Friday, 24 January 2020


More muck and compost distribution, pruned the osiers that are tied together, raked weed from the pond (and cracked the handle of the rake), removed the planks edging one of the raspberry rows in preparation for digging up the plants, weeded the chives.
The grass in the lower garden is absolutely waterlogged and sodden - should keep well off it.
All the division and replanting of snowdrops is now showing how successful it is with swathes in the wood and some of the flower beds.

Many January blogs seem to have been a bit depressing - lines of poetry like - 
'Night comes down like a coffin lid,
Enshrouding me in darkness . . '
come to mind. I mean, come on lad get a bit cheerier - so 

Sunday - and dawn and sunshine, if very cold and frosty, I went into the garden and after I came in could not get warm again, even standing by the Aga.
By there afternoon the incoming tide in Morecambe Bay had brought fog almost to the bottom of the garden. R and I walked up the back field and saw a hare.

The old ash I can see from my study window is festooned in ivy and a habitat in itself. 

In amongst the ivy there grows a Rambling Rector rose reaching twenty feet or more up the branches. I wonder how many bird nests there are and will the tree survive the ash dieback plaguing the country.

The younger trees further up the garden are as tall if not taller and strong and straight limbed. This old tree is more gnarled with twisting branches and dead wood which can fall in high winds.

This is the view up the garden from my window -

I noticed that I had not pruned one of the hydrangeas yet and then, when I processed the image I saw that the liquidambar has still got all its leaves, the red ones poking out of the top of the hydrangea here. Usually there autumn leaf fall has come and gone - it must be a sign of how mild it has been.
And it has been mild, frost gone quickly.
And the pheasants peck about under the feeders hoping the tits will drop something.

High pressure over the country so dry, cold and a bit cloudy - Monday - put in the 5 loganberry plants bought yesterday in Greenodd at Potato Day after clearing away old raspberries and digging in lots of well rotted manure.
More tidying of perennials and so on.
Paused mid dig to listen to a pair of tawny owls hooting - in the daytime.
Veg beds nearly done, just the cutting bed to sort out - have several rosemary bushes and a privet to go - somewhere?

Changed my mind - have tidied and tied in the remaining raspberries that were for the chop. Will give them loads of compost and manure and liquid seaweed feed. They have one more year.

Thursday and instead of golf I load the raspberry bed with manure and compost. Then I tidy up the main redcurrants.
Weather has been very foggy for a couple of days but this evening a weak sun broke through.

I find it hard to believe D Trump is not a fictional character - impossible to create! Terry Jones gone at 77 to be with Brian, so we will not get a new comedy, Life of Donald - actually we have it all the time. 
Perhaps the Coronavirusis is Mother Nature's answer to the human plague? 
Any volunteers to nip to the White House and cough and sneeze?
Or even Downing Street?
No, I would not wish that on anyone. . . . . . . . would I.?

Friday, 17 January 2020


If it ain't raining it is pouring. Brendan (only the Irish could name a storm Brendan (though Trump might name it Daniels?)) has blown through and more low pressure systems to follow. It will soon be a time for picking up fallen twigs and branches. In the garden the many fieldfares, redwings and thrushes have not eaten the holly berries. With the mild weather there must be enough other food around. Oh! And I have not mentioned the blackbirds - now when I drive the lanes they scatter from under my wheels. They, I suppose, find the edges under the hedges (note the rhyme)  full of snails and slugs and stuff.

I go out to top up the bird feeders and am startled by a raucous blackbird. Then I see why. Sitting on a buddleia stump, eight feet away and watching me is a sparrow hawk. We stare at each other, then I make the mistake of saying, "Hello." The hawk shrugs and lazily launches itself across the lawns.

The snowdrops come on apace and outside the back door there is the familiar winter scent of the sarcococcus, its small creamy flowers put out a strong aroma. The bush is roughly clipped into a round shape to appeal to R's liking for topiary and order in things.
The mowers have gone for their service. 

