Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Not quite what we planned for today

We ~know~ we have already have an amazing supply of timber which will provide woodburner fuel for a few years to come.

We ~know~ it only takes the pair of us a couple or three days to cut and split to refill the log store.

We also know you never, ever, say 'No' when someone offers you more . . . so when our tree surgeon said "I've got a barn full of split logs which I was going to sell by the dumpy bag, but I need to get the barn empty by Christmas, are you interested?" we said "yes please!"   The first load arrived unexpectedly just after breakfast.

Whilst we were sorting out where it would all go, a second load sneaked in  . . .

The plans to spend a few hours today decluttering and tidying up inside went straight out with the wind.  First clear up at the back of the house . . .  we've stored wood here before, many years ago, and it stays remarkably rain-free but still gets plenty of breeze through it.

Ever since the 'bird feeder blitz' of a couple of weeks ago (Daisy's skin is fine now, thankfully), I have been threatening to move all the feeders some distance and the sunflower seeds relocated across the road a few days ago.  It took the tits and finches about 36 hours to find the new location and (I think) that, combined with blocking off various cut-throughs, seems to have already dramatically reduced the amount of time cats spend sitting waiting to pounce.

(at this point it would be good to have a photo of the sunflower feeder in hedge but it's too dark to go and take one now)

With the other feeders also due to find a home in the field hedge, it makes sense for all the food to be stored on the drive, not at the back of the house.

Paving slabs relocated (Wayne is due at some stage to lay them where they'll be far more useful than in a pile against a wall) and pallets on the ground, the Little Red Tractor once again earned her keep Big Time as we moved next year's fuel to where it can dry out.  Most of this is sycamore which we're very happy with, once seasoned it burns beautifully.  Unfortunately, freshly cut as this is, it's rather heavy.

Fill buckets, move buckets, empty buckets, rinse and repeat, and repeat, and repeat.  Not sure how many trips I made - definitely more than 20, could have been 30+.  On more than one occasion we thanked the Little Red because moving the logs by wheelbarrow would have been a killer.

We've also filled one builders' bag and the second one won't have much room in it by the time we're done.

Thanks to blasted Daylight Saving Time, which I have never been a fan of, we ran out of light and did not finish.  Another hour and we'd have been nearly done . . . which is irritating because it's due to rain tomorrow.

M. is completely knackered and his back has not enjoyed the bending and twisting.  I am irritatingly energised by being outside the entire day and by how much we've done although I'll probably pay for it tomorrow - we've both moved our own body weight many times over since breakfast!   All that remains now is to enjoy supper and then settle down to watch the Bake Off final.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

A new raised bed

I like raised beds - they're convenient, easy to manage and suit lots of different types of planting. Hopefully our latest mad-cap idea is going to work and suit the planting requirements of one of my favourite garden plants - Primula florindae, (Himalayan primrose or giant cowslip if you prefer).  Some of my plants struggled massively in the drought this summer;  whilst they can cope with sun (unlike many other members of the primula family which are generally woodland plants and like some dappled shade), they cannot cope with sun AND dry roots.  However, the plants I have growing at the edge of the Top Pond which were able to keep their toes damp did fairly well.

So Management and I have cooked up what might be one of our daftest garden plans yet - a raised bed on/in the pond!

A small (by our standards) bed between the big deck and the pebble area which is the frogs' favourite spawn laying area was growing nothing particularly special - too many flag iris, a dwarf reed and a couple of the carex which we gave the heave-ho to in other areas back in June (hmm, still have those photos in the backlog . . . )

There was cutting back (easy), digging out (surprisingly easy) followed by the filling of holes with numerous bags of 20mm stones which Management went to the garden centre to collect (easy but bloomin' heavy!)

And whilst I moved large bits of tree trunk which had been saved for exactly this job, the poor chap went off to get another half dozen bags of stones when it became clear that the first six were  just not going to be enough!

In crisp morning light today it all looks quite gorgeous, and we've very, very pleased.

There are plans to dismantle a raised bed in the vegetable area which is really surplus to my growing needs (and its removal will make turning the little tractor round much easier),  that is where the soil will come from to fill this.   Fingers crossed this will work - I am hoping the Primula will be able to put roots down into the always moist (unless we have a drought) pond margin but not be saturated.  Once these gorgeous plants start flowering in June the blooms last for weeks and weeks and the scent is divine.  The flag iris only flowered for a week or so and then look tatty until autumn . . .

I already have the plants waiting, and if we get a few more gorgeous autumn days like today (and our muscles recover from all the bending and lifting yesterday!) then I might just have this whole job finished before next year.  Famous last words?

