Sunday, 19 May 2019

Extended holiday

Back home after a lovely trip to Scotland.  Watching birds, visiting gardens, sitting around reading and relaxing, much sunshine.

It is good to be back at Bag End, but I really do not want to launch straight back into spending hours on the computer sorting photos (there are hundreds), writing blog posts.

The 'vacation' is going to be extended, and it might be a little while before I get round to blogging.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Book bargain

The campsite I am on has a little library.  £1.00 to keep, 50p to swap.

I found an absolute bargain in pristine condition, definitely worth donating more than a pound 😃

It will come in very useful at home when I am crawling around in our Pollinator Meadow!

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Nice spot for lunch

Nice spot for lunch,

and supper,

and breakfast . . .

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Coast by Campervan - Post-trip Cogitations

This is me thinking out loud, but too much writing unbroken by pictures can make a blog post hard to read.  So I've thrown in a bunch of random photos, because I can 😉.   They may, or may not, have anything to do with the words.

So, the first leg of my coastline trip went a bit wrong, nothing happened exactly to plan, the itinerary was changed on a daily basis.  But overall, I loved it.

Yes, I drove too far on the Tuesday and got really tired;
Yes, a b*st*rd lorry forced me into a hedge near Ulverston and the near-side acrylic windows got scratched;
Yes, the caravan park in Morecambe has water so stinking and full of chemicals that I did not fill the van tanks or take a shower.  But guess what? Absolutely none of it matters.

I took it easy on Wednesday and Thursday, acrylic windows scratch if you say "boo" to them and can be polished out, I always carry plenty of bottled water for drinking and I can have a decent wash in Bill and not be smelly.

The reason it was a success was I came back completely relaxed, in "holiday mode" and that feeling stayed with me a few days longer than expected.  Management was probably more confused about having a relaxed me at home than he dares admit - we both know it is not normal.

A further success was rediscovering my love of sitting watching birds.  So much so that I ordered another lens for my Canon, something I have looked at in the past and convinced myself I did not need, did not deserve, would not use;  d'uh?  (It helped that a camera store I trust and have bought from many times in the past had this lens Used, graded as "9+ Mint condition" at half the price of new.)  I have a birthday soon, and now a very nearly empty piggy bank  ☺️.   These are the first images from the new glass, in and of themselves they're not exceptional pictures, but once I have learnt how to get the best out of this lens I have high hopes for it (which will prove the weak link in the chain is the photographer 😀 )

Getting distracted here, must get back on topic:  there is still a need to revisit the drawing board for the Coast project.

When I posted about my Grand Plan on 8th April I admitted there are so many places I want to visit that I become paralysed by indecision and end up not going anywhere so taking away the decision/location part of the equation sounded like a solution.  But it was not.

It actually added more stress:
*   Stressy because driving too many miles on narrow-near-to-the-coast roads is tiring.

*   Stressy to pass somewhere unexpected which looked really interesting but not having time to stop,

*   Stressy to be somewhere absolutely lovely but feel I have to leave sooner than I’d like in order to get to my next campsite. Utterly stupid First World Problems but there we are.

And before anyone suggests that as I am in a self-contained van and I could park up in any old lay-by for the night rendering pre-booked sites are unnecessary - not going to happen.  Aside from England not being nearly as enlightened as Scotland when it comes to wild camping and it’s only permitted in a very few places, there is safety to consider and I am fundamentally a coward.  Until such time as I have much more experience and/or a change of attitude it is campsites or nothing, whether they’re big Caravan Club ones, or little “5 van” private sites.

But I still want to do this coast trip, somehow or another, just got to work out a different set of parameters.  My current thinking - which is just as likely to change as the first ideas, is that I cannot expect to both "get to a new location" and "visit interesting places" in the same day.

The first draft of “The Plan” broke England and Wales into 8 or 9 sections, and with one trip a month it was going to take a year to complete. As I write this I’m thinking “so what if it actually takes years and years, or I never quite finish” - as long as I am enjoying my trips and experiencing some lovely places, does a timescale really matter? Probably not.

