Saturday, 31 July 2010


Is it not extraordinary that so big a heap of broad bean pods produce so few beans.
Pollination was not bad this year thanks to bumble bees - not a honey bee to be seen.

The picture also has flourishing parsley in a vase which means that her what writes is wearing the trousers this year. Perhaps I shall have to have an accident with weedkiller next year?

The mound of pods produced 2 lbs 6 oz of beans - or something or other in kilograms.
Shown are four half pound bags of beans blanched in boiling water and bagged for the freezer.

Now the cauliflowers are good and, yesterday, I made about 16 servings of R's Soup.

If I can remember the recipe - based on a Cranks one - it is as follows :-
For each cauliflower take a medium onion and a potato. Chop and saute in butter (1 oz) with a good teaspoon of ground Cumin till the onions are transparent. Break cauli. into florets and add to pan with 1 pint veg. stock (you can use chicken stock if you prefer) and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional). Bring to boil and simmer covered for an hour (bottom oven in Aga).
Add 1 pint milk and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper, then allow to cool before liquidising.
Reheat to serve or freeze for another day.
Cranks recipe recommends Nutmeg instead of Cumin but R says Cumin so ....!

Have mowed lawn.
It just keeps raining so the grass grows and is sodden, cannot mow on mulch setting so lug heavy bags of chopped grass to various mounds hidden around garden.

Oh! And the electricity has come to the Wendy House. One needs a little light in one's life from time to time.

Thursday, 29 July 2010


It can be a tough life - planting seeds, watching them germinate and then be eaten by slugs or pigeons. Last summer was so wet and cold that I even found slugs eight feet off the ground in the runner beans.
Used nets this year and with the help of the driest spring for 80 years, and bottled Bluebird bitter beer in sunken jam jars (a stone for a lid)(see Sat 19th June), I have kept the enemy at bay.
I do not begrudge the blackbirds an odd blackcurrant or ten nor the wasps a plum or raspberry. We have enough for ourselves.
But slugs, snails and pigeons - Aaaaagh!

Talking of pests one of the peanut feeders was on the ground yesterday - something grey and furry had been at it I think - tree rats (grey squirrels). If only there were some way to communicate to them how I would love a nice squirrel goulash or curried squirrel legs.

Having said that there are also times of year when life is harsh in the garden.
Doc was a retirement gift and stands under the Weigelia by the end of the banking wall where I can see him from my desk and computer.

So, there I am, in deepest December, feet up in the kitchen, warmed by the Aga range, and outside Doc has a mantle of snow. Somehow he always smiles, is always in a good humour despite the vagaries of an English, nay Lake District climate.

I said nay because it seemed more appropriate then no if it betrays my age!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


There is something about red in a garden which is stunning, especially when it is red like the oriental poppy or Crocosmia lucifer on the right.

With red being the complimentary colour to green and so much green in the garden then the red is emphasised.

Red and green, also, have a special place in my heart for my first tricycle as a small child
was red and green.I used to pedal furiously
around The Beeches in Penny Bridge
playing "Geoff Dukes" although there was a step at the back of the house where I had to get off and lift the trike. Before we left for Torver my brother and the village boys managed to break it freewheeling down the bankings in the lawn.

Back to the garden - it rained yesterday, it is raining today - showery but enough to make the grass sodden and keep the mower in the shed.
We are eating broad beans, courgettes and cauliflowers (huge) (I did not think I could grow them). The raspberries are soggy and the blackcurrants on the ground. (Did make a summer pud, though, with some rhubarb.

I was pleased to see that the one legged cock chaffinch is still thriving. It seems unable to feed on the feeders but hops around on the ground gathering discards and fragments.

Sunday, 25 July 2010


All right, I know it is July and this was taken in the snow but it was Jays annoyed that they could not get at the peanuts in the feeder outside the bedroom window that roused me this morning. They are timid, skittish creatures but that flash of blue on the wing is a joy.
Once, as a boy, I found one of these small feathers and the detail and brightness of the colours is stunning.

Now to the reason for this blog - it is time I gave you a long dreary list of the birds seen in the garden though there is a problem - do I add those seen from the house in the fields next to us or flying over like Gulls, Geese and Cormorants?