It took bribery with biscuits to get Daisy to stand in the bed:

Small Person was a very bouncy (and therefore blurred) bouncing-around-dog this morning.

Even after all these years I still am amazed when I see her in this blue coat.  It belonged to Ollie and when Daisy came to us the coat was so much too big* I nearly gave it away - I guess 'small person' is now Big Girl 😍

* as in two sizes too big and falling off her

Thursday, 25 October 2018

After much cogitation

The lawn at the far side of the Big Pond has been a problem ever since we created it.  A deliberate decision was made not to put a drain from the pond to take surplus water and I am still happy with that choice, but it does mean that this bit of ground can be fairly damp much of the time.

It is on a slight slope, despite much work to try and level it off, a right b*gger to mow, and no-one uses it for anything.  I've threatened on many occasions to "do something with it" and finally that time has come.

Rightly or wrongly, we've decided to do away with the grass, and make the area a huge bed, with as many trees in as I can reasonably get away with - Management has put in a Special Request for an oak tree . . .   On the upside there will no longer be a requirement for weekly mowing, or the constant battle with edging to stop the grass growing into the pond margin.  Covered in bark chip, and with a distinct likelihood of a log pile or two we should create a more diverse environment for frogs, newts and anything else which wants to live in this part of the garden, and with time some extra dappled shade will be a great place for hostas, hydrangea and the like.  Of course, I might just try to turn it all into a giant Gunnera bog . . .

Logan Botanic Garden:

On the downside there will be a bit of weeding, and additional trees will put extra leaves into the pond each Autumn, but we've decided that there will be a net reduction in the amount of work, and probably a big gain horticulturally.

So the grass had a final to-within-an-inch-of-its-death cut, logs that were not doing a very good job of making an edge were moved, and barriers were erected to keep Daisy away.

Then came the glyphosate.  I hate doing it but we used a watering can to be certain of no spray being blown into the pond.   In another couple of weeks our tree surgeon is coming to take down four silver birch which, sadly, have reached the end of their useful life here and we will cover the lawn with as thick a layer of chippings as possible.  And then ask Simon to bring another couple of truck loads when he has them.  Should be ready for planting next Spring . . .

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Tuesday, 23 October 2018


Two sofas each six foot long,
or warm and soft VetBed in an elevated position so all activity can be monitored (with a window propped slightly ajar so we can sniff the outside without being in a draught):

So where does she insist on settling down?

Right underfoot where we cannot get to the fridge or move around without standing on her . . . I do love my dog 😍😍

Thursday, 18 October 2018

First thing, first frost

First thing this morning the valley floor was filled with mist, but as the sun rose it soon started to burn off. We are forecast clear blue skies and sunshine all day so it's outside shortly to get on with hedge cutting.

We'll need to wrap up to do so, there's not much wind but what there is has come from the east so it is a tad on the nippy side - the first frost of the coming winter on the grass and windscreens.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

We were going to have a quiet day

A few weeks ago I had a big clear up around the bird feed area.  It was a hot and sticky day and I expect on more than a couple of occasions I pulled my hair back.  A few hours later the back of my neck felt like it was on fire and on inspection the skin was covered in bumps, inflamed and it took a few days and a lot of Germolene until everything settled down.

We concluded that I picked up something nasty on my gloves from beneath the bird feeders which transferred to my skin - thank goodness I was wearing gloves, thank goodness I didn't wipe across the front of my face or near my eyes.

Fast forward to today.   We noticed Daisy had chewed and nibbled at the skin above her tail until is is sore and bleeding.  I know she's a 'scratchy dog' at the best of times but this was not normal - neither the location of the itchiness or the way she has bitten at herself,  poor little girl, we felt awful for her and I doubt she was very happy either (and don't even ask when she managed to do this much damage to herself without either of us noticing or hearing her).

Whilst it was relatively quick to clean up her skin and apply some ointment, it was important to work out what had caused the problem, rather than just dealing with the symptoms. Management is great at spotting non-obvious connections.  He immediately said "it's like the back of your neck".  Which makes perfect sense . . . the neighbours' s*dding murderous cats sit behind the bird feeders every day like they own the place, and Daisy spends much time diving into that area to evict them.  So there is a logic to thinking that she's come into contact with whatever substance caused my skin problem.

For sometime I have been thinking that maybe the bird feeder area needs to move/change.  It is difficult to keep perfectly clean and hygienic.  When it affected me I shrugged and decided not to crawl around on my hand and knees in the area.  When it affects Daisy:  Something.  Must.  Be.  Done.  Immediately.

I got busy dismantling the carefully constructed Bag End Bird Buffet, Management set to with the Karcher and a very stinky solution of Armillatox Soap Based Outdoor Cleaner.  It looks great now.

