Thursday, 31 August 2017

Summer 2017: Good riddance

By my reckoning, Autumn does not start until 21st September - Mabon - the vernal equinox, but for the purposes of this morning's rant we'll go with the meteorological calender in which summer ends today.   Good flippin' riddance, it has been one of the chilliest, greyest and dampest summers I can remember.  Whilst the rest of England might have ben sweltering on Bank Holiday Monday, I was trapped in the greenhouse whilst the rain hammered down and the woodburner was lit before supper.

Last night, as usual I checked the forecast before bedtime and saw something not unexpected:

So much, I thought, for my desire to get outside and continue our progress on the staggered beds in the side garden.  No chance of getting bored indoors though, both freezers need defrosting, there's blog catching up to do, laundry, ironing, cooking and dog walking, so the chances of getting time in the sewing room would be fairly slim.  😞

A few hours later I wake up to see that whilst it has rained a little overnight, the day is not what we were led to expect:

Gardening it is then.

I'm getting fed up with this.  Impossible to make plans for gardening, days out, trips in the caravan . . .  I know, I know, could be so much worse;  parts of Cumbria are still damaged from Storm Desmond, now nearly two years ago.  Houston and the Gulf of Mexico will never be the same after Hurricane Harvey.  Doesn't stop me grumbling though!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

More August progress

Why is it that jobs I "think" are huge and going to take ages actually take 30 minutes and are no effort at all?

Knowing how heavy some of these piece of slate are I had built up this job in my head ... but with Management taking all the heavy lifting we had a mini slate wall in no time at all :)  Daisy was no help  🐺

In other wildlife news, this little chap* visited a few times during the day.  At first we were worried because hedgehogs are strictly noctural, but it this one looked healthy, was moving around surprisingly fast and busy digging worms and other grubs out of the grass.  Apparently it is not unusual for a youngster to be out at the 'wrong' time whilst it is fattening up prior to hibernation.

* he/she/it .... who knows?

The willow fedge which fronts the pavement is due for demolition - my love affair with willow constructions has been well and truly satisfied and now I am just fed up with the amount of maintenance it all needs.  In order not to smack passers by in the face this little fedge needs four cuts a year and that is four too many.

I cut back all the instrusive low growth and left enough to absorb a (hopefully) lethal dose of glyphosate.

A few days later I was overcome by a sudden rush of blood to the head (and maybe also to a few muscles) and moved loads more compost, soil and bark chip, followed by all the lovely cyclamen.

I thought these gorgeous little plants would be OK behind the house but the back of the bed just wasn't getting enough rain, and the front of it received far more sun in summer than I expected; they have survived, but not thrived.  Fingers crossed their new home will do better as it receives very little direct sun (and only in late afternoon).

Pictures taken a few days later are encouraging - nothing seems to have flagged or drooped, and there is a surprising amount of new flowering.

To answer Susan's question - I might put some snowdrops in here next year but this bed will just be for cyclamen.  I am finding that small areas of mono-planting work better in such a big garden than dotting different plants around all over the place.

Saturday, 19 August 2017


I may have successfully reduced the corvid visits from magpies and jackdaws, but we're very happy to see this lovely visitor in the garden - Abraxas grossulariata - more commonly known as a Magpie.

Pretty little thing 😀 seeemed very relaxed resting on a Viginia creeper.

Lovely site with more information here:  Buttterfly Conservation

Friday, 18 August 2017

Getting behind is easy, getting caught up - not so much!

I'd say "where have the last couple of weeks gone" but it would be a rhetorical question as I know exactly what happened to them;  the first was spent recovering from a horrible cold and the second has been spent making excellent progress on Management's "Garden List".  Looking back I can see we spent the first couple of months of his retirement straightening out the house (which is not completely finished, but there is a good chance it never will be!) and we are on track to spent months three and four straightening up a few things in the garden (which will never, ever be finished, gardens never are).  Maybe by the end of the year we will be in a position where "all" we have to do is maintain stuff and can spend more time enjoying ourselves ..... but that's getting rather ahead of myself 😍

I have not been very good at photographing everything we have done, so today I will just go with what I do have pictures of . . .

The bird feeding area had some much needed TLC;  a weedy messy corner has been filled with compost and bark chip, edged with the logs we took from the pond path, and planted with some self-seeded ferns which I rescued from the back of the big log pile.

