Friday, 29 May 2020

πŸ’₯ Osprey Newsflash πŸ’₯

I have been checking in with the Loch Arkaig osprey every day for the last month.  Over the past couple of days the female bird, Aila, has been adding to the nest cup, bringing back what are nearly small logs on some occasions, lots of moss, and building things up.

I just stopped in for my usual pre-bedtime check to see how the pair are and on the edge of the nest is half an egg shell!!!

Making good use of the rewind facility I can see that the first chick hatched a little after 2.00pm this afternoon.

 In this picture you can just see it on the left of the other two eggs.

When Louis (male) came back to the nest with food a little later it was clear how strongly the chick was moving to try and get to the fish.

In 2019 the first egg was laid on the same day (23 April) but did not hatch until 1st June, so this little one is early.  Perhaps the endless good weather has helped?  Eggs are laid three days apart but the next hatching could be as early as tomorrow or Sunday . . .

This is so much more exciting than watching my pond πŸ€ͺ

Quite rightly, for the safety of the birds, if I was in Scotland I'd not be able to see the nest, get close to it, or have a better view than I am blessed with from my desk.  Still doesn't stop me wanting to drive north - bloody lockdown  πŸ˜¬πŸ˜¬

Blisteringly hot

So hot this afternoon that even I was driven indoors to cool off - and that happens very rarely. Earlier today I heard someone on Radio 4 say that Glasgow was forecast to be warmer than Rome this afternoon - I believe them.

Rain is noticeable by its absence.  Yorkshire Water are already threatening hosepipe bans and today United Utilities wrote to tell me to be careful with water . . . honestly dears, at the prices you charge do you think I am not already very careful?

There is nothing I can do about the water level in the Big Pond, it's too large an area for any of our tanks to make enough difference for it to be worthwhile emptying them all.  But this afternoon I did empty one of our remaining butts into the smallest pond in the Cottage Garden.  It was worth it just to listen to the trickling flow.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Repair, re-use, recycle

It is entirely possible that “someone” has been taking Sewing Bee too seriously . . .

But these are Management’s most favourite, most comfortable pair of working jeans, used so much that the bum had worn away in three places.  He says they are still comfy and hopes he will get another year out of them.

And it was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on Sunday morning when I did not feel like going into the garden.

The 'organ donor':

Monday, 18 May 2020

A couple of things missing for the last eight weeks . . .

Eight weeks!  No, not the length of time since our lives changed but how long since we had a drop of precipitation fall from the sky at Bag End.  I know other parts of the country have had a good soaking but there has been nothing here.  This is how low the Top Pond had got before I emptied one of the 1,000 litre IBC tanks:

The staining on those big stones at the far side show where the water level should be:

The Little Pond in the Cottage Garden received a much needed 200 litres from the water butt at the front of the house.

The Big Pond level is down about 8" - 10", the planting shelves are completely out of the water and it will take more than a couple of large tanks to make any difference.

Last night, thankfully, we had a bit of rain but not nearly enough.  Looking at the 'new' level of the big tanks this morning there is barely any change.  I keep thinking "this can't last" but that is what lots of us thought about lockdown when that started . . . it is a very strange year and it could well get a lot more strange 😩

The other thing missing since March is any contact with the sewing machine or fabric.

Making quilts has always been a balm, a place of creative joy and fulfillment (even when things are going wrong!)  I can look at any quilt I have made over the last 20 years and know exactly what was happening around me whilst it was being sewn.  I might not be able to articulate that to you, I probably do not even want to 😊, but deep inside I can remember what I was doing, what I was feeling, where Ollie or Daisy were . . .

Which is why I have not been able to sew recently.  Anything I made now would be 'tainted' with the worry, uncertainty, fear of what is happening to our world during this pandemic.  Sure, if I had not decided to work my socks off in the garden I could be using up fabric, making pretty things, keeping busy but I would end up hating everything I made - if I finished any of it at all.

However we are now being advised that a 'face covering' should be worn in some places, and after a lot of rummaging around online - and some false starts - I have found a pattern which works for me and have sewn masks for Management and myself.

I feel very sorry for inexperienced sewers - some of the patterns and YouTube videos around at present are complete rubbish.  But with a love of The Sewing Bee, and all things Patrick Grant I would recommend this article at The Foldline:   Patrick Grant Campaign   and out of all the tutorials on that page, the one which worked for me was by Dhurata Davies.