Before and after pictures, you don't realise how dirty something has become until you clean it :(

For the time being we've moved the feeders next to the dead Rowan tree;  the jury is out as to whether they move even further.

A possible side benefit might be that we have rotted-up the perfect stealth location for the cats . . .  if nothing else they probably won't like the smell of Armillatox.

We live in hope  🤬

We had planned on having a quiet day, but things seldom work out the way we intended.  Whilst M. had the Karcher out he also cleaned the little deck outside the kitchen, plus the black deck next to the Big Pond which was getting slippery.

Whilst he did that I made a start on trimming the hornbeam hedge next to the drive.  Until I sliced through the electric cable of the hedge trimmer (whoops, that's why you use an RCD outside!), and it started raining.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Clearing up after Callum

We got away fairly lightly from Storm Callum.  The large leaves of the Gunnera took a beating but it won't be long before they would die back or get frosted so no harm there.  More unexpected was looking out of the bedroom window on Sunday morning and thinking "err, that doesn't look right".

The wind had come from a different direction than usual during the storm, got underneath the big Clematis Montana and broken many of the cable ties holding the mesh down.

Now the honeysuckle is gone, perhaps I ought to finish painting the wall . . . 

Half the plant was flipped over on itself, but thankfully it was very quick to pull it back into place, and Management refixed the mesh.  Hopefully that's not a problem we will have to deal with very often.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with the leaf blower and I used the lawn mower to pick up the leaves.   That's a job we have to keep on top of at this time of year anyway.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Change of plans

This weekend was absolutely determined not to go to plan.  In fact, it stuck two fingers up at me in the rudest of ways and said something along the lines of "how dare you think you can make plans!"
Plan A was to dicker around and have a lovely time on my own whilst Management was away at Star Camp. Plan A got totally horlixed on Wednesday.

Plan B was an unexpected opportunity to get away in the campervan which cropped up on Friday morning, only as far as Eskdale (about an hour away) but such a lovely location I jumped at the chance.

So I rushed around Friday afternoon to change the absolutely useless central glovebox in the van (which Peugeot chose to fit) for the much nicer drink bottle & phone holder which comes as standard from Fiat.  For those who don't know, the Fiat Ducato, Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Relay are almost identical vehicles with a few 'personalisations' by the different companies once the base vehicle has left the main Sevel factory.   I have been meaning to make this change for ages, and the replacement kit arrived this week but I hadn't been in a hurry to install it.

I am guessing when these are factory fitted there are no front seats to make access not only difficult but almost impossible for anyone much above a size 10.  Access issues and physical contortions aside, it's not a difficult retrofit (getting the old glovebox out was the hardest bit) and I managed nearly all of it without having to ask Management for much help.  However, as a result of being squashed and twisted between the front seats I woke Saturday absolutely crippled with back spasm.  I've had it before, I know how to fix it, but there will be 72 hours of significant discomfort and a lot of moaning and groaning before I am fully mobile again.

Sadly I cancelled my trip - sitting down to drive, and then sitting in someone else's motorhome for much of the day having a good catchup would have been impossible.  I was well looked after by M. who walked Daisy, fixed lunch and helped me get up every time I got stuck, and when the painkillers kicked in I came up with a Plan C and cut up some fabric which at least distracted me and was something I could do standing up.  First task was to make a backing by piecing together Halloween themed yardage which I did not use in the Trip Around the World quilt.

For far too many years I have hoarded a lovely collection of 'dog and cat' fabric - I know that I bought some of these FQs at an American quilt show in 2003 and they haven't even been unfolded,  ooops.

It took relatively little time to iron the material and cut everything into 3" strips.  At this point there was much cogitating* about how I would sew them together and at one point M. helped me make a lovely mock-up but like an idiot I tidied it up before taking a picture.

* that is a euphemism for standing with another mug of coffee moving fabrics around going "what if this ....." or "maybe what if that . . ." about a dozen times!

Storm Callum descended upon us (who the heck thinks up these names?), and I did a silly amount of mindless sewing.  When the top is complete it can have a post of its own with more pictures.

The weather went from disgusting:

to blue sky and fluffy clouds (24 hours after picture below):

the level in the Derwent rose and rose, but did not break its banks (photo data says this was taken at 2.20pm - dark, gloomy and the lights were on):

our road turned into a small river:

lunchtime visitors were thoroughly blown about and disgruntled:

by suppertime on Saturday I had probably the longest strip of fabric I have ever sewn - we measured it at 1,312" (109.3 feet, 33.6 metres!)

and Daisy ignored as much of it as she possibly could:

until she decided that I had ignored her for far too long and played 'helicopter' on the piecing!