Friday, 30 August 2013


House martins, I mean. The other day there were at least 40 whirling around the garden plus the odd swallow that had joined in. I went out to find about 10 clinging to the gable wall next to the nest the tree sparrows had appropriated this summer.
Amazing - so I emailed the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) and got the reply that this happened and was probably older birds showing prospective nesting sites to young birds before the left for Africa.

This is a composite panorama of eight images taken from the seat by the table at the west end of the house. The distortion, a sort of fish-eye effect, is not how it really is - the seat back and paving edge are straight. The thug on the left, so pink and splendid, will have to go. Unfortunately it is another one that comes back from a tiny root.

Now to a family portrait. This is Ewey.

Ewey was found when clearing the jungle in the early days of the garden, was neglected on top of a rhododendron stump and has now been moved to a feature position on top of a post.

I talk of figs and courgettes/marrows, plums and damsons (they are ripening) but other fruit are wonderful such as these Rosa rugosa hips - enough itching powder for a whole village!

Other things in the garden are much more delicate, especially the flowers on the eucryphia - so pretty, and on a tree.

I have mowed the lawns and went out this morning to find they need doing again. 
We have rats under the feeders by the shed - yet more wildlife but not  so welcome, especially to R.

And then my day is ruined by the mess in Syria. I have a copy of TE Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom - nothing much changes out there - tribal, religious, political conflict and no regard for human life outside their own narrow grouping. When there was the trouble in Libya I offered Gadaffi a cup of tea and a sensible chat in the garden (he did not come sadly)(could not make it) but I am not sure I want Assad here. Mind you he may well be just a figurehead for his tribal group.
There you are - someone who knows nowt about it pontificating profusely.

And there are fires threatening Yosemite. I suppose that is nothing new. Sequoia need fire to germinate their minute seeds.

Time for a pome - 


Somewhere around four thousand years ago
the Great Bonsai was born of flame:
a seed fell two hundred feet onto charred earth
and germinated.

As time turned, the tree grew - massive, magnificent, 
though not the tallest. Man came, felled other timber 
but the huge trunks shattered when they dropped,
became useless.

Then, John from Dunbar spoke fire for the sequoia,
saved those pillars that held the high Sierra sky,
stopped that blue cathedral roof from falling,
being desecrated.

And now we can stand, heads back,
and stare up at its many immense limbs,
and gaze into the forest canopy at its crown
and wonder.

And I am here, and I am gone,
seventy or more rings of the Great Bonsai
if I am lucky, of no roots, born of a different fire,
just visiting.

So we are here today, almost gone yesterday.
John from Dunbar is John Muir, born Dunbar. second cousin of my grandfather John Hay. I know - a big boast - but why not. I am chuffed to bit to think we share the odd gene or two. Mind you it might be an ODD gene.

I have cut some blackcurrant sticks for a friend PB to give to him later and must dig up any small unwanted trees I can find to pot up and take to Herefordshire for the Orcop Hill plantation. 

So much to do in the garden and so little will to do it. 
Actually my first name is Will and I do not think I would be described as little.

Sunday, 25 August 2013


So, I have been clearing longer areas of grass - around the white birches, on the upper banking - and gradually clearing out the stream. I was cutting back some overgrown vegetation near the cloud tree when I revealed a large hole. Pushing my hand into it I found it forked and went further than I could reach. This, I concluded, was bunny business. It was not fox - too small and not smelly enough - same for badger. There were no droppings (black currants) at the entrance though we had had heavy rain. I was not sure it was being used so a temporary blockage to the entrance was made to see if this was moved - thus it would reveal habitation or not.

The sweet peas just get better and better - three vases full now twice a week. The scent pervades everything.
The eucryphia flowers are beautiful and delicate - strange on a tree. 
I have made a plan to move a large quantity of the pink Japanese anemones, montbretia and the orange day lily. They are out of control and clash like a giant pair of coloured cymbals. Hang on that is three plants clashing like a pair . . . ?

