Friday, 30 July 2010

Minor Surgery

John arrived Thursday afternoon as promised and it really didn't take long to deal with the broken branch.

He removed the split section with a bow saw but used real toys serious equipment to trim the remaining branch back to the trunk. Not sure the Health & Safety police would have been impressed with his climbing up a ladder with a chainsaw and no harness . . .

(click to enlarge)

Silver Birch is now tidied up and safe. I'm surprised we haven't had a branch like this down before, the trees are so misshapen from having to grow around the Leylandii there are branches in some strange directions, hopefully the light & air they have enjoyed for the last two years has helped strengthen them.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Investigative Harvest

After reading the wonderful Pumpkin Patch blog it occurred to me that I needed to have a look at the late-planted garlic bulbs.

Dug up just two (from opposite sides of the bed) and am both pleased and surprised. Pleased because they look really healthy - no signs of rot and they absolutely STINK of strong, fresh garlic. Surprised because I've never grown garlic before and didn't really expect it to be successful.

The rhubarb is in year one and supposedly you are meant to leave it to develop a strong crown. After a very slow start it has joined the herd and started to emulate a Triffid, completely covering the garlic growth and probably preventing it from continuing to ripen. Therefore I've pulled all the huge lower leaves and stalks and had a general tidy up. Will prepare and cook the rhubarb as an experiment and won't be disappointed if it is inedible.

With thoughts of tonight's ratatouille I dug up one each of the red and yellow shallots. The white ones (top of picture) are truly showing off - 19 bulbs from one little onion set. Time to start cleaning my crops!

Although I have gardened, in one shape or form, for the best part of 40 years, this is the first year I've grown outdoor vegetables. It's different, it is much harder work than the current GYO craze would have beginners believe but I am slowly starting to get it and understand why friends are so passionate about their allotments.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

No charge, lass

I'd detoured via Patersons on my way home from Cockermouth to nag gently enquire as to when we might get some trellis that has been on order for some time. This sort of progress chasing can take quite a while as Mrs P and I sit in her office (portacabin) and discuss a wide ranging and varied selection of subjects before we get to the matter in hand.

I commented on a pile of pallets by her gate thinking of compost bin potential and all sorts of other recycling possibilities in the garden. The reply was "whatever you can take with you is yours - I just want to get rid of them".

Sadly I couldn't accept the offer, despite being a big car, pallets do not fit in the back of Hattie. So Mrs P went off to have a conflab. with Mr P, the end result of which was that two days later "the lad" turned up with a pickup and this was on the back.

He accepted a few quid as thanks for bringing them all of 1½ miles across the river but Mr P would not take any money for the pallets: "no charge lass, you're welcome to them".

Now all I have to do is move them off the drive and decide what to recycle them into!

I'd rather be chopping logs

a.k.a. The Joy of Having a Basement

Management is busy applying multiple layers of tanking to the recently emptied garage. Whilst he is in London it seemed like a good opportunity to take everything out of the basement room and dump it in the garage whilst I dealt with another requirement for more tanking.

Shouldn't complain, given how much rain we had last year it's not bad that the only damage in this room is on the front wall and all that's happened is the paint has flaked off, it looks worse in the photo than in real life.

Even so, it was a stark reminder that I have way too much quilting stuff and art materials . . .

The one which got away


Somehow managed to miss this one on the nightly foray for vegetables for the evening meal. Stuffed marrow anyone?

It is more likely this monster will find its way into more ratatouille, accompanied by something I was told would not grow in Cumbria, even in a greenhouse

TA DA - our first aubergine.

If only the tomatoes would be similarly enthusiastic. Despite the setting of much fruit and fairly healthy looking plants, nothing is ripe and it's been so cold the last couple of weeks I can't see this situation changing in a hurry.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Why I don't grow Petunias

I don't care how many millions of the blasted plants are raised and sold in garden centres up and down the land each year, I really do not like petunias.

I don't particularly like the way they look
I REALLY don't like the way the blooms go nasty and soggy and make your hand stink when you deadhead them
I REALLY REALLY don't like what one week of summer rain does to them ...

During the Drought Known As Early Summer 2010 five plants stuffed in a tub looked OK. In my defence, I didn't buy them - they came as part of a cheapo job lot from Aldi earlier in the year when I wanted the other bedding plants in the same pack for the Hay Racks. Despite my intentions to compost them or give the dratted things away I forgot how much I dislike them and planted 'em up.

Never again. (Yes Hazel, you can remind me of this in April next year)

Sunday, 25 July 2010


Two is good, but three is even more effective . . .

James came over for the day and it was obvious that he too wanted to play with explore in detail the fine art of running a log splitter all day.

With one to press buttons, one to load the splitter and one to fill the log store we suddenly found ourselves with this

Which does not include the car full of logs that James took back to his cottage.

Have now split just about all the accessible "disc" chunks of wood. Need to have a good session with the chainsaw rendering more of this huge pile into "stove sized" lengths.