In no particular order -
*flying over or ** in fields

Mallard Long-tailed Tit Woodcock
Buzzard Wren Cormorant*
Sparrowhawk Mistle Thrush Green Woodpecker
Peregrine Falcon Song Thrush Raven*
Kestrel Blackbird Assorted Geese*
Pheasant Redwing Mute Swan*
Jack Snipe Fieldfare
Lapwing** Robin
Curlew** Willow Warbler
Herring Gull* Chiffchaff
Lesser Blackback Gull* Dunnock
Greater Blackback Gull* Pied Wagtil
Wood Pigeon Starling
Collared Dove Greenfinch
Tawny Owl Goldfinch
Swift* Chaffinch
Swallow Bullfinch
House Martin* House Sparrow
Carrion Crow Tree Sparrow
Rook Jay
Jackdaw Treecreeper
Magpie Spotted Flycatcher
Coal Tit Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Blue Tit Heron
Great Tit Grey Wagtail

It is difficult to identify the geese as they are at height flying to and from the Duddon feeding grounds.

Still waiting for a Nuthatch (Osprey and Golden Eagle).(Penguin, Ostrich, Moa, Dodo, Passenger Pigeon, Archaeopteryx)

Friday, 23 July 2010


So now the roofing shingles and so on are on - waiting for the electrics.
The path leading down to it is a bit fragile on one side so have had to support it with stones.
Now R can sit in her establishment and watch the pondlife.

We had several of her writing group here yesterday and they had a guided tour.

We made blackcurrant jelly which has not really set so will need a further boil. It means sterilising jars again.

You are asking what is the latest senile moment? Well, I mowed the lawns yesterday as I have said previously and then gazed at my handiwork from our bedroom window only to find I had completely missed one area!

The wood pigeons are so fat! I am puzzled as to how they manage to fly.
They waddle around beneath the birdfeeders and pick up the discards. The tits are so choosy throwing any seed they do not fancy to one side hunting for sunflower hearts.
And then the coal tits go and bury them. And then they forget where they have put them!

So, more mowing later, more jelly boiling later, need more sunflower hearts so off to West Cumberland Farmers for a sack.

Unless I have another senile moment!

Thursday, 22 July 2010


Then garden has several places to read. The small statue of a boy reading can be seen in both pictures. The small depression between the boy and the book fills with water and birds come to drink from it.
The two white chairs have now been burned on a bonfire as they rotted away. They were bought for a couple of pounds from a second hand furniture warehouse. When I got them home they had Poland stamped underneath so they had come a long way.

The are a couple of boxes as rudimentary seats at the top of the wood and two more under the pruned rhododendron beyond the stream.
At the end of the willow tunnel is a bench and there will soon be a seat on the decking beside the Wendy House.
(This is what the Garden Office is to be called after R's prize winning story.)

We have two benches and a table on the paving but the sun brolly broke of in a gale and has not yet been replaced.
There are chairs and a bench outside the kitchen door.

So what has been done today.

We have been admiring the Wendy House now its shingle roof is on - picture to follow.
I have mown all the lawns, deadheaded and weeded the flowerbeds. (I also played golf this morning only realising what golf is backwards near the end. (flog)

The raspberries are overflowing and blackcurrants overripe.
Tonight we will make blackcurrant jelly from the juice we strained yesterday.

We are running out of jam jars.

Phew! Time for a cuppa! (and to get out the dreaded strimmer - tomorrow?)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


The first picture is of a spider hiding in its funnel - to escape the rain - and to catch lunch. (The picture was taken in the morning)(otherwise it might have been tea or dinner).

Sometimes, out on the fells after rain, you can see the gorse bushes covered with such webs.

The rain has left large droplets weighing down the web and you can just see the spider at the bottom of the hole.

We have a plethora of bugs, beetles and other creepy-crawlies in the garden including this one. It is a Cockchafer or Maybug on the willows of the tunnel. The grubs can be found in the soil and eat the roots especially of grasses.
The grubs live in the soil for three to four years before the beetle emerges. They are about 35mm long - 1.5 inches.

This year the butterflies have been in short supply - only occasional whites, red admirals, painted ladies and peacocks.
Also I have not seen a single honey bee this year. Fortunately we have been inundated with bumble bees.
Then we have wasps scraping oak from the seats and green oak posts of the covered area outside the kitchen door but largely ignoring us - so far.

And there are wriggly things on/in the raspberries . . .

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


This is a picture of some of the pond after heavy rain. There is water overflowing to the left and in the left foreground. In fact is is raining again as I type. The pond is on a stream - well, a drain from the big field above the house - and is at the lowest point in the garden. It is unlined and was dug by ME - just a spade and backache. I must have been mad but there you are.

Over the last few years we have added plants such as the pale pink version of the Purple Loosetrife (we also have the darker one) Yellow flag - the sword shaped leaves - and we have the variegated one - white water lily, weeping sedge (a thug), mimulus, watercress and golden sedge to name a few.

The pond began life as a wet puddle after the building work was completed.
You can see the puddle on the top left photo.
The bottom left shows the small bridge built but the wooden boardwalk yet to be constructed.
The third image is taken from the pond looking up to the house. Blanket weed is visible in the water though this has now gone with the introduction of oxygenators to the pond.