If you cannot sew at all, then have a look at Patrick's Big Community Sew project, and scroll down to the video from Peter, one of this year's Bee contestants - incredibly easy to make and the guy is a natural on camera.

For someone with claustrophobia, wearing it is not a bundle of joy,  but at least it will rot up any facial recognition cameras I might wander in front of!

Saturday, 16 May 2020

The many (gardening) uses for weld mesh

After my epic compost cleaning day I have needed some downtime.  So here's one we made earlier at the beginning of the week.

The eagle eyed will have noticed that not only have the big raised beds acquired paint and compost, but the edges have been topped off with a low section of weld mesh.

The weld mesh on its own is only half the plan: browse Pinterest for a while, or look at the vegetable beds in Monty Don's garden and it is hard not to fall in love with charmingly rustic edging around the plants.  Not wishing to bankrupt us sourcing wattle panels I've come up with a much cheaper Plan B, and whilst it requires a bit of work things are going well so far.

Cutting an appropriately sized section of cheapo split bamboo screening, removing the 'spare' strips of bamboo, twisting wires and bending them over, fitting the panel, securing it with small cable ties . . . all takes a lot longer to do than it does to write about but I am loving the result.  Apart from appearance, the idea is that this edge will stop the birds kicking shredded bark onto the paths when they rummage around, and also provide protection from wind and maybe a little shelter from the almost nightly frosts we have had this month.

As it is pretty much blackbird proof the strawberries only need netting across the top to protect them from the hungry hoards.

More bamboo screen has been fixed to weld mesh which surrounds the two IBC tanks, it has improved the appearance no end, and I've been wanting to put something between the lovely Magnolia stellata and the trellis for years so extended the bamboo past the tanks. Eventually there will be some timber battens for extra stability, but I haven't painted them yet πŸ˜‰

Overflow - still needs to be directed to the drain on the other side of the path.

My 'welding wizard' made some panels sized to fit perfectly at the edge of the Coppice to try and contain a lovely but vigorous Mallow (at least, I think it is mallow - that is certainly what I was told when it was gifted, but the leaves are so deeply cut that I am having doubts.  I will have to pay a bit more attention when it flowers this year unless there's someone who knows about these things. . . hint, hint).  It is something of a thug but grows so tall on our rich soil that it ends up flopping all over the place.

He has also welded legs onto flat panels for the Cottage Garden to try and keep the Crocosmia in place.  I meant to split/move both clumps before they started growing too much but with no rain for eight weeks that ship has sailed for another season . . .

Friday, 15 May 2020

Compost, and contamination

We have been constantly busy the last seven/eight weeks (losing track of time here😜), taking “advantage” of being in lockdown to work on garden projects that we usually find an excuse not to make a priority, even though we want them done.

A big job has been the refurbishment of our vegetable beds which have not had much TLC over the last few years.  That net house was a great idea but it did not just restrict the birds' access, it blocked mine too and I am surprised how little I miss it.  Along with weeding and brightly coloured paint was the need to top up soil levels using home-made compost.  We are trying hard to empty one of the big compost bays in order that I can turn the middle bay to access all the lovely goodness I know is at the bottom.

And it was going so well, too well in fact, because we hit a problem . . .

A problem which started about 4 years ago and was caused by a friend who was having some building work done which involved moving nearly everything in their very small garden, including the contents of two compost ‘daleks’.  Our friend offered to bring the semi-composted contents and add them to my heap; the stuff was going to have to be bagged anyway, so it made sense to empty them here rather than at the council dump.  I said “yes” but I now wish I had not.  Whilst there was certainly lots of vegetation which has rotted down there was also (unseen at the time) plastic - tiny shredded bits of plastic.  “Someone” (and I suspect it was our friend’s partner) has shredded a vast quantity of [we’re guessing] window envelopes which were made of a very durable plastic.  And as I remember LP semi-turning this heap for me at one point the bloody stuff has been distributed far and wide.

Add to that a humungous quantity of tea bags whose plasticised paper takes decades to disintegrate and you can see the sense of humour failure which has accompanied the long slow job of picking out as much of the rubbish as possible.  I know the tea bags come from our friend, because they have an idiosyncratic way of torturing a tea bag to get the most concentrate from it, and the debris I have been removing is all twisted in a most familiar way.  And if I ever see another of those brightly coloured price stickers which are stuck on individual pieces of fruit sold as a ‘lunch offer’ it will be too soon.

