Wednesday, 15 August 2018

UNDER THE BIG POTATO



Dug up the first potato - not many but plenty of weight - remember how they were before I planted them - a little long in the radicle - extreme chitting?
I once did a surreal doodle called Under the Big Potato -


Enough spudfoolery, to more important things.

When we moved the rose bed I found the white agapanthus was more or less dead. I bunged it in anyway and forgot it. After all these months there are small shoots breaking the surface of the soil.

Not all the damaged and possibly dead plants are gone. It reminds one of the urge to live, to survive.
That is not something much of the human population of the world seems to have. As the earth heats up we seem to have a death wish. I apologise to generations to come for the mess my generation has made of this planet.
If we do not do anything then one day we will be gone, wiped out with much of the world's flora and fauna. The world will go on - it will not be the end of the world - just a different world.

Let me talk pond - we are putting off going in and removing the biggest water lily, a wet muddy and unpleasant thing to do - the lily is so big it will take a lot of shifting.


A female Aeshna cyanea, the Common Hawker is laying eggs on the wood at the outlet of the pond carefully placing each one.
She is difficult to photograph until she settles, moving like a miniature helicopter above the water.


Morning, and from out bedroom window R sees two mallard duck and a heron by the pond sharing the lower end with the three iron birds by Adam Booth of Piper's Forge at Kirkpatrick Durham.

Now to unwelcome visitors. On the right bark chewed from one of the white birches - grey squirrel most likely but could be roe deer.
The tree may survive albeit scarred. Do I put a guard back on it - I do not know.

Eating our carrots - so sweet straight out of the ground. The greengages are picked - also sweet straight off the tree. 


Here is Hydrangea Annabelle at it again by the utility door. The blooms are so big that, when it rains, they bow down to the ground with the weight.


And now for two beauties - a Red Admiral butterfly and a lovely yellow rose revived by the recent rain.

I have finished doing the raspberries, tidied the willow around the compost heaps and fed this and that with seaweed concentrate. 

Now I am sitting here bleeding having been attacked by a Rambling Rector! A rose with vicious thorns that needed, needs, severe pruning. In doing so a found a mahonia I had forgotten we had buried in the growth. Then I stuck the pruning on the bonfire and lit it - always a satisfying action - but I forgot to put the big potato in the hot ashes to bake.

Talking about being under things - thunder and rain today, Sunday, and big clouds over the bay.



And so to finish this blog with a panorama of the poppy bed - it is amazing what will grow on rubbish subsoil!



And what messing about with Photoshop and a photo whilst the rain falls can produce.
Rainbow over Coniston.



Wednesday, 8 August 2018

OF RAGWORT (AND FRUIT) AND POISON

Just a little shout about glorious ragwort, national flower of Ellan Vannin, the yellow cushag. This much maligned flower is, alas, toxic to animals - but only in large quantities. Wild animals seem to avoid it - its smell and bitter taste a deterrent. It does get eaten if pasture is over grazed and the animals are hungry. Then it is toxic.
However it is not illegal to let it grow in all its glory, covered in small tigers - the caterpillars of the cinnabar moth.
So I will not be pulling it up in the garden but loving it like John Clare - "Ragwort thou humble flower with tattered leaves, I love to see thee come and litter gold."



When we moved the rose bed for our upsizing the remaining subsoil was lightly forked and any old seeds I had scattered there plus some bought escholzias and poppies.

What is surprising is that other things have appeared (apart from the weeds). Ammi, a verbena bonariensis (where did that come from?), calendulas, borage and so on.













The fruit is coming - well some of it, less said about raspberries and gooseberries the better.

Apples to the left, plums to the right.
Greengages to the left and damsons to the right.
One thing that is doing well, or are doing well are the buddleias. They have even self sown into the hoggin path.
This one is the only original from the previous owner Tom J and I have steadfastly refused to prune it back in February. It seems to thrive. Odd branches have snapped off in a gale but it is happy up on the top banking under the old ash tree.


I have given up on the raspberries and removed the old canes already and tied in some of the new ones for next year (unless I dig them all up and burn them). I have removed any dead wood from the transplanted roses and found one or two plants that might be dead and one I thought was dead is sprouting - I hope not from the rootstock.

Found a strange caterpillar and after much searching we decided it was a knot grass moth. Not a great photo but enough  for identification.

Then I was looking at the bushnell camera of the pond and our mallard duck when I saw something swim across the water in the background. Look carefully - it is early on. Is it a water rat? Well, no, I think it is not - rather a common brown rat sadly - but swimming well.


Have done another butterfly count and this included our first Comma this year.



Don't touch!! Just found this pretty flower in the poppy bed. A Datura, Thorn Apple, Jimsonweed, Devil's Snare and poisonous. In fact one of the top ten most poisonous plants and fruits.
Datura belongs to the classic “witches’ weeds”, along with deadly nightshade, henbane, and mandrake. Most parts of the plants contain toxic hallucinogens, and datura has a long history of use for causing delirious states and death.


