Friday, 26 June 2020

A new record?

I bailed out of the greenhouse at noon yesterday having given all the beds an extra big drink and a feed.  At the time it was 102.6 degrees and I knew the temperature would continue to rise during the afternoon.

We had a bit of rain overnight, and the odd rumble of thunder, but not nearly enough to fill the water tanks or the ponds.  With another shower about to start, I thought it would be a good idea to check how hot it ended up yesterday.

I almost wish I hadn’t 🌝 and I suspect this is the hottest it has even been.  But the plants seem fine, the beds are still moist and the tomatoes are growing like Topsy.  So I’m going to leave them all to their own devices for the day.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

So what next?

I happened to have the radio on in the car yesterday when our esteemed PM announced the easing of house arrest & business interruption, and I listened to the whole of his speech.  From 4th July the numpties can run around re-infecting each other and causing all sorts of further difficulty and disruption.  Hurrah . . .  This morning I had a scan of all the UK newspaper front pages and the headlines from the 'red tops' and middle-market publications are thoroughly depressing telling readers that we are going back to 'normal' and should drink, socialise and congregate.  Holy hell  . . .  to me some of the attention grabbing text seemed irresponsible beyond belief.

Does that sound incredibly miserable of me?  It is not meant to.  We have an economy that is heavily reliant on proximity and socialising both of which will allow continued transmission of CV-19.  Boris and some media implying "it has gone away" beggars belief - the virus ain't going away kiddies, and we have to learn to live alongside it.

Yes of course I am beyond delighted that campsites are able to re-open.  I does not, however, mean I am likely to be visiting any of them in the near future.  Trips in Bill are about getting away from people and crowded places and if even one-tenth of the media are to be believed then that's not going to be possible.

This week I received a mail-shot from a local business who lead outdoor activities, and are much more plugged into what's happening around here that I am.  It was depressing to read that at present, every "obvious" Lake District nice spot has Bank Holiday levels of visitors, but every single weekend.  From some images I've seen, most of these are idiots who would not normally come here, do not know how to park, and have no conception of what a litter bin is for . . .

(I believe this image is the copyright of The North West Evening Mail)

So for the time being, Bag End life is going continue very quietly.  To nick a phrase from the lovely Mel, my hairstyle seems to be fairly pandemic-proof as I can mess with the fringe myself and once it gets past your shoulders, long hair is long hair . . . however I do an appointment with my lovely hairdresser for the end of July and I shall attend if only to provide her with guaranteed income.  She is a super lady with two small children, self employed and not a lot of spare cash at the best of times.  Management deals with his own hair on a number 3 or 4 setting once a month, so he's already self-sufficient!

Same with the dentist, they have confirmed a hygienist appointment for mid-month and it is nice to have someone help with the coffee stains twice a year 😁

In truth, I am not expecting to "get back to normal" anytime soon.  I do not ever expect to get back to pre-pandemic 'normal'.  I think that way of living has gone and the sooner we all accept that the less stressful and easier it will be to develop a new future.  From Day One I have said that the biggest issues going forward will be economic fallout and mental health problems.  Damn well hate being right on something so depressing but I believe I am.

One winner however, has been the garden.  Bag End has received almost three months of solid attention although it's rather worrying to see I am still nowhere near the end of the list of jobs which ought to be dealt with!  So here's some random images from May:

Re-tensioning the fruit cage roof net

and a much needed sit down afterwards!

The 'meadow' in the Cottage Garden before growth really took off

Mileage from a fairly 'normal' day in the garden

This view will NEVER get old, and I am still pinching myself that this is what I can see from Bag End.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Anyone else do this?

Flaming June.
In a normal year we’d all be thinking about buckets & spades and sand castles or in my case campervans parked in lonely and deserted corners of Scotland    🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Last night, did anyone else do this?

It was unpleasantly cold, the wind was blowing a hooley and it was raining (In truth the rain was alright because the garden needs water, and it was that lovely soft & gentle "gardener's rain).

It was definitely the sort of evening to want to do this ☺️

(February 2013 - she had been with us three months)

Monday, 22 June 2020

Nature, red in tooth and claw - and beak

If you are easily upset this is not the post for you . . . 

A couple of weeks ago it was hot, sunny, the air was still and definitely an afternoon to be sitting by the pond.  So I did:

And it was rather lovely.  The Himalayan Primula were smelling fabulous, birdsong filled the air, it was a relaxing break.

Then I noticed a blackbird darting around the pond margins.  On more than one occasion she stood completely still by the pond, and suddenly darted forward clearly under the impression she was a heron.  Eventually I got the big camera with a big lens to try to see what she was up to.  I finally downloaded the pictures this morning and truly wish I had not.  Because although the images are not as sharp as they could be, they clearly show that afternoon tea was a much loved pond dweller who had patiently been living and slowly growing for more than a year, and has been denied its short and beautiful life.

Yeah, I know this is a wildlife garden.
I know it is "all part of the natural cycle".
But when I work hard to provide an organic garden chock full of juicy worms and all sorts of other food very suitable for our songbirds, why does the bloody creature have to develop a taste for Dragonfly?

Nature can be cruel and unkind and there are days when I don't like Her very much.
Today is one of those days.

I should have put a bit more effort into processing these pictures but I don't have the heart for it - but I'm still going to publish the images of the murderous little sod because otherwise this record is incomplete, and I am not going to pretend this garden is always a happy happy Disney place.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

It’s a lovely day and I am not going to do anything.

It is really lovely today - partly sunny, slightly breezy, and I am not going to do anything.