This first iteration had me covering every bit of coastline, just "because",  just for completeness.  But really, if I miss a few bits out what does it matter.  In a lovely comment Kate said  " . . . .   you may wisely wish to avoid a section due to industrialisation, military zones etc",  as always she's quite right.   Having had so much pleasure at the RSPB sites, and at the Furness Abbey, it would not be unreasonable to navigate around the coast just using English Heritage sites and Birdwatching locations as my target destinations . . .  and then there are the gardens, my trips to Scotland last year reminded me how much I love to bimble around a big garden where someone else does all the work.

There is one other very important thing to be factored in:  Friends.   I have been emailing with some of the friends I would visit en route.  Tagging a visit onto my journey home short-changes everyone. My friends will get a tired me, ready to be home, and I will be clock-watching.  So I need a different way of incorporating the socialising.

Like I said, First World Problems.  Yes, I worry about the same things which concern everyone - food prices are rising at an exponential rate, our heating bill for the winter was horrendous, when the hell is this Brexit nonsense going to get sorted one way or the other?  But where shall I go on my next jaunt in a campervan isn't really of the same magnitude, is it ☺️

Friday, 10 May 2019

In other news - Dactylorhiza fuschsii

Or Common Spotted Orchid to normal folk.

It is that time of year when we traditionally crawl around the Cottage Garden lawn on our hands and knees looking for the first signs of wild orchids popping up.  The last few years I have left the grass uncut, except for a path around the edge so I can turn the tractor around, and as a result we are rewarded with Orchids, Yellow Rattle, Self Heal, Common Yarrow and all sorts of other lovelies which I would like to make more effort to record.

Three photos from June last year:

Management is something of an orchid-hunting ninja and brilliant at finding the first tiny spotted leaves, and we have taken to marking the plant locations to avoid accidental trampling (hence all the little white sticks).  So far this season we are up to 26 plants.  Happy day!!  This is about what we would expect and hopefully there will be more if it ever warms up a bit.

I do a little "hand grazing" around each plant.  Apparently in the wild the orchids are ignored by grazing cattle who eat the adjacent competing grasses and leave the orchids untouched (although these plants must be tougher than they look if they can survive ruddy great hooves).

What we absolutely did not expect was to find orchids growing in the big lawn in the Side Garden.  As long as Daisy was with us I cut that grass hard every week to try and minimise the skin irritations she was so troubled by.  It is a testament to the power of nature that somewhere underground these little bulbs have survived and neither Mr Ninja or I could believe it when he found the first two.  At the time we were walking around picking of dandelion heads before they could go to seed.  Our immediate idea was to dig out the biggest divots we could possibly manage and move them to the Cottage Garden for safety.

That was before Mr Ninja walked around some more . . . the latest count on the big lawn is 44.  FORTY-FOUR !  Yes I am shouting!  Holy hollyhocks - who'd a thunk it?

Clearly I am not going to dig that many massive holes in this lawn so a cunning plan was hatched.  I keep saying I want to cut down on the workload at Bag End, and what better way to do that than drastically reduce the amount of lawn to be cut?  At the end of last year I got rid of two bits of grass (next to the Coppice and next to the Big Pond) which has helped a lot, but why not go further?   If we have found 44 so far, how many more might there be by the end of the month?  Starting today, I am going to mow just a metre-wide strip around the edge and leave the rest to nature - if anyone asks I shall call it a Pollinator Meadow.

(Those orchids which have settled themselves in the "mowing zone" will get moved - we've dug them up before successfully, and as long as you excavate a really big mass of soil around the bulb they seem to accept the disturbance.)

Rather excitingly, this one might not be Common Spotted Orchid.  Without pronounced spots, there is a slim chance this is Dactylorhiza purpurella, the Northern Marsh Orchid.  Until it flowers I won't know.

