Monday, 29 September 2014

Knott meant to be

It is nearly a year since our last visit to Ard Crags and Knott Rigg.  In 2013 it was so windy that Daisy and I could barely stand up, let alone continue.

Today's trip didn't see us at the summit either.  The conditions could hardly have been more different - it was so hot that we were both in danger of completely running out of water so I turned round before one of us ended up feeling ill.

Still a nice walk though with cracking views :-)

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Ssshhh . . .

I had better whisper this quietly, but there is something unusual going on at Bag End!

Not sure why, perhaps it's the Autumn Equinox, but for some reason I am just not in the mood to do anything in the garden, nor go and play with (not) Herbie.  On a couple of afternoons this week I found myself in the sewing room with the inspiration to tackle a basket of scraps which has been sitting around for YEARS.  So many years, in fact, that when this quilt was made for its owner she was a young girl.  She is now a beautiful young woman starting out on her final year of a Law degree . . . and the photo archive tells me the leftovers have been 'maturing' since February 2003!  Only just over a decade then :}

Now to mess around rearranging the blocks before I sew them together.  Or perhaps I'll have a sandwich and a cuppa first - bit early for lunch but Management is always telling me "if you're thinking about eating it's probably because you need to".

Friday, 26 September 2014


This season I've read a lot of blog posts saying that many  people were having a dreadful time with their tomatoes.  Contrarily, we had one of the best years and I put this down to the raised beds we constructed in the greenhouse.  They did everything I hoped for and more.  By providing a huge amount of soil compared to pots or bags the plants had room to make big, strong roots which are essential if you're to have a big, strong plant and lots of fruit.  The soil mass acted as a heat sink and despite us having one of the hottest summers on record, greenhouse temperatures, whilst very high, were not wildly out of control.  Finally, the huge soil volume meant really easy watering - just a big soak twice a week and the plants never dried out and suffered a check or stress as a result.

On the downside, I did not choose good varieties and I am unlikely to grow Tiny Tim, Roma or Brandywine again.  

Yields were:
Tiny Tim (small cherry)     11.13kg
Roma (Plum)                    5kg
Brandywine (beefsteak)    15.8 kg (yes, really - over fifteen kilos!)

The Tiny Tim tomatoes were so small as to be a pain to pick at times and so prolific that they got rather tiresome.  The flavour was OK but nothing special.

Roma has disappointed me before so I must have been having a brain fade when I gave them a second try.  I don't think the flavour is that brilliant.

Brandywine grows too big, and with just two of us there was more than we could cope with, and once again, the flavour wasn't a patch on Costoluto Fiorentino.  I know the leaves are showing signs of magnesium deficiency - so would you given the amount of growth they were making.

There's a great deal of home-made tomato Passata in the freezer . . .

As an aside - the aubergine plants growing at the bottom end of the greenhouse went mad.  Probably too much rich soil, never seen aubergine foliage like it - but none of the flowers set and I pulled the plants up at the end of August when it was obvious that they were doing nothing except blocking out light, taking nutrients from the soil and swamping the basil.

And - because there is (almost) no limit to how many photos never made it into blog posts, these pictures were taken in 2013.  Worth including a couple to remind myself NOT to grow 'Red Cherry' or 'Principe Borghese' both of which Seeds of Italy assured me were excellent varieties for growing in the north.  I beg to differ.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014


A little trip to Sale Fell, someone enjoyed herself :-)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

September carpentry

September was notable for some major carpentry, the start of which featured on Tuesday.  Here's more progress on the "big change" where we bit the bullet and put 6' high fencing along half of the back boundary, to spread the cost we'll do the other half next year.  Mr Clutter can still see into the garden because his house is higher than ours, but it does block some of his view into the vegetable patch.

Daisy 'supervised' and thought it was most amusing to walk in and out of the garden at will :-}

Not to be left out there was much woodwork of the "LP" kind.  When we turfed the area beyond the Big Pond we accidentally created more of a slope that was pleasant to mow.  LP has raised the timber edging for me and we'll build up the ground level and re-seed next Spring.

