Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Happier now:)

Much happier now, over the past four days we have had some rain.  Not a huge amount and not constantly, but enough to make a considerable difference to the garden, if not to reservoirs and an impending hosepipe ban.

We had enough on Saturday that I ran half an IBC tank into the small pond at the front (with supervision, of course).  It looks much better and the shelves are now completely covered making it much easier for all the birds who use this for their daily bath.

The Top Pond had 500 litres from the tank by the vegetable beds, and another 500 from one of the greenhouse tanks, and we've had sufficient rain that all three tanks are now full again.  

The water lily is getting too big for this pond and we're planning to move it to the Big Pond in the autumn, oh goody, that will be such a fun job and I am quite sure no-one will get wet or muddy.

If I was confident that we were going to get enough rain to refill the tanks I would go to the palaver of emptying every tank into the Big Pond, which is still woefully low.  5,000 litres wouldn't fix the problems but it might help a little.  I will keep a close eye on the weather forecasts . . .

It's been a blessing not to have to water the net house as well as the greenhouse, although Daisy is not so sure.  On Sunday I put a coat on her when it was time to go out for an essential toilet break.  She took one look out of the door and sprinted back down the hall to take refuge at the back of her crate, scowling at me with a look of disgust which clearly said "you expect me to go out in THAT?  I am water soluble, you know".

And being the cruel, mean and heartless soul I am, I took her out anyway.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Food chain

A couple of years ago some Borage self-seeded into a bed just outside the net-house.  It is a bit of a thug but the bees love it so I let it stay.

This year the plants started germinating in Spring and I meant to move them around the garden but it never happened.  So, shoulders were shrugged and I let the plants do what they wanted.  Walking next to the metre high plants has been like getting very close to a calm and gentle beehive and the area is always alive with insects.

Unfortunately, yesterdy I noticed some extra insects who were not quite as welcome. Aphis fabae, more commonly known as blackfly, and far far too close to my runner beans to be tolerated.  Sorry, but I'm not sharing that part of the food chain if I can help it.

It was a shame to cut down the borage whilst there were still a few flowers open, but it is 90% over.  I laid the rubbish on our new big bed behind the house, the logic being (a) near the bird feeders so perhaps the blackfly will get eaten (b)  continues to give the bees access to the flowers  (c) I am not going to plant anything here until next Spring so the borage can compost in situ.

I thought some close-up pictures of the little beasties would be fun, but it was a brilliant surprise upon looking at the photos to find that the food chain is already in action, I think there are ladybird larvae already hard at work munching their way through the blackfly.

It's not just bees who feed from the borage flowers, hover fly and wasps do too.

Perhaps some of them come from a little further down the garden . . . this is the trellis which separates the Cottage Garden from the big log pile and the greenhouse area.

If you know where to look, we have 'company', the largest nest we have ever found above ground.

Opening the door to this shed VERY CAREFULLY,   Management decided that there is nothing in it which he needs in a hurry, so we've left this beautiful wasp nest alone.  It is unlikely the nest will survive (apparently the poor things die of starvation over winter, not cold, isn't that sad?) and he will then be able to access the rarely used bike parts which are stored here.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Kate's photo challenge - July 2018

I did not think I could/would manage to join in this month, but complaining loudly yesterday about the drought and getting it out of my system has helped tremendously, and I told myself not to be such a grumpy guts and get on with it.

So, here we go, joining in with the lovely and talented Kate at I live, I love, I craft, I am me

1.     Door:    This caused a hell of a problem when I insisted we wanted a stable door as part of the house refurbishment.  There are not as many opportunities to use it as I might like, but in the recent heatwave having the top open helps bring what little breeze there is into the house, and both Daisy and delivery men seem to enjoy the interaction over the closed panel.

2.     11.00am:    This had me stumped, until I realised I was sitting at my desk mid-morning thinking about this, and whilst it was not eleven o'clock, it was a time that is even more magical; it was 11.11am which I always think of as a very special time.  So I grabbed the phone and took a picture of a corner of the desk, not very exciting but made me smile.

3.     Texture:     That's easy (thank you Kate).  The texture which appears as I quilt still always surprises and delights me.

4.     Shadows:    I remembered a walk with Daisy

5.     View:     Another 'thank you' to Kate for a category which could have been made for me.  After all, this is The View From . . .   Hard to select just one, many other possibilities if you click the 'view' label at the very bottom of the screen :)

6.     Own Choice:    You know what is coming here.  We did not so much choose Daisy at the rescue, Fate and Daisy chose US,  and everyone's lives have been improved as a result.  To be reminded what  a starved, emaciated little darling she was, have a look around December/November 2011.

Thursday, 26 July 2018


Having managing to break radio silence yesterday, it really is time I got myself back into the routine of blogging before too much time passes and it feels too difficult to catch up . . .

