Friday, 31 July 2015

Mundane and minutiae

In the last post I mentioned minutiae which the dictionary sums up as:
the small, precise, or trivial details of something, details, niceties, subtleties, finer points.

I'm definitely into small and subtle right now, there has definitely not been enough of either of late.  Most of this year, or perhaps the last few years, has been huge big stuff.  But now we're moving to a different phase, more like the life we (stupidly?) thought we would have when we moved 350 miles north.  OK, in hindsight, those dreams were always attainable, it's just that too much house renovation and garden building pushed them to the background.

So here's the minutiae of some of Daisy's regular walks.  Even saying that makes me smile - once upon a time to do just a couple of these walks whilst on holiday would have sent me back to Hampshire with a huge grin on my face; now we have them on the doorstep every single day (weather permitting).

A rare moment of sunshine at the back of Sale Fell

Something's caught her attention on the Fangs Brow path

Clearly she needs no help or instruction when it comes to ladder stiles

Closer to home, a footbridge that absolutely terrified her in the early days

Plenty of other walks at the usual places - Ennerdale, Latrigg, Lorton, Crummock Water, but either no camera or no nice pictures.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Finishing our new paths - it should have been so simple

On Thursday, 2st May I wrote the fateful words "the pretty stuff to go on top arrives Tuesday".

Well, that was a stupid thing to publish, wasn't it?

Finishing these paths should have been so simple but nothing, absolutely nothing has been simple since we took on the task of renovating Bag End. I thought we were moving to Cumbria.  Apparently what really happened was I transferred to a Universe where “simple” and our garden can never co-exist.

It’s like this ….  2015 was not a nice year for gardeners from a weather perspective.  Firstly we had a beautiful warm April and all the plants threw themselves enthusiastically into the new season.  And then we had an evil frost at the end of April which chopped much of that new growth off at the knees.  I think it went down to minus 4 here and whilst I had put fleece over the greenhouse plants and the outdoor potatoes (in pots) there were lots of other things that I didn’t even think needed protection.  I was wrong.

May followed and is now on record as the wettest and coldest for a long time.  You can’t blame many of the plants for just sitting and sulking, and not growing.  I know how they felt.

May went out with a whimper and June arrived with a bang - and a horrendous storm.  50mph gusts across the garden and the usual “gully washer” rain down the main path in our side garden which created a large channel in the newly compacted sub-base.

A quick call to Walter whose experienced eye located a problem we had never noticed - a blocked drain on an adjacent footpath was sending water into the garden, its route hidden by the rapidly growing hazel hedge we planted in the Coppice.

Proving that it’s not what you know but who you know, the local Highways Engineer was here an hour later . . . bless him :-)  He promised to get the drains jetted out within a week and was as good as his word.  Now we know there is potential for this little gully to block we can keep an eye on it.

Of course, guess who was left with the little task of replacing everything which had to be moved in the Coppice in order to raise a manhole cover?

And did that see an end to the problems?  Don't be silly; more delays because (sensibly really) Walter did not want to do any more path work until we had another gulley-washer of a rainstorm to see if the problem is fixed.  He was absolutely right but that did not really take away the frustration of another unfinished garden job dragging on.  And on.  And on.  Because in the meantime to quarry ran out of slate chippings.

Which is how it took until the 28th July for our paths to be finished.  And I'm still getting used to them, it's all far too neat and tidy although they do look great.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Leaving the country

The lack of frequent posts and Bag End updates can be attributed not to being knackered and bluuurgghhh but to glorious mundaneness and minutiae.  Gardening has generally been confined to grass cutting and pottering about, and Daisy and I have been enjoying the wonderful variety of short walks on our doorstep.

But today that all changed when we upped sticks and left the country. No passports required until Ms Sturgeon gets her own way, just a family day out to Scotland.  There was much of this:  (not my photo, images nicked from Dumfries Caravan Centre's website)

But no purchases, yet, although we are very tempted and found a couple of lovely caravans that are big enough for three of us, within budget, and a good outfit match for my new car.

Daisy had been such a good girl, she had to stay in the car a bit more than she was used to (although at one point the caravan salesmen told us to just bring her into the vans with us - an invitation she happily accepted) but it was still a lot of hanging about for her and she was due a good walk.  It was a lovely day so instead of coming straight home we travelled another 10 miles or so along the coast and spent time at this gorgeous beach. 

With a little bit of imagination and artistic licence, I can see my house from here

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Veg Patch

It's not been a good year for growing veg, and certainly not a good year for this vegetable novice.  Cold, wind, rain and slugs have succeeded where my horticultural skills have failed and I am thoroughly fed up and disappointed about the whole 'grow your own' thing.

