Thursday, 23 April 2020

Time for a little "corona-happy"

So much doom and gloom - but this post is dedicated to some happier news.

The first is dear to my heart - horticulture.  You may have seen in the news that B&Q are re-opening all their stores, according to their press statements "because they have now seen how supermarkets can protect staff and customers".  Lordy, I never thought I'd be delighted that a Big Box store is open for business but there you are!  Not every branch is open yet, there is a list here.

But the real happy is this extract from their press statement.

The horticulture industry is going to be devastated by CV-19.  There are so many small companies, family-run nurseries who may spend 12 months getting plants ready to sell in the 'golden period' between Easter and May Bank Holiday  Those few short weeks are when many of these firms take in 80%-90% of their annual revenue.  And if you are a business growing annual bedding plants (for which you have already bought seed, compost, pots and labour) you cannot suddenly resurrect that stock when the country reopens for business, whenever that might be.

Closer to home, but also "gardening happy" was a speculative trip into Wilko where I found:

And their seed racks were completely re-stocked so I now have some quick-to-grow leaves which are a lovely addition to a lunchtime salad (although both the beet and chard can be left to get quite big if you can either resist the new leaves, or sow enough!)

It rather took my mind off the shock of the price rises in Sainsbury's . . .

On Wednesday I weeded a couple of the beds in the big fruit cage, one in particular where raspberries have failed was a dreadful mess and as the soil is quite dry and firm, this morning my hands really felt the effect of the digging.  So I decided to have another painting session whilst my hands recovered from the latest abuse.  Logically plants need attention before the wood of the vegetable beds, but all this paint makes me smile so much that logic went out of the window.

One litre of "pepto-bismol pink" on the bed, which has deepened the colour beautifully - it now really punches the eyeballs!   I used the dregs at the bottom of that can to give this old chair a first coat, will do more another day.

The blue is Cuprinol's "Forget me knot" and it is drop-dead gorgeous.  I'm not being sponsored for this {grin} but the colour is quite perfect:  it is not too blue and in your face, but not too pale and wishy washy.  I don't think I have ever been to Cornwall, but it is the colour that my imagination associates with summer holidays in the far south-west.  More coats needed . . .

And finally, I saw something online this week and shamelessly copied it (and I cannot give credit, because I have no idea where I found it).  My bag contains a bottle of water, a nut/cereal/protein bar thingy and a bag of crisps, not my personal choice for a snack but it is not for me. The first driver who accepted the gift was speechless that I even thought to do this.

The second was equally grateful, but I still feel THEY have done more for me than I am doing for them.

But quite possibly the biggest happy today has been SQUEEEEEE ! ! !  The return of “The Bee”.   
Recorded it last night and am now off for immerse myself in all things fabric, Patrick and Esme.

Three jobs = 'tick' ✔︎

Thank you all for such thoughtful comments on Tuesday, so it's not just me then?

When you are isolated it is easy to think you're the only one who feels like this.  The media lurches between the end of the world and yay, look how brilliantly these people are coping.  When you're not suffering as badly as some, it is also easy to think "but what have I got to be worried about, what reason/excuse do I have for feeling awful?" and then adding guilt to the mix.

Scarlet posted something this week, I'm nicking a bit of it:

I think this is the first time I have seen some feelings written down: overwhelmed, shocked.  It helps.

But enough of the navel gazing . . . at some currently unimaginable (and if Boris has his economically destructive way - very far off)  point in the future lockdown has to be lifted at which point Bill and I may be out of here like the proverbial Rattus norvegicus in a water channel, therefore concentrating on the garden is the way to go right now.  The black humour, which is generally not remotely funny, may have been heard to mutter  " this all my bloody fault, been bitching for ages about not having time to get round all the garden, now I have all the time and weather  I could ask for".

Today's report is the conclusion of a couple of v-e-r-y long running and outstanding jobs.  The first is the removal, refurbishment and replacement of all the outside lights at the front of the house.  I won't embarrass Management by mentioning how long it has taken, but winter and bad weather may have extended the elapsed time of the project more than either of us would have liked.  Oh, and deciding to change the way some of the lights were wired and switched also delayed things whilst M. researched and found out how the heck to do it all without electrocuting anyone.  I am delighted to report he was successful on all counts.

They look great, and when it is warm enough to sit out in the evenings I now have a lovely selection of lights to read by 🙂

(yes, I know that wall ~really~ needs painting)

Horrible job number 2 was relocating one of the IBC tanks.  We eventually got hold of the required PostCrete, I dug holes in what was once a vegetable bed, he did welding stuff, I applied paint, and then we both struggled, winced and grimaced at the weight of the damn thing which had to be manoeuvred into place and set completely level.  But it is done, thank Dog.  When I am in the mood for carpentry I'll be putting a new 'divider' in the bed and sort out the soil, oh - and probably a trellis to screen the tanks from the path, but for now neither of us want anything to do with steel or 1,000 litre water tanks!

I know, pressure washer required . . .

Not outstanding for so long, but pretty-much-completely-finish is the middle (pink) vegetable bed. It has all been weeded and mulched, the strawberries have been sorted out, and even though I have not even sown runner bean seeds (too early, too cold), I could not resist setting up the weld mesh I use to support the climbers.

Waiting for a new home somewhere else (which hasn't been weeded yet)

It would be nice to think that my food growing abilities could match the neatness and organisation of the landscaping but am not holding my breath!  History (and lack of yields in the past) does not give me massive confidence but the joy of gardening is that every year you can have another go . . .