I think the rain has set in.
I managed to get a lettuce and some rocket before it started and have picked some rather soggy raspberries for pud tonight - with crushed meringue and Brucciani's vanilla ice cream - yum.

Yesterday I went out in the rain and cleared the streams which were rather choked with grass and weeds. In the wood there is a large branch down of an ash tree. It always surprises me how many twigs and bits come off the trees in rain and wind.

It is a bit like old age.

Monday, 19 July 2010


One of the odder features of the garden is the willow structure down in the bottom lawn. The Osiers came from trimmings from Urswick Tarn - just willow sticks - shove them in and wait.

As they grow they were woven roughly into a tunnel and then into a T shape with a bay at the far end. A seat has been placed there as a focus.

The triple image shown illustrates, left to right, the first sticks, growth before weaving and the primary shaping of the tunnel arch.
Unfortunately the trees seem to love it and are getting out of hand.

I have taken prunings and put them in the top righthand edge of the garden as a hedge and in rows in the far garden where I hope, one day, to coppice the stools for firewood.

This picture shows the overgrown nature of the willows now.
You cannot see the clematis and honeysuckle planted to grow through it nor the odd hanging things - chimes, and old pair of goggles, a coat hanger and the filter discarded from the borehole water system. I have a lot of wine bottle corks on my study windowsill with which to make something but inspiration is rather fleeting at the moment so the heap keeps getting larger.

You can see the blue seat at the far end in the willow 'room'.

If the rain would stop (some chance) I could tidy the thing up.

Just in front of this entrance there is a small bridge - a plank and a stone - across out equally small stream - and the stream finally has water in it after the spring drought.
Now we have water it is time for the sun to come out again!

I have just heard that in the Northern Lake District they have flooding today. The hosepipe ban is, naturally, still in force!

Sunday, 18 July 2010


Luckily had a little harvest yesterday - wonderful young carrots and our only turnip.
Also shown are a few of our blackcurrants. Together with rhubarb, raspberries and strawberries (the latter bought) sugar and a little water we made 12 pounds of red fruit salad for the freezer. You add the brandy later.
Anyone want any blackcurrants?
You come and pick them, you can have them.

Must sow some more turnips - just time I think - and the idea of growing carrots in bottomless plastic tubs has worked!

Then there is this morning and RAIN!!!!

Steady heavy drizzle - none of your soft Irish weather here. Ideas of strimming and mowing out of the window. Even the birds are sheltering rather than swarming all over the feeders.

The creamy scabious at the back right of the picture is an old favourite. Many years ago when Coverham Abbey in Yorkshire (near Middleham) was a garden centre of sorts I bought one of these tall plants. So when I saw them in a catalogue I just had to have one. (3 actually)

The pink/red flowers are poppies which self seed and the yellow a rose.

The paving needs cleaning with the pressure washer.
I suppose I could do that in the rain.
If I wanted to.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


Yesterday we dashed out before the next rain, as the raspberries were dry, to pick as many as we could.
Then (we) - R made - jam.
I mowed lawns whilst I could. (I did do a bit of bottling and wrote some labels.)
So now we have enough jam for the next decade - I will have to join the W.I. so I can sell our wares at the shop in the Coronation Hall.
We (R) used an old recipe out of Mrs Beeton which is quick and gives wonderful flavour and colour.

The skimmings go into a mug and still taste great even if they look a it scummy.

This, of course, still leaves the lorry-load of blackcurrants waiting on then bushes.
Plan is to make blackcurrant jelly.
We did consider blackcurrant cordial but the books say you need pectin destroying stuff and we have a bit of a Hum and a Ha about that.
Anyway it is raining again this morning so picking postponed.
I have come to the conclusion we have too many blackcurrant bushes - anyone want a couple?

Also I am considering taking prunings, cutting 12 to 18 inch lengths and shoving them into hedgerows around the area. Then everyone would have a free glut of the fruit in a few years!

Thursday, 15 July 2010


So - what is this?

Not hard really - it is down in the kitchen garden and its roots, grated, are great with beef - yes it is a variegated horseradish.

The herbs and veg are doing well - the asparagus is now seven feet tall, parsley (unfortunately) (so you know who wears the pants at The Nook) is thriving.

And we have thyme, rosemary, sage - purple, green and variegated, mint of three types (I include the watermint in the stream), chives, marjoram - both culinary and golden, and the giant of them all - lovage.

The squat grey shrub in front of the lovage is a grey thyme.

We have yet to try lovage soup but the chicken is now stuffed with a few leaves and it is good with fish - lemony.

