Sunday, 17 March 2019

MARCH WINDS DO BLOW

Having moaned about the rain in the last blog, come last Sunday morning I looked out of the kitchen window and it was snowing! Long time since it was 20C in February. So we decided to go to Sizergh Castle Gardens, have lunch in the National Trust Cafe and walk the gardens. It hailed and blew and sleeted and snowed and the sun shone intermittently - in fact everything. It is a week of storms - well gales and rain mainly coming with recurrent low pressure systems from the west.

So Gareth came and blew out the lights - well the power went off - and stayed off for just over 20 hours. We learned how to boil a kettle on the woodburner etc etc. The gale blew and the rain came in the roof where the new dormer is going. The garden is full of fallen sticks (which I will have to collect)(as R will not).


I am playing scavenger from the builder's skip - bits of discarded wood and broken slates etc etc. R just shakes her head.


The ducks have, I think, decided not to nest at our pond but at a nearby tarn - they still come for breakfast though.




Down in the veg beds the chives are progressing well and I have put in rows of bay and rosemary cuttings.

 










Outside the kitchen doors the variegated euphorbia is in flower and thriving - as I have said before it is one of R's favourites and a delight on a dark day.




 Thought the garden has many varieties of daffodils and narcissi the wild daffodil - Pseudo narcissus pseudonarcissus - is the best - delicate and beautiful.







Then as I wander the garden I find a surprise - a marigold (calendula).




Now is the time to admit we have been away since Friday, escaping builders, in the north of the county at Wetheral. Anyway we would not have been in the garden on Saturday as it poured with rain causing floods.
We came back, after a rather depressing morning service at Carlisle Cathedral (we were almost the youngest people in a sparse congregation), via the west coast and walked on the vast expanse of Drigg Shore. This is okay as long as you do not look north to the monstrosity that is the Sellafield nuclear processing plant etc.

The feeling of space there is a wonderful and less well known corner of Cumbria and The Lakes.



Saturday, 9 March 2019

THE OLD MAN IS SNORING


It's raining it's pouring . . 

What to do on a wet miserable day? Make blackcurrant jam of course. The fruit softens so much faster from the freezer and it only takes a short while before the jam is done.

  I am sitting listening to the repetitive drip of rain from the scaffolding outside my window as storm Freya (what a silly idea naming storms) weeps.
  More manure is on the fruit, more compost on the roses.

And now all is super soggy, grass is boggy, builders in the bedroom, builders in the living room, each room made smaller by a huge sheet of polythene, girders going in, windows going in, we are going out (except it is pouring down) so we are staying in.



The only bit of sunshine in the garden comes from the masses of catkins on the hazel in the bottom hedge.



It was Friday night - no it was not - it was Saturday at 5 in the morning when I woke with thunderous rain hammering on the roof - the old man stopped snoring!

The garden is full of spring promise - flowering currant, the ornamental quince and bankings full of daffodils.



There are abundant primroses below the woodland and an assorted tumble of bulbs flowering under the magnolia stellata which is fat with bud.





Leaves are coming - on the roses and the fruit bushes like these gooseberries on the right.







The kolkowitzia (beauty bush) is well in leaf. R asks what can she do in the garden - we need to stay off the sodden grass - and before I utter a word she says that she will not pick up sticks in the wood.
I have just seen that the dreaded ash dieback is spreading - not here yet, fingers crossed as we have a lot of mature ash trees in our little wooded area.
As a bad habit I do not label plants and this leads to mysteries - like what is this? It is not grass and I suspect it might be a type of allium - we will see.


So this afternoon between showers I need to power wash some of the paving as it has become dangerously slippery.
And now it is Saturday afternoon, breezy and sunny and no showers. R has tidied the primula bed and weeded the asparagus bed. I have cut back vegetation by the decking and cleaned that after power washing as above. 

Cock pheasant by the pond -




Time for a nice cup of decaf tea.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

A FALSE SPRING?

It is Wednesday and by lunchtime it is 20C in the shade. Rising with the sun at 7 am, a pink sky over Bowland, a layer of polluted air hanging over Lancaster and Morecambe, I feel a sense of place and belonging.
The wood pigeons nesting in the old Christmas trees by the shed are in full voice, a song thrush is tripling, a robin greets the day, a pair of mallard are on a pond of frogspawn.
(So, which comes first - the frog or the spawn?)




Our bedroom is cordoned off with sheets of polythene as the builders break through from the new extension.

Flowers have erupted in response to this false spring - daffodils, crocus, celandines, daisies . . . change is so fast every photo is out of date by the next day.


The grass is growing, needs a cut (but too wet in the morning)(anyway I cannot get the mower past the builders van)(I know - I could ask them to move but . . .)

There are other flowers - pulmonaria, banks of wild primroses and hellebores fighting through the builder's rubble and stacks of paving stones.



Down in the pond insects are creeping out of the water onto dry stems ready to expand their wings and fly - dragonflies and damselflies.
Waterboatmen ripple the mirror-like surface as the moorhens paddle across with their big feet.

