Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Just knuckle down and get on with it

Despite appearances to the contrary, the last month or so I have been cruising along, and not really getting on with stuff which needs doing.  So with a bright weekend ahead of us and a couple of decent night's sleep behind, I decided that on Saturday and Sunday I would just "get on with it" and work through jobs which have been waiting for far too long.  Management took the opportunity to get out on one of his bikes, and after an energetic game of rugby in the garden with Daisy, I made a start.

Small willow fedge next to the pavement; first chop of the year and a bit of weeding now that the daffodils have died down.  Management wants to remove the black netting which was shielding the laurel hedge, a job we will probably leave until the autumn.  Once the laurel is free to grow towards the sun I expect it to do so with great enthusiasm, which means that the willow fedge might just be in the way ... I won't be sorry to see it go, like the one near the Top Pond it has probably outlived its usefulness, and having to keep cutting it back is a pain.

Although it never made it to the white board, one of the jobs on my mental list for weeks has been to give the bird food area a little makeover.   The willow screen should stop the sparrow hawk barrelling through from behind and the grow-bag tray is to catch all the seed which falls out of the hangers.

The birds took to the new breakfast bar instantly, although it was mildly disconcerting to be working away whilst an angry blackbird is sitting a couple of feet away swearing loudly at you because "things aren't where they should be"!   Whilst I am not fluent in blackbird it was clear there were many expletives being thrown in my direction.

Never gets on the whiteboard . . . cutting all the grass.

Daisy's skin is still a problem from Spring until Autumn.  We don't know exactly what she is allergic to but anti-histamines have never worked.  I hate using them but steroids have been effective until very recently, however they are no longer controlling the allergic reaction, so a trip to the vet is scheduled because the poor little girl is scratching herself so hard she's damaging the skin.  Until then, keeping the grass short does seem to help a bit.

It took a surprisingly short time to fit the fruit cage roof net (thank you Management!) and although I did a bit more weeding, I fear this is the year when I never really get those beds under control.

The last of the plants which have been waiting in the nursery area are now in the ground, which meant there was room for three of our cold frames (we're still waiting for number four to be delivered).  Management had a building session, bless him, it took me mere seconds to fill them all!

I wasted spent a lot of time hiding in the shed where I can watch both Mum and Dad blackbird take turns to sit on their newly hatched chicks who have voracious appetites.  The slack netting in front of the log store is my feeble attempt to keep local cats away from the nest.  Fingers crossed that it will continue to work.

Management also helped me to net half the roof and one side of the greenhouse to provide some very necessary shade,  when it was glorious over the Bank Holiday I recorded a temperature of 115F which is far too hot.  He worked out a very clever way of rigging the netting to keep birds out of the windows whilst not fouling the automatic vents.  Unfortunately we found a couple of panes of glass have slipped on the roof and whilst we fixed one, the others will have to wait until we can get to the other side.  New ladders may have to be purchased ...

After a tiring but thoroughly satisfying weekend, two wet days gave us the opportunity for some major freezer re-stocking.  Lamb curry on Monday

and Bolognaise sauce on Tuesday.  It is an awful lot of preparation and chopping but definitely worth it.

M. had a huge wardrobe clear out;  two bags of business shoes and loads of poly-cotton shirts made their way to a charity shop whilst all the pure cotton shirts found their way to the sewing room.  One day I am going to make a quilt with them all - but I have been collecting his shirts for 20 years and haven't started on the quilt yet, so don't expect to see anything sometime soon!

That was a heck of a few days, now I think I'll have a little rest :)

Friday, 2 June 2017

Nursery area changes

The Nursery Area is, as per usual, a mess.  I think every garden has a couple of corners where "stuff" gets dumped and unfortunately at Bag End the dumping grounds tend to be larger than normal.

I would like to move that little plastic greenhouse which LP gave me.  It's really not much use and we would like to plant a couple of laurel against the fence to give me some privacy from the (watches-me-like-he's-a-peeping-tom) neighbour.  The bees which have taken up residence in an old bird's nest have other ideas so will not be moving anything from this corner until the autumn.

No surprises that Management and I have treated ourselves to "retirement presents".  His (not surprisingly!) is motorbike related and mine is some proper cold frames and the idea for Friday afternoon was tidy up the area enough that we could build the new frames and position them.  Which would have been fine and simple if M. had not had one of his "innocently making a remark which was so blindingly obvious once he'd said it" moments.

"Does this bit of trellis need to stay here?  Is it adding anything to the party?"

A couple of hours later we hadn't built the cold frames or upset the bees, but we do have a super wide open space that's lovely and tidy 😊

Naturally, small person hung around and supervised.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Penultimate or last?

For nearly as long as we have known him, LP has wanted to move back to the Suffolk area where he was brought up.  I have deliberately never mentioned here anything about his private life but it's a tad complicated, to say the least, however now, after a few false starts it looks like he really will be off before the end of June and we have a wonderful opportunity to tease him mercilessly about leaving a job unfinished ...