All right, I will explain the title - For two years R has wanted to take our wedding rings, melt them down and make two new ones - hers not so reddish coloured and with a matt finish. We just have not got around to it - until yesterday.

I had got a thorn into my fat finger just above the ring and it got infected. I managed to get the ring off - yaroo!! - and have been wearing it on my little finger. I have worn my ring continuously for the last - hum hum - years and this had left a deep impression on my finger, which now is gradually fading. 

So - I could not get my ring back on after the problem cleared.
Off we went to Tewitfield and R has her wish.
Meanwhile I am a gardener in the possession of a NAKED finger. It feels strange.

And the end of an idea - firstly I cleared out the end of the Willow path and removed the blue bench which fell to bits. This is just as well as no one ever sat on it. Then, a little further up the lawn, I removed the circle of logs around the fire pit - also never used - and moved them to form a semicircle where the seat had been. This is then the end of two ideas. I am not accurately numerate today but what the . . . 

Some things will not get changed -as yet - like the wonderful white Japanese anemones - much prefer these to the pink.

Yesterday morning I walked out to the feeder by my study window and caused havoc amongst the small birds.

One cock greenfinch fled into my window and I wondered if I had another fatality on my hands.
But I did not. It took half an hour to recover an fly away. I picked it up - so incredibly light - an placed it gently under an overhanging piece of catmint. Perhaps, on reflection, not the cleverest of places!

And finally, a magic moment - in the afternoon, yesterday, I walked down the lower banking to the bottom lawn and, as I did, a cloud of peacock butterflies rose and surrounded me. There must have been thirty or forty.
In June we thought we would never see anything other then whites but now the garden is full of colour.   
And, to top it all, we had a clouded yellow!

Sunday, 18 August 2013


. . . flogging an old gardener. I have been in the far boggyland digging out the streams. They were clogged with vegetation and not draining anything. As I splattered through the mud, sodden turf and jungle of plants a big nettle side swiped my cheek - lovely! Ah! The tribulations a gardener must face.

Other tribulations emerged this morning - a fat rabbit on the banking eating, at first I thought the ground elder, but only grass. The the squiggle-monster on the peanuts. It has chewed through the wire of the feeder! Now there are proper teeth for you!

It poured with rain yesterday and we awoke to another downpour. The stream is clogged lower down and has decided the lawn is a much preferable course to take - more clearing to be done.

Autumn is approaching - the rowan has berried and the hips and haws are ripening. One of the mature hawthorns in the far wood has died - do not know why, just turned up its roots and withered.

What are these you may ask - well they are lovage stems, cut and dried. To make what you may ask - the pea shooters is the answer, light hard hollow tubes. The perfect gift for a bored irritating man (child). Just need a bag of dried peas and look out!

One of the eight foot teasels at the end of the flowerbed path has fallen over, such shallow roots. It must have been the gusty wind last night.

I have just noticed our tall thin eucryphia is coming into flower - big white cups at an unusual time of year for a shrub.

At this moment there are six juvenile bluetits on the feeder outside my window. They have been breeding like rabbits this summer (except rabbits would find it hard to get up a tree and into a nesting box?) Flying rabbits - now there is a thought!

This is one of our small courgettes. They have such a great personality. The two marrows continue to grow, too late for most of the shows but not my kitchen table. I love marrow (unlike the rest of my family and most of the people I know) because, I think, as a boy they were a once a year event. Marrow stuffed with lamb mince and onions and baked in the oven - yum!

So much is not seasonal any more - tomatoes, salad veg, rhubarb, damsons and plums. Before freezers it was all bottling and clamping, racking and drying. Fresh herbs in winter except for the evergreens were dried, spuds, carrots and swedes in clamps, fruit in Kilner jars, those were the days.