We had one picking of early sprouting broccoli, it was foul - very bitter and the beetroot isn't much better.  The broccoli which hasn't completely disappeared thanks to the slugs has now gone to seed followed rapidly by the spinach.  I'm rubbish at this 'succession sowing' lark so there's nothing following on.

Once again, the potatoes got early blight, and the peas, specially chosen old fashioned varieties which should grow six to eight feet tall have barely made it to the bottom of steel mesh.

I realised that the Fort Knox like barricades necessary to keep pests out of the brassicas also keep me out and have proved a huge disincentive to staying on top of maintenance.  Frankly, this part of the garden has given very little pleasure so far this year.

But there's always a Plan B at Bag End, and these gorgeous raised beds are not going to go to waste, I'm going to use them as proper nursery beds to raise perennials.  I've already planted up one section with bluebell seed from a neighbour's garden and as soon as I can summon the energy and enthusiasm I've got other recently collected seeds to plant.

As for the desire for fresh, organic vegetables, that's been easily solved with a call to a local company, Eva's Organics.  Debbie is friendly, helpful, incredibly flexible and I'm going to have a different box delivered each week on a rotating basis.  I tend to plan next week's meals on a Thursday or Friday so today's delivery fits perfectly into my schedule and the Small Mediterranean Veg Box which has just arrived looks fantastic.  All I need now is now some good Mozzarella for the Aubergine Parmigiana which has been winking temptingly at me from the pages of River Cottage Veg:-)

And in best 'Valerie Singleton', "here's one I made earlier" or rather - here are the two I made later.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The "F" word

Oops, bad blogger . . . should really have updated this a week ago.  But moving swiftly on, the good news is that the weather forecast was wrong, although not by much.  In the greenhouse the overnight temperature dropped to 4.1ºC  which is FAR too cold for this time of year.  If it was 4 degrees under glass it could well have been 2 or 3 out in the garden.

There's a great deal I ought to be recording right now, but I just can't seem to shake myself to do it.  Daisy is generally well although her skin/hayfever problems continue despite daily antihistamines backed up with local honey and constantly being wiped down to remove anything which might get on her coat when she's outside.  A trip to the vet is booked for Thursday, I except we'll be back on a low dose of steroids to get her over the current itchy eruption.  Found a bare patch of skin on her leg this morning, poor girl has chewed off the hair in the last 24 hours.  I feel so sorry for her, so guess who has been permitted to "win" the "I want to lay under your desk" battle?

I've continued to make slow but steady progress in the garden but the weather this summer is not helping.  Must rouse myself to go outside with the camera . . .

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

July, or January?

That's three times I've heard a frost warning for tonight, the latest being at supper-time with the forecaster announcing "when the sun goes down tonight the temperature will drop like a stone".

I have lots of horticultural fleece; it would be a shame not to use it and come out tomorrow morning and find the tomato plants ruined.

But draping fleece around fully grown plants (or rather, around the blasted bamboo canes) is no fun . . . hopefully in about 12 hours I'll be feeling silly for having been so over-cautious.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

So what happened to regular blogging?

Been busy here, but "nice busy" as opposed to frenetic, exhausting, never-ending busy.  I've spent quite a few hours in the garden getting as much planted as possible, and nearly everything is now in the ground.  The few annuals which haven't made it yet might well find themselves on the compost heap.

At some point it would be sensible to take some photos .....

Yesterday I completely blitzed my study.  As I get older I seem to be becoming a very untidy person and I absolutely hate it.  When I'm surrounded by clutter I can't think, can't relax, and my productivity take a nosedive to zero.  My study always seems to be the dumping ground for things I don't know what to do with, or piles of paper that need "sorting" and it had got to the point where I didn't even want to go in the room.  A big problem is that the room has to do double-duty and houses the longarm machine which takes up a fair amount of space.  After a lovely walk along the river yesterday morning which kept Daisy satisfied for a few hours I set to and moved every single thing.  Including the longarm (but that's on sliders and doesn't weigh as much as you might think).

Much has been evicted from the room and won't be coming back.  Cockermouth charity shops will be gaining many bags of book when I next go into town.  By the end of the day things were neat and tidy and for the first time in ages I actually want to come and sit at the computer.

There's still another pair of curtains to hang, and a wall which needs painting now I've moved the bookcases which were installed when we arrived here and hadn't been moved since.  For the time being I'm ignoring the massive pile of books and magazines in the sitting room (telling myself I am going to read them!) and the ghastly pile of paperwork which is now on the kitchen table (telling myself I'm going to deal with it!)

And there's a silly dog who really, really wants to lay under my desk even though there is a perfectly comfortable bed only four feet away tucked safely under the sewing machine ....

And now the sun is trying to come out so we're off to Crummock :-)

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Chapelside Garden Visit

There have been very few visits this year, but I did manage a return to my favourite garden in Cumbria (after Bag End, of course).