Tuesday, 19 June 2018


First a weather update after 7 weeks of almost no rain, it has finally rained, probably not enough but it has.
I have put in some sweet peas given to us by J and planted the rest of the courgettes and a couple of Squash and some purple sprouting broccoli.

When I am tired and working in the wood or by the veg beds I will go and sit on a seat made from an old felled tree trunk under a field maple given to us by our late friend Sue. Having cleared the grass, goosegrass, bindweed and buttercups from under thew redcurrant hedge I did so.
But not for long.
My legs were stinging and on standing I found I was crawling with red ants - in my wellies, in my pants. Fortunately there was no one to see my leap about. The ants had made a nest in the rotting trunk. And I lifted the plank on the top of the log to find a toad, seemingly totally unbothered by the ants. 

In June the woodland is a wonderland of colour, paths winding through waist high red and white campion, pignut and buttercup, woundwort and sunlit grasses. It is full of tree seedlings (which need to be removed) and ones I have missed - hawthorn, hazel and holly. Later the wild angelica flourishes and the not quite so welcome hogweed.

And at the far corner is a rough lawn, a glade of sunshine with an old beam as a seat - no ants. A good place to meditate - if I ever find time to get around to doing it. Quite what to do with this area I am not sure - a piece of sculpture? Or is that too pretentious for a wild place?

All the wild flowers self seed and I will cut most of it later in the year with the scythe when seed is set. Originally I raked off the cut plants but last year I just left it lying on the woodland floor - and this year the flowers seem better than ever - so - hooray - I shall not have to do the raking - one of the tougher jobs. The scything is about rhythm, the removal of stuff laborious. The wood is a haven for birds and animals, badgers, foxes, rabbits, mice and, of course, grey squirrels have been seen there on my video cam.
A little lower down is a very different area planted with the white birches, more open but just as beautiful in its own way.

ps. Another denizen of the wood sunning himself on my shed.

And this rabbit got more that it bargained for from another bunny.

Suddenly I decided I had had enough of a large broom bush on the lower banking so it is now on the bonfire heap. It was crowding out other more choice shrubs. Of course as I have cut it back hard it will not regenerate from the stump unlike some plants.

It is time to try and tame the wilderness, scythe in hand . . . 

Tuesday, 12 June 2018


There is something special on a sunny day after hard gardening and a shower, sitting outside the kitchen in a recliner eating cheese straws (that K brought last night) and drinking a rather good bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape, well not the whole bottle (but it is early yet). We can see the ferries setting out for the Isle of Man from Heysham twenty miles away across the bay as house martins whirl over the pond.
  Anyway, to the disaster.

Our lovely Prunus Shirotae is in trouble with wilting brown leaves and dying twigs. It could be the drought but I suspect we have a fungal disease here. So sad.

  And the veg sowings are disappointing, carrots ok, some parsnips and spinach but the rest useless so have sown more beetroot, chard and topped up spinach and carrots. Here's hoping.
The variegated plant with the foxglove on the left is also a vegetable, horseradish. If you think peeling onions makes the eye water try grating the root of the horseradish!

Here is one of R's favourite plant combinations, catmint (nepeta) and Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla).

The oriental poppies just get better and better - the tall one is the splendid Goliath. The early day lilies, the smaller yellow ones are coming into flower and giving a splash of colour.
  The rosa rugosa hedge at the top of the garden has finally reached a decent height and though most of the flowers are pink there are some white ones too. Lower down, by the lawn, the beauty bush, kolkowitzia, is smothered.

And this is a time for the perennial geraniums, especially the blues on the dry banking below the house. When they are finished they will need shearing back to allow new growth to come.
  Another similar coloured plant is the knapweed, centaurea montana, in semi shade and very dry soil under the spreading branches of the big sycamore where it seems to thrive, which is good as not much else does.
   It is very early but the first red currants are ripening with all the sunshine - and the blackbirds are gathering for the feast. I must get some new netting to try and keep them out.
And then another disaster -
This brick is supposed to be a loaf of spelt flour bread!
Did all the usual and put it in the oven then forgot about it for two hours! Carbonisation courtesy of the Aga range.

I woke this morning, June, and found myself singing 'In The Bleak Midwinter' and wondered why. Then it dawned on me that my mother, who had sung professionally as a mezzo, had sung that song and that must be why I like it. Sadly there is no recording of her singing but inside my head (and I presume other heads).
  R has taken a dislike to the rose Grouse, a ground cover plant at the back of the house. She has decided to tidy it up, something I am definitely avoiding. It is one of the thorniest things I have come across. It will be scything the long grass for me.

And it is crambe time, the giant ball of flowers is back.

So to mowing, clogged mower with the longer grass, battling the clegs (Horse flies) - got one, they got me three times.

Tuesday and it is raining, no it isn't, a few spots and then it is gone.

Now, there are some moments in life that transcend others - like when your specialist says you do not need any more CT scans for your cancer - Phew!!
Time for a beer or few too.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018


The title refers to the mystery of where ideas originate.

Anyway, this is the way to the wood up the path that will be redone soon - I have bought two great big bags of 20mm slate clippings for that.

The wood itself is heaven especially in the early evening when the sun gets lower highlighting the campion and pignut.

I have assaulted the rhododendron at the far end of the garden raising its canopy to eight feet and revealing a swathe of bare ground. The branches look very attractive and I should have done this a long time ago.