We tried sorting the compost at the heap, we tried our usual filling buckets and sorting when we emptied them, nothing made the task any easier.  Sieving some to add to a potting mix for the greenhouse got rid of the muck, but at the scale we are working it would be impossible to sieve it all.

We had a blitz one afternoon and tipped ??? (a very large number) of tubs onto the raised bed, and a few days later I went through it painstakingly - push it away to create an empty space, bring it back handful at a time picking out the plastic, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Having topped up the vegetable beds AND added fresh compost to all eight fruit cage beds I am now thoroughly sick of picking out rubbish!  And it was obvious that it was never ours - things we don't use, buy or would ever consider composting.

Gosh, having a good old vent about it has helped.

And getting to the end of the third large bed helped too . . .

because it meant I could break out the blue paint again!  Only the first coat but at the end of a very hard, long day where I just had to keep going or I would have stopped - and really never wanted to start again - it was a sight I needed to remind me why this is all worthwhile.

There’s still more contaminated compost to move/sort through, but I’m going to have a break for a few days.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Painting 2

It's not all brightness and fun colours, occasionally grown-up sensible paint gets used.

The wooden steps have had their annual fresh coat of a non-slip paint which works really well.

The edging around our "new lawn" next to the fruit cage now sports a fetching coat of Black Ash, as does the big heather bed.

In the fruit cage I've made a start on the raised beds, colour this time (Wild Thyme) but it is hard work and I've only done 25% - far easier to be distracted with more fun things.

The most unusual activity has been the much-overdue wielding of a paintbrush inside the house.  It is nearly ten years since the laundry room was created and painted and whilst we were having a major reorganisation to make better use of the space it made sense to get the Dulux out.  It's nothing earth-shattering but the room looks better in white than the previous magnolia.   Management did most of this room and has gamely offered to carry on with the hallway and my study . . . but knowing us it will be a few weeks before we actually start either 😊

Over the years a major source of frustration has been our ability to buy materials for a DIY job but not start or finish the task, for whatever reason.  But during the last seven weeks we have been MASSIVELY happy to have a garage full of paint patiently waiting to be used!

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Painting 1

By all accounts, paintbrushes have been much in evidence during the first seven weeks of Life in an Age of Pandemic.  Bag End is no different and the three small raised beds near the shed have all received some attention.

Left over B&Q paint (from the greenhouse beds) has been mixed up to produce a rather splendid pinky/mauve.  It looks lovely with the Clematis montana, and cheers me up every time I fill watering cans for the greenhouse.

This purple is Cuprinol left over from the greenhouse and faces the big vegetable beds.
(Hmm, add 'repaint' shed to the list.)

This blue is "Iris" (Cuprinol) and looks different every hour as the light changes.  Right now the pink clematis is beautiful above it, and soon the edge of the bed will be covered in light blue campanula flowers which I am looking forward to.

If ever there was a need for colour, and something which makes me smile whenever I see it, this is it. I haven't yet used the leftover yellow/orange mix but there are plans . . .

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Binge watching

Apparently, many of us are dealing with House Arrest by binge watching box sets.  I cannot claim to be completely innocent of this activity - since lockdown started I have worked my way through (nearly) an entire re-run of The West Wing.  Just finishing series 6 and really do not want to watch series 7 - because it means Jed Bartlet’s time in the White House ends . . .

But whilst I eek out the precious episodes in order to make them last I’ve found another distraction. One which can consume HOURS of time and goodness knows how much band-width.

It’s Osprey time:

I cannot visit the Bassenthwaite viewing site or go down to Foulshaw Moss and see Cumbria’s other famous birds, but thanks to the internet I can indulge myself in hours of some of the most superb quality footage you could wish for.  Ticks a few boxes - Loch Arkaig which has always been a favourite place, brilliant image quality and there’s sound😊

Just a few clips from a particularly lovely moment earlier, and a link so you can watch it yourself and please consider DONATING a few quid to help keep it going.

Should you feel a need to travel to a different part of the UK, there is a similarly glorious camera in the middle of Wales: