Monday, 31 October 2011

Did I blink and miss it?

Did I blink and miss October as it whizzed past, speed enhanced by autumn winds?

Don't feel like I spent much time outside this month or achieved a great deal. Although I kept forgetting to put pink 'bad weather' dots on the calendar we've not been without more than our fair share of storms. It seemed to rain mainly at night and the ground is completely sodden. A friend with a proper weather station who keeps much better records than I ever could recorded 2½ inches of rain by 17th October, goodness knows what the final total was. There has been far too much wind for this time of year and with the plants still in leaf, many have taken quite a battering.

LP went off on holiday mid-month and that has given me a break. He's been here a lot in the last six months and reckons I am working alongside him about 75% of the time, no wonder I am exhausted!

By my normal standards I've taken it easy and done a few jobs inside. I've made a start on painting the outside of the house, a project which we intended to start when Management was on holiday but a new roof and unhelpful weather put paid to that idea.

More painting of an outdoor kind - black wood preservative on the path edge which LP fixed up. I had hoped to get some of the soil piles levelled out but that's not going to happen on my watch - another job for LP.

I've tried to plant bulbs in the Coppice but been thwarted by tree roots, soil that's had a large digger run back and forwards over it and the discovery of another manhole chamber about which we knew nothing. Common sense prevailed and I am leaving the whole damn lot until LP is back - he can dig, I'll do the fun bit of putting bulbs into freshly turned soil.

I took time out to visit QuiltSue, QuiltAli and VegHeaven. There are no pictures as we didn't manage to get a camera out for the whole weekend (or quilt project for that matter), we were too busy laughing and talking. Taking something of a detour home I called in to visit mother-in-law's new house and managed a trip to two garden centres the following morning. That netted a couple of lovely Red Dock for the small pond and half a dozen more Hazel for the Coppice.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

What a lot of weather

We've had more than our fair share of weather so far this month, and much of it in the last couple of days. Tuesday afternoon brought a monumental storm - lashing rain, hail and at least one gust of wind outside the house of more than 40 miles per hour.

Wednesday night gave the first 'zero' on the thermometer - freezing point at bedtime (and the same at 8.00 the following morning).

In between, however, a perfect Autumn day - cold but not too cold, no wind, and the most brilliant of blue skies with wall-to-wall sunshine all day. Whilst I laboured in soggy soil trying to get the rest of the shrubs planted, one of our favourite visitors did his/her best to empty the hazelnut feeder - again - and didn't mind me creeping within ten feet to take some photos.

If we lived somewhere prone to flooding I would be more than a little nervous at present. This month has been very wet, overnight downpours seem to be the norm, the ground is saturated, river levels are high. In 2009 we had an extremely wet October, followed by a very wet November, and by the time we got to the deluge of 19th November there was just nowhere left for the water to go.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Mission Impossible?

"Your Mission, should you choose to accept it, is to plant all the recently purchased trees plus the shrubs which have been waiting patiently in the nursery".

A mission which really should be a simple task. LP has dug over the soil next to the hawthorn hedge so it is free from most weeds, large stones, lumps of tree root, not compacted - in fact, it is about as perfect as you could get. What is not perfect is the amount of rain we've had recently, feels like we're getting a major downpour most nights and the soil is completely saturated.

What should have been a one-day job took all of the weekend (dodging daytime showers) and most of the following week.

Thankfully however, nearly everything is now in but now I am worrying in case we get really cold weather sooner rather than later. The plants need a chance to get their roots down into the soil before it freezes (although I tell myself they are still better off than in pots where the root ball would be above ground and far more likely to get frozen).

Not making as much progress in the Coppice as I would like ☹

Friday, 14 October 2011

Path Edge

The last big job before LP goes on holiday is to put a timber edge in place along the new path. Weather permitting (hollow laugh) I would like to make a start on raking the soil level and getting some grass seed sown.

Firstly however, a sizeable pebble had to be moved . . .