Back outside the kitchen door I notice my almost tame cock pheasant has a damaged tail feather - has he been in a scrap with another cock pheasant?



And the resident mallard are not going away. If not on the pond they sit on the shed roof or wander up the bank towards the house.



One thing that does concern me, as a consequence of having our summer in February, is that the buds on the plum and pear are beginning to break. If we get a hard frost on the blossom we lose the fruit for the year.
Signing off as a storm named Freya spirals in. It is raining, windy and I am listening to a Howling Wolf CD.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

LOOKING CLOSER

I begin this blog on February 16th - we have been in our house for 12 years. Crocuses are out, bumblebees in the garden and this after noon a Peregrine falcon flew over heading east.

It is mild today - 11C.

We have chard for supper with some rather strange veggie sausages. I hope they taste better than the Quorn mince we tried in a Shepherd's Pie (?Greengrocer's Pie)(suggestions on a postcard please.)

When you think there is nothing in the garden a good look is worth it.



Frond by the pond -


- bark on the poplar.


catkins on hazel, moss on the ground.






The big sycamore's reflection in the pond - no frogspawn yet but having had the video camera in the very bottom corner where the stream leaves the garden we have found the bathing site for many birds - tits, finches, sparrows, blackbirds, and even rabbits. 




This place is a highway for pheasants and moorhen. (or is it moorhens?) In fact the pheasants seem to go in for communal bathing!

R did much of the hard work cutting back the buddleia along the banking and carting it away to the ever growing non flammable bonfire. It looks a bit stumpy now but later in the year it will be covered in brightly coloured butterflies. 

I am enjoying the continuing mild weather despite Brexit but feel that there is something nasty, if not in the woodshed, then at least in the near future. 
It is interesting if tedious to watch our political parties with the knives out - reminds me of when I played Julius Caesar at school - Et Tu Boris?

Broccoli for supper and freezer after 1 minute blanching in boiling water.


And in some forgotten corner of some  garden flower bed lurks Doc - behind the thyme (as usual) - with snowdrops in the background.
Having said that the snowdrops are just beginning to go over after four weeks of glory.

But there is hope - the first leaves are coming on the elder by the path to the pond and a euphorbia in flower higher up.














It is Saturday, temperature reached 15.5C yesterday and is warm today. There are two pairs of mallard on the pond and, looking out of the bathroom window at the back banking, I watched a rabbit collecting dry grass for bedding and taking it down a new burrow. The world is on the move.



Saturday, 16 February 2019

TOO EARLY FOR SPRING?


'Tis dogs delight to bark and bite
And little birds to sing,
And if you sit on a red-hot brick
It's a sign of an early spring.
                             Anon.

Now, you might think what this silly poem has to do with a photograph of a leaf I picked upon outside the kitchen doors.
Well - actually it is not a leaf but the ear of our metal nodding dog. (I will not say "What's this ear?")

I have shown you, in the last blog, crocuses and primroses but the weather is fickle in February.

We took all the branches of the privet to the bonfire. I trimmed back the most vicious plant on the planet - Rose Grouse - and I do not think I have yet forgiven David Austin Roses for selling it to me. It makes a bramble look tame. (And feel tame).

Having cleared all that away I spring(?)-cleaned the mower shed. It is full of unused, and by the recyclers, unwanted plastic flowerpots.

Anyway here is the house from the pond where I raised the level of the lower banking. Went down and all is soggy as it is now overflowing in another place where the pebbles are - so I will have to remove them and raise the liner there too. 👎😰⛈





I have already been up the field and in the wood raking out the drain and stream. It was overflowing and coming through the upper fence. The farmer drained his field into the top of our garden! (Before we came).
So - what signs of spring?
 
Euphorbias and foxgloves in waiting, just stirring with the lengthening days.


Pots of tulips and early rhubarb breaking the compost surface.
Azalea buds, fat and promising, hellebore coming through the stacks of uprooted paving stones.











Light on the pine next door and holes for birds to nest in on the old ash tree.








Then an oddity, especially in the depths of early February - Tremella mesenterica - Yellow Brain Fungus on a fallen ash log, strangely alien?

Monday was frosty to start but became a sunny early spring (late winter) day. I gave up on the high pond level and let it fall 3 inches (7 cm) to stop the quag by the shed. Elsewhere I tined the grass with a fork (and got a good blister). 
R came out and we pruned the bigger clump of buddleia and she took the stuff to the bonfire (which I tried to light having found an old petrol can with mixed fuel for a strimmer.)(I had given the machine to my son-in-law.) Using a long twist of paper as a fuse I tried to light the bonfire but failed - too damp I think. The "fuse" was important as petrol has a tendency to go whoomph!

And the first song thrush is singing, the first pigeon cooing, the first buzzard mewing. Birds are getting ready.

And on the camera the cock pheasant strutting his stuff in the wood.