Monday, 29 December 2014


It is a glorious cold winter day, early frost and blue skies, a day for gardening, for weeding and manuring, for picking up sticks and general tidying.

But here at The Nook it is much like the World Cup - Germany v Brazil - Manflu 7 - Gardening 1 (actually more like minus 1. Writing this blog, a bit at a time, is about my limit as I cough and wheeze, plough through endless handkerchiefs and, in true manly fashion, feel thoroughly sorry for myself.
Even the visiting heron caught sight of me at the upstairs window and flapped off across the field like a ragged sheet of newspaper.

Instead of a-digging and a-weeding I sit and read.
Actually a fabulous book of poetry called 'A Lift of Wings' published by Indigo Dreams in the UK (by Kerry my sister-in-law) - no bias at all - they are really good (much better than mine).

R has just said that the heron is back at the pond. I will let it be.

To the left is an example of boggy sog that needs draining, to the right the hardly glamorous dead leaves of the alchemilla. The garden is looking decidedly drab and almost dead despite the sunshine.

Nasturtiums, not yet cleared away, are tangles of memory - there is so much to do and no stamina, in fact no nothing at all.
I shall be glad to have a go at a new year.

Gotcha - heron in pond then R shouted her car will not start - she took mine, her battery flat. With Christmas and illness the car has not been used.

Then heron gone so only one pic.

Panic! Last year great trouble with mower as its battery flat when they came to collect it for service. The trouble is the engine will only run if I am sitting on the seat - a safety device I know, but sometimes annoying. So shot out to shed - it started first time and chunnered happily for a few minutes.

My cousin A. in Nelson, NZ has a blog at -

Great advice on gardening the organic way. He does it seriously rather than fiddling about like myself.

So, to end, here is a weary winter garden on a dismal day waiting for someone to do something. 

Perhaps I will chop a log, a whole one.
Perhaps not, perhaps a cup of tea.
Manflu the new diet! Just got lower than my younger son, weight wise. Mind you I have given him the bug so my success will be short lived. 
I must encourage him to 'feed a cold'.

Friday, 26 December 2014


Because the garden will look clean and sharp and I will not have to go out there - except my grandchildren are here so if it snows whilst they are present there is no way I can escape.

Actually, at the moment (Saturday) rain and hail are lashing my window on a strong westerly gale. This does not stop the birds stuffing their beaks on the feeders though.

The garden looks surprisingly green at the moment - all the water falling on it .

Sunday morning and I go out for wood for the fire - there are two little white egrets by the pond. They lift off and are chased away by carrion crows - hence I can make a size comparison. Global Warming has reached Cumbria.

The sweet peas are not dead yet as you can see. I have just tipped through the squelchy sods to the far corner and cut some thin willows for W to make a Christmas present by entwining the stems and such.

Now, I now these anthems should be long gone but . . .

Phew! I am full of Yuletide food and rich stuff. Slept 10.5 hours last night and could have gone on sleeping. My cold-in-dedose progresseth slowly. R has lost her voice and can only berate me in a whisper.

The poppy from the display around the Tower of London has arrived - commemorating the fallen in the first world war, and I have put it in a gin bottle on the side in the kitchen.

As usual I have messed up  who gets what present and Grandchildren have left without two. Son C is here at the moment but sadly not P, his spoused one, who has had to go to her parents. It is a shame as she always livens up the place and it wonderful to hear her singing in the hall.

And there this brief blog collapsed in a mess of Manflu on Tuesday evening. I have just risen from my litter and had a cup of tea - so a real C*appy Christmas (for me) the others said that they had a brilliant meal whilst I suffered upstairs issuing an occasional grunt.

My son has given me a spray of squirrel repellent as a gift - beware O small tree rats, here I come.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


First sprinkling of snow - Canada eat your heart out!

And now a hard frost but the pond remains clear as the water flowing through continually disturbs the surface preventing the ice from forming.

There are frost ferns on the cars, fascinating shapes, and the roads are icy.

The new drain (not finished yet, just a shallow trench) has running water which indicates to me a spring water source higher up - yes, another one.
A. is coming tomorrow to discuss draining the garden which will be another step forward. R has been telling me to do this for years and she is right - time I got it done rather than tread on spongy grass half floating in the sog.

All drains lead, ultimately, to the stream or the pond. It was glassy today and the reflection good.

It is now today, A has been - work assessed and they will probably start inn March(ish).

Pond in the morning

I put this pic in to show you that the sun does shine in the UK in December but it was not taken today as all is grey and gloomy.

I have spent some time trying to get the outside solar powered L.E.Ds working so they can twinkle in the Christmas darkness.

Outside the pansies are flowering in the pots and the tulips in this one have come through.

Despite the frosts the sweet peas are not dead - yet. Actually the passion flower has buds - it is usually cut back by now. You will note the rusty cow hanging from the fence with its bell (that does not ring). There are a few such things hanging about in the garden - old goggles, things the grandchildren have made and so on, me occasionally.