Panic outside the window as the pigeon squadron zoom in and scatter the smaller birds. They are great lumps of birds, clattering about, stuffing their crops.
A pheasant wanders by - a title for a book? Must go and write it.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Not grandchildren, children, wife, myself, but blue tit, coal tit, great tit, chaffinch, greenfinch, greater spotted woodpecker, squirrel. Then all scatter for sparrow hawk. And other things - chaffinches often on the ground with dunnocks (very shy but promiscuous), pigeons, collared doves, robins, blackbirds and thrushes; greenfinches virtually never on the ground, wrens in the shrubbery and pheasants plodding around, burbling away looking for scraps.

This is Mrs Pheas, very quiet and reserved unlike her husband in all his finery. He fusses around her like a mother hen (? that sounds a bit odd) clucking and so on.

So why am I inside typing this blog - well, believe it or not, it is raining! I have tidied the flower bed by the shed and recovered a pair of gloves from beside the veg beds that I left out overnight.

Yesterday I weeded all the veg beds and carefully placed the big marrow (two feet long now)(2/3 of a metre)(66% of a metre)(why can't we use cubits and els and all such things like pecks and bushels?) If we used bushels I could hide behind one - where was I, yes the marrow has been placed on a plank to take it away from the soil.
I wouldn't want it to rot.

I have done the same with the lowest trusses on the tomatoes, except on a flat stone. We have baby butternuts but I am not sure if their pollination was any good - must keep and eye out for end rot.

Talking of rot (as usual) the wisteria are both still alive, barely. One lot of leaves on each. We watch and pray.

I have heard it said that one cannot have too much of a good thing but the sweet peas are all over the place and so many flowers - lovely scent though.

One plant that has flowered all summer and continues so to do is the catmint, nepeta. yes it gets a bit straggly but such a good space filler and looks good under the roses that are now in a second flush, especially Emma Hamilton.

I have hacked back the giant lovage and carefully cut the hollow stems to make pea shooters. They are on a sheltered window sill drying. One of the stems/shooters is bent. I wonder if it will fire around corners?

R continues to disappear off to her writing shed and carries on fuelled by tea and biscuits during long sessions from yours truly.

The garden seems to be waiting - it is motionless and silent. The trees hang leadenly and only occasionally a leaf twitches from a drop of water.

I have dead headed the anthemis and we will get another show of flowers. Even the geraniums and alchemilla will recover from their shearing. I have also topped the big creamy scabious but that is the lot this year with that plant, I think.
Shallots hang up outside the kitchen door, small bulbs selected for next year and the scruffy bit put out to compost. Oh! Yes, I turned the smaller compost heap in an attempt to get it maturing.

The grandchildren and daughter, I, have gone, my sister I is here with us at the mo' (what a lot of Is) and C and P (son and d-in-l) are due at the end of the month. Our niece A has had a little girl on Sunday night - it is all go!

So I will go and put the kettle on.

Sunday, 11 August 2013


I put this image of an opium poppy onto my Flickr site - - and it was put onto something called Flickr Explore. In three days it has had 4000 hits! I wonder why. Perhaps it is the unusual angle of view, perhaps the word 'opium'?

The roses continue to flower sporadically - dead head and hope. The Japanese anemones are coming out - the sign of autumn to come? Some of the trees are looking suspiciously yellow of leaf.

The last of the black currants are picked, the old raspberry canes removed and the few new ones tied in.    I am not too hopeful for next year's crop. We now have our first butternut squashes coming and loads of courgettes. We await the plums and damsons.

R has sheared off the alchemillas and deposited them on the compost heap.
I have planted a selection of stuff around the garden - clematis montanas to grow over the willow tunnel, a rose to grow up a buddleia on the top banking, tansy in the wildish bit by the veg beds, a line of small 'senecios' below the main path. R has wanted a grey hedge there and so I took cuttings, grew them on and have now obliged. The pot from Viet Nam has blue grass in it and a stone from Piel Island beach with an inclusion shaped like a cross.