I used one of the old 'ground feeding cages' and made a corvid-proof cover for the peanut feeder.  I mocked this up with clamps a few weeks ago as an experiment and it has made a huge difference - far less magpies and jackdaws around now they cannot get at their favourite food, and double the numbers of small birds who obviously feel a lot safer.  Win win all round 😃

Management has fashioned a superb tray to catch the fallout from our sunflower feeders.  The rain falls through it so nothing is getting soggy and smelly, and by supporting under the net with some old mesh he's made a nice, firm base for blackbirds and others to stand whilst they hoover up the seed.  There is nothing like the amount of waste that there used to be, so more 'win win'!

In preparation for using glyphosate we've set up a couple of sturdy barricades to keep Daisy away.  She likes to nibble at long grass and these two areas were favourite places to snack.  I absolutely hate using weedkiller and always feel I've failed as a gardener if I have to get the stuff out, but it would be even worse for Daisy to consume plant material that has absorbed such nastiness.

Many buckets of compost and bark chip were moved and now the new bed next to our 'trailer park' is ready for cyclamen.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Taking stock, and an unexpected visitor

In his corporate days, one of Management's greatest strengths was to go into companies who had difficulties and help troubleshoot them into a better place.

Ever since he retired, we have both noticed a common theme is my belly-aching about the amount of work to do in the garden, but making very little progress.  With an unerring ability to notice what is not being said, Management asked recently "when you're outside, are you doing the jobs which really need doing, or are you doing the tasks which are relatively easy to complete?"  Did I mention he also has a tendency to go straight for the questions that everyone else (me?) ignores?  No chance of an elephant hiding in the room when he's about :)

And so it was, that at the beginning of the week, outside we went:  me pointing out everything I wanted to do and Himself writing it all down.  There was then a fairly long interlude whilst a frighteningly large spreadsheet came into being.   It is actually less daunting having it all written down than the constant figurative 'spinning of plates' as I try to keep track of it all in my mind.  

This is just the tasks which (for "kicks and grins") we labelled as ideally being accomplished in the next two weeks.

Oh, stop laughing at the back there ..... a combination of Cumbrian weather, an overall lousy summer and an absolute doozy of a cold means we've got nearly to the end of the first of those weeks with only one teeny line item ticked off.

We will ignore how ticked off I am 😡   This was the scene a couple of nights ago which says something about how chilly it has been and how knocked out I have been.  Tonight's weather forecst on Channel 4 warns of 'dangerously high temperatures' for those venturing to southern Europe, but parts of the UK are likely to fall to single figures - sheesh - but I should not be surprised, mid-July there was a FROST WARNING in Scotland one night.

An unexpected visitor on Friday afternoon left us with "a little present" on the drive that means should I ever get to the point where all the garden is weeded I certainly have more than enough bark chip to mulch the living daylights out of the soil!

With the school holidays in full swing we've made the decision not to attempt any caravan trips until the end of the month, which - theoretically - leaves me with a lovely big window of opportunity to crack on in the garden. 

Wish me luck  😛

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Good riddence July, you've been a thorough disappointment

July started by being a snarky disappointment and maintained that attitude for the next four weeks.  My little walking trip in the Pennines was washed out at the last minute when the weather disobeyed the forecast which had been issued, and the rest of the month took notice and followed suit.

I don't think I can remember a mid-summer month that has been so wet and unsettled.  Apart from occasional days it has also been bloomin' cold for the time of year with the woodburner on one night, and even when it's dry there is no residual heat in the ground to make sitting outside after supper something we can contemplate.  Even the Met Office admits it's been crappy 😕

The slugs however, are having a bonanza of a season.  Despite a thorough application of Nematodes the slimy little sods have decimated my runner beans and destroyed both the Japanese spinach and Purslane I was so looking forward to adding to salad bowls.  Emerging carrots haven't stood a chance, and sluds have also demolished my cosmos, marigolds and dahlia sowings, and the echinacea plants I was so keen to grow from seed haven't stood a chance.  I've realised this is one of the reasons I have blogged so little in the last couple of months - I am thoroughly demoralised, disheartened and discouraged this season and it's a feeling I am struggling to shake.

The only thing the slithery little sods are not eating is the weeds and oh baby, do we have weeds.  Loads of rain and a disspirited gardener who is not outside enough to keep on top of them and we are very, very close to an afternoon spraying "magic water".  I try my best to use no pesticides and be as completely organic as I can, but there are occasions (and outbreaks of ground elder) where those principles just cannot be maintained.

Yeah, I'm unnecessarily grumpy but now I've said it outloud I can move on and get a grip on sorting out some of the problems - when I'm recovered from the raging sore throat and jelly legs that a brief summer cold has shared with me 😡😡