Not much on the Bushnell video camera apart from pheasants - R saw 3 cock and three hen birds by pond - looks like we are becoming a breeding colony? Two videos worth keeping but not showing - a wren and a blue tit by the outflow from the pond.

 So here are two images of weeded and almost completely mulched veg beds. On the left the odd object is a rhubarb forcing pot to keep the plant in the dark. The thing on the top is a substitute lid as I never had the original. 

There are still a few sprouts to pick.

And still falls the rain. (I do pick the occasional line from someone else - tho this one from Edith Sitwell had a more sinister connotation.) I am getting bored, even the golf course is shut because of the waterlogged ground.

Despite the dark and gloomy weather there are highlights here and there like this shrub (R bought it for 50p I think) and the flowers to come on the skimmia - this is a male.

 And boy does it rain - hence a really cheerful poem (Hmm?)


There is nothing but the rain
whipped on the window.
Droplets scour grey trails,
panes are cloud tinted, cold.
Outside winter trees quiver 
in the quickening gale, wait. 
A clock chimes the quarter,
denotes more sad minutes gone,
leaves a long echo in the hall.
Soon night will absorb the day,
light will fade. And tomorrow?
Much the same they say
giving names to each new storm
as if that will tame the way
it insinuates nails into my life.
I look into the dark and
there is nothing but the rain.

There is nothing but the rain
sluicing the gutters and drains.
I go out, face the wind,
wince as the icy beads
beat against my skin, sting.
And I bend my weary back,
acknowledge the power
that thrashes the coppice twigs,
scatters debris into the fields.
There is no shelter on the fell
above the roaring wood,
sea spray flays my cheeks, 
leaks through my open lips.
There is no room for thought,
no future, past, just now.
I am desolate, empty,
There is nothing but the rain.

Well, now that has cheered everyone up at least the days are getting longer.

Saturday, 11 January 2020


Just the worst time of the year.

So this is Wednesday and what have I done . . .?

Well, the last blog had a title I used before but not that - I ran the small mower over the grass near the house - not to cut but more to tidy it before they all go for a service. Then moving manure and compost before digging up the first of the strawberry and raspberry plants and discarding them.
New gardener has not come yet, the bank really needs strimming. The mowers service has been booked in.

Tip - R tried putting bio washing powder on the moss on the tarmac and it worked - brown and dead - so I have been outside there a-sprinkling.

The first snowdrop flowers are out, reluctantly I think, but due to the overall mild winter.

It is a delight to see snowdrops, daffodils and crocus leaves coming through - can spiring be far away?

Well, on second thoughts - yes, it can - especially when the weather is like this - wet and windy and damp and dark.

In fact the windmill in the herb pot outside the kitchen door is moving so fast it is almost invisible.

So, what to do - dig out some 2018 frozen black currants and make jam - ignore the labels - 2018 currants, 2019 and 2020 labels but all made today - Saturday. 

The wind is howling in the trees and all the lights are on in the house. We are having a mild winter but a dreary one and this year there seem to be a lot of people of my age leaving us including my cousin Scottie from London, Ontario who died in his sleep last weekend. We never met but communicated for several years. 
(The hair is a St Patrick's Day tribute).
He was actually the generation younger than me but only a few months - his father was my second cousin.

Enough - this is a time of rebirth, a new year's beginning, but I wish it could be a bit more cheerful. Mind you at least I am not underground as in this vole hole - that has a good ring about it - if we move perhaps our next house could be called The Vole Hole?

So, as I am in a cheerful mood here is an appropriate poem - 


For a full month now I have watched the rain - 
it moves in grey waves across the drenched fields, 
water-logs the turf and coalesces 
into rivulets which feed the old beck 
back of a dry-stone wall dressed in wet moss.
The gloom of a cloud ridden sky fills me
with despair, for this is man made sorrow
fuelled by greed, without consideration
for the new generations yet to come, 
for the innocent animals and plants
with which we share this world that we have ruined.

