Sunday, 31 July 2016

Three sunny days

Sadly I do not think summer has arrived - it was only three days and it was not sunny for all of them (or particularly warm) but we've just had a very pleasant long weekend where M. got to spend some time playing with his bikes and I got to spend some time playing in the garden.  By the look of the photos I might have spent more time playing with Daisy but that's no bad thing!

I'm still trying to be good and keep my promise to Liz and Management - anything you like as long as it is only for 30 minutes.  As a strategy for minimising further shoulder damage it works very well but does mean a great deal of 'stop/start' which is why there have been jobs done in the garden that didn't get photographed until it was nearly too late.  One area which has been tweaked recently is the end of the Top Pond.  I've extended the beach area which not only makes it easier for hedgehogs to get out but gives us a much clearer view onto the water, and then created a planting zone either side.  This weekend I finally moved some gorgeous Primula florindae, also known as Tibetan cowslip, which have been waiting in one of the vegetable beds.  They can grow up to 5 feet tall and have the most amazing scent with flowers which last for ages.

After the playing came the real work - weeding the big fruit cage.

The strawberries have finished and whilst it wasn't a bad year, it was not a particularly good one either.  Too dry in May when fruit were forming and then, as per bloomin' usual, horribly wet as soon as the fruit ripened.  So, as per bloomin' usual, I lost a lot of berries to rot and slugs.  Next year I really, MUST, MUST, MUST work out a way of protecting the fruit.  Maybe temporary collars on the soil?  The blueberries however, just go from strength to strength. 

I cannot ignore the mess which is our "new garden".  The original idea was to have a wildflower meadow but I nixed that thinking it would be better to reduce the amount of ground which needed mowing.  In a moment of utter stupidity I thought that summer annuals for cutting would be easier - what was I thinking?   After the absolutely-accidental-no-work-success of other lawn areas which have been left to their own defices we are definitely returning to Plan A.  The flowery stuff is going to get the heave-ho, I'll chuck in some wild seeds and the 'grass' will just arrive on its own - it does almost everywhere else in the garden!

In other news - apparently you cannot grow agapanthus in the ground in such a wet area as this.  I beg to differ - these bulbs have been in place for three years although I'm going to dig them up this winter.  I think I've pushed my luck quite far enough.

Apparently you cannot grow Eucomis outdoors this far north.  Clearly you can although I don't think I will bother again.  Whilst fairly attractive the flowers have a particularly unpleasant 'something-rotting-to-attract-insects" smell.

It is not just the New Garden which will undergo a big change.  The willow fedge has outlived its novelty value and the rampant annual growth has become a nuisance.  All season it has been annoying me when I look at it and after a chat with Management I started to give it a good pruning to see how things looked when cut back.

Immediately the area looked better so the decision has been made to take it out and replace with something that will be rather less work, maybe yew, maybe hornbeam, maybe something else entirely?

There was probably more gardening but if I didn't take a picture of it then I have already forgotten.  There was definitely more playing with Daisy - sometimes it is hard to remember this is the same dog as the skinny little thing who arrived here nearly four years ago.

I know (nearly) everyone has seen the Animal Care pictures before but sometimes they really do warrant republishing.  If ever a Poster Girl was needed to show how a rescue dog can be transformed, then I reckon Madam is a good candidate for the role.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A difficult day

This is what a very difficult day looks like.

It is the back of my car.  The big round thing on the left is where you plug in the caravan electrics.  The gap on the right is where the detachable Wittar towball should be.

The plans for today was so simple:  fit towball, hitch up caravan, drive to Penrith and leave the caravan to have her annual service.  We all know that PLAN is often a four-letter-word at Bag End and never was that so true as today. It wasn't catastrophic, or disastrous, or horrendous.  No-one got hurt and all the problems can be resolved, but it was difficult and stressful and I'm writing it down to get it out of my head and to move on.

So after a nice walk with Daisy I went to fit the towball.  And failed. It has always been a real pain to get the unit to lock into place but having never used this system before I knew no better.  With Management in London and an appointment to keep I came inside, made a coffee and had a look at You Tube.  When I watched this little film I knew I was in trouble

I had just spent 45 minutes failing to do what should take less than 45 seconds.  Houston, we have a problem.

