Saturday, 30 June 2012

Change of Plan

Bag End and I are blessed to have an almost unlimited supply of pony poo. Once rotted down it makes the best garden compost and whilst our soil is excellent to start with, you can never add too much home-made black gold. Although there are not many gardeners who would kill for such a supply, I know one or two who'd cheerfully give up their first-born for this bounty.

The only downside is that the muck has to be stored somewhere whilst it rots. Taking the pony poo up to our compost bins means getting Miss Daisy out and sometimes I just don't want to do that. There's also the issue of lifting six large buckets of muck out of the green trolley and emptying them into the bins and my back and shoulders have started asking for an alternative.  I had planned to go garden visiting this afternoon, but with Management's help, some ground clearing and destruction was a better use of the time :}

A little corner of Bag End which has never featured in its own right is a square-ish bed at the bottom of the drive.

A previous owner had this 'landscaped' and we are left with a mess of overgrown evergreens, most of which have passed their sell-by date and a huge forsythia which has to rate very highly on any list of plants I actively dislike.

2½ hours on Saturday afternoon with Management and all of a sudden there's a huge pile for LP to shred next week ☺ and a few large shrub roots for him to hack out. We're going to set up a semi-temporary area which I can use as a stack heap. It's accessible and it'll be much easier to offload the muck out of our friends' trailer directly to where it is going to stay until rotted.

We do have 'proper' plans for this corner but it will be at least couple of years before we're ready to put them into place, so for now, this little area can start to make itself useful.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Whatever the weather

A couple of hours cutting logs to fill the time before a long-awaited delivery. In defence of Cumbria Turf, we haven't had to wait for THEM, the waiting was caused by how long it has taken us to get the ground around our top pond ready.

When turf is booked to arrive, turf is booked to arrive regardless of the weather. Whilst we did not have the thunderstorms and torrential rain that hit much of the country today we did have steady rain, on and off, all day. LP stayed dry under full waterproofs, I got thoroughly soaked twice (had a complete change of clothes at lunchtime) but it didn't matter. It wasn't cold and from the point of view of the turf, it's probably the best weather we could have had!

     Last minute raking and preparation

Miss Daisy was an invaluable member of the team because moving 60 m2 of heavy, freshly cut, wet turf by wheelbarrow would not have been pleasant. The poor girl got wetter than she's ever been despite being hastily covered when not in use. She was put to bed in her little house after a thorough hosing down and has been promised a proper clean and polish when the sun comes out ☺

    Rain coming down as stair-rods

Still raining, raining so hard that the pond surface looked like it was bubbling in places

I am now walking around pinching myself – is this real, is this my garden, what is this neat and tidy green stuff? A little more work to do; the edge next to the willow needs straightening up and I really must stop prevaricating and do the front edge of the pond (but I now know how I am going to finish it) and make a small path.

But for now, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy looking at it (when the rain stops).

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Wet Wednesday

Raining most of the day but LP was not deterred and we made good use of the covered area. Although it has always been our intention that he only does work which I can't manage, today was spent helping me fill the log store. In order to get the area around the shed tidy so we can make progress with our plans for a small 'allotment' the timber needs logging and moving.

This pallet started off covered in large logs. All chainsawed down to the same size and then split & stacked.


We didn't get through as much wood last winter as we expected, but the wood-burner is being used once or twice a week this summer and it is always a great feeling to look at the store and know there is a few month's worth of wood ready to be brought indoors.

Continuing in 'tidy up' mode, I've got the horrible concrete plinth at the back of the house clear of nearly everything which has collected on it. The long-term plan is to remove all the concrete and create a big bed in which I can plant roses, ivy, climbing hydrangea and any other wall-covering shrub I can think of which won't mind being north facing.