Time for another frost pic - 

Just a short blog - it is now Wednesday and we have been in Manchester where I have gone through yet another scan etc. 6 more months off but they want to stick the camera - well you know where. This will cheer up all my friends who have had this done!

Our thoughts also go out to RJ and H P and their tough few weeks.

It is the festive season and I cannot avoid it so here we gooooooooooooo . . . . 

Thursday, 11 December 2014


Cold outside (3C) and raining so driven in. Managed to tidy a bed by the wall - bulbs showing already, pruned the deutzia (at the wrong time) removing older wood and cutting back to a promising bud facing the way I want the plant to grow, and took cuttings (also at the wrong time). 

The quince against the wall I trimmed and it had suckers so I dug these up and replanted down in the veg bed area. The old trellis the quince was on has rotted so I removed this and untangled the wires holding it together. I am not sure it needs another support and will watch how it goes.

My fingers are FROZEN my thumbs are numb.

I have got the heating on!

Two days ago ice and frost, yesterday wet, today windy and showers with sun, ice and wintry showers forecast for tonight - it is good to have reliable weather.

I had not seen the goldfinches for a while so I got some more Nyger seed to mix with the sunflower and they are back - a delight.

The female greater-spotted woodpecker is now a regular visitor to the peanuts. The male and juveniles have a red splodge on the head.

It is amazing how much better a flower bed looks when it is tidied and mulched. I did this this morning - the poppy bed - and the mulch was a cocktail of old rotted horse manure and compost.

I have discovered a new stream across the lawn below the compost heap and now we have blocked in the main stream down the garden the water has nowhere to go - I feel another drain coming on!

Here are some premature daffs shoving though the leaf litter - I think they could be in for a nasty shock.

Well, midweek and today started like this and went steadily downhill - now evening and gales and lashing rain. Highlight of the day a visit to the gym - sad isn't it! Mind you the media are calling it a weather bomb - more a bit of a damp squib here.

Just been out digging the drain that's coming on but the hail and rain has driven me in - bit muddy and wet now. I have almost filled in the last bit of the old stream and it will just need flattening.
Only a short time to the shortest day and then the way will be forward (I hope).
It is getting dark and only 3 pm.

It is like an outdoor aviary through my window - up to fifteen to twenty small birds at a time around the feeders - sparrows, finches and tits. None of the more unusual winter visitors yet.

I need a hot cup of tea, light the woodburner and moan about my coldinthenose. I haven't had a cold for months and months!

Saturday, 6 December 2014


I have had communications indicating that rather than cutting back on my blog I have produced as much if not more of my gibberish.
So I will have to cut back on the gardening to make time for doing the blog!

This morning we awoke to a hard frost and ice on the pond yet there are still flowers in the garden.     








and, of course - Roses.

Speaking of roses R is off down the garden to weed the apparatus bed (the spell checker/correcter is driving me bonkers - this should be asparagus. Earlier it changed Fatsia to fats and so on - ?a domino effect (think about it)). I am waiting in for the Aga man to ring as we had a service and now the kitchen is very fumey.
With the cold weather the birds have upped their feeding and numbers in the garden - so I have to replenish supplies more often.

Apart from flowers the leaves that remain have colour like the beech hedge and the liquidambar.

The female greater spotted woodpecker is on the peanuts as I write - a stunning bird, no it has flown - Ah! Chased off by a grey squirrel - it is all happening here this morning. It is cold but overcast and still. We are waiting for something. Oh! I know, the postman.

The nasturtiums are done for, twisted and frosted, but they will have cast enough seed to reappear next year. 
The heron is in the pond but I do not think it will find much to eat yet - better luck probably hunting in the grass.

Pic a bit sub standard but a long long way off when taken - does not show the evil eye.

Weather - Wednesday hard frost, Thursday okay, Friday - the sun is, no it is not, it rains, yes it is sunny, it is hailing, it is . . . Saturday - hard frost. 
No wonder the British talk about the weather - rarely anything very extreme but never the same two days running.

Enough, my hands are frozen - R has turned the heating off to save pennies - soon (in about thirty years) we will be rich and meanwhile miserable. (I know, I know I like my little luxuries (like warmth?) and can spend with the best).

Perhaps I will sneak upstairs and just slide that little switch to the right for an hour.

Question - What do you do when you are not in the garden?
Answer - Well, as that is most of the time - read, eat, watch tv, mess about with computer (mainly photography and bit of feckless writing (like this)), sleep, golf, go out, come in, diet, fail to diet, Mmm! go to gym (less than once a week), moan, feed the birds (hang on - that is in the garden), meet friends, walk limp, shop, take stuff to recycling, spend time with my fantastic wife (apart from that heating thing), drink tea - yes, time for a cuppa again!

