Wednesday, 29 December 2010


So this is Christmas, and what have we done?
Chopped a few logs and had wonderful fun?
The earth it is frozen, in shade or in sun,
And the parsnips are locked in ground hard as stone.

A new dawn and a new year - the thaw has arrived but the track to the house is still a sheet of wet polished ice. Soon it may be possible to get back into the garden.

So back to Pomes -

Perhaps as New Year approaches the next poem is better ?

“Time everyone please.” Approaching midnight
God’s publican spreads the towel over the pumps,
tolls the bell by the bar. “Drink up,”
he calls - one final draught of life - and then . . . . .

In this remote inn the door is bolted
and all retire into the snug back room.
God can wait a little longer for their souls,
life has still a dram or two of single cask.

There comes a knock upon the fastened door.
God’s publican opens it a crack, sighs -
God’s policeman stands in the dismal dark.
“You will all have to come with me,” he says,

“But not quite yet.” He leans his sharpened scythe
against the wall. The door is firmly locked,
conversation swells, one golden measure
slowly drained - there is time for one more toast.

“To . . . . . .”

ps. The Sparrowhawk has been back scavenging under the bird feeders. He, it is a he, must be starving.

Sunday, 26 December 2010


So the weather is to turn warmer - about time - which means I have no excuses to stay out of the garden and implement the ideas circulating between my two brain cells.

There is still a little ice by the stream some of which refracts light in peculiar ways - with a little help from the imaging software.

The sun has caused some of the snow to clear near bushes and on the banking allowing birds and rabbits to get something to eat.

In other places the snow is still powdery and pristine, sparkling in the sun.

C has blackcaps in his garden in town so I am envious. S had nuthatches on Town Bank so I am envious.

Time to scatter some porridge oats which is very popular with the blackbirds and robins - continual warfare going on.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


We had a rumble last night around midnight - I thought it was snow coming off roof but on looking this morning the snow is still there. Then I heard on the news and via a text from I in Coniston that we had an earthquake last night centred on Coniston - how does that fit with storing Nuclear waste at Sellafield! The local wit has named it the Kendal Mint Quake!

There we were, nicely asleep in bed, and then the earth moved for us and all it did was wake us up - we turned over and went back to sleep.

A few years ago we were on holiday on the Isle of Colonsay when we heard that there had been an earthquake - back home!

We are still in freezing conditions with snow cover - it has not melted except in odd places where it gets the full sun and has been partially cleared.

Walking around the garden visitors have left trails - rabbits eating at the uncovered grass on the banking, many birds and the unmistakeable single file spoor of a fox -presumably hunting the rabbits. There are scrapings from the grey squirrel and the jays who have been desperately trying to remember where they put the hazelnuts and peanuts earlier in the year.

The coal tits have also been burying seed but they cannot remember where they have put the seed or, perhaps, even that they buried anything. Sometimes I feel a bit like that - now where is the .....?

Monday, 20 December 2010


Snow on snow on snow - a bleak but beautiful winter. All work on hedging, gardening and so on ceases.

Lots of spade work but one cannot "borrow" too much salt from the bin in the road - after all it is not really for personal use - is it!?

Paper lady stuck halfway up to house, R stuck trying to turn without "giving it a bit of Welly"! Or boot if that is what you are wearing.

An inventive mind is at work at the Nook trying to devise snow ploughs by fitting a "V" shaped wooden piece - 2 planks - to the front of the mower - the wheels spin and spin, a large plank on the front of the rake - gathers too much snow so too heavy to push, or perhaps I should borrow G.J.'s leaf blower as the snow is dry and powdery.

To end here's another picture of the Cumbrian Woodcock (not Scotch). Actually thinking of the cold and Scotch brings something else to mind - see you later - Cheers!

Friday, 17 December 2010


Back has come the bitterly cold weather.

Ground as hard as iron and all that stuff.

The Hedgemen came and began to lay the field hedge. They have produced a vast amount of wood and brush which R and I have been building into a bonfire, chopping for kindling, setting aside good poles for beans and sweet peas and larger wood for logs for the wood burner.

The removal of the large sallow from the hedge at the far end of the garden has revealed that we have a much bigger garden than we thought.

Ideas are going through my head - perhaps a sitting circle round a central fire as at Castell Henllys in north Pembrokeshire.