Original estimates were that this pile contained enough timber to last us two winters - I'm starting to think it might be considerably longer!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

1 + 1 = 3

One Hobbit plus One Management equals three times as much achieved as I can do on my own. It's always going to be a good day when, after breakfast, Management says "are we going in the garden today?".

He got to play with use the log splitter for the first time and we added considerably to the split Leylandii ready for the WBS.

Fine rain drove us inside for bacon sarnies after which he worked in the garage and I returned to the delightful task of pulling thistles before they go to seed. An afternoon of prickly weeding produced this:

and the moving of another 5 barrows of logs (ready for tomorrow) produced all this bark.

(and the satisfaction of finally making a difference in the appearance of the huge log pile nearest the bird feeders)

A bonfire was inevitable and seemed reasonable because it was cloudy, trying to rain, and no sensible neighbour would be outside. Also inevitable was the fact that as soon as I got the fire going, Management came and helped and in addition to burning the weeds, we cleared another small section of brush from the side of the garden.

Not content with a fire outside, we lit the WBS after supper whilst I watched Ocean's Eleven for the 20th time.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Provencal Potager

Whilst nowhere near rural France, the Potager is doing its best imitation of being considerably further south than it really is.

The sunflowers are all in bloom and looking wonderful, although they're in completely the wrong positions and will go somewhere else next year - until hedges are fully grown they are getting hit by the wind and, being sunflowers, they turn their heads to the south which means I can't see the blooms from the house - d'uh?

Hiding under the squash leaves are three beautiful fruits, nothing yet from the Butternut Squash which (I think) would prefer to be in more sun on the fedge bed side.

All the grass cutting yesterday was for a reason - my friend Nic visited this afternoon (all the way from Gloucester) and I wanted Bag End to look nice for her first visit. We talked and laughed all afternoon accompanied by the gorgeous G (Mr Nic) and sat in the sun and ate scones & strawberries (she has the food photos).

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Look closely, you won't see this very often

Babysitting today whilst Harry and Bethan's Two-legs attended a funeral.

With great weather and someone else's babies to take care of (and babies who are quite capable of jumping our back fence should the desire grip them) I needed an outdoor job which I could stop and start. After a couple of weeks downpour the grass is desperately trying to catch up with the thistles in the Triffid department so I spent the entire day behind the lawnmower (apart from when I was playing with the dogs, eating, drinking tea or doing something else!)

Some areas of long grass are ready to be cut back having flowered and gone to seed for the year.

I've left all the self-heal which is in flower in some areas and just coming into bloom in others. The orchids are just about over and are going to seed.

Bag End does look very smart now - I know it won't stay like this for long. Eventually finished edging the Potager beds around 9.30pm, it was lovely to sit with a glass of Jennings Bitter as the light faded and look at it all. Am cogitating some additional compost-making arrangements because a huge cut like this generated a ridiculous amount of grass clippings.

Summer Storms, 2

After the recent high winds I wasn't at all surprised to find a very long piece of Silver Birch laying in the Coppice - easy to deal with, dragged it to the bonfire pit.

Not surprised to see another small branch broken off the same tree but trapped in the branches, no problem, if and when it ever falls it won't do any damage (and the squirrel box - they've never been near it!)

More of a problem is a different tree with a 30 foot plus thick branch that has half broken, the bulk of which is now hanging down into the church car park (the other side of our fence) and too high for us to safely cut off.

All this probably happened a week or more back - you know the garden is out of control when branches the size of small trees fall down and you don't notice! John Lowe due on Friday afternoon to assess the damage and fix it.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Back to life, back to reality

My break with the girls may only have been two days but it feels like I have been away for ages and must now knuckle down and get back to work.

Tired from travelling I just did a couple of hours this afternoon - three more barrow loads of logs and the mighty splitter:

Also moved a couple of barrows more so that logs are in place for the next splitting session.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

(edit: subsequently posted the garden pictures on the 20th, the day we visited, so this appears to be out of order chronologically, bit like me really ....)

Safely returned to Bag End
despite some disgusting weather between Scotch Corner and Penrith, it was an "interesting experience" to come down off Bowes Moor (out of cloud) and see more rain cloud beneath me and drive into it

What a fabulous couple of days although I am completely knackered and my throat is sore ... Harlow Carr is quite wonderful. I have been to the RHS garden at Wisley many times but Harlow Carr is an order of magnitude better.

Much walking, much talking, much laughing and some outstanding food, our best get-together yet. We normally sew when we meet but no-one missed the fabric content, really look forward to the next one.

Had a quick look at the photos last night, all 176
of them, that will reduce significantly by the time I have done some weeding however.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A Visit to Harlow Carr, part 1

A visit to Harlow Carr, AKA "four girls go out to play", lovely to meet up with some special friends. Best foot forward girls, we've got a lot of garden to visit:

The Arboretum and Wildflower area

A huge and peaceful area, all the more enjoyable because I tend to expect public gardens such as this to be all cultivated. The Hobbit House definitely caught my eye.


Running the full width of the main garden a wonderful collection of streamside plants, including one of the biggest Gunnera Manicata I have ever seen.