Monday, 31 January 2011

January calendar

Pretty impressive for the first month of the year, although some of the "dots" represent just half an hour or so raking rubbish whilst I watched Sam toddle around the garden.

The pink dots are Hazel's suggestion, thanks m'dear. They show days where the weather was too foul even for me to go outside.

Continuing the weekend's achievements

Despite being bitterly cold on Saturday morning it was too bright and sunny to stay indoors.

In between working onthe 'lasagne' bed, I messed around with a few other things.

The wild rose I have been hoping to train around the fedge has developed homicidal tendencies and attempts to blind me whenever I walk to the bottom of the potager. As the birds have had all the hips its days were numbered and has been reduced to small pieces in the Council recycling bin.

During the course of the weekend I tidied up all the compost bins. The "nearly ready to use" stuff from Compostus Binus Magnificentus is covered up and waiting to be sifted (middle) and the bin filled last year has now been topped with a layer of straw and compost and left to break down (left). Have started a new bin for 2011 and am definitely going to build more.

Must get that pile of timber shifted from against the shed, fingers crossed Patersons will be here sooner rather than later to roof the area between the shed and log store.

Found another load of flowerpots which needed washing and Management suggested I did them in the bathroom - what a great idea, nice and warm and I made less mess because nothing splashed out of the bath (and at the end of it the bath got a good clean).

As this bathroom is getting ripped out and completely refurbished in the next month or so then it didn't really matter if I did splash muddy water around.

Sunday, 30 January 2011


It is with great sadness that I have to tell you I took Sam back to his breeder on Friday

This is not Sam's fault - he is a dear little chap, very intelligent, exceptionally good natured, a beautiful boy and wonderful example of a well-bred Beardie. This is not Yvonne and Peter's fault and it is certainly not Management's fault.

It is completely my fault. I believed I was ready for another dog but I am not. This isn't because I expected Sam to be another Ollie, he isn't and I really did not want him to be. However, I found it was an immense problem for me to have another dog in the house; I cannot articulate it fully so I'm not going to try. I kept thinking "oh, it's just because I am tired" but pretty soon I realised I was using that as an excuse to avoid the truth. It would have been easy to say "wait 2 months, 3 months, 6 months and see ..." but if I still felt the same way then it would be a great deal harder for Sam having to move to a new home when he is much older and that is absolutely not fair on him. Back with his mum and two siblings I suspect within a week he will have forgotten we exist.

I have let everyone down, especially Management, who liked having a little Gardening Assistant to play with outside, or to sleep near his desk in the study, I am so sorry my dear. I have let Y & P down because they believed Sam was going to his Forever Home. I have let Sam down too but I know that moving him this young is far better for him than waiting a few more weeks, a few months.

This has been an incredibly difficult and heart-breaking decision for us, and not one we took lightly or with ease. I'm sure you will understand that right now I cannot talk about this, it has been very distressing and I need to work out how to move on.


No, not turning into a cookery blog, although coincidentally that is what we had for supper tonight ...

Lasagne as in "lasagne gardening" which I have always considered to be one of those "if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is" ideas . However, the continued lack of progress around the garden is something I need to get on top of. Well, not so much lack of progress, but lack of completely finishing one job before moving onto the next. I know that there is usually a damn good reason why jobs are started and not finished - the weather gets disgusting, I don't have the right materials to hand, I need help from Management and he's not here ... bla bla bla. Whether these are reasons or excuses the nub of it is that I needed to be working outside and achieving something.

At 20 feet long and 8 feet deep the big bed in front of the trellis which screens the log piles was a huge undertaking to dig over so I hadn't started it. The "lasagne" method is described in Bob Flowerdew's book and in many other places online. As the soil is really good to start with there didn't seem any need to either knacker my back digging the area over traditionally, or knacker all the in situ worms by rotivating it. I also convinced myself that Bag End is big enough to have the odd experiment here and there and if it didn't work, so what?

Layer of straw and half a builder's bag of top soil (purchased last year for the big planters at the front - that's another job never finished).

Layer of cardboard and thick layer from the grass clippings bin - gardening lottery win - black, crumbly, smelt lovely and "peaty", dozens of worms, grass-boarding works!

Another layer of top soil and then I gave up for the afternoon.

It was 3.00, freezing cold, trying to snow and I was more than a little weary. Hopefully I will be able to shift some rotted cow manure tomorrow and then I can leave it all to settle down. There is no intention or expectation to do any planting here until May at the earliest which gives the worms time to mix the layers up a bit.