Maybe a new project for the summer really will be studying and documenting all the wild flowers which are growing naturally in our clover-and-moss-filled green bits?  With all the time I "save" by not cutting the grass what excuse do I have?  It is no secret that I have not been "in love" with the garden in recent weeks, perhaps this might be what I need to reconnect with it?

Orchid identification - a whole lifetime's work if you want it . . .

Natural History Museum - Identification Guide

Natural History Museum - Beginner's Guide

Wild Orchids - Britain and Ireland

Thursday, 9 May 2019


Blogging seems to have fallen by the wayside, not intentionally, but there are neither enough hours in the day nor sufficient energy in those hours to accomplish everything.  Especially when "everything" includes a non-characteristic amount of sitting around reading or doing very little.  But progress is being made, generally slowly.  I have been waiting for a moment when inclination and weather line up to take some photos, I may be waiting quite some while.  Better to document with cloudy and dull photos rather than let the backlog get bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

After my last post I went down to the drive and threw myself into the task of shifting the pile of chippings.  I filled buckets and Management carried every one of them by hand to the edge of the big bed which is becoming a lovely impenetrable shrubbery ***

We didn't bother to count but think there were at least 8 'rounds' of 20 buckets . . . The whole task would have been a lot easier if I had done it a couple of months ago before all the new growth came through, but I didn't.  The great "take-out" from the job is that there were virtually no weeds to remove which, in an area this size, is something remarkable.  I'm putting that down to the fact that every couple of years this area gets a mulch of 4" - 6" of material.

I'm going to count this as a finish, although it is a never-ending job:  straightening out all the things which get dumped on my sewing room table, and straightening out a lot of the things which get dumped on my desk.

Also finally finished, over the course of many days, is all the quilt binding.  The Christmas table runners were pieced in December last year.    The quilting happened in early March,  with the binding machined on a couple of weeks later.

So an elapsed time of about 22 weeks is pretty good by my standards.  The little floral quilts were started on 10th January, only 18 weeks from beginning to end which is supersonic speed!  I have washed them both to get a head start on looking 'lived in'.

I watched an awful lot of snooker last week, which combined with sitting bent over whilst sewing didn't do my back any good at all, perhaps one day I will learn not to binge-sew or binge-TV-watch.  Neither is good for me.

Knowing how long it normally takes me to do any clothing alterations, I've surprised myself by changing the sleeves on one of the new shirts I bought at the beginning of April.  The cuffs were too tight so I took off the internal tab which I was never going to use for rolling up the sleeve, fixed some of it to the cuff and added a pretty button for decoration (and to cover up the existing and now defunct buttonhole).  Oh, for some warm weather so that I can actually wear it.

I have [sort of] finished straightening up the greenhouse for the season.  Big decisions made about not growing lots of things we normally grow, partly in order to keep the work down and partly because I just don't have the motivation this year.  I know that's grief, I know it will pass, and using the greenhouse differently is just as valid as growing too many tomatoes years after year.

The net house is much tidier than it was, although I still need to fix up mesh to support runner beans.  Of course, actually sewing some bean seeds would be a good start . . .

I found a great value anti-flyscreen for Bill.  "Proper" campervan ones are about £140 - stuff that for a game of tiddlywinks.  25 quid from Amazon was far more attractive but I needed to do something about fixing it.    As I was making it up as I went along and concentrating there are virtually no photos.

A day's sewing to make a channel filled with magnets (advantage of van being metal bodied 😀) and a completely unnecessary but great fun 'pretend bunting' pelmet.  All I need now is some hot weather which necessitates sitting with the van doors open.

On another mad day in the garden I completely weeded and mulched the little cyclamen bed.  There should not be foxgloves and aqueligia growing strongly in here but they are too pretty to remove and I am not a hard-hearted enough gardener to pull them out until flowering is over and the plants have set seed.

There's probably more but I can't think what it is.  But at least I now have a record for myself of what I've done in the last couple of weeks.

***  It was pointed out recently (in a kind way) that finding your way around Bag End when new here was a bit tricky.  I'm in the process of annotating the lovely aerial photo which Management got for me,  and will republish it when I am done.