Wednesday, 30 November 2011


I've accomplished a great deal this month, but not much of it in the garden.

My sewing room is rebuilt and (sshh, don't tell anyone) on a couple of occasions I started rummaging through piles of fabric, boxes of scraps, unfinished projects. The house is remarkably tidy and there are no builders due in the near future, I've even made a start on Christmas cards.

I shall remember November chiefly for two things, one is a wonderful physio, the other is the weather. The physio is a cruel woman with hands of steel which are capable of inflicting significant pain. I don't mind a bit - in six short weeks she has dealt with much of the long-standing damage and pain in my hip and shoulder, and restored a range of movement which I haven't had for years.

I do, however, mind the weather. I bloody mind it a lot. November has been a pain in the bum and I don't think we've seen the last of some weird meteorological conditions. It's been far too warm for the time of year and far too many plants are growing strongly and continuing to flower and when it does get really cold they'll be knocked for six. Daffodil bulbs are thrusting themselves out of the ground with indecent haste and many of the snowdrops in pots (waiting to go in the Coppice) are showing green shoots.

Neither the roses (Winchester Cathedral and Mme Isaac Periere) or Clematis Nelly Moser should be in bloom right now.

It's been wet. Very, very wet. That seems to be par for the course in November as 2009 proved. At the weekend I saw friends near Greystoke and their weather station had recorded nearly 2 inches of rain in as many days. Our large pond has collected at least 6 inches of water although much of this is run-off. We'll have ducks next adding green shit to the ever present mud; now there's something to look forward to . . .

I can cope with all this, but I'm getting really fed up with the wind. Of course, buy a big garden and immediately cut down the shelter belt and what do you expect? No, I don't ever want the leylandii back but I would like a bit of respite from howling gales, especially when LP hasn't been able to get back here since his holiday and my plans to erect additional windbreak before 'the bad weather arrives' have come to nothing. I'd also like a break from the noise. I cannot sleep with the windows closed, nor can I doze off with earplugs. Acute hearing is not always a good thing. Neither is a sleep-deprived Hobbit. Grrrrr.

(The forecast for the rest of the week is equally foul, with high winds for all of us and snow predicted for the fells. Smug points because Management's car had winter tyres fitted last Friday and mind are going on this week.)

Monday, 28 November 2011

Indoor gardening

Does this count as a Green Dot Day?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Bits and pieces

Another gentle Sunday messing around with small jobs. Finally finished putting windbreak across all the blue holly which was planted in August. I always intended to do the whole bed but guess it's one of those jobs where I had to stop before I'd finished, for whatever reason, and just never got back to it. With the ferocious winds we've been having recently, could not leave this any longer.

(The eagle eyed [hello James] will notice two of the 'usual suspects' making a quick exit stage right plus a newly arrived green cage on the left ... more on that later)

Made a start on straightening up the nursery area which LP and I are going to completely reorganise at some point during the winter, and washed the remaining Coolglass off the greenhouse. Must work out a different way of providing shade next summer, I'd like to use external blinds which can be rolled up or down as necessary but some of our summer wind is as strong as that in winter so not sure how to do this ...

Topped up the log baskets for the coming week and wandered around enjoying seeing how things are growing.

Top right, Clematis Nelly Moser which really should not be flowering at the end of November

Parsley gone gloriously to seed in the Potager

I don't expect to be picking raspberries at the end of November . . .

Saturday, 26 November 2011


The images shared in Welcome Visitor are the cream of 65 shots taken over a half hour period. Just to disillusion anyone who thinks I am a crack photographer, here's an example of the many which didn't make the cut ....

A very welcome visitor

Only one, but so very welcome after the sad news of two recent deaths. This chap* seems to prefer eating close to the ground rather than from the tree-mounted feeder.

* I have no idea whether this is a male or female, but "him" seems to fit.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Showing remarkable restraint

An old whiteboard has been pressed into service in the mud room.

The list on the left is for LP and growing all the time. He has seen it and not (yet) run away screaming. My list on the right is much smaller, I am taking this "light duties" lark very seriously. I want to undo the damage I've inflicted on myself over the last couple of years and not repeat it.

It is, however, taking a remarkable amount of restraint not to get out there and make a start on some of the larger jobs.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Hedge planting

Feeling a slight sense of urgency about the newly purchased hedging plants. This time last year it was minus 11 overnight and that will do young plants in pots no good whatsoever. Despite ridiculous amounts of rain recently which have left the soil far too wet to work on, I did it anyway.

Yesterday I counted out small canes and marked the probable planting positions of 30 Privet and ten Rosa rugosa. Also prepped the wheelbarrow with everything I might want for a speed planting session.

A bright and breezy couple of hours this morning saw much progress. The soil was so easy to shift because LP had dug it over in August and it took very little effort to make holes for the whips. Fantastic little plants most of which had quite massive root systems.