Whilst the rest of the country revels in almost unheard of warmth and sunshine,  I have spent July in a stressed 'funk' which I am only just hauling myself out of. My problem? Something as simple as the weather. No, make that “the bloody weather”. The UK is having something of a ‘wonderful summer’. Yeah, right - it might be wonderful if you are five years old and can play in streams but it has not rained properly at Bag End since the beginning of May and it is having a hell of an effect on the garden.

After ten years of pain, expense, injury and downright hard slog I finally thought I had the garden “just about complete”. Well, let’s be honest, a garden is never really complete but I was at the point where I believed I could - and intended to - kick back for the rest of the season, relax and enjoy what we have made here.  2018 was due to be my consolidation year, the season when I took a step back and reflected on the plants, the different areas, and just slowed down.

Before I went to Scotland, Management worked so very hard with me and we pretty much got to the end of the list of jobs which needed to be done. My break in the campervan was a punctuation point - working hard until I went away, the plan was that once I got back “summer” would kick in and I could loosen up, enjoy sitting reading in the garden, go for gentle walks, maybe (whisper this) learn how to be relaxed and retired. I never expected that the incredible sunny & dry weather in May would continue, and continue, and continue.

Since I returned I’ve been ‘fire fighting’ with watering plants that were in desperate need (but you cannot keep a garden this size completely hydrated with a hose, and definitely not when you are on metered water …), I have dug up and moved a few plants that were suffering really badly, I have cut back others and fixed up shade net, and in places I have just given up.  The cyclamen bed we created near the Big Pond is probably lost, and a lovely laburnum tree in the same area is completely devoid of leaf, reckon it is dead.  The Gunnera in my (plastic lined) bog bed are collapsed, scorched and sunburnt, and ordinary “tough do-ers” like astrantia, geranium, astilbe are crinkled, dried, shrivelled corpses.  Water levels in the ponds have dropped alarmingly, and in the two smaller ponds I've been forced to add water.  The 'Big Pond" is at least 12" lower than usual and rough calculations based on π r 2 suggest we've lost 25m3  of water to evaporation.  I'll say that again Twenty-Five Cubic Metres.

It is, frankly, bloody depressing and I have not been happy. To be fair, in some places the garden is managing OK, and it is obvious that the tons of organic material and thick mulches applied over the years have made a difference, but three months without rain is unheard of.  In the last week we have had a couple of showers but nowhere near enough although we might get rain tomorrow . . . but the forecast regularly says that and nothing falls out of the sky.

I have often joked we live in “wet” Cumbria, not “west” Cumbria and the plants I chose for the garden are all adapted to take that into account. Even with 5,000 litres of stored water in tubs & water butts I was completely out by the end of May. We have refilled them with hoses so goodness knows what next year’s water bill will be, but next week even that will be out because a hosepipe ban comes into force on 5th August. That makes a lot of people very angry; United Utilities have one of the worst leakage rates in the country, estimated to be the equivalent of 130 litres per household per day - that is the equivalent of me using the washing machine three times - every day.

Anyway, M. and I had a good sit down and a talk about it at the weekend and I have a sort-of-vague-amorphous-plan in my head of things I can do in future which, if this happens again, will help us (and the plants) cope.  In respect of this season, what dies, dies. It can be replaced with something more resilient.  I am not going to knock myself out in future years trying to fight the climate.   I have ideas about how to ‘weather proof’ the garden a bit, and M. and I will work on that gently over the coming months.

So I do feel less stressed and beaten back by it, but the watering is taking ages, I do the net house one day and the greenhouse the next, at least I am not having to cut the grass.  But that is why there have been no blog posts, and no Daisy updates.

However, I cannot publish this many words without some pictures, and I am not in the mood to take photos of the garden.  Here's some of Daisy who has also struggled greatly in the last couple of months.

Our current routine is for me to take her out as soon as I get up, and M. takes her for a second walk immediately after breakfast before it is too hot.  After that we hardly see her until about 5.00/5.30pm.  She is hiding away in her bed, or in a shady bit of garden if she wants to be close to one of us.

We are certain the problem is the heat and nothing more sinister because around 8.00pm each evening she goes into manic mode, wants to leap around and play and often spends much time shouting at us just because she can.  So that's the entire family who would like this heatwave to stop, pretty please.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Can anyone help me out?

Sorry for the extended radio silence.  I'd love to say it's because Bag End is alive and well and we are having too much fun to blog.  I will say that if you like - but I will be fibbing.  We are now looking at three months without proper rain and my cheerful disposition is as dried up as parts of the garden.  But enough of that particular misery, today's little problem is someone and a few dozen of his kin munching their way through the marigolds in the greenhouse.  Actually, there are three different "someone's"

Fairly certain this little bugger is a Cabbage White because I've seen them around the garden and I have brassicas (kale) in the net house which is bound to attract the little sods.

I often see moths in the greenhouse, and have found a caterpillar which might be a Winter Moth, not worried about that.