Planks supported on vertical posts are arranged in two semicircles with an open fire in the middle where potatoes and sausages can be baked in the hot ashes - sausages on a stick and potatoes in their skins, split and filled with salty butter.
I know - not very healthy but . . . . . .

Monday, 13 December 2010


So, we are just getting used to driving around in the BMW again when we are told the snow and cold is coming back. Next year it is winter tyres or a better vehicle - though if I do change things we will probably have the mildest winter on record!

It is still very frosty at night as you can see from the enhanced detail it gives to shapes in the garden.

The top one is a teasel - in monochrome - the second one is a Cardoon.

The parsnips are still locked into the soil and will have to fend for themselves.

Bird feeding continues in a big way - I am trying a tip from Helen Yemm in the paper - she suggests adding a little oil to porridge flakes and putting that out for the ground feeders. The oil is to stop the stuff blowing away.
Apart from one dunnock the meal seems to have been largely ignored. Perhaps it is an acquired taste - a bit like olives and sprouts when you are young.

The halved apples are loved by the blackbirds and thrushes. I find that if I cut the apple into three pieces - two ends and a middle - then they can have the ends and I can enjoy the middle.

Friday, 10 December 2010


Got up this morning to find it had rained overnight, not frozen but thawed and 5 inches of snow was all but gone. A little still in the shade and where it had been ice but that was all.


I have all these pictures of The Nook in snow and so you are going to get them now!
I know - this is a clearing house blog but there it is.

I will just go and chop a few thawing logs for the wood burner whilst you trawl through these.

More to come -

I have also been to the shed to look at the defrosted plants delivered whilst under freeze etc. Potted on what I could and temporarily potted the echinaceas and agapanthus. I will await developments if any but I am often surprised by the toughness of some plants.

Just read January's - yes January - copy of English Garden. Lots about Gresgarth Hall - Arabella Lennox-Boyd - and opening times. A must if we can. I wish we had lots of gardeners and things - mainly things!

Thursday, 9 December 2010


Sitting at the computer I looked out of the window at the banking and saw this bird.

At first I thought it might have been a Snipe but on closer inspection it has a barred head, not a stripe.

This is a Woodcock.

The pictures are a little substandard because the lens was at full stretch but with a
little photoshoppery I have managed something recognisable.

Birds are finding it hard at the moment, even the Robin.

It seems strange that it is probable that this Robin is not the one I see in the summer waging war on other Robins but an immigrant from Scandinavia seeking better climes - got it wrong this year!

So there are the birds and animals shivering in the big freeze, the garden is in suspended animation and now I have found we are low on logs.

I will have to chop some more if I can prize them from the frozen log pile.

Then I can continue to have the woodburner at full flow warming the old cockles!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


So we are snowed in - well I will try to get out this afternoon - and then try to get back!
The first picture is a panorama - 3 images put together - of the garden from the house.

It all looks sunny but it is not warm - not even reaching 0 degC - the snow does melt where it gets a good dose of sunshine but elsewhere it does not.

The second shot shows us suffering freezing fog - it is a wonder anything survives - I cannot get a pickaxe into the ground though the stream still runs and keeps a small corner of the pond ice free. Hence the visit by the heron yesterday.
The usuals are all here including this fat Wood Pigeon waiting for one of the smaller birds to drop a seed.

And then I was in the kitchen and glanced casually out of the window by the feeders. That is a large blackbird, I thought looking down at the ground under the buddleia, and then the bird looked up at me, cheeky as you may.
It was a female Sparrowhawk! Even the predators are starving - there is little carrion and mice and voles are buried under the snow.

Finally this picture with the late afternoon sun leaking through the trees conveys cold - minus 10 C last night. In the summer we can sit on the old boxes on a hot day and be glad of the shade.

I think I will skip that idea just for now.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


The photograph of the fox tracks was poor and now we have 3 inches more snow. It is a good job we went shopping yesterday,
Friends are skiing up to us for coffee!

I do have a picture of rabbit tracks though - you would think
they would be safely and warmly tucked in their burrows.

Outside is a winter wonderland with every twig and blade of grass outlined in snow - WARNING! there will pictures to follow.

Family were here at the weekend sledging and so on - the braver ones on a plastic sack (very fast) - and the snowman still has his carrot for a nose.

The forecast is for sun later so the camera is on tenterhooks.

This rather poor image of a Brambling is the best I could get
as they insisted on hiding behind the buddleia by the feeders.
Nevertheless it is proof they are here.