An area between the willow fedge and Top Pond was also awkward to mow, so that got sorted out too.

Ever since we put the Fruit Cage up I've wanted a big bed in front of it.  The four-letter word Plan is to fill it with flowers to attract pollinators.

Not sure how photos of the Cottage Garden crept in, but it's nice to be reminded of how lush everything was; not sure about the white Cosmos, I think the pink varieties are better.

(published on 6th April 2015)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Whinlatter walkies

Just back from the loveliest stroll at Whinlatter, complete silence apart from the occasional bird.

Despite the continued unseasonal dry and warm weather, autumn is definitely approaching.

2½ miles this afternoon added to 3¼ around Sale Fell yesterday has left Small Person a bit tired;  Daisy can hardly keep her eyes open.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Taking stock

Saturday morning started with visit to Big Hospital to learn our little Campervan is going to be an in-patient for longer than expected and I'm more than a little disappointed that the start of our adventures will be delayed.  It would have been easy to get completely out of sorts over it, but I'm not going to.  One option is to start to use the van, wait until the weather gets nasty and then send it back to the garage.  Our preferred option is to get everything that we can think of fixed, and then we're good to start driving around in the little Wendy House on Wheels.  At the end of it we'll have a strong and secure little van which will last us a good few years and still have cost much less than an already fully refurbished one.

As I couldn't do what I wanted today (go and play in 'van) I had a wander around to record the detail of this week's progress.

Whilst having the last 8 metres of fencing renewed (behind where the compost bins used to be) we made the decision to take out six trellis panels and replace them with vertical board.  We will re-use the trellis elsewhere in the garden and the additional privacy in the nursery and greenhouse is very welcome.

(yes, I know the new strawberry beds are out of control - it's on the list for this week)

We're also having part of the back fence replaced.  Posts went in today, the plan is for vertical boards on Tuesday.  It will be 2m high and should give me a little visual protection from "a certain neighbour". 

Thanks to LP our log store is now full and ready for winter, whenever that comes.  I'm uncomfortable that I have had to get someone else to chop wood for me but my shoulders just won't let me do hours of repetitive manual work any more, and Management's not been here to do it for us.  Even though we've only nibbled at the huge pile, shifting about a metre of logs has made a big difference to opening up the path through to the shed.

The last of this year's Maris Peer potatoes, absolutely superb - great taste, lasted well in the ground after early blight got the tops, fairly resistant to worms and no scab.  Definitely a winner to be grown again next year.

And finally on the subject of Herbie .... well, Herbie is no more.  Because it became apparent this week that Herbie was not a him but a HER(bie).  Management's suggestion of Hermione* is under consideration but for now we'll stick with Campervan or Wendy House on Wheels :)

*  and people think I'm the nutty one around here ...

Friday, 12 September 2014

Crazy week

Heavens, it's been a full-on crazy week and I'm not sure the next one is going to be much better.  Management left home at stupid-o'clock on Monday morning and and I haven't seen him since, but he's been to London, Warwickshire and Wales and will hopefully be home in an hour or two.  It's not been quiet at Bag End with an endless procession of folk in and out, and what feels like an endless round of trips to Van Doctors for me and Herbie ...

I spent all day Monday cleaning Herbie.  By teatime I was exhausted and had only managed to get the cupboards and shower area up to standard.  The fridge is a science project and I don't even want to think about starting on the cab area ...  Whilst I did that the plumber ferreted about under the boot-room floor looking for a non-existent gas leak.  If I didn't smell gas perhaps it really was my smelly walking boots?

Even though it was only four days ago I'm not sure what happened to Tuesday ... there was definitely a trip into Cockermouth to have Herbie's tyres and exhaust looked at, and another visit to the garage who will (hopefully) be able to do everything else that the van needs.  It's one thing to buy an old van cheaply and say "and we'll get the X, Y and Z fixed" and another to actually make it all happen.  Anyone else would drive the van around until the MOT is due next Spring, then have the sills re-welded and call it a day. Anyone who knows Management and I will know that's not how we do things ...

