should soften the bulk of it but before any of that happens Management suggested I paint the insides white. As usual, he's right, there are no windows in the shed and brightening the interior means I won't have to put the light on every time I go inside.

Management has been so patient, bless him. Having one of the garages full of outdoor/gardening stuff since we moved means he has not been able to unpack any of his motorbike stuff and the poor chap hasn't been able to do whatever it is he does with heavy, oily, metal bits since we moved. He is now under Hobbit Instructions that he can b*gger off as far as the garden is concerned and go and play with his own toys!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Shed, part one

Finally, hurrah, the shed is delivered. It has been made to order by Patersons across the valley and had to be delivered in two loads - wouldn't fit on the lorry in one trip.

Like the rest of Bag End, it is not a small, neat, tidy, domesticated garden shed. No, this is going to be a huge, wonderful space and there is the smallest chance that I might actually get everything in it (that is, of course, until Management finally convinces me that we need a ride-on lawnmower - then there will be no spare room in the shed at all!)

Safely tucked up for the night, thankfully rain is forecast tonight rather than another evil frost. I still have all the greenhouse plants covered with fleece, just in case, and have also covered the strawberries. Am leaving the outside new potatoes to their own devices - won't be that upset if they get too badly frosted - the indoor ones are doing very well and, in truth I could do with that raised bed back for something else ...

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

NGS Garden Visit, Copt Howe

Happy Birthday to me! What better way to spend it than poking around someone else's garden, driving through stunning Cumbrian scenery in fabulous weather and ending up at a brilliant restaurant with friends?

I've been meaning to visit Copt Howe for months, it is a famous garden and open on several dates during the year. One day, however, I am going to remember that I really don't like Langdale, regardless of how good a PR it has . . . after battling to find somewhere to leave the car I did at least have the consolation of this view whilst I had a coffee before going into the garden.

I knew Copt Howe and I were not going to fall in love before I had even got to the end of the driveway. Countless signs everywhere telling me what to look at, telling me where to walk, and virtually no views at all which, given the setting, seems to be something of a missed opportunity.

The owner specialises in esoteric planting of rare and wonderful items, the significance of which are completely wasted on me. I like native plants, they are the ones our native wildlife have evolved to depend upon. Notwithstanding that, there are some beautiful areas providing you can cope with very narrow paths and imminent claustrophobia.

OK, not native but these Trillium are beautiful

I was impressed with this healthy hosta

I was considerably less than impressed with this

This is the only view in the whole (nearly 1 acre) garden.

Garden art is terribly personal and there was way too much here for my taste.

Guess there is hope for Bag End . . .

I drove home through Troutbeck, surely one of the prettiest places in the whole region. Sadly, this year Linda Orchant is having a break and not opening her garden for the NGS. Do hope she changes her mind in 2011, High Cross Lodge, near Troutbeck is featured in "Gardens of the Lake District".