I think I will wash my hands.


Thursday, 2 August 2018

I HAVE A DREAM

Well, I have had a dream for many years but now I am probably past realising it in any large way.
Asked what I would have liked to have been had I not been a medic I reply, independently wealthy.
I have a dream of being rich, buying up farmland, putting a fence around it and going away - rewilding it. Of course this would fall foul of agricultural policy, assorted laws etc and anyway I have not won the lottery - yet!
So I was given the book Wilding by Isabella Tree for my birthday and therein was a managed version of the dream - mine was more chaotic though.

The pond has had water all through the drought and is now overflowing after a downpour or two. One minute deluge, the next sunshine. Rain pours over the gutter from the roof in a waterfall as the clouds empty.

Monday evening, there is a humming bird hawk moth on the buddleia outside the kitchen, the mallard duck sits by the pond, at times the air outside the back door is full of Martin wings. 

The lawn grass is regrowing though there are bare patches where, in the winter, moss took over and the tough ribwort plantain in patches.

They say abundant lichen growth is a sign of clean air - whilst we were away in Wales we came across this seat at the gallery Workshop Wales - nuff said. It was too special to sit on and damage the growth though.

At the end of the week my cousin from New Zealand is coming to stay, an expert on organic gardening. I am biting my nails! So much is scruffy - but perhaps that is what our garden is all about, vaguely managed wildness mixed with more formal areas.
At least the blue agapanthus are out - they seemed to grow wild in Auckland.





What the garden needs this Autumn is loads of good manure, I will just have to get on with a bit of shovelling.


There are young chaffinches - see left - all over the place and, as shown on the right, greater spotted woodpeckers, goldfinches and tree sparrows above a cock pheasant hoping for a discarded seed or three.

One sad fact is that there are always one or two fatalities from window collisions no matter what we do. Other than stopping feeding - ? So far just one small chaffinch.

I have cut the beech hedge with my late father in law's electric trimmers. They must be forty or fifty years old but still work fine. It is just me that is not working so well. I had hoped the gardener who moved the rose bed would do it but he never answered my phone call and message.


There is still colour in the garden though not as much as we would like, the causally sown cosmos are coming out and the cutting bed is doing well.



And we have yet more courgettes!

R is making the red fruit salad - a pound each of rhubarb, blackcurrants, strawberries and raspberries cooked with sugar - add the brandy to taste at the last moment. It freezes well (before adding brandy).

Sunday, 29 July 2018

COUNTING BUTTERFLIES


You come home from holiday and the grass has grown - where it has not succumbed to the drought. A little rain has helped. The weeds are rampant and I have been mowing and mowing.

The courgettes in ten days have exploded into marrows.

The rhubarb has also recovered and the hacking back has done wonders - pulling crisp young stems again and topping up the freezer.

My mate the cock pheasant is mooching about under the feeders and looks not too bad despite some moulting. When I refilled the feeders there was no action for about two hours then they were swamped by goldfinches and sparrows with the chaffinches underneath waiting for dropped delicacies.


The scruffy bit of old rose bed into which I threw an assortment of annual seed is looking colourful and not too awful. Some cosmos has taken but is not yet flowering.

In the garden the butterflies have appeared with the flowering of the buddleias. The gatekeepers seem to  like the marjoram particularly. It does well in the garden.

So I have done my first 15 minutes of the big butterfly count - 
https://www.bigbutterflycount.org 

and saw large and small whites, gatekeeper, peacocks, red admirals and a painted lady - but where are the small tortoiseshells?
On the left a peacock with wings folded - difficult to see - on the right a painted lady.

Just finished filling there log shed with the wood for the winter and phew! I need a muscly man to do this sort of work, but then, I had just mowed the steep banking and cleared around the pond earlier in the day in 26C so . . .



The red rose up the holly tree is in full flower - we call this Pam's rose as she gave it to us. There are a lot of things in the garden given to us by friends, some of them special where a friend has since left us like Sue's reedmace and the maple. We also have one or two things that she passed onto us with the statement that she didn't know what it was but bung it in and see.
The magnolia grandiflora has been reluctant to flower this year until R warned it that, no flowers and it was being cut down. At least this was the gist of what she said. This seems to have done the trick (for now). I wish that method would work with everything especially seeds - if you do not germinate I'll - but what?
A couple of superb reds are the zinnia to the left and the alstroemerias to the right. We really want white alstroemerias but the only ones that seem to thrive are the deep red ones.

It is high summer and hot. We are off to see Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale al fresco - and the forecast is for the first real rain for ages - typical British weather. 😕

1. It did not rain till we got home.
2. We did not see the blood moon.
3. It is Sunday and raining now.
4. Outside my window 19 goldfinches and chaffinches are feeding. (plus odd blue tit, great tit, woodpecker and pigeon).
5. When I opened the back door this morning there were 10 house martins wheeling around my head.

Last night I gave the Brushes Ap another go à la Hockney - somewhere back of Coniston Water from memory.