We were planning a shopping trip later today as Christmas approaches but we will have to sit by the fire and read instead.

What a shame.

Saturday, 4 December 2010


The snow is finally falling, the, last night it rained for a while, thawed for a while and froze. All is crusty.

Went out to shovel drive. The treatment I am on is wonderful - never felt the cold - just had a whacking hot flush!

The first picture is up the garden at night with a flash. The second is of an old sink from my mother's garden in which we had lilies. The stubs of their stems are just protruding through the snow.

The plants I received at the start of the freeze were carefully put in the shed and are now rock solid.
Normally the shed would be frost free but it has been so cold that it has been well below zero even in there.

The birds are everywhere and I seem to be feeding most of Cumbria. Today R spotted a funny chaffinch - it was a brambling and then another. They have fled from the cold of northern europe for - the freeze here.

The garden sleeps under the snow - except for voles and things which have tunnel networks hidden away in the long grass - a hidden world safe from kestrel eyes.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


This is the view from my computer out of the window and up the garden.

Not much gardening being done - Earth stood hard as iron (as did my trousers on the washing line), water like a stone!

The pond does have a clear area where the stream runs through, so the birds etc. do have water to drink.

I was concerned that the robins were not getting enough grub as they seemed to find it hard to hang on to the feeders - so I put out a slice of bread with lard on it - not salted - bad for birds - and three robins turned up. It is a measure of their hunger, I think, that three such territorial birds could take turns at the bread and stay with a foot or two of each other.

The second picture is of the willow tunnel in snow which lends a strange skeletal feel to it.

As we are on the west coast we have not had much snow - 1 to 2" at most - so far. When the weather changes and comes from the west then we will get a lot though it may not last for long. Then we will not want the warm front sticking over us.

ps My BMW 3 series, even with traction control etc, is pretty useless on the polished icy hills here. My wife's old Toyota Yaris is great!
On the other hand, for the rest of the year, the BMW is in a totally different class especially on long journeys.

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Again we are nearly snow free (though not ice) because it all falls on the pennines and Lake District when it come from the Northeast.

Plants that have survived till now finally
succumbed in last night's severe frost. Green things are bent and wilted, final leaves falling.

R loves the snow but I find it a nuisance - getting about is difficult - no one salts the minor roads and they become polished glass.

Of course there are times when it is beautiful as in this picture of out great sycamore at night with flakes falling.

However the ground is frozen and plants cannot go in - the ones that came late when I was ill. They are in the shed but that will be below freezing in this weather so fingers crossed that they survive.

So, feed the birds, watch and wait.

Friday, 26 November 2010


I have just stuck this on the Gardener's World site -
"Every garden needs, at least, a rough patch if it is big enough - or even if it is not.
A wild area can be just as beautiful - I must admit I abhor the park bedding planting - must be a bit of Jekyll crossed with John Muir?

The unburned bonfire now has a dilemma - I cannot set fire to it now because of hibernating hedgehogs etc - and by the time they emerge birds will be building nests in it. So the heap will have to be left to slowly rot - at least till September."

This image is, of course, from the summer - the footpath sign is over the fence. There are planted willows now growing to improve privacy.

The garden does have other more tamed areas but no formal bedding - you can check this by looking back. Probably the most managed areas are the vegetable beds but even there they are not the rigid lines one might expect of allotments and Victorian walled gardens.

Oh! And it is also a fallacy that a wild garden means doing nothing - if you do it will probably be taken over by brambles, nettles (some needed for butterflies etc) and such.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Outside it is very cold - first really hard frost though the sun is now shining.

The birds are active and I noticed that all the berries on the top of the cotoneaster - the flat one - have been eaten but the ones underneath that are harder to get at are still there.
Well, why waste effort if you do not have to.

There are Pigletty Haycorns under oaks and large bunches of keys hanging on the ash.

The rowanberries have been stripped by redwings and the hazelnuts taken and buried by both the jays and the grey squirrel.

A few rosehips remain and the hawthorn is covered still with its small red berries.

Flowering plants with good seed heads have been left as have the grasses so the frost and sunlight can lift the garden at this time of year.

Everyone seems to have waxwings according to the television - but us.
I wait in hope.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


You would think - make a path, then it is done.
No way - the one above is a path made by a builder, hoggin and side boards and hardcore and so on. It still needs weeding and the moss loves it.

In the wood the paths are of grass or wood chippings so need mowing and renewing all the time.

