Friday, 30 January 2015


So here is a pic of the area beyond the den R has cleared of brambles. On the left you can see there is more to do, mind you, as she nears the wall she will find a dip and in this are various discarded metal objects from the previous owner including and old hand mower.

Down by the bottom hedge is the bit I have done. The area on the right will be full of white wild garlic or ramsons in the spring.

Some of the hazel and ash twigs have been cut and placed on the trestle to keep them dryish for pea sticks, well, bean sticks.

This morning 
I was looking out of my study window and there was the squirrel on the peanut feeder. Then I noticed two fat rabbits at the top of the banking and where there are two rabbits, presumably of the opposite sex, there is going to be TROUBLE!
Little breeders!

I am listening to John Renbourn's Traveller's Prayer from his Ship of Fools album. Once was involved with putting him on at a folk concert at Liverpool University in 1967 (I think). The less said about that the better.

We have had some pink viburnum bodnantense dawn in a  vase but now it has gone over. I have trimmed the sticks and shoved them in the cutting bed - unlikely to root but you never know. (Or perhaps you do.)

Now, I know you think we are basking in the sun so here is a morning photo from the house to dispel any doubt that might be lingering in your grey matter.

Plenty of room for gloom especially when my friend P in NZ goes on about to being 26C out there. I can just imagine myself lying in the warm sea off the Coromandel. Unfortunately there is the large question of the journey. It is about time we had wormhole technology so I could walk into a booth here and step out in Auckland.

Back to gardens and stuff.
In the autumn I bunged some chopped mint into vinegar so I could have mint sauce (R does not much like it) with my lamb in the winter.
In my mother's recipe book are two alternatives :-


Pick young leaves and wash.
Chop very finely, almost to a mousse & put into a screw top jar - preferably with a plastic lined lid.
Make a syrup of equal quantities of vinegar and sugar - i.e. 1/2 pint of each. Boil syrup gently for 5-7 minutes. 
Pour over the mint and screw down lid.

To use - take a teaspoon or so in a small jug adding more sugar and hot water and, if desired, more vinegar.
(I like to use a good malt vinegar if possible.)


2 oz butter
1 heaped tablespoon fresh mint
salt, pepper and lemon juice

Pound mint in a mortar, add butter and pound again. Season and add lemon juice.
Good on lamb cutlets, grilled sole and in small quantities on carrots, potatoes and green peas.

Personally I like the rather hairy apple mint better than horse mint, it seems to have a sweeter flavour.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015


The rooks next door are in full croak - nests on the way - except for one with a tenor call that seems far too high pitched.

R is stiff from gardening the other day - brambles and dead leaves her forte at the moment. There are bulbs flowering in the pots - I think these are paperwhites. I should have put them in the house pots but, well, ne'er mind lad.

Buds is a-sprouting like this promise on the blackcurrants and the garden is stirring despite the nip in the air.

There are snowdrops everywhere - a testament to R's determination to have them here there and - well, you know - a bit like pimpernel.
By the time I am 135 the garden will be full of them.

Down in the cutting bed, after I had pruned the rosemary, I stuck about thirty rough bits in the soil in the early autumn and they have all taken! Here they are growing up through some foxglove self sown seedings.

On the banking below the house the montbretia (crocosmia) has got out of hand and will need digging up and replanting. It can be a bit of a thug if left and when it gets congested does not flower as well. We have three types - red, orange and yellow.

The weather this morning is a mixture of sun and black threatening cloud.

I have noticed that the rogue ash to the right of the nicely shaped tree at the back has got a bit large and will need chopping (well sawing) down. The trouble is it sprouts again so readily I - wait - source of firewood, I suppose, so okay-ish.

One of the things I inherited from my mother was her personal recipe book. All measures will be UK and pounds, ounces etc. No vouching for how good this but - 


6oz butter
6oz soft brown sugar
6oz self-raising flour
2 eggs
4oz caster sugar

Mix butter and sugar and rind of 1 lemon in pan and melt.
Leave to cool then add flour and eggs. Mix well.
Put in swiss roll tin and bake 20min to half an hour at about 180. (She does not say whether Fahrenheit, Centigrade or Kelvin.)

Take 4oz caster sugar and mix with the lemon juice and pour over warm cake.
Cut in squares.

This sounds a bit lemon drizzly to me.
Lily was Lily Barrow who helped Mum around the house. After she died I wrote a poem about her - 


She sits on a three-legged stool in front 
of our grey shippon door plucking chickens.
The feathers fall like snow to the yard earth
and eddy erratically until picked  
by a gentle breeze and sent skittering
to collect as a drift in a tangle 
of pineappleweed by the dairy door.