I did not do much yesterday because in my world going to Morrisons and some local shops in Cockermouth doesn’t count as anything.

I may not do much tomorrow either.

Yesterday afternoon was spent schlumped* out watching YouTube videos of campervans driving around Scotland.
Saddo? Yeah, probably!

[* started off as a typo, but I like it so I am keeping it.  Language is a constantly evolving thing, yes?]

I am thoroughly tired out and I’ve got a cold. Not coronavirus or anything requiring extreme self-isolation but the result of doing a huge amount in the garden, getting thoroughly physically tired and rounding it all off with carrying on in a downpour (TWICE) in order to quickly get finished and have all the tools put away. Aaacchhoooooo!

The lunatic activity which got me to this point was being on a roll - and slightly incentivised* to get all the lovely grown-from-seed babies planted into the ground where they will require far less looking after.

All the salad/vegetables are now in raised beds, although I ran out of space so the second sowing of peas is in the greenhouse as an experiment, along with some left-over runner beans.

 It is debatable whether we need QUITE so many Chard plants, but even if I do not eat all of them they look lovely.

Do me a favour and please ignore all the seedlings sprouting out of my obviously-never-got-hot-enough-to-kill-the-seeds homemade compost which needs a massive weeding session.

The gaps are deliberate (honest!)   I am already picking and eating the perpetual spinach but I want to sow more which hopefully will last through much of the winter.  The earliest sown spinach is now trying to go to seed so I ought to start some more soon.

I've added some French Marigolds to attract pollinators (and because I like them) and am not a good enough/disciplined enough gardener to take out the opium poppies which have seeded themselves in the middle of the runner beans.

I have finally filled up the big "newish" bed behind the house.  Management and I completed this during a very hot June weekend a couple of years ago, and the planting has been something of an incomplete mish-mash ever since.  I deliberately set up the lawn area to be semi-wildflowers which has worked very well, and the bed seems to want to go the same way.

I am not sure when I chucked a handful of Red Nettle Seed over it, but anything which grows this well, with no attention, and is beloved of bees, generally deserves its place.

Over three interrupted days I planted out the remainder of the Hollyhocks (the rest are in the vegetable area, just the other side of the trellis), Teasels, Echium vulgare, Blue Bedder (Viper's Bugloss) which the bees love, lots of Salvia sclarea (Clary sage) and some Phlox - no idea which one because it came from an old packet that I've subsequently lost/thrown away.  A self-seeded Rowan tree has been added to the bed, along with a Buddleia and Hypericum transplanted from elsewhere (also self seeded).

The very common (but no less lovely for it) hardy geranium has been at the front of the bed since the beginning, moved from the Lasagne Bed in the Cottage Garden  (where the bits I missed still grow strongly).

Just some of the many tubs of compost and bark chip which were emptied during the planting sessions.

The only task remaining is to plant lots of Sunflowers and more of the Salvia in the beds at the back of the vegetable area - oh la la - it's going all Potager!  As none of the plants destined for that space are dry, pot-bound or appear to be stressed they can wait a few days.

*  the incentive is that once the greenhouse and cold frames are empty of pots requiring endless watering, I reckon it is OK to continue our self-isolation from the comfort of a campervan, rather than our own garden!  Overnights are not allowed (and I fear campsites will be mobbed/packed/far too busy when they do re-open), but it is time to get on with day trips to quiet places that are not full of the scum who have been crowding into tourist areas, dumping litter everywhere and not bothering to park sensibly or safely.  There Endeth the Rant

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Bulb Bed

I read once, too many years ago to remember where, that when you create a new garden a glorious turning point was when you planted bulbs.  It is true, when you are making a garden - digging, moving, adding shrubs and trees, it is too risky to put in bulbs because Sod’s Law means they will be sliced in half or disturbed.

My Bulb Bed has gone through various iterations, first being a Willow Fedge, then growing and expanding, and now being a rather satisfying feature near the house.

In early Spring it is quite lovely - first the Corydalsis, followed quickly by masses of Snakes Head Fritillary, then Alliums and Camassia.  A few aquilegia have crept in, and they were so pretty, but everything has gone over now.

For a few years we had Common Spotted Orchid here, but they disappeared for about three years although there is one small plant this season.

Later on the Agapanthus will bloom its heart out, and then we are back to not much apart from the box and lonicera hedges.  Right now, it is all looking terribly bare and for whatever reason I never managed to add any late season perennials last year, so I decided to add some home-grown annuals.  First there was the essential hedge trimming up, which took far, far longer (measured in days) than I wanted it to.  However it has been pointed out to me - several times - that whilst this might look like a small bed (and in relation to the whole of Bag End, it is) it's actually the length of our old caravan AND the campervan combined - roughly 13 or 14 metres.  So I should not be so surprised that everything takes so long.

40 Cosmos (Sea Shells nearest the house, Gazebo Red nearest the Coppice) and 24 Nigella (Love-in-a-mist) . . . that nice bloke on the BBC on Friday nights never shows how long it really takes to get this many pots into the ground.  Nor does he show how much washing up there is to do afterwards!

 I am not sure how I managed an expanding colony of Hieracium aurantiacum (Orange Hawk Bit) but there is no way I am moving it.  Happily it is spreading into the wildflower lawns as well.

I got everything planted and threw on a seaweed feed before it started raining, but very little - none of the thunder and downpours that other places have had.  Which is how I ended up standing in the rain with a hose . . . once again you don’t have to be mad to live here but it helps you blend in if you are.

A nice bonus as I was clearing up:  two of the many Thrush who have made Bag End their home.  We have at least two nests this year and far less snail damage than you might expect in a garden this size. 😁