Thursday, 30 September 2010

September calendar

A respectable number of Green Dot days in September, suspect the number will decline steadily from now on :{

The 2011 Loweswatercam Calendar is now available and the photos look much better than when I've photographed them in dodgy light!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


rubbish [noun]: nonsense, as in writing or art: sentimental rubbish.

That would be rubbish as in my attempts to capture more than 200 geese as they pass noisily overhead.

This was the second wave, the first went over before I could pick up the camera and get outside. They are not predictable, they take a different route at a different time each day.

Rubbish would also be the state of my brain at present which is like porridge. I have an excellent immune system which normally shrugs off bugs within 24 hours, it is therefore something of a shock to be ill for more than 3 days and I'd forgotten just how rubbish it feels.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Retail Therapy

It wasn't until we took the Hay Rack baskets down at the weekend I suddenly remembered how big they are - and a few cyclamen and ivy rescued from the summer planting wasn't going to suffice. Off to the Whitehaven Garden Centre, had one of those 'mad moments' where all the plants I might have thought of buying if I was sitting flicking through books and magazines tried to jump of the staging and come home with me.

Bugle (Ajuga reptans Mahogany), nice Scottish native which should hold its leaves over winter and has a future as ground cover.

Heuchera (micrantha var. diversifolia 'Palace Purple') - another which can go in the ground after a winter in the baskets

and Wormwood (Artemesia Oriental Limelight) not sure about this - am not the biggest fan of yellow variegated foliage but the dark leaves of the Ajuga and Heuchera needed something to lift them.

Two large Pyracantha (Coccinea Red Column), in truth, not sure exactly where they will go, which breaks all my self-imposed plant buying rules but they are nice plants and I much prefer the red berried varieties to the orange which seem to be everywhere.

Recently I toyed with the idea of taking out the Yew plants from the unfinished "hedge" next to the potager and replacing with Viburnum - evergreen, grows well here, nice flowers - what not to like? Therefore when I found myself in front of a dozen nice looking plants at a good price the decision was made very quickly.

The label says Viburnum Tinus; I think the three large ones are "Eve Price" and the others are "Gwenllian" but it doesn't really matter.

And for no reason other than I felt like it - another Sarracenia, possibly rubra but far more likely to be a hybrid.

plus some John Innes compost for the Hay Racks and pots which are going to have daffodils in - of course, I've gone down with a horrible cold. Not like me at all, definitely the worst I have had for years - planting will have to wait.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Autumn Weekend

A good weekend for putzing around and finishing up little jobs.

Glorious weather during the day although Friday night/Saturday morning the greenhouse temp got down to 3.1 degrees and there was frost under the hedge on the other side of the road. Colder on Sunday morning with frost over both cars and a chilly greenhouse:

Put tension bolts onto the gate springs, cut all the remaining larch slab to make fronts for the grass bin and two of the compost bins.

Half rescued another wild rose from the escallonia hedge at the front, but it needs some serious pruning in order to bring it under control and train it along the fedge, that can wait until the hips are over.

Bought bulbs and some lovely cyclamen, so Management helped me take down all the Hay Racks and I will replant them for the winter. The baskets have looked good this summer but the Fuschia were a slight mistake - I couldn't see the blooms properly from the balcony and when I was lax about deadheading, the spent flowers fell all over the drive.

The potager is looking very tired. Disappointingly I have only three pumpkins and after the frost I brought them into the greenhouse, hopefully they will continue to ripen. Have found only one Butternut Squash - none of the curcubits liked this bed, I think they want more sun in future. Although the yield is very low I am not completely disheartened - obviously got more to learn and next year is another chance to do it better.

Cut down some sunflower heads to save seeds for next year but have left the majority for the birds, the Great Tits think that GYO bird food is more than acceptable but I haven't managed to photograph them yet. The stems are hollowing out and when the plants fall over I'll pile up the stems somewhere for bugs to overwinter.

Had a lovely pre-winter tidy up in the shed, acquiring an old rug as extra flooring and evicting all the flowerpots into the small shed which had freed up loads of space.

I must knuckle down and have a serious pot washing session.


First thing the river valley was full of mist. Every morning a flock of geese make their way south for the day, they will be back at dusk, probably to feed and roost on the Solway.

Before the sun came up the valley looked cold (this is a big image, click on it to enlarge)

There was frost on the cars:

And then the sun slipped quietly up behind Skiddaw.

Friday, 24 September 2010


Hazel is right, lists of jobs to be done in the garden are hateful things, full of dependencies and hurdles and destined to set you up for failure before you even start.

It rained all Thursday night and the forecast was for a mucky weekend. Therefore it was something of a surprise to have clear blue sky and sunshine by 10.00 this morning so I made a list of all the very small jobs which, individually, should take no more than an hour to complete and could be done without the need to get loads of tools out of the shed.

Springs on
three gates, still got to tension them but that's not a job for one.

Black screen across final part of front fence, and a hook to keep the gate open. This is the removable part (for wheelbarrow access) and needs some modification to make it quicker to open (tomorrow's list?)

Windbreak netting fixed to the bottom of the fence.

Perhaps by Spring the ground under this membrane might be ready to be dug? This is the long bed which separates the driveway from the garden (west side), it's nearly 3m deep in places and I want to put a hedge against the fence, maybe hardly perennials in front?

Shepherd's crooks straightened up, got one more to install but I need Management to fix the two sections together for me.

Final bit of willow screen on fedge, then deviated from list and relocated a large and thorny rose I found in the escallonia hedge.

Anything which produces such lovely hips whilst being totally neglected deserves a second chance and a place on a wildlife fedge. Surprisingly, I didn't get scratched or attacked once, perhaps the rose understood when I explained I was saving it from a certain Death By Chainsaw at sometime in the future when we chop the escallonia down!

Something you don't see very often!

Of course, the weekend list has already started with the tail-end of today's jobs, plus all the other bright ideas I had whilst outside which I haven't written down :}

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Fish : Bicycle

Need has nothing to do with it and buying decorations in September is completely insane.

But I am a Christmas decoration junkie and not ashamed to admit it.

When I reorganised the basement room recently, all the decorations ended up in the same place, oops. Last year I fully intended to weed out all the ones I no longer use and take them to a charity shop; it never happened but this year I have promised myself I will get all the surplus decorations to one of the shops in Cockermouth by the beginning of December. Plans, plans ... I really should know better!

In my defence, four of these tubs contain the tree ... it's a big tree!

It's the real thing

OK, I'm showing my age, and I've never liked the stuff anyway. Remember putting pennies in Coke and seeing how clean they became (which always made me wonder what the hell it was doing to your insides?)

Despite the best of intentions, I don't always clean my secateurs as soon as I have used them and the blades get covered with sap and muck. I indulged some years ago in two lovely pairs from Felco and I know they will last forever if I take a little care of them. So I had an thought: no idea how this can got into the fridge and neither of us were ever going to drink it . . .

and I am still wondering what on earth this stuff does to your stomach if it can leave secateurs this clean? Nice drop of oil and they'll be ready for action.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Back to "normal" at Bag End

Wednesday - bright, breezy, surprisingly warm in the morning, sadly it went downhill after lunch.

Grass cutting - lots of it.

Unfortunately rain stopped play before I could get the saw out and make additional boards for the front of the grass bin.

Leaves have started to come off the trees but there was not yet enough to warrant raking them up, so I took the easy option and let the lawnmower chew them up with the grass clippings. A particularly windy spell at lunchtime meant that the nice tidy lawn was suddenly covered with leaves again.

Turned the contents of the first compost bin into the second, it didn't take as long as I expected and wasn't too difficult. Extremely pleased to see how well it is breaking down, if pushed I could have used a lot of it but as I don't need it right now then it can all be left a few more weeks.

Finally got round to fixing more windbreak netting to the paddock fencing.

Had a bit of a blitz on the long bed which separates the drive from the west side of the garden. Much more to do but it's a start.


I could have done without falling over my own feet and the wheelbarrow at the same time (don't ask) and landing shoulder first on the fence. At least I will know how I got this particular bruise, I never did work out how I got the one that's only just started to fade.

Rained off around 4.00 which was irritating, but mood was vastly improved by the Minimal Food Miles Supper, inspired by Nic's recipe yesterday;

Before, During and After!

What you can't see is the chicken breast hidden under the veggies - perfectly cooked, and as I added new potatoes to the ratatouille mixture it was a complete roast dinner in one pot (and very yummy).

Tomato glut?

Both freezers are completely full, there is a limit to how much passata, ratatouille and bolognaise even I can squeeze into the drawers.

Does this count as a glut? The photo below shows barely a fraction of the tomatoes I've grown this year.

The Consoluto Fiorentino have been outstanding, albeit slightly misshapen! One single fruit weighed 600g and the fruit on the scales weighs over 1.5kg.

Other varieties are Garden Pearl (prolific to the point of insanity but not enough depth of flavour to bother with again), Roma (plum with thick walls and great for cooking) and the big round salad tomato is Harbinger, OK flavour but goes over very quickly once ripe.

We can't use all the remaining fruit in the greenhouse before it goes off and I'm not prepared to risk botulism by home canning without specialist equipment. In the absence of an Indian Summer, sun-dried tomatoes are off the agenda, but does anyone have any advice or tips for home drying tomatoes for future use in casseroles and soups?

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Indoor gardening

Another action-packed afternoon at Bag End.

Sorting saved seed for myself and making up packets to send to friends before the remainder goes to the Heritage Seed Library. Now might also be a good time to review all the seeds left over from this year, be brutal and throw away/give away anything I am definitely not going to grow and decide if I'm going to attempt to raise some perennials over the winter.

An alternative method of mouse control #1

Bethan is a lovely girl but she has a tendency to be a bit of a hunter if left to her own devices. One of the things she loves to search for are mice so it was no surprise to find her in the greenhouse paying far too much attention to a 'live trap'. I was surprised however, to see how far under the staging one very large dog could squeeze herself when thoroughly motivated!

Harry looked on in amazement ...

A quick inspection confirmed there wasn't a mouse inside so I left Bethan to enjoy herself for a few minutes before I removed the trap. I was worried she might catch her mouth on the metal edges.

Despite not finding a mouse in residence she was not deterred and all of a sudden there was a blur of movement, a pouncing Golden Retriever - and one less mouse in the garden. You should be relieved there are no pictures of this particular slaughter.