Sunday, 30 November 2014


I love the garden when it is still, not a whisper of breeze, like it is this morning, It is as if the garden is waiting for something.

The dog does not even nod its head and the pansies are unruffled. The pathway to the lower garden is filled with leaf litter from the big sycamore.

Then I realise everything is waiting for me with rake, secateurs, fork, manure and sweat. That seems to dampen the spirits a modicum.

The sun is shining and I have swept the drive/car park/whatever of old leaves and twigs. There is no excuse so out I go this afternoon even if it is only to pick up fallen twigs.
When we were in Scotland the other week we had a wonderful day that included a walk in Cally Woods at Gatehouse of Fleet. The autumn colours and branch filtered light were fantastic.

And now we are at the November/December watershed (or weathershed)(or whatever) yet there are flowers still in the garden - other than roses.

Here are some of the alstroemerias from the garden in a vase.
Today I have finished the bed by the back wall - weeded, deleaved (put in a big sack to make leaf mould) and too dressed with some go the old manure from down the garden.
R finished tidying the bed by the shed and planted some bulbs under the magnolia stellata.

I have built this structure to keep the willow poles, cut when the willow tunnel was demolished, (for supports next year), off the ground - Damian Hirst et your heart out - so they do not rot.

This is the cut leaved elder, hacked back to ground level in the early spring and now 12 feet high (about 4 metres for those who have gone metric).

It has been the Dick Fest, the weather has 
been good, and last night we were treated to a glorious sunset - unusual for us as we are south east facing - we tend to get sunrises.

Happy Birthday Gillie.

Thursday, 27 November 2014


3 mm of frost have attacked the Nook and I am off to check if the sweet peas have survived let alone nasturtiums - the latter notoriously affected by cold - and turned into slimy yuk!

However we still have roses like this Emma Hamilton - mm! looking at the photo I should have dead headed this one. (This is a plant from David Austin Roses and blowsy, and heavily scented.)

Yet more leaves removed from paths, weeds dealt with and some areas about 1 metre round prepared on the banking for moving shrubs - I know it is a bit late but once the frost has gone it should be okay if I am careful.

Leaves are everywhere - these are rosemary cuttings interspersed with self sown foxglove seedlings (and some weeds)
The leaves are off the nearby beech hedge and need to be removed.

Gary, Monday pm to see pond and multiple drainage channels, to expound further ideas with regard to stoney beaches and steps and stuff. I have saved the unused pond liners - both underlay and butyl - as these may be of use when putting in the drains. Placing the underlay over the drain will stop loose soil etc getting in and blocking the pipe.

I have just rubbed my forehead and I am bleeding. in fact I am full of holes! Whilst R was clearing the bed by the shed I was pruning the damsons and they have SPINES!!! - And now I have spines and holes and scratches. Used the tractor and trailer to cart the prunings down the garden and they all fell off under the plum tree which is very low - so I pruned that too. All the stuff is now on the bonfire or the COMPOST (mentioned it again L) heap.

I selected some areas, about a metre in diameter, on the banking below the house to where I can move shrubs blocking R's view if the pond from the bedroom.

I am listening to Eva Cassidy singing Songbird, have just listened to some Nick Drake, most relaxing.

My sister-in-law K has had her poems published - you can see it at -
Brilliant stuff - worth every penny - well it might cost a bit more than that.

Now have David Gray's Birds of the High Arctic on my Itunes.

Oh! Yes, Gary did not come - postponed until Thursday but that is fine - nothing will change dramatically before then. (I hope.)

Here is a bird feeder drying on the Aga range, mentioned about hygiene and bird death before.

The paperwhites are
tied around a stake as they have flopped -so much for Christmas bulbs

 And then there are more coming - daft bulbs - they have been in the cool and dark and should not be bursting forth like this. I have forgotten quite what I stuffed in here but it looks like everything. It seems there is not much room for compost!

Signing off for now - sister and cousin on way for tea. (Have just made some of Mrs Tyson's shortbread from my mothers recipe book - that is three things I can cook now!)

It is recycling time again - plastics and cardboard to the tip. We seem to have a drawer full of plastic bags. In Scotland now you have to pay 5 pence for a bag in a shop. I wonder, could we sell our bags there for 4 pence?

Gary has been - as charming as ever (I know he sometimes reads the blog so . . ) - and plans are afoot for drains and stones and possibly steps and extraction of hedges.

So this will probably be the last longblog of November, and yes, I have a cuppa tea beside me in this dark dank weather.

Saturday is the Ulverston Dickensian Festival (known locally as the Dick Fest) when tens of thousands descend on a small town stuffed with street stalls - crafts, food, people dressed up, street entertainers, a helter-skelter, small fair things, roasting chestnuts and mulled wine - you name it.
We will walk in and back as parking is impossible, anyway it is not good to drive after a few mulled wines.

All welcome.