Also we have a few wild plants like watercress - don't eat it raw as there are sheep and cattle in the water source (liver flukes), sweet cicely and, because I live here - Spignel Meu (Meum athamaticum).

You will have to wait for the Spignel saga - another blog.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


So this is nearly it - needs the roof shingles and to be wired up, needs roses over it and a lick of paint inside, needs a party to warm its planks.
Needs the sofa bed then we have another bedroom.
Actually this is, of course, the garden office where R will write her bestseller and make millions. (So she says, but I think, come winter, she will be found on her sofa in the kitchen warmed by the Aga, Apple Mac on her lap.
Well, yes - it does the cooking, dries the clothes, heats the house and, with a really well insulated new house and a thermostat, uses very little fuel - REALLY!
Oh! And the bottom oven with the door open is good for warming sickly lambs and making meringues.

The path and railing are done as is the area of decking on the right as one looks at it.
The (shed) is quite big - 12ft x 10ft internally and faces up the garden. The pond is on the right.

We have, at last, got a little water back in the stream after the drought - back to the usual summer!

Meanwhile, at the birdfeeders (we have three stations), the young tits and greenfinches are hard at work. There cannot be a fat fledgling in the place.
They are eating the seed faster than I can top the feeders up.

It is raining.
No, the sun is out.
No, it is raining.

Summer is here.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


The Weather Forecast said it would start raining at 4 pm - they were wrong - it started at a quarter past four.

Before that I attacked the six inch grass on the lower lawns - we now have a grass cutting mountain. R cleared the grass from around the copper beech hedge.

Then I picked a pan full of raspberries, dry froze a couple of pounds and made about seven pounds of jam. I picked very carefully as the wasps were sampling the fruit also and I had no great desire to pick a wasp!
When one gets a bit decrepit like myself the old balance goes. Fell over whilst picking raspberries and fell onto the purple sprouting broccoli which now lies flat. Can only hope it will recover.

Then I picked three pounds of gooseberries
and froze 2 pounds, R made fool with the rest.

Weeded a bit and pulled up my only turnip - size of small football.

The blackcurrants are still on the bushes and need picking but there may be as much as 20 pounds +.
The birds will have some - are already as the dark blackbird droppings testify. That is all right by me - I don't mind if the birds have some fruit as long as there is enough for me.

The outlook is wet so not good for soft fruit.

Three jays on the shed roof outside my window. Saw me and cry of alarm. They are such twitchy birds.

Time for cup of tea, bread and the scum off the jam.

Monday, 12 July 2010


This is an ash - one of many at the top of the garden.

Yesterday went to 60th Anniversary day at Weasdale Nurseries near Newbiggin. Andrew Forsyth has amazing place - got trees from there. (Also went as won Third Prize in tree poetry competition for poem about Ansel Adams' monochrome picture of Aspens)

Otherwise we have oak and horse chestnut, willow and sallow at the periphery, and cherry, rowan, hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, elder and of course sycamore.
We have planted, lilac, ornamental cherries, sumach, liquidambar, hammamelis, broom, white birch, weeping and contorted willow, brown birch, weeping silver pear, eucalyptus, indian horse chestnut, purple prunus, cercidiphyllum, damsons, conference pear, bramley apple, victoria plum, magnolia soulangiana, stellata and grandiflora, flowering currant, privet, rhododendron, azaleas, beech and copper beech, crab apple, buddleia and a host of other shrubs.

One attempt at something different is to create a willow tunnel by weaving living osiers together.

The list goes on and I await the growth of all these.
They have been carefully placed but not with an advanced plan.
It is so important to protect the open space in the garden and not fill the whole place with shrubbery - even this means large areas of unkempt grass.

I hope that as they grow we do not find ourselves in the middle of a dark wood!
So far so good.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Back from a holiday and, with rain and sun, the whole garden has exploded. The grass will take several cuts, gradually lowering the level, the strimmer will be needed in the wilder areas, deadheading is urgent, especially on the roses, and fruit - raspberries and blackcurrants - need to be picked and used. The calabrese, quietly maturing when we left, has exploded into flower and is useless.
The Crambe shown here - well part of it, has gone to seed but I will leave the flower head on as it is still spectacular, (and hides the septic tank from the house).
The Garden office is in but not yet completed though the new path, railing and decking have been done.
Pond has leaked a bit but survived.
But will I?
As it is raining the order of the day is shopping, coffee and computers.
Is the summer now over for another year - like the last three?
Of course they are having a heatwave in London whilst it rains here, 18C. Mind you they have just imposed a hosepipe ban in the NW yesterday - as a borehole owner, not a problem.