(The 8" x 2" boards at the front are temporary, we are going to use something else but for now I don't want a big barrier in the way of the wheelbarrow.)

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Signs of Spring

Both yesterday and today I think I heard, but did not see, a Curlew. Beautiful haunting, mewing cry, definitely makes me think of Spring.

Plenty of daffodil growth in the bulb bed next to the road, but many early tips look like the have been nipped by freezing (or mice)?

The frost has gone leaving the ground wet and muddy and the lawn is in a terrible state. I won't be surprised if we get another bitterly cold spell before Spring arrives properly.
The coldest it got in the greenhouse during the Christmas freeze - definitely needs a clean when I continue the pre-season clean up.

Snowdrops, rescued last year from the shrubbery, doing well in a raised bed.

New growth on Alchemilla Mollis, I'll leave the old leaves for a couple of weeks more, they will protect the new shoots if it does get really cold

Monday, 24 January 2011

Compostus Binus Magnificentus no more

A damp and dreary Sunday but by working slowly, over the course of the day I managed to empty the remainder of the original compost bin and move it to one of the new bins by the shed.
oh look - another barricade, there's a surprise

Most of it is lovely, black, crumbly and gorgeous. Unfortunately there is a layer of twiggy stuff at the bottom which has hardly decayed at all and will need to be sieved out before the compost is used. It would have taken too long and been too exhausting to do that yesterday so I moved everything and delayed the sifting for another day.

(this doesn't need sieving, there are much bigger twigs & bits underneath)

I had assistance, which is why a job that should have taken two hours took all day:

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Greenhouse floor

I liked having bark chips on the greenhouse floor, sadly the mice REALLY like me having them. Lost count over the autumn and winter of the number of mice caught in the live trap, but then got fed up when I discovered that some of them have been getting in - and getting out again. They're not supposed to be able to do that.

Sam likes it even more. When he is not walking around ON TOP of my pots of daffodils he's busy digging through the bark to try and find the mice ... sigh.

Decision made to move all the bark onto the potager area (it could do with a top up) and replace with the lovely limestone chips that I already have on the bottom section of the g/h. Perhaps it will make it easier to keep the temperature down in summer by dowsing them in water?

Sam "helped" me clear up the greenhouse floor. The towel I placed for him to lay on was in too tempting a position and he could not resist the urge to start eating the sisal Hay Rack liner.

Picture of innocence?

So I moved the towel - so Sam moved! Granted at this point he was tired from all the "helping".

Looking a tad surprised - he'd just been shouted at

"Ah, she doesn't really mean it, and I am ready for a snooze"

Have a quarter of a bulk bag of stone left from last year, Sam "helped" me transfer this into smaller bags which are currently stacked in front of the greenhouse. His idea of helping was to keep trying to jump into the builders' bag as I am baling stones out of it - utterly useless but at least he wasn't trying to eat anything. I don't have enough for the whole job but it's a start.

The now empty bulk bag comes in handy for moving bramble trimmings and other mess I'm busy clearing up.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Is is really only Tuesday?

This week I am creating Barricades'R'Us all over the garden - as Sam's confidence grows, so does his ability to get into places with potential to hurt him (ie: a gap between two logs at the bottom of one of the log piles). Now he is wearing a collar outside I worry that he could get caught up on something.

I could make the barricades much more substantial but I only want to impede Sam's progress, not my own.

In theory, by the time he is big enough to climb over this he will be too big to fit into the gaps at the bottom of the log pile ...

Monday, 17 January 2011


A slight hint of normality returns to Bag End:


True to form, not content with a new puppy and the continuing work on the house & garden, I've added another "task" to the never-ending list: learn how to use the cute little HD video camcorder we've bought and learn how to use editing software .......

When Ollie was small, Management suggested we buy a video camera to record some of his antics but I wasn't keen. I was wrong, we should have done. Don't want to make the same mistake with Sam.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Growing up fast

The Nylabone packaging says "for puppies aged 3 months" but we feel Sam is definitely ready for this soft bone - under supervision. It is the one item that can hold his attention for more than 2 minutes, apart from a stick of raw carrot. This is one of the very soft bones from Nylabone, and although he still only has baby teeth it seems to give him a great amount of pleasure and satisfaction.

He also seems to think that I am taking way too long turning this fleece into quilts for him, so he might as well just use the stuff as is!

Those feet and legs continue to grow.

Never under-estimate

NEVER under-estimate the ability of a ten week old puppy to do things you don't want or don't expect.

Like going so far under the Log Store that he can't remember how to get back out and starts to get upset.
Not any more you won't, dear puppy ....