It's not easy to make a photo of twigs in mud look good . . . trust me, they look fantastic and in a couple of years we'll have some sturdy little evergreen plants giving the garden more protection and privacy.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A bottle of Chardonnay

I heard the tell-tale noise of a neighbour sweeping up a mass of leaves. Went to see him and asked "if I sweep up your leaves for you, please can I have them?" The answer I didn't expect was "no, I'll sweep them up and then you can have them". I supplied a couple of empty bulk bags and got this in return.

It hasn't been a good year for collecting leaves; LP was away and I was out of action at the prime collecting time and most of them have blown away by now, so this is a most welcome addition to the leafmould bins. The bags were completely full when Richard brought them round, they've slumped quite a bit since then. He tried to refuse the Chardonnay I delivered to say "thanks" so I told him he could consider it a down-payment on next years leaf harvest ...

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Sadly, we now have an explanation for those reds Missing in Action. A neighbour who lives further up the road (nearer to where we think the dreys are) has found two bodies in the last month - road kill.

It's a country lane. The speed limit is 60mph and there are plenty of idiots around here who think that is appropriate. Red Squirrels tend to have less road sense than hedgehogs. Last time I encountered one when I drove down the road the daft little thing stayed on the tarmac but tried to run in front of the car - it was a couple of hundred yards before it went into the verge.

That's five deaths in 12 months (three were killed this time last year), time to have a word with the local squirrel protection group although I don't hold out any hope of it making a difference.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The voices made me do it

The voices made me do it, honest. That would be the voices which say "if you don't buy these when you see them, then they won't be around when you next think about it".

Why is why, when I'd only popped into Dobbies because I was nearby doing something else and thought "I'll just have a look" I came home with 30 Hornbeam whips, 30 Privet, 10 Rosa rugosa and a David Austin climbing rose I've been looking for all summer - New Dawn.

Of course, now they've all got to be planted out . . .

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Continuing to potter

Pottering in the potager. So many strong little strawberry plants that another bed has been 'borrowed' so they can over-winter nicely.

Have stumbled upon the place where all Bag End ladybirds have decided to set up camp. I didn't want to deprive them of a hibernation site so I've left a couple of plants untrimmed and piled up a load of dry leaves for good measure. These plants are getting lifted next Spring as I want to use a corner of this bed for something else, so no need to clean them up for the winter. Have also added windbreak netting, it's surprising just how much difference it makes.

Seeing as I don't need another 100 strawberries and neither do the friends who are having some plants next year I have hatched a new plan for the surplus. As with all Bag End Plans, it will be doomed to failure if I mention it in advance, so I won't!

All this 'taking it easy' does have a downside. I might have been doing considerably less but I have been eating exactly the same amount - you can see where this is going, can't you? Whilst I have hardly become obese, friends know that I am of reasonably small stature and therefore the addition of unwanted pounds to my little frame is not a good thing. Walking long distances is still not a comfortable option so until I can head back out to the hills and burn off a few calories, the mince pies are just going to have to manage without me. Bugger!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Missing in Action

For the last two weeks our Reds have been MIA. After the nut-burying frenzy of October where three of the darling little creatures took it upon themselves to empty the feeder at least once every day, sometimes twice, all of a sudden the visits stopped.

It's always a major worry when we don't see the squirrel for a while. Have they been killed on the road, have greys come into the area? We knew there were no visits because the feeder remained sadly full and untouched.

Until this morning. Breathing huge sighs of relief all round. Just one visitor, and only for a few minutes, but a glorious sight in the autumn sunshine.

Also missing in action this week has been small Hobbit. Taking advice from physio VERY seriously and cutting back completely on load-bearing work (which basically means doing no gardening at all). I didn't really mind because I've had some snuffly, achy, brain-fog bug all week and have spent an significant amount of time crashed out in front of the TV and wood burner catching up on gardening programmes I'd recorded but not watched.

Normal service will be resumed . . . at some point . . . probably.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pottering about

I'm not going to bang on about aches & pains but one simple fact can no longer be avoided. The cumulative effect of the work I've done over the last three years has become real damage and the load I have been putting on my body has got to stop. Last month I took myself to a physio who had been highly recommended and I received professional confirmation that muscles in my left leg and shoulder were not well . . . not at all well, in fact, rather poorly. I could quite happily live without the accolade of having certain shoulder muscles that were in the worse condition she has ever seen in her career. Full recovery is quite possible, but only if I modify my behaviour. LP is back from holiday this week; the list of jobs which have been allocated to him (rather than doing them myself) is already long and continues to grow!

Yesterday I had a lovely afternoon at the North Lakes Horticultural Soc. in Keswick. Great lecture by Lyn Brunetti on climbers. Followed this with a sunset stroll from Central car park to Friars Crag which would have been perfect if I hadn't had to stop at least twice to let my leg muscles calm down.