We also took the time to cut steel and MDPE pipe to make the fruit cages in the potager, the rain ensured that we couldn't install them.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Just a normal Bag End Tuesday

I know, I'm about 2 weeks behind with Bag End bulletins, I've been busy, I'll catch up eventually :}

The Plan:

The Actual:

Steel  =  ✔   painted.  Keith has been round and done some measuring and setting out prior to starting on the  deck area for the Big Pond.  Arc welding and rain are not a good mix so nothing is actually happening, but at least it feels like we might make some progress – one day :}

Pond Bed =  ✔   weeded.  Of course, just “weeding” wouldn't be enough.  The job took the best part of half a day.  The birds keep throwing compost onto the slate stepping stones and making it hard to walk next to the back of the pond so I've put some timber down to try and stop them.  It makes a sort of mini terracing and I'm really pleased with the look.


Also spent ages sorting out the bark path under the bird feeders.  Sunflower seed falling out of the feeders and onto the bark has been getting wet and nasty so everything got pulled up and put in the compost bins and I have re-done the whole area.  Empty hanging baskets are now catching all the chaff and general detritus and we'll see how that works.

It might also be time to start to look seriously at a proper macro lens for flower close-ups.  This lovely geranium was a cast-off from Country Bumpkin's garden last autumn and has split into multiple small plants which are growing like crazy.  I thought it was Johnson's Blue but the foliage is wrong, who cares, it's the most beautiful colour and looks great at the back of the pond bed.

Post Box  =  ✔   fixed to wall

Coffee – a relaxing and unexpected hour with friends.

Pony poo – seven buckets transferred from the drive to the compost bins.  With the recent deluge our friends' field was too wet to leave the horses out = five stables to muck out each day.

Mini Meadow – rain stopped play

Tomato plants – only managed to do a couple of tomatoes and a couple of chilli plants before I got too tired to do more … but it was still a successful and lovely day.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Bringing up Baby (or, After the storm)

Heavy rain most of the weekend. Apart from being concerned about the thrashing my poor plants were receiving it was quite nice – I did very little (with apologies to the many friends to whom I still owe emails …) although a month's worth of ironing finally made it out of the basket and back into the wardrobe.

We've had a ridiculous 132mm of rain so far this month which is over 5 inches in real measurements. I thought that couldn't be right, five inches? Must have double-counted one of the readings but I've checked other local sites, in particular, Cockermouth School who have a very accurate and posh set up. They're showing 119mm for the month which makes our 132mm sound less crazy, and the school is in a more sheltered location.

The good news is that although it is still raining, on and off, the Derwent is back in its channel and the wind has gone away.

You'd think the endless wet and cold must make it terribly hard for birds trying to raise young. Unless you're a Bag End bird, in which case the all-you-can-eat-buffet is being refilled two or three times a day. I don't think I have ever seen so many baby blackbirds, starlings, tits (blue and great) and robins as we have this year. An exciting and wonderful visit on Sunday from an adult male Greater Spotted Woodpecker and a juvenile, (the baby has the larger red patch on its head).

More excitement on Monday afternoon when baby Woodie was seen again at the nut feeder on the willow fedge. I was driving Miss Daisy down the path when Management started banging on the kitchen window to make me stop – this youngster is a bit stupid and either hadn't heard me or (more likely) hadn't realised s/he was meant to fly away. It was only later when we checked the photos we realised there are two babies – the wing markings are very different (which, of course, you can't see because the pictures which show the wings aren't the clearest/sharpest).

This could turn out to be an expensive visitation (apart from the cost of twice as much food each day as usual!) When Management and I were going through the pictures what showed up very starkly was the (relatively) poor quality of those taken with my regular zoom lens compared to the image quality of pictures taken with the large and treasured bit of “L” series glass we bought a few months ago which is "only" 24-70mm. It was a late night after we got off the PC having spent a considerable amount of time weighing up zoom, aperture, weight, build & glass quality and affordability . . . as always with me and photographic kit, decision deferred!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Still raining

It is still raining but not as hard as yesterday.  According to one newspaper website, Cumbria has received a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours; there's another 25mm in our little garden measuring cones this morning.  It is at times like this I am very glad we took a deep breath and went to the expense of a new roof last year.  I'm  not sure the old one would have held up under the endless torrent.