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Hidden anxiety?

I'm just back from a trip to Morrisons.  Honestly, life might be easier if we ate processed crap with a long shelf-life.  But we do not - every meal contains far more than our "5 a day" which means each week I get through a fairly large quantity of fresh vegetables none of which last for ages.  So this morning it was off to the grocery store, and I cannot complain - I did not have to queue for long to get in, people kept their distance and were friendly, the fruit/veg section was [mostly] well stocked and I was able to buy enough of everything on my list.

Paid, came home, put it all away.  But whilst the fridge looks 'normal' the experience of making it so was nothing like normal.  Last night when I compiled a list the small shreds of anxiety began to creep in:  will I have to queue for ages, will they have everything we want, will some idiot get too close or cough in front of me? Add to that spraying the trolley with shop-provided disinfectant and regularly spraying my hands with a bottle I now carry, going out for food now carries a low level of discomfort, anxiety, stress and takes twice as long as usual.   But aren't I lucky to have to go through it all?  The food I wanted was available and I have the money to pay for it,  and whilst I am healthy & fit I'll go out each week and leave the delivery slots for people who really need them.

As I go to the farm every week for our fresh eggs I am now picking up extras for neighbours. Management and I try to be fairly sanguine in our attitude to the pandemic, but talking - from a distance - to folk when I drop off their eggs shows me how really frightened some people are.  Their anxiety levels are much higher than mine.

And they do not have these beauties to gaze upon, a sure-fire cure for stress and worry:

Fritillaria meleagris, Snake's Head Fritillary.  Like so many other plants they have bloomed their little hearts out this season and are now going to seed.  Protected inside the box hedge of the bulb bed they are slowly multiplying year on year as it is one area where I am not tempted to accidentally weed out the seedlings (which look like a single blade of grass . . . phone included for scale).

So I'll leave you with far too many pretty pictures, and go and get changed - more garden work awaits.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Magnolia stellata

Rescued so many years ago from the "I'm nearly dead, but some idiot is going to buy this pot at half price" shelf in Aldi, this year the Magnolia is probably the best I have ever seen her:-

A glimpse on Gardener's World a couple of weeks ago makes me think this might be "Ballerina" but the name does not really matter, it is an early season beauty. I am liking Adam Frost taking a lead with presenting . . . and his cat who is taking even more of the limelight; whilst I have always been a fan of Monty his Longmeadow garden irritates the h*ll out of me* so maybe it is a time for change.  Lots of things will change in the future, why not the bastion of British gardening?

* because I find it increasingly irrelevant to how normal people garden

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Easter reviewed

Hmm, the Easter "holiday" is over . . . it was strange.  Strange for everyone I am sure.  We never go anywhere near the fells on a Bank Holiday so the CV-19 movement restrictions should not have made this weekend feel any different.  But they did . . . and none of this is going away any time soon so deep breath, pull up big girl panties, and get on with it - one day at a time.

One day at a time - wise advice shared by a dear friend recently.  And I honestly think it is the only way to live at the moment.  Normally we are all always planning - what will we do next week, at the weekend, when the weather allows?  Now our options are simple:  we are here unless I pop out for fresh vegetables and milk, so there is absolutely no point planning anything.  And with that in mind, Easter was very quiet, very "chilled".

I was physically tired from six busy days in the vegetable patch but that's OK, it seems to be how I work best - a concentrated burst, recovery, and then another busy spell.  There has been reading, sitting around, I continue to watch a couple of episodes of the West Wing each evening, up to series 5 now for the nnnnth time.  Glorious writing, all hail Aeron Sorkin 😊.  There has not been housework, sorting out of dusty piles of paperwork, or manic sewing of facemasks (which seems to be a really big thing in America at present).

I did manage a couple of outdoor things, including a Greenhouse Hack that has been planned for a little while:  Long story short:

*Additional wooden batten above the orange & yellow beds (that's the black bit which needs painting).
*Net curtain wire strung fairly tightly between uprights.
*Perfect supports for fleece to protect seedlings when we have a frost.

Because we will have many nights of frost, I have had frost as late as June since moving up here, and as early as October.  There are probably only three months a year when I can be as certain as you can be about anything that there will NOT be frost.  Which is not fair, but it is what it is.

(and seeing how disgusting the second picture was, I washed as much of the greenhouse outside as I can reach, am going to need the hose/pressure washer to do the rest)

Last night was forecast -1˚ or -2˚.  In the greenhouse both thermometers recorded 0.5˚ (despite it reaching the high F 90's in the afternoon.

I've sown a few more packets of seeds, trying hard to spread them out so that I do not have to prick out / pot on dozens all at the same time.  Mostly perennials, a little lettuce and spinach, thankfully I bought runner bean seeds a couple of months ago but it is still too cold for them.  It is too late to start chilli and peppers - as I expected to be away in the van for most of the summer, earlier in the year I did not sow anything which would have required Management to water in my absence.  Sainsbury's and Wilko are pretty much out of vegetables seeds now, and there is no point growing things we do not usually eat.

Improved the greenhouse seating a little, still not perfect but good for a quick perch, which is all I generally tend to do.

Not for eating, but we are getting close to being overrun with Sempervivum which does seem to love the greenhouse environment.

Wrapped the gunnera up last night, but with no rain for the last month it has not yet grown a huge amount and I may have to start watering.  Yes, I know the pond has a massive algael bloom - no point picking it out, the tadpoles are growing fast will eat nearly all of it.