I still needed an outdoor fix, and a Sunday morning spent clearing the strawberry beds fitted the bill perfectly. There are lots of rooted babies which can stay put until the Spring when they will be potted up and given away. I have a list of friends waiting for them. Maybe by the time the plants go to their adoptive parents they will no longer be in flower?

Uncharacteristically sensible, I only did half of one bed.

Sign-O-Matic kept their promise and delivered my free sign. Management was slightly taken aback by the Stonehenge typeface but less puzzled when he realised I went for the most "Hobbit-like" lettering I could find, and that I was aiming for a friendly please don't rather than a less-welcoming p*ss off and go round the side! Whether or not I have succeeded remains to be seen. I need to find the little rubber thingies which have covers to hide the screws . . . I know we've jar of them somewhere in the shed.

On the subject of gates, a long-awaited delivery has finally been installed. Anyone who saw the metal monstrosities which were here before will agree these are a vast improvement.

The chain is a temporary fix until we come up with a permanent solution for a slight problem. Although the gates open inwards, the pedestrian gate insists on obeying gravity and tries to swing forward and catch unsuspecting visitors on the chin.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Sewing room, take 2

Second cupboard ready to be filled, and finally somewhere to store all the garden furniture cushions.

It's ironic that when I finally make a start on sorting out this room our broadband connection goes squiffy and I can't easily get online in my study. Temporarily the iMac has been moved to where my sewing machine ought to be, thankfully only until Management sets up a wireless booster. I'm thoroughly irritated, not because I've had to move my PC, but because I can't get the booster to work. Bloody technology!

The rest of my time has been occupied with drilling which is not one of my favourite activities: new blind and glass shelves in bathroom, hanging rails in sewing room and a quilt rail in the bedroom (remarkably effective if unusual way of covering up a big hole in the plaster which will stay until I can face having builders in again). There might even have been some laundry, ironing and housework thrown in for good measure!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sewing room

Despite building work and painting being finished months ago and furniture moved into the sewing room at Easter, I've not unpacked the rest of my fabric or even touched the sewing machine. With winter coming it is time to straighten up the fabric stash and think about quilting.

First paint the inside of a cupboard, put up twin-slot shelving and have timber cut to fit. Sounds so easy when it's one sentence - has taken quite a few days on and off.

Take a good look Hazel, because once this is full of fabric and essential quilting supplies there is no way I shall let any pictures out into the wild!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Happy Anniversary

Four years ago today I locked the door in Hampshire for the last time, put the keys through the letterbox and headed north. With a fully loaded vehicle, Ollie viewed the journey with his usual equanimity. He loved being in the car having worked out early on that wherever the car went, we went too.*

Management had gone up the day before to sign the rental lease and be ready for the removal vans. The Boy and I pulled up 7 long and tiring hours later just as the last van finished unloading. A smart little house in Cockermouth, and it even had a view.

Who would have thought that four years later we would be waking up to this? (With Huge Thanks to Management for (a) making it all possible and (b) and a wonderful cup of tea in bed today.)

* A sound bit of dog logic which scared us witless one day when packing up to leave a holiday cottage in Ambleside. Ollie was missing! A rapid search of the bedrooms to see if he'd sneaked off for a quick sleep, charge outside to look for him in the road, and then laughing from Management. He'd found Ollie who was making sure we didn't forget to pack the most important thing!

Somewhat ironic seeing as Ollie NEVER travelled in the boot in his life. He considered the back seat "his" and heaven help anyone who thought otherwise.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Be careful what you wish for

Sadly we have trichomonosis back. Greenfinches are badly hit again but all finch numbers are down considerably with far fewer Goldfinches visiting. Back to disinfecting everything with a heavy heart.

On Friday there was a definite nip in the air; I said to Management "it's horrid but we could do with some really cold weather to kill off the infected birds and hopefully kill the parasites too".

On Saturday morning we woke to our first hard frost of the year. Not cold enough to put ice on the pond but the saxifrage looked lovely.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Many of you know that like a lot of homes in this area, our front door is not at the front of the house. This works well much of the time with our main door protected from the prevailing weather by a wall and porch. Trouble is, new visitors often don't "get it" and try to wander into the Potager and Cottage Garden.

In order to prevent this I added a second bolt to the gate and that works well - most of the time. But not this morning when a delivery man who'd not been here before was absolutely convinced he could get through. By the time I'd noticed his van and realised where he was, he had nearly shaken the gate off its hinges in his determination to get to the bottom bolt.

I put a home-made sign on the gate but it blew away - time for something stronger.

A little bit of Googling for 'private sign' brought me to Sign-O-Matic who say they rather like Bloggers, and if I donate a blog post to some advertising then I get my sign for free. Free works for me ... whether it will work for over-eager delivery men or not is another matter.