So I phoned Wittar technical support.  20 minutes later their very helpful chap agreed that the unit was failed/bust/definitely not well.

So I phoned the car dealership in Carlisle who supplied and fitted it.  Thank goodness they have a branch in Cockermouth where I'm well known from our Honda days.  Thank goodness their wonderful service manager is familiar with detachable towballs.  He tried, he repeated everything I had already done, there was much WD40 and grease.  Eventually he got the unit into the chassis flange, and then I made him take it out because we could both see it wasn't 100%.  I happen to know he's a reserve fire-fighter and I asked him "how can we risk you getting a Shout this afternoon because the A66 is shut and you've got to cut someone out of a crushed vehicle because a caravan detached from a towcar and caused a pile-up".  Later this afternoon I got confirmation that the offending item is on its way back to Wittar to be repaired/replaced.

But in the meantime I had a caravan that needed to be 30 miles away for a service tomorrow.  So I called the only person I could think of with a towball on the back of their car - LP.  Who is recovering from minor surgery and not allowed to do anything strenuous but permitted to drive.  Bless him, a couple of hours later he came round and we proceeded to move the caravan onto the road, hitched it up and that was when we found that a modern caravan electric socket has 13 pins, but a van socket which is designed only to tow a farm trailer has just seven.

At this point I accepted The Universe really, really did not want me to take the caravan down the A66 today.

Thankfully the workshop I was taking it to is run by one of the kindest, most understanding people I have ever met.  I had kept Ron apprised of the days developments as they unfolded but the final call to say "I'm not going to make it" was hard to make.  We're booked back in, but not until the end of next month which was the first available day.

I've learnt a lot today.  I have learnt that this towball has probably been faulty from Day One.  I have learnt how kind people are when you ask for help (I'm not very good at asking for help).  I've learnt that, actually, I can keep my cool and a sense of proportion.  I've learnt that Daisy can be utterly selfish and not even remotely sympathetic when I'm having a tough day and she wants to play.

I don't need sympathy, it's only a bloomin' caravan.  After the events of recent days in France and Germany I am not going to get bent out of shape about this, although I am saddened that it is unlikely I will have the towball fixed in time to have a short break in the caravan next week.  I am starting to wonder if I am jinxed when it comes to taking our lovely Lunar away?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Birds and bulbs

For some weeks we have had a swallow nest outside the log store/shed but I thought it may have been abandoned due to my fairly regular going backwards and forwards, and disturbing the birds.

I did try putting up one of the Trailcams but must have got the settings wrong because it recorded nothing.  But if you really want to know if a nest is in use - carelessly leave a wheelbarrow underneath it when you're too tired to empty it and put things away properly.

Bulbs - well, that's twofold.  I am currently deeply engrossed in the new J Parkers Wholesale catalogue.  Bulb heaven - prepare for tulips next Spring!

More immediately I have harvested the first of our posh 'Heritage' garlic.  The yield is OK, but not as amazing as I hoped for, although the greenhouse really pongs right now, it's lovely!

And just in case there is any doubt about what time of year it is - the school holidays have started, it is August next week:-)

Monday, 25 July 2016

Hinting at normalcy?

It's all about mindset.  For as long as I can remember my mindset has been one of being constantly active, getting things done, cheerfully achieving lots every day.  It has taken me a long, long time but I might finally have accepted that has to change.  Whilst I am slowly getting better and achieving more sleep as I have less pain, I have to give my bones and muscles time to heal.  I have to accept that whilst I have never actually looked ill, I've probably been quite poorly and convalescing will take some time.

Convalescing - defined as the gradual recovery of health and strength after illness or injury.  OK, (shakes head quietly to self), I think I can cope with that.  So the Cottage Garden beds are close to being feral, there's ground elder trying to take over the land at the back of the house, planting in the New Garden has been a chaotic failure which needs completely overhauling and the empty and unused raised vegetable beds are an embarrassment.  So what?

Baby steps, baby steps and it will all be alright in the end, and if it's not alright then it's not the end.