And if the sun comes through, fills the garden
with misplaced hope, I turn my face up and wait
for the warmth, for its invigoration.
If I were to stand there for long enough
I could watch the sunflowers turn their heads,
follow the sun, cold adders would emerge 
on the grassy bank and bask, gaining heat,
small birds dip their beaks in cool pond water.
When we are gone will they be gone as well? 
And will there still be sparrows in the dust,
blackbirds, wings spread, on the shed’s shingle roof?

I walk up into our small ash spinney
wrapped in my kagoul, hear the branches talk -
for trees are memory, rings of lost years.
I will be gone long before the end comes
and those organisms that survive us
outlast our dereliction of duty,
sigh with relief? I hear fine talk, promises
of action but see little being done.
We have pillaged this Eden, this small world
which circles a small peripheral star 
in one galaxy out of millions.

Too late?

Saturday, 4 January 2020


(Apologies to Brenda Lee).

Weed the bed, lightly fork, top dress with old manure or compost and move to the next bed - getting the veg beds ready. Cutting back the willows around the compost heaps (using willow was probably a mistake as it roots so easily but I was in a phase of willow tunnels and arches and had a free supply at the time). 
All is rather muddy as we have little really cold weather, just cool and damp.

So plod on, a bit at a time. Light the bonfire which goes out almost immediately, rake some weed out of the pond, and R is trying a new way of getting rid of moss on the tarmac etc. by using bio washing powder. It seems to work but as we have a lot of moss it might turn out to be expensive.

We have good sunrises whe the clouds are not down like a big wet blanket. Weather does not really seem to affect the birds especially the pheasants. Here he is again - "Got any seed mister?" or something like that. It is amazing how quick he can react to the shake off old jar full of sunflower seed.

So what did we do on New Year's Eve - well went to bed actually.

And after staggering around I have trimmed back the Rambling Rector rose that throws out shoots like giant thorny tentacles.

Still colour in the beech leaves and undersides of the magnolia grandiflora leaves, on the acer stems and in the hypericum black berries - is black a colour?

And as it is winter, though so far a mild one, we do get frost as on the leaf above or the cold frame below.

 So, time to do the pond - but I have no waders and no matter what R says I am not going paddling, rake out some stuff but that is it. Anyway my balance is so bad I would probably fall over - yeh, yeh, ha ha.

Elsewhere the moss is thriving, the new spring is running and some plants just look like they might, surprisingly, overwinter - this is an opium poppy that failed to flower last year.

 4 pm and going dark again but not quite as dark as a week ago.
Walking home from town, a mile in, same back, R and I realised it is 46 years since I returned to Ulverston to start as a Family Doctor!
Too old now so no Oh-ho, no starting all over again - been there, done that, earned my cup of tea and a shortbread biscuit.
Must buy some sugar as we are almost out of jam.

Saturday, 28 December 2019


With regard to the last blog, Midwinter or is it? Apparently it wasn't, it was the 22nd. So the year has turned - then I heard that the day of the 23rd was 1 second longer than the 22nd. Thought I would mention this but I have no idea why.
I am writing this to get out of R's way whilst she is cooking. (I did grow and prepare the sprouts.)

Sunny today (25th), Not so good a couple of days ago!

And it is early but things are stirring -

celandine leaves and daffodils,

camellia and rhododendron buds waiting to burst,

But the remains of last year lie around (until I can stir myself and pick them up.)

 The weather is capricious, one moment the sun shines, then it rains, then it hails and clarts the grass.

Of course the rain has to go somewhere and so we have a new spring bubbling up from some track beside tree roots or down mole tunnels. I have raked out the many rills and streams but whatever one does water has a mind of its own. Actually, so far, the weather has generally been mild AND WET.
We need to export some of it to Australia.

 So, manured rhubarb bed on the left, composted asparagus bed on the left below and on the right sprouts - beware any visitors, they have to be eaten (but not so bad with bacon), 
 Then - when all is quietly decaying  the marjoram (oregano) and variegated mint continue to thrive. And a big toad in the compost heap - welcome for slug control.

Last blog of this year, this decade if you agree that 2019 is actually the last year of the decade (? be 2020) - my pedantry is triumphing?

See you next year DV.