When I came home from Woolfest yesterday the Derwent had just started to overflow its channel.  Given that this channel is much bigger since the 2009 flood than it used to be that takes a lot of water. This morning it is considerably worse.

In November 2009 we tried to work out the river catchment area - it's HUGE.  Water falling on the backside of Helvellyn drains into Thirlmere, which empties into the River Greta, flows through Keswick and meets the Derwent after Bassenthwaite.  Same with rain on much of Skiddaw - into Bassenthwaite and then to the Derwent.

Rainfall on Grasmoor, Loweswater and much of Buttermere drains into Crummock Water, then into the River Cocker to Cockermouth where it meets the Derwent.  I'd have to spend much time concentrating on a map but rain on Great Gable might also take the same route.

All in all, rain falling on a massive area eventually drains into the Derwent and flows past Bag End.  We are very glad we're nearly 200 feet above sea level and 50 feet above the river.  Don't know about the weather but my prediction for the weekend is much lazing around catching up on blog posts and I might even do more to the ironing basket than look at it as I walk past ☺

Friday, 22 June 2012


A tired Hobbit was definitely due some me-time and the weather ensured I schedule it for today. The rain was not so much 'rain' as 'deluge of biblical proportions'. Catching up on ironing and housework didn't appeal at all so I took myself off to Woolfest for a couple of hours. As I don't spin, weave or knit, this annual event dedicated to all things wool-like wasn't an obvious choice for a trip out but every year I plan to go and see what it is like and every year something happens to prevent it.

A couple of hours turned into the entire day but with the luxury of being able to pop home at lunchtime although there is a good restaurant on site (and plenty of seating everywhere). Management was more than a little surprised and said it was ages since he'd seen me so enthusiastic about an event. Woolfest is held in the local auction market and there is a lovely agricultural 'whiff' to the place. Also lovely is the organisers allowing dogs into the show and I spent a lovely half hour chatting to a couple who had their working Beardies with them:}

Since its small beginnings in 2005, Woolfest has grown into one of the largest wool events in the country and attracts visitors from all over the world. Chatting to one of the parking supervisors outside he reckoned 98% of the visitors were from outside the area – great for the local economy.  It has been awarded "Tourism Event of the Year" by Cumbria Tourism.

        "Flock" is a community arts project organised by Eden Art.  Over 5,000 sheep who are probably behaving slightly better than the usual occupants of the auctioneer's ring.

A very difficult place to take photos which show the scale and variety of exhibitors which were not confined to vendors of knitting wool.

There were basket makers (oak as seen on 'Victorian Kitchen' and Phil Bradley's wonderful willow work as seen at Harlow Carr and many other major gardens around the country), whole fleeces for sale, lots of “arty” stuff, paints, dyes and embellishments that would keep a City & Guilds class going for years and some glorious clothes. The only thing I can do with knitting needles is use them as plant supports but I was tempted with a couple of kits, one to make a needle-punched picture (going well so far but slowly) and one to get me started on a rag rug.

Oh yes, and a new pillow filled with wool. I saw it in the morning and told Management I was tempted, “Why haven't you bought yourself one” was his generous and immediate reply. So in the afternoon I did. This is a “do it yourself” pillow, you open the casing and take out surplus wool if necessary to make it whatever size your neck needs. Took a couple of nights to get right but I am now sleeping SO much better than I was before, not sure why or how, and I don't care. Highly recommended ☺

Everywhere there was colour and texture, much surreptitious stroking of product!

I spent a long time browsing The Fiery Felts booth.   When I have nothing else to do at Bag End I want to create a medieval garden which will include medicinal and dyeing sections, amongst others.

Photographed with permission but I can't track down the name of the artist.

Fleeces for sale, the softest of which were from Alpaca and each bag had a colour photo of the "donor" and a little about the animal along the lines of "when they make a film about you, who will star in the title role?"  (answer: Cameron Diaz)

Also exhibiting were many rare breed societies together with lovely examples of their flocks although the cages of angora rabbits were, apparently, something of a distraction for the many Border Terriers who were trotting around with their owners! An outstanding event, definitely one that is a “must” on my calendar in future .