Sunday, 20 August 2017

More August progress

Why is it that jobs I "think" are huge and going to take ages actually take 30 minutes and are no effort at all?

Knowing how heavy some of these piece of slate are I had built up this job in my head ... but with Management taking all the heavy lifting we had a mini slate wall in no time at all :)  Daisy was no help  🐺

In other wildlife news, this little chap* visited a few times during the day.  At first we were worried because hedgehogs are strictly noctural, but it this one looked healthy, was moving around surprisingly fast and busy digging worms and other grubs out of the grass.  Apparently it is not unusual for a youngster to be out at the 'wrong' time whilst it is fattening up prior to hibernation.

* he/she/it .... who knows?

The willow fedge which fronts the pavement is due for demolition - my love affair with willow constructions has been well and truly satisfied and now I am just fed up with the amount of maintenance it all needs.  In order not to smack passers by in the face this little fedge needs four cuts a year and that is four too many.

I cut back all the instrusive low growth and left enough to absorb a (hopefully) lethal dose of glyphosate.

A few days later I was overcome by a sudden rush of blood to the head (and maybe also to a few muscles) and moved loads more compost, soil and bark chip, followed by all the lovely cyclamen.

I thought these gorgeous little plants would be OK behind the house but the back of the bed just wasn't getting enough rain, and the front of it received far more sun in summer than I expected; they have survived, but not thrived.  Fingers crossed their new home will do better as it receives very little direct sun (and only in late afternoon).

Pictures taken a few days later are encouraging - nothing seems to have flagged or drooped, and there is a surprising amount of new flowering.

To answer Susan's question - I might put some snowdrops in here next year but this bed will just be for cyclamen.  I am finding that small areas of mono-planting work better in such a big garden than dotting different plants around all over the place.

Saturday, 19 August 2017


I may have successfully reduced the corvid visits from magpies and jackdaws, but we're very happy to see this lovely visitor in the garden - Abraxas grossulariata - more commonly known as a Magpie.

Pretty little thing πŸ˜€ seeemed very relaxed resting on a Viginia creeper.

Lovely site with more information here:  Buttterfly Conservation

Friday, 18 August 2017

Getting behind is easy, getting caught up - not so much!

I'd say "where have the last couple of weeks gone" but it would be a rhetorical question as I know exactly what happened to them;  the first was spent recovering from a horrible cold and the second has been spent making excellent progress on Management's "Garden List".  Looking back I can see we spent the first couple of months of his retirement straightening out the house (which is not completely finished, but there is a good chance it never will be!) and we are on track to spent months three and four straightening up a few things in the garden (which will never, ever be finished, gardens never are).  Maybe by the end of the year we will be in a position where "all" we have to do is maintain stuff and can spend more time enjoying ourselves ..... but that's getting rather ahead of myself 😍

I have not been very good at photographing everything we have done, so today I will just go with what I do have pictures of . . .

The bird feeding area had some much needed TLC;  a weedy messy corner has been filled with compost and bark chip, edged with the logs we took from the pond path, and planted with some self-seeded ferns which I rescued from the back of the big log pile.

I used one of the old 'ground feeding cages' and made a corvid-proof cover for the peanut feeder.  I mocked this up with clamps a few weeks ago as an experiment and it has made a huge difference - far less magpies and jackdaws around now they cannot get at their favourite food, and double the numbers of small birds who obviously feel a lot safer.  Win win all round πŸ˜ƒ

Management has fashioned a superb tray to catch the fallout from our sunflower feeders.  The rain falls through it so nothing is getting soggy and smelly, and by supporting under the net with some old mesh he's made a nice, firm base for blackbirds and others to stand whilst they hoover up the seed.  There is nothing like the amount of waste that there used to be, so more 'win win'!

In preparation for using glyphosate we've set up a couple of sturdy barricades to keep Daisy away.  She likes to nibble at long grass and these two areas were favourite places to snack.  I absolutely hate using weedkiller and always feel I've failed as a gardener if I have to get the stuff out, but it would be even worse for Daisy to consume plant material that has absorbed such nastiness.

Many buckets of compost and bark chip were moved and now the new bed next to our 'trailer park' is ready for cyclamen.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Taking stock, and an unexpected visitor

In his corporate days, one of Management's greatest strengths was to go into companies who had difficulties and help troubleshoot them into a better place.

Ever since he retired, we have both noticed a common theme is my belly-aching about the amount of work to do in the garden, but making very little progress.  With an unerring ability to notice what is not being said, Management asked recently "when you're outside, are you doing the jobs which really need doing, or are you doing the tasks which are relatively easy to complete?"  Did I mention he also has a tendency to go straight for the questions that everyone else (me?) ignores?  No chance of an elephant hiding in the room when he's about :)

And so it was, that at the beginning of the week, outside we went:  me pointing out everything I wanted to do and Himself writing it all down.  There was then a fairly long interlude whilst a frighteningly large spreadsheet came into being.   It is actually less daunting having it all written down than the constant figurative 'spinning of plates' as I try to keep track of it all in my mind.  

This is just the tasks which (for "kicks and grins") we labelled as ideally being accomplished in the next two weeks.

Oh, stop laughing at the back there ..... a combination of Cumbrian weather, an overall lousy summer and an absolute doozy of a cold means we've got nearly to the end of the first of those weeks with only one teeny line item ticked off.

We will ignore how ticked off I am 😑   This was the scene a couple of nights ago which says something about how chilly it has been and how knocked out I have been.  Tonight's weather forecst on Channel 4 warns of 'dangerously high temperatures' for those venturing to southern Europe, but parts of the UK are likely to fall to single figures - sheesh - but I should not be surprised, mid-July there was a FROST WARNING in Scotland one night.