By the pond in the boggy area I put down a stone chipping path which sank into the bog without trace. So I had to build a wooden boardwalk with old scaffolding planks. No doubt one day I will walk along it and disappear into the mire up to my knees, (or just disappear).

On other paths and around the veg and fruit beds I have used slate chippings but even this needs weeding and topping up.

Then around the house we have stone paving which needs power washing and weeding and repointing.

Finally from the house to the cattle grid is tarmac. Great you say, at least that is the real thing - BUT - needs sweeping and the moss is staring to make an appearance.

This whole problem is known as Path Entropy - each path has an inborn programme to return to jungle.

So, unless you slave away, there is little chance of leading anyone up the garden p...!

Monday, 15 November 2010


As I am rotting away I thought I would talk of exciting things like hyphae and spore bodies - fungi.
The first is that horror of horrors - the Honey Fungus. You cannot do
anything to
prevent it other than try to keep trees
healthy as the thing is everywhere. Infected trees as our ash should be cut down.

(It is a sort of silvan Scent of New Mown Hay - book by John Blackburn).

Ash wood is good for a log burner so at least we get some warmth from it.
You can eat the fungus - it is edible - but I have not tried it.

Then a fantastic fungus - one of my favourites suddenly appeared in the middle of a
hoggin path. Do not ask me why it has come up there, I do not know.
This is the Orange peel fungus.
This picture is of it on moss covered wood as the specimen in the path is a bit feeble.

Some of the paths in the wood have as their surface wood chippings and in the autumn we get some interesting toadstools.

The two small images at the bottom show some of these.
Of course we have others like the Coral Spot and so on.

The only fungus I have had is Athlete's Foot. At least that did not look like this!

Thursday, 11 November 2010


It is a wild day. The heavy rain has passed but the wind is roaring over the house and through the trees.

Saw my first flock of redwing - here for the abundant berries.

The hawthorns are heavy with haws which some say indicates a cold winter ahead. Personally I would have thought it reflects the seasons past and pollination, frost damage to blossom and so on.

The garden seems full of birds and we have had the male greater spotted woodpecker back but this time on the feeders just outside the kitchen window. He is becoming bolder.

This is an old radio which currently lives out side the house on a windowsill in the covered area by the kitchen.

As I have outside electric sockets, in the summer I can listen to the cricket and sit in the sun.

A spider has set up house inside the radio - somewhere sheltered, dry and safe from predators. The latter essential as this is near the bird feeders.

The garden is looking a little unloved and untidy as I have been sidetracked by journeys to Manchester. At least there is nothing that a bit of hard labour will not cure - when I can motivate myself.

Monday, 8 November 2010


So the storm came last night - well a bit of a gale - and blew off most of the remaining leaves. The Prunus shirotae still has some.

The colour is spectacular but, nearby, the Great White Cherry is still resolutely green.

The big willow tree at the far end of the bottom hedge (actually it may be a sallow) still has yellow autumn foliage but the ash and sycamore leaves are long gone.

Sycamore is so disappointing for an Acer - such dull leaves - though I suppose the bright red young stems in the spring and early summer are okay. We have, of course one huge sycamore which scattered its winged seeds everywhere. I spend a big part of the summer pulling up seedlings.

The second picture is a close-up of the shirotae showing similar red leaf stems.

The feeders are plastered in tits - blue, great and coal - though there are other birds - see before.

Perhaps we should change the name of the house to The Tittery?

Perhaps not!

Friday, 5 November 2010


Rain, rain, rain and floods.
Unblocked the stream in several palaces - leaves and silt, dislodged turf from the bullock invasion, cobbles and twigs, watercress plethora.

Now the water is running down the bed as it should.

Halloween is past and here is our giant pumpkin as carved by Gary Gifford, street performer extraordinary.

What you cannot see is that he has drilled the fruit with many small holes which, when lit, would have radiated light in all directions.

The medium size one went to grandchildren in Manchester.

The smallest one was turned into soup after being roasted in the oven.
There is no definitive recipe. R did it and added a bit of this and some of that. Paprika was definitely in there as was vegetable stock.

It tastes Okay but as I am not a fan of pumpkin - except for carving for Halloween - it will do for us hot on a cold day.
It has always puzzled me how something that looks so wonderful can taste of so little.

It must be what you add that does the trick.

Pumpkin vindaloo? Then it would not matter too much of what it tasted.