She notices the camera and looks up,
gives a small smile to the cameraman, 
my father, then returns to ripping down.
We had no freezer then, this is dinner,
Aga roasted in the kitchen.  By then
Lily will have walked back to her farmhouse
hidden in the hills beyond the village.

Her cottage was in a fold in the fell.
Her weathered hands had made a rare garden
amongst rocks, a place of peace and beauty.
By the five-bar gate was a small stone shed.
Here were her dogs.  She walked ten miles a day
to harden them for the weekly hound trail,
the long chase after the drag sack of scent.

She did not travel much beyond her home
till she was eighty and her husband died.
Suddenly she was off across the world.
One day whilst driving down to Broughton Mills
a shadow crossed the road and, looking up,
we saw a large balloon.  In the basket,

was Lily loving life before too late.

Back in the house the place is still full of flowers like this one and the old amaryllis is sprouting.

Sorry L and G, have not mentioned compost for a bit so here you are.

There can be too much information in a blog so I will not mention the "upbumcamera" waiting for me.

That seems an appropriate place to get to the bottom of the page.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A PAIN IN THE . . . .

So dawns another blog.

It is very cold - earth as hard as iron, water like a stone.
I am suffering from seccateurer's wrist - thought it was improving so I finished tidying the thorns of the lower branches of the damsons and then cleared the far lower corner of brambles and young ash trees, and the canes from the autumn fruiting golden raspberries I had dumped there as R does not like them. Now I am sore. Obviously a repetitive strain injury and nothing to do with using the mouse on the computer a lot nor playing golf.

R was clearing brambles from the far end of the garden today.
She has also said now that the pond is too small - unfortunately, with the slope of the garden enlarging it would mean a very shallow upper end down a steep bank. Anyway we have not had a summer with it yet and will need to see how it gets on.
I have cleared the sweet peas away - they have finally succumbed to the weather - but two of the elder stems used as support have rooted. I will have to wait till things soften up to move them.

To Wednesday morning and we have a light covering of snow. Because of the cold the birds are feeding easily so I must go out into the cold and replenish the feeders.

Being a control freak I find this weather very frustrating as it interferes with getting on with things, plans etc. (Like playing golf, driving anywhere without worries and so on.) (Nothing to do with gardening.) R says I am getting more like my mother every day!

In the afternoon it stopped raining/sleeting/snowing and I went out to freeze my fingers. I pruned back the buddleia around the septic tank and took down the cut-leaved elder. I know it is a bit early but needed to do something. 

When I got back to the shed the robin arrived and waited until I gave him/her (cannot tell) some bird seed.

Now there is a challenge - how to discover the sex of a robin. There is discussion about leg colour and the shape of the red/brown colouration junction on the brow but most ringers say it is very difficult, even when the bird is in the hand so it makes no difference as to whether the robin is in the hand or there are two in the bush. And this bird by the small water bath thing is frozen solid.
Sunrise over the bay splendid this morning so am I going in then garden - not yet as need to have a coffee in town first.

Sunday, 18 January 2015


Let me start with COLD! Now I know this has nothing on Canada and the ilk but it is 2C and a gale blowing which is enough to deaden my  fingers as I winter prune the fruit trees removing dead and damaged branches, and crossing twigs. 

I start with two very chilly morning images from our bedroom window.
The top one shows freezing fog with pylons pushing out of the mist like giant Triffids, the lower one is a longer lens shot of the moor across to Birkrigg.

Out in the garden the robin braves the winter hail showers and the heron hunches miserably by the pond trying to shelter under the hedge. I have been down - no frog spawn yet. Whilst all this is going on an enterprising bank vole, they are the source of numerous small burrows in the garden, sneaks out of a crack in the paving under the feeders and dashes off with a sunflower seed. then back again and so on - obviously not eating them but storing them away in a safe larder.

I have just brought in some snowdrops from the garden and popped them in a small vase.

We hd considered going for a walk but were devoid of sheltered ideas, we had just been to Potato Day at Greenodd Village Hall for soup, a cake and a cup of tea. We bought no potatoes but I did get three asparagus crowns to replace the ones we lost with the flooding a couple of years ago and R bought some gladioli corms - deep purple and lime green flowers.

In the house the long wait for the Peruvian Lily to flower is over and it is also pushing up side shoots in the pot - more plants to come.

The house is not devoid of flowers and there white orchid R bought for less than £6 in Ikea some years ago is putting out a splendid show again.

We are trapped a bit by the weather so perhaps I will turn to the Sarah Raven catalogue. The pics of flowers are wonderfully inviting.

R thinks we should make more of the path up the wood and improve the experience of walking around the garden. 
Thinking cap on then! (And no snoozing.)