An unexpected visitor on Friday afternoon left us with "a little present" on the drive that means should I ever get to the point where all the garden is weeded I certainly have more than enough bark chip to mulch the living daylights out of the soil!

With the school holidays in full swing we've made the decision not to attempt any caravan trips until the end of the month, which - theoretically - leaves me with a lovely big window of opportunity to crack on in the garden. 

Wish me luck  πŸ˜›

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Good riddence July, you've been a thorough disappointment

July started by being a snarky disappointment and maintained that attitude for the next four weeks.  My little walking trip in the Pennines was washed out at the last minute when the weather disobeyed the forecast which had been issued, and the rest of the month took notice and followed suit.

I don't think I can remember a mid-summer month that has been so wet and unsettled.  Apart from occasional days it has also been bloomin' cold for the time of year with the woodburner on one night, and even when it's dry there is no residual heat in the ground to make sitting outside after supper something we can contemplate.  Even the Met Office admits it's been crappy πŸ˜•

The slugs however, are having a bonanza of a season.  Despite a thorough application of Nematodes the slimy little sods have decimated my runner beans and destroyed both the Japanese spinach and Purslane I was so looking forward to adding to salad bowls.  Emerging carrots haven't stood a chance, and sluds have also demolished my cosmos, marigolds and dahlia sowings, and the echinacea plants I was so keen to grow from seed haven't stood a chance.  I've realised this is one of the reasons I have blogged so little in the last couple of months - I am thoroughly demoralised, disheartened and discouraged this season and it's a feeling I am struggling to shake.

The only thing the slithery little sods are not eating is the weeds and oh baby, do we have weeds.  Loads of rain and a disspirited gardener who is not outside enough to keep on top of them and we are very, very close to an afternoon spraying "magic water".  I try my best to use no pesticides and be as completely organic as I can, but there are occasions (and outbreaks of ground elder) where those principles just cannot be maintained.

Yeah, I'm unnecessarily grumpy but now I've said it outloud I can move on and get a grip on sorting out some of the problems - when I'm recovered from the raging sore throat and jelly legs that a brief summer cold has shared with me 😑😑

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Before the rain came

We're forecast quite a few days of wet and windy weather, and so far this morning that prediction has been rather too accurate.  Therefore it made sense to grab an opportunity yesterday afternoon to get out and give Daisy a short walk in decent conditions.

It only takes half an hour to get to St Bees which is currently one of our favourite places to walk, and the massive Seacotes car park always has plenty of space.  (Note to self - don't send poor husband all the way to the only working pay meter when he can't remember the registration number of my car.  Poor chap walked all the way there, and back again, and in the end I went "sod it" and we moved the car to a spot much closer to the parking machine!)

A fairly gentle potter uphill to the first viewing point.

Whilst it is good to see the cliffs, and around to St Bees lighthouse, it was not so good to see this offshore:

A little digging at the ever-clever Marine Traffic website [isn't this home page prettyπŸ˜‰]

and it transpires another beautiful stretch of coastline is due to be despoiled because JB119 out of Nassau is a "Construction and Maintenance Vessel" for the offshore wind turbine industry.  Ever the optimist (I thought that was my job?) when I told Management he said "hmm, perhaps they just parked it".  He then said something else which was very rude ....

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our walk and were home just in time to put the oven on for supper 😊

Wednesday, 26 July 2017


It is probably apparent that over the years we have spent more than tuppence on bird food.  I have been using the company who were GW Titmuss since about 2014, they now call themselves "Little Peckers" but last week's delivery is looking like it will be the final one.

The sunflower seeds were fine, but we are currently blessed with large numbers of blue tits, great tits, young robins and many other species who love fat balls and I needed to stock up.  A box of 150 for £15.99 seemed more than reasonable - until they arrived.

As you can see the outer box was not squashed or damaged. Sadly the same cannot be said for the contents. 

Almost every packet of fat balls has one or more balls which are completely disintegrated and it is therefore not possible to use them in the suet feeder.

I'm posting this here because I am thoroughly irritated - so far three emails to customer services since 19th July have recieved nothing more than an automated reply.  Perhaps the one-star review I left on TrustPilot this morning might get their attention.

Other food suppliers are available ...

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Weeding #2 and a techie problem

Tech problem first - anyone know how to solve this week's computer glitch where the blog NavBar does not display if you're using Firefox on a Mac?  It works in Safari, and in Chrome, and is clearly visible on Management's Windows PC.  Google searches, looking in the Firefox Knowledge Base and rebooting everything (clearing cache, cookies, etc.) hasn't helped ....

It is not just my blog - Sue at GLAllotments and Kate at LiveLoveCraft are two examples where everything looks fine in a different browser, just not in Firefox?  

But on to problems that we can (eventually) solve.  There aren't many sections of any garden that will not become completely feral if they do not get some attention, weeding and general maintenance every now and again.  The long bed in the side garden looks mostly-OK for much of the year, and the Coppice & the moist bed behind the Top Pond are current successes - they only need a few hours each year and then very little maintenance thereafter.

Coppice in May:

Top Pond bed in June:

The Big Pond really ought to be in the same list but it has been somewhat neglected over the last two years and I am now paying the price with rampant growth both in the water and on the margin beds.  A couple of the grasses (which were bought as 'clump forming' not spreaders) have not behaved and it's going to take Management and I much of the Autumn to dig the blasted things out and start again, a heavy & very physical task which neither of us are really looking forward to.  But for today we limited activity to an hour of me wandering around in waders which was quite enough!

Will someone please remind us that next time we do this, there must be a limit of 30 MINUTES in the water.  It was not until I got out and changed I realised how cold I'd become and spent the next two hours shivering under a fleecy blanket with a hot water bottle - not quite at the point of mild hypothermia, but cold enough to know I'd got too cold πŸ˜’