And in his panic squeezes out of the back left-hand side and ends up behind a log pile that is completely inaccessible to Two Legs.

And decides that this is quite a nice place to wander around - especially as it is a bramble-infested mess that is completely inaccessible to Two Legs. AND there is a gap in the wooden fence that Two Legs hadn't seen because of the aforementioned brambles.

Not any more you won't, dear puppy ....

I had intended on spending a couple of hours this morning working on the bark path. Instead I shoved wet lumps of timber under the log store and had a (painful) fight with some very nasty brambles.

Whoever said "The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth" has never tried to clear a bramble patch. When homo sapiens screw up so much that we no longer dominate this planet it won't be the meek who take over, it will be the bloody brambles.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Gardening with an assistant ...

Has Sam really been with us two weeks? It feels like no time at all, but at silly o'clock in the morning during another dressing-gown-clad trip outside it seems like this has been going on forever.

During Sam's first week I got fairly despondent during the numerous trips outdoors. Following a small puppy around bits of the garden where I don't usually walk in the damp & cold first week in January is not to be recommended. I spent far too much time looking at all the MESS and wondering if I would ever get this garden straight, or whether we'd have another season of weeds growing out of control.

Thankfully this week things settled down a bit and I realised that whenever the Gardening Assistant and I go outside during the day I can steal 5 or 10 minutes to pick up twigs, rake up weeds and generally start to clear the detritus which makes this place look like a neglected bombsite.
Might not look much to anyone else, but I know how much has been cleared up from this strip. Aiming to get another section of the bark path in place.

I can keep an eye on him and it doesn't do Sam any harm not to have my undivided attention, although this does mean there is a risk of him finding his own amusement. He's still picking up bits of bark chips, bird poo and whatever else will fit in his mouth but mostly he is happy with a leafy twig that he can chase and play with.

All those 5 minutes add up, and by the end of the week I had a good pile of rubbish collected. Now I have the problem of disposing of it - this is not stuff suitable for the compost bin, some dry weather would be nice, we're due a big bonfire.

Before I started the area to the right and behind the old compost bin was full of dead nettles

Puppy Progress

Has Sam really only been with us 11 days? It feels like much longer! As I've said before, I can cope with being wet, being cold or being hungry but deprive me of sleep and I don't do well at all.
The soft crate is to keep him safe in the car until he's big enough for a seat belt harness. He rather likes it as a bed in the sitting room.

He is desperate not to toilet inside his night-time crate or pen, even on newspaper. Our first 4 nights were, therefore, sleepless and difficult as we followed advice given to us by friends and relatives to pop him in pen and leave lots of newspaper down ... that didn't work. Neither did putting him in the kitchen at the other end of the house.
"helping" Management check the fencing; we like to "help" with anything we can get our nose into!

With a bladder the size of a peanut and the need to toilet every couple of hours, Sam screamed, wailed, cried, yapped, howled, screamed some more; if I'm going to be awake I might as well pull on boots and a dressing gown and take him outside. After that decision was made, night-times got a whole lot more peaceful, although still disturbed.

It won't be forever, and he has already managed four hours and five hours between garden visits on some nights, he only asks to be let out when he needs to pee.

With Sam's lavatorial requirements taken care of, it's down to the important business of being a puppy and growing fast. His first trip to the vet on Wednesday was calm - so calm that he fell asleep on Clare's consulting table. She gave him a thorough examination and commented on how big his feet are, and on the size of the growth plates on his front legs - he's going to be a BIG Beardie!
One of the many nicknames he has acquired this week is Chunky Monkey - just look at those front legs!

He was 4.28kg on Wednesday 5th and 5.00kg on Tuesday 11th, at this rate it will not be long before he has grown out of his temporary cardboard box beds.

Despite being hard work whilst he is so small, Sam is a dear little chap. He has a lovely nature, adores all the people he's met so far and seems quite bomb-proof to loud noises. I can put the hairdryer on within feet of him and he doesn't even react, and twice we've been in the garden at night when some nearby idiot has let of a bomb-type firework and he's looked up, found there is nothing to see and shrugged it off - wonderful!
Unconcerned by the wheelbarrow - and keen to help unload it!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Sam's first few days

I have developed an understanding of and sympathy for women with new born babies - now I see how difficult it is to get anything done and the feeling of perpetual exhaustion.

Sam is into EVERYTHING and already displaying quite a turn of speed.

He's an absolute darling but unless he is asleep it's hard to take pictures of him AND be engaged with him and doing whatever is necessary at the time. He will be this little for such a short space of time and I don't want to miss having a record of the first couple of weeks.