To habitats.
The garden has formal and wild areas, woodland and a small stream, ponds and bog, a hedgerow, dry bankings and a very old log pile. This has wood no longer much good for the log burner but insects love it. it is full of beetles and bugs, woodlice and so on. Holes provide hideaways for bumble bees and, through the winter, places to retreat from the cold weather.

Over the year the bonfire has gradually grown and is now six feet high, wet and rotten and probably not flammable. It has been inhabited by a nesting blackbird and possible hibernating hedgehogs. So, the dilemma is when to light it. Last year I moved it to make sure the fauna was safe.

We have also had J and W here with their mother I. Voices coming from the wood and their den are a delight - I love to hear them playing. There are demands for ropes and swings and things so that will have to be seriously considered.
I have my orders from they who must be obeyed - well, you know what I mean.

Time to take a new load of soup from the bottom of the Aga and liquidise it.
Just noticed my keyboard is a bit grubby - soily fingers.
I am glad I do not moult - there is a very moth-eaten sparrow on the feeders outside my window - very scruffy.
A bit like me?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


It has rained for 24 hours, straight down rain not soft refreshing showers and still it rains. Where, before, was a shelter under a tree is wet, drops slide from leaf to leaf, twig to twig and soak all underneath. The deutzia by the shed is full of bedraggled blue tit fledglings. The birds avoid the feeders, hunker where shelter can be found, hungry and damp. Stones in the track to the house rattle in the rivulets, the stream overflows, the pond is brimming.

So -
I have not been out in the garden today! I have been reading and writing and things. R has been to the Gym and sat in her car in a roadworks jam for half the morning. The wait to get past Newby Bridge was an hour this morning. They only do major roadworks in the Lake District during the school summer holidays - a sort of sadism?

I have made cauliflower soup from a Cranks' recipe with veg bought locally, cheaply. I have made courgette and mint soup with our own veg. The freezer is filling up. Six bags of broad beans are now frozen. The sideboard in the utility room is stacked with blackcurrant jam.

Yesterday I cut the flowers for the house, all I could from the cutting beds but the photo does not show the sweet peas, hydrangea Annabelle and others. We are awash with blooms.

The other day R and I went for a walk out on the flatland below Hoad Hill. At one place there is a small industrial unit and on the fence beside the lawns was the following sign.

Some of us think life's a bit like that, don't we. (Commendations to anyone who recognises the quote). (See end of blog).

Today I. and the grandchildren are splashing their way north from Herefordshire - it will be some journey in this weather and then, right at the end, they will hit the roadworks! The den is ready (if wet), I hope they have brought their Wellies. Actually I hope they have brought my Wellies as I left them at their house the last time we were there. Actually R hopes they have brought her Wellies as she did the same.

At least I got the lawns mowed before the rain and family. I noticed that much of our lawn is not grass as one might expect, but clover! Still it is squat and green so . . .

And this blog - I am reading Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - when will they have a Booker prize for blogs? Not that this would win as the language is far from erudite (where did that word come from?)

Still falls the rain (apologies to Edith Sitwell).

Now it is tomorrow (or today depending how you look at it.)
Today I have been mainly weeding, have potted up eight pots of herbs and shrubs for my daughter I and discussing the attributes of Lego with J.

The rain has stopped and the day is fine, a bit floody and coolish. Up in the wood one of the streams is disappearing into its bed and reappearing lower down. On inspection a mole has made a run the full length of the stream bed whilst it was dry in the hot weather. With side corridors the water goes anywhere but where I wish!

I am courgetted to the ears and have now selected one plant to produce a gert marra (great marrow). This will be stuffed with mince and onions (I hope)(despite the vegan tendencies with the Mrs.)

So there you are - an ordinary day of grandchildren, trip out this morning to the wonderful Ford Park Kitchen Garden in Ulverston, gardening, chat, some small person wingeing and so on.

ps - no Wellies.

pps - Oh! Yes, and it was our 44th Wedding Anniversary! How on earth has R put up with me all these years?

(Quote - Alan Bennett, vicar's speech, Beyond The Fringe).