It's more of a small glacial erratic and weighs so much that it will be staying right where it is until Mighty Mouse returns from vacation because neither Management or I are even going to think about moving it!

As the current rainfall levels are ensuring we spend much of every winter practising for Glastonbury the decision has been made to (eventually) cover all of the working area with shredded bark. This will blend nicely with the nursery area and cuts down on some awkward lawn mowing. A kerb of paving slabs should prevent too much bark kicking onto the Cottage Garden grass.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Getting a few jobs finished

LP is about to go on holiday so we are spending this week trying to get a few jobs finished before my essential labourer disappears half way around the world.

Cutting in some of the recently acquired slate to edge the small pond:

small pond betwen the Potager and Cottage Garden

and using a couple of other bits to make a base for the bench in the Coppice.

on the right is a small "Toad Hall" made from lichen-covered roof tiles.

Extra fence posts were knocked into the fedge bed ready for me to make some changes (when I am not doing anything else, ha ha ha).

LP also put some posts into the Coppice bank. Although this is not intended as a regular route it will be helpful to have easy access to the top of the bank and I shall make steps - eventually. The other end is low enough to walk onto, this end needed a bit of assistance.

For reasons which completely escape me, I have managed not to mention the monumental task which has occupied LP for much of the last month. The uneven ground between the shed and log store has been dug out and made level.

Big fence posts, trusses, purlins and all things roof-like!

There isn't time to finish roofing the shed area before he goes away so we've fixed up tarpaulin. It might not be 100% water-tight but it's an order of magnitude better than anything I had before. Sadly, these pictures do not do it justice and make everything look very messy and a bit rubbish, and it's not - it is a fantastic working area and I am hugely grateful to Management for coming up with the idea.

There is also similar construction activity going on between the shed and the greenhouse . . .

And an unacceptably high manhole chamber got modified:

In other news - LP doesn't spend all his time here and whenever possible I've been getting outside to finish up small jobs on my own;

Planting behind the pond and re-arranging bits of slate (I think that task will happily occupy me for months as I continue to fiddle with the pond edge)

Cutting grass, mulching and weeding, all of which are currently thoroughly enjoyable because they actually feel like real gardening (as opposed to the heavy-duty building, shifting, whatever that has occupied much of the last three years)

The only thing missing from this post is pictures of newly planted trees and shrubs. Although the weather during the day is quite reasonable at present, it seems that it has rained, heavily, all night, every night, for at least a week. The ground is completely sodden and it's too wet to go onto clay soil and start digging big holes. Am not at all happy - if we're going to have another Arctic-like winter I need everything from the nursery out of pots and in the ground, and I need the plants in soil now so that they have a chance to get their roots down and settle before the bad weather really sets in. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

This is what I woke up to one morning, it's normal to put a liner in first ...

Not all rain, much of this is run-off. Yes, it really IS as horrible and muddy as it looks.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Relaxing day

A forecast of heavy rain (which thankfully did not materialise) and soil which is sodden, not good conditions in which to put plants in the ground. Feeling a little anxious that if I don't get the new trees and shrubs from the nursery area into the soil soon they won't have much time to settle in before winter hits us. In the petrol station this morning I saw a most unwelcome headline:

Hoping this is nothing more than scaremongering to sell a few more papers, but a couple of smug points because our winter tyres are bought, paid for (at summer prices) and waiting safely at the local tyre place until we want them fitted.

I accept that my idea of 'relaxing' might not be everyone's idea of an easy day; driving to Honister, loading half a ton of slate into the car, driving back and unloading it all (with help from Management) might not be doing nothing but it is certainly less than I normally fit into a day.

It doesn't look like so much stacked up here but I got at least twice the weight in the car than I did last time!

Followed by a thoroughly indulgent afternoon sitting in front of the wood burner with Downton Abbey. Have been saving it on the Sky box, watched the first episode very slowly - could it be better than the first series?

Edit 12th October : last night's local weather broadcast said this was "tabloid scaremongering".