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


This came to me as we were walking near Bouth and the Winter Heliotrope was flowering in the roadside - there are still a lot of flowers in the garden if one looks carefully - I mean, not just the snowdrops - now coming out - nor the winter flowering honeysuckle (a shrub not a climber).

I have cut some of the scented flowers of the latter and put them in a base on the stairs windowsill. We also have some flowering currant sprouting in a vase in the kitchen.

There are the usual nutters flowering when they shouldn't ought - I have just picked a white pink, smelling faintly but still - in January?

Red campion have the occasional flower in the wood and the red rose A and P gave us is doing well by the shed.

The hellebore - the Corsican one I think - is well into flowering and, of course, that anthemis by the path . . . 

It makes me wonder if we have a new mutation - an all year round anthemis - flowers whatever the weather.
Actually I do not believe this - it would lose the flowers etc if we had a really hard snap.

In fact we woke to a bright morning and a covering of hail.

 Now the wind is getting up and rain is on the way - AGAIN!

This does not mean I have not been in the garden, I have, a bit. The rose bed is manured and I have gathered many sticks, some for the wood shed and other stacked in the trees for wildlife. Sadly the wall of the shed nearest the house has disintegrated (It was made up of old failed paintings nailed to a trellis.)

Yesterday we went to the funeral of an old family friend of R in Cheshire. She loved nature and gardening. She painted watercolours and we have one in our living room as a reminder of a lovely lady. 

Saturday, 10 January 2015


No cigarettes, perhaps a little whisky and no wild, wild women but wild wild weather.

My windmill is bent - could not take the strain.

And the garden is a menagerie. I am sorry R but the spray of squirrel repellent did not do much and the peanut feeders are regularly assaulted.
Then I wander upstairs to see two fat rabbits munching the lawn.

Yesterday was gales and driving rain flooding through the garden. Down by the settling pond a miserable looking, bedraggled heron was trying too shelter from the wet and wind. The pic is not sharp due the the copious amounts of water driving through the air between us.

Gardening is intermittent to say the least, R tidying, me picking up sticks and barrowing well rotted horse manure onto the rose bed.

 There are still flowers on some the roses and we have a small vase of them with some honesty seed heads in the kitchen.

 There are a plethora of blue tits on the feeders, many surviving the winter well.

The grasses and such as the cardoons have been left for the winter frost to coat them but all we get is westerly wet. You can just see the new growth at the bottom coming already.

Thank all sorts that we have a sanctuary here, away from the horrors humanity inflicts on itself - Paris, Australia - you name it.

What a waste of life, a gift that we all need to nurture and enjoy - yes, there are good times and bad times but that is all part of the incredible journey. In fact I think that I would like my last words to be that - What and incredible journey! But not quite yet - a little more road to travel I hope.

Sunday, 4 January 2015


Just been out, recovering from Manflu and it is COLD! Tidied some of the rose bed and picked up some kindling. Now my left thumb is very numb with cold.

The dawn is still getting later even though the evenings are beginning to get lighter - something to do with the wobbly earth. (Nothing to do with, 'Did the earth wobble for you?' and stuff.)

I have failed, so far, to get a pic of the little white egret but here are two heron shots from the bedroom window.

Ah man, (as Luke Davenport would say) there ain't gonna be any frogs in the water this year with all this interest.

I noted that the early crocuses are through by the rosa rubifolia and three inches high. Things are stirring underground.

We were given a pot and some white muscari for Christmas by D and J and these are potted up.
The third of the pots of paperwhites is starting to get a bit leggy and will need to be moved soon but, at least, we had some for the festive days.

The wallflowers bought in the autumn are doing fine - these are in the lily pot on the paving.

And the anthemis flowers on!

I must nip out and check the ties on the new trees but another day - need to thaw out.

Sunday morning and a hard frost overnight.

Went for a walk up the field the other day and noticed that the shallow channel from the spring was clogged. It is not really a spring but before we moved here the tenant farmer drained the back field - badly - and let the water run into the top of our property. If I do not keep the channel open it overflows all over the place into the garden.
So, out with a rake and a-clearing we do go.

Then down the channels in the garden removing sticks and dead leaves etc until I reach the pond. Here the water cress is already growing - not something I want to take over the pond. It prefers running water and as you can see by the outflow the pond is a big blob on the stream. This running water also is the reason why the pond has not frozen over as the surface is continually moving.

So I stumble into 2015, still coughing. 
R has gone to church.
I am going to coffee and must remember to take the mushroom soup she had made out of the oven.

I am not certain that I love marmite chocolate (sorry R) as there is no way enough marmite in there. Wait - I could spread the bar with marmite and . . . ?