By 9.00am on Wednesday, LP was filling the log store, Patersons were working on the side fence, and the plumber had arrived to work out why the kitchen sink waste had suddenly collapsed under the floor and left me with a flooded cupboard and rather wet feet ....

By 10.00am Herbie was at the Exhaust and Tyre Doctor for some small but very necessary repairs and I was exhausted :)   Escaping to the river for an hour with Daisy has been the only sane point in the week, and I think she's been there three times in four days.  It's a gentle way of giving us both a couple of miles without driving anywhere and she seems to find new smells every time we visit.

Thursday was relatively peaceful.  LP made a start on the newly extended bit of garden next to the Potager - a now redundant bed and fence have been removed, the yew will get relocated closer to the trellis and that pile of timber will become more raisedbeds.  I got a chance to do laundry, clean the house, run errands in Workington and treat myself to a couple of hours catch-up TV, a sit-down and a good soak in the bath before bed.

As is always the case, Daisy has taken all the disruption with marvellous equanimity. There either hasn't been time to go out to the fells or the beach or, like yesterday afternoon, it was too hot.  20 degrees at 3.00pm on a mid-September afternoon; that's just crazy.  Which is probably why, when she cautiously made an attempt to curl up at the foot of my bed last night, I covered her with a soft quilt and let her stay :)

Monday, 8 September 2014

(Not) Introducing Herbie

Herbie is feeling a little shy this morning.  He knows you don't get a second chance to make a first impression and frankly, right now he's not looking his best.  At 20 years old with over 100,000 miles on the clock he's not exactly in the first flush of youth and it shows ... but we knew that when we bought him, in fact, it is why we bought him :)   Meet the Tour Bus, campervan project, our latest lunatic adventure - and something both Management and I have wanted for nearly as long as Herbie has been on the roads!

So, the what and the why.  Herbie is a Leisuredrive conversion on a Citroen Relay base vehicle.  He has a couple of gas rings and a grill, a fridge and a loo, and extremely comfortable seat/bed cushions.  For our first van we have deliberately bought small so that I can drive around less than expansive roads in the Lake District, west coast of Scotland and wherever else the mood takes us.  So small, in fact, that although I told QuiltSue yesterday he was about a metre longer than Hattie, parking the vehicles side by side shows that there's no difference.  Except for the height - oh boy, is there height.  Not measured it yet but I just tell myself that White Van Man zooms around the countryside everyday in something bigger than this, so we'll be fine.

OK, that was the what, how about some why?  

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Management and I owned a small boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal.  It was a lovely time and we thoroughly enjoyed pottering around in our little tupperware cruiser.  There was a problem though, we were moored on the wrong part of the wrong canal.  A railway line ran parallel to the water making peaceful nights on the boat impossible - freight trains every hour or so are not conducive to a good night's sleep.  We also had the issue of locks to contend with.  Now anyone who has ever been near a canal knows locks are part of their charm but between Reading and Hungerford there are far too many and with just two of us on board we spent all our time locking and it didn't feel like there was much drifting along relaxing.  Around this time Ollie joined the family (where ARE the pictures of him on the boat???), our interests moved on and we sold up.

But we missed it and subsequently spent a lot of time clambering in and out of motorhomes at every dealer in Hampshire but we could never quite make up our minds.  To get to the places we wanted to be (Cumbria, Scotland) we'd need a large van that could cope with three of us on holiday, but at the time we had a Hampshire-sized mortgage and couldn't justify the expense.

Moving on 15 years and to cut a very long story short, triggered by the wonderful summer this year and my sleeping in the garden we had one of those "if not now, when" moments and decided to go for it.  We then had some serious 'good grief' moments of sticker shock when we found what it might cost and decided to have a fairly cheap "toe dipping" exercise to make sure we really like this - and actually use a van - before we go anywhere near what has been referred to as 'grown up money'.  So we know that Herbie has more than a few rusty bits, clunky noisy bits, and doesn't go very fast, but this is an experiment and one that could not have been achieved by renting a camper for a week.

So there you are, the culmination of 15 to 20 years of thinking about it, now we've actually gone and done it.  And now I need to go and do it - the cleaning that is!

I am just going outside and may be some time.