I had a lovely Saturday just bimbling around the veg beds and have about half the area ready for seeds.  The plan is to use some of the ground as nursery beds for foxgloves, wallflowers and the like.  Pottering around felt lovely, almost 'back to normal' - whatever 'normal' is.

Sunday was quiet but at least the ironing basket got emptied, so Monday morning Daisy and I shot off to Crummock Water after breakfast.  With frequent sharp showers it was surprisingly cold and we were both glad of waterproofs, if I had taken gloves with me my hands would have appreciated it.  Still a lovely outing, everything was so verdant with numerous shades of green and occasional flashes of purple from heather and golden yellow from gorse.

The showers had kept most people away and we had the boathouse beach all to ourselves.

Mellbreak was looking particularly gloomy.

And then we bumped into Maisie.  

When we lived in Cockermouth Ollie and I regularly used to meet her Mum walking a very elderly Beardie who is now long gone.  It was lovely to see Pat again, Daisy and Maisie got on very well and hopefully we'll meet up soon to walk together again.

The chaos in the garden is not all bad - I have deliberately not been cutting parts of the lawns which are full of flowers.  There is no way I can put the mower over a large area of clover when it is covered in bees, same for the self-heal.  I have been rewarded by the appearance of THREE orchids in the Cottage Garden lawn! 

And a Certain Small Person doesn't mind how the grass looks:-)

Friday, 22 July 2016

Day tripper

Thank you so much for the supportive and wonderful comments on yesterday's post, it is always such a delight to receive and read comments.  Does it make me sad and needy that I wish there were more?   (Yes, I am looking at a certain Mr Baker who is absolutely wrong when he thinks he has nothing to say/add/contribute!!)   It was so encouraging and heartening to read how well others understand the fatigue of chronic pain and sleep deprivation, although unfortunately that insight has probably come from your own personal experiences.

The original plan for today was to visit Kendal but I did not sleep well enough last night, so Plan B was initialised which involved a trip down the newly repaired A591.  After a brief stop outside Keswick (checking out a potential caravan site which turned out to be rather nice) I had a quiet and easy drive down to Ambleside.  It is a place which holds many happy memories of holidays and days out but my, how it has changed over the years.  Everyone who lives in or adjacent to the Lake District recognises that tourism is absolutely vital to the economy but it doesn't always make things better.  The town felt tired, and even though it wasn't too busy there was a feeling of traders bracing themselves for the school holiday influx which starts tomorrow.  A couple I chatted to actually said as much, recognising that the visitors who descend upon the area and have caused it to change so much are both a blessing and a curse.

Over 20 years ago Management and I nearly bought a tiny cottage in Ambleside but I chickened out - we couldn't really afford it at the time and I was nervous about owning property hundreds of miles from where we lived.  With the benefit of hindsight it would have been a hell of an investment but I'm not sorry that we did not go through with the idea, it is not a place I'd want to live these days.

To Management's surprise I didn't bring anything home from the gear shops (I think I only went into one) and my shopping for the whole day amounted to this fabulous lamp.  I have wanted a salt lamp for ages but wasn't prepared to pay what someone in Cockermouth was asking.  This little beauty came with three tea light holders for less than the price of a pub lunch, happy day indeed.  I haven't been in the Rock Shop for ages - next time I might not be able to resist the temptation of another piece of amethyst.

I had a pleasant bimble up to Stockghyll.  M. and I stayed here a couple of times - on one occasion in the apartment right next to the man-made fall.  Back then there were stepping stones above the concrete edge and every morning I crossed the river and went and raided The Apple Pie Bakery for the day's goodies.  (is that apostrophe in the right place?)

There are some lovely natural falls higher up but there were too many people around so I didn't go all the way to the top.

I pottered around the back streets, lovely aimless wandering feeling half like one of those 'tourists', but not really because I wasn't in the main street or shops.

Why can't all public buildings be this beautiful?

And then a quick visit to Hayes Garden Centre just for the sake of it.  I remember 25 years ago when all they sold was plants, now it is a 'destination' with masses of very pretty lifestyle unnecessaries.

Talking of unnecessaries - I wonder whereabouts at Bag End I could tuck this sauna?  It was forlornly on sale with a poster which said "offers invited".

and then home to Management and Daisy.