The goosegogs have sawfly and mildew and so I got out the fungal spray, put the appropriate amount into the sprayer and walked across to the tap, looked at my watch and emptied it all on the ground! The fact that Stan Laurel was born in our town is having an effect?

Last blog I mentioned white and as it is now June here is the May blossom on the way up to the house.

On my mower shed the white Clematis montana (I think it is Albert) is in full display. It looks pretty good in the left hand photo - on the right is another view over the bin store. Well, have to put them somewhere.
There seem to be too many house martins for one nest but they have built two nests actually against one another - communal living.
Other birds are paired off too - goldfinches and pheasants.

R has retreated to the writing shed some afternoons and is unaware of the ducks flying in to land on the roof waiting for the ladies with the horses next door to feed them - poem -


Written after reading 'On That Same Question', page 15, On Keeping Company With Mrs Woolf by Neil Curry.

There are ducks on the writing shed roof,
Or is it duck? A pair of mallard
Risen from the pond where they dabble
And sow duckweed, eat the tadpoles.

Soon only the drake will visit
Whilst she sits on the nest above the dam,
Tucked in the reeds (or is it reed)
Of the mill reservoir in the back field.

They are waiting for the horse ladies
To scatter seed which they do every day.
Rooks congregate in the ash trees above,
And pheasant, or is it pheasants, strut,

At least the cocks do. The hens skulk
In the brambles, plumage blending in.
Then there is a thunder of wingspan
As hefty pigeons clatter in.

I sit up on the terrace and watch,
Hear the gentle quack of bonding.
If I had been in the shed, writing,
I would not have known they were there.

Apart from all that the garden is bursting with flowers - R is not so keen but I love things that scatter themselves around like the aquilegias.

I have also started, as I have mentioned before, selective mowing (being a bit lazy) which has gone down well with R as the longer areas are full of buttercups.

She also has a dandelion moment in the spring when there is a splash of gold in the fields and hedgerows, not I am glad to say, in the garden.

Our six new Erysimun Bowles Mauve have turned into two rather scraggy old plants as this was all the man on the market had left - they were cheap so I should not complain too much.

Woke this morning to birdsong, chattering martins above our window nest building and a snoring pigeon on the roof.
This is going to be a long blog as I only posted yesterday and have written all this.

Tried an experiment as the rhubarb looking a bit sad with the heat and dryness - pulled off all the stems on two plants, watered and fed them, will see how they regrow.

It is only Saturday - I said this was a long blog - and in the afternoon R cleared the forget-me-nots whilst I watered - the BBC weather forecast said it would rain but it didn't. Still dry.

Looked in the freezer and still had 20 pounds (about 10 kilos) of frozen plums. So I have made some Victoria Plum and Cinnamon Jam - just a hint of spice. As I was doing this a fledgling blackbird arrived at the open door and peered in. It seemed completely fearless (or stupid) and only wandered off after I took its portrait to a background of parental cacophony.

The mallard are almost tame now, sit outside R's shed whilst she works, only six feet from her. They did not even move when I came out having fuelled her up with a cuppa tea.

It is the next day I am hiding in my room, as R has taken over the house with her friends, drinking wine and eating apple cake. I am stiff from being sorted by the osteopath and acupuncture by needles. So why not continue make this blog longer - because it is long enough.

As the bluebells are now over let me give you a blast of Carstarmont Woods in Scotland to finish.

Thursday, 31 May 2018


It is Sunday 27th May, 26C, a bit humid and the garden is bone dry. We had a little rain on Friday but none is forecast for a fortnight.
Thank heavens for a borehole - I am out reviving collapsed rhubarb and lovage, watering the transplanted roses and seed beds.

Sitting outside on the bench in a cloud of self sown aquilegia, under a whirl of house martins wings, is bliss. I am with a beer (R glass of wine) and some black pepper crisps looking across Morecambe Bay to the Ashton Memorial at Lancaster, at least eighteen miles away as the crow flies (40 miles by road).

The watering is done for the day (we had a shower of rain two hours later)(of course) and I did a bit of grass cutting (to reveal the glory of the Viburnum plicatum Mariesii) and trimming of the beech hedge so we can walk through to the top garden (wood)   now a carpet of campion and pignut.

Asparagus continues and the new plants thrive, germination of seeds is slow except for the courgettes and butternut squash in the shed. I have bought six new plants to fill in gaps.
The boggy bit of lawn has been tined with a fork and a small trench dug to the ditch from the new spring by the eucalyptus. 
This tree does not look too happy and I wonder if it is the very cold winter or the ground in which it stands becoming soggy.

Come Monday and by midday it is 27C here in cold damp Cumbria. Five pounds of rhubarb put in the freezer and asparagus for lunch again.

Everything is growing so much in the warm weather - the sweet cicely is 5 feet tall! Must buy some fish - hake great covered in chopped lovage and sweet cicely in melted butter.

Found an old wren's nest in a honeysuckle by the wood shed, a ball of moss with a narrow entrance hole.

Down by the pond the candelabra primulas are fine - I decided not to weed this bed this year and see how they went - and they are okay though the thug pendulous sedge is making a comeback.

There are poppies everywhere.

And a lot of white - the lilac is so white, and scented

and the two viburnum on the banking splendid, Mariesii left, wild Guelder Rose right.
Some people suggest I talk a lot of rhubarb so here it is. 

Having called this blog drought it has just started raining (Wednesday evening).

My good friend Neil Curry has just presented me with his latest collection of poetry - On Keeping Company With Mrs Woolf published by Shoestring Press - I cannot compete with that.