Which is a (slightly) mean but extremely effective way to ensure that he "went at it" like a thing possessed to try to sort out the space underneath the patio wall.  It was wonderful for me, having had a fairly sleepless night thanks to Daisy being restless, that Management was here to work alongside LP leaving me with just tea-making and supervisory duties!  Darling Dog (forgiven for her nocturnal disturbance) also supervised.

Far more timber than we actually needed, but knowing us it will all get used up somewhere, eventually!

Recycling the remainder of the trellis panels:  the original plan was just for two complete 6 foot sections, but having a third panel laying around meant we could extend all the way to the path.

M. did a great deal more than stand next to LP but (like me) he's not wild about having his photo taken.

A very well-deserved break :)

Everyone gets a tea break - warning to visitors, never leave a mug unattended around Daisy!

By the end of the day we had four wonderful terraced beds, three of which will be planted but the top section is probably going to be a seating area.  LP reckons he will be back one day next week to finish off, but if packing and moving takes priority Management and I can manage what's left.

Before and after from the patio; last November Graham rebuilt part of this wall and finished it with a lovely topping of old roof slates, something I have not managed to blog about but the photos are there ... unfortunately the slates either came off when it was really frosty, or when we sat on them.   Need to work out a sustainable Plan B to finish off this area.

Whilst the drill was out I got long awaited fixings for hanging baskets.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Week one

The first week of Management's retirement did not go exactly to plan ... not that we had a exact plan, but there were ideas - of relaxing, being kind to ourselves, taking it easy.  What actually happened is on Thursday he went down country and did not return until after the weekend.  He went to support his Mum for a few days; she's in her 80's, her last surviving sister is nearly as old and in very poor health.  Normally Management's sisters provide all the day-to-day assistance and driving around but they were both going away so M. stepped in to provide moral support, transport for hospital visits and so on.  Not quite how he expected to spend the first week as a free man, but we were both pleased that he now has the time and flexibility to do that when needed.

Daisy and I revelled in the unexpected alone time and the equally unexpected heatwave.  There was much sitting around in surprisingly little clothing (by Cumbrian standards), eating salad and reading the Kindle.  Although I am never likely to do so, there was much pondering as to why folk move to Spain and places with reliable climates.  But in a thoroughly warm and Mediterranean climate I would be unlikely to have such a green and luscious garden, so the foreseeable future I'll be staying in Blighty ... Some of the pictures were taken as I worked, and others a couple of days later because the first lot were over-exposed.  It's a sad day when there is too much sun 😎

A couple of years ago I dumped temporarily heeled in some Primula florindae until I had a good home for them.  Clearly they rather liked their temporary digs because they have self-seeded and grown until I (nearly) have too many - although I have become rather fond of the primula family and will never have too many!

Some lovely delicate, lilac Primula cortusoides and a few of the florindae now live next to the little pond in the Cottage Garden.  They should get enough shade, and moisture when the pond overflows ...

Many more have been rehoused in the new bed LP made for me recently in the Coppice; same shade and moisture conditions hopefully apply.

As well as digging up the primula I took the opportunity to plant out bits and pieces which had been sitting around in pots;  didn't realise quite how much I had done until it was time to clean the empties ...

Talking of ponds, the Top Pond outside the kitchen window is looking fabulous - despite getting badly frosted in late April the Gunnera manicata is recovering well, other planting is looking lovely, and the new path edging gives a wonderful sense of enclosure which we never had before.  Still need to replace the worn out bark chip path with slate chippings but Management tells me that won't take us long to do once we get started 😌

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Net-house progress

This is West Cumbria, also known as Wet Cumbria and we both know the continued spell of dry and settled weather will not last, so we're pootling about outside and making progress whilst we can.  Yesterday we had a quiet start to the week, Management chilled out and I planted peas and salad leaves in the net-house.

Fingers crossed the salad crops can grow away before the slugs find them, I've never tried grit around lettuce before but it shouldn't do any harm.

Atriplex hortensis - Orach 'Scarlet Emperor', new to us this year.

Without any coercion or pressure on my part, this morning M. suggested we make a start on fixing the netting to the net-house.  The usual Bag End dependencies apply and we had to finish moving all the timber first, so that we could see what we had.

Another fine example of  photobombing from Little Miss Perfect:

Not only do we now have a terrific store of second-hand wood, but I've now got a huge space (almost 4 foot wide and 16 foot long) next to the greenhouse.  Suggestions as to what to do with it gratefully received.  Our current ideas are either cold frames (but that would involve a lot of work to level the ground) or Management's suggestion of "flowers" (which could mean perennials, annuals, he's not specific).  I'm cogitating a 'physic garden' of medicinal plants . . . but there's no hurry to make a decision.

No pictures of the most of the work because two people, one up a ladder with wooden battens and the other tensioning the netting in two directions at the same time is not conducive to photography.  We now have both long sides secure and know how we are going to fix the ends.  For now we can relax a bit knowing nothing is going to blow away if we get bad weather.