Management and I have gone cross-eyed on Google and have not identified this chap.  It is definitely a looper caterpillar, and very active & agile.  Not as big as the (possible) Winter Moth, but definitely larger than the (possible) Cabbage White.   Can anyone help please?

Sorry about all the blurry bits, I am terribly out of practise trying to take macro photos.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

What should have been a relatively straightforward drive home :)

Time to go home . . . after six days of glorious weather, fabulous gardens and an unusual amount of sitting around doing nothing it was time to get back to Management and Daisy.  Driving time back to home is about three hours, add a coffee/lunch stop . . . and I finally pulled into Bag End more than 8 hours after leaving the campsite; I got a little distracted on the way!

I was happily tootling along thinking it might be time to stop for coffee when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a tempting brown sign:

I knew this place was nearby, and the chance to stop was just too much to resist - last time I came home from this area was by way of Garlieston and the Galloway Forest Park so I missed out the section of A75 east of Newton Stewart.  The "road" to the cairns was narrower than a narrow thing (to start with I wasn't even sure it was a proper road) but there was plenty of space to park at the bottom, and a signpost which said "½ mile" so I took water, a hat and my camera and set off.  Trouble is, it wasn't half a mile, it was a lot further, and it was uphill, with very little shade and I was starting to have a sense of humour failure.  Until I realised this (a) was a proper road (b) had a parking area at the top, and (c) there was no-one there whom I might meet on my way up and their way down.  So I legged it back to the van as fast as I could, and drove up the NARROWEST road I have ever taken Bill on.  The hedges were scraping on both sides of the van at the same time . . .  But we made it and what a reward for my 'bravery".

I sent M. a picture of where I was*.  The response I got back was something along the lines of "so you'll be a while then?".  Aw bless him, knows me so well.

There are two sites, the first next to the parking and considered the most impressive because of the huge standing stones at the front.  None of my pictures even begin to do this place justice, nor can they convey the feel of the site which was still, quiet, calm and quite magical.

The second is a few minutes walk up the track, with a modern bungalow and farm buildings nestled incongruously right next to it.

Even though I knew I "ought" to get off my bottom and go home I struggled to tear myself away.  I wandered around, had the coffee I'd stopped for in the first place, wandered some more, had a late lunch, admired the view and just soaked up the gift of what had become an extra day of holiday, instead of just a travel day.

One of the things which irritates the beejeebers out of me is the insistence of archaeologists to claim that sites "definitely had ritual purpose" when they don't know anything of the sort.  I remember a wonderful section in an archaeology book I have since lost describing 23rd Century archaeologists unearthing a late C-20th building that went something along the lines of:

The internal features were strictly linear, with a 'containment area' at one end of each line, either for the people or animals who were competing.  It was clearly a sporting arena of some kind, and the huge numbers of silver-coloured metal canisters were discerned to be tokens thrown by spectators to their favourite competitor (which is why they were concentrated in certain places).  Those spectators clearly sat on wooden bleachers around the linear features because no signs remained - they had all rotted away.  

And so the 'archaeological report' went on culminating in a Big Reveal - the excavation was not a sports arena at all, but the local supermarket.  Which is why ascribing "ritual" purpose to something created thousands of years ago drives me nuts, but on this occasion , I think we can accept that interpretation 😊

* Within touching distance of a 5,000 year old burial chamber and I've got a full-strength mobile signal.  Shakes head . . . 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The end of the road

A day at the most southerly point on the Scottish mainland, thankfully in much nicer conditions than the last time I visited here.

There was a Plan.  And we all know that at Bag End "plan" is a four-letter word which usually ends up somewhere beginning with "F".  But this was not Bag End, and for once my plan worked perfectly.  The idea was simple - get up early, drive to the southern tip of the Mull of Galloway, stay all day, drive back to the campsite.  I did all the "van housekeeping" the night before (empty waste, fill fresh water, put stuff away), got up at 6.00am and was driving out of the site by 6.15.  I would have been at the lighthouse carpark by 6.30 but there were a couple of hold-ups in the road which delayed me.  Unfortunately the DashCam footage isn't very good (light coming from the wrong direction) so this is about the best there is:

I had to come to a complete halt FOUR times because of hares in the road - what an absolute gift!  A little later on the first of many walks around the isthmus I startled two more.  Six beautiful hares before breakfast, does it get much better?

Arriving so early I had the place to myself, except for one campervan; the occupants were a lovely couple who told me they often sneaked up here for a weekend.  Later in the day it was a different matter as I sat and relaxed doing a little spot of people watching.  The ones that really got me were those who, after negotiating themselves all the way down here, got out of the car, took photos whilst still within touching distance of the vehicle, and then drove off again . . .

I played tourist and went up the Lighthouse feeling stupidly pleased with myself that the 100-and-something steps did not cause any shortness of breath and was rewarded with glorious views.

The rest of the day was sitting around, walking around, sitting around some more, until I finally left around 8.00pm.  It was a blissful day and for once, something I had planned had gone exactly